Monday, January 27, 2014

Intermezzo Sunday Concert, May 11, 2014 @ 3 p.m.

Dr. Gary Smart, piano & Marilyn Smart, piano
Faculty Artists from The University of North Florida

Under construction - Please check back!

Selections from 10 Pieces for Piano, Op. 75 (1937, arranged from Romeo and Juliet)
   6.        Montagues and Capulets
   10.      Romeo and Juliet’s Farewell

        Gary Smart, piano


Chasons de Bilitis  (1898)      
    I      La flûte de Pan
   II      La Chevelure
   III     Le Tombeau des naïades

        Marilyn Smart, soprano & Gary Smart, piano

L’isle joyeuse (1904)     
        Gary Smart, piano


A Foggy Day (A Damsel in Distress, 1937)
Someone to Watch Over Me  (Oh, Kay!, 1926)
Somebody Loves Me
(George White's Scandals, 1924)
        Marilyn Smart, soprano & Gary Smart, piano

Three Preludes (1926) 
    I        Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
   II      Andante con moto e poco rubato
   III     Agitato

        Gary Smart, piano

Love is here to Stay  (The Goldwyn Follies, 1938 & used in An American in Paris, 1951)
Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off  (Shall We Dance, 1937)

        Marilyn Smart, soprano & Gary Smart, piano


The musical career of Marilyn Smart has been both active and diverse. She has worked with such luminaries as Robert Shaw, Seiji Ozawa, and Dave Brubeck, and has sung in unique venues in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Smart’s singing has delighted audiences not only in public and university concert halls, but also in rural American schools, special cultural outreach venues in Japan, and even Eskimos villages in northern Alaska. Awarded a special citation by the Ford Foundation's Contemporary Music Project, she has long championed the work of contemporary composers and, with her husband, composer-pianist Gary Smart, is recognized for their performances of American art song. A former student of Margaret Harshaw, Josef Metternich, and Phyllis Curtin, Smart has taught at the University of Wyoming, Kobe College, and Osaka University. Since joining the faculty of UNF in 1999, she has performed as soloist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, for the Friday Musicale, the St. Cecelia Society, and many other local musical organizations. At UNF, Marilyn Smart teaches Applied Voice, French, Italian, and German Diction, as well as Vocal Literature.

Gary Smart is a composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher, and 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, and has been performed in major venues in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Dr. Smart's compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Capstone and Albany labels. He spent two residencies in Japan, and taught in Indonesia as "Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz" under the auspices of the Fulbright program. Gary Smart is currently a Presidential Professor of Music at the University of North Florida, where he served as Chairman of the Music Department from 1999-2003.

Program Notes, by Ed Lein (Under Construction - Please check back)

Ukrainian-Soviet composer and pianist Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) wrote some of the most-frequently performed and recorded music of the 20th Century, including the delightful Peter and the Wolf and exuberant “Classical” Symphony.  Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64,  composed  between 1935-36, originally had a happy ending, with Juliet reviving in time to stop Romeo from killing himself, because, as the composer observed, dead people can’t dance. But Soviet theaters were fearful of incurring the wrath of  Stalin’s regime for corrupting the beloved story, so Prokofiev eventually was persuaded to restore the Bard’s tragic ending.  The complete ballet finally premiered in Czechoslovakia in 1938, but in the meantime Prokofiev was determined to get the music before the public, even without toe-shoes.  He prepared a couple of orchestral suites, and also arranged  selections as Ten Pieces for Piano, Op. 75, which he first performed in 1937.  Montagues and Capulets is the best-known music from the ballet, and its bellicose haughtiness aptly conjures the feuding families. The blustering is interrupted by a chilly minuet depicting the first meeting of the 13-year-old Juliet with Paris, an older suitor to whom she's betrothed.  Romeo at Juliet’s before Parting takes place at dawn, after the star-crossed lovers’ secret wedding the night before. The music develops a theme representing Romeo’s love, but contains a few hints at the tragedy that will soon unfold.

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.  Since his death the term as applied to music has been redefined almost exclusively around the characteristics of some of Debussy's most famous works, such as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and La mer ("The Sea"), so whatever negative connotations "Impressionism" once may have had since have evaporated. 

Debussy's 1898 song cycle Trois chansons de Bilitis offers a prime example of the musical style he pioneered, including using modal scales in addition to, or instead of, the diatonic major and minor scales most characteristic of Western music from the Baroque period forward.  Debussy also emphasizes consecutive "parallel fifths" between musical lines, which in traditional harmony is a big no-no. (According to legend, every time a student of harmony writes a parallel fifth, Bach kills a kitten.)  In addition to creating an exotic sound-scape, these devices were perfect for conjuring the archaic atmosphere of the song texts by Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925), a friend of the composer.  Louÿs presented his original poetry as though it were translations of recently-discovered ancient Greek verses, supposedly authored by the courtesan "Bilitis."  For a time Louÿs fictional character fooled even the most respected scholars!  

Debussy's effervescent L’isle joyeuse was inspired by L’Embarquement pour Cythère ("The Embarkation for Cythera"), by French painter Antoine Watteau (1684-1721).  The painting depicts an amorous boating party visiting the supposed birthplace of Venus, complete with Cupids flitting about.  Writing to his publisher Debussy observed, “This piece seems to embrace every possible manner of treating the piano, combining as it does strength with grace, if I may presume to say so.”  It begins with a glittering haze of whole-tone harmonies and eventually ends in A major,  harmonically bridged with Lydian modal inflections (like a major scale but with a raised fourth).  Debussy's music captures the sensuous excitement depicted in Watteau's excursion, but it's hardly a vacation for the pianist. As Debussy himself observed,  “Lord, but it’s difficult to play!”

George Gershwin (1898-1937) wrote his first song in 1916 and his first Broadway musical in 1919, and remained a fixture of the New York stage for 14 successive years. In 1924 he wrote Rhapsody in Blue, which lead to further successes applying jazz idioms to music for the concert hall.  Until the end of his life he produced larger-scale works alongside songs for stage musicals and films, including Porgy and Bess (1935), the only opera by an American composer firmly established in the repertory.  Like Mozart, Chopin and Mendelssohn, Gershwin did not live to see his 40th birthday, but he nonetheless left a legacy of songs that can fill several chapters in "The Great American Song Book," and among American composers his concert music is rivaled in popularity only by works of Copland, Barber and Bernstein (and probably surpasses each).

No doubt inspired by Chopin's 24 Preludes. Op. 28,  Gershwin apparently toyed with the idea of composing a set of 24 jazz-and-blues-inspired preludes, and actually committed seven to paper. Completed in 1926, two of the seven were rejected (apparently by Gershwin's publisher), two were adapted for violin and piano and published as Short Story, and the remaining became the famous Three Preludes, which the composer himself played in the first public performance in New York City.

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