September 25 Program Notes
MARIA NEWMAN, PENNIPOTENTI (BIRDS) (2005) for flute, violin, and viola
I. The Dipper
II. The Snowy Owl
III. The Hummingbird
IV. The Falcon
Born in 1962, Maria Newman is an American composer of classical works ranging from solo and chamber music to symphonic forms; she also has composed film music. She is an active violinist, violist, and pianist, and also a conductor, mostly in the coastal community of Malibu. Newman is the youngest child of the major Hollywood composer Alfred Newman.
In 2004, Newman was approached by flutist Mark Carlson, Artistic Director of the Pacific Serenades, to compose a work for that organization in several 2005 performances. Carlson requested a work that included flute, but he left the rest of the orchestration choices up to Newman. Excited about the virtuosity as well as the melodic qualities of the modern flute, she chose to pair that instrument with violin and viola, while leaving out the traditional bass instrument.
The result is a frenetic trio, charged with electricity. Set in four contrasting movements, each draws inspiration from a particular type of bird. Pennipotentiis Latin for powerful in flight, a word that refers to birds. The music illustrates the quick antics and flitting movements of the dipper and the hummingbird, the predatory danger of the falcon, and the melody of a snowy owl at rest.
By Robert Molison
JENNI BRANDON, SUN SONGS (2013) for soprano, English horn, cello, and piano
Texts: North American Indians
Born in 1977, Jenni Brandon is an award-winning composer whose music has been commissioned, recorded, and performed around the world. Jenni is the recipient of numerous awards including winner of the 2017 Paderewski Cycle Project sponsored by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute of Poland, the Sorel Medallion, the American Prize for Choral Composition, the Women Composers Festival of Hartford International Composition Competition, and the Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition. As a conductor, she has led both church and community choirs, and she makes guest appearances to conduct her works. She is also active as a mezzo-soprano and has sung with the Boston Pops, Pacific Chorale, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at the Hollywood Bowl.
This piece was commissioned by Definiens ensemble of Los Angeles for their 10th Anniversary. The text for Sun Songs comes from translated texts of the North American Indians. These particular texts come from three different tribes: the Nootka Indians who lived on the seaward coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State; the Papago Indians (or the Tohono O’odham Indians) of Arizona and the Sonoran Desert; and the Havasupai people of the Grand Canyon. These various texts were used in ceremonies to bring good weather, to ask the sun to help grow the land, and to call upon the powers of nature.
I thought these three texts fit together well in telling a story of honoring the sun and nature for what it does, from bringing beautiful colors to the sky to giving us food and life. I also brought these texts together to honor the Native Americans who were here first and who appreciated the Earth and all it provides for us. We should learn from their lessons in giving thanks and caring for the land and continue to practice this before it is too late to save our planet.
Song to bring fair weather (Nootka)
You whose day it is, make it beautiful.
Get out your rainbow colors
So it will be beautiful.
Song to pull down the clouds (Papago)
At the edge of the world
It is growing light. .
Up rears the light.
Just yonder the day dawns,
Spreading over the night.
A prayer (Havasupai)
Sun, my relative,
Be good coming out.
Do something good for us.
Make me work,
So I can do anything in the garden.
I hoe, I plant corn, I irrigate.
You, sun, be good going down at sunset.
We lay down to sleep, I want to feel good.
While I sleep you come up.
Go on your course many times.
Make good things for us (men).
Make me always the same as I am now.
by Robert Molison
INGRID STÖLZEL, THE GORGEOUS NOTHINGS (2016) for soprano, flute, oboe, and piano
Texts: Emily Dickinson (see https://issuu.com/ingridstolzel/docs/the_gorgeous_nothings_-_score)
Composer Aims to Evoke Emotion with “Gorgeous Nothings”
By Rick Hellman in KU Today, 7/23/18 (used with permission)
Emily Stölzelis all about the goosebumps – the emotional effect that contemporary classical music can have on the listener. Now an assistant professor of composition in the University of Kansas School of Music, Stölzel has followed that philosophy throughout her career as a composer, including on her first, commercial solo recording, “The Gorgeous Nothings,” released July 13 on Navona Records.
“If I had to boil down why I want to create music, it is because of the amazing things music can do,” Stölzel said. “I can think about a piece of music and induce goosebumps in myself. It’s called frisson when the hair stands up on the back of your neck.You can be transported when you listen to something. You lose track of time. One of my favorite quotes is from the writer Thomas Mann: 'Music awakens time.' I really believe that music has a way of awakening time and also has the potential to induce emotion in us. That’s the part that, as a kid, I just really loved, and I wanted to do it.”
Coming from a musical family, Stölzel studied piano as a child and still composes at the keyboard. “I always liked making up stuff instead of memorizing Mozart,” Stölzel said. “I still make stuff up, but now most often I give it to other people to play; that’s the big difference.” Stölzel moved from her native Germany to the United States in 1991 to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and, after living in Connecticut, returned to the area in 1998. She writes for every size and type of classical music grouping – solo, chamber, orchestra, and choir.
Critics have called her sound gorgeous and lyrical, which Stölzel takes as a compliment. “I would consider myself a melodist, definitely,” she said. “I believe in the power of melody. I think it’s very hard to write a really good melody.” In this way, Stölzel can be seen as part of a new generation of composers who go against the ethos expressed by modernist composer Milton Babbitt in his infamous 1958 essay “Who Cares if You Listen?”
“In the 20th century, intellectualism took over, and we perhaps made audiences feel if you don’t get this, you are stupid,” Stölzel said. “In reality, when you listen to music, all that matters is your own emotional response to it. It doesn’t have to be an intellectual exercise. It can just be: Do you get moved by it; do you enjoy it; do you hate it; do you get inspired by it?”
For her first recording under her own name, Stölzel said, she was inspired by the writings of American master poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. “The Gorgeous Nothings” is the title of a 2013 collection of Dickinson’s previously unpublished writings that reproduces the scraps of paper on which she wrote them. Stölzel’s five-song cycle for flute, oboe, piano and soprano by the same title opens the record. “Soul Journey – Three Whitman Songs” is for mezzo-soprano and piano. Stölzel said the poems she picked were those that made her say to herself: “There is a piece of music in that! I read the text and thought I can express that musically.”
Concerts, she said, often provide evidence that audiences get her intention. “One of the biggest compliments to me is when a musician or audience member is moved by something. “One of the biggest compliments to me is when a musician or audience member is moved by something I have written,” Stölzelsaid. “This fourth movement, ‘The Little Sentences,’ in this Emily Dickinson setting, is kind of humorous, and I love it when the audience gets it! They chuckle at the end.”
Stölzel has previousy been awarded several competition prizes for her compositions, while “The Gorgeous Nothings” won the 2018 Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Composer’s Award given by Composers, Inc.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART, PIANO QUARTET NO. 2 IN Eb, K. 493
Born in 1756 in Salzburg, Mozart soon became a well-known prodigy, composing and performing on keyboard and stringed instruments by the age of six. Touring Europe with his father during his youth, he was writing music on command, whatever was ordered. As he matured he was eventually able to write the kind of music that his good taste demanded. In the 1770s he became concertmaster of the Salzburg Archbishop’s orchestra. During the last ten years of his employment, he turned out 42 important religious works. He moved on to Vienna, where he received commissions to write theatrical works, primarily comic operas. A milestone occurred when in 1785 he was asked to set as an opera the popular comedy “Marriage of Figaro.” The monumental list of compositions during the mature years extended way beyond opera, of course – sonatas, symphonies, concerti and more.
In 1786 publisher/composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister released Mozart from an early obligation to write three piano quartets for violin, viola, cello and piano (a new genre for the Viennese Classical era). Mozart had turned out the first of the intended three quartets and it was considered too difficult, so Mozart was no longer required to write the other two. Still he enjoyed this arrangement of instruments and went ahead independently and produced the second quartet, K. 493, played here. This piece was strictly for his own pleasure, not a commission. The freelance work, finished in 1786, eventually ended up in the hands of a Viennese publisher in 1787. It subsequently became one of the earliest of Mozart’s works also to be published in England. During the same time period he wrote 11 of his best-known piano concerti – a prolific time for Mozart. He never did write that third piano quartet, however.
This quartet has three movements and juxtaposes concerto-like writing for the piano integrated with chamber music features. Often the keyboard and strings echo each other. The composer left the choice of keyboard (harpsichord or fortepiano) to the performer. The Allegro movement (in common time) opens with a tutti statement, genial and bright. It then alternates a bit between two self-sufficient ensembles: piano and string trio. The viola plays a prominent part in many sections, possibly because Mozart particularly enjoyed the possibilities of that instrument. The Larghetto movement in 3/8 time in Aflatis lush and in full sonata form. The Rondo movement is contrapuntal and lively, in cut time. Researchers have found that Mozart had two false starts on the third movement – he discarded earlier versions of the basic theme for the one chosen here. The quartet most likely received its first performance in early 1787 in Prague, with Mozart on keyboard. This was apparently in conjunction with a wildly successful performance of “The Marriage of Figaro” there. This quartet was not Mozart's first historically, but it became one of the first truly great ones.
By Roberta Miekle