COHO quartet string quartet: Jory Noble, Lauren Daugherty, Joseph Pollard White, Bennett Clark
The individual members of COHO Quartet have extensive musical backgrounds. Jory Noble is originally from Baltimore and grew up in South Bend, Indiana. She studied at the Peabody Conservatory and Indiana University School of Music and has performed professionally in New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Winnipeg, Europe and now Seattle. Lauren Daugherty is from Pittsburgh and holds an M.F.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University. She is an award-winning string teacher in the Renton School District and plays regularly with Orchestra Seattle and other orchestras in the Pacific Northwest. Joseph Pollard White is from New York and has performed professionally in the concert hall, in the theatre pit and as a studio musician. He holds a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Washington and has led orchestras in the United States and Europe and taught at Pacific Lutheran University, Christopher Newport University and Northern Kentucky University. Bennett Clark is from Seattle, attended the University of Washington and graduated from Indiana University. After living overseas a number of years in South America and Africa as ‘cellist in professional orchestras, he returned to Seattle to a career as a computer database administrator.
Handel's beloved oratorio—like you've never heard it!
The "Christmas section" of Messiah. Vocalists with mandolin accompaniment. Featuring:
Julie Finch, soprano
Elizabeth Peterson, mezzo-soprano
Derek Sellers, tenor
Gustave Blazek, bass
With the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra, conducted by Joseph Pollard White.
$20 • $15 students/seniors
INFO: http://seattlemandolin.org • 206.595.7206
seattletimes.com Joseph Pollard White, who conducts Thalia’s season-opening concert on Nov. 4, says he wants to perform more American music, as well as music by groups “ such as composers who are women or African-American, or who use explicitly queer language.”
Join us in our new harbor at St. Stephen's for a FRIDAY evening of transportive music.
Beethoven - Pastoral, Program
Overture: The Flying Dutchman
Born: Leipzig, May 22, 1813
Died: Venice, February 13, 1883
The origin of the Flying Dutchman legend is unknown, but like all durable ghost stories, it has endured in a variety of versions since at least the 18th century. One tells of a ghost ship whose responsibility it was to ferry departed souls to the afterlife. Another recounts the story of the mad sea captain who dooms his crew and passengers by refusing to turn back in the face of a furious storm at sea. The most universally known is that of a Dutch vessel’s wreck near the Cape of Good Hope in which everyone on board perished. The legend has it that an apparition of the vessel appears on the horizon during storms. The German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine took the legend and put his own spin on it in his satirical novel Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski by introducing the idea of redemption through love.
Richard Wagner already had begun to make his reputation with his earlier opera Rienzi when he and his wife Minna, fleeing from creditors, sailed to England and eventually settled in Paris. The stormy voyage allegedly inspired Wagner to appropriate Heine’s tale, transfer the action to the Norwegian seas, customize the story to reflect his own hyper-Romantic sensibilities, and thus create one of the great works of early Romantic opera.
The Flying Dutchman represents a milestone in Wagner’s development as a composer with respect to thematic handling, orchestration and the potential for emotional development in the music. For the first time, he began to work with what was primarily a Germanic legend and elevate it to a high level of artistic development, a technique which ultimately resulted in the later music dramas Parsifal, Tristan und Isolde and the monumental Ring Cycle.
Composition of The Flying Dutchman began in 1840. The first performance took place in Dresden in 1843, where he and Minna settled upon returning to Germany. Wagner continued to work on the opera intermittently, making final changes to the overture in 1860. He originally intended for the opera to be performed without intermission, but ultimately settled on the three-act version performed today.
This legendary tale must have appealed greatly to Wagner, whose own love life was complicated and almost as dramatic as that of the doomed captain of his opera. Wagner’s protagonist is a captain cursed to sail for eternity until his redemption comes in the form of a woman’s pure love. Every seven years, his ship is allowed to dock briefly for him to continue his quest for this elusive love. On one of these occasions, he meets another sea captain, the Norwegian Daland, who offers him hospitality. The Dutchman realizes that Daland’s daughter Senta could be his salvation, but his hope is frustrated by another suitor, the huntsman Erik. Senta, meanwhile, becomes fascinated by the mysterious stranger her father has brought home, but it is too late. As the Dutchman resumes his endless voyage, Senta, who has fled Erik and her father, throws herself from the cliff into the sea in that act of pure love which represents the salvation that has eluded the Dutchman. His ship immediately sinks and he and Senta are united forever.
The overture opens with a series of fortissimo notes which hint at the opera’s passion. The sea, as one of the work’s primary characters, makes an immediate appearance, displaying its fury and majesty. As the overture progresses, we get glimpses of the scenes in miniature, a technique Wagner raised, with his development of the leitmotiv, to an unparalleled degree in his later operas. In the space of a few minutes, we hear a masterful – and masterfully orchestrated – distillation of both the atmosphere and the human drama portrayed within. As an independent concert piece, this overture succeeds magnificently and has become a staple of the repertoire in its own right.
Sea Horizon from Harbor Narrative
George Frederick McKay
Born: Harrington, Washington, June 11, 1899
Died: Stateline, Nevada, October 4, 1970
George Frederick McKay, often referred to as the “Dean of Northwestern Composers” was born in the agricultural region of Eastern Washington at the end of the nineteenth century, a time of revolutionary change in the arts. Customs and traditions were being challenged and supplanted. Artists in all fields were striking out in previously undreamed of directions, and by the time McKay had decided on a career in music in 1919, it was into the rich and exciting milieu of composers like Ravel, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok and Milhaud that he entered.
After two years at the University of Washington, McKay won a scholarship affording him an opportunity to study at Eastman with composers Christian Sinding and Selim Palmgren. A brief series of after-graduation teaching jobs led finally to a long and very productive tenure at the University of Washington. He became both an outstanding educator and a prolific composer whose huge output garnered support and praise from such distinguished conductors as Leopold Stokowski and Sir Thomas Beecham.
The Suite Harbor Narrative began as a piano work, and while the piano has a prominent role in the orchestral version, it is through the masterly orchestration that this very suggestive and programmatic work succeeds so well to bring all the personalities and activities of the harbor to vivid life.
Harbor Narrative was composed in 1934 and is in nine distinct section, each with a descriptive title and a very individual character. The titled movements are:
Voice of the City
Men and Machines
Into the Distance
The titles are simple, the pieces are not. Virtually every resource of a large orchestra is exploited to evoke the individual tableaux. Sea Horizon, the opening movement we hear on tonight’s program, is essentially an introduction to the harbor itself, an impression of the power and magnificence of the sea. It’s not difficult to be reminded of Debussy’s La Mer or even Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture in this movement, but it’s also impossible to think of Harbor Narrative as anything but American. Like his contemporary Aaron Copland, McKay sought – and succeeded wonderfully – in creating a quintessential American sound.
The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin and Orchestra (1914)
Ralph Vaughn Williams
Born: Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, 1872
Died: London, 1958
Great Britain’s involvement in the First World War was arguably the most fateful event in the empire’s history. As Edwardian optimism died in the horror of the carnage, and a thousand years of tradition and social structure began to break down never to return, a longing for the pastoral England of the past began to manifest itself in art, music and literature.
In 1881, poet and novelist George Meredith wrote The Lark Ascending, an ecstatic tribute to the songbird formerly glorified by Meredith’s ancestral countrymen Chaucer and Shakespeare. As Britain prepared to enter the war in 1914, Ralph Vaughn Williams composed the original version of The Lark Ascending, scoring it for violin and piano. Violinist and dedicatee Marie Hall premiered the work in 1920. Shortly after, the orchestral version we hear today was performed for the first time, again with Miss Hall as soloist and Adrian Boult as conductor. Despite the enduring popularity of the piece today, the critics then were not impressed. The Times sniffed: “it dreamed itself along…..complete disregard for the fashions of today or yesterday”. Considering that Vaughn Williams had been a student of Ravel, the Times’ critic was not completely off base with the “dream” comment. He was, however, definitely out of touch regarding the “fashions” of the day during a time when Stravinsky, De Falla, Bartok and Debussy were all defying tradition in their own ways.
Like Brahms, Vaughn Williams had his roots in the music of the past. His most popular work, the Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and his nine magnificent symphonies are all indebted, in form and/or content, to the traditions of the past. His genius, however, lies in expressing these sensibilities through his own musical language, a language informed by training, tradition and historical milieu.
The lark’s song is embodied in the solo violin, with extended cadenzas at the opening and close of the work that require great facility and sensitivity from the soloist. Along the way, the lark soars idyllically over England, sometimes joining with the orchestra in melodies reminiscent of the folk music of earlier times, and at other times floating ecstatically above it all. Ultimately the lark ascends, along with orchestra and listener, to a place of complete tranquility and nostalgia, and fades into silence.
Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 Pastoral
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born: Bonn, December 16, 1770
Died: Vienna, March 25, 1827
The first decade of the nineteenth century contained as much tumult for Ludwig van Beethoven as any of his music. In 1802, faced with increasing deafness, he wrote what has become known as the Heiligenstadt Testament. This heart-rending document, essentially a letter to his brothers expressing his anguish about his fear of not fulfilling his artistic destiny, stands as testimony to his tormented state of mind. As his affliction worsened over the next few years, the political climate in his adopted home Vienna became very tense, with Napoleon’s forces occupying the city in 1805. The following year, his brother Carl married, thus depriving Beethoven of his acting secretary. In 1807, Beethoven suffered yet another frustrated love affair, and the next year an infection in his hand threatened to end his career as a pianist. This series of misfortunes that would have crushed any normal man seems instead to have fueled one of the great creative geniuses of Western civilization, for the list of masterpieces brought forth from Beethoven’s pen during these years is truly staggering and includes: the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Symphonies (1803-1808), the Triple Concerto (1803), the 4th Piano Concerto (1805-06), the Violin Concerto (1806), the opera Fidelio (1805-06), the Rasumovsky String Quartets (1806), the Kreutzer Sonata for piano and violin (1803), the Appassionata and Waldstein piano sonatas (1804-05) and the C Major Mass (1807).
The famous Fifth Symphony would seem to be a more apt reflection of Beethoven’s tumultuous state of mind at this time than the relatively placid and melodious Sixth, the Pastoral Symphony. The two symphonies, composed at the same time, were premiered together in a marathon concert in Vienna on December 22, 1808. Also on that program were the Fourth Piano Concerto, selections from the Mass in C Major, some piano improvisations and a hastily composed Choral Fantasy for piano, chorus and orchestra to serve as the finale. Many historical accounts of this massive four-hour event exist, and all of them indicate that the concert left a good deal to be desired from the performance standpoint. Playing the solo piano part in the Choral Fantasy himself, Beethoven apparently forgot his own instructions to the orchestra regarding a certain repeat, and as he and the orchestra proceeded in different directions, the music came to a stop and had to start again. Despite Beethoven’s failing hearing, the lack of rehearsal time, the abrupt withdrawal of the soprano in the Mass, not to mention the freezing concert hall, every work on this program achieved immortality.
The Sixth Symphony represents a departure in several ways from the usual classical symphony. Beethoven’s earlier creations in this form adhered much more closely to the models perfected by Mozart and Haydn. Structurally, the Sixth was expanded into five movements from the customary four, the last three played without pause. Additionally, never before had Beethoven composed music so explicitly programmatic, and it was the first real glimpse we have of the nature lover Beethoven apparently was. This image runs counter to the stern and unsmiling face in his portraits, but it’s well-documented that few things gave him as much pleasure as a walk in the country. Some time after the premiere of the Sixth Symphony, he wrote to Therese Malfati, one of his students (and another recipient of his unrequited affection) that “no one can love the country as much as I do” To underscore that feeling, Beethoven annotated each of the five movements as follows:
Allegro ma non Troppo – Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arriving in the countryside
Andante molto mosso – Scene by the brook
Allegro – Merry gathering of country folk
Allegro – Thunderstorm
Allegretto – Shepherd’s song – Thankfulness after the storm
Opening very quietly, the symphony ushers us into a serene and comforting landscape. Beethoven calms his listeners with a spacious soundscape containing repeated short phrases in major keys. This bucolic spirit continues throughout the movement, rarely rising in volume beyond a forte. It is interesting to note that this blissful movement was composed at the same time as the agitated and intense Fifth Symphony.
In his discussion of the Sixth Symphony, Sir George Grove (he of the music encyclopedia) wrote “it would be difficult to find in Art a greater amount of confidence, not to say, audacity, than Beethoven has furnished by his incessant repetition of the same or similar short phrases throughout this long movement; and yet the effect is such that when the end arrives, we would gladly hear it all over again”. According to Grove, this repetition causes a monotony that suggests the sounds of nature.
The second movement convincingly evokes the brook of Beethoven’s title with its lazy meanderings and unusual application of conventional sonata form. Another noted Beethoven scholar, Sir Donald Francis Tovey, remarks: “To achieve this (Tovey means sonata form) in a slow tempo always implies extraordinary concentration and terseness of design; for the slow tempo, which inexperienced composers are apt to regard as having no effect upon the number of notes that take place in a given time, is much more rightly conceived as large than as slow. […] Any slow movement in full sonata form is, then, a very big thing. But a slow movement in full sonata form which at every point asserts its deliberate intention to be lazy and to say whatever occurs to it twice in succession, and which in so doing never loses flow and never falls out of proportion, such a slow movement is as strong as an Atlantic liner that could bear taking out of water and supporting on its two ends”.
Beethoven begins this movement with the babbling brook and ends with the appearances of a nightingale (flute), quail (oboe) and cuckoo (clarinet). This avian trio functions as a cadenza, the nightingale even supplying the traditional trill to bring us back. Beethoven is reported to have remarked to his eventual biographer Anton Schindler that the birds were included as a joke, but to us they couldn’t seem more natural in this setting.
The third movement is dance music, with a rollicking peasant tune central section. According to Schindler (whose reminiscences of Beethoven are often suspect), Beethoven was here portraying village musicians who sometimes nodded off during performances, hence the jaunty, slightly off-kilter character of some of the music.
This good time being enjoyed by all is suddenly spoiled by the appearance of a storm (the fourth movement, entered without pause), which is presented in all of Nature’s fury by the trombones and timpani, and even some lightning courtesy of the piccolo. The storm is violent, but soon passes and we enter the exultant fifth movement. Beethoven wrote over a sketch for this movement “Gratias agimus tibi” (We give Thee thanks) and there is the feeling of both awe and contentment at the power and majesty of nature in this jubilant movement.
Program Notes by Michael Carroll