Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, 5/20/2012 @ 2:30pm

Gia Sastre, flute & Katherine Roberts, piano

        *Arranged by the performers

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, who was 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. 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. 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. [Abellimento can be heard on Pandora and is available through iTunes and] 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.

Ms. Sastre now performs regularly throughout the city of Jacksonville, including a December 2010 Intermezzo Sunday Concert as a member of Flutation, a Flute Duo. Other local engagements have included a presentations of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf for Jacksonville Public Library's Youth Services, and concerts with the Chamber Music Society of the Good Shepherd, Riverside Fine Arts Series, and the First Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville.

Gia Sastre teaches through her home flute studio, working with dedicated and talented students of all ages. She is a member and adjudicator for the Florida Flute Association and Jax Flutes. When she is not playing or teaching music, Gia enjoys time with her husband and their two little boys.

A native of Atlanta, Georgia, pianist Katherine Roberts studied with Dr. William Phemister at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois, where she received a BM in Piano Performance. More recently, she studied with Jacksonville University professor Mary Lou Wesley Krosnick. Ms. Roberts has participated in piano competitions, and given solo recitals in Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia and Florida. She has an extensive background in performing chamber music, both in her home town and in Jacksonville. In addition to numerous weddings and special events, among her local performances Ms. Roberts has played for the Community Concert Series and Wednesday Happenings at Riverside Presbyterian Church, for the Advent Concert Series at First Presbyterian Church, and at Jacksonville University.

A piano instructor to both children and adults, Ms. Roberts has been a member of the National Guild of Musicians and the Music Teachers Association. She has taught piano privately from her home studio, and she established a piano instruction studio at the Christian Home and Bible School in Mount Dora, Florida. She has volunteered her time and talents to the Jacksonville community as a piano instructor at the PACE Center for Girls, and as a counselor at First Coast Women’s Services. Other community activities include writing and directing The Great Composers program for elementary school students, and serving on the board of the Jacksonville Symphony Association for three years. Additionally, for the last 12 years she has played piano and keyboards for Christ Church, PCA, where she is a member.

The mother of three grown sons and the grandmother of one grandson, Katherine "Kakie" Roberts resides in Jacksonville with her husband, Don.

PROGRAM NOTES, by Edward Lein, Music Librarian

Once dismissed by many of his contemporaries as being too old-fashioned, the works of the great German Baroque master Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) probably have been studied more than those of any other composer, making him perhaps the most influential musician of all time. Despite being thought of as a fuddy-duddy, he nonetheless was one of the earliest composers to write out the keyboard part in some of his sonatas for solo instrument with accompaniment, rather than simply using the more common basso continuo. Since we know Bach used some of his music as teaching pieces for his family and patrons, one might suppose that some of the sonatas with written-out keyboard parts perhaps provided examples of how Bach thought artfully improvised accompaniments should sound. Of course, in some sonatas Bach does use the conventional basso continuo, employing a single-line bass part to indicate the desired chord changes, and from which the keyboardist improvises harmonic and rhythmic support -- much like bass and keyboard instruments function in pop and jazz bands today.

Of the six sonatas for a solo flute with accompaniment listed in the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (Bach Works Catalogue), the first three (BWV 1030-1032) are more "modern," with a written-out keyboard part, while the latter three (BWV 1033-1035) use the then more traditional continuo. Of these, BWV 1032 is now thought to be by C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788), one of Bach's composer sons, and BWV 1033 might also have the same authorship. The authorship of the present Sonata in E-flat Major, BWV 1031, is considered somewhat less iffy, although it has been suggested that it could be a joint effort between the elder Bach and his aforementioned progeny. Still, as British music historian Nicholas Anderson has observed, "What is indisputable ... is the high quality of its craftsmanship and its expressive charm."

J.S. Bach wrote well over 1000 works in virtually every genre common among his contemporaries. The big exception is opera, but many of Bach's cantatas do share defining characteristics of the Baroque opera seria, with alternating recitatives and arias, ensembles and choruses. In modern times some of Bach's cantatas have been staged, and even an early performance of his secular cantata, Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd (What pleases me is just the merry hunt), BWV 208, called for props, and probably even had at least a little staging. It was composed in 1713 for the birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weisenfels (1682-1736), on a libretto by Salomon Franck (1659-1725), a frequent collaborator with Bach at the court in Weimar. Intended as an allegory praising the birthday boy (who fancied himself a great hunter), the cantata ostensibly centers around Diana, the goddess of the hunt in Roman mythology. One of Diana's companions is Pales, the patron deity of shepherds, and Pales is assigned what has become one of Bach's most recognizable inspirations, Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely graze). The aria, meant to illustrate the Duke's kindness toward his underlings, has become so popular that it has been adapted for performance by solo organ or piano, and arranged for orchestra and any number of instrumental combinations.

Sheep may safely graze
      With a good shepherd's protection.
Under rulers where goodness reigns,
There we find rest, and peaceful days,
      And all that makes a joyful nation.

    --English translation, ©2012, E. Lein

In addition to numerous symphonies, chamber works, masses, and solo piano music, the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed over 600 songs in his short life, and he has remained unsurpassed in the ability to marry poetry with music. Even Beethoven, who apparently never met the younger composer, touted Schubert's genius when he was given some of Schubert's songs shortly before his death. Although Schubert was virtually unknown to the general public, his music was regularly performed in private concerts for Vienna’s musical elite, and by 1825 he was in negotiations with four different publishers. But the bulk of Schubert's masterworks remained unpublished at the time of his death, so he generally had had to depend on his devoted circle of friends to help maintain his finances. After Schubert died, probably from medicinal mercury poisoning, his wish to be buried next to Beethoven, who had died just the previous year, was honored.

Following Schubert's Ave Maria, D. 839, his Ständchen (Serenade), D.957, no.4, must come in as a close second among his most-beloved songs, and, as with Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze, Schubert's popular "Swan Song" has been arranged for practically every performance ensemble imaginable. "Leise flehen meine Lieder," is the first line of the text by German poet Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860) that served as Schubert's inspiration; what follows is an English translation of the verses.

Softly pleading, my songs now wend
Through the night, to thee;
Into this silent grove descend--
My love, come to me!

Slender treetops rustle, Whisp’ring
Here in the moonlight;
No spiteful gossip’s eavesdropping,
Dear, might give thee fright.

Hear ye the nightingales’ sad cries?
Ah! They beseech thee;
With their sweet, lamenting sighs
They beg you, for me.

They know well the bosom’s yearning,
They know well love’s pang;
They with silver tones are stirring
Each sore heart again.

Let them, too, cause thy breast to stir;
My darling, hear me!
Trembling, I shall await thee here!
Come, overjoy me!

    --English translation, ©2012, E. Lein

French composer Jules Mouquet (1867-1946) became a professor of harmony at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1913. He himself had excelled there as a student of Théodore Dubois and Xavier Leroux, winning several prestigious composition prizes, including the Prix de Rome in 1886, the same prize Debussy had won two years before. His Late Romantic style is characteristically French, with fluid chromaticism and modal inflections coloring an essentially Impressionistic soundscape. Mouquet's most-performed work is La Flûte de Pan (Pan's Flute), op. 15, composed in 1906, for flute with either piano or orchestra. Each of the work's three movements is prefaced with a brief poem in French -- these are the lines that precede the first movement, Pan et les bergers (Pan and the Shepherds):

O Pan qui habites la montagne,
chante nous de tes douces levres une chanson,
chante nous la en t'accompagnant du roseau pastoral.

O Pan, who dwells on the mountain,
Sing us a song from your sweet lips,
Sing to us accompanied by your pastoral reed-pipe.

Even though Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) was not one of Les Six, the group of young Parisian composers who represented a new direction in French music of the early 20th Century, his best-known pieces evoke the same cosmopolitan sophistication and breeziness that one might expect from French composers of their generation. A student of Fauré at the Conservatoire de Paris, Ibert won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1919. In addition to composing, he became director of the French Academy in Rome in 1937, and in the mid-1950s he directed the Paris Opéra. Perhaps most remembered for the orchestral works Escales ("Ports of Call," 1924) and Divertissement (1930), Ibert's catalog includes compositions in all genres, including film music and opera, and his Flute Concerto (1934) remains a great favorite as well. When Ibert's Aria: 1930 was issued, his publisher anticipated a high demand for the piece. The original version apparently is for wordless voice with piano and an optional obbligato instrument, but the piece was also published for piano and almost every melody instrument or two imaginable. Its popularity continues, especially among flutists and saxophonists.

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. Debussy is universally identified as the chief proponent of musical “Impressionism,” but he did not approve of that label and the associations he felt it harbored. But since his death the term, as applied to music, has been redefined almost exclusively around the characteristics of some of Debussy's most famous pieces, so whatever negative connotations "Impressionism" once may have had have since evaporated.

Just as Chopin's writing for the piano has influenced almost every piano piece written since, Debussy's body of piano music has had a similar effect on the works of his successors. But in 1890, when Clair de lune (Moonlight) and the other pieces in Debussy's Suite bergamasque were originally composed, Debussy was only beginning to develop a style that later would alter the fabric of Western music. The Suite was not actually published until 1905, and it is very likely that Debussy revised the music to reflect some of the stylistic changes that had developed in the meantime, but Clair de lune was conceived in the Late Romantic language Debussy inherited. Regardless, it remains one of the best-known and loved piano solos in the world. And, like Bach's Sheep may Safely Graze, and Schubert's Serenade, Clair de lune is equally effective in any of a vast array of arrangements as it is in its original form.

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) was a composer, organist, pianist and teacher, and he is widely regarded as 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. Among his best-known works is the hauntingly beautiful choral Requiem, and his songs and chamber music have a devoted, and well-deserved, following.

Fauré composed his Fantaisie, Op. 79, in 1898, for French flutist Paul Taffanel (1844-1908), Fauré's teaching colleague at the Paris Conservatory. Taffanel is credited with founding the "French School" of flute playing, with its emphasis on a lighter tone and incorporating vibrato, as opposed to a "strong and steady" tone that had characterized earlier playing. This far-reaching approach has had a tremendous effect on flute performance ever since, and was made possible in part by the development of the metal flute, which by now mostly has supplanted the older wooden instruments everywhere, except in Celtic music ensembles.

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