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Concert Program Cover

Fourth Concert of the 68th Season

Mid-American Spirit!

Sunday, May 6th, 2007
Cordier Auditorium
Suzanne Gindin, Conductor

  Fanfare for the Common Man Aaron Copland  
       
  Concierto de Aranjuez Joaquín Rodrigo  
 

I. Allegro con spirito
II. Adagio
III. Allegro gentile

 
 

Megan Stout, harp

 
       
  Knoxville: "Summer of 1915" Samuel Barber  
  Alison Buchanan, soprano  
       
  Intermission  
       
  The Plow that Broke the Plains Virgil Thomson  
 

I. Prelude
II. Pastorale
III. Cattle
IV. Blues
V. Drought
VI. Devastation

 
  modern photography by Ed Rice  
       
  Song Selections Cole Porter  
 

I Get a Kick out of You
I've Got You under My Skin
Night and Day

 
  Alison Buchanan, soprano  
       
 

Program Notes by James R. C. Adams

 
  Fanfare for the Common Man Aaron Copland
(1900-1990)
 
 

Aaron Copland was one of the most celebrated of American composers, even more abroad than in the United States. There, he was thought of as the quintessential American, whose music epitomized the Wild West, so dear to the hearts of Europeans. Never mind that he was born in New York City, and wrote a number of very urban works. He was best-known abroad for his ballets, Billy the Kid and Rodeo. And though Appalachian Spring was hardly western, it had a very folksy quality that appealed to Europeans, who liked to think of Americans as charmingly naïve, even though they had no culture.

Copland's music was easy to listen to, and certainly had an unmistakable style. Perhaps he made a tactical error in writing for the films. In this country, there is a prejudice against film music. For one thing, the American definition of film music is that it should not be memorable! One is supposed to be engrossed in the film, and the music was intended simply to act as background support. Merely agreeing to write for the movies is tantamount to admitting to second-class quality. Never mind that in Europe, writing for the films has never been considered degrading. (Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Saint-Saëns, Georges Auric, Arthur Schoenberg, William Walton, Vaugh-Williams, Erik Satie, Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Jacques Ibert, and Paul Hindemith all wrote for the films without damaging their reputations.)

Whether it was his film music (The Red Pony, The City, Our Town, Of Mice and Men, North Star, The Heiress) or his popularity among "ordinary people," his reputation began to suffer. Critics reported in the 50s that he was "repeating himself." At that time, atonic or twelve-tone music was considered avant-garde, so Copland began to experiment with that technique. He lost his earlier public, and failed to gain a "more advanced one," but now that he is gone, his reputation has recovered, though mostly through a resurgence of interest in his earlier "American" style.

The short work we hear today is very characteristic of his sparse, American style. It opens with the tympani, followed by the fanfare in the brass. The tune is simple, as fanfares are, but Copland is known for his sparse, clear writing. The wide intervals and simple repitition (mostly in bursts of three) are typical of his "western" style, suggesting the wide open spaces of America, and the simple life of the working man (cowboy or farmer). The work was commissioned by Sir Eugene Goossens, and was first conducted by him with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1943. It is heard often, but is still not highly enough thought of to merit a mention in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


 
       
  Concierto de Aranjuez Joaquín Rodrigo
(1901-1999)
 
 

Joaquín Rodrigo is arguably the most popular Spanish composer of the latter half of the 20th Century. His Concierto de Aranjuez is certainly the most popular guitar concerto in history. As of 1998, there were no fewer than thirty-eight recordings of it. Rodrigo is so popular that his works have been transcribed to other instruments, the flute in one instance, and the harp in another. It is the harp transcription of Concierto de Aranjuez that we will hear today.

Sometimes, a transcription is done by the solo performer, as in the case of John Gallway's transcription for flute of the Fantasía para un Gentilhombre, but this transcription for harp was done by the composer himself at the request of the Spanish harpist, Nicanor Zabaleta. The orchestral part is unchanged; only the guitar part was altered in favor of the harp. Listeners familiar with the original version are unlikely to notice any difference other than the fact that the harp has a more bell-like resonance than the guitar.

The work is in the customary three movements: I. Allegro con spirito, II. Adagio, and III. Allegro gentile. Although this concerto has no program, there is a hint to its interpretation in its title. Aranjuez is the name of royal resort not far from Madrid. It was a favorite summer retreat for the Bourbon Kings of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are natural springs there, and wonderful gardens. I can'r resist quoting a Spanish description of its charms:

"Its gardens are deserved of any King, they have a wonderful beauty, and its monuments (as the Royal palace, the Tilling House, water springs, etc.) are the proud of a quiet population, that come into alive in the summer season because the great number of visitors that spend their time astonishing its many beautys, and enjoying their citizans hospitality."

The Spanish harpist Marisa Robles says that Rodrigo intended the work to suggest the charm and gentility of that period.

There are several interesting facts about this Spanish composer, born in Valencia in 1901. He became blind at the age of three as the result of an illness. He began his musical studies when he was eight. His principal instruments were the piano and the violin. It surprises people to discover that, although he wrote mostly for the guitar, he did not play that instrument. Why then, was it his special interest? Because it is the national instrument of Spain, and Rodrigo was very Spanish. He received many honors during his long life, the grandest of which was his elevation to the nobility. In 1991, King Jaun Carlos gave him the title Marqués de los Jardines de Aranjuez (Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez), an appropriate title.


 
       
  Knoxville: "Summer of 1915" Samuel Barber
(1910-1981)
 
 

Samuel Barber was of the same generation that produced Aaron Copland, Virgil Thompson, Elliot Carter, Roger Sessions, and Walter Piston, but he was unlike any of them. He has been described as America's last Romantic. In that respect, he resembles Rodrigo as Spain's last Romantic. Barber never subscribed to any of the contemporary musical trends (or fads, if you will). He was his own man, and suffered from critics of both sides of the critical spectrum. At a time when American composers were expected either to embrace the experiments of the New Viennese School, that is, the dodecaphonic and serial techniques of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, ro to throw themselves into the rush to prove themselves American through the use of folk music of various kinds (Copland, Thompson), Barber took neither route. He wrote as he pleased, without regard to fashion.

He was inspired by literature, mostly European, often Classical. This is obvious in his vocal music, but it is also apparent in his orchestral works (Medea, Overture to The School for Scandal, Essays for Orchestra, Music for a Scene from Shelley).

If the name, Barber, is not familiar to you, that is a pity, because he was one of America's most distinguished composers. What's more you have all heard and admired at least some of his music. In 1936, as the result of two awards, Barber went to Rome, where he composed at the American Academy. There were two important products of that visit, Music for a Scene from Shelley, and the Quartet, Op. 11. Barber re-orchestrated part of the second movement into what is now known as the Adagio for Strings. It has served as elegiac background music to many films, most notably Platoon, but also in an impromptu performance over the BBC immediately following the attack on the World Trade Center. It is an extremely moving work, and is known world-wide.

Barber was born to a well-to-do family in West Chester, Pennsylvania, not far from Philadelphia. In the words of biographer Paul Witke, "He was spared the virtues of poverty and never enjoyed the values of starving in a garret." he began piano lessons when he was six, and wrote his first opera when he was seven. He was strongly influenced by his aunt, who was an opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera, and his uncle, who was a writer of art songs. Although Barber is well-known for his orchestral pieces, he was drawn mostly to vocal music. He had a strong baritone voice which stood him in good stead as he promoted his opera Vanessa to the Director of the Metropolitan Opera, and on the basis of his music and his performance of it, was granted a contract for production of that opera.

Samuel Barber was, in many ways, a solitary man. He refused to talk about his music, even to his closest friends. But on the other hand, he was an urbane, cultivated, internationally minded, witty conversationalist, very much like Cole Porter. And, like Porter, he wanted his music to be accessible to the masses. Although nobody would describe Barber's music as "popular" in the sense that Cole Porter's was popular, his music was much more accessible than other music of the period.

Writer Wilfred Mellers, a specialist in American music, believed that Barber was strongly influenced by a desire to relive his childhood. So was James Agee, whose work inspired Knoxville: "Summer of 1915." This short work was a prologue to Agee's autobiographical book, A Death in the Family. Agee wrote, "We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child." The work was commissioned by the world-class opera singer, Eleanor Steber. Barber conceived the piece as if sung by a child. We can imagine Ms. Steber representing the childhood memory of a man, longing for a time of lost innocence. The poetry speaks of calm beauty, but the dissonance expressed by the orchestra suggests the contrast between the tranquil security of a child in a loving family with the unknown terrors of the "ignorant armies" (this was 1915, don't forget!). After that outburst, the music returns to a lullaby as the child is put safely to bed.


 
       
  The Plow that Broke the Plains Virgil Thomson
(1896-1989)
 
 

Virgil Thomson was born in Kansas and grew up in a Baptist tradition. He played organ in a number of local churches, and this early acquaintance with church music accounts for his frequent references to liturgical music throughout his life. He was not particularly religious, but like the ritual of the Church.

At Harvard, he fell under the influence of teachers who were French-trained, and eventually he visited France, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger (like virtually all other American composers of the period). He met the group known as Les Six, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, and, most important of all, Gertrude Stein.

Satie and Les Six were busy ridiculing European seriousness, and Thomson was willing to join in. While their music took a sophisticated parodic approach, mocking the Wagnerian seriousness of much European music, Thomson and Stein used a naïve, American simplicity, which was also in contrast to the heaviness of the music of the European establishment of the time. They had the same target, butused different weapons.

While Thomson's collaboration with Gertrude Stein yielded the most important of his compositions (the operas Four Saints in Three Acts, and The Mother of Us All), his most popular works were his film scores, mostly for documentaries: Louisiana Story, The River, and The Plow that Broke the Plains.

The Plow that Broke the Plains was the background to a documentary film commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and had voice-over narration by the director, Pare Lorentz. It is divided into six sections.

I. The Prelude suggests the vast stretches of the Great Plains, 400,000,000 acres of wind-swept grass lands spreading from Texas to Canada.

II. Pastorale suggests these wind-swept plains, devoid of rivers, and scarce of rain.

III. Cattle pour into this thousand-mile pasture, and roam from the Rio Grande in winter, to the mountain plateau in summer. Then come the railroads, bringing settlers and business. Here, Thomson quotes old cowboy songs, Old Paint, The Streets of Laredo, and we hear the banjo and guitar, portable instruments of the cowboys.

IV. Blues suggests the arrival or people from the urban East, seeking a new life. The farmers begin to displace the cattlemen. But with no rivers, and little rain, the farmers plow at their own peril. Many fail. Hot sun, no rain, blowing dust. These were the war years. Farmers were exhorted to plant wheat to win the war. Support our troops, and the British, and the Belgians, and the French!

V. Drought comes. Once again the rains fail, and now there is no grass to hold moisture. Millions of acres of plowed soil lie open to the sun.

VI. Devastation. Their homes and cattle choked with dust, with little to eat, and less hope, they strike out for the West, to California, seeking a day's work along the way, for some beans to feed their children. 50,000 a month!

Aaron Copland was strongly influenced by the music of Virgil Thomson, writing to him that his score for The River was "...a  lesson in how to treat Americana."


 
       
  Selections from the music of Cole Porter
(1892-1965)
 
 

As most of you know, Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana. His family was wealthy, and he suffered none of the financial worries which plagues his contemporary, Irving Berlin. While Berlin was largely self-taught, Porter graduated from Yale, studied music at Harvard, and traveled to Paris, where he studied at the Schola Cantorum under the French composer Vincent D'Indy. Porter was a sophisticated-born vivant, who, in his music, thumbed his nose at authority, delighted in double entendrè, and used downright risqué lyrics, which he wrote himself. The musicologist Cecil Smith referred to Porter as "the genteel pornogrpaher" of musical comedy.

Porter and Barber were very much alike in more ways than one. Both came from wealthy families. Both were as much at home in Europe as they were in America. They both liked naughty lyrics, although Barber saved them for parties, while Porter found ways to get them into his songs. In I get a kick out of you, the original lyrics called for the line, "I get no kick from cocaine." It is usually changed to "I get no kick from champagne."

The songs we hear today are:

I Get a Kick out of You
I've Got You under My Skin
Night and Day


 
       
 

Manchester Symphony Orchestra Personnel

 
  Violin I
Dessie Arnold, Concertmaster
Linda Kummernuss
Ervin Orban
Ilona Orban
Moo Il Rhee

Violin II
Joyce Dubach *
Martha Barker
Janice Eplett
Heather Hufgard +
Paula Merriman

Viola
Naida MacDermid *
Julie Sadler
Margaret Sklenar

Cello
Brook Bennett *
Corrina Miner +
Tim Spahr
Tony Spahr
Sara Thomas

Bass
Darrel Fiene *
Brad Kuhns

Flute
Sarah Curry +
Jena Eichenlaub +
Sara Kauffman +
Allison Hoover +

Oboe
George Donner *
Nyssa Gore +
Deana Strantz +

English Horn
George Donner
Clarinet
Lila D. Hammer *
Mark W. Huntington

Bass Clarinet
Mark W. Huntington

Bassoon
Erich Zummack *
Amy Cox

Horn
John Morse *
Nicole Anderson +
Brittany Cook ++
Sam Wysong +

Trumpet
Steven Hammer *
Nicholas Kenny +
Jason Lucker

Trombone
Jon Hartman *
Larry Dockter

Bass Trombone
Scott Hippensteel

Tuba
Robert Lynn

Percussion
Dave Robbins *
Michael Holler +
Robin Jo Steinman +

* Denotes principal
+ Denotes MC student
++ Denotes student librarian
 
Megan StoutMegan Stout graduated with her Bachelor's Degree in Harp Performance and is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Harp Performance from the famous harp department at Indiana University-Bloomington under the tutelage of Professor Susann McDonald. This department draws many talented harpists and has the distinction of being the largest harp studio in the world. While at Indiana University, she won several competitions, such as the American String Teacher's Association's National Competition (Harp) and was a prizewinner twice in the National Society of Arts and Letters. Megan was active as an orchestral harpist during this time as Principal Harpist for the Columbus Symphony, Manchester Symphony Orchestra, and substituting in the Indianapolis Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Evansville Symphony, Camerata Symphony, and the South Bend Symphony. Megas was asked to return to her home town of Philadelphia to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra on a large work that required six harpists. This was her second performance with this acclaimed symphony.

Megan has also won several concerto competitions in the Philadelphia area, allowing her to appear as a soloist with the orchestras.

Over the 2006 summer, Ms. Stout served as the principal harpist for the Breckenridge Music Festival in Breckenridge, Colorado. She was also a featured soloist in the finale concert, where she performed the Rodrigo harp concerto.

In addition to her private teaching studio, Ms. Stout has taught as a harp teacher at the Ursuline School for the Performing Arts in Louisville, Kentucky. She is currently on Music Department faculty at Indiana University-Southeast.

Ms. Stout is a resident of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Alison BuchananSince performing with the Ritz Chamber Players last season, Alison Buchanan has had a busy schedule performing around England with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in their "Summer Prom Concerts." She joined the Philharmonic again when asked to replace Soprano Montseratt Caballé in a concert at Kenwood House in London. Other hightlights in Ms. Buchanan's career include performing her first Elvira (Don Giovanni) with the New York City Opera, taking part in a festival in the south of France, and a live concert/broadcast for BBC Radio 3 with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Most recently, Buchanan gave concerts in Monte Carlo and Florence and a recital at St. John's Smith Square in London. Future engagements include the Opera Peter Grimes with the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Sir Colin Davis, concerts in Venice and France, Les Huits d'Eté with the Thorington Players in London, and more "Proms" concerts with the Royal Philharmonic.