Program Notes

Thursday, October 25, 2012, 7:30 p.m., Tilson Auditorium

Kirk Trevor, conductor
Martin Kuuskmann, bassoon


Autobahn Beyond for Chamber Orchestra (2011/2012) - Bin Li (b. 1987)
2012 ICO/CMF Composition Competition Contest Winner

Intermezzo for Strings, Op. 8 (1900) - Franz Schreker (1878-1934)

Symphony No. 3 for Chamber Orchestra (1979) - William Bolcom (b. 1938)
I. Alpha

--- Intermission ---

Lucent Variations (1998) - Michael Torke (b. 1961)

Bassoon Concerto (1997/2002) = Christopher Theofanidis (b. 1967)
alone, inward
threatening, fast

by Charles P. Conrad, DMA © 2012

Autobahn Beyond for Chamber Orchestra (2011/2012)
Bin Li, born October 22, 1987 at Fuzhou, China

Inspired by my friend Brad Emerson's Autobahn painting series, Autobahn Beyond was completed in my last year at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. It fuses contemporary orchestration, Beethoven quotations, and post-minimalism together to comment on how classical music is relevant in our generation. Enjoy the ride!
- Bin Li

Intermezzo for String Orchestra, Op. 8
Franz Schreker, born March 23, 1878 at Monaco; died March 21, 1934 at Berlin.
Franz Schreker (sometimes seen spelled as “Schrecker,” as his family changed the spelling of their name in 1900), lived in Linz and then in Vienna, where he studied violin and composition at the Conservatory with Robert Fuchs, whose earlier pupils included Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf. He would earn his greatest fame as a composer of operas in the 1920s, and for a time he was the most performed of living German opera composers other than Richard Strauss. Schreker was Jewish, and as the political climate in Germany shifted in the late 1920s, so did his acceptance as a composer. In the early 1930s he was stripped of his teaching positions in Berlin, and after his death in 1934, his works faded into obscurity. A revival of interest in composers who were marginalized or even killed by the Nazis had become internationally pursued in the 1980s, and Schreker’s works began to resurface on programs. Recently the Los Angeles Opera staged the American premiere of his opera Die Geseichneten.
Tonight’s work, the Intermezzo for String Orchestra, was his first success as a composer. It was composed for a competition for a “short, characteristic orchestra piece for stringed instruments” advertised in Vienna and sponsored by a local publisher of music. The piece was the winner of the prize, and it was quite well received by both the jury and the public. The premiere public performance was conducted by Ferdinand Loewe at the Konzertverein in Vienna. Interestingly, Schreker incorporated the Intermezzo as the third movement of his Suite Romantische, and the press review of this suite praised especially the third movement, commenting that the other sections seemed to be more operatic in concept. This is not surprising, as Schreker had begun to formulate his concepts for operas in the intervening years.

Lucent Variations
Michael Torke, born September 21, 1961, at Milwaukee

Michael Torke is one of America’s busiest and most often performed composers. He was born in Milwaukee and studied composition at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University with Joseph Schwantner and Christopher Rouse. His music is an eclectic fusion of minimalism with influences from jazz and popular music. He has written many types of works, including orchestra, concert band, choral and ballet. His opera Poppea was premiered this summer in Paris.
The composer provides these program notes for Lucent Variations: “Lucent means luminous, which derives from the Latin word “to shine.” Something lucent gives off light, but it can also be translucent and clear. Instruments are combined in my piece Lucent Variations so that their vibrations reinforce each other, creating acoustical shine. The music grows from small, simple ideas to more enhanced longer ideas in a kind of continuous variation. It feels almost like a pageant moving like a “parade of electrical light.” In fact the original title for the piece was Children at Night. The wonderment upon children’s faces, illuminated by the lights of a nighttime parade, was an image that was unexpectedly moving for me. A parade is fixed in its structure; the floats don’t change positions. But from the spectator’s standpoint, it is constantly changing as it moves by. It is a good example of how something consistent and unchanging is at the same time ever-changing from a different point of view.”
“People sometimes ask “why do you make your music so buoyant: why do you try to be so happy? Such music might be distrusted . . . life is rather difficult and painful, why turn one’s back on that cruel reality?” I say music is not a photograph, or even a reflection of life. Music, instead, is meant to offer meaning, and spiritual uplift. It is a kind of celebratory prayer for me, not journalism or confession.” If it sounds that Torke might be thinking of the famous Disneyland and Disneyworld Electrical Parade, that is indeed the case.
Lucent Variations was commissioned in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It was premiered by that ensemble at the Ordway Theater on September 18, 1998, with Hugh Wolff conducting. It is scored for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets with timpani, piano, and strings. Its duration is about 12 minutes.

Symphony No. 3 (Symphony for Chamber Orchestra)
William Bolcom, born 26 May 1938 at Seattle

William Bolcom is a sort of Renaissance man of American music, having been involved in a tremendously varied number of levels and genres of music and literature. He entered the University of Washington at the age of 11 to study composition with John Verrall and George Frederick McKay (a composer who served in residence with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra during World War II), and then studied privately with Darius Milhaud both in the U. S. and in France. He was the first student to earn a Doctorate in Music from Stanford University. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 1988 for his 12 New Etudes for Piano. With his wife, singer Joan Morris, he has studied, recorded, and performed several styles of American popular and classical music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including ragtime, salon songs, minstrel music, and theatrical music. He explains, “My explorations in all sorts of music from America’s past have been to learn the roots of our musical language, so that I can build from them.” Among the composers and performers that he studied closely were Carrie Jacobs Bond, Scott Joplin, Eubie Blake, George M. Cohan, and John Philip Sousa. His own compositional output includes three operas (A View from the Bridge, McTeague, and A Wedding), nine symphonies (the most recent for concert band on a commission from the Big Ten Band Directors Association), eleven string quartets and hundreds of songs and pieces for chamber ensembles. Bolcom’s largest work was the gigantic score Songs of Innocence and of Experience, a three-hour “musical illumination” of the poetry of William Blake, for orchestra, chorus, and eight soloists. Its composition took him 25 years.
Symphony No. 3, originally titled Symphony for Chamber Orchestra, was written on a commission from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in 1979. The score includes this quote from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer: “Man, that is born of woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth (as it were) a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.” The music is scored for a Mozart-sized chamber orchestra, but includes doublings on instruments such as piccolo, alto flute, E-Flat clarinet, and electric piano. Its duration is about 35 minutes. For this evening’s Contemporary Music Festival concert, Maestro Kirk Trevor has chosen to present the first movement of the work, which is entitled Alpha.

Bassoon Concerto (1997/2002)
Christopher Theofanidis, born 18 December 1967 at Dallas

I wrote my bassoon concerto for my good friend Martin Kuuskmann, whom I had known since 1992 from my days as a student at Yale.  Martin was always the last person out of the school of music at night, and I would often pass his practice room and wonder what drove him- he seemed to have an obsessive zeal for mastering the bassoon, and he was determined to build a repertory and to represent it in the most visible way.   I have known many musicians of an extremely high caliber in my life, but Martin really stands out from among even the most accomplished of those.
A few years later he was playing with the Absolute Ensemble in New York and was able to commission a new work from them, and that is how my piece came to be.  At that time, I wrote just a two-movement piece- the now outer two movements of this version, but later in 2002 when we were offered the possibility of programming it again, I added the current middle movement which incorporated elements that had become part of my writing in the interim.
The opening movement starts with an introspective cadenza which then opens into a fast and restless first movement that makes use of several of the materials from the opening cadenza.  The second movement is based on a kind of  melodic ornamentation that one would hear in the Greek Orthodox church- fast inflections of long tones that keep the notes ‘alive’ in time.  It is also a style of ornamentation that one finds throughout the Balkan region, and I think that, as it is heard here in the bassoon, now reminds me most of Bulgarian bagpipe playing- in no small part because Martin regularly circular-breathes to play it, creating the sound of continuous breath.  The third movement is based on a fast pattern of sixes in the bassoon line and a slower background harmonic progression which is eventually revealed clearly near the end of the work as the faster notes peal away.
The piece is approximately 22 minutes in duration.
- Christopher Theofanidis