Concert #1 2017 "Different Trains"
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Pre-Concert Lecture 6:45PM -7:15PM
Free!get your tickets
Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)
Mozart, (on K. 416d) for 2 violins (1976)
Sonata for two cellos, Sonata No. 10 in G. Major
I: Andante II: Adagio III: Allegro Prestissimo
String Quartet No. 5 in Bb Major, Opus 92
I: Allegro non troppo II: Andante III: Moderato
Steve Reich (B.1936)
“Different Trains” for string quartet and tape
'MOZ-ART, (on K. 416d)' FOR 2 VIOLINS
'MOZ-ART, (ON K. 416d)' FOR TWO VIOLINS
Alfred Schnittke was born in 1934 in the Soviet Union but first studied music in Vienna, where he was introduced to the Austro-German musical tradition. From the 1930s until after the death of Stalin in 1953, the arts in the USSR were under strict state control with artists forced to adhere to the tenets of “socialist realism,” which strongly discouraged experimentation. However, during the Khrushchev thaw in the late 1950s, Schnittke gained access to scores by Western avant-garde composers such as Stravinsky (a fellow Russian who had been living abroad prior to World War I and the Bolshevik revolution and only returned to his homeland in 1962) and Schoenberg, which set him on a path that ensured he would never enjoy steady, state-sanctioned employment as a musician.
In fact, most of Schnittke’s music was banned at home, but he was able to support himself writing film scores (over 60 in 25 years). His experiences in that field led him to the concept of “polystylism” — using different styles from different sources in composition — and in 1971 he published the seminal essay "Polystylistic Tendencies in Modern Music." Among the composers Schnittke considered polystylists were Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Berg, Boulez, and Stockhausen. Meanwhile, despite the low regard in which his music was held by the government, world-renowned Russian musicians such as Mystislav Rostropovich and Gennady Rozhdestvensky were devoted to him and performed his music outside the Soviet Union; through their efforts Schnittke’s work became well known in the West.
“Moz-Art,” written in 1977, a quirky and humorous piece for two violins, is a perfect example of polystylism. Based on the first violin part from Mozart’s unfinished “Music to a Carnival Pantomime,” with morsels of his 40th Symphony, “Moz-Art” is also a play on words in German meaning “Sort of.” Musicologist David Fanning says about the piece, “Schnittke often treats Mozart with the detached bemusement of a visitor from outer space confronting an artifact from a dead civilization.”
Sonata for Two Cellos, No. 10 in G Major
SONATA FOR TWO CELLOS, NO. 10 IN G MAJOR
Jean-Baptiste Barrière (born 1707 in Bordeaux, France) was one of the best-known composers and cello virtuosos of the Baroque era. He began his studies on the viol (a close cousin to the cello) but later became an early proponent of the cello, which had already established itself in popularity in neighboring Italy by the end of the 17th century.
In 1731, Barrière entered the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris, and such was his astonishing skill that two years later King Louis VX accorded him special privileges at Fontainebleau, permitting him to practice, write, and publish his own compositions. He eventually published four books of sonatas for violoncello, a volume of sonatas for the pardessus de viole (a higher-pitched cello, usually played by women), and a book of harpsichord sonatas.
Barrière blended both French and Italian characteristics in his music. According to musician and scholar Mary Cyr, “More than any French composer before him, Barrière makes demands on the cello soloist in bold and sometimes even daring ways.”
STRING QUARTET NO. 5 IN Bb MAJOR, Opus 92
STRING QUARTET NO. 5 IN Bb MAJOR, OPUS 92
I. Allegro non troppo
II. Andante – Andantino – Andante – Andantino – Andante
III. Moderato – Allegretto – Andante
Dmitri Shostakovich was born in 1906 in St. Petersburg, Russia. His grandfather was a Polish revolutionary who had been exiled to Siberia, and both his parents were born there. He entered the Petrograd Conservatory at 13 and wrote his First Symphony at 19. Shostakovich’s relationship with the Soviet state bureaucracy — and Joseph Stalin personally — was complicated. He was awarded the Stalin Prize five times, the Order of Lenin three times, and numerous other state-sponsored prizes, yet twice fell badly into disfavor and had his music banned. During the Great Terror of the 1930s he lived in such fear that the NKVD (Soviet secret police) would arrest him in the middle of the night, he kept a small suitcase with essentials for prison packed by the door. By the 1950s his stature had recovered to such a degree that he was instrumental in obtaining the early release of Sergei Prokofiev’s first wife from a 20-year sentence to the gulag.
Like Schnittke, Shostakovich was a polystylist, drawing upon the music and styles of other composers as well as his own work. Introduced to Jewish themes by his friend Mieczysław Weinberg, he also possessed a strong sense of humor, saying “I want to fight for the legitimate right of laughter in serious music.” Sometimes that’s the most powerful (or only) weapon an artist possesses. He told a friend in 1970 that without Party guidance, “I would have displayed more brilliance, used more sarcasm, I could have revealed my ideas openly instead of having to resort to camouflage.”
His fifth string quartet is typically sharp and incisive. Written in 1952, it was among several post-war works Shostakovich held back from performance until after Stalin’s death because of his fears of public denunciation as a “formalist.” This quartet has been called “one of the toughest and most uncompromising of all his quartets” and “a living monument of this time.”
Program notes by Gage Cogswell
'Different Trains' for string quartet and electronic tape
'DIFFERENT TRAINS' FOR STRING QUARTET AND ELECTYRONIC TAPE
'Different Trains' for String Quartet and pre-recorded performance tape (1988) begins a new way of composing that has its roots in my early tape pieces 'It’s Gonna Rain' (1965) and 'Come Out' (1966). The basic idea is that carefully chosen speech recordings generate the musical materials for musical instruments.
The idea for the piece came from my childhood. When I was one year old my parents separated. My mother moved to Los Angeles and my father stayed in New York. Since they arranged divided custody, I travelled back and forth by train frequently between New York and Los Angeles from 1939 to 1942 accompanied by my governess. While the trips were exciting and romantic at the time I now look back and think that, if I had been in Europe during this period, as a Jew I would have had to ride very different trains. With this in mind I wanted to make a piece that would accurately reflect the whole situation. In order to prepare the tape I did the following:
my governess Virginia, then in her seventies, reminiscing about our train trips
2. Record a retired Pullman porter, Lawrence Davis, then in his eighties, who used to ride lines between New York and Los Angeles, reminiscing about his life.
3. Collect recordings of Holocaust survivors Rachella, Paul and Rachel, all about my age and then living in America—speaking of their experiences.
4. Collect recorded American and European train sounds of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
In order to combine the taped speech with the string instruments I selected small speech samples that are more or less clearly pitched and then notated them as accurately as possible in musical notation. The strings then literally imitate that speech melody. The speech samples as well as the train sounds were transferred to tape with the use of sampling keyboards and a computer. Three separate string quartets are also added to the pre-recorded tape and the final live quartet part is added in performance.
'Different Trains is in three movements (played without pause), although that term is stretched here since tempos change frequently in each movement. They are:
America—Before the war
2. Europe—During the war
3. After the war
The piece thus presents both a documentary and a musical reality and begins a new musical direction. It is a direction that I expect will lead to a new kind of documentary music video theatre in the not too distant future.
America - Before the War
Chicago to New York" (Virginia Mitchell)
"one of the fastest trains"
"the crack train from New York" (Lawrence Davis)
"from New York to Los Angeles"
"different trains every time" (Virginia Mitchell)
"from Chicago to New York"
"1939" (Lawrence Davis)
"1941 I guess it must've been (Virginia Mitchell)
Europe – During the War
"on my birthday"
"The Germans walked in"
"walked into Holland"
"Germans invaded Hungary" (Paul)
"I was in second grade"
"I had a teacher"
"a very tall man, his hair was completely plastered smooth"
"He said: 'Black Crows invaded our country many years ago'"
"and he pointed right at me"
"No more school" (Rachel)
"You must go way"
"and she said 'Quick, go!'" (Rachella)
"and he said: 'Don't breathe!'"
"into those cattle wagons" (Rachella)
"four days and four nights"
"and the we went through these strange-sounding names"
"Lots of cattle wagons there"
"They were loaded with people"
"They shaved us"
"They tattooed a number on our arm"
"Flames going up to the sky - it was smoking"
After the War
the war was over" (Paul)
"Are you sure?" (Rachella)
"The war is over"
"going to America"
"to Los Angeles"
"to New York"
"from New York to Los Angeles" (Mr. Davis)
"one of the fastest trains" (Virginia)
"but today, they're all gone" (Mr. Davis)
"There was one girl, who had a beautiful voice" (Rachella)
"and they loved to listen to the singing, the Germans"
"and when she stopped singing they said, 'More, more' and they applauded"