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Program Notes: October 10, 2004
Tonight's works by Robert Schumann and William Schuman would seem to be world's apart, separated by differences of century, place, musical style, scope of the work in question, and, of course, the spelling of the composers' identically pronounced surnames. Nevertheless, they have significant elements in common: both works are symphonic without following precisely the typical symphonic layout of movements and, more importantly, each has a strong nationalist dimension, grounded in a particular place, and with a substantial underpinning of religious feeling worked into the mix.
William Schuman based each of the three movements of his 1956 New England Triptych on a different anthem from the eighteenth-century New England composer, William Billings. The first, "Be Glad Then, America," celebrates America's bounty, and Schuman's setting is appropriately celebratory, incorporating a rich palette of harmonic coloring and, in the second part, an elaborate counterpoint of intertwined melodic lines. The gentle tones of the second movement, "When Jesus Wept," constitute a gesture of simple blessing. For the final movement, "Chester," Schuman chose a church hymn that was also used by the Continental Army as a marching song, and thus combines the religious and patriotic elements of the previous two movements in a rousing conclusion.
Robert Schumann's Rhenish Symphony (1850), though numbered his Third, was actually the last of his four to be composed. Schumann, who had recently moved to Düsseldorf, capital of the Rhine Province, drew particular inspiration for the work from the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. The grand scale of the work, and the religious feeling of the short "extra" movement that he inserted just before the finale, surely speak to that inspiration. More broadly nationalistic are the work's many folk-like elements, especially those that derive from dance: the exuberant cross-rhythms in the first movement (three against two), the gentler Ländler in the second, and the lively main theme of the finale. In an interesting way, Schumann's Rhenish stands as a kind of symphonic crossroads for the nineteenth century, composed at the century's midpoint. He adapts the stately beginning of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony for his own much less restrained beginning, borrows even more subtly from Schubert's "Great" C-major Symphony (in the finale), and even reuses a significant phrase from his own First Symphony. And, perhaps owing to these impressive roots, the symphony would grow additional "branches" of its own: Brahms adapted Schumann's self-borrowing for the opening of his own Third Symphony, and Mahler--another important champion of Schumann, despite chafing at his too-homogenous orchestration--would pattern the "breakthrough" in the finale of his First Symphony on a similar passage in Schumann's finale.
Maurice Ravel's exciting Tzigane (1924), whose name means "Gypsy," is at once an exploration of the violin's virtuosic potential and a somewhat quirky demonstration of how to make an orchestra sound--well, different from what one might expect. After an extended violin solo, the orchestra makes its initially ethereal presence felt (mainly through the harp at this point), which in turn inspires the violin to set a more lively tone, which will prevail for the duration of the piece--with, however, many a surprising turn and instrumental effect along the way.
Peter Knell's Rhythm Changes also explores the violin's virtuosic potential, this time in the context of American jazz traditions for basing new works on the "changes" (that is, chord progressions) of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm"; the title refers both to this tradition and to the work's shifting rhythmic basis. Rhythm Changes, composed in 2002 and orchestrated in 2003, was awarded "Special Distinction" in the ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Competition, and was selected for reading by New York's Riverside Symphony. Tonight's performance is its world premiere.
-- Raymond Knapp
Martin Chalifour, violin
Martin Chalifour has held the prestigious post of Principal Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1995. He previously held the positions of Associate and Acting Concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony, and more recently of the Cleveland Orchestra. In addition to his orchestral schedule, Mr. Chalifour maintains an active career as a guest soloist and chamber musician, traveling across his native Canada, the U.S. as well as Europe, Australia, Mexico and the Orient.
Mr. Chalifour received a Certificate of Honor at the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and was a laureate of the 1987 Montreal International Competition. Since then he has concertized extensively, playing in a short time span more than a hundred concerto performances in a repertoire of more than fifty works. He appeared as soloist with conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach and Esa-Pekka Salonen. In recent years he had solo debuts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Taipei National Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia.
Chalifour is often heard in recitals and is a frequent guest with chamber ensembles throughout North America and Europe. He participates regularly in a number of summer music festivals including the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego and the Sarasota Music Festival. Over the years he has collaborated in chamber music with flutist Emmanuel Pahud, violists Yuri Bashmet and Paul Neubauer, pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman, as well as cellists Janos Starker, Lynn Harrell and YoYo Ma.
Born in Montreal, Canada, Martin Chalifour began playing violin at the age of four with the Suzuki Method. At the age of eighteen, he was awarded three distinct top national awards in a single year including the Tremplin International, subsequently graduating from the Montreal Conservatory with the highest honors. He then did graduate studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His teachers have included Jascha Brodsky, David Cerone, Taras Gabora and Ivan Galamian.
Mr. Chalifour is a regular featured soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at home and on tour. He is a professor at the USC Thornton School of Music and was formerly on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. He recently completed a very successful series of concerts entitled "The Three Concertmasters" with colleagues from the Atlanta Symphony and the Cleveland Orchestra, culminating in an acclaimed performance at Carnegie Hall. Last season he made his debut with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur.
Peter Knell, composer
PETER KNELL, American composer, (b. 1970) has received awards in numerous national and international competitions and his grants include a Fullbright Fellowship.
Peter Knell's awards include First Prizes in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's 10th New Music Festival International Composers Competition, the Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival Louisville Orchestra Competition, and the Omaha Symphony Guild International New Music Competition, and Second Prizes in the Fourth International Witold Lutoslawski Composers Competition, the First International Composers' Competition In Memoriam Zoltan Kodaly, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Young Composers Competition.
Peter Knell has received a Fulbright Fellowship, a BMI Student Composer Award, two ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Awards, grants from the Paloheimo Foundation and Meet the Composer, and commissions from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, Pacific Serenades, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Renee B. Fisher Foundation, and Dale Warland Singers.
Peter Knell's music has been performed at the Aspen, Bowdoin, Chautauqua, June in Buffalo, Norfolk, Oregon Bach, Ernest Bloch, New Music North, and MATA festivals and by ensembles such as the Hungarian Radio Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, Winnipeg, Omaha, Richmond, Memphis, and Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestras, Volti, Onyx String Quartet, Verdi Quartett, Southwest Chamber Music, Continuum Ensemble (UK), Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Modern Works, Pon© Ensemble, Stern-Schoenhals Duo, Ensemble Musicattuale (Italy), and German contralto Ingeborg Danz.
His music has been broadcast nationally in Canada and Hungary, statewide on Nebraska Public Radio, and on stations in Charlottesville [VA], Richmond, Austin, Omaha, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, and Helsinki.
Peter Knell's compositions are available on CD. His 'Seven Last Words', based on paintings of Rolf Stein, is in a book/CD format from Valve-Hearts, Cologne. A compact disc featuring his orchestral work, '...the weakening eye of day' in a live performance by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, is on the Artisjus label.
Dr. Knell holds degrees from Princeton University (BA), the Juilliard School (MM), and a doctorate in music from University of Texas at Austin (DMA). His principal teachers have included Dan Welcher, Donald Grantham, and David Diamond.
Peter Knell is a freelance composer based in Los Angeles. On October 10, 2004 Peter Knell's 'Rhythm Changes' will have it's world premiere with the Santa Monica Symphony under Maestro Allen Robert Gross.
In November, 2004, Dr. Knell will serve as Composer-in-Residence for the American Music Festival in Cluj, Romania, where his 'Charged Particles' will be premiered by the Festival Orchestra and 'Sing, Praise!' will be premiered by the Festival Chorus.
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