July 31 | 7:30pm Church of the Assumption, Redford
August 1 | 7:30pm Historic Saranac Lake Laboratory
Metro Chabacano by Javier Álvarez
Strum by Jessie Montgomery
Romance from Horn Concerto #3 by WA Mozart, arr. Michael Haydn
Concerto for Viola by Béla Bartók, arr. Benjamin Tomkins
Debra Sherrill-Ward, horn Susanna Klein and Sonya Stith Williams, violins Catherine Beeson, viola Heidi Hoffman, cello
Javier Álvarez (1956- )
Javier Álvarez Fuentes is a Mexican composer who is known for creating works that combine a variety of international musical styles and traditions that often utilize unusual instruments and new music technologies. Álvarez is one of the best known Mexican composers of his generation. He uses his travels to create eclectic electroacoustic works using influences from Mexico to Cuba, the Caribbean to Korea. Composer John Adams said the music of Álvarez "reveals influences of popular cultures that go beyond the borders of our own time and place."
In his own words: Metro Chabacanois a station belonging to one of the lines of the vast Mexico City subway system. My piece, however, does not seek to portray any particular sonic or visual aspect of the subway. Rather, I hear it like a short imaginary journey across fleeting urban landscapes. I have recently decided to group it with two others - Metro Nativitas and Metro Taxqueña - under the collective title of Línea 2.
Jessie Montgomery (1981- )
Jessie Montgomery is an American composer, violinist, mentor, and educator. She is an established and still rising star composer, having received the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation and numerous commissions and performances from major ensembles around the world. From Montgomery’s web site: “her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post).”
Strum, declares composer Jessie Montgomery, salutes "American folk idioms and the spirit of dance and movement.” The work's title refers to the guitar-like plucking of the strings that plays many roles: floating hum, earthy groove, rapturous thrum."Within Strum, I used texture motives, layers of rhythmic or harmonic ostinati that string together to form a bed of sound for melodies to weave in and out. The strumming pizzicato serves as a texture motive and the primary driving rhythmic underpinning of the piece." The piece begins with what Montgomery calls "fleeting nostalgia." Melodies weave in, over and between layers of strumming. Several minutes in, the music shifts, “transforming into ecstatic celebration.” With its emphasis on American folk idioms and dance/movement, "the piece has a kind of narrative that begins with a sense of nostalgia and transforms into ecstatic celebration," she said. “I’ve always been interested in trying to find the intersection between different types of music. I imagine that music is a meeting place at which all people can converse about their unique differences and common stories.”
WA Mozart (1756-1791) Michael Haydn (1737-1806)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical period. Despite his short life, his rapid pace of composition resulted in more than 800 works of virtually every genre of his time. He is considered among the greatest composers in Western European classical music history,with music admired for its "melodic beauty, its formal elegance and its richness of harmony and texture".
Johann Michael Haydn, was an Austrian composer of the Classical period, and the younger brother of better known composer Franz Joseph Haydn and a close friend to WA Mozart. Haydn was a prolific composer of sacred and secular music, including 41 symphonies, multiple concertos and chamber music including a string quintet once thought to have been by his brother FJ. There was another case of posthumous mistaken identity involving Michael Haydn: for many years, the G major symphony now known to be his Symphony #25 was thought to be Mozart's Symphony #37. The confusion arose because an autograph was discovered with the opening movement of the symphony in Mozart's hand and the rest in another's hand. It is now known that Mozart composed the slow introduction to the first movement but the rest of the work is by Michael. This sort of thing had happened before between the two of them as they relied on one another from time to time. Mozart's Concerto #3 for Horn and Orchestra, arranged for Horn and String Quartet by Haydn Mozart completed the concerto in his Vienna period between 1784 and 1787. It was written as a friendly gesture for the hornist Joseph Leutgeb, and Mozart probably did not consider it as particularly important, since he failed to enter it to the autograph catalogue of his works. It is one of the most popular and beloved concerti for horn today. The arrangement made by Michael Haydn is of the slow movement "Romance", and is a wonderful standalone piece.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945) Benjamin Tomkins (1980- )
Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer and pianist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Through his collection and analytical study of folk music, he was one of the founders of comparative musicology, which later became ethnomusicology. In his search for new forms of tonality, Bartók turned to collecting Magyar peasant melodies, as well as to other folk music of the Carpathian Basin and even of Algeria and Turkey. In so doing he became influential in that stream of modernism which used indigenous music and techniques, following a trend that began with Mikhail Glinka and Antonin Dvorak.
Benjamin Tomkins has distinguished himself as a violinist, composer, writer, and educator. His music has been performed throughout the US and at Loon Lake Live, including a commissioned duo for viola and oboe. Just before The Great Pause quarantine period of 2020 he had composed his first opera.Ben is currently a violinist with the Cabrillo Festival in Santa Cruz, CA and a Master Mentor at the Denver School of the Arts. When not composing, performing or teaching, he is a regular political and social commentator for a newspaper, and enjoys cooking for his wife Robyn and offering little bites to their dog Amelia under the table.
Bartók's Concerto for Viola was composed in 1945 in Saranac Lake, NY just two months before Bartók's death. He had completed the solo part, but had barely started the scoring, leaving only sketches of the orchestral part. The unfinished work was later completed by his pupil Tibor Serly. The Concerto was revised and published in the 1990s by Bartók's son Peter. This version may be closer to what Bartók intended. In 2022, at the request of violist Catherine Beeson in collaboration with Historic Saranac Lake, Benjamin Tomkins arranged the Concerto into a shorter suite scored for string quartet . His arrangement includes field recordings of Magyar peasant folk songs collected by Bartók on wax cylinder devices as well as the use of tinfoil mutes near the bridge of the instruments to create an evocative textural of other worldliness.
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