Performing this Week
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Summer 2010 — Week 13
Welcome to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series production blog, home of program out takes, artist commentary, and other related tangents we like to call "web extras."
Our 5th season of broadcasts from Santa Fe concluded with a world premiere. In addition to celebrating the core repertoire, the Festival regularly commissions new music, and so it was that the last of our 13 weekly programs included one of a number of new works first performed in Santa Fe in 2009, Gunther Schuller's Quintet for Horn and Strings. He composed the piece for Julie Landsman who is the principal horn for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York and an integral member of the musical community here. Also on the program, celebrated American cellist Lynn Harrell collaborated with pianist, composer, and Festival Artistic Director, Marc Neikrug, for a performance of Franz Schubert's A Minor Sonata for Arpeggione & Fortepiano.
If you've ever wanted to eavesdrop while great musicians talk to each other about music, scroll down to hear Marc and Lynn talking about and playing excerpts from the Arpeggione sonata. You'll also find words from Gunther Schuller describing his composition, and a behind-the-scenes photo of Matt Snyder, the audio engineer whose Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival concert recordings are the bedrock of this radio series.
The nationally syndicated programs can be heard in the Chicago area Sunday mornings at 11am, from April through June 2010, on 98.7 WFMT. You can also listen anywhere there's Internet. WFMT provides free, live streaming at wfmt.com and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.
I hope you enjoy perusing these items rescued from the "cutting room floor" and the other things found along the way to creating this broadcast from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio programs.
Thanks for stopping by,
GUNTHER SCHULLER (b. 1925)
Quintet for Horn & Strings
- Moderato (Introduction)
- Rondo: Allegro vive
Julie Landsman, horn; Miró Quartet: Daniel Ching, violin; Tereza Stanislav, violin; John Largess, viola; Joshua Gindele, cello
2009 Festival co-commission with Chamber Music Northwest, La Jolla Music Society & The International Horn Society — World premiere: July 27, 2009
"The best way to hear the music is to listen to it holistically. And that is to say, not for any particular melodies or familiar harmonies, but for the whole composite of the sounds made by the 5 instruments. A good idea is to close your eyes and listen undistracted by anything visual. Basically, music is a fusion of shapes, sometimes strange and new, and instrumental colors."
"The opening Moderato is largely for horn obbligato over busy string passagework. The Lento that follows takes the form of a quiet serenade, the horn in sotto voce. After a brief agitated section, the movement returns to music of the night. The concluding Rondo, again, gives the strings plenty to do, with interjections and distorted hunting calls from the horn. And then it's abruptly, inconclusively over."
More about Gunther Schuller can be learned at the website of G. Schirmer.
José Limón created his iconic 1954 dance piece, "The Traitor," to music of Gunther Schuller. One of modern dance's most significant works of the 1950s, "The Traitor" was Limón's response to the McCarthy hearings and the climate of betrayal that haunted the arts and entertainment fields during this period. Limón used Sholem Asch's novel, The Nazarene, as the impetus for this re-telling of the Christ and Judas story to the music of Schuller's score. You can watch José Limón and the cast of eight men perform "The Traitor" on YouTube.
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata for Arpeggione & Piano in A Minor, D. 821 (1824)
- Allegro moderato
Lynn Harrell, cello; Marc Neikrug, piano
It was in 1824 that Franz Schubert composed his Sonata A Minor, D. 821, for the arpeggione, a kind of hybrid lute and viola da gamba you don't see around much anymore except maybe in museums. The Viennese guitar maker Johann Georg Staufer had created the arpeggione the year before, much to the delight of the man who commissioned the piece — one Vincenz Schuster — but apparently few others. The fretted and bowed instrument, with its six strings and classical guitar tuning, soon fell out of vogue and subsequently the work was adapted for the cello. The folks at www.discordia-music.com have a very informative web page where you can learn more about the arpeggione.
If you've ever wondered how it is that two great musicians can play as one, here is an example of how the intimacy of chamber music playing comes about. Marc Neikrug and Lynn Harrell were both in Chicago recently, and they sat down in WFMT's studios to play parts of the Arpegionne Sontata and to muse on the elusive art of musical collaboration. Turns out, it's a matter of skill, intuition, accommodation, ... and breathing together.
Since the Sonata rests, to a certain degree, in the very highest tessitura of the cello and is difficult to play, it really depends on having an instrumentalist who can make the instrument sing in that upper register – and that's not easy. Kerry and Marc explore the notion that Schubert's Arpeggione sonata is best played by a "singing" musician, and Marc explains what he means by that...
The arpeggione enjoyed a brief vogue in Vienna in the 19th century, and is vaguely like a cello, but with six strings tuned and fretted like a guitar. (Photo pilfered with gratitude from bachtrack.com)
Behind the scenes...