ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, already regarded for its top-notch artistry and innovative programming,
brings yet another feature to the stage in its final concert of the season: Two World Premieres of works
composed by ALIAS musicians.
The ranks of excellent instrumentalists in the ensemble include no fewer than three composers. Two of
these will be heard at ALIAS’ Spring Concert on Wednesday, May 22.
“Three Portraits” is ALIAS violist Chris Farrell’s first string quartet. Farrell’s music is new to the
ALIAS stage, but not to Nashville - his compositions were recently featured as part of ALIAS’
Education Community Programs, reaching hundreds of students and adults city-wide at various schools
and community centers. Farrell’s composition is “accessible, but modern”, to use his phrase. “This piece
will show my love for Brahms,” Farrell added.
Past ALIAS concertgoers will recognize Walker’s jazz and blues influence in his cello duo, titled “Yo-
Yo Joe”. It is a fast, Latin-jazz infused showpiece, demanding a great deal of technical agility from both
players; it was written for (and subsequently performed in part by) Yo-Yo Ma and Toronto Symphony
Principal Cellist Joe Johnson.
Also on the program: Sebastian Currier’s “Night Time” for violin and harp, performed by the frequent
duo of Alison Gooding and Licia Jaskunas; Michael Daugherty’s “Diamond in the Rough” for violin,
viola and percussion, featuring Farrell, percussionist Chris Norton, and ALIAS Artistic Director Zeneba
Bowers; and Peter Schickele’s Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano, which the ensemble
performed in 2010 at the historic Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN. Bowers and Walker will be joined by
clarinetist Lee Levine and long-time guest pianist Melissa Rose.
Bowers notes the modernity of the program. “Though we’re not specifically a ‘contemporary music
ensemble’, we’ve become known for presenting a lot of new music on our programs,” she explains.
“This concert is even more remarkable since all five composers are Americans, all are still living, and
best of all, two of them are members of the ensemble and appearing on the stage!”
As always, the concert benefits a local nonprofit service organization; in this case ALIAS’ concert
partner is Moves and Grooves, which will receive 100% of the proceeds.
ALIAS Chamber Ensemble - Spring Concert:
May 22, 2013 - 8:00 PM – Turner Hall, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University
NOTES ON THE PROGRAM
Sebastian Currier Night Time for harp and violin (1998)
Composer Sebastian Currier received his DMA from the Juilliard School, and taught at Columbia University for eight years. His music has been played by Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Berlin and New York Philharmonics, and the Ying and Cassatt Quartets, among many others.
The composer on Night Time:
“The five short movements of Night Time - Dusk, Sleepless, Vespers, Nightwind, and Starlight - share a sense of quietude, introversion, intimacy, and subdued restlessness. The instrumental ensemble itself, violin and harp, suggested to me right from the start a series of nocturnal moments, where a sense of isolation, distance and quiet thoughtfulness would prevail throughout otherwise thematically contrasting movements. From the distant murmuring sounds in Dusk to the disquiet of the pizzicato ostinato and muted chords in Sleepless, from the contemplative lyricism of Vespers to the rushing passage work in Nightwind, and in the hypnotic figurations of Starlight there is an affinity with a phrase of a Wallace Stevens poem, that I set in another work, Vocalissimus: "in the distances of sleep." The piece was written for Marie-Pierre Langlamet, harpist of the Berlin Philharmonic, and violinist Jean-Claude Velin. It was premiered at the Philharmonie in Berlin in 2000.” --Sebstian Currier
Matt Walker Yo-Yo Joe for two cellos (2012) *World Premiere*
In April 2012, Joe Johnson, principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony and an active soloist and recitalist,
suggested to Matt that he write a piece for two cellos. The occasion? “Yo-Yo Ma is playing Elgar concerto with Toronto at the end of May,” Joe said. “He and I like to play an encore together, some kind of interesting, fun cello duo.” Matt got to work and composed the unimaginatively-named “Yo-Yo Joe” within a week or so, and sent it to Joe. As promised, a month later Joe and Yo-Yo played a short version of the piece as an encore. The piece is a Latin jazz set interspersed with blues and swing, something that infuses most of Matt’s music. Having bee written for such virtuosos as Ma and Johnson, it is also highly challenging technically for both players. Michael Daugherty ”Diamond in the Rough” for violin, viola and percussion (2006) One of the ten most performed living American composers, Michael Daugherty is the son of a dance band drummer, and the oldest of five musician brothers. He taught at Oberlin for five years before joining the faculty of Michigan University, where he is Professor of Composition. His Metropolis Symphony won a Grammy in 2011 for Best Classical Composition.
The composer on Diamond in the Rough:
“Diamond in the Rough was composed on commission from the Da Camera of Houston in celebration of
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 250th Birthday-January 27, 1756. The work is scored for violin, viola (like Mozart's Symphonia Concertante) and percussion (one player - performing on glockenspiel, tambourine, triangle, metal wind chimes, and two tuned crystal glasses filled with water). [The work] is inspired by the multifaceted music of Mozart, a composer whose life, like a diamond, reflects and refracts many stories and myths. In the first movement, Magic, complex rhythms and unusual orchestrations create different angles on Papageno's glockenspiel heard in The Magic Flute. Crystal glasses resonate in the second movement, Fifty-Five Minutes Past Midnight, echoing the exact time of Mozart's mysterious death on December 5, 1791. The last movement, Wig Dance, mirrors the image of Mozart as an avid partygoer who once remarked he preferred ‘the art of dancing
rather than music.’”--Michael Daugherty
Chris Farrell String Quartet No. 1 “Three Portraits” (2012) *World Premiere*
The composer on his work:
“Three Portraits, composed in the summer and fall of 2012, is my first multi-movement composition, and also my first attempt at a string quartet. I have been interested in composing since my undergraduate counterpoint classes at the University of North Texas, but up to this point most of my compositions have involved fugues based on TV show themes. “Writing music for string quartet is a daunting task given that composers have frequently chosen this instrumentation for expressing their most profound and personal ideas. In order to overcome being intimidated by the difficulty of writing for quartet, I started composing a short ‘experiment’ in which I took a brief melody and explored how to make four players sound like many more than four. Over time I continued to add more ideas and variations. As the initial ‘experiment’ grew into something around which I felt I could build a quartet, it became the second theme of the second movement, and the seed from which the other movements have grown. ‘Each movement or ’portrait’ of the quartet is laid out in a three-part (ABA) form. There are some thematic links between each portrait. For example, a subtle connection appears in the motive the second violin and viola play to
accompany the first violin melody at the end of the first movement. This motive also appears in the viola at the beginning of the second movement. A prominent connection is also developed in the main melody of the second movement, which becomes the theme of the slower part of the last movement. My intent was that all of these elements not be too obvious, but add to the idea of three related portraits depicting the progression of the subject
over time.” --Chris Farrell
Peter Schickele Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1982)
Though best known as the “discoverer” of the hapless (and talentless) composer P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742), the immensely talented Peter Schickele is a composer in his own right, with a huge catalog of music ranging from symphonic, choral, and chamber works to film and television scores. The musicologist, radio host, performer, and professor composes in a wide range of styles, sometimes ultra-modern, sometimes tinged with American folk flavor. The Quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano is in this latter vein. The first movement opens with flowing melodic material reminiscent of Copland, interrupted briefly by a walking bass in the cello before returning to the sweeping flow of the opening. The second movement is a fast scherzo with distinctive blues tonalities, surrounding two contrasting sections, one without piano and the other with piano alone. The third movement is a pensive elegy, predominantly in a slow five-beat pattern. The final movement is an energetic, dance-like romp that constantly shifts meter, never settling for long in one rhythmic feel. It builds in energy to the coda with a flurry of fast unison notes in all the instruments, leaving breathless musicians and listeners alike.