Moments of Inspiration
Saturday, October 4, 2014 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church
Seattle Chamber Singers
Clinton Smith, conductor
Victor Noriega, piano
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)
Carnival Overture, Op. 92
Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936)
Fountains of Rome
Victor Noriega (*1978)
Generations, Directions (Northwest premiere)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Choruses from Tönet, ihr Pauken, BWV 214
Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
Johann Strauss Jr. (1825–1899)
On the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
About the Concert
When have you seen something or someone that took your breath away? How has a moment of inspiration affected you or changed you? For Respighi, it was a specific time of day when he stood in front of the magnificent fountains of Rome; for Wagner, the occasion of his beloved wife’s birthday and the arrival of their son, Siegfried. For Victor Noriega, a Seattle-based composer, inspiration came from the story of six generations of his family’s immigration from the Philippines; OSSCS will partner with Pinoy Words Expressed Kultura Arts, a Filipino arts and literary organization, to celebrate Filipino American National History Month and learn about Filipino history and culture with vivid lobby displays. Bach wrote for the birthday of the Queen of Poland, Strauss to immortalize the beauty and importance of the river that kissed the banks of his hometown. Inspiration comes in many forms—what inspires you?
About the Soloist
Award-winning composer and keyboardist Victor Noriega has been described as having “the sensitivity of Bill Evans, the propulsion of Horace Silver and the experimentation of Thelonious Monk,” while his compositions have been characterized as “layered, complex, interesting and rhythmic,” “introspective at times, energetic and boundary-stretching at others seamlessly blend[ing] jazz and modern classical influences.” He has been a featured artist at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Earshot Jazz Festival, Bumbershoot, the Filipino American Jazz & World Music Festival, and the Philippine International Jazz Festival.
Mr. Noriega’s albums recorded with his trio—Stone’s Throw (2004), Alay (2006) and Fenceless (2008)—earned critical acclaim, and he was honored with three Golden Ear awards (2005 Emerging Artist of the Year, 2006 Instrumentalist of the Year, and 2006 Album of the Year by Earshot Jazz), recognizing the best of the Pacific Northwest jazz scene. His latest recording, 2 Trios (2013), features a collection of unique improvisatory sketches with long-time Seattle collaborators.
Born in Richmond, British Columbia, and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Noriega obtained a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies at the University of Washington. He continues to work on a diverse set of original projects and collaborates with artists from a wide variety of musical backgrounds.
Carnival Overture, Op. 92
Dvořák was born September 8, 1841, in the Bohemian town of Nelahozeves (near Prague, now in the Czech Republic), and died on May 1, 1904, in Prague. He composed Carnival Overture between July 28 and September 12, 1891, conducting the premiere on April 28, 1892. It calls for pairs of woodwinds (plus piccolo and English horn), 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, tambourine, harp and strings.
On March 31, 1891, less than three months after becoming a professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory, Dvořák began work on a set of three overtures that he originally envisioned as a single work, to be called Nature, Life and Love. During June of that year, American philanthropist Jeanette Thurber approached the composer with an offer to become director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York—at 25 times his present salary. Negotiations ensued over the next few months, during which time Dvořák completed the first of his three overtures (eventually titled In Nature’s Realm) and composed the second and third, which became known as Carnival and Othello.
Dvořák first conducted these overtures at a farewell concert at the Rudolfinum in Prague on April 28, 1892. Quickly deeming them “my best orchestral works,” he reprised them at his first concert in America, at Carnegie Hall on October 21, as part of a program that also included the debut of his Te Deum.
The composer himself provided a program for the second of the three overtures: “The lonely, contemplative wanderer reaches the city at nightfall, where a carnival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of people giving vent to their feelings in their songs and dance tunes.” As a New York Times reviewer noted of the first American performance, the overture is “beautified by a serenely lovely middle episode of rare tenderness.” (Dvořák indicated that this 3/8 interlude depicted “a pair of straying lovers.”) Solo flute and violin sing a melody over a repeated English horn phrase, while solo clarinet quotes a “nature” motive that features prominently in In Nature’s Realm and also appears in Othello as a means of linking the three works. Before long, the action returns to the carnival setting, moving headlong toward a jubilant coda.
Fountains of Rome
Respighi was born on July 9, 1879, in Bologna, and died on April 18, 1936, in Rome. He composed Fontane di Roma during 1915 and 1916; Arturo Toscanini conducted the first performance on February 8, 1918, in Rome. The work catapulted Respighi to fame and he subsequently composed Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, which unofficially came to be known as his “Roman Triptych.” Fountains of Rome requires pairs of woodwinds (plus piccolo, English horn and bass clarinet), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, chimes, cymbals, glockenspiel, suspended cymbal, triangle, 2 harps, celesta, piano, organ and strings.
In this symphonic poem the composer has endeavored to give expression to the sentiments and visions suggested to him by four of Rome’s fountains, contemplated at the hour when their characters are most in harmony with the surrounding landscape, or at which their beauty is most impressive to the observer.
The first part of the poem, inspired by the fountain of Valle Giulia, depicts a pastoral landscape: droves of cattle pass and disappear in the fresh, damp mists of the Roman dawn. A sudden loud and insistent blast of horns above the trills of the whole orchestra introduces the second part, “The Triton Fountain.” It is like a joyous call, summoning troops of naiads and tritons, who come running up, pursuing each other and mingling in a frenzied dance between the jets of water.
Next there appears a solemn theme borne on the undulations of the orchestra. It is the fountain of Trevi at midday. The solemn theme, passing from the woodwind to the brass instruments, assumes a triumphal character. Trumpets peal: Across the radiant surface of the water there passes Neptune’s chariot drawn by seahorses and followed by a train of sirens and tritons. The procession vanishes while faint trumpet blasts resound in the distance.
The fourth part, the fountain at the Villa Medici, is announced by a sad theme which rises above the subdued warbling. It is the nostalgic hour of sunset. The air is full of the sound of tolling bells, the twittering of birds, the rustling of leaves. Then all dies peacefully into the silence of the night.
Victor Noriega was born May 5, 1978, in Richmond, British Columbia. He began composing Generations, Directions in 2011, on a commission from the Oakland East Bay Symphony, which debuted the work under the direction of Michael Morgan on April 20, 2012. In addition to a prominent piano part, the score calls for pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, timpani, percussion and strings.
Generations, Directions tells the story of a family’s immigration from the Philippines to North America. Examining three generations of family, the piece explores the process of maintaining the culture and traditions of the homeland while integrating into a new world.
The main theme (“Harana”) represents the “homeland” of the immigrating generation: stories, traditions, cuisine, humor—the Filipino “identity” After a quick transition, a medium pace with the snare drum marching along sets the tone for the second movement (“Arrival”). As the immigrating generation first sets foot on new soil, the journey that lies ahead brings an element of uncertainty, yet it is the aspect of adventure and the potential for a better life that provides hope and significant purpose for the endeavor.
“The Bond” brings a stoic attitude, signifying the importance of solidarity within the immigrating generation. The bond of family helps ease the challenges of adapting to a new culture; it is an integral part of immigrant life. The American-born generation is introduced in “New Harana.” The main theme is presented again, re-harmonized with the phrase slightly altered and steadily growing in volume, representing the attitude of independence that comes from being the first Americans of their Filipino family and the concession that being American garners as much importance to this generation as being Filipino.
“Kuya,” originally written for a late beloved cousin, is a light-hearted, playful piece that comments on the quality of life made possible for the American-born generation due to the benefits of the elder generation’s decision to immigrate from the Philippines. “Children’s March,” in 5/4 meter, represents the newest generation of the family: the children of the American-born generation. As their lives as Filipino-Americans commence, their exposure to Filipino culture and the significance it plays in their lives begins to take shape.
In “Harana Revisited,” the original theme is restated, played tutti, and signifies that the story and spirit of the homeland remains present throughout the three generations of family. Although the American-born generations have and will experience different trials and tribulations than their elders, and some aspects of traditions and culture may evolve, the significance of the “Filipino identity” continues to resonate throughout all generations.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Choruses from Tönet, ihr Pauken!, BWV 214
Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, and died in Leipzig on July 28, 1750. The SATB choruses from this 1733 cantata utilize pairs of of flutes and oboes, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings and continuo.
Born into a family that had produced musicians for over 150 years, and a master of nearly every aspect of the art, Johann Sebastian Bach (considered only a mediocre musician by town dignitaries!) obtained at the age of 38 the position of cantor of St. Thomas’ in Leipzig, one of the most significant musical posts in Germany. He taught at the choir school and also functioned as music director, composer, choirmaster and organist of St. Thomas’ Church. Here Bach produced monumental works, including the Christmas Oratorio, St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion, Mass in B Minor, Musical Offering and Art of the Fugue—all while dealing with the cares of his large family and circle of friends, the tasks of a very busy professional life, and ongoing struggles with various officials of the city, school and church who never recognized that they were dealing with music history’s most astounding genius.
Although he described himself as living “amidst continual vexation, envy and persecution,” Bach remained in Leipzig for 27 years until his eyesight failed and he suffered a stroke followed by a raging fever. At his death he left only a very modest material estate, but he bequeathed to us an overflowing treasure chest of dazzling musical jewels such as the festive nine-movement “secular cantata” whose opening and closing choruses you will hear this evening.
Inspired by the occasion of the 34th birthday of Maria Josepha, Queen of Poland and Princess Elector of Saxony, Bach composed this congratulatory “Dramma per Musica” (which really has no dramatic plot) for performance by Leipzig’s student Collegium Musicum, completing the work on the night before its December 8 performance at Gottfried Zimmermann’s coffeehouse. While this cantata commemorates the “moment in time” at which the Saxon Electress was born, a year later Bach would celebrate the moment of Jesus’ birth (an even greater “royal occasion”) by repurposing this single-occasion cantata’s framing choruses and two of its three arias in his superb Christmas Oratorio, thus preserving these movements for repeated church performance.
The cantata opens with a magnificent da capo (A–B–A) dance in 3/8 that consists of a dialogue between the now-homophonic and then-imitative chorus and an orchestra spangled with thirty-second notes and bedecked with trumpets. As flutes and oboes curtsy to the queen, the timpani, trumpets, strings and—finally—voices enter the royal ballroom as they are introduced by the anonymous author of the text. The same repeated four-note motive that opens the initial chorus introduces the spirited triple-meter dance with which the cantata concludes. Tenacious tenor cedars, chariots’ wheels spinning sixteenth notes, and the four mirthful muses who have sung throughout the cantata all join in wishing Electress Maria Josepha a long and happy life.
Wagner was born May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, and died February 13, 1883, in Venice. He conducted the premiere of this work on Christmas morning of 1870, and led the first public performance at Mannheim on December 20, 1871. The score calls for flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, bassoon, 2 horns, trumpet and strings.
“As I awoke my ear caught a sound, which swelled fuller and fuller,” wrote Cosima Wagner in her diary about Christmas 1870. “[M]usic was sounding, and such music!” Her husband, Richard Wagner, had composed a gift for her 33rd birthday, arranging for a small orchestra of 15 players to crowd onto the staircase in their at home at Tribschen, near Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. “When it died away, Richard came into my room with the children and offered me the score of the symphonic birthday poem. I was in tears, but so was all the rest of the household.”
The Wagners had been married a mere four months, but their romantic relationship had begun more than six years prior. Wagner fathered three children with Cosima—Isolde, Eva and Siegfried—while she remained married to conductor Hans von Bülow, a champion of Wagner’s music. Wagner, meanwhile, was estranged from his first wife (who died in 1866). By the time von Bülow granted Cosima a divorce, scandal had devastated the careers of both men.
Banished from Munich’s musical scene, Wagner retreated to Triebeschen (his spelling), where he and Cosima had spent much of their illicit relationship. He continued work on Siegfried, the penultimate opera of his Ring cycle, which provided some of the themes for the Siegfried Idyll.
The opening depicts the sunrise on the morning of his son’s birth in 1869. “[I]n order to sing of the purity and holiness of the child’s soul,” explained Wagner, the first 90 measures “use Brünhilde’s theme” (“Immortal Am I”), a melody that originated in an unfinished string quartet Wagner began writing early during his relationship with Cosima. Next a lullaby (the German cradle song “Sleep, Baby, Sleep”) coaxes the infant to sleep “during the soft, intermittent horn notes. The mother continues to sing, though halting several times. A series of trills [indicates that] the boy is now deeply asleep. The mother gazes thoughtfully upon her beloved child and dreams about his future.
“She seems touched by a shiver as she thinks about the unknown man who will grow from this boy (arpeggios in the strings). She envisions (when the meter changes to 3/4) a handsome man in flowering youth. This is Siegfried’s theme of glory [“Siegfried, Thou Glorious Protector of the World”]. A descending clarinet run expresses the mother’s delight. [The theme] is combined with the holy music: in the mother’s soul her remembrance of the boy’s childhood and of her cares joins with this vision of maturity. Now the mother envisions the youth growing in strength: he is driven to accomplish important deeds. [T]hen comes a moment of contemplation. A nameless desire captures the youth’s heart as he wanders alone (forest sounds and birdsongs and the theme of love and unity from Siegfried). His passion grows until finally love makes him happy. Birdsongs foretell success (from Siegfried), and gladness is expressed along with feelings about the innocent childhood of the soul (“From the Time of Youth, a Song Ever Sings in Me”). The mother awakens [and] gives thanks for her happiness and prays for heaven to bless her son. Once again the lullaby is heard, along with the theme of holiness. Suddenly the haunting forest horns and birdsongs return. Does the boy dream of his future? No, he sleeps quietly with a happy smile. After a final loving kiss from the mother, the future hero rests in the care of God.”
Although Wagner had intended the Siegfried Idyll to remain a private family treasure, by 1878 financial troubles prompted him to sell the publishing rights.
Johann Strauss Jr.
By the Beautiful Blue Danube, Op. 314
Strauss was born October 25, 1825, in Vienna, and died there on June 3, 1899. He composed this suite of waltzes during 1867, scoring it for pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp and strings.
“One of Strauss’ waltzes as far surpasses in charm, finish and real musical worth hundreds of artificial compositions of his contemporaries, as the steeple of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont surpasses the advertising columns on the Paris boulevards.” So wrote Richard Wagner in praise of the “Waltz King,” Johann Strauss Jr., whose single most famous composition originated with an 1865 commission from the Vienna Men’s Choral Association.
Strauss put off the request until the following year, likely taking inspiration for the work’s title (“An der schönen blauen Donau”) from a poem by Karl Isidor Beck, which concerned the Danube River passing through Beck’s Hungarian hometown. (In 1867 Vienna, the Danube was decidedly not blue, nor did it flow through the city.) The composer initially sent the chorus an unaccompanied vocal score, later providing a hastily prepared piano accompaniment. (“Please excuse the poor handwriting,” he wrote, “I was obliged to get it finished within a few minutes.”) As the February 15, 1867, premiere approached, Strauss added an additional waltz—bringing the total to five—and prepared an orchestral accompaniment, adding a slow 6/8 introduction.
It fell to police clerk Josef Weyl—an erstwhile poet and member of the Men’s Chorus, as well as a childhood friend of Strauss—to provide lyrics. Satirical in nature and unrelated to the Danube, they may have contributed to what the composer perceived as a lukewarm reception at the first performance. “The devil take the waltz,” responded the composer, “my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success.” (Press accounts of the event indicate that the audience actually responded with great enthusiasm.)
Strauss soon began performing the work at his Vienna concerts in instrumental form, before presenting it that summer at the International Exhibition in Paris, where it met with immediate acclaim. Nearly a century and a half later, it still ranks as the most popular and widely performed of Strauss’ 162 waltzes.