10/16/11 – Steel+Fire

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Dr. Miller Asbill
guest conductor

Toccata and Fugue in d minor, BWV 565
by Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. Eric Leidzen

Avenue X
by Jonathan Newman

by Carlos Surinach

Ouverture für Harmoniemusik
by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy,
ed. Miller Asbill and Kevin Geraldi

1 – Andante con moto

2 – Allegro vivace

Prelude and Velvet Fugue
by D.J. Sparr

It Perched for A Vespers Nine
by Joel Puckett

by John Mackey

Steel+Fire 10/16/11

Steel+Fire 10/16/11

The Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, is a piece for organ attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). It exhibits a typical simplified north German structure with a free opening (Toccata), a fugal section (Fugue), and a short free closing section. The connection to the north German organ school was noted early by Bach biographer Philipp Spitta in 1873. However, the numerous recitative stretches are rarely found in the works of north German composers. It was common practice at the time to create fugues on other composers’ themes, and a number of such pieces by Bach are known. The attribution of BWV 565 to Bach is doubtful and it has been challenged since the 1980s by a number of scholars.

Nevertheless, BWV 565 is one of the most famous works in the organ repertoire, and has been used in a variety of popular media ranging from film and video games to rock music and ringtones. This popular work has been transcribed many times, starting during the first Bach revival in the early 19th-Century and continuing to today. Arrangements have been written for piano, orchestra, solo instruments, guitar, and rock bands. The piece translates readily to wind band, for which several arrangements exist. Today’s performance is of a 1942 transcription by Eric Leidzen for the Goldman Band.

American Jonathan Newman composes music rich with rhythmic drive and intricate sophistication. A recipient of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Newman creates broadly colored musical works, often incorporating styles of pop, blues, jazz, folk, and funk into otherwise classical models. Newman holds degrees from Boston University’s School for the Arts (MusB), where he studied composition with Richard Cornell and Charles Fussell, and The Juilliard School (MusM), where he studied with composers John Corigliano and David Del Tredici. About Avenue X (2005), Newman writes:

“[It] derives its title from my neighborhood subway line, and its labeled final destination: “Ave X”. As I reside on Avenue C (and the highest letter in Manhattan itself is D), this always seemed a fantastic and otherworldly location to me. Turns out it’s in a pretty trippy place anyway: Brooklyn’s Coney Island — home of an ancient and creaking wooden roller coaster (frightening only because of the fear of the entire structure collapsing at any moment), the country’s last existing “side show”, and of course (my favorite), the Nathan’s Famous annual hot-dog eating contest. The piece is a journey there of sorts … via a pentatonic blues progression and driving bass power chords more appropriate to a metal “hair” rock band chart-topper, AVENUE X takes a convoluted path of dreams, subways, roller coasters, freak shows, and edge-of-the-world fantasies.”

Born in Barcelona, Spanish composer Carlos Surinach (1915-1997) was among the 20th-Century’s premier composers for the dance. His works combined the fiery imagery of his native Spain with the technical sophistication of his German musical education. Studies in composition at the Barcelona Conservatory were followed by advanced work at the Düsseldorf Conservatory, the Cologne Hochschule, and Berlin’s Prussian Academy as well as at lecture-seminars under Strauss. He was conductor of the Barcelona Philharmonic and the orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceo before moving to the United States in 1951, where he gained renown as both composer and conductor.

In the United States, Surinach’s scores were quickly picked up by choreographers and dance companies including Martha Graham and the Joffrey Ballet. An impressive body of orchestral, choral, and chamber music as well as music for the dance is uniquely colored by Surinach’s innate sense of rhythm and melody.

Soleriana is based on a Fandango once attributed to Padre Antonio Soler (1729-1783). Probably more often performed than any other of his works, it is now thought by some to be of doubtful authorship.

The Op. 24 by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) was composed in July of 1824 for the court orchestra of Bad Doberan near Rostock, where the young musician was accompanying his father. The original score was scored for one flute, two clarinets, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, one trumpet, and one English bass horn (a conical bore upright serpent in the shape of a bassoon). Having lost the eleven instrument version, Mendelssohn sent his publisher Ouverture für Harmoniemusik, scored for twenty-three winds and percussion and four-hand piano.

In the years since Mendelssohn’s work was composed, numerous scores, adaptations, and editions have been published to make the piece accessible for performance. This new edition was created in order to make the original version easily performable by a modern wind ensemble. The editors’ intention was to remain as faithful as possible to Mendelssohn’s original concept, while adapting the instrumentation for modern performers.

American composer and guitarist D.J. Sparr is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Michigan in 2003. Sparr merges art-concert craft with influences from music he performed as a young guitarist, and he received awards and recognition from the American Music Center, the Composers’ Guild, Eastman School of Music, George Washington University, New York Youth Symphony and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Prelude and the Velvet Fugue (2006, revised 2011) begins with a chorus of triangles, tubular bells and gongs that is joined with a fantasy melody of bended pitches from the flutes. Ultimately arising out of this texture are the trumpets, which herald the beginning of The Velvet Fugue.


Born on the south side of Atlanta, Georgia, Joel Puckett is the son of a Dixieland jazz musician and a classical tubist. He spent his childhood improvising with his father and learning the fundamentals of both concert and popular music. He is a composer who is dedicated to the belief that music can bring consolation, hope, and joy to all who need it.  About It Perched on a Vespers Nine (2008), Puckett writes:

“My wife’s grandfather was an extraordinary man. He was an immigrant who walked around quoting poetry and whistling tunes from his childhood in Scotland. Like a character from a movie he always seemed to pull just the right verse for the occasion. In the spring of 2007, he fell into a coma following a severe stroke. After weeks of being in this state he awoke and said:

In mist or cloud on mast or shroud
It perched for Vespers nine.
Whiles all the night through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moon-shine.

“These were the final words of a man who always chose the right words. Within the hour he was gone. The verse is from the famous poem of condemnation and redemption, “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”. The poem is the story of a mariner condemned to travel the earth telling his tale of hubris and punishment in search of redemption. The mariner shot an albatross for no other reason than he felt like it and then suffered the wrath of both death and living-death for his gall. The verse my wife’s grandfather quoted is the verse immediately before the one containing the ill-fated murder of the albatross.”

John Mackey received his Master of Music degree from Juilliard in 1997, having studied with John Corigliano. His compositions include works for orchestra, concert band and various chamber ensembles, including music for modern dance, ballet and theater.  Concordia Santa Fe has performed several works by John Mackey. Foundry (2011) evokes the energy, heat and sounds of a metal factory, and it is a perfect match for today’s concert.

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