II. Burlesca Ostinato
V. March and Reprise
In a classical concerto grosso, musical themes are passed between multiple instrumental soloists, unlike the typical concerto which has a single soloist. Vaughan Williams’ work is unique in that there are three (or four, depending on how you count it) “orchestras” of strings divided by level of skill, with the music progressively more difficult. The Ad Lib (novice) orchestra plays the simplest part, including a special part for open strings only, playable by anyone who can pick up a bow and follow the conductor. The music gets progressively more challenging for the Tutti (intermediate) orchestra, and the hardest part, the Concertino (advanced) orchestra, is for advanced amateur and professional players.
At the premiere performance in London’s Royal Albert Hall, over 250 players were led by famed English conductor Sir Adrian Boult. In our concert, the professional MusicaNova Orchestra is joined by extraordinarily talented student-musicians, as well as young musicians from the Harmony Project-Phoenix orchestra. Rather than strictly dividing the orchestras by skill level, MusicaNova and student-musicians will play in all three orchestras, serving as teaching artists and mentors for our younger colleagues, consistent with our mission, and with the dedication of the work at its debut performance 67 years ago.
Most famous for “the Lark Ascending” and his “London Symphony,” as well as numerous song cycles (including “Five Mystical Songs” and “Songs of Travel”) and choral works (“Dona nobis pacem”), Vaughan Williams’ body of work reveals a much broader reach of style and mood than suggested by his place as the foremost exponent of the English Pastoral tradition. A review of his 1922 Pastoral Symphony, inspired by brutal experiences in World War I, said: “It’s not lambkins frisking at all!”
“The title comes from a meditation exercise I do when I am trying to clear my mind. When I say that I perform meditation exercises, I don’t want to cultivate the impression that I am a good meditator – I am, in fact, a terrible one. Attaining a sense of clarity, for me, has always been an uphill battle, and doesn’t always work.” This piece portrays the way that ideas germinate, fail, and reform. The idea begins as a five-pitch chord, a ringing fanfare in the brass and tubular bells. It soon spreads to the woodwinds, who alternate punchy clusters with sweeping runs, building in intensity as the chord rotates and changes shape. The piece halts for just a second before it explodes, disintegrating into a fine mist. Out of this mist, the idea attempts to rebuild itself, starting out amorphous and blurry, but gradually taking shape. The piece builds again, on course to explode once more and have to start over, but it takes a sudden turn. Rather than explode, it quiets down suddenly. It refocuses on the idea, examining it from a different perspective. The idea finds a new, organic direction and grows toward a joyous, ecstatic close.
Jason Michael Gerraughty is a composer of vibrant, dramatic, and bold music that searches out the meaning at the intersections of sculpture, language, memory, and creation.. His musical influences are diverse, ranging from the small-town New England municipal bands he performed with in his youth, to the orchestral, chamber, and gamelan ensembles he has performed with as an adult. His music has been performed recently at the Early-Late Series at Spectrum in New York City.
Gerraughty earned his BM at the Hartt School of Musica at the University of Hartford (CT), his MM at the University of Oregon, and his PhD at Stony Brook University (NY). He has worked and published internationally, and currently lives in Redlands, CA.
I. Introduction (Lento)
II. Structure and Tune (Allegro)
III. Keyboard Event (Moderato)
IV. Conclusion (Lento)
The symphony begins in a startling fashion with a simple piano chord, representing the composer, and a crash on an anvil, a symbol of fate. A short stark movement leads directly to the second movement titled “Structure and Tune” and accompanied by a quote from English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: “We are Many, they are Few,” the opening lines of his 1819 political poem Mask of Anarchy, the first direct plea for non-violent resistance as a political tactic.
The relentless character of the music, suggesting the power of the people for good, is interrupted by a typically beautiful tune. The music ends quietly, leading into a third movement in which the “personal” is expressed-through the piano, the composer’s own instrument. A stark opening returns to begin the fourth and final movement, dominated by what sounds like a 1960s-pop tune. Over this, Arnell has put the words from Beethoven’s last quartet: “Muß es sein? Es muß sein!” (Must it be? it must be!). This suggests the inevitability of the tune as an expression of non-violent resistance to tyranny. The symphony ends enigmatically, with a slow, painful ascent: the resistance to malevolent power must continue!
The 6th Symphony is a powerful work that could not have been written by anyone else, and yet, with its hints of minimalism and other musical ideas show that, even in his 70s, the old master continued to be aware of — and compose music directly related to — the times in which he lived.
II. Andante con moto – Adagio
III. Con fuoco
IV. Resoluto – Lento
A brilliant, eclectic composer, most famous for his Oscar-winning score to the film “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” Sir Malcolm Arnold described his inspirations as Berlioz, Mahler, Sibelius, Bartók – and jazz. He wrote a clarinet concerto for Benny Goodman, and is credited with over 100 film scores for features and documentaries.
Arnold’s work was described as “[blowing] like a fresh keen wind through British music when first performed in the early 1950s.” But while working on the 5th Symphony, the mental illness that eventually destroyed his life was starting to impact his work. He had been devastated by the premature death in the 1950s of four of his closest friends: the horn player Dennis Brain, the clarinetist Fredrick Thurston, the choreographer David Paltenghi, and the musical humorist Gerard Hoffnung.
The 5th Symphony’s first movement, marked Tempestuoso, or tempestuous, depicts each of these friends in turn. The second movement, Andante con moto – Adagio or “moving at a moderate pace, at ease,” can be considered a memorial to them. It opens with a Mahler-like tune of almost painful beauty, then goes through moods of despair before returning to the peaceful melancholy of the start. The third movement (Con fuoco or “with fire”) is jazzy and erratic, while the last movement, Resoluto – Lento or “resolute – slow,” sums up both the despair and celebration of what has gone before, until the startling last two minutes of the work, which may be among the most disturbing-and greatest-ending of any symphonic work.
As part of MusicaNova appointment as Artist-in-Residence at Tempe High School in the 2017-2018 season and school year, the orchestra invites selected student-musicians from all Tempe high schools to join our professional musicians during two full orchestra concert production cycles. Student-musicians prepare their individual parts, then sit side-by-side with MusicaNova Orchestra players during ensemble rehearsals and performances. MusicaNova players act as teaching artists and role models, and offer hands on mentoring throughout the production cycle, giving students practical education in what it means to be a professional musician. Performances include a full concert program before a paying audience in Phoenix, as part of the Orchestra Concert Series, and a shorter free concert in the Tempe High School auditorium, as part of the Community Concert Series.
Launched in January, 2015, as part of Harmony Project USA, Harmony Project-Phoenix is an evidence-based after-school mentoring program that uses music instruction as a means for positive youth development and social inclusion. Harmony Project builds orchestras, bands, and choirs in low-income communities with the vision that each participant will become a productive, responsible and caring citizen. Based on the principles of El Sistema, a tested and verified model of music education, Harmony Project aims to both create great musicians and dramatically change the life trajectory of underserved young people and their families. El Sistema is now active in over 55 countries around the world, touching the lives of over one million youth.
HPP is led by Dr. Diogo Pereira, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who studied conducting at Bard College (MM), Arizona State University (DMA), and the New England Conservatory of Music, where he was a Sistema Fellow. MusicaNova has been an educational partner of Harmony Project-Phoenix since its formation; since then the two organizations have collaborated in many performance and training events. MusicaNova young artists and professional orchestra members have devoted countless hours as volunteer teachers at HPP’s programs throughout the Valley of the Sun.