2017 Concert #2: "I Could See the Sky"
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Free!get your tickets
Newburyport Choral Society, George Case, Conductor
The Greater Newburyport Children's Chorus
The Choir School of St. John's
'I COULD SEE THE SKY' for chorus, children’s choir, organ, and string quartet (WORLD PREMIERE)
'I COULD SEE THE SKY' FOR CHORUS, CHILDREN'S CHOIR, ORGAN, AND STRING QUARTET (WORLD PREMIERE)
Text for Nos. 1-4 from Life in Newburyport, 1950-1985, collected by high school students of Jean Foley Doyle, edited by Jennifer Karin. Text for No. 5 from Newburyport: As I Lived It! by John Lagoulis.
1. The Ide of Jay
Right near our house, and this does not exist today, there used to be a little boatyard. There was only one boat in that boatyard and that boat was called the Ide of Jay. It was a beautiful sloop sailboat. Every year the Ide of Jay would get launched. It was a very wealthy man that owned it. He would go south with the Ide of Jay and in the fall he brought her back up. They would bring her back up into the shed. And I could remember it was almost a holiday when the Ide of Jay got launched. This huge boat being launched into the water. If they tied her up for a week or two before he left for the south, we would sneak up on her deck and dive off the fantail. I had a wonderful childhood.
2. I had a brother, Harold
I had a brother, Harold, they called him “Gramp.” And I had a brother, Norman, they called him “Boogie.” Don’t ask me why. And this was part of the gang. “Goat” Perkins, “Cowie” Little, “Duke” Little, and “Farmer” Hamilton. Years ago everybody had a nickname. There was “Spud” Pollard, “Fishy” Morrill and “Gumdrop” Lawler.
3. We lived everywhere
We lived everywhere in Newburyport. Most of my time was spent in the northend. The people are different from the southend; I think this still applies. There’s a difference. I always liked the southend. It was older, warmer.
4. I have lived in this house
The square, at that time, was not what you see today. I have lived in this house for eighty-five years.
5. I was looking up
I was looking up. I could see the sky and the wharf and my sisters and my brother looking down at me.
When I pulled hard on a rope to bring the dory in, it responded like a spring, the anchor was entrenched. I pulled real hard. A boulder was under the surface. I hit my head. I had a comfortable feeling like sleeping in a bed and had no desire to move. I was lying on my back at the bottom of the Merrimack River.
I was drowning and I didn’t know it.
I saw my brother leap into the water. Jumped right in after me without hesitation with all his clothes on. He lifted me up with one arm and with his other arm he held onto the same rope and pulled us toward the wharf. My sisters helped. They rolled me back and forth over a barrel. People on the river knew. It was common knowledge among sailors and people.
All my life I have been proud of my brother and sisters.
CLARINET QUINTET IN B MINOR, OPUS 115 (1890)
CLARINET QUINTET IN B MINOR, OPUS 115
IV. Con moto
Thirty years after he had begun work on the piano quintet, the 57 year-old Brahms decided to retire and give up composition. But upon meeting the clarinet virtuoso Richard Mühlfeld, Brahms was inspired to un-retire and write several new works for him, among them a quintet for clarinet and string quartet. The work received its first hearing on November 24, 1891 in a performance with Mühlfeld on clarinet and a string quartet led by Joseph Joachim. (It is not an unreasonable stretch to think that my viola, which belonged to Joachim, may have been in this performance.)
The shadow of Mozart’s masterpiece can be felt throughout: the two quintets share a dark autumnal feel, and there are specific references by Brahms to the young master’s late work. Like Mozart, Brahms also introduces the clarinet after the strings have played the theme and ends the piece with a set of variations, letting the viola speak last.
I discover something new every time I return to this piece and find it manages to be heartbreaking without becoming maudlin. The last movement ends unexpectedly with the opening from the first movement, yet, far from being jarring, it feels sad and inevitable, almost like the gentle departure of a beloved from this world.
Program notes by David Yang
Ballad and March for Organ (world premiere)
Ballad and March for Organ (*world premiere*)
Transcribed for solo organ from Plain Truths, a song cycle for baritone and string quartet or piano. “Annie Lisle” is No. 2 of that set. It was a popular song whose tune became the melody for dozens of college alma maters, but this movement, although in the mold of a 19th-century American salon piece, is an original tune. The ﬁnal song of Plain Truths, No. 7, is “Spirit of Freedom.” The abolitionist Wm. Lloyd Garrison wrote the following in his paper The Liberator, immediately after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery.
Spirit of Freedom! on—
Oh! pause not in thy ﬂight
Till every clime is won
To worship in thy light:
Speed on thy glorious way,
And wake the sleeping lands!
Millions are watching for the ray,
And lift to thee their hands.
Still Onward! be thy cry—
Thy banner on the blast;
And, like a tempest, as thou rushest by,
Despots shall shrink aghast.
On! till thy name is known
Throughout the peopled earth;
On! till thou reign’st alone,
Man’s heritage by birth;
On! till from every vale,
And where the mountains rise,
The beacon lights of Liberty Shall kindle to the skies!
—Wm. Lloyd Garrison, from The Liberator, 1865
STRING QUARTET NO. 2, Opus 92
STRING QUARTET NO. 2, OPUS 92
I. Allegro sostenuto
Sergei Prokofiev was born in eastern Ukraine in 1891. A musical prodigy, he entered St. Petersburg Conservatory at 13, where he studied orchestration with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Soon after the October Revolution in 1917, Prokofiev left the Soviet Union and spent the next eighteen years living and touring abroad in Europe and America. However, he longed for his home and returned to the Soviet Union for good in 1936 after a strict ideological clampdown on the arts from which he mistakenly assumed he was immune due to his fame.
Like his rival, Dmitri Shostakovich, Prokofiev was publicly condemned in 1948 by the Minister of Culture on the charges of “formalism.” He never recovered from the humiliation and financial repercussions of the attack and passed away just a few years later on the same day as Stalin: March 5,1953. There were no flowers at his sparsely attended funeral because there were none left following “The Great Leader’s” funeral.
Working primarily with large-scale ensembles, Prokofiev is best known for his suite “Peter and the Wolf,” and his output included symphonies, concertos, operas, ballets, and film scores. He did not write his first string quartet until 1931. His second quartet, written in 10 years later, in just over one month, is based on the folk music of the Kabardino-Balkar region of the northern Caucasus, where he was sent by the Soviet authorities to escape the invading Nazi armies. Kabardian and Tatar dances and folk songs provide the basis for the work, and the players mimic indigenous instruments like the garmoshka (folk accordion).
Program notes by Gage Cogswell
STRING QUARTET IN G MAJOR, OPUS 76, NO. 1
STRING QUARTET ION G MAJOR, OPUS 76, NO. 1
I, Allegro con spirit
II. Adagio sostenuto
III. Menuetto. Presto
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
Franz Joseph Haydn, or “Papa Haydn,” as he was known in his later years, is regarded as the father of the string quartet and pretty much single-handedly invented the form and went on to write eighty three quartets over forty years. He was Mozart’s teacher (whom he modestly regarded as the greatest composer he had ever known) and briefly taught Beethoven, as well. Born in 1732 in the village of Rohrau on the Austrian/Hungarian border, he had no formal musical training, but his family was very musical and loved to sing along while his father played the harp. Recognizing his musical talent, his parents sent him to live with a relative at six years old so he could become a chorister at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.
After several years of freelancing and odd jobs (he even worked as a valet), in 1761 Haydn secured a position as deputy-Kapellmeister (which translates loosely as music master/conductor) for the Esterházy family and proceeded to spend almost his entire career (nearly 30 years) in their employ, eventually being promoted to full Kapellmeister. The Esterházys maintained a full orchestra and theater, and Haydn was kept busy conducting the orchestra, writing and producing operas, symphonies, and chamber music, producing a prodigious amount of music during his tenure.
Haydn passed away in Vienna at 1809 and Mozart’s Requiem was performed at his funeral service; he had outlived his young friend and protégé by 18 years and was devastated by the loss. Buried in a modest grave, his head was subsequently stolen by phrenologists misguidedly seeking to discover the secret of his genius by studying the bumps on his skull, which was finally reunited with the rest of the composer’s body in 1954 in a marble tomb especially built for him by the current Prince Esterházy.
His string quartet Opus 76, Number 1 in G Major is the first of a set of six dedicated to the Erdódy Hungarian noble family and was the last set of quartets Haydn completed. They show a composer at the very height of his powers in both skill and invention.
Program notes by Gage Cogswell