Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, January 26, 2014 @ 3 p.m.

James Hall, tenor
Michael Mastronicola, piano
  • Benjamin Britten: Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Op. 22
       1. Sonetto 16: Sì come nella penna e nell' inchiostro
       2. Sonetto 31: A che più debb io mai l'intensa voglia
       3. Sonetto 30: Veggio co' bei vostri occhi un dolce lume
       4. Sonetto 55: Tu sa' ch'io so, signior mie, che tu sai
       5. Sonetto 38: Rendete a gli occhi miei, o fonte o fiume
       6. Sonetto 32: S'un casto amor, s una pietà superna
       7. Sonetto 24: Spirto ben nato, in cui si specchia e vede
    [YouTube: #1-2 ; #3-7]
  • Reynaldo Hahn: Venezia
       1. Sopra l’acqua indormenzada
       2. La Barcheta
       3. L’Avertimento
       4. La Biondina in gondoleta
       5. Che pecà!
    [SCORE @ imslp.org][RECORDING @ YouTube]
  • Franz Liszt: Tre sonetti di Petrarca
       1. Pace non trovo
       2. Benedetto sia 'l giorno
       3. I’ vidi in terra angelici costume
    [SCORE @ imslp.org][RECORDINGS @ instantencore.com]
Dr. James Hall, tenor, enjoys an active and varied career that includes opera, oratorio, chamber music, and solo recital. His artistic versatility is evident through a diverse repertoire that spans baroque to contemporary music. Consistently praised for his elegant musicality and soaring high register, Hall has performed as a soloist throughout the United States with groups such as Mercury Baroque, Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra of Washington, D. C., Shepherd School of Music Chamber Orchestra, and St. Matthew’s Cathedral. A new music advocate, Hall has participated in projects with renowned composers Kirke Mechem, Daniel Catan, Carlisle Floyd, and Ann Gebuhr. Recent and upcoming engagements include appearances with Miami Bach Society as haute-contre soloist in Andre Campra’s Requiem and as tenor soloist in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with The University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory Dancers, Choirs, and Wind Symphony. Well-regarded as an accomplished pedagogue, Dr. Hall has presented master classes in Los Angeles, Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and throughout Texas. He maintains an active voice studio at the University of North Florida, where he joined the faculty in 2011. Dr. Hall holds advanced degrees from The Maryland Opera Studio at the University of Maryland as well as Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Dr. Michael Mastronicola teaches Accompanying, Piano Pedagogy, and Class Piano at the University of North Florida, and has taught at Jacksonville University and Front Range Community College.  He is the chair of the annual Outstanding Young Pianists Competition, was artist-coach at the Friday Musicale Emerging Young Artist Chamber Music Festival in 2011,  and has conducted and served as guest clinician for piano festivals in Colorado and Florida. Dr. Mastronicola often adjudicates music competitions, and he is proud of his award-winning students. Among his own awards, Mastronicola received the Harold A. Norblom award in recognition of his “outstanding dedication and exemplary community service” while collaborating with Opera Colorado.  With extensive performance credits as both solo and collaborative pianist, Dr. Mastronicola has appeared in recitals and concerts throughout the United States and Europe, including with the Boulder Philharmonic. Praised for his “intelligent, skilled” and “expressive” playing (Daily Camera), his most recent recording is Then Sings My Soul with soprano Tresa Waggoner.  Additionally, he maintains a busy lecture schedule, and has authored reviews for American Music Teacher.  Dr. Mastronicola holds degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder (D.M.A), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.M.), and Ithaca College (B.M.), with additional training in the Taubman Approach at the Golandsky Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.  He is Organist/Choirmaster at Jacksonville's All Saints Episcopal Church, and is a Colleague with the American Guild of Organists.

PROGRAM NOTES by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

SEVEN SONNETS OF MICHELANGELO, Op. 22 : Song Cycle by Benjamin Britten 

Sir Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) is widely regarded as among the most significant composers of 20th-Century concert music, with an extensive catalog including vocal and choral music, instrumental solo and chamber music, orchestral music, and music for the stage and screen. The British composer first came to international prominence with his opera, Peter Grimes (1945), and his operas remain more frequently performed than those of any other composer born after 1900. Among his best-known works are the orchestral song cycles Les illuminations (1939) and Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (1943);  the choral A Ceremony of Carols (1942) and War Requiem (1961); and the orchestral The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (1946).  Also a gifted pianist and conductor, Britten performed and recorded his own music, as well as works by other composers. 

Britten lived in the United States between 1939 and 1942, and although he composed the Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo (1940) during these “American years,” the premiere had to wait until September 1942, after his return to England.  Composed for and dedicated to Britten’s partner, tenor Peter Pears, the Sonnets proved to be so challenging that Pears decided he needed additional vocal coaching to improve his stamina and range before putting them before the public. The delay paid off: London critics declared the cycle to contain the finest examples of art songs by an Englishman since Henry Purcell (as they similarly would observe about English opera after the premiere of Peter Grimes). And as soon as the applause died down for the Sonnets, literally, Decca Records approached Britten and Pears about recording the cycle. The recordings became a best-seller, and began a life-long association between the composer and recording company.

Texts: Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). Translations: John Addington Symonds (1840-1893)

VENEZIA : Chansons in Venetian Dialect, by Reynaldo Hahn

By his fourth birthday, Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947) had moved with his wealthy family from Venezuela to Paris, France, but not before his prodigious musical talents had already begun to manifest—in 1878, Venezuelan poet José Maria Samper published A Reinaldo Hahn (niño a tres años y medio), an ode about the three-and-a-half-year-old singer “Foretelling the symphonies / Of another Beethoven perhaps.” By the age of six Hahn was making the rounds as a salon singer, accompanying himself at the piano in the apartments of Parisian socialites, and by eight he had begun composing his own songs. At 11 he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he excelled as conductor and composer, with Massenet and Saint-Saëns as his particular champions. As conductor, Hahn was a recognized Mozart specialist, and in 1906 he conducted Don Giovanni at the first Mozart Festival in Salzburg, Austria. In addition to composing and conducting, in 1909 he began a career as a respected music critic, and in 1945-1946 was named director of the Paris Opéra. He was an intimate friend of author Marcel Proust, who, in his unfinished early novel Jean Santeuil, portrayed the witty Hahn as a genius. But even less personal observers recalled Hahn’s extraordinary charisma, and how as a singer he was so attuned to the meaning behind the words that he could make poets weep when he performed—this though Hahn’s baritone voice was not in itself particularly memorable nor well-disciplined, with him going so far as to sing with a cigarette dangling from his lips (which, one supposes, was pretty memorable all by itself). Hahn wrote a variety of dramatic, instrumental and vocal music, and is remembered especially for his art-song mélodies.

Although the Venezia cycle was published in 1919, the songs date from 1901, when Hahn first visited Venice while travelling with his mother. As Thea Sikora Engelson observes in The Mélodies of Reynaldo Hahn (2006), the composer made a point of distinguishing the folksy chansons of Venezia, meant to mimic the style of Venetian popular songs, from the rest of his more classically-inspired mélodies, and the set includes a sixth piece, La primavera, for soprano and tenor soloists with chorus. In addition to setting verses in the local dialect (for which he provided a pronunciation guide), to pay further homage to his beloved Venice Hahn opens with the barcarolle rhythm of the gondoliers; and in the second song Engelson suggests he uses the piano to conjure oar strokes rippling through the canals that lace the city.

TRE SONETTI DI PETRARCA : Song Cycle, by Franz Liszt

Hungarian-born Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is widely regarded as the greatest pianist of all time, and his performances excited an hysteria that today is reserved for only the most popular of rock stars. Despite great fame following a sometimes impoverished youth, Liszt remained unspoiled and donated great sums of his concert earnings to a wide variety of charitable causes, and in later life he even took orders in the church. His generosity extended to helping increase the fortunes of struggling musicians, among them Hector Berlioz and Liszt’s future son-in-law, Richard Wagner. An innovative composer, Liszt is credited with creating the symphonic tone poem as a form, developing the technique of thematic transformation, and he even anticipated some of the harmonic devices of Impressionist composers.

Liszt prepared four different versions of his Tre sonetti di Petrarca (Three Sonnets of Petrarch), the first for tenor and piano, two for piano solo, and one for mezzo-soprano or baritone and piano. The original tenor version and the first piano transcription most likely were composed between 1843-45, and it was the piano version that was published first, in 1846. [The second piano version became numbers 4-6 in Liszt's suite, Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année: Italie (Years of Pilgrimage, Second Year: Italy), completed in 1849 and published in 1858. The second vocal version is from 1865, and is perhaps less impetuous and showy than the other versions.] As originally conceived, the Sonetti are operatic in nature, incorporating both a sustained lyricism and more dramatic, declamatory passages. In addition to the interpretive challenges for both performers, as one might expect the virtuosic piano writing offers technical complexities for the pianist, and Liszt provides a couple of opportunities for the tenor to show off high D-flats (above the staff), if so inclined. The composer is ever respectful of the verse of Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374), which teeters between ecstatic joy and hopeless despair, with a touch of reverential awe thrown in for good measure. Liszt's then cutting-edge chromatic harmonies highlight the poet's searching uncertainty, and helped lay the foundation for the tenuous tonality of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (1857-59).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, February 9, 2014 @ 3 p.m.

Jorge A. Peña, viola
Maila Gutierrez Springfield, piano

Haydn/Piatigorsky : Divertimento in D Major
1. Adagio
2. Minuetto
3. Allegro molto

Manuel De Falla/Peña : Suite Populaire Espagnole
1. El Paño Moruno
2. Seguidilla
3. Nana
4. Jota
5. Asturiana
6. Canción
7. Polo

Henri Vieuxtemps : Sonata in B-flat Major
1. Maestoso
2. Barcarolla (Andante con moto)
3. Finale scherzando (Allegretto)


Honduran-born violist Jorge Peña is a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and a former member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. He has performed for Midwest Clinic, Grand Teton Music Festival, St. Augustine Music Festival and Island Concert Association, as well as at the National Gallery of Art, Tanglewood Music Center, University of North Florida and Jacksonville University. As a solo artist he has appeared throughout the Americas and Europe. With chamber music holding a special place in his career, Jorge and his wife, cellist Jin Kim-Peña, formed and perform with the Movado Quartet, and he often collaborates with a variety of ensembles, such as the Ritz Chamber Players, the Dover Quartet, the Diaz Trio, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra and the Atlanta Virtuosi. Mr. Peña is Founder and Artistic Director of the annual St. Augustine Music Festival, the largest free music festival in the United States. Mr. Peña was graduated from Columbus State University and the Peabody Conservatory of Music with degrees in performance and chamber music. He studied with Curtis Institute President Roberto Diaz, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra principal viola Richard Field, and Julliard quartet member Earl Carlys.

Award-winning pianist Maila Gutierrez Springfield is an instructor at Valdosta State University and a member of the Maharlika Trio, a group dedicated to commissioning and performing new works for saxophone, trombone and piano. Twice-honored with the Excellence in Accompanying Award at Eastman School of Music, Maila has been staff accompanist for the Georgia Governor’s Honors Program, Georgia Southern University, the Buffet Crampon Summer Clarinet Academy and the Interlochen Arts Camp, where she had the privilege of working with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. She has collaborated with members of major symphony orchestras, including those in Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Jacksonville. Maila can be heard on saxophonist Joren Cain’s CD, "Voices of Dissent," and on clarinetist Linda Cionitti's CD, "Jag & Jersey." Ms. Springfield was awarded a Bachelor of Music degree from Syracuse University, and a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.

PROGRAM NOTES by Edward Lein, Music Librarian

Haydn/Piatigorsky : Divertimento in D Major

Genial Austrian composer (Franz) Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) is the musician most credited with establishing the “Classical” style that his two younger contemporaries Mozart (his friend) and Beethoven (his pupil) built upon.  By the time of his death "Papa" Haydn had become the most widely celebrated composer in Europe.

When Haydn was 8 years old he was accepted as a choirboy at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, where in addition to vocal training he received instruction in violin and piano. But puberty spoiled all that, and by about 1749 Haydn found himself re-cast as a struggling free-lance musician. His choirboy years had not provided him with any substantial training in music composition, so he began to teach himself the essentials, pretty much on his own.  Through the next decade he began to make a name for himself as a composer, and in 1757 Haydn earned a full-time position as the chief musician for the aristocratic Morzin family. This success was short-lived: by 1761 Count Morzin's finances had tanked and Haydn found himself newly-married and unemployed.  But as a manor-door was slamming shut behind him,  Haydn climbed through a palace-window of opportunity and immediately entered into the employment of the fabulously wealthy Esterházy family, becoming their Kapellmeister in 1766. Both Prince Paul Anton (1711-62) and his successor, Prince Nikolaus (1714-90), were music connoisseurs, and Haydn thrived under their patronage.   In 1779, Nikolaus even agreed that Haydn could publish and sell works apart from those composed for (and belonging to) the family, and Haydn's reputation spread throughout Europe.  Unlike his grandfather and father, Nikolaus's son and heir, Prince Anton (1738-94), was no musician, so after Nikolaus died in 1790 the composer was free to travel, most notably to London, and his international reputation as the greatest living composer was sealed. When the financially-independent Haydn returned to Vienna in 1795, he was himself an important public figure.  He continued his association with the Esterházy family, but he was no longer their servant, and he neither needed nor wanted full-time employment. Instead, he could compose for himself and for posterity.

In addition to being Haydn's boss for nearly three decades, Prince Nikolaus played the baryton, an archaic bowed instrument with frets akin to the bass viol, that was pretty rare even back then. So one of Haydn's chief tasks was to write music for Nikolaus to play, which resulted in 123 trios for baryton, viola and cello. The music of the present Divertimento in D Major was adapted and arranged from the baryton trios by legendary cellist Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976).  Published in 1944, The majority of the music derives from Haydn's Baryton Trio in D Major, H. XI:113, but rather than providing a straight-forward arrangement, Piatigorsky used Haydn's music essentially to create a new work. As violist Myron Rosenblum observes, "What Piatigorsky seems to have done is to take the baryton and viola lines, merge them, with much recomposing to come up with his own work." Piatigorsky created the Divertimento to play himself, and in addition to the versions for either viola or cello and piano, there is also a version for cello and orchestra.

Manuel De Falla : Suite Populaire Espagnole

During the early decades of the 20th Century, Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) gained an international reputation as the leading Spanish composer of his generation. Infused with the rhythms and harmonies of the folk songs and dances of his native Andalusia, Falla’s music has been described as representing “the spirit of Spain at its purest” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Among his best-known works are the ballets El amor brujo (Love, the Magician, 1915) and El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-cornered Hat, 1917), and the beautiful Noches en los jardines de España (Nights in the Gardens of Spain, 1916), for piano and orchestra.

In 1907, Falla moved from Madrid to Paris where he met and shared ideas with many of the era’s leading composers, including Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky.  In 1914, shortly before he returned to Spain with the outbreak of World War I,  Falla wrote Siete canciones populares españolas (Seven Popular Spanish Songs).  Five of the songs are settings of existing folksongs, and two, Jota and Polo, are original tunes that mimic Spanish folk dances. In harmonizing the pieces, rather than providing accompaniments based simply on modal scales, Falla drew his harmonies from the natural overtone series. For an instrumental version, Falla collaborated with violinist  Paul Kochanski (1887-1934) to prepare the first edition of Suite Populaire Espagnole, which adapted six of the songs, omitting the Seguidilla.  Many subsequent arrangements have been made for a variety of different instruments, both with and without the Seguidilla movement. Jorge Peña has prepared his own edition for viola, and includes all seven canciones.

Henri Vieuxtemps : Sonata in B-flat Major

Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps (1820–1881) was a child prodigy who famously performed a concerto at age six, and who went on to gain an international reputation as both performer and teacher. Vieuxtemps was a student and eventually professor at the Brussels Conservatory, and he represented the Franco-Belgian school of violin playing. He lived in Russia for five years (1846-51), where he founded the violin school at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, while also serving as principal violinist in the court of Czar Nicholas I. In 1871, Vieuxtemps suffered a stroke that affected his bowing arm, effectively ending his concert career and interrupting his teaching. A second stroke in 1879 made even teaching impossible, and he retired to Algeria to be near his daughter and son-in-law, but he still continued to compose. Most of Vieuxtemps' compositions feature the solo violin, and he is most remembered for his seven violin concertos, with which he helped redefine Romantic concertos as works of symphonic scope rather than merely vehicles for virtuosic display. Other works of note include two cello concertos, three string quartets, and several works featuring the viola, another instrument of which Vieuxtemps had been a master. One of these, the Viola Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 36, was first published in 1863, and included an alternate part for the cello.