This evening the Butler School presents the final Jessen series recital of the 11-12 season. Please join us for a concert featuring Marianne Gedigian, flute, and Colette Valentine, piano, performing many contemporary works by Butler faculty composers and other 21st century luminaries.
After the break…
preview the concert by reading program notes Jane Mathieu, a doctoral candidate in musicology at the Butler School of Music. These program notes are made possible by the Program Notes Fund.
Yevgeniy Sharlat, Sonata for flute and piano
Sonata for flute and piano is among Russian-born composer and UT professor Yevgeniy Sharlat’s (1977-) early mature works, completed when he a young student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Written for and premiered by flutist Mimi Stillman, tonight’s recital is its first performance in thirteen years. Sharlat is very appreciative for Professor Gedigian and Dr. Valentine’s time and talent in reanimating the piece once again! The sonata is in four movements. The first is in sonata form, a traditional and disciplined formal structure common to first movements, tinged with controlled dissonances and structural clarity. The second movement is set as a sicilienne, a formal structure common to chamber works from the Baroque era and often prominently featuring dotted rhythms. This movement is then followed by a gloomy Largo, whose opening four notes pay homage to a popular symphony by Shostakovich. The final movement, a double variation, features the flute at its most bubbly and insouciant, ending the piece on an overall bright and cheery note.
Lukas Foss, Three American Pieces for flute and piano
German-born composer Lukas Foss (1922-2009), immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1937 where the young Foss began to study at the Curtis Institute of Music. The earliest iteration of this piece was completed in 1944, during a particularly successful period in Foss’ life and career; having just received wide acclaim for his cantata The Prairie, he was appointed as the pianist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra the same year and became the youngest ever recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship the following year. His compositions during this time mostly reflect a neoclassical style: Foss prioritized both melodic and formal clarity in his works, while continuing to explore a chromatic and occasionally dissonant harmonic soundworld. Foss, like Aaron Copland, was also strongly associated with the American Populism movement, helping to establish an American nationalistic sound based on clarity and simplicity designed to represent an inclusive narrative of American collective identity. While the earliest form, titled Three Pieces, was written for violin and piano, Foss later revised this piece in the mid-1980s, adapting the work to and for the flute. In each of the three movements, Foss weaves lyrical and soaring melodies of the flute with chromatic and occasionally dynamically rhythmic passages in the piano. The third movement, “Composer’s Holiday,” is especially explosive, contrasting an active syncopated rhythmic hoedown at the beginning of the movement with a sweet, light, and virtuosic flute melody that takes over by the middle of the piece.
Dan Welcher, Florestan’s Falcon for Flute and Piano
“Where would classical music be without its mad geniuses?” asks composer and UT professor Dan Welcher in summarizing his 2002 work, Florestan’s Falcon. Welcher’s piece is an homage to one such mad genius: the revolutionary and forward-looking Robert Schumann, who notably struggled with a descent into madness that confined him to an asylum at the close of his life. Ultimately unable to write or speak to family, he frequently complained of hearing a single pitch constantly ringing in his head. Such pain was not always the norm for Schumann, who happily and extensively wrote for piano throughout his career, including several collections of character pieces: short works sonically embodying emotions or entire personalities of characters in Schumann’s world. Among these recurring characters were Florestan—the Romantic, ruled by emotion and drama—and Eusebius—the cool Classicist, ruled by intellect. Whether deployed together or represented separately, Florestan and Eusebius became prominent figures in Schumann’s compositions and music criticism. In writing this work for flute and piano, Welcher selected the brief piano piece “Vogel als Prophet” (“The Prophet Bird”) from Schumann’s Waldszenen (Forest Scenes) collection and “turned it inside out.” Schumann’s original work is set in a three-part A-B-A form, alternating between a melancholy arpeggiated first theme in G minor with many “wrong” notes on strong beats and a triumphant, chordal the middle section in G major. Yet the sadness of the bird represented by the first theme ultimately persists, as the piece returns to and ends in an unsettled G minor. Just what Schumann’s bird is prophesizing, Welcher posits, “we can never know.” In Florestan’s Falcon, Welcher allows Schumann’s prophetic bird, now personified by the solo flute, to have it’s head; but it is Florestan’s bird, and must contend with serious and even frightening visions. After a wild double-cadenza, the piece settles into a disturbing rhythmic section, with the flute’s pecking birdcalls interrupting the piano’s brooding song. The flute is briefly allowed to sing in the middle section as Schumann’s original G-minor tune appears but it is ultimately interrupted by the recurring, incessant sounding of a single note (A), signaling a reemerging madness. The opening music is then heard again, higher and wilder than in it’s first appearance. Drawing to a close, the piano attempts to open the heavens and admit the sunshine; the flute can only peck out its little forest call.
Russell Pinkston, Lizamander for flute and MaxMSP
Recognized for both his innovative composition and research in electronic and computer-mediated music, composer and UT professor Russell Pinkston incorporates a wide variety of media and technology into his works. Lizamander is the second in a series of works for solo instruments and Max/MSP, a modular programming language specifically designed for multimedia works. Written for Elizabeth McNutt, it shares a similar focus with the first work in the series written for the clarinetist F. Gerard Errante titled Gerrymander. Highly interactive, both works utilize live audio processing wherein the computer captures material played by the solo instrument during the performance and blends that material with pre-recorded sounds to generate a syncopated rhythmic accompaniment while adding various effects to the sound of the flute. The computer, in effect, “listens” and collaborates with the flutist allowing considerable interpretive freedom to the performer. Yet, Lizamander also relies heavily on pitch tracking throughout the piece, not only to allow the computer to follow the score, but also to trigger the added samples, contrapuntal harmonization, and other “intelligent” effects integral to the overall work. Both the precision and expressive demands require an exceptional and dedicated performer.
Ian Clarke, Spiral Lament for flute and piano
British flutist and composer Ian Clarke’s (1964-) compositions are performed throughout the world and are known for their frequent use of extended techniques: alternative and technically difficult trills, fingerings, and mouth positions that create a wider range of sounds and tone colors than in traditional flute compositions. Spiral Lament began after an encounter with a friend’s giant African snails. Perplexed and initially afraid of the animals, Clarke found inspiration in the exotic profundity beyond his initial fear: “Beyond fear there is fascination, discovery and a different space,” Clarke writes. After the experience, his friend, herself an amateur flutist, asked Clarke to write a piece for her, something that would be challenging, yet playable and accessible for amateur musicians. In the end, Clarke’s piece retains a descriptive quality, a musical depiction of those fascinating, perplexing snails and his own reaction to them. In order to depict the exotic and foreign quality so striking to him, Clarke incorporates the use of quarter-tones, a smaller musical division between the smallest traditional intervals used in Western Art music (the half-note). This technique requires additional training designed to be an achievable and fun challenge for all who approach the piece.
Paul Schoenfield, Achat Sha’alti and Ufaratsta, from Valentines for flute and piano
While American composer and pianist Paul Schoenfield (1947-) has written in nearly every contemporary genre, he primarily is known for his varied and complex solo piano works and chamber music with piano. His own talent as a pianist is audible in his writing for the keyboard; his compositions often require a virtuosic technical facility on the part of the pianist. Schoenfield’s compositions also present a focus on rhythms in rich contrapuntal textures; active and frenzied musical lines interweave with frequent changes in meter to create a rapidly-changing soundscape. The result is a collection of works that challenges the listener to “sweat,” to intellectually participate with the sounds presented to them as to illicit a nearly physical reaction. Achat Sha’alti and Ufaratsta illustrate Schoenfield’s interest in traditional Jewish folk music. The main theme played by the flute in Achat Sha’alti is drawn from the melody of the Chassidic song of the same name and is based on the text of Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask, only this do I seek/ To dwell in Your house all the days of my life/ To behold Your loveliness, in the light of Your temple dawn.” While the piece begins by highlighting the melody in the flute with the piano in accompaniment, the roles shift half-way through, the piano now taking the melody and leading the ornamental flute through the remainder of the piece. Ufaratsta, named for another folk melody based on a passage in Genesis 28:14, features the active and technically complex keyboard writing for which Schoenfield is known. While the flute carries an active, virtuosic melody full of quick ascents, skips, and changes of tone color, the pianist supports the melody through a highly-chromatic and quickly-changing syncopated accompaniment. Towards the end, the pace slows and the flute and piano finish together in a simple closing figure.
Program note author, Jane Mathieu, is a doctoral candidate in musicology at the Butler School of Music. These program notes are made possible by the Program Notes Fund.