ABOUT THIS MUSIC
This concert features a diverse set of works, which all signify or portray an invocation- pleading, beseeching, wondering, hoping- all evoking a urning for something "beyond" our grasp. It is human nature to seek out answers to the mysterious, to ask for more, and to always wonder "what's next?". Whether or not we believe in a higher power, we're often confronted with these ideas during the holidays, as have composers throughout the centuries. This program is a small collection of these works. Thank you for joining us for our final concert of this semester!
- David Wacyk
ASTOR PIAZZOLLA Milonga del Angel (1965)
Piazzolla composed “Milonga del Ángel” as part of his Ángel Series, which also includes “Muerte del Ángel” and “Resurrección del Ángel.” A milonga is a dance which uses a 3-2 clave rhythm and comes from the Rio de la Plata region, which separates Argentina and Uruguay.
-US Marine Band
ALAN HOVHANESS Prayer of St. Gregory (1946)
The Prayer of St. Gregory, a five-minute work for trumpet and strings, began life as an intermezzo in Hovhaness’s opera Etchmiadzin, composed in mid-1946, and premiered in New York in October of that year. The present excerpt, described by Hovhaness as "a prayer in darkness," was soon extracted as a separate work, and is one of his most popular short pieces. The personage referred to in the work's title is St. Gregory the Illuminator, who at the beginning of the fourth century brought Christianity to Armenia. This calm work begins with gentle chords, chorale-like, in Hovhaness’s unmistakable modal melodic and harmonic vein, over which a slow trumpet melody gradually unfolds itself towards a forceful cry.
- Christ Morrison
W.A. MOZART Divertimento in F Major, k, 138 (1776)
Mozart’s genius surfaced early, not only as a precocious performer, but as a composer, as well. His father was a successful court musician in their hometown of Salzburg, but he certainly was not above bolstering the family finances by sharing little Wolfgang’s talents with the greater musical world. Several lengthy Italian tours were major events in the young composer’s life, and entertainingly documented in his letters home.
In 1772, the sixteen-year old youth and his father had recently returned to Salzburg after their second trip to Italy, and were recuperating, anticipating the advent of a third. Three divertimentos were composed during this hiatus, and were possibly written with the idea of taking them along on the next trip to be handed out to members of whatever court they were visiting—to entertain and bear witness to the talent of the young Mozart. And while they are captivating evidence of Mozart’s mastery of instrumental ensemble composition--and his equal command of Italian musical style—the works have always been a bit of a puzzle with regard to what exactly they are. Mozart called them “divertimenti,” a common genre, denoting a light ensemble work of several movements, intended to entertain at festive, generally outdoor, venues. However, for various reasons, scholars and others have regarded them as “symphonies,” string quartets, or other things. Not without good reason, though. Most divertimentos have more than the three movements we have here. On the other hand, most early Italian symphonies (young Mozart’s models) included parts for pairs of oboes and horns. The presence or absence of what later became the requisite minuet movement in symphonies and string quartets comes into the argument, as well. Were these three divertimenti intended to be played by only four people—one to a part, or by a small orchestra? Ambiguity abounds for those inclined to focus on historical details. Ultimately, the truth is somewhat simpler: These three works, regardless of the number of movements and intended players, and whether called divertimentos, string quartets, or Italianate symphonies, are just what they are: marvelous early examples of Mozart’s music. Youthful though they may be, they are tuneful, delightful, and perfect—as with everything that he wrote.
The third “divertimento,” like its companions, is in three movements in the usual fast-slow-fast sequence. Even though this work can easily be thought of as intended for only four players, it certainly sounds “symphonic,” which is why these three divertimentos are sometimes called the “Salzburg Symphonies.” The cheerfully bustling first movement has a simple theme, played in unison, opening like so many contemporaneous works. What is of real interest, though, are the intense and creative harmonies that characterize the middle section, as well as the “seams” of the movement. They bear unmistakable evidence of the harmonic richness and invention of the mature composer, and constitute a large portion of the interest in this movement. As an aside, it may be pointed out, that even in this early work, Mozart’s impeccable sense of musical architecture is in the fore. The attentive listener just “senses” where in the movement one is, and how long before the “arch” is complete. In the following Andante the first violins carry the melodic interest, but are sustained with a web of rhythmic activity and interesting dissonances from the other voices that, again, makes this more than just another movement with a winsome melody. The last movement, like so many light Italian ensemble works of the time, is a jolly rondo, meaning the main tune entertains by returning with comforting familiarity, but surrounded by a succession of diverting and contrasting moods and keys.
Youthful works by great composers vary in their quality—but, let’s face it, this is Mozart, and it’s worth careful attention. He may have been only sixteen, but his immortal genius, charm, and skill is all in evidence.
- Wm. E. Runyan
J.S. BACH Thus Do You Fare, My Jesus (1736)
The source materials for Thus Do You Fare, My Jesus comes from a set of 69 "Sacred Songs and Airs" attributed to Bach and published in 1736. All that exists from that edition is a single melodic line and figured bass. Though Alfred Reed "freely transcribed" this work, by composing the beautifully crafted elaborations in the woodwinds, the grandeur of Bach's chorale prelude compositional style is on full display.
NELSON JESUS Wolf Tears (2014)
The composer writes:
This work is a Lamento for band based on the late Renaissance motet Audivi Vocem Caelo from the Portuguese composer Duarte Lobo (c.1565-1624). It can be seen as a set of variations on the first four notes of the Lobo theme. First through isolated sounds and intervals and then as motifs that develop into melodies that by their interaction seem to be written and orchestrated in a "Renaissance way." In the final chorale, the complete motet appears for the first time. The piece ends with a reflection between a minor harmony (evil) and a major melody (good). The four notes appear again, this time in a heavenly sound. Are those sounds the ones that Lobo heard from the sky? The text of Lobo' motet translates as: I heard a voice in heaven saying to me: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
The title Wolf Tears derives from the English translation of the last name of the mentioned composer (Lobo = wolf).
MORTEN LAURIDSEN O Magnum Mysterium (tr. H. Robert Reynolds) (1994)
About his setting of O Magnum Mysterium (O Great Mystery), Morten Lauridsen writes: "For centuries, composers have been inspired by the beautiful O Magnum Mysterium text with its depiction of the birth of the newborn king amongst lowly animals and shepherds. This affirmation of God’s grace to the meek and the adoration of the Blessed Virgin are celebrated in my setting through a quiet song of profound inner joy." H. Robert Reynolds arranged the symphonic wind version of this popular work with the approval and appreciation of the composer.
O great mystery,
and wondrous sacrament
that animals should see the new-
born Lord, lying in their manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear the
Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
ARTURO MARQUEZ Conga del Fuego Nuevo (tr. Oliver Nickel) (2001)
The son of a mariachi musician, Márquez began as a mariachi violinist himself. Extensive compositional training, aided by a Fulbright scholarship, took him to Mexico City, France, and the United States. In recent years, he has been increasingly drawn to working with traditional Mexican folk and popular styles, as well as music with Caribbean origins.
Conga del Fuego Nuevo (Conga of the New Fire) composed in 2005, draws inspiration from various sources. The New Fire ceremony is an ancient aztec ritual, performed to beseech the gods for the sun to return (a new year). The conga hails from Cuba and refers to the music of street ensembles that perform during the carnivals in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Of African origin, it was a cultural legacy from enslaved people that were brought to Cuba from the Congo in central Africa. Making use of tall cylindrical drums known as conga drums, it also refers to a quick dance using short sliding steps. The sound of those drums fill this infectious, highly rhythmic piece and come into particular prominence during its quieter, slower middle section.
ABOUT THE MUSICIANS
(click on underlined links for more info)
Director of Instrumental Ensembles, Assistant Teaching Professor of Music
Adjunct Professor of Trumpet
Haydn Jones (principal)
Emma Abernathy (principal)
John Tobin (principal)
Mike Todd (principal)
UMSL Wind Ensemble
Katlynn Connor (piccolo)
Joy Floyd (English Horn)
Krishaun Dotson-Orange (cornet)