February 23 2009, 8 pm "Fourth Mondays" admission $15/$10
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Central Park West/65th St New York, NY
Voyage au “Pays du Tendre”
A student of César Franck and Jules Massenet, the French composer, organist, and conductor Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937) won the Prix de Rome in 1882 and was later recognized for his work directing the orchestras of Concerts Colonne and the Ballets Russes. From the many composers he knew and performed, his music merges wisps of Debussy, Franck, and Milhaud with his own voice.
Voyage au “Pays du Tendre” (1935) was first heard over Radio Paris in 1936. Pierné portrays an allegorical map, the “Carte du Pays du Tendre,” from the 17th-century novel La Clélie by Madeleine de Scudéry. In one movement, he depicts a journey across the map, choosing the high and low aspects (“villages”) of affection and friendship while following the Inclination River, one of three flowing in the countryside. A turn could lead to the Sea of Enmity or to Lake Indifference as well as to the villages of Earnestness, Pretty Rhymes, and Love Letters.
Charles Dickens wrote about the novel’s map in 1889:
Here observe that the first stage takes you to Complaisance. Next, to a little village named Submission; and then to a charming one, at no great distance, called Little Attentions (“Petits Soins”); whence you proceed to Assiduity, and to yet another village, named Earnestness (“Empressement”); and so on to Great Services, which, in order to indicate how few people render them, is represented as the smallest of all. Afterwards, your road leads to Sensibility; to Obedience; and, finally, to Constant Friendship, which is, no doubt, the safest way to reach the desired goal of Tenderness-upon-Gratitude.
The map of “Pays du Tendre” extends beyond the mouth of Inclination River, across the rocky Dangerous Sea to the shores of Lands Unknown. Though Robert Muczynski’s six brief studies could be towns along the Duo Road, their languages are more recent than those near Pierné’s river. Composed in 1973 for two flutes, Duos became popular among flutists, and caught the attention of clarinetist Mitchell Lurie (clarinetists are often on the lookout for music to “borrow” for their instrument). Lurie and flutist Julius Baker convinced Muczynski to recast the work in 1984.
Born in Chicago in 1929, he studied piano and composition at DePaul University. “My strict German piano teacher [Walter Knupfer] complained that I spent too much time composing, and my composition teacher [Alexander Tcherepnin] complained that I spent too much time practicing piano,” recalled Muczynski. From 1965 to 1988, he taught composition at the University of Arizona in Tucson while continuing his performing career.
Cellist Peter Sachon, through his ongoing series, “The Cello Project,” has commissioned and premiered chamber music from many Broadway composers, arrangers, conductors, and pianists, including Stephen Schwartz, Michael John LaChiusa, Stephen Flaherty, Ricky Ian Gordon, John Bucchino, Ted Sperling, Joshua Rosenblum, and Sam Davis.
Winner of a Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award, Davis writes songs that Opera News calls “elegant and exquisite,” words that fit Elegy, a Cello Project contribution first heard at Symphony Space in 2006.
“Hamburg” is a popular nickname for several flute pieces by C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788) composed in Hamburg, Germany, after C.P.E. succeeded Telemann there as the music director of the city churches. For almost 30 years before Hamburg, C.P.E. worked as composer and performer for Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Unlike the flute music he wrote for the flute-playing king, his Hamburg works were meant for the public, and are lighter and less formal than those intended for the king’s conservative tastes.
Nancy Toff, in The Flute Book, writes that some of the Hamburg group may have been inspired by a blind flutist C.P.E. met around 1782, Ludwig Dulon. The Sonata in G Major for flute and continuo from 1786, in two movements, is a model of simple lyricism.
A pianist and composing colleague of Robert Muczynski at the University of Arizona, Richard Faith was born in Evansville in 1926. After graduating from Chicago Musical College and Indiana University, he studied piano and composition under a Fulbright Grant at the Academia de Santa Cecilia in Rome. Among his operas, symphonies, concertos, and chamber music are over 100 songs. The Washington Post writes that Faith’s music is “full of drama and tension, with beautifully etched phrases and sweeping lines,” a description easily applied to his Quintet.
Harpist Carrol McLaughlin premiered the work in Tucson in 1979. Tonight is its New York premiere, a long journey to the Land of Tenderness.