GEORGE CRUMB: VOX BALAENAE
Joseph Howe, cello
This stunning piece was written in 1971 for the New York Camerata, inspired by a set of recordings of humpback whales which Crumb heard for the first time in the late 1960’s. The work is in three parts: Vocalise (...for the beginning of time), a Variations on Sea-Time, and Sea-Nocturne (...for the end of time). Each of the variations of the middle section is named after a different geologic time period - Archeozoic, Proterozoic, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic. Crumb’s innovative use of “extended techniques” (playing traditional instruments in non-traditional ways) results in an imaginative and transcendent exploration of one of nature’s most mysterious animals.
SAMUEL BARBER: SONATA FOR CELLO AND PIANO
I. ALLEGRO MA NON TROPPO
Romina Monsanto, cello
Samuel Barber's music captured my attention when I first played his "Ballade" for solo piano in high school. The easy lyricism and deep mystery I found in his music is very much apparent in this sonata for cello and piano. As a student at the famous Curtis Institute of Music, Barber wrote his Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6 in 1932 for a fellow student, Orlando Cole, and dedicated it to his composition teacher, Rosario Scalero. Following Cole and Barber’s public premiere of the work at the League of Composers in New York, cellists Felix Salmond, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Luigi Silva added it to their concert programs. Since then, this piece has become one of the most important (and IMO, one of the most beautiful) American pieces for cello and piano.
CHARLES IVES: OLD HOME DAY
Charles Ives is one of my favourite composers - his music is eccentric, and his comments on music are witty and uncensored. While studying at Yale, Ives took issue with being asked to tone down his experimental and utilitarian approach to composition, in favour of emulating the more elite European musical tradition. He complained that “music had crawled into Brahms’s coffin and died” and that this conventional training at Yale turned out “soft-headed ears running the opera and symphony societies in this country…” Prior to Yale, Ives’s father, George, often encouraged his son to experiment with a cacophony of sounds and instruments in their backyard. Thus, George became Charles’s musical and personal hero, and Ives wrote many songs reminiscent of his childhood in Danbury, CT. He often quoted popular songs, hymns, European classical music, and even fraternity songs. Thus, Ives’s music is like a personal diary, recalling specific experiences, emotions, people, or places. In this particular song, listen for snippets of “Auld Lang Syne,” “In the Sweet By and By,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and many others.
CLAUDE DEBUSSY: APPARITION
Paige Sentianin, soprano
The moon was saddened. Seraphims in tears dreaming, bows at their fingers, in the calm of filmy flowers Threw dying violas of white sobs sliding over the blue of corollas. It was the blessed day of your first kiss; My reverie, loving to torture me, wisely imbibed its perfume of sadness That even without regret and without setback leaves the gathering of a dream within the heart that gathered it. I wandered then, my eye riveted on the aged cobblestones. When, with light in your hair, in the street and in the evening, you appeared to me smiling and I thought I had seen the fairy with a hat of light who passed in my sweet dreams as a spoiled child, always dropping from her carelessly closed hand a snow of white bouquets of perfumed stars.