"Party with Parker"
November 22, 2021
Laurel Heights Church
227 West Woodlawn Ave., SA, TX
annual Food and Fund Drive, benefitting the San Antonio Food Bank
Live stream link HERE
Jon Kimura Parker, piano
Eric Gratz, violin
Aloysia Friedmann, viola
Elizabeth Klein Teplitsky, flute
Zachary Hammond, oboe
Ilya Shterenberg, clarinet
Sharon Kuster, bassoon
Andrew Warfield, horn
Handel/Halvorsen - Sarabande con Variazioni for Violin and Viola
Rebecca Clarke - Morpheus for Viola and Piano
William Hirtz - Fantasy on “Wizard of Oz” based on themes by Harold Arlen and Herbert Stothart
Arvo Pärt - Fratres for Violin and Piano
Francis Poulenc – Sextet FP100 for piano and winds
I. Allegro Vivace
II. Divertissement: Andantino
III. Finale: Prestissimo
This concert is sponsored in part by a generous gift from Denny Ware, and a grant from the Russell Hill Rogers Foundation.
Tonight's piano has been generously donated by: Alamo Music Center.
*programs and personnel subject to change
Program Notes, written by Mark Teplitsky
Sarabande con Variazioni
Johan Halvorsen, born in Norway, is a rare example of a famous musician whose life almost never ventured outside the Scandinavian countries. A violin prodigy from start, Halvorsen was appointed to be the concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Norway) at age 21, in part through the recommendation of his good friend Edvard Grieg. This job was soon replaced by a violin professorship at the Helsinki Music Institute. Here he met pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni, who was famous, among other things, for his piano arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne for Solo Violin. It was Busoni who encouraged Halvorsen to pursue composition and conducting. In 1899, Norway’s National Theatre was built in Oslo and Halvorsen was invited to hold the organization’s first conductor job. In the decades that followed, Halvorsen wrote his best-known music, a large majority of it being for the theatre. Originally written for a church concert, Halvorsen’s Sarabande con Variazioni is an arrangement for violin and viola of Handel’s slow movement from the Keyboard Suite in d minor, HWV 437. While the first half of the work remains Baroque in style, the variations push the music in both lyricism and virtuosity.
Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)
Morpheus for Viola and Piano
British-American Classical composer, Rebecca Clarke, was recognized throughout her life as one of the best virtuoso viola players of her time. In fact, she was one of the first women to ever be hired for a professional orchestral position when invited to join the section of the Queen’s Hall Orchestra under the baton of Sir Henry Wood. Clarke attended the Royal College of Music for composition as one of Sir Charles Stanford’s first female students. Having already performed across Europe and the United States with classical legends such as Heifetz, Casals, Rubinstein, Schnabel, Monteux and Szell, Rebecca Clarke decided to try her hand at composing and submitted a Sonata for viola and piano for an Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge sponsored composition competition in 1919. There she tied for first with renowned composer Ernest Bloch, propelling her career to international fame with violists across the globe racing to own a copy of the J. & W. Chester publication of the sonata. Morpheus for Viola and Piano, composed one year before the Sonata, is Clarke’s first significant work and clearly influenced by the French Impressionist writing of Claude Debussy. Clarke premiered Morpheus, alongside her other compositions, but under a different name, that of Anthony Trent. She was not surprised later that evening to hear that the Trent composition was far superior to that of Clarke’s; commentary that only fueled Clarke forward.
Arvo Pärt (b. 1935)
Fratres for Violin and Piano
Born in Estonia in 1935, Arvo Pärt is recognized for his minimalist and partially self-invented style of composition. He and his wife attempted to immigrate to Israel to escape Estonia’s socialist republic, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, they settled in Berlin, Germany. From an early age, Pärt was interested in Serialist and Renaissance music, two polar opposites that he learned to merge in his music. Pärt dubbed his new tonal technique Tintinnabuli, in which one melodic line circles stepwise around a central pitch while the second voice sounds the notes of the tonic triad. Written in 1997, Fratres (meaning “brother” in Latin) was one of Pärt’s first compositions to explore the technique of tintinnabuli. The original work had no indication of instrumentation and so the piece now exists in numerous arrangements. The writing for the violin arrangement is particularly difficult, with the instrument attempting to perform virtuosic acrobatics above the piano without disturbing the work’s serenity.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)
Sextet for Winds and Piano
Written for standard woodwind quintet with piano, Francis Poulenc’s Sextet for Winds and Piano was composed at the peak of the hype surrounding the composers who made up the famous Les Six. Comprised of his colleagues Tailleferre, Honegger, Milhaud, Auric, and Durey, Poulenc was the most recognized of the six French composers clumped into this exclusive club. Initially formed in 1917 to show their support for the embattled composer Erik Satie, Les Six grew to become the modernist leaders of 1920s Paris, cultivating music that was unique and distinct to France. “We were tired of Debussy, of Florent Schmitt, of Ravel, I wanted music to be clear, healthy, and robust-music as frankly French in spirit as Stravinsky’s Petrouchka is Russian” wrote Poulenc. Thus, the decades that followed saw the integration of other genres such as jazz and cabaret with Western Classical Music. Written in the same summer as the Double Piano Concerto, Poulenc’s Sextet shares a lot of direct similarities with the work. With the piano being viewed more and more as a percussive instrument, the Sextet’s instrumentation is perfect for Poulenc’s sometimes sharp and acute style to come out. In his bipolar nature, Poulenc of course included some of the most beautiful melodies to be composed in the same work and states “We realize that somberness and good humor are not mutually exclusive. Our composers write profound music, but when they do, it is leavened with that lightness of spirit without which life would be unendurable.”