Thursday, December 9, 2010

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 1/9/2011 @ 2:30 p.m.

Intermezzo Concert poster

The Sterling Brass

AMY SCOTT trombone

The Sterling Brass was newly formed in May 2010, and in addition to providing music for weddings and other private functions, the quintet is committed to introducing audiences to new music for brass quintet, and especially to introducing the genre to young audiences and inspiring young performers. More information is available at, as well as on

By day, Jason Boddie (trumpet) is in the Financial Services industry, but musically he is a regular at Frankie's Jazz Jam in Fernandina Beach, and he is a mentor to beginning brass players.

Besides performing with The Sterling Brass, Megan Yates (trumpet) is a nanny and a proud Navy wife.

Shaun Bennett (horn) has a degree in Music Theory and Composition from Jacksonville University, and his studies also included a semester at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington, New Zealand. In addition to playing horn with the Coastal Symphony of Georgia in Brunswick, Shaun is the brass instructor at North Florida Music Academy in Orange Park, and teaches class piano in the after school program at LaVilla School of the Arts.

Amy Scott (trombone), a graduate of the University of Indianapolis, is a music educator and professional trombonist.

Paul Mullen (tuba) holds a Masters in Music Composition from the University of Missouri, and a degree in Music Theory from Stetson University. Paul teaches privately and is active as a clinician.

PROGRAM NOTES, by Ed Lein, Music librarian
By the time he was in his twenties, French Baroque composer Jean-Joseph Mouret (1682-1738) had become one of the most successful musicians living in Paris. But then, as now, musical styles were ever-evolving, and Mouret could neither adapt to changing musical tastes nor cope with his eventual fall from fashion, and when he died he was penniless and confined to an insane asylum. Although the majority of his works remain virtually unknown, today one would be hard-pressed to name another piece from the French Baroque more recognized than this Rondeau, thanks to its becoming the trademark theme music for PBS's Masterpiece Theatre in 1971.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) ranks with J.S. Bach (1685-1750) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) as among the most enduring Baroque-period composers. Born in Germany as Georg Friedrich Händel, he settled in London in 1712, anglicized his name and became a naturalized British subject. Handel's sacred oratorio, Messiah (1741), unquestionably contains some of the most-recognized music in the history of Western music and was an immediate success. With Semele (1743), the ever-adaptable Handel hoped to find similar success, advertising the decidedly operatic work as an English "oratorio"--but its mythological subject matter disappointed those Lenten concertgoers hoping for religious edification, and it likewise disappointed opera aficionados who craved both Italian lyrics and elaborate costumes and staging. Despite the blurring of styles, the Act 2 aria, Where'er You Walk, originally sung by Jupiter, is one of Handel's most frequently-performed non-Messiah arias.
Today Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706) is considered among the most important German musicians of the generation preceding Bach and Handel, and even though his influence as a composer was not far-reaching, he enjoyed considerable success as composer, organist and teacher during his lifetime. Originally for three violins and basso continuo and paired with a Gigue movement, Pachelbel's Canon in D became extraordinarily popular during the last couple of decades of the 20th century, most especially after Marvin Hamlisch (b. 1944) adapted it as the theme music for the 1980 film, Ordinary People.
British composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) composed over 200 works, but in America his fame with the general public rests squarely on his brilliant orchestral suite, The Planets (1920). That being said, Holst's two Suites for Military Band (1909 and 1911, respectively) remain cornerstones of the band repertoire. The Second Suite, Op. 28, no. 2, uses British folk tunes for its thematic inspiration.
Handel composed his famous Water Music as entertainment for a 1717 boating party for England's King George I, who, in Germany as Prince-Elector Georg, had been Handel's employer a few years before the monarch traded up to Buckingham Palace (or wherever it was that he hung his freshly-shined crown). Because Handel had taken residence in London prior to George's British ascendancy, rumor had it that the composer wrote Water Music as a peace offering to his "abandoned" former prince, but in all likelihood Handel probably moved when he did with the future king's sympathetic blessing.
With lyrics by Eric Maschwitz (1901-1969) and music by Manning Sherwin (1902-1974) and Jack Strachey (1894-1972), the World War II-era British ballad, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, is a long-established popular standard. Composed in 1939 and introduced to London audiences in a 1940 musical review, the song has been championed by many American performers, including Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darrin and Harry Connick, Jr., and an arrangement recorded by the Manhattan Transfer won a Grammy in 1981.
Genial Austrian composer (Franz) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is the musician most credited with establishing the “Classical” style that his two younger contemporaries Mozart and Beethoven built upon, and by the time of his death "Papa" Haydn had become the most widely celebrated composer in Europe. Nicknamed the “Nelson Mass” in honor of Britain’s Admiral Horatio Nelson, Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis ("Mass for troubled times," Hob. XXII:11) premiered in 1798, shortly after Lord Nelson had dealt the first hard blow to Napoleon’s intended world domination. The Mass has been singled out as Haydn’s finest work, and its second movement Gloria has rightly been called an unqualified “song of exultant praise.”
Walter H. Barnes has made numerous arrangements for brass instruments in association with what is perhaps the most famous brass quintet of all, the Canadian Brass, including this set of African-American Spirituals. Originally published in 1872 by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Go Down Moses was made especially famous by bass-baritone Paul Robison (1898-1976), and was also used by British composer Michael Tippett (1905-1998) in his 1941 war-time oratorio, A Child of Our Time. The serenely beautiful My Lord What a Morning provided the title for the autobiography of famed contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1997), and the vigorously exuberant Joshua (Fit the Battle of Jericho) is a natural for brass instruments, as it relates the triumphant felling of an enemy’s fortress by the sounding of trumpets!
The best-known piece by British composer and organist Jeremiah Clarke (ca. 1674-1707) was mistakenly identified as “Trumpet Voluntary by Henry Purcell” until the 1940s, when finally it was discovered that this popular choice for wedding processionals was in fact a keyboard piece by Clarke, a younger contemporary of the much more famous Purcell (1959?-1695). Published in 1700 as Prince of Denmark’s March, its good-natured jauntiness belies the composer’s ultimately morbid disposition—unrequitedly unlucky in love, the unhappy composer shot himself when he reportedly was otherwise unable to decide between his two most-preferred suicidal methods, drowning and hanging.
The tune for It Is Well with My Soul was composed by American hymnist Philip Bliss (1838-1876) to words written by Chicago attorney Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) after his four daughters drowned when the steamship Ville du Havre sank en route to Europe in 1873. Apart from its use in churches, Georgia Southern University's Southern Pride marching band plays the song at their sporting events, and rock versions have been recorded by two bands, Audio Adrenaline (in 1999), and Kutless (in 2009).
Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) came from a long line of Italian church musicians, and it was assumed he’d inherit the “family business” in Tuscany. But a fateful trek from Lucca to Pisa to see Verdi’s Aïda convinced Puccini to give up organ pedals for footlights, and he became the only real successor of Verdi in the realm of Italian opera. When he died of throat cancer the whole of Italy went into mourning, and no opera composer since has enjoyed the same kind of sustained international following that Puccini still has. Based on a folktale from The Arabian Nights, Puccini’s exotic final opera, Turandot, was left unfinished at his death, but that hasn’t stopped its 3rd-act aria, Nessun dorma (“None shall sleep”), from becoming the biggest-ever “crossover” hit, owing primarily to the international commercial success of Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). Although he rarely performed in stage productions of the entire opera, Nessun dorma became Pavarotti’s signature song, and when he was too sick to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award during the 1998 Emmy broadcast, the legendary Aretha Franklin (b. 1942) stepped in and provided a soulful live tribute performance of the aria (in the original key!), in a thrilling, non-operatic style uniquely her own.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 12/12/2010 @ 2:30pm

Intermezzo Sunday Concerts, December 12, 2010

Flutation : a Flute Duo

Sunday Matinée at the Opera

Anne McKennon & Gia Sastre, flutes
assisted by Jeanne Huebner, piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen
from The Magic Flute, edited by Gerhard Braun for 2 flutes

Franz Doppler
Potpourri on Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"
for 2 flutes

George Gershwin

from Porgy and Bess
arranged for unaccompanied flute by Anne McKennon
(Anne McKennon)

Georges Bizet
Carmen Suite
arranged for 2 flutes by Kurt Walther
  • Introduction
  • Changing of the Guard, March of the Street Urchins
  • Habanera
  • Gypsy Dance and Song in the Tavern of Lillas Pastia

    Christoph Willibald Gluck
    Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits

    from Orphée et Eurydice (1774 French version)
    Arranged for flute and piano
    (Gia Sastre and Jeanne Huebner)

    Franz and Karl Doppler
    Rigoletto-Fantaisie, Op. 38
    Fantasy and Variations on themes from Verdi's Rigoletto
    For 2 flutes and piano

    Program Notes, by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

    Anne McKennon is a versatile Jacksonville-area flutist who also plays piccolo, tin whistle, and sopranino, soprano and alto recorders. She studied flute locally with Mary Ellen Potter, and she frequently performs with the Chamber Music Society of Good Shepherd, Friday Musicale's Mary L'Engle Ensemble, Innamorati della Musica, and the FSCJ Flute Choir. In addition to playing classical repertoire, her varied background includes performances with a Celtic music group and an acoustic rock group, and she often writes and arranges original flute parts to meet the demands of each performance situation. In the summer of 2010, she arranged Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf for 2 flutes, mainly for classroom performances, but also for children's programs at Jacksonville Public Library.

    Miami native Gia Sastre holds degrees from DePaul University in Chicago (MM) and Florida State University (BM), and also pursued a resident course of study in Great Britain with Paul Edmund-Davies, then principal flutist of the London Symphony Orchestra. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Ms. Sastre spent several years in Chicago as a recitalist and freelance artist. In Illinois, she frequently performed with harpist Ann Laura Tapia as a member of the Abellimento Flute & Harp Duo, and in 2006 the Duo released their debut recording, Abellimento, to critical acclaim. As a soloist, Ms. Sastre won the Musicians Club of Women Farwell Award, and she performed in the Chicago Cultural Center and other venues throughout the Chicago area. In addition to maintaining a private studio, Ms. Sastre served on the Community Music faculty of DePaul University as both flute instructor and flute choir director.

    Among the First Coast's most popular collaborative artists, pianist Jeanne Huebner is one whose talents are in constant demand. Holding a degree in music education from San Diego State College with a major in piano, she has taught public school music in California and Florida and has served as an organist and church music director. Currently serving as accompanist for various chamber music ensembles and at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, Ms. Huebner frequently performs for Friday Musicale events and with the Chamber Music Society of Good Shepherd for their monthly concerts.

    Austrian-born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), unquestionably one of the greatest composers in history, began his career touring Europe as a 6-year-old piano prodigy, and he absorbed and mastered all the contemporary musical trends he was exposed to during his travels. He wrote more than 600 works, including 22 operas and over three dozen symphonies, plus numerous concertos, chamber works, piano pieces, and choral works. An extremely demanding tour de force originally for high (high!) coloratura soprano, Der Holle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen ("Hell's vengeance boils in my heart"), is from the 2nd Act of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute," 1791), the immensely popular Singspiel completed only a few months before the composer's death. Also known as "The Queen of the Night's Vengeance Aria," it famously presents the woefully unmaternal Queen trying to coerce her daughter, Pamina, to surreptitiously stab the Queen's rival, the virtuous Sarastro. Arranger Gerhard Braun (b. 1932) is a German flutist, composer, teacher, and recording artist who is highly regarded especially for his virtuoso recorder-playing.

    YouTube version (for Flute & Oboe)

    By 1829, when Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) retired after the premiere of his 39th opera, Guillaume Tell, he had become the most popular composer in the history of music for the stage. Rossini's comic Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville, 1816) retains its place as one of the most frequently staged Italian operas, so it is no surprise that the virtuoso flutist and composer (Albert) Franz Doppler (1821-1883) included it among the various potpourris of opera tunes for two flutes he wrote for concert performances with his younger brother, Karl Doppler (1825-1900). Born in Lemberg, Poland (the present-day Lvov, Ukraine), the brothers gained fame touring Europe with their flute duo recitals, and both became prominent members of Hungarian orchestras. Karl eventually settled down as the Kapellmeister in Stuttgart (Germany), while Franz moved to Austria as conductor of the Vienna Court Opera. Franz was celebrated as a composer especially for his popular ballets, but today he is most remembered for his works that feature the flute.

    George Gershwin (1898-1937) wrote his first song in 1916 and his first Broadway musical in 1919, and he remained a fixture of the New York stage for 14 successive years. In 1924 he enjoyed success in applying jazz idioms to concert works with Rhapsody in Blue, and until the end of his life he produced larger-scale works alongside songs for musicals and films. Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1935), with lyrics by DuBose Heyward and Ira Gershwin, remains the only opera by an American composer firmly established in the repertoire. Gershwin began composing the show's most memorable song, Summertime, in December 1933, and he new a good thing when he heard it--the song appears twice in the opera's first act and reappears in the 2nd and 3rd acts as well. Indeed, Summertime is one of the most popular songs ever written: an international group of collectors of recordings of Summertime known as "The Summertime Connection" knows of at least 37,172 public performances of which 29,106 have been recorded (as of 10/01/2010).

    As a precocious youngster, Georges Bizet (1838-1875), entered the Conservatoire de Paris a couple of weeks before his tenth birthday and seemed destined for great things, excelling both as pianist and composer, and winning the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1857. But Bizet's adult life was plagued by one setback after another and he never enjoyed the success his great talent should have afforded. His final work, Carmen has become one of the most beloved operas of all time, but the 37-year-old Bizet, weakened by complications from acute tonsillitis (i.e., quinsy, the same affliction that "did in" George Washington), died of a heart attack three months after his masterpiece premiered to a decidedly lukewarm reception at Paris’s Opéra-Comique, and without a clue as to the ultimate popularity his swan song would gain. The perceived immorality of the story by French author Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870), beginning with smoking factory girls (shocking!) and ending with a sexually-charged murder, was a tad racier than the family-friendly theater was accustomed. The theater management even went so far as to insist that the ending be rewritten—it is to Bizet’s credit that he refused to compromise his artistic vision. The rest, as they say, is history.

    YouTube version (2 Flutes, different arrangement)

    Bohemian by birth and cosmopolitan in life, the early Classic-period composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) spent his adulthood variously in Prague, Vienna, Milan, London, and Paris, and along the way he helped revolutionize the way operas were conceived, and thus laid the groundwork for the music dramas of Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Gluck's mythological Orfeo ed Euridice ("Orpheus and Eurydice," 1762) is generally regarded as the first "modern" opera. With it the composer abandoned the conventions of the prevailing opera seria, a stylized genre that typically introduces secco recitatives (i.e., those "dry," almost spoken passages accompanied only by harpsichord and bass instrument) to explain a situation, followed by florid arias in which the singers offer motionless reflections on said situation while the full orchestra supports their vocal pyrotechnics. Instead, Gluck favored a less contrived, more "naturalistic" dramatic style--except, of course, that everybody still goes around singing. This landmark opera has never left the repertoire, but Gluck did revise it a couple of times, most significantly for the 1774 Paris production, for which it became Orphée et Eurydice. The Parisians had a particular fondness for ballet, so, in addition to adapting the music to a French libretto from the original Italian, Gluck expanded the dance numbers, including adding a D-minor section to the existing F-major Menuet to create the well-known "Dance of the Blessed Spirits." This dance sequence heralds Orpheus's arrival in the Underworld, as he continues on his (ultimately unsuccessful) quest to lead his recently-deceased wife, Eurydice, back into the land of the apparently less-blessed living.

    YouTube version

    As previously mentioned, early in their careers the brothers Franz and Karl Doppler were famous throughout Europe for their duo flute concerts, and they apparently were quite the picture when they performed: the left-handed Karl held his flute "backwards" as it were, creating a mirror image of his right-handed brother as he stood opposite him. The flute duets they played were usually written or adapted by the elder Franz, but the two brothers collaborated in preparing the Rigoletto-Fantaisie, Op. 38, drawing on tunes from the ever-popular Rigoletto (1851), by Italy's foremost opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901). Based on Victor Hugo’s tragic play, Le roi s’amuse (1832), Verdi's title character is the spiteful court jester to the Duke of Mantua. The Duke routinely seduces the wives and daughters of his courtiers, and Rigoletto takes great pleasure in mocking and humiliating the wronged noblemen. But when one of them hurls a father’s curse at Rigoletto, the superstitious jester is horrified--and, as it turns out, with good cause.

    YouTube version

  • Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 11/14/2010 @ 2:30pm

    Sunday Wakening

    Piotr Szewczyk, violin

    Six pieces from Violin Futura 3

    Gary Smart, piano

    Blossoms : Solo Piano Improvisations

    Two in One!
    1. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's Piotr Szewczyk premieres pieces for unaccompanied violin written especially for him by composers from around the world.
    2. UNF Professor Dr. Gary Smart presents free-wheeling piano improvisations ... Discard the labels--Expect the unexpected!

    Polish-born violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk (b. 1977) studied composition and violin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and while earning both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as well as his Artist Diploma, Piotr served as concertmaster of several of the College-Conservatory's orchestras. He then received a fellowship at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach where he served as rotating concertmaster under Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. The winner of the 2006 New World Symphony Concerto competition, Mr. Szewczyk has appeared as soloist with numerous ensembles, including the Lima Symphony, New World Symphony, World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Queen City Virtuosi, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. Piotr also has given solo and chamber recitals in the United States, Poland, Germany and Austria, and his own award-winning compositions have been performed by numerous orchestral and chamber ensembles, and at the American Symphony Orchestra League Conference by ALIAS Ensemble in Nashville. Mr. Szewczyk’s string quintet, The Rebel, was performed live on the CBS Early Show by the Sybarite Chamber Players, and was also featured on NPR's Performance Today. Piotr joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in September 2007, and in 2008 he won a commission from the Symphony by placing first in its Fresh Ink composition competition. The resulting piece, First Coast Fanfare, was premiered by the Jacksonville Symphony on April 15th of this year.

    Mr. Szewczyk's critically-acclaimed Violin Futura project features recitals of short, exciting and innovative solo violin pieces newly-written for him by composers from the United States, Germany, England and Japan. Currently working on the third program group in the series, Szewczyk has performed Violin Futura at numerous festivals and universities including Spoleto Festival USA, Berklee College of Music in Boston, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Santa Fe New Music Festival, University of Cincinnati, University of North Florida, EMMA Lecture Series at Flagler College, Bavarian Academy of Arts in Munich, Germany, New Museum of Art and Design in Nuremberg, Germany and many others.

    For this Intermezzo recital, Mr. Szewczyk will perform:
    More about Mr. Szewczyk at

    Gary Smart's career has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. A true American pluralist, Dr. Smart composes and improvises a music that reflects an abiding interest in world musics, Americana and jazz, as well as the Western classical tradition. Always
    a musician with varied interests, he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar/keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

    Smart’s work has been supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Music Educator's National Conference, the Music Teacher's National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smart’s music has been performed in major venues in the United States, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as venues in Europe and Asia. His Concordia for orchestra won the Concordia jazz composition award and was premiered at Lincoln Center, New York. His Song of the Holy Ground for string quartet and piano won the 2008 John Donald Robb Musical Trust Composers’ Competition and was premiered at the 2009 Robb Composers’ Symposium at the University of New Mexico.

    Smart's compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone and Albany labels. His CD’s The Major’s Letter, songs for voice and piano, American Beauty – a ragtime bouquet, Hot Sonatas, a collection of jazz-influenced chamber music, and Turtle Dreams of Flight, original music for solo piano performed by the composer, have all been released recently by Albany Records.

    Blossoms, a recording of his solo piano improvisations, is currently in production.

    Dr. Smart spent two residencies in Japan, teaching in programs at Osaka University and Kobe College. He also taught in Indonesia as "Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz" under the auspices of the Fulbright program. From 1999-2003, he served as Chairman of the UNF Music Department. Gary Smart is currently a Presidential Professor of Music at the University of North Florida.

    More about Dr. Smart at

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 10/10/2010 @ 2:30pm

    A Romantic Sampler


    Shawn I. Puller, tenor [Jacksonville Debut]
    Read Gainsford, piano

    Faculty artists from Albany State University and Florida State University team up for an afternoon of song and solo piano music!
    • Stefano Donaudy (1879-1925)
      Sento nel core -- Ah, mai non cessate -- Quando ti rivedrò -- O del mio amato ben
    • Franz Schubert (1798-1828)
      Impromptu in B-flat major, D. 935 No.3
    • Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
      Der Jüngling an der Quelle -- Der Jüngling am Bache -- Der Jüngling und der Tod
    • Fernando Obradors (1897-1945)
          Selections from Canciones clásicas españolas
      La mi sola, Laureola -- Del cabello más sutil -- Al amor
    • Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
      La Maja y el Ruiseñor
    • Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
      Lydia -- Içi-bas -- Adieu
    • Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
      Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52
    PROGRAM NOTES, by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

    Tenor Shawn Puller (Ph.D) is an Assistant Professor of Music at Georgia's Albany State University, and has taught in New York at SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College, as well as at Florida State University, where he is on the faculty of their Summer Music Camps. As director of both bands and choruses his teaching experience includes instruction of children as well as young adults, and as a vocal soloist, in addition to art-song literature, his repertoire includes opera, oratorio, and other large-scale choral works. Shawn has directed the music programs of several churches, and also has served as the Assistant Director of the Heifetz International Music Institute, in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Among other professional organizations, Dr. Puller is an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, and serves as the head Archivist of the Georgia Chapter of NATS. This recital marks his Jacksonville debut.

    Pianist Read Gainsford (D.M.) has performed widely in the USA, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and his native New Zealand as solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He has made successful solo debuts at the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, and has performed in many other prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Barbican Centre, Fairfield Halls, Birmingham Town Hall and St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. Dr. Gainsford has recorded for the Amoris label, BBC Radio Three, Radio New Zealand's Concert Programme, and has broadcast on national television in New Zealand, the UK, and Yugoslavia. Since moving to the United States in 1992, Read has been a guest artist for the American Music Teachers Association, has appeared at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and the Music Festival of the Hamptons, and spent several summers as a member of the collaborative pianist faculty at the Heifetz International Music Institute. He is a member of the contemporary music group Ensemble X, the Garth Newel Chamber Players, and as the pianist with FSU's Trio Solis he has performed here twice previously for our Music @ Main programs. Formerly on the faculty of Ithaca College where he received the college-wide Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004, Dr. Gainsford became Associate Professor of Piano at FSU in 2005.

    Don't feel too badly if you don't recognize the name of Stefano Donaudy (1879-1925)--although the Sicilian-born composer rates a place in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (2001), there is no entry for him in the 2nd edition of New Grove Dictionary (also 2001). As a precocious "tween" Donaudy wrote Folchetto (1892), the first of his six operas. He enjoyed early successes with both his songs and operas, and he also composed a few purely instrumental pieces, including a symphonic poem, Le Rêve de Polysende. But his luck ran out with his poorly-received final opera, La Fiamminga (Naples, 1922), and the disappointment at its failure (apparently coupled with declining health) caused him to abandon composing for his few remaining years. Despite the composer's relative obscurity, several of Donaudy's three dozen Arie di Stile Antico ("Arias in Antique Style") have been championed from the early recorded era to the present day by many the world's foremost singers, including the famous tenors Enrico Caruso, Beniamino Gigli, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and Andrea Bocelli.

    Click the titles for texts & translations:
    Sento nel core (I feel in my heart)
    (36 Arie di Stile Antico, no. 9, 1918)
        Text: Anonymous

    Ah, mai non cessate dal vostro parlar (Ah, never cease thy speech )
        (36 Arie di Stile Antico, no. 7, 1918)
        Text: Alberto Donaudy (1880-1941)

    Quando ti rivedrò? (When might I see thee once again?)
    (36 Arie di Stile Antico, no. 22, 1918)
        Text: Alberto Donaudy (1880-1941)
    O del mio amato ben perduto incanto! (O thou, my most belov’d enchantment, lost!)
    (36 Arie di Stile Antico, no. 18, 1918)
        Text: Alberto Donaudy (1880-1941)

    During his short lifetime the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed hundreds of works of astounding lyric beauty, including symphonies, chamber works, masses, solo piano music, and songs. Although his music was regularly performed in private concerts for Vienna’s musical elite, Schubert was never able to secure a publisher for the bulk of his masterworks, so he depended on his devoted circle of friends for maintaining his finances. After his death (probably from medicinal mercury poisoning), Schubert’s wish to be buried next to Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was honored.
    In 1827, Schubert wrote two sets of Impromptus for solo piano, with four pieces in varying musical forms in each set. His Impromptu in B-flat major, D. 935, No.3, is from the second set, published posthumously as his Op. 142. The piece is a theme with variations on a tune derived from his incidental music to the play, Rosamunde (D. 797, 1823), and also used in his String Quartet, No. 13, D. 804 (1824).
    Schubert, who composed over 600 songs, has remained unsurpassed in his ability to marry poetry with music, and his song-writing genius was touted by no less than Beethoven—although the two composers apparently never met, during his final illness Beethoven was given scores to some of Schubert’s songs, and the older master expressed his great admiration for the younger composer’s artistry.

    Der Jüngling an der Quelle (The Youth at the Spring)
     (D.300, ca.1816?, published 1842)
        Text: Johann Gaudenz Freiherr von Salis-Seewis (1762-1834)
    Der Jüngling am Bache (The Youth by the Brook)   
    Text (1803): Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)

    Der Jüngling und der Tod (The Youth and Death)
     (D. 545, 1817, pub.1872)    
    Text: by Joseph von Spaun (1788-1865)

    Fernando Obradors (1897-1945) was a self-taught Catalan composer, pianist and conductor. Although he wrote orchestral music as well as a considerable amount of music for the stage, he is best remembered for his four sets of Canciones clásicas españolas, collected and arranged between 1921-1941. Obradors' settings perfectly capture the essence of the folk-songs, and they remain among the most popular Spanish-language songs in the repertoire of classically-trained singers.

    La mi sola, Laureola (My Only Laureola)
    (Canciones clásicas españolas, no. 7)
        Text: Juan Ponce (
    Del cabello más sutil (From That Finest Hair)
    (Canciones clásicas españolas, no. 4)
        Text: Anonymous
    Al Amor (To My Love)
    (Canciones clásicas españolas, no. 1)
        Text: Cristobal de Castillejo (d. 1550)

    Like Obradors, Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was born in the Spanish region of Catalonia, and Granados' music is so characteristically "Spanish" that he is regarded as one of his homeland's most representative composers. His Goyescas (1909-11), a suite of 6 pieces in 2 books and inspired by the paintings of Francesco Goya, ranks with Iberia, by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), as the finest piano works from Spain. The famous Quejas, ó la maja y el ruiseñor (“Lament, or, The Maiden and the Nightingale”), is an intricate nocturne with glittering, bird-like trills near its conclusion. Granados himself premiered Goyescas, so it is clear that he was a virtuoso performer as well as composer.

    Gabriel Urbain Fauré (1845-1924) was a composer, organist, pianist and teacher, and he is widely regarded as the greatest master of the French art-song and the foremost French composer of his generation. Although Fauré greatly admired Wagner he remained relatively free of Wagner’s highly-colored influence, and instead led his own harmonic revolution by treating chords with added 7ths and 9ths as consonant and by introducing modal inflections into an essentially diatonic framework; in the process he successfully bridged the styles of Saint-Saëns (his teacher) and Ravel (his student). Fauré’s compositions are distinguished by perfectly crafted melodies floating over rich and radiant backgrounds, and among his best-known works is the hauntingly beautiful choral Requiem.

    (Op.4, no,2)
        Text: Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894)
    Ici-bas! (Here Below)
    (Op.8, no.3, 1874?)
        Text: R.-F. Sully-Prudhomme (1839-1907)
    (Op. 21, no.3, 1878)
        Text: Charles Jean Grandmougin (1850-1930)

    The Polish-born pianist Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) was the first composer to make full use of the expressive qualities and coloristic potential of the piano when it was a still-developing keyboard instrument, and he rightly has been called the "Poet of the Piano." Much of all piano music by subsequent composers shows his influence, and his revolutionary use of chromatic harmonies and unusual key relationships profoundly influenced composers of symphonic music and operas as well, such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner--thus Chopin's importance in the development of the "Romantic" style in general can not be overestimated. Among his many achievements, Chopin is credited with establishing the Ballade as an extended instrumental form, and all four of his solo piano works bearing this title are considered among the crowning achievements of the Romantic period. British pianist and composer John Ogdon (1937-1989) called the Ballade No. 4, Op.52, completed in 1842, ”the most exalted, intense and sublimely powerful of all Chopin’s compositions ... it contains the experience of a lifetime.”

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    06/16 @ 6:15 p.m.: Huls Clark Duo

    Max Huls, violin
    Christine Clark, piano

    Jacksonville Symphony violinist Max Huls and award-winning pianist Christine Clark once again join forces for our season finale!

    Violinist Max Huls joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in 1993 and was introduced to the First Coast as soloist in Bartók’s Second Rhapsody, for violin and orchestra. Mr. Huls is on the faculty of the Prelude Chamber Music Camp, is a violin coach for the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, and in addition to his core membership in the JSO he is Concertmaster of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia. He appeared variously as concertmaster, soloist and conductor with the Savannah Symphony, and was concertmaster of the Memphis Symphony and Opera Memphis. Max was on the faculty of the University of Memphis and Rhodes College, and while living in Tennessee was much sought after as a studio musician, working with the rock group The Replacements and soul legends Patti LaBelle and Al Green, among many others. He has participated in numerous music festivals, and among his many local concerts and recitals, Max performed Paganini's demanding Twenty-four Caprices for Friday Musicale. As a member of Duo Proto he plays violin and viola alongside his son, Victor Minke Huls, and he frequently collaborates with award-winning pianist Christine Clark. The Huls Clark Duo was featured in our season finale concerts in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

    A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Christine Armington Clark began piano studies with James Crosland, and continued her professional training at Oberlin Conservatory. She received a Master's degree in piano performance from the University of Illinois, and studied with Leon Fleisher in the Peabody Conservatory Artist Diploma Program upon the recommendation of legendary concert pianist Lorin Hollander. Ms. Clark was national finalist in the Collegiate Artist Competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association, and attended the Aspen Music Festival on a piano performance and accompanying scholarship. She competed in the Maryland International Piano Competition, and won the Boca Raton Piano Competition. A versatile musician, Ms. Clark played keyboard with Trap Door, a local rock group, and toured Europe under the aegis of Proclaim! International. She taught piano at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and her chamber music performances include an appearance at the Goethe Institute in San Francisco. Well known along the First Coast, Ms. Clark has appeared with the Jacksonville Starlight Symphonette and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and appears frequently in solo recitals and in collaboration with many of the areas finest instrumentalists and vocalists. She also serves on the Boards of several arts organizations, is President of Friday Musicale, and is on the faculty of Prelude Chamber Music camp. In addition to being an accomplished pianist, Christine is an attorney, and while working in Washington, D.C., she gave perhaps her most unusual recital, performing in the United States Supreme Court at the request of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

    The transcendent German-born composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began his compositional career essentially imitating the styles and forms he inherited from Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and W.A Mozart (1756-1791), but during his "middle" period (ca. 1803-1815) Beethoven expanded and personalized this inheritance, creating works that have come to represent the culmination of the Classical style in much the same way that the works of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) represent the culmination of the Baroque. During Beethoven's "late" period (ca. 1815-1827), he discovered new paths toward still more personal, even intimate, musical expression, and, despite the gradual and eventually total degeneration of his hearing, he forged the way beyond the Classical tradition into the Romantic.

    Beethoven began work on both his 4th and 5th violin sonatas in the summer of 1800, while he also worked on his Symphony No. 2, Op. 21, and the ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43. The two violin sonatas were intended as contrasting companion pieces and initially were grouped together as the composer’s “Opus 23.” But the violin part of the brightly lyrical Sonata No. 5 in F major (now known as the “Spring” Sonata) mistakenly was printed using an oblong format rather than the tall format used for the darkly dramatic Sonata No. 4. This made it impossible to bind the two sonatas together, and it was cheaper to assign them separate opus numbers rather than re-engraving them. Thus, the fifth sonata became “Opus 24,” while the fourth kept the original work number.

    Although Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 dates from his “early” period, contemporary critics were already making note of the composer’s originality, even when they didn’t quite understand his innovations. The key of A-minor was a rare choice for chamber music compositions, made even more unusual by Beethoven’s retention of the minor mode for the first movement’s “second subject,” which is introduced in E-minor rather than in the “expected” relative major key centered on C. And although Beethoven retains the 3-movement outline favored by his mentors rather than using the 4-movement scheme with an added scherzo movement that he later seemed to prefer (and which he uses in the “Spring” Sonata), he nonetheless interjects the jesting spirit of a scherzo into the slower-paced middle movement.

    SCORE (pdf): Beethoven Sonata No. 4, Op. 23

    Beethoven Sonata No. 4 on YouTube:
    1. Presto2. Andante scherzoso, più allegretto3. Allegro molto

    By the age of three, the French composer and keyboard virtuoso Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) could read and write and had penned his first piano piece; by seven he had learned Latin; and by ten he could perform from memory all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas upon request. An expert mathematician and a successful playwright, he published poetry, scholarly works in acoustics and philosophy, and popular travelogues. He was a confidant of Berlioz, Liszt, and Fauré (his most famous student), and a notorious enemy of Franck, Massenet, and especially of Debussy.

    Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise, Op. 83, remains one of the most frequently performed and recorded pieces from among the more than 300 works the composer wrote. “Havanaise” (the French equivalent of the Spanish "habanera") is derived from the name of the Cuban city of Havana (“La Habana” in Spanish), and it identifies the origins of the dance rhythms that infuse Saint-Saëns’ virtuoso showpiece. Originally for violin and piano but soon provided with an orchestral accompaniment, Saint-Saëns composed the piece in 1887 for Raphael Diaz Albertini (1857-1928), a Cuban violinist whom he had accompanied on a concert tour a couple of years before.

    SCORE (pdf): Saint-Saëns Havanaise

    Saint-Saëns on YouTube:
    Havanaise, Op. 83

    At a time when it was fashionable to write programmatic music that illustrated specific scenes, poems, or stories, the great German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was recognized by his admirers as “Beethoven’s true heir” (Grove Concise Dictionary of Music) by demonstrating that established abstract formal procedures could be used to organize musical discourse without sacrificing the passion and deeply individualistic expression that defines 19th-Century Romantic music. Thus, Brahms joined Bach and Beethoven as one of the great “Three B’s” of classical music.

    For many of us, summer vacations might provide a good time to "vegetate," in the sense of "idly lulling about." But for Brahms, sunny rural retreats instead sparked his musical inspiration to "bloom and grow" into some of his most ingratiating works, including his three violin sonatas. The first (Op. 78, 1878) was written in response to an Italian sojourn, and both the second (Op. 100, 1886) and third (Op. 108, 1886-88) to stays on Lake Thun in Switzerland, a locality which Brahms reported was "so full of melodies that one has to be careful not to step on any." In August 1886, in addition to the Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100, Brahms (mostly) completed his Cello Sonata No. 2, Op. 99, and the Piano Trio No. 3, Op. 101. He also wrote several songs, including Komm bald ("Come soon"), Op. 97/5, and Wie Melodien zieht es mir leise durch den Sinn ("It passes through my mind like melodies"), Op. 107/1, both of which provided thematic inspiration for the opus 100 violin sonata.

    Considering its birthplace and sunny disposition, it is not surprising that Brahms’ second sonata is sometimes known as the "Thun" Sonata. But surprisingly, it also has appeared with the nickname "Meistersinger," owing to the intervallic similarity between the piano's first three notes with the first sung notes of "Walter's Prize Song" from the last scene in Wagner's 1868 opera, Die Meistersinger—only it is hard to imagine that Brahms would have intentionally paid tribute to his noted rival!

    SCORE (pdf): Brahms Sonata No. 2, Op. 100

    Brahms Sonata No. 2 on YouTube:
    1. Allegro amabile2. Andante tranquillo. Vivace3. Allegretto grazioso (quasi Andante)

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    05/18/2010 @ 5:30 p.m.: Piotr Szewczyk, violin

    Violin Futura II

    Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra violinist Piotr Szewczyk returns to the Hicks Auditorium, performing new music for solo violin written especially for him by composers from around the country.

    Featured composers/works include: Polish-born violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk (b. 1977) studied composition and violin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and while earning both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as well as his Artist Diploma, Piotr served as concertmaster of several of the College-Conservatory's orchestras. He then received a fellowship at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach where he served as rotating concertmaster under Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas. The winner of the 2006 New World Symphony Concerto competition, Mr. Szewczyk has appeared as soloist with numerous ensembles, including the Lima Symphony, New World Symphony, World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Queen City Virtuosi, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. Piotr also has given solo and chamber recitals in the United States, Poland, Germany and Austria, and his own award-winning compositions have been performed by numerous orchestral and chamber ensembles, and at the American Symphony Orchestra League Conference by ALIAS Ensemble in Nashville. Mr. Szewczyk’s string quintet, The Rebel, was performed live on the CBS Early Show by the Sybarite Chamber Players, and was also featured on NPR's Performance Today. Piotr joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in September 2007, and in 2008 he won a commission from the Symphony by placing first in its Fresh Ink composition competition. The resulting piece, First Coast Fanfare, was premiered by the Jacksonville Symphony on April 15th of this year.

    Mr. Szewczyk is the creator and performer of the critically-acclaimed Violin Futura project, featuring recitals of short, exciting and innovative solo violin pieces newly-written for him by composers from the United States, Germany, England and Japan. Currently in its second edition and with a third in the works, Szewczyk has performed Violin Futura at numerous festivals and universities including Spoleto Festival USA, Berklee College of Music in Boston, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Santa Fe New Music Festival, University of Cincinnati, University of North Florida, EMMA Lecture Series at Flagler College, Bavarian Academy of Arts in Munich, Germany, New Museum of Art and Design in Nuremberg, Germany and many others.

    More about Mr. Szewczyk at

    Kansas native Jason Bahr (b. 1972) is an Assistant Professor of Music Theory and a HARP Research Fellow at Mississippi State University. Bahr received his B.M. from the University of Missouri—Kansas City Conservatory of Music, and his M.M. and D.M. from Indiana University. Bahr’s works have been performed in twenty-nine states and eight foreign countries, and he has received awards, grants, and commissions from the Fromm Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, Northridge Composition Prize, Renee B. Fischer Piano Competition, Kubik International Prize, ASCAP, SCI, and the Cambridge Madrigal Singers, among others.

    More at

    Philadelphia-based composer Richard Belcastro (b.1976) studied music composition at the University of California in Davis, Brandeis University and the University of Pennsylvania. His works have been performed in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall and Philadelphia’s Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and have been featured at the Gothenburg Guitar Society’s new music festival in Sweden, Boston’s COAXIAL festival for Electro-Acoustic Music, and the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Belcastro has received grants and awards from The Meet the Composer Foundation, ASCAP/SEAMUS, The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and New Sounds Music Inc. In addition to composing, he is the Executive Director of the Chamber Music NOW! Annual Concert Series in Philadelphia ( and the Artistic Director of the DCCC Performing Arts Concert Series ( More at

    Tyler Avis Capp (b.1983) is a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida where he is honing his compositional skills under the tutelage of Dr. Paul Richards. Capp earned his B.M. (Composition/Banjo) at the University of Delaware, and his M.A. (Music Composition) at Stony Brook University (New York). His wind ensemble piece, Imminent Rock, was a prize winner in the 2008 Penfield/Wegmans Composition Contest for Wind Ensemble Music, and his Stranger Variations, for solo violin, is available on the Bridge label. More at

    Presently pursuing her Ph.D. at Princeton University, Lisa R. Coons (b.1979) earned her Bachelor's at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and received a Master's from SUNY Stony Brook. Ms. Coons specializes in chamber music and sound art, with recent works including amplified instruments, turntables, and metal percussion sculptures with homemade electronics. For her string quartet, entitled Awkward Music to Play or Listen to, she received the 2005 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Award. More at
    Jianjun He (b.1958), Jacksonville University's new Associate Professor of Music Theory and Composition, earned his B.A. (Violin Performance) and M.A. (Music Theory) degrees in his native China, and received his D.M.A. (Music Composition) from West Virginia University. Dr. He was the chairperson of the Music Department at Ningxia University (China) before coming to the United States in 1995, and also has taught at West Virginia University, Slippery Rock University (Pennsylvania), Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas), and Casper College (Wyoming). His compositions have been featured at numerous music festivals and conferences, and several have been released on recordings for the ERM, VMM, Mark Masters, and Da Di (China) labels. Dr. He has published books and research papers on music theory, compositional techniques, ethnomusicology, and music education. More at

    Sydney Hodkinson (b.1934) holds the Almand Chair of Composition at Stetson University in Deland, and previously has taught at Universities in Ohio, Virginia and Michigan, as well as at the Eastman School in New York State. He has written over 250 works in a wide variety of genres, and has been awarded numerous grants and prizes from the Guggenheim and Ford foundations, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Canadian Council, and other prestigious organizations. His music is widely performed, and recordings have been issued on several labels. More at

    Kari Henrik Juusela (b.1954) is a Finnish/American composer, cellist and educator who is presently the Dean of the Professional Writing Division at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to his work at Berklee College of Music, Dr. Juusela served as the Associate Dean, Director of Composition and Almand Chair of Composition at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. Juusela's compositions have won awards in numerous competitions including the 1995 Vienna International Full-Length Opera Competition, the 2003 International Red Stick Composition Competition, and the London Chamber Groups 2003 "Piece of the Year Competition," among many others. More at

    With compositions ranging from orchestral, chamber, vocal and electroacoustic, Canadian composer and guitarist John Oliver (b.1959) came to international attention during the late 1980s when he won a half dozen composition prizes, followed by commissions from leading Canadian ensembles and performances in North America and Europe. In his works, which include the operas Guacamayo's Old Song and Dance (Toronto, 1991) and Alternate Visions (Montreal 2007), Dr. Oliver explores "new and ancient materials and techniques from around the world, creating a perceptually-based, visceral listening experience." More at

    Violinist and composer Philip Pan (b.1961) is a graduate of the Juilliard School (B.M., M.M.) and has been Concertmaster of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra since 1986. In addition to his frequent solo work with the JSO, Mr. Pan has made solo appearances throughout the country, including with the Albany and Schenectady symphonies and the Boston Pops, among many others. With his wife, JSO flutist Rhonda Cassano, Philip has produced local concert series including Bach and Beyond!, Synergy and Sound Effects at MOCA Jacksonville. In addition to classical, he enjoys playing various styles of fiddle music and jazz, and he recently released a 7-song recording with his progressive rock band, The Architect Sound. More at

    William Louis Schirmer (b.1941), a recently retired Professor Emeritus from Jacksonville University, must be ranked as one of history’s most prolific composers—his ever-growing catalog now numbers over 4,000 works in all genres, and includes at least 258 symphonies, 403 piano sonatas and 217 string quartets! Beginning in 1979, Dr. Schirmer taught music theory and composition and JU, and he received his own training at the Cleveland Institute of Music (BM), the Eastman School of Music (MM), and Ohio State University (PhD).

    Adam Schoenberg (b.1980) is a doctoral candidate at the Juilliard School whose works have already been performed throughout the United States by orchestras and ensembles including the Kansas City Symphony, Charleston Symphony, Aspen Music Festival Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, IRIS Chamber Orchestra, Juilliard Symphony, Chicago Youth Symphony, American Brass Quintet, New Juilliard Ensemble, and Sybarite Chamber Players, and he is currently working on a commissioned work for the Atlanta Symphony. Schoenberg was the First Prize winner at the 2008 International Brass Chamber Music Festival for best Brass Quintet, and in 2007 he won ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Juilliard’s Palmer-Dixon Prize for Most Outstanding Composition, and a Meet the Composer Grant from the Southern Arts Federation. Among earlier awards was a 2006 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. More at

    Laurence Sherr (b.1953) is Composer-in-Residence and Associate Professor of Music at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, and his works have been performed throughout North America, Mexico and Europe, as well as in Cuba and Japan. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including top prize in Jacksonville University's 1995 Delius Composition Contest, and his works have been released commercially on several labels, including Capstone and Ein Klang (Germany). Also an active performer, Dr. Sherr is the founder and clarinetist of the Atlanta band Oy Klezmer! More at

    The career of Gary Smart (b.1943) has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. Dr. Smart’s compositions reflect an abiding interest in Americana, jazz, and world music, as well as the Western classical tradition, and he has received support from the Ford and Guggenheim foundations, the Music Educator's National Conference, the Music Teachers National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smart’s works have been performed in major U.S. venues, including the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as in Europe and Asia. Dr. Smart's compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone, and Albany labels. Dr. Smart spent residencies in Japan and taught in Indonesia as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz, and was head of the music department at the University of Wyoming from 1978-1999. From 1999-2003 he served as Chairman of the University of North Florida Music Department, where he currently is the Terry Professor of Music. More at

    Suzanne Sorkin (b.1974) is an Assistant Professor of Music at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where she teaches music composition and music theory. Dr. Sorkin, who received her B.M. from New York University and both her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has received awards and commissions from the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, Chamber Music Now, Third Millennium Ensemble, counter)inducation, and ASCAP, among others. Her music is performed throughout the country and has been released commercially on Capstone Records. More at

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    04/12/2010@ 6:16 p.m.: UNF String Ensemble

    Students from the
    University of North Florida Department of Music
    performing under the direction of Dr. Simon Shiao

    • SHOSTAKOVICH Four Preludes
      Arranged by Lazar Gosman from 24 Piano Preludes, Op. 34
      [No. 10, C# minor] Moderato non troppo - [No. 15, D-flat Major] Allegretto - [No. 16, B-flat minor] Andantino - [No. 24, D minor] Allegretto

    • SAINT-SAËNS Carnival of the Animals
      Selections from among: Introduction - The Royal March of the Lion - The Cocks and Hens - The Wild Animals - The Turtle - The Elephant - The Kangaroo - The Aquarium - The Mule - The Cuckoo in the Wind - The Birds - The Pianists - The Fossils - The Swan - The Grand Finale

    • DVOŘÁK Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22
      I. Moderato - II. Tempo di Valse - III. Scherzo: Vivace - IV. Larghetto - V. Finale

    1st violin
    Junko Eguchi
    Jesse Bueno
    Jordan Mixson
    Sam Felber
    Jeremy Davis
    Danielle Greenwald
    Rose Francis
    Andrea Sheinkopf
    2nd violin
    Dargen Thompson
    Dayna Osan
    Christina Erhayel
    Sara Boynton
    Sukesha Crosdale
    Bennett Smith
    Brent Gregory
    Briana Jung
    Leah Kogut
    Joshua Stone

    Brittany Maroney
    Ariadna Perez
    Sarah Greenwald
    Nate Edwards
    Javier Arguello
    Emily Whittaker

    Saeko Fukami

    Director Dr. Simon Shiao, a versatile performer who has appeared at Carnegie Hall as a recitalist and with both string quartet and orchestra, has played concerts around the world and on broadcasts of CNN's Science and Technology program and Public Radio's Live on WGBH. He has performed as soloist and co-concertmaster with Miami’s New World Symphony, and currently performs with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Wyoming. At UNF he teaches violin and viola and is Director of Orchestral Studies, and he is the chair of the solo competition for the Florida Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Dr. Shiao holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and Masters and Doctoral degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

    Joining Prokofiev and Khachaturian, Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is one of few composers of the former Soviet Union to sustain a large following in the West, but his career was far from “smooth sailing.” During his lifetime his music was periodically banned by Stalinist authorities, and he suffered two official denouncements, in 1936 and 1948. However, because of his worldwide popularity the Soviets liked to use Shostakovich as propaganda, so their censures always proved temporary—but he still withheld his more personal works until after Stalin’s death in 1953. Shostakovich likewise has had detractors among many of the West’s avant-garde, centering around composer-turned-conductor Pierre Boulez. Although the influence of the self-styled “cutting edge” has since dulled, from the 1950s into the 1980s the group and its followers wielded their own brand of artistic totalitarianism, insisting that composers abandon familiar musical forms in favor of mathematical or electronic compositional procedures, and dismissing works by those who used tonal idioms to communicate directly with listeners. Ignoring the ideological tyranny on both fronts, performers and listeners have always embraced Shostakovich’s music, and he remains among the most frequently performed and recorded of 20th-Century composers.

    Originally for piano solo, four of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes, Op. 34 (1932-33), were arranged for strings by violinist and conductor Lazar Gosman (b.1926) for performance and recording by the Tchaikovsky Chamber Orchestra, a group originally called the Soviet Emigre Orchestra that Gosman founded. Previously a major figure in the musical life of Soviet Russia, Gosman immigrated to the United States in 1977, and the 1984 film, Musical Passage, documents the founding of his orchestra, and also his problems in exiting the USSR. Once here he became associate concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, served on the faculties of the St. Louis Conservatory and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and established and continues to conduct annual concerts by the Kammergild Chamber Orchestra of St. Louis.

    By the age of three, the French composer and keyboard virtuoso Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) could read and write and had penned his first piano piece; by seven he had mastered Latin; and by ten he could perform from memory all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas upon request. An expert mathematician and a successful playwright, he published poetry, scholarly works in acoustics and philosophy, and popular travelogues. He was a confidant of Berlioz, Liszt, and Fauré (his most famous student), and a notorious enemy of Franck, Massenet, and especially of Debussy.

    Although first performed in 1886, Saint-Saëns withheld from publication all but Le cygne (“The Swan”) from Le carnaval des animaux ("The Carnival of the Animals") until after his death because he felt that the overall comic tone of the suite would diminish his standing as a "serious" composer. Ironically, the imagination and wit on display in its 14 movements have kept The Carnival at the top of the dozen or so of his works (out of over 300!) that are still performed with any regularity.

    Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) is an immensely popular Czech composer who fused melodic and rhythmic elements of Bohemian folk music with classical symphonic forms. Fostered by his friend Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Dvořák gained international acclaim and was invited to New York City to become the director of the National Conservatory of Music from 1892 to 1895, during which time he wrote the famous New World Symphony.

    The five movements of Dvořák's Serenade, Op. 22, were written in just a couple of weeks during May of 1875, and for its sunny disposition Brahms, as yet little more than a stranger to Dvořák, may perhaps be due a little credit: in January of the same year Dvořák had been awarded a stipend for composing from the Austrian government, and Brahms was one of the three jurors who unanimously recommended the Czech for the award. But if one were to discover any actual autobiographical impetus in the Serenade, Anna, Dvořák's bride of less than two years, would likely prove the happy inspiration. The couple had known each other for years (in fact, in 1865 Antonín had tried unsuccessfully to court Anna's sister, Josefina), only Anna's father, Jan Čermák, would not relinquish his daughter's hand to a nearly starving musician. But in March 1873, a month after the would-be father-in-law died, Dvořák enjoyed his first big successes as a composer, so Anna's mother, Klotilda, finally consented to the union and the adorable couple, penniless but hopeful, were married on November 17, 1873. Of course, Klotilda's in vivo grandson, Otakar Dvořák (who was born five months later) might also have helped convince his granny.

    Monday, March 8, 2010

    03/24/2010 @ 6:15pm:
    Laura Nocchiero & Krzysztof Biernacki

    Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki, head of vocal studies at the University of North Florida, joins Italian concert pianist Laura Nocchiero for a special evening of music and song.

    9 Préludes (1er livre)

    Danseuse de Delphes (Dancers of Delphi)
            Voiles (Sails/Veils)
            Le vens dans la plaine (The Wind across the Plain)
            Les collines d'Anacapri (The Hills of Anacapari)
            La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair)
            Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest (What the West Wind Saw)
            La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)
            La danse de Puck (Puck’s Dance)

    Pour le piano


    Four Mélodies
            Voyage à Paris--Mazurka--Hôtel--Rosemonde

    Pianist Laura Nocchiero graduated from the A. Vivaldi State Music Conservatory in Novara, Italy, and has performed extensively both as a soloist and as guest artist with numerous international ensembles and orchestras. Touring throughout Europe, the Americas and Japan, Ms. Nocchiero has performed at the Valletta Manoel Theatre (Malta), St. Martin in the Fields (London), St. John Smith Square (London), St. Merry (Paris), Cité internationale universitaire (Paris), New York University, Klavierhaus (New York), Steinway Hall (New York), Cleveland State University, Library and Archives Canada Auditorium (Ottawa), Teatro Alfieri (Turin, Italy), Lilia Hall, Yokohama (Japan), Mainichi Culture Center in Osaka (Japan), Sala Baldini (Rome), George Enescu Museum (Bucharest), Linares Andrès Segovia Museum (Spain), Thessaloniki State Music Conservatory (Greece), Salon Dorado de la Prensa (Buenos Aires) and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Montevideo (Uruguay). Some of her concerts have been recorded by State Radio-TV and broadcast in Eurovision. Laura is a member of the Satie Duo, together with the actress Eva Palomares. Since its imception in 2003, the Duo has performed throughout Italy and abroad, winning accolades from audiences and press alike. Mrs. Nocchiero regularly appears as a guest artist and teacher in master classes and as a jurist in international music competitions.

    Baritone Krzysztof Biernacki has established a strong reputation as a powerful performer, versatile stage director, and talented teacher. Born and raised in Poland, his professional credits include opera, oratorio, concert, and recital performances in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Dr. Biernacki has sung principal roles with Vancouver Opera, Manitoba Opera, Calgary Opera, Orchestra London Canada, Theater of Usti nad Labem (Czech Republic), as well as opera ensembles of University of British Columbia and University of Western Ontario. Dr. Biernacki’s commitment to contemporary music is highlighted by world premiere performances heard on CBC Radio and CBC Saturday Afternoon at the Opera including a highly acclaimed production of Filumena co-produced by the Calgary Opera and Banff Centre for Performing Arts. Dr. Biernacki frequently performs song recitals with repertoire ranging from Haydn to Szymanowski, Shostakovich, and Britten. Last summer Dr. Biernacki made his Carnegie Hall debut with th UNF Wind Ensemble performing works of Tchaikovsky and Tosti, and was reengaged for a recital of opera arias and duets at Carnegie Zankel Hall. His summer 2009 engagements included solo recitals in Italy and Poland, concerts with North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and stage directing engagements at the European Music Academy in the Czech Republic. Dr. Biernacki holds degrees from the University of Manitoba (B. Mus.), University of Western Ontario (M. Mus.), and University of British Columbia (D.M.A). He is the head of Applied Voice and Director of UNF Opera Ensemble at the University of North in Jacksonville.

    Achille-Claude Debussy (1862-1918) was a quintessentially French composer, pianist and music critic whose own revolutionary music ushered in many of the stylistic changes of the 20th Century. He is usually identified as the chief proponent of musical “impressionism,” but he did not approve of that label himself. Debussy was a great fan of Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) and he even edited a French edition of the Polish composer’s piano music for publication. Debussy proved himself to be a true successor of Chopin in writing for the piano, and his 24 Préludes, composed between 1909 and 1913 and grouped into two books of 12 each, may be regarded as a tribute to the Pole. Like Chopin, Debussy continued a Baroque tradition with his Préludes while expanding the harmonic language and piano technique of his contemporaries in ways previously unimagined. Pour le Piano (published 1901) likewise hearkens back to the formal traditions of the Baroque, with a Sarabande dance movement sandwiched between a toccata-like Prélude and the actual Toccata of the the final movement, a virtuoso tour de force. But the suite’s harmonic language, using whole-tone scales and parallel 7th and 9th chords, as well as its effervescent piano figurations, clearly identified it as something entirely new.
    CLICK HERE to hear Prélude No. 1 (Book I) on YouTube. (Additional Preludes are linked from the resulting page)
    CLICK HERE to hear Pour le piano (mvts. 1-2) on YouTube.
    CLICK HERE to hear recording of Pour le piano (Toccata) on YouTube.

    Before he had any formal training as a composer, Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was already famous as one of Les six, six young Parisian composers and pals who were linked to Jean Cocteau and Erik Satie, and who were regarded by their admirers as the antidote to the perceived excesses of both Germanic Romanticism and Gallic Impressionism. Of their group (the others being Honegger, Milhaud, and the virtually forgotten Auric, Durey, and Tailleferre), Poulenc’s music remains the most frequently performed. Although the musical influences of Stravinsky and the Parisian dance-hall are often present, Poulenc’s unpretentious style remains clearly his own, characterized by effortless melody, distinct rhythms, and novel yet gorgeous diatonic harmonies.

    His affinity for the human voice makes him Fauré’s successor in the realm of the French art song, and beginning in 1935 Poulenc had a very successful performance career accompanying French baritone Pierre Bernac (1899-1979), for whom he wrote about 90 songs for their recitals. Among Poulenc’s favorite poets was Guillame Apollinaire (1880-1918), and both Voyage à Paris and Hôtel are from the five settings of Apollinaire’s verses included in Poulenc’s 1940 song cycle, Banalités. One might say that the first of these paints the French capital as the “City of Carnival Lights, ” while the seconds paints a languid picture of sun streaming in through partially opened shutters on a slow riser whose ambition is as yet as ill-defined as the smoke circles he blows. Another Apollinaire poem, Rosemonde in which the poet reminisces about, well, stalking a woman through the streets of Amsterdam for a couple of hours, was specifically chosen with the audience for a 1954 Dutch recital in mind.

    The final song, Mazurka, is from Mouvements du Coeur (Stirrings of the Heart, 1949), seven songs by six different composers commissioned in commemoration of the 100th death anniversary of Chopin, especially appropriate as we celebrate Chopin’s 200th birth anniversary this year. In it French poet Louise Vilmorin (1902-1969) uses a refrain that recalls the children’s song, Ainsi font (This is How They Go), as she depicts the antics of flirtatious young dancers as if they were predictable movements of puppets.

    Voyage à Paris (Guillaume Apollinaire)

    Ah! la charmante chose
    Quitter un pays morose
    Pour Paris
    Paris joli
    Qu'un jour dût créer l'Amour.

    A Trip to Paris (English translation c2010, E.Lein)

    Ah! 'Tis such a charming thing
    To head out from a dreary setting
    For Paris!
    Paris fairest
    Which one day Love had to create.

    CLICK HERE to hear Voyage à Paris on YouTube.

    Hôtel (Guillaume Apollinaire)

    Ma chambre a la forme d'une cage,
    Le soleil passe son bras par la fenêtre.
    Mais moi qui veux fumer pour faire des mirages
    J'allume au feu du jour ma cigarette.
    Je ne veux pas travailler - je veux fumer.

    Hotel (English version c2010, E.Lein)

    My room has become like a cage is,
    Through the window the sun casts his net.
    But I just want to blow smoky mirages
    So with the day's fire I light my cigarette.
    To me work is so like a joke -- I'd rather smoke.

    CLICK HERE to hear Hôtel on YouTube.

    Rosemonde (Guillaume Apollinaire)

    Longtemps au pied du perron de
    La maison où entra la dame
    Que j’avais suivie pendant deux
    Bonnes heures à Amsterdam
    Mes doigts jetèrent des baisers

    Mais le canal était désert
    Le quai aussi et nul ne vit
    Comment mes baisers retrouvèrent
    Celle à qui j’ai donné ma vie
    Un jour pendant plus de deux heures

    Je la surnommai Rosemonde
    Voulant pouvoir me rappeler
    Sa bouche fleurie en Hollande
    Puis lentement je m’allai
    Pour quêter la rose du monde

    Rosamond (English translation c2010, E.Lein)

    Lingering at the steps leading up to
    The house wherein went the ma'am
    Whom lately I'd followed for two
    Happy hours though Amsterdam
    While my fingers flung kisses

    But since the canal was deserted
    As were its banks no one could see
    Just how my kisses overtook
    Her to whom my life I'd bequeathed
    That day for more than two hours

    The nickname Rosamond for her I chose
    With the hope of remembering
    How in Holland her lips like flowers grow
    Then slowly I departed
    To seek out the world's own rose

    Mazurka ("Les bijoux aux poitrines")
    English version c2010, E. Lein, after a 1949 French poem by Louise de Vilmorin

    The bejeweled décolletage
    And ceilings with bright suns,
    The opaline ball-frocks,
    Mirrors and violins:
    They go like so--go, go, go.

    A brooch tumbles out of hands,
    The brooch: just an excuse
    Out of the hands of maidens
    That vanish, and they go,
    They go like so--go, go, go.

    With a glance that might contain
    In the wrinkle on a brow
    Fine weather or maybe rain,
    And with a roguish sigh
    They go like so--go, go, go.

    The ball's a whirling cyclone
    Or demure and fancy-free,
    Just listen to each fickle one
    Saying yes, saying no:
    They go like so--go, go, go.

    In dances thus uncertain
    The dance-steps hardly count.
    Oh! The soft steps of discretion
    Are silent mysteries to those
    Who go like so--go, go, go.

    A ball may be the first place
    Where such burning fires unite.
    When lovers thus embrace
    The snow melts so,
    The snow melts so, so, so.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    05/04/2010 @ 6:15 p.m.: Scott Watkins, piano

    Renowned concert pianist Scott Watkin's repeats his 2010 Carnegie Hall recital with performances of
    Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101, and
    Chopin's Waltzes.

    Scott Watkins, Assistant Professor of Piano at Jacksonville University, is well known to First Coast audiences for his appearances with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, his numerous solo recitals, and his frequent collaborations with many of the areas finest singers and instrumentalists. His 1985 U.S. debut, an all-Bach recital given in Chicago, was broadcast live nationwide, and has been followed by a steady flow of solo and concerto performances in North and South America, Europe and the Caribbean. He has been heard often in the United States and Canada on National Public Radio and Television, and in South America and Europe on The Voice of America. Performances have included the world premieres of Elie Siegmeister’s From These Shores and Ned Rorem’s Song and Dance.

    An active chamber musician, Watkins is a founding member of the Florida Arts Trio and has appeared with the LaSalle Quartet and violinist Eugene Fodor, and a recent performance with violinist Hillary Hahn was broadcast on NPR's Performance Today. Much in demand as an accompanist, he appeared with soprano Elizabeth Futral and baritone Steven White in a recital of Wolff's Italian Song Book in Chicago, and he has released a disc of late romantic lieder with White. Watkins has also released two solo discs, one featuring works from his New York debut at Carnegie Hall, and another, Christmas Cards, featuring music for the holiday season, with works by Bach, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Grainger, and others.

    Professor Watkins is the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Philip Sousa Award for Outstanding American Musicians, Rotary Club of Florida's Annual Artistic Merit Award, and France's Jeunesse Musicales. In 1985, he became the youngest winner ever of The U.S. Department of State's Artistic Ambassador Award. His degrees include a Bachelor of Music from the University of Cincinnati, and Master of Music from University of South Carolina. He is currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts at Florida State University.

    ©2010 by Edward Lein, Music Librarian

    Beethoven: Sonata No. 28 in A Major, op. 101

    1. Etwas lebhaft, und mit der innigsten Empfindung [Somewhat lively, and with innermost sensitivity]
    2. Lebhaft. Marschmäßig [Lively. Moderate march]
    3. Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll [Slow and yearning-full]
    4. Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr und mit Entschlossenheit [Swiftly, but not too much and with determination]

    The transcendent German-born composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began his compositional career essentially imitating the styles and forms he inherited from Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) and W.A Mozart (1756-1791), but during his "middle" period (ca. 1803-1815) Beethoven expanded and personalized this lnheritance, creating works that have come to represent the culmination of the Classical style in much the same way that the works of J.S. Bach (1685-1750) represent the culmination of the Baroque. During Beethoven's "late" period (ca. 1815-1827), he discovered new paths toward still more personal, even intimate, musical expression, and, despite the gradual and eventually total degeneration of his hearing, he forged the way beyond the Classical tradition into the Romantic.

    After the passing of his mentor Haydn, Beethoven found little inspiration in the works of his contemporaries, least especially from the batch of Italian operas then sweeping the Continent. Instead, for artistic renewal he seems to have drawn upon two main sources: first, his lifelong affection and admiration for the music of Bach and G.F. Handel (1685-1759), striving in his final years to achieve a satisfying synthesis of Baroque contrapuntal techniques with Classical archetypes; and second, the straightforward lyricism of the folksongs he collected and arranged for Scottish publisher George Thomson (1757-1851). Beethoven's Sonata No. 28 in A major, Op. 101, the first of his five late period piano sonatas, was written during the summer and fall of 1816, and it demonstrates most especially the contrapuntal challenges he set for himself during his final decade. Beethoven dedicated it to Baroness Dorothea von Ertmann (1781-1849), a close friend whom he regarded as a foremost interpreter of his piano music, and who, appropriately enough, was also an admirer of Bach.

    Outwardly, Opus 101 manifests the four movements of a "typical" Beethoven sonata, but in its details it becomes anything but ordinary. The gently-flowing melody of the pastoral opening movement unfolds without any marked contrasts, and it is especially unusual that the clear establishment of the home key is delayed until near its end. Its reverie is interrupted by an exuberant march, used in place of the more usual scherzo. The brief, improvisatory third movement is an elegiac adagio that leads--very uncharacteristically--into a restatement of the first few measures of the first movement, which in turn is followed immediately by a boisterous sonata-form finale. Both the March, with its canonic trio, and the finale, with its fugato development, are dominated by complex contrapuntal textures, which, as Beethoven himself joked, might have justified nicknaming the work "The Difficult-to-Play Sonata." So--and especially because of the reprise of the first-movement tune leading into the finale--the overall effect is rather like a "Prelude and Fugue," but with a big interruption in the form of the march. And, granted, it is unlike anything Bach could have imagined on his puny harpsichord.

    "But why," one might ask, "does Beethoven throw in a march?" Well ...

    In addition to an unparalleled body of musical works, Beethoven left the world a mass of diaries, letters and notebooks that paint a vivid picture of one of the greatest musical minds that will ever walk the earth--despite his appalling penmanship. But, in retrospect, he rather foolishly failed to detail every aspect of his personal life and each source of inspiration, so it has proven irresistible to virtually every writer about the most-written-about composer to fill in the gaps with insights into the hidden meaning behind the musical notes. Like now.

    At this point in his lonely life, Beethoven corresponded that he pretty much had given up on the idea of finding the ideal wife (including his "Immortal Beloved"--most likely Antonie Brentano, who was unhappily-married to one of Beethoven's friends). He was, however, hopeful that he'd find some sort of familial contentment rearing his 9-year-old nephew, Karl, the son of his recently-deceased brother, Caspar Carl (not yet knowing that both Karl and his widowed mother, Johanna, would prove to be a continuing source of consternation). In any case, Beethoven was now resolved to fully dedicate his life to his art (despite his hearing loss and persistent problems with his digestive health). Thus, the gentle opening, "with innermost sensitivity," might be seen as the composer's wistful paean and farewell to the idea of warm and quiet domesticity, leading into renewed vigor and commitment to artful pursuits, appropriately exemplified by the "determined," fugue-like finale. But as he was working on the Sonata, Beethoven received a commission to write a march for military band (i.e., WoO 24), and he was happy to set aside work on the Sonata to fulfill it. Thus, a march interrupted his work on the Sonata, much like a march interrupts the prelude-fugue aspects of the first and last movements, allowing one to wonder if perhaps this is a case of "art imitating life."

    Or not.

    Chopin's Waltzes

    • No. 5 in A flat major, Op. 42 (1840)
    • No. 6 in D flat major, Op. 64, No. 1 (1847)
    • No. 9 in A flat major, Op. 69, No. 1 (1835)
    • No. 7 in C sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2 (1847)
    • No. 11. in G flat major, Op 70, No. 1 (1832)
    • No. 10 in B minor, Op. 69, No. 2 (1829)
    • No. 14 in E minor, Op. Posth. (1829)
    • No. 3 in A minor, Op. 34, No. 2 (1834)
    • No. 4 in F major, Op. 34, No. 3 (1838)
    • No. 12 in F minor, Op. 70, No. 2 (1842)
    • No. 13 in D flat major, Op. 70, No. 3 (1829)
    • No. 8 in A flat major, Op 64, No. 3 (1847)
    • No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 18 (1831-32)
    • No. 2 in A flat major, Op. 34, No. 1 (1835)

    Before Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) settled in Paris in 1831, his permanent exile from his Polish homeland had begun unexpectedly in Vienna the year before. A twenty-year-old Chopin had returned to the Austrian capital in November of 1830 with the hope of recapturing the success as virtuoso pianist and composer he had briefly enjoyed there the summer of the previous year. But very soon after his second arrival in Vienna, back in Warsaw a group of cadets conspired to liberate Poland from the Russian Empire. Chopin wished to hurry home and join the nationalists' fight against tyranny, but his friends wisely convinced the frail youth that he would better serve his homeland through his music. When the November Uprising failed, Chopin, a known sympathizer with the rebels, found it too risky to ever return to Poland. So it was that Chopin spent his first of every remaining Christmas away from his familial home, all alone, and with the chilly weather heralding the proverbial cold shoulders he got from the generally pro-Russian populace and music publishers in the center of the Austrian Empire.

    The waltz was by that time all the craze, and the rivalry between Joseph Renner (1801-1843) and Johann Strauss I (1804-1849) to establish preeminence as composer and conductor of the popular entertainment was already underway. At this point one might like to imagine, "... and so in Vienna began Chopin's lifelong love affair with the waltz," only that decidedly was not the case: Chopin complained that he couldn't believe waltz music was discussed as an art form, and suggested that he (ever the snob) would never be able to master the vulgarity demanded to perform such music properly. One suspects that Chopin might have protested a little too much, especially since he had already written piano waltzes in Poland and continued to write them throughout his brief life. Still, the Viennese waltz had not yet attained its pinnacle reached by Johann Strauss II (1825-1899), and Chopin perhaps was parroting the sentiments offered by denizens of propriety, e.g., the influential British musicologist Charles Burney (1726-1814), who pointedly observed (ca. 1805): "The verb walzen, whence this word is derived, implies to roll, wallow, welter, tumble down, or roll in the dirt or mire."

    Chopin's own contributions to the genre are about as far removed from the waltz's roots in the provincial ländler--and apparently grimy lederhosen--as one can get, so much so that Robert Schumann (1810-1856) famously quipped that the Pole's aristocratic diversions should be danced only by countesses. Tiaras or no, Chopin never intended his waltzes as ballroom fare, but they were very much intended for the fashionable salons haunted by said countesses, who not only employed him as their piano master, but warmly welcomed the refined and well-educated commoner through the front door of Parisian High Society. Despite their native habitat, it would be a great mistake to characterize Chopin's richly varied waltzes merely as "salon pieces," or to apply Chopin's own disparaging remarks about the artistic shortcomings of the dance. Ranging from bravura showpieces and extroverted frivolity to the most intimate expressions of melancholy longing, it is a marvel that one composer could distill such breadth and depth from the common oom-pa-pa.

    Rightly called the "Poet of the Piano," Chopin's influence is seen in much of all piano music by subsequent composers, and his revolutionary use of chromatic harmonies and unusual key relationships profoundly influenced composers of symphonic music and operas as well (e.g., Liszt and Wagner)--thus Chopin's importance in the development of the "Romantic" style in general cannot be overestimated. Many of his Waltzes remain among the most frequently performed piano pieces, and although as a group they are intentionally less daring both structurally and harmonically than many of Chopin's other works, they lend themselves to (and can withstand) a wealth of differing interpretations. In the recorded repertoire this has lead to surprisingly passionate debates about the virtues of one interpretation over another (usually boiling down to Russian vs. Romanian), which demonstrates the depth of feeling Chopin's Waltzes inspire, the common denominator of all great art.

    At the top of the recorded heap is a performance by legendary Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950). Following the advice of incomparable record producer Walter Legge (1906-1979), Lipatti presented the Waltzes not by opus number or date of composition, but in an order suggested by the key relationships among the separate pieces. Scott Watkins likewise follows Legge's advice, and notes:
    I'm playing them in the order Dinu Lipatti played them at his last recital, during which he was too weak from leukemia to play the final waltz. So, in my performance, in honor of Mr. Lipatti who was my teacher's (Bela Siki) teacher, I'll take a brief pause before playing the final waltz.