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PROGRAM NOTES Friday, February 11th , 8 PM

Gallery: Suite for unaccompanied cello
Robert Muczynski (1929-2010)

Chicago native Robert Muczynski studied piano with Walter Knupfer and composition with the Russian émigré composer Alexander Tcherepnin at DePaul University during the years following the Second World War. Spending the first part of his professional career as a composer-pianist, he proved to be a pervasive exponent of his own music, debuting at Carnegie Hall in 1958 in a program of his solo piano pieces. After teaching at several colleges, he joined the faculty of the University of Arizona at Tucson in 1965 as chairman of composition and composer-in-residence, a position that he held until his retirement in 1988. His students included Paul Schoenfield, the composer of Café Music, the popular work performed on the previous concert in this series (November 2010). Muczynski composed primarily for either solo instruments or small ensembles, and several of his works, notably his 1961 Flute Sonata as well as many of his numerous pieces for solo piano often show up on recital programs. His music has been described by musicologist Walter Simmons as speaking "the language of mid-20th-century American neoclassicism, tempered by a romantic sense of mood and affect …displaying a friendly modernism—tonal but not reactionary, peppered with light dissonance and energetic asymmetries of rhythm—always expertly tailored to highlight the artistry of the performer in a manner idiomatic to the featured instrument." Gallery: Suite for unaccompanied cello (1971) was suggested by the watercolor paintings of Charles Burchfield. Muczynski composed Gallery at the behest of filmmaker Harry Atwood who made a film about the American Realists, including Burchfield. Like Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Gallery, made up of nine short movements, captures the private reverie that occurs when the viewer contemplates a painting. A recording of the work by this evening's performer, Carter Enyeart, has been recently released on the Centaur record label.

Kreisler's Coat: for cello and piano
Jonathan Golove (b. 1966)

About his new work, the composer Jonathan Golove writes: "Schumann based his Kreisleriana, a collection of eight short "fantasies" for solo piano, on the character Johannes Kreisler, who appears in a number of E. T. A. Hoffmann's fictional writings. Hoffmann's Kreisleriana contains the following suggestively synesthetic comment:

'It is not so much in the dream state as in the preceding delirious stage, particularly when one has been immersed in music, that a relationship is established between colors, sounds, and perfumes.'

In the same work, Hoffmann described Kreisler as a "little man in a coat the color of C sharp minor with an E major colored collar."   Curiously, "Sehr rasch," the seventh of Schumann's fantasy pieces, contains precisely this key relationship (here, C minor and E flat major). I took Schumann's work as the starting point for my own, at the same time making a further association with a musico-historical figure bearing the Kreisler name, namely Fritz Kreisler, whose violin tone has always evoked for me images of golden colors and sensations of warmth."

Séquence pour un hymne ŕ la nuit: pour cello et piano
Alain Margoni (b.1934)

Cellist Jonathan Golove has observed that: "French composer Alain Margoni studied at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen, and also learned to play the Ondes Martenot from the instrument's inventor, Maurice Martenot (An important rival and contemporary of Leon Theremin!). His works include a substantial series composed for piano along with a single instrument, as well as several featuring the voice, including both oratorio and opera.  The 1979 Séquence pour un hymne ŕ la nuit is reminiscent of the works of Messiaen; in particular a series of mysterious chords suggests Messiaen's synesthetic approach to harmony ("color chords").  Séquence was composed as an obligatory work for competitors for a conservatory prize." Alain Margoni went on to win the Grand Prix de Rome, the most prestigious French musical prize for composition, and he also studied privately with the composer Florent Schmitt, a student of Fauré, and a classmate of Maurice Ravel.

Stories still: for cello and pre-recorded tape
Ruth Wiesenfeld (b. 1972)

The contemporary German composer Ruth Wiesenfeld based her 2004 work, stories still: for cello and pre-recorded tape, on a text by Samuel Beckett. About her work Wiesenfeld writes: "Two voices intertwined: a male voice asking questions indefatigably, going on in spite of their un-answerability and the musical line of a solo cello revolving around it in ornamental turns, departing from and coming back to the same note again and again. These circular reflections take place in the orbit of a rotating lamp illuminating for a moment only what happens to be within its beam of light."

Duo for violin and cello
Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)

Marc McAneny, a faculty member of the Music Department at Buffalo State College, has written about the Kodály piece: "Zoltán Kodály's 1914 Duo for violin and cello portrays a series of shifting musico-dramatic relationships in three movements. Airs of propriety in the first movement, are followed by confrontational challenge in the second, and playful, egalitarian exchange in the third. The first movement, Allegro serioso, non troppo, is cast in the classical sonata-allegro form, with a declamatory introduction followed by the violin playing a folk-style, pentatonic theme over a repeated, ostinato bass line in the cello, before the roles are reversed, with the cello sounding the melody while the violin accompanies. The cello closes the development section with a cadenza, and when the first theme reappears in the recapitulation, it is the cello that plays the first restatement– which is only fair, since the violin took the lead the first time through! This formal protocol marks the first movement throughout its many changes of mood, tempo, and meter. The middle movement, Adagio, is as much the centerpiece of the work as it is a point of repose. The instrumental partners continue their mutual exchanges, but the emotional tone is quite different from the first movement, as its languid, mysterious opening measures give way to deep, taunting tremolos in the cello. The atmosphere intensifies, as if each instrument were drawing a line in the sand, daring the other to cross in a brusque, competitive manner. This overt tension contrasts with the whimsical, capricious nature of the final movement, marked Maestoso e largamente ma non troppo lento - Presto, a game of changes in which vigorous dances are taken up, or left off at the drop of a hat. After an introductory cadenza for violin, each dance in the series offers a different mood than the one it has displaced, even though many reveal an obsession with a single, repeated note. Both instruments take turns cooperating equally, with appropriate aplomb, enjoying the revelry of the game itself. It is no coincidence that the word 'play' is used to describe how music is performed. Like 'playing' games, performing and listening to music are participatory activities, inviting all to throw off familiar roles and concerns, even if for only a moment. That experience is shared, with each participant taking away something different, but only if we are willing to throw ourselves into playing along."

-    Program Notes by Jan Jezioro


Made possible by the generous support of

Irene Haupt, Photographer

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