"A Musical Kaleidoscope" will bring to our audience a glimpse into the ever-changing sound colors of the orchestra and its instruments. From the subtle colors of the vibraphone to the sensual and rhythmic dance of the tango, this concert will have something for all tastes.
Flowerpot Music No. 1 for 2 players and 8 flowerpots
Postlude for percussion quartet on bowed vibraphone
Little Symphony for wind instruments
Suite from Maria de Buenos Aires (arr. Steven Verhelst) for brass ensemble
String Serenade in E Minor, Op. 20
St. Paul Suite, Op. 29, No. 2 (for string orchestra)
“A Musical Kaleidoscope” will bring to our audience a glimpse into the ever-changing sound colors of the orchestra and its instruments. From the subtle colors of the vibraphone to the sensual and rhythmic dance of the tango, this concert will have something for all tastes.
Elliot Cole| Flowerpot Music No. 1 for 2 players and 8 flowerpots
We open tonight’s concert with something very unusual. What is, after all, an instrument? Does it need to be a violin, or a flute? Does it need to be traditionally accepted as an instrument with history and a wide repertoire? We think that an instrument can be anything that evokes sound colors, that tugs on our emotions through auditory impulses. Tonight, we perform on…. flowerpots! That’s right. These items have the ability to create amazing sounds! Elliot Cole’s Flowerpot Music and his other compositions have been characterized by Rolling Stone Magazine as evoking “sparkling icicles of sound”. It’s these unique sounds that our percussion duo will introduce you to tonight. Perhaps some of you will feel inspired to go home and try your hands at making music with your own flowerpots!
Elliot Cole | Postlude for percussion quartet on bowed vibraphone
Continuing on our adventure of new and unfamiliar sounds, you will hear a commonly played percussion instrument – the vibraphone – played in a less commonly fashion: with contrabass bows. Using these bows by sliding them on the sides of the vibraphone creates some hauntingly beautiful sonorities, and Elliot Cole’s “Postlude” involves not only one but FOUR percussionists on the same instrument. Tonight’s performance features 4 out of the 8 postludes in this series. What is particularly interesting about this musical work is that it is fascinating to hear but also to watch, as the interplay between the four players creates an intimate nucleus of energy and evolving sounds.
Charles Gounod | Petite Symphonie pour instruments á vent in Bb Major (Little Symphony for wind instruments)
2. Andante cantabile (quasi adagio)
3. Scherzo. Allegro moderato
4. Finale. Allegretto
Perhaps in the top 10 most popular works for small wind ensemble, the Petite Symphony (Little Symphony) for Winds of the French composer Charles Gounod just had to be featured in our chamber music series at some point. Premiered in 1885, the work was commissioned by the flutist and composer Paul Taffanel, who founded the Société de Musique de la Chambre pour Instruments à Vent (Chamber Music Society for Wind Instruments). Not surprisingly, then, the second movement is an aria played by the flutist, and this was premiered by Taffanel himself. This gorgeous movement reminds us of Gounod the opera composer, as his opera Faust remains his most celebrated work.
Gounod spent all his life in France, with the exception of 4 years in Rome after winning the prestigious Prix de Rome. Gounod, however, found life in Rome a little boring, and thus returned to his homeland. His music is as French as any, filled with wit and elegance, and the commission by Taffanel was a successful one, given the Petite Symphonie’s success in taking advantage of Theobald Boehm’s newly improved designs for the mechanisms of these wind instruments, which made for better projection of tone, stability of intonation, and technical facility.
Astor Piazzolla | Suite from Maria de Buenos Aires (arr. Steven Verhelst) for brass ensemble
When one thinks of the tango, one imagines perhaps a violin accompanied by piano, or maybe a string ensemble. But tonight’s performance showcases the tango’s popularity because there are even arrangements for a brass ensemble, which we include on the program. In this compilation arranged by Steven Verhelst, one hears various selections taken from Piazzolla’s tango opera entitled “Maria de Buenos Aires”. This suite includes: Yo Soi Maria, Balada, Habanera and Fuga Y Misterio. Each brass instrument takes a turn with melodic solos, from the trumpet to the trombone. Pay close attention and you will even see an instrument you may not have yet seen or heard – it is a large trumpet-like instrument (played by a trumpeter) that sounds more mellow and somewhere between a trumpet and French horn.
Edward Elgar | String Serenade in E Minor, Op. 20
1. Allegro Piacevole
The British composer Edward Elgar had some trouble finding a publisher for his String Serenade – and why? Strangely, the first publisher he approached, Novello, indicated that this serenade was too good to publish and would be unsaleable. Not the usual response one expects from a publisher. Elgar did finally find a publisher, and this work has since become one of his most successful, if a little on the shorter side. Critics claimed that this serenade and his Froissart Overture were Elgar’s only works of significance prior to the mid 1890s. We know of course that later compositions would in turn bring Elgar huge success (Enigma Variations, Cello Concerto, etc.)
The serenade features three movements. The first movement, a “pleasant” Allegro, is introduced by the violas on a rhythmic motif that holds the entire movement together (and reappears at end of the last movement as a sort of bookend). The second movement is a very moving and poetic piece, with long lyrical lines in the violins – the primary melody characterized by critic Ernest Newman as “one of the finest and most sustained that ever came from Elgar’s pen”. This “sustained” element makes this movement musical more challenging than the others but also just so touching. The third movement is an Allegretto that gently brings us back to the introductory thematic material and close the piece very serenely.
Gustav Holst | St. Paul Suite, Op. 29, No. 2 (for string orchestra)
1. Jig: Vivace
2. Ostinato: Presto
3. Intermezzo: Andante con moto
4. Finale (The Dargason): Allegro
Another British composer of great weight was Gustav Holst, known for the Planets, among others. Aside from composing, Holst was also music master for three decades at the St. Paul School. The suite was written for the students, but is technically not a given. It requires a certain dexterity and is a fun work to play and (we hope) to hear! The suite opens with a lively jig, while the second movement is a sort of waltz-like, obstinate-driven movement which features prominent rhythmic motors, first appearing in the second violins, and a delightful simple solo line hovering above. The third movement is in a world of its own, with a darker feel that is interrupted on several occasions by a boisterous allegro passage in major key. For the finale, Holst revisits an earlier work (also one of his most successful) – the 2nd Suite for Military Band, in which he writes a number based on the folk song “The Dargason”. The finale in the St. Paul Suite is almost an exact copy (except for the instrumentation), infusing the song “Greensleeves” into it, as did the Military Band Suite. It’s a thrilling juxtaposition of the two folk songs which culminates in a charged ending in full swing. We trust that this suite will have you think happy thoughts on your way home following the concert!