Chamber Music Series

2020

FRIDAY November 13

SUNDAY November 15

Featuring Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring with dancer Sarah Dassinger

The New York Times described Amanda Harburg's music as “a sultry excursion into lyricism.“

Amanda Harburg is an American composer and pianist. Her compositions, ranging from solo instrumental and chamber works to orchestral works have been performed and accoladed throughout the US. She is also an active educator, currently teaching composition at Rutgers University.

Suite for Wind Quintet was composed in 2017 for the Dorian Wind Quintet. The work is in four movements– 1. Cantus, 2. Furlana, 3. Fantasia, and 4. Cabaletta. The melodic material heard in the very opening of the piece can be heard recurring and transforming throughout the four movements, until it unites triumphantly in the final coda with the theme of the concluding movement. The piece was inspired by the concept of placing Renaissance and Baroque-inspired dance suites into Harberg’s idiom as a 21st century composer.

– Notes by Madeleine Folkerts

As the instruments play skittish riffs, fractured rhythms, wailing runs and frenzied outbursts, strands of the aria flit by, as if it were rattling around in Druckman’s mind.

–New York Times

By 1973, electronic tape was well established in art music. Visionaries like Milton Babbitt and Karlheinz Stockhausen had already begun the expansion of the technological innovations first explored by Italian futurists in the early 20th century. Although less famous, Jacob Druckman worked in this realm to much success, winning the Pulitzer prize in 1972 for his orchestra piece, Windows.

 

A year later, Druckman premiered his Delizie Contente Che l’Alme Beate, a reimagining of an aria by Francesco Cavalli from his 1649 opera, Giasone (Jason). If Cavalli could hear it today, electronic beeps and buzzes wouldn’t be the only strange aspect of this quintet. Although Italian string players were well regarded, woodwind playing hadn’t taken hold in Venice or other Italian city-states in the 17th century. Although nothing of the opera’s instrumentation has survived aside from a basic keyboard accompaniment, it is safe to assume that the closest Cavalli got to hearing any of the wind quintet instruments was hunting horns and recorders.

 

Cavalli would probably wonder why Signore Druckman mentions the opera at all. Direct references to the aria only come in brief flashes, with the opening gesture of the melody not appearing clearly until almost two minutes in. Perhaps to make the reference more explicit, these flashes come from more than just the quintet. In between the purely electronic conjurations, a recording of Druckman’s arrangement of the aria for English horn and baroque orchestra appears on occasion. The whole melody does make its way in there over the course of 11 minutes, but it is mutated, disjunct, and often abrasive–almost like a TV broadcast of 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts phasing in and out with 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, sprinkled with plenty of static and a healthy dose of LSD.

– Notes by Cameron Winrow

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Chinook Winds

The Rite of Spring
was imagined for dance.

Leonard Bernstein has called Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring “the most important piece of music of the 20th century.” This is hardly a controversial statement. There are few works from this very period that have had the impact on music that followed than has The Rite of Spring.

As a young composer, Stravinsky impressed the impresario Serge Diaghilev that Stravinsky was commissioned to compose three ballets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The first was Stravinsky’s magnificent The Firebird, and the second was 1911’s Petrushka, which starred Vaslav Nijinsky dancing as the namesake puppet. Prior to composing Petrushka, Stravinsky had a fleeting vision: “I saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring.”

He used this as the basis for his third commission, Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring). The premiere was held on May 29, 1913 at the newly opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris under the baton of Pierre Monteux. The dance was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky.

 

The audience’s reaction has become legend, with jeering and fighting in the hall between traditionalists who believed in classical ballet and bohemians, who were impatient with the trappings of classical ballet and instead desired the avant-garde. The work has been popular from its first concert performance on February 18, 1914, in St. Petersburg under Serge Koussevitzky.

On April 5th of that year, Stravinsky experienced for himself the popular success of The Rite of Spring as a concert work at the Casino de Paris. The composition is in two broad parts, Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice. This arrangement by Jonathan Russell highlights all of the greatest moments of the entire ballet and the ingenuous ways Stravinsky wrote for woodwind instruments.

– Notes by Paul Chinen

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Sarah Dassinger