Performance Wednesday, April 18, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Ensemble ACJW

Featuring musicians of The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education

Weill Recital Hall
Experience “the brightest, most promising postgraduate musicians the city has to offer” (The New York Times) up close and personal in an intimate Weill Recital Hall performance of 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century chamber music, from the autumnal beauty of late Brahms to Perle’s prismatic yet approachable flavor of modernism. Be sure to stay after the concert to meet the artists and enjoy a free drink.
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The Program

Critical Moments 2

About the Composer

Pulitzer Prize-winner George Perle was one of the first American composers to pick up on the atonal music of the Second Viennese School. Born in New Jersey, Perle earned a bachelor's degree from DePaul University and a doctorate from New York University. At times during his life, Perle's reputation as a theorist and scholar was greater than his reputation as a composer. His many books and articles were among the first to thoroughly analyze atonal music.

Although Perle intensely studied the music of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg, he only applied some elements of 12-tone serialism in his own compositions. By combining serialist elements (like set class and inversion) with aspects of tonal composition (like key centers) Perle created his own composition method called 12-tone tonality.

About the Work

Perle composed Critical Moments 2 for eighth blackbird in 2001. The instrumentation of this work—flute (doubling alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano, and percussion—mimics that of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire, with the quasi-spoken vocal part replaced by percussion.

Perle describes the piece as being made up of "nine short, self-contained, and strikingly individual movements." With his use of dynamics and instrumentation, he masterfully creates beautiful sonorities. In some movements, sudden dynamic changes in each instrument's part produce unexpected waves of music. Other movements call for smooth, effortless sounds that flow between instruments and are at times highlighted by the percussion.

A Closer Listen

Each movement features and develops a small musical idea or set. The listener can often hear the musical idea—stated at the beginning—take on different forms as the movement progresses. In the first movement, the violin begins with a six-note idea made up of two pitches. Before the violin finishes that theme, the cello echoes a variation of the same thought. This duet is developed throughout the movement with the addition of the other instruments, growing more agitated as new pitches are introduced. By the end, the excitement subsides and the violin and cello play a form of the duet reminiscent of the opening.

As a result of combining serial and tonal composition methods, there are peaceful, tonal moments that get interrupted by dissonant musical gestures throughout the work. This can best be heard in the fourth movement when a tonal dancelike duet between the clarinet and cello is interrupted by dissonant outbursts in the other instruments. The final bar of this movement brings the consonance versus dissonance theme to an unexpected close.

—Shelley Monroe Huang

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Wind Quintet No. 1

About the Composer

French composer-pianist Jean Françaix was born into a musical family and started his musical education at an early age. Françaix studied privately with the legendary composition instructor Nadia Boulanger, who supported, performed, and promoted his compositions. In addition to being a composer, Françaix was also an excellent pianist, winning first prize at the Paris Conservatoire in 1930. Not only did Françaix perform his own compositions, but he also collaborated with famous musicians of the time.

Maurice Ravel once said of Françaix, "Among the child's gifts, I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess—that of curiosity." As the young Françaix was called curious, the composer in maturity would be considered humorous. Best known for his satirical works, Françaix said, "My desire is to communicate joy rather than sorrow." Many of his pieces—whether for chamber, orchestra, theater, ballet, opera, or film—exhibit an element of humor.

About the Work

The Wind Quintet No. 1 is the first of two written by Françaix and part of a large collection of chamber music that includes winds. This work displays his quirky, yet controlled sense of humor with surprising hiccups or extra beats in the music, accents in unusual places, and quickly alternating musical ideas. Françaix also plays with the expectations of the audience in his use of structure. He may write a new musical idea that doesn't pick up momentum until the third iteration, while another new musical thought may surprise the audience without warning.

A Closer Listen

Although the work starts, like many others, with a slow introduction, it quickly becomes evident that this piece is quite different. The energetic section that immediately follows features tongue-in-cheek humor with the use of the stopped horn along with chromatic runs in the oboe. The Presto second movement sounds like a crazed merry-go-round. Suddenly, all momentum vanishes and the ensemble plays a quirky waltz with unexpected accents and much rubato.

The third movement, a theme and variations, is based on a beautiful, leaping melody that is first heard in the oboe. The following five variations each have their own character that features and challenges the players in varying ways. The peaceful quality of the movement is forgotten once the triumphant finale begins. Showcasing the technique of the players, the flute and clarinet create waves of sound under the determined melody of the oboe and horn.

—Shelley Monroe Huang

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op. 115

About the Composer

Starting in 1874, Brahms toured Europe for many years as a pianist and guest conductor, mostly performing his own compositions. While this brought him recognition as a composer, the performances also allowed Brahms to evaluate new works before publication.

Late in 1890, after years of touring, Brahms declared he was finished composing. In a letter to his publisher, Brahms wrote, "With that scrap of paper, you can take your farewell from my music—because quite generally, it is time to stop." Thankfully, Brahms did not retire as he declared he would. Instead, he went on to compose several momentous works of chamber music.

About the Work

Clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld was one reason Brahms chose to postpone retirement. Inspired by the player and the instrument, Brahms composed four pieces of chamber music for clarinet. Written in 1891, the Op. 114 Clarinet Trio and Op. 115 Clarinet Quintet became Brahms's first chamber works that included winds. These works were premiered on the same concert: Brahms described the quintet as "a much bigger lot of foolishness," although many listeners preferred it to the trio.

The premiere of the quintet was extremely successful. One of the best ensembles in Europe, the Joachim String Quartet joined Mühlfeld for this performance, breaking the quartet's long-established tradition of performing only with string players. The piece was met with thunderous applause and Mühlfeld declared it to be one of Brahms's masterpieces.

A Closer Listen

Although in good health, Brahms was heavily weighed down by death in the last years of his life; many of his friends and family passed away within a short period of time. This heaviness is expressed in the minor key and formal structure of the clarinet quintet. The opening of the piece is written for strings with the clarinet entering later. The sweet, lyrical melody of the clarinet is only intensified by the suspensions and harmonies in the strings.

The second movement also contains a beautiful and sustained clarinet melody that floats above the rest of the ensemble. The emotional middle section of the movement includes a virtuosic, recitative-like clarinet line. The third movement begins with a lilting introduction that leads to the fastest music in the entire work. This section includes quick, detached notes and plucked pizzicato notes under a sweeping melody that is passed around the ensemble.

The piece concludes with a powerful and unusual slow movement in the form of a theme and variations. It is rare to have a slow movement bring a piece to a close; they normally appear in the inner movements of a composition. The final variation recalls material from the first, giving the piece a sense of closure.

—Shelley Monroe Huang

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Goldman Sachs Gives 48x37
Lead Support of The Academy is provided by Goldman Sachs Gives.

Major funding for The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education—has been provided by Susan and Edward C. Forst and Goldman Sachs Gives, The Diller–von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, Martha and Bob Lipp, Judith and Burton Resnick, and the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation.

Additional support has been provided by The Arnow Family Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Nicola Bulgari, The Edwin Caplin Foundation, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Mrs. Nancy A. Marks, Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse Jr., the Edward John Noble Foundation, The Joe Plumeri Foundation, and Suki Sandler.

Additional funding provided by Breguet, in partnership with Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom.

The Academy is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State.
This performance is part of Ensemble ACJW, and A Golden Age of Music.

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