Performance Friday, October 26, 2012 | 7:30 PM

American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Dreams and Dances

Zankel Hall
Conductor-composer José Serebrier leads this multicultural program of new music, starting with his own Flute Concerto with Tango and Israeli flutist Sharon Bezaly. Also on the program are works by Serbian composer and performance artist Milica Paranosic, and Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen, the 2011 winner of ACO’s Underwood Commission. Ives’s Symphony No. 3, “The Camp Meeting,” concludes the program with a nostalgic look at the 19th century.

This concert is part of My Time, My Music.
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The Program

The Migration of Lost Souls (ACO / Paul Underwood Commission)

In the Composer's Own Words

In recent years, there have been many natural disasters all around the world, and many families have lost their loved ones. The Migration of Lost Souls is a meditation on the journey of those lost souls into the afterlife. I was inspired by the sounds of bells heard in the temples of Thailand. In fact, the main pitches of the composition are derived from the numerous and sonically varied bells found at the Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Beginning and ending with haunting and sorrowful sounds, the piece has three main sections: slow, fast, and slow. The strong opening statement presents the main pitches and is followed by a development in slow tempo of fragments of the same musical ideas. This first section ends with a gradual fading away. A shimmering gesture in the woodwinds leads to the fast middle section, and the entire orchestra announces this section's main motive. This quick-paced, dancelike section is flavored with an energetic style of music called mor lam—native to Isaan, Thailand's northeastern region—which features both extremely rapid tempos and flexible melodies that follow speech-like patterns. Here, a xylophone imitates the sound of a local instrument called the pong lang, a wooden "log xylophone." After one last climax, the third and final section of this work reprises the idea of fading away—depicting the last breath before the lost loved ones' souls journey to heaven.

The Tiger's Wife: Prologue for Orchestra, Voice, Electronics, and Visuals
(Text by David Chambers; ACO/LVMH Commission)

In the Composer's Own Words

It is not rare that a work of art—visual, dramatic, or written—"speaks" to me; in fact, it is quite common. But every now and then, there is a work that "sings" to me, loud and clear. The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht is an example of such a work. Songs from faraway places, rhythms of battles between humans and animals in deep mountains, the crisp resonance of blood droplets, wistful tunes played by the gusle, moving sonorities of dreams and memories, melodies of languages and abandoned dialects—all of this, and being surrounded by the collaborative team that I have been so lucky to work with, caused the streams of music to flow from me "like secret rivers."

I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to American Composers Orchestra for commissioning this piece, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc. for co-sponsorship, Téa Obreht for her wonderful and enormously inspiring novel, Creative Artists Agency, Seth Fishman of The Gernert Company, Glenn Cornett and the New Spectrum Foundation, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts for their generous contributions towards the production. Thanks also to the Serbia-Montenegro-Croatia team: Nenad Paranosić, Snezana Paranosić, Milena Paranosić, Vesna and Dragan Mikić, Petar Jevtić, Deki, the Jovanović family, Boško Vujović, Zoran Jokić, Pauline Schoeny, Donatien Levalet, Etienne Gendron, and Radivoje Andric. Thank you to Peter Jarvis for percussion consultation; to Gorazd Poposki for making the unique "bones-shaker" instrument; and last but not least, to my incredible, creative, supportive, and dedicated team of partners and collaborators: Carmen Kordas, Beowulf Sheehan, David Chambers, and Lori Cotler.

Symphony No. 3, "The Camp Meeting"

About the Work

Charles Ives is one of the most remarkable composers that America has ever produced. Many of Ives's explorations into new harmonic and contrapuntal possibilities antedated the work of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. A long list of compositions, mostly written before 1920, includes four symphonies, chamber music, two piano sonatas, five sonatas for violin and piano, many songs and choral pieces, as well as a number of other orchestral works.

When Ives began sketches for his Symphony No. 3, he was living in New York, working in an insurance office during the day, and composing at night and on the weekends. He supplemented his salary by playing the organ and directing the choir at the Central Presbyterian Church on West 57th Street. Much of the musical material from the symphony is based on hymns and organ pieces that Ives played at the church. The score was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947.

The first movement is "Old Folks Gatherin'," based on Ives's organ piece from 1901. Soon after the music is underway, the violas and clarinet introduce the hymn "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing." After the tune is elaborated, the horns present the hymn "Just As I Am, Without One Plea" with a certain rhythmic distortion of the melody. Toward the end of the movement, there is a section marked adagio cantabile, in which the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is heard in the high register of the oboe and then answered by the flute. Near the close, "O for a Thousand Tongues" is combined with "What a Friend."

The second movement is called "Children's Day" and is marked allegro. The opening theme suggests a derivation from the opening of the American melody, set to the hymn "There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood." The middle section is a march. At the end, the opening returns and is treated in an imitative manner.

Marked largo, the "Communion" third movement is based on an organ piece that Ives wrote for a Communion service in 1901. The melody is based loosely on the hymn tune "Just As I Am." The music is contrapuntal, yet lyrical. At the end, the distant sound of church bells is introduced ppppp—extremely quiet.

Flute Concerto with Tango

In the Composer's Own Words

Flute Concerto with Tango was commissioned by BIS Records for Sharon Bezaly, who performed it on tour in Australia. The first movement establishes itself without introduction. The technical fireworks are interrupted by a highly lyrical section, providing a short-lived respite before the movement ends in a flurry. The second movement opens with a cadenza—a long, quasi-improvisational dissertation—followed by a fast, virtuoso section for the flute punctuated by the orchestra. Fantasia, the rhapsodic third movement, features the warm, wonderful low register of the alto flute in long, singing lines. After becoming more intense and dramatic, the movement concludes with a quiet coda.

The fourth movement justifies the title of the work. Traditionally, tangos end with a strong dominant chord followed by a brief, barely audible tonic chord. I take this idea one step further, leaving my tango up in the air in the middle of a phrase so that the listener can make his own conclusion. The tango's interlude of slow, lyrical passages gives way to the final Allegro movement, in which the soloist and orchestra are again off to the races. A virtuosic Presto section ends the work with a flourish of pyrotechnics.

This performance is part of American Composers Orchestra.

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