6/24/12 – It’s About Time
Dr. Paul Shewan
Short Ride in a Fast Machine
by John Adams, arr. Lawrence T. Odom
by Samuel Adler
Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral
by Richard Wagner, trans. Lucien Cailliet
The Leaves are Falling
by Warren Benson
Symphony No. 4 (West Point)
by Morton Gould
1 – Epitaphs
2 – Marches
John Coolidge Adams (b. 1947) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer with strong roots in minimalism. His best-known works include Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986), On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), a choral piece commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003), and Shaker Loops (1978), a minimalist four-movement work for strings. His well-known operas include Nixon in China (1987), which recounts Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, and Doctor Atomic (2005), which covers Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, and the building of the first atomic bomb.
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (Fanfare for Great Woods) consists of a succession of chordal passages against a consistent beat on wood blocks, and gives the impression of a single long-delayed cadence. The piece has now become one of the most frequently requested and performed encores in American concert halls. It was commissioned by the Great Woods Festival for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s opening concert led by American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas at Great Woods in Mansfield, Massachusetts on June 13, 1986.
Samuel Adler (b. 1928) is a German-born American composer educated at Boston University and Harvard University, and holds honorary doctorates from Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest University, St. Mary’s Notre-Dame and the St. Louis Conservatory. His major teachers were: in composition, Herbert Fromm, Walter Piston, Randall Thompson, Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland; in conducting, Serge Koussevitzky.
He is Professor-emeritus at the Eastman School of Music where he taught from 1966 to 1995 and served as chair of the composition department from 1974 until his retirement. Since 1997 he has been a member of the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and was awarded the 2009-10 William Schuman Scholars Chair. Adler has given master classes and workshops at over 300 universities worldwide, and in the summers has taught at major music festivals such as Tanglewood, Aspen, Brevard, Bowdoin, as well as others in France, Germany, Israel, Spain, Austria, Poland, South America and Korea.
Among his honors are the Army Medal of Honor (1953, for his organization of the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra), the Charles Ives Living Prize (1961), the Lillian Fairchild Award (1974), and the Deems Taylor Award (1983, for The Study of Orchestration). Other honors include the Composer of the Year Award from MTNA (1988-89), the Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1990) and the Special Citation from the American Foundation of Music Clubs (2001).
Southwestern Sketches is a symphonic poem inspired by the landscape and cultures indigenous to the state of New Mexico. It was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New Mexico Statehood.
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and polemicist primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as he later called them). Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.
Of Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral, from his opera Lohengrin, he wrote:
While I doubt that there are many pieces in my opera that are suitable for production as military music, I permit myself to draw your attention, however, particularly to one number which has gone exceedingly well on parades here in Dresden; I refer to the first section of the fourth scene of the second Act; it is in the style of a March with chorus … that lends itself well to treatment as an effective piece for military band.
The particular atmosphere which my Lohengrin should produce is that here we see before us an ancient German kingdom in its finest, most ideal aspect. Let my Lohengrin be beautiful, but not ostentatious …
Elsa must—on the high ground before the palace—actually come to a stop. She is moved and affected, as if overcome by bliss. Only after 8 measures does she once more proceed very slowly toward the cathedral, sometimes, pausing, cordially and naively acknowledging greetings. Not only does it take shape this way, but it actually becomes what I intended it to be; namely, no march-like procession, but the infinitely significant advance of Elsa to the altar.
American composer Warren Benson (1924-2005) is best known for his innovative and expressive music for wind ensemble and his finely wrought song cycles. Warren Benson was Professor of Percussion and Composition for fourteen years at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York. In 1967 he became Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music, where he taught until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1993.
Benson began composition of The Leaves are Falling November 22, 1963, the date of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, using the hymn tune Ein’ feste Burg (A Mighty Fortress). The piece is extremely important in the history of band music and was considered exceptionally groundbreaking at the time of its composition. Completed in January, 1964, it introduced to the large wind ensemble-band literature a kind of music in which in its single movement length and introspective character was unknown to that time. The work had its premiere performance on the American Music Festival of May, 1964, by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Clyde A. Roller, conductor.
The Leaves are Falling was inspired by the poem Herbst (Autumn) from Buch der Bilder by Rainer Maria Rilke:
The leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
They are falling with denying gestures.
And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.
We all are falling. This hand falls.
And look at the others: it is in them all.
And yet there is one, who holds this falling
with infinite gentleness in his hands.
Morton Gould (1913–1996) was an American composer, conductor, arranger, and pianist. Born in Richmond Hill, New York, Gould was recognized early as a child prodigy with abilities in improvisation and composition. His first composition was published at age six.
Gould’s music, commissioned by symphony orchestras all over the United States, was also commissioned by the Library of Congress, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the American Ballet Theatre, and the New York City Ballet. His ability to seamlessly combine multiple musical genres into formal classical structure, while maintaining their distinctive elements, was unsurpassed, and Gould received three commissions for the United States Bicentennial.
In 1995, Gould was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Stringmusic, a composition commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra in recognition of the final season of director Mstislav Rostropovich. In 2005, he was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Symphony No. 4 (West Point) is a work written for the West Point band in 1952. Gould’s idea, inspired partly by the cemetery on the West Point grounds, was to evoke the Long Gray Line, the generations of Army soldiers on parade.