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Tufts Residency

Sunday, June 8, 2003 at 8 p.m.
Goddard Chapel

PROGRAM

Praeludium John Berners (b. 1961)

Winter Scenes (1997) Karim Al-Zand (b. 1970)
From Four Songs on texts of D.G. Jones
II. Winter Hills
III. View From My Window
IV. Thaw

Duettino For Piano, Four Hands, Op. 371 (2001-02) John McDonald (b. 1959)
I. Rhapsodietta Upon E. S. C. H. W. E.
II. Scherzino with Three Serious Difficulties
Winston Choi and John McDonald, piano

Pierrot Songs Leslie Bassett (b. 1923)
I. Die Wolken (Clouds)
II. Eine Buehne (A Stage)
III. Herbst (Autumn)


INTERMISSION

Three Chinese Love Songs Bright Sheng (b. 1955)
I. Blue Flower
II. At the Hillside Where Horses are Running
III. The Stream Flows

Piano Quintet William Bolcom (b. 1938)
I. Sonata Movement
II. Larghetto
III. Lamentation
IV. Rondo Furioso


Praeludium (John Berners)
I was delighted when Chris Kim asked me to write a piece for the Brave New Works Art of Fugue Project. My first thought was, with all those fugues, why not a prelude? I began composing Praeludium with the idea of a serene, major-key prelude like some found in the WTC. After a few pages, however, the mood of the piece took a definite turn for the worse. A short quote from Bach's Contrapunctus IX leads the music in a darker direction. Eventually, the fragments of Baroque-style figures are left to fend for themselves in increasingly bleak surroundings.
- John Berners

John Berners (b.1961, Milwaukee) began composing at an early age and studied trombone at Northwestern University with Frank Crisafulli, earning a B.M in performance and a B.A. in Mathematics. Composition studies began privately with C. Curtis-Smith in Kalamazoo, MI and continued at the University of Michigan under William Albright, Evan Chambers, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty and William Bolcom. Currently a Ph.D. candidate, John Berners lives in Silver Spring MD, and is Assistant Professor of Music at American University in Washington, D.C. His works have been played by the Detroit Symphony, the Boston Symphony brass section, the Tanglewood Festival Brass, Kalamazoo Symphony, Brave New Works, the Michigan Chamber Brass and many college ensembles. His music has been recorded by pianist Alan Huckleberry, the Millar Brass Ensemble, and Boston's Old South Brass.

Winter Scenes (Karim Al-Zand)
The text for Winter Scenes is by the Canadian poet D. G. Jones. Though the poems come from diverse collections, they are united by a common theme: winter. They are arranged in a chronological or 'seasonal' order, beginning with the cold of deep winter in February, the first poem, to the rejuvenation of spring in Thaw, the last. In each poem, the overall meaning hinges on the last lines, even the last word. They have a kind of 'upward' turn at the end, an optimistic revelation. Winter Hills, similarly, begins with a winter image: "the grey hills, like whales." The middle stanza in contrast, is a personal lament. After a return to the whale/hill simile, the poet portends the spring: "the hills rise up: green." View From My Window also has an important last word, 'flowers,' and like Winter Hills, seems to turn about this unexpected ending. Thaw reads like a single long sentence whose point is only reached at the very end. It is then that the scope of the poem suddenly widens, from microcosm ("the rippling pools") to macrocosm ("the earth trembling in its frame"). Winter Scenes was commissioned to be presented to an audience of novice music students. In fulfilling its pedagogical purpose, the piece illustrates various musical techniques: a passacaglia (February); a canon by inversion (Winter Hills); a melodic palindrome (View From My Window); and the use of modes (Thaw).

II. Winter Hills
The grey hills, like whales,
Journey in the winter sea;
I hardly know if I'm alive,
Or shall ever love again -

Unless I journey with the whales
To where the hills rise up: green.

III. View From My Window
The hillside has been hidden
And the stones
Come up out of the snow
Like flowers.

IV. Thaw
When the snow melts to the ground
leaving between hillocks of snow
many little pools where
green grass and dead leaves grow,
the currents which run from pool down to pool
are too slight to be seen,
yet they ripple the pools as though
all earth were trembling in its frame.

D. G. Jones. February, Winter Hills, and Thaw from Frost on the Sun, Contact Press, Toronto, 1957, View from My Window from Phrases from Orpheus, Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1967. Used by kind permission of the author.

The music of composer Karim Al-Zand (b. 1970) has been called "strong and startlingly lovely" (Boston Globe). Al-Zand is currently an Assistant Professor in Composition at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. Before arriving in Houston, he received degrees from Harvard University (Ph.D., 2000) and McGill University in Montreal, Canada (B.Mus. 1993). Groups which have featured his music include the Mendelssohn String Quartet, Flux String Quartet, California E.A.R. Unit, New Millennium Ensemble, Third Angle Ensemble, North/South Consonance, Pinotage, Ensemble Noir, Brave New Works, Collegium Novum Ensemble and OrchestraX. Al-Zand's most recent commissions have been from the Fromm Foundation, the Indiana University Wind Ensemble, ALEA III, and Houston's OrchestraX. In 1998 his String Quartet No.1 won the Salvatore Martirano Composition Competition and this year his String Quartet No. 2 was honored as part of the Tampa Bay Excellence in Chamber Music Award. His work has received recognition from ASCAP, the Society of Composers, the National Association of Composers, and from the Massachusetts Association of Jazz Educators (for his jazz and big band arrangements). He has been a participant composer in many festivals including MusicNinetySeven, June in Buffalo, the Aspen Festival, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Oregon Bach Festival; he has also been a resident at the MacDowell Colony and an associate at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Karim Al-Zand is a member of Musiqa, Houston's contemporary music group, which presents concerts featuring new and classic repertoire of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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Duettino, Op. 371 (John McDonald)
Composed as a divertimento for my friend and colleague Elisabeth Eschwe and her brother Alfred to perform at a recital in Vienna, Austria, the composer missed his deadline by more than six months and therefore sacrificed a European premiere! However, thanks to Winston Choi, the piece receives its world premiere this evening. The two short movements of the piece are based on a motive made from the name "ESCHWE," appearing at the beginning and end of each movement and threading throughout the progress of the piece. The second movement quotes its "serious difficulties" from Bizet, Grieg, and Brahms four-hand works; the original recital that the "Duettino" was written for included Bizet's "Jeux d'Enfants," Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite No. 1," and Brahms's "Waltzes, Op. 39."

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Pierrot Songs (Leslie Bassett)
3 movements, (soprano with fl, cl, vln, cello, pf), texts by Albert Giraud, 1988. Commissioned by Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles, CA. The text will be read by Jennifer Goltz at the concert.

Schoenberg's famous Pierrot Lunaire, a wonderful 20th century classic, draws upon German translations of French texts by Albert Giraud, not all of which the composer used. In 1988 the Schoenberg Institute commissioned several other composers to set some of the remaining poetry for the same ensemble, premiering the new works in a pair of concerts. My three were presented in Los Angeles in 1988 by the New York New Music Ensemble with Chistine Schadeberg, then by Lucy Shelton and the Da Capo Chamber Players. (L.B.)

Leslie Bassett was born in Hanford, CA, January 22, 1923, the son of Archibald and Vera Bassett, and grew up on ranches in the San Joaquin Valley. His early music training in Fresno was on piano, trombone, cello and other instruments, and he spent 38 months in army bands during World War II as trombonist, arranger and composer. He enrolled at California State University, Fresno (then Fresno State College) and was principal trombonist with the Fresno Symphony Orchestra. Graduate study at the University of Michigan under Ross Lee Finney was interrupted by a Fulbright Fellowship to Paris and work with Arthur Honegger and Nadia Boulanger.

He joined the Michigan faculty in 1952, then held the Prix de Rome at the American Academy in Rome, 1961-63. He has also worked with the Spanish-British composer Roberto Gerhard and with Mario Davidovsky in electronic music. At Michigan he became chairman of composition, the Albert A. Stanley Distinguished University Professor of Music, and the 1984 Henry Russel Lecturer, the university's highest faculty honor. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Bassett's music has been widely performed by the nation's orchestras, bands, choirs, soloists and ensembles. He has composed electronic music and written for plays, film, and all performing ensembles with the exception of opera. He frequently serves as guest composer with performing ensembles and universities.

Three Chinese Love Songs (Bright Sheng)
Three Chinese Love Songs was requested by Seiji Ozawa as one of the commissioned works for the celebration of Leonard Bernstein's 70th birthday at Tanglewood in August, 1988. Prior to this, I had just finished a large orchestral work for the New York Chamber Symphony entitled H'un (Lacerations): In Memoriam 1966-1976, a work about the "Cultural Revolution" in China. I composed H'un around the interval of the minor second instead of using any kind of melody or tune. Since it is about a tragic period in China, the work sounded harsh and dissonant, creating the drama and expressiveness I wished to evoke. At the same time, the inevitable call for the search of tonality in my writing, though not necessarily in the sense of triads, was increasing daily. I needed to write something quite different. The Tanglewood commission was an opportunity that enabled me to fulfill this need and to explore other compositional ideas. Setting Chinese folk songs seemed natural and appropriate. Three Chinese Love Songs was premiered in August, 1988, during "Tributes in Song to Leonard Bernstein" at Tanglewood. The performers were Lisa Saffer, soprano, Burton Fine, viola, and Yehudi Wyner, piano.
- Bright Sheng

Translation of Three Chinese Love Songs (translation by Bright Sheng)
I. Blue Flower
Golden thread and blue thread,
They are so pretty,
Just life the beautiful girl,
Her name is Blue Flower

II. At the Hillside Where Horses Are Running
At the hillside where horses are running,
Right above it is the beautiful cloud,
Which shines over,
The city of Kang-Ding,
So pretty is,
The girl from Lee's family,
So much in love with her is,
The boy from Zang's family.

III. The Stream Flows
The rising moon shines brightly,
It reminds me of my love in the mountains.
Like the moon, you walk in the sky,
As the crystal stream flows down the mountain.
The rising moon shines brightly,
It reminds me of my love in the mountains.
A clear breeze blows up the hill,
My love, do you hear I am calling you?

Born in 6 December 1955 in Shanghai, China, Bright Sheng began piano studies at the age of four with his mother. During the Cultural Revolution, he worked in Qinghai for seven years as a pianist and percussionist in a folk music and dance troupe, and avidly studied and collected folk music. In 1978, when China's universities reopened, he was one of the first students accepted by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he earned his undergraduate degree in music composition. He moved to New York in l982, and received graduate degrees at Queens College (M.A.) and Columbia University (D.M.A.). Among his important teachers were Leonard Bernstein (composition and conducting), George Perle, Hugo Weisgall, Chou Wen-Chung, and Jack Beeson. In addition to the MacArthur Foundation fellowship, and awards received in China and Europe, Sheng has received a number of prizes in the United States.

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Piano Quintet (William Bolcom)
I've known Isaac Stern tangentially for many years; one day he called me asking for a chamber piece involving him, other players, and the young pianist Jonathan Biss. I had never heard Biss play but was sent a CD; here was a pianist displaying maturity of execution and interpretation beyond his nineteen years, and it seemed a good opportunity to attempt a piano quintet (which I had never done). Each chamber music formation has its own particular historical atmosphere, that of the string quartet being of course the best-known. A composer can choose to ignore these legacies or invoke them; I've done both on different occasions, but here I wanted to recall the great Schumann and Brahms tradition-of course with important differences.

The Sonata Movement has some of the legacy and atmosphere of my spiritual models. Larghetto alternates a lyrical first section with a scherzo-like music, ending in a will-o-the-wisp pianistic disappearance. The short introduction to the last movement, Lamentation, leads to a Rondo furioso, headlong and inexorable; the Rondo centers on a musical motive borrowed from my 1969 opera for actors, Greatshot; its mood is of a terribly speeded-up samba gone berserk.
-William Bolcom

William Bolcom, the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music, recipient of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for music, has received commissions from the Vienna Philharmonic (Salzburg Mozarteum), Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Koussevitsky Foundation, American Composers Orchestra, Saint Louis National and Pacific Symphonies, Lyric Opera of Chicago and many others. As piano soloist, accompanist, and composer, Mr. Bolcom is represented on recordings for Nonesuch, Deutsche Grammophone, RCA, Arabesque, Cala, Jazzology, CRI, Phillips, Newport Classics, and others. As writer about musical subjects, he is published by several music magazines, by Viking in a book about Eubie Blake, and in articles in The New Grove Dictionary. Recipient of fellowships and grants from numerous major foundations, Mr. Bolcom joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1973. He taught previously at the University of Washington, Queens and Brooklyn Colleges of the City University of New York, and at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Mr. Bolcom has been admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and holds honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Conservatory and Albion College.


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