Spirit of the Americas
1875 – 1962
Praeludium and Allegro — 1910
Born in Vienna in l875 Fritz Kreisler is one of the most distinguished and beloved virtuoso violinists of all time. By age seven, his musical talent was already apparent, and he became a student at the Vienna Conservatory, although the minimum age for entry was ten years. By 1885 the young prodigy had graduated from the conservatory, and next entered the Paris Conservatory where he studied under Anton Bruckner, Leo Delibes, and Jules Massenet. After finishing conservatory studies, the young violinist began performing publicly, and quickly consolidated his position as an international violin virtuoso. After World War I relocations in Europe and America, Kreisler settled in America and became a naturalized US citizen in l943. In 1947 he gave his last public concert after being badly injured in an auto accident. Kreisler gradually became blind and deaf and died at age 87. He is interred in a mausoleum in New York.
In his recordings, Kreisler’s performing style exhibits expansive tempi, a continuous and favored vibrato, expressive phrasing, and a melodic approach to passage work. His style is easily recognized when compared to violin recordings of others.
While Liebeslied, Liebesfreud, and Caprice Viennois may be his most familiar short pieces for violin and piano, Praeludium and Allegro is a most popular work in the violin repertoire. This piece is in two sections, the first being a strong declaration. The music softens as it progresses, but reasserts itself in a dramatic close. The second section is a quick-paced affair, which eventually builds up to a flashy dazzling cadenza that appears over a rumbling pedal in the bass of the piano. Kreisler originally attributed the origins of the two-section piece to a less known composer of the 18th century. (One historian claims that Kreisler’s often-lengthy concert tours demanded separate encore pieces, few of which had been written for the violin). After 30 years of attributing the work to the composer Pugnani, he finally claimed rightful ownership.
1920 - 2012
Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major — 1950
Alexander Arutiunian was a Soviet and Armenian composer and pianist. At the age of seven Arutiunian joined the Yerevan State Conservatory’s children’s group, and at 14 graduated from same music conservatory on the eve of World War II. As a composer and pianist, Arutiunian also served as full Professor at the music conservatory. Spanning a life of 92 years, he was awarded a huge array of Soviet Union prizes that included the Stalin Prize, State Prize of Armenia, and People’s Artist of the USSR. Several of his works for wind instruments have secured their place in the international repertory.
The Trumpet Concerto is the composer’s sixth major composition. It was promptly considered a virtuoso showpiece to be assimilated into the standard trumpet repertoire worldwide.
The concerto consists of five major sections that are performed without pause. Its melodic and rhythmic elements represent the compositional style of fellow Armenian composer Aram Khatchaturian. Known as a “flashy piece,” it has characteristics of Gypsy, Russian, and Armenian music through beautiful, soulful melodies and several challenging rapid-tonguing passages.
A New Day — 2011
Barbara Gallagher, a native of Charlotte, NC, studied composition at the North Carolina School of the Arts where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree. She studied with Vincent Persichetti at The Juilliard School, where she received a Master of Music degree in 1983. Gallagher held the Irving Berlin Fellowship in memory of Jerome Kern.
Gallagher is a prolific composer of orchestral works that feature instrumental solos in a variety of forms. She has written vocal ensemble and choral music, dance and dramatic music, and music for children. Gallagher is a recipient of numerous awards, grants, and commissions and her works are published by three music companies and performed throughout the United States and abroad. A resident of Wilmington, Gallagher lives with her husband, composer Ernesto Ferrari, and their two children. In addition to being a professional composer/musician, she is involved in a potpourri of musical activities.
Commissioned in 2011 by the Florence (SC) Symphony Orchestra, A New Day is a delightfully gay, highly expressive and dynamic 15-minute work. It focuses on two recurring themes and a series of dramatic fanfares that vary in intensity, mood, and pitch. The Contemporary Classic work demonstrates both pastoral and atmospheric changes by using contrasting instrumental timbres in a “call and response” style.
1918 - 1990
Music from "Fancy Free" Ballet — 1944
At the time of Bernstein’s death in 1990, composer Ned Rorem stated, “Lenny had led four lives; he was not 72 at his death but 288 years old.” He had several successful careers in the course of his lifetime.
Bernstein’s one act ballet Fancy Free premiere was an exciting time for American ballet. At age 28 he and another young, fledgling artist, Jerome Robbins, teamed up to write music and choreography for this 15-minute jazz ballet. Because the jazz/blues idiom made it a first of its kind, the two artists were catapulted to world famous careers, and the unusual ballet became a staple in American repertory ballet.
Three sailor buddies spend their one-day pass on the New York City scene. In the process of meandering around, they end up in a bar competing over local girls until the mood peters out for both girls and sailors. They leave the bar and saunter onto the street again, resuming their prowl for more adventure.
The suite begins with a musical depiction of the three sailors as brassy, swaggering, high-spirited sailors, all steamed up and ready for fun and girls. They cavort boisterously to accompanying music which focuses on a short, high spirited, somewhat dissonant theme quickly passed among winds, brass, percussion, and a jazzy solo piano. (This cool, bouncy piano interrupts the action throughout the score with several delightful interludes). Pas de deux changes the ballet mood from quiet and sensitive to raucous. One sailor interacts with a lone girl out on a stroll. A casual attitude mixes with moments of intense lust between the two as they move to slow and torchy music. The mood changes when the three sailors enter a nearby bar. In order for the three sailors to win over two bar girls, they competitively stageA Dance Contest that reveals in solos their respective personalities.The first is bawdy and boisterous with highly percussive music to illustrate acrobatic, vaudeville showiness in dance form. It “gallops” along with the help of cocky percussion blocks which also intervene throughout the work. The second dance is lighter, gayer, more happy-go-lucky, while the sailor prances to ever-changing, half-waltz time rhythms. The third dance music evokes Spanish and Latin flavors, with the wood blocks playing a prominent role along with a display of rhumba-type rhythms.
The Finale of the Suite depicts a wild extension of the dances with the girls joining in. The music becomes a frenetic lindy hop, and a fight breaks out. The girls become disgusted with the wild antics and leave the scene. The sailors also leave with newfound determination to never to let girls interfere with their friendship. Then a new girl appears and they turn to follow her.
1900 - 1990
El Salon Mexico — 1936
As an author of books and articles, lecturer, sponsor of contemporary composers, and foremost composer of American-based music, Aaron Copland was a prime force in bringing recognition, understanding, and “roots” to 20th century American music. A modernist in all art forms, he believed wholeheartedly in contemporary influences. His goal was to liberate American music from its European heritage.
Copland’s most important works were written after 1935. It was at that time when he concluded that his self-imposed “ivory tower” life had caused a lost connection to his audiences. He realized that previous works had been too esoteric and complex in harmonic and rhythmic construction; dissonances had previously been exploited for little reason other than standard usage in composition. Furthermore, others found Copland’s music difficult to interpret. The 1930s thus became a turning point in Copland’s career. His music became less “obtuse” in sound, contained well-defined melodies, and incorporated ever-changing rhythmic patterns. The reorientation of Copland’s musical style first became apparent in El Salon Mexico. As a simple tourist, he began looking for the spirit of the Mexican people and found it in a local dance hall.
Regarded as a highly popular overture dominated by popular Mexican folk tunes, El Salon Mexico is a concise, uncomplicated work. After a series of infectious, catchy phrases, one lone, high-pitched trumpet enters with the song “El Mosco.” Other tunes follow in rapid succession; one has the sensuous quality of a Spanish tango, while a jaunty tune for solo clarinet contributes a mood of cheerful “devil-may-care” attitude. The moods run from garish and lusty to lyrical and sentimental. El Salon Mexico received immediate, universal acceptance. Copland was convinced that he had found a compositional style leading in the direction of the recognition and permanent success he personally desired.
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Steven Errante, conductor
Unless indicated, all program notes are researched and written by Dr. Steven Errante.