6/23/13 – Primary Colors

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Gary Hill
guest conductor

The Golden Cockerel:
Introduction and Wedding March
by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, arr. A.A. Harding

by Bob Margolis

Blue Shades
by Frank Ticheli

Themes from “Green Bushes”
by Percy Aldridge Grainger, arr. Larry D. Daehn

The White Peacock
by Charles T. Griffes, arr. Frank Erickson

Redline Tango
by John Mackey

Primary Colors 6/23/13

Primary Colors 6/23/13

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (18 March 1844 – 21 June 1908) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five. He was a master of orchestration. His best-known orchestral compositions — Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade — are staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects.

Rimsky-Korsakov believed in developing a nationalistic style of classical music. This style employed Russian folk song and lore along with exotic harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements in a practice known as musical orientalism, and eschewed traditional Western compositional methods. However, Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated Western musical techniques after he became a professor of musical composition, harmony and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1871.

The Golden Cockerel  is an opera in three acts (with short prologue and even shorter epilogue) based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1834 poem The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (which is based on two chapters of Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving). The opera was completed in 1907, and received its premiere in Moscow in 1909, after the composer’s death. Rimsky-Korsakov made the concert arrangement (including the Introduction and Wedding Procession) in 1907.

Bob Margolis (Born 1949) is a native New Yorker who studied recorder with Bernard Krainis and pursued the study of music at Brooklyn College before transferring to the University of California at Berkley, where he studied design. He later returned to Brooklyn College, completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and television production in 1974. Margolis subsequently studied composition under William Schimmel and Robert Starer and orchestration with Arnold Rosner. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Brooklyn College in 1977.

Color  was composed and published in 1984.

Frank Ticheli (born 1958) is an American composer and conductor. His music has been described as being “optimistic and thoughtful” (Los Angeles Times), “lean and muscular” (New York Times), “brilliantly effective” (Miami Herald) and “powerful, deeply felt crafted with impressive flair and an ear for striking instrumental colors” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel). Ticheli joined the faculty of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition. From 1991 to 1998, Ticheli was Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony, and he still enjoys a close working relationship with that orchestra and their music director, Carl St. Clair.

About Blue Shades, Ticheli writes:

As its title suggests, Blue Shades alludes to the Blues, and a jazz feeling is prevalent — however, it is in not literally a Blues piece. There is not a single 12-bar blues progression to be found, and except for a few isolated sections, the eighth-note is not swung.

The work, however, is heavily influenced by the Blues: “Blue notes” (flatted 3rds, 5ths, and 7ths) are used constantly; Blues harmonies, rhythms, and melodic idioms pervade the work; and many “shades of blue” are depicted, from bright blue, to dark, to dirty, to hot blue.

At times, Blue Shades burlesques some of the clichés from the Big Band era, not as a mockery of those conventions, but as a tribute. A slow and quiet middle section recalls the atmosphere of a dark, smoky blues haunt. An extended clarinet solo played near the end recalls Benny Goodman’s hot playing style, and ushers in a series of “wailing” brass chords recalling the train whistle effects commonly used during that era.

Percy Grainger (1882–1961) was an Australian-born composer, pianist and champion of the saxophone and the concert band. Grainger was an innovative musician who anticipated many forms

of twentieth century music well before they became established by other composers. As early as 1899 he was working with “beatless music,” using metric successions (including such sequences as 2/4, 2½/4, 3/4, 2½/4).

In December 1929, Grainger developed a style of orchestration that he called “Elastic Scoring.” He outlined this concept in an essay that he called, “To Conductors, and those forming, or in charge of, Amateur Orchestras, High School, College and Music School Orchestras and Chamber-Music Bodies.”

Green Bushes  is an English folk song that is featured as well in the second movement of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite and George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow. The melody is very similar to that of the Lost Lady Found movement of Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy, and to The Cutty Wren.

Green Bushes  was an immensely popular song, collected many times across England, although not so often elsewhere. It was also very popular with nineteenth-century broadside printers. The song first appears in broadsides of the 1820s or 1830s.

Born in New York City, American composer Charles Griffes (1884–1920) began his advanced studies in piano performance and composition in Berlin in 1903. He had the good fortune of special lessons with Engelbert Humperdinck, who at once turned Griffes’ primary interest toward composition. While in Europe Griffes developed a special fascination with the scores of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. But although he was also influenced by the works of Aleksandr Scriabin and Modest Mussorgsky in Russia and by the folk-music of the Far East, Griffes remained an Impressionist at heart. In 1907 he returned to the United States and accepted a position as a music teacher at the Hackley School for Boys at Tarrytown, New York.

The White Peacock of 1915 was written originally for piano, then orchestrated in 1919. The inspiration for the music came from a poem by the English late-romantic poet and novelist William Sharp (1855-1905), writing under the pseudonym Fiona McLeod. Following the lead of his friend and mentor Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Sharp was enthralled with beauty for its own sake, but while Rossetti focused on adoration of the female form, Sharp held a broader view, encompassing the bucolic whole of nature.   According to Sharp’s wife, who was the editor of Lyra Celtica, a journal on Celtic lore, The White Peacock and other poems by Fiona McLeod were written in the imagined voice of a daughter the couple never had. Originally set in 56 lines of free verse, the poem reads in part:

Through a mist of roses – Deep in the heart of a sea of white violets – Slowly, white as a snow-drift, moves the White Peacock.

John Mackey (born 1973) is an American composer. He holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with John Corigliano and Donald Erb, respectively. Mr. Mackey particularly enjoys writing music for dance and for symphonic winds, and he has focused on those mediums for the past few years. His compositions include works for orchestra, concert band and various chamber ensembles, including music for modern dance, ballet and theater.

In the composer’s words,

Redline Tango takes its title from two sources. The first is the common term of “redlining an engine,” or, pushing it to the limit. In the case of this score, “redline” also refers to the “red line” of the New York subway system, which is the train that goes between the Upper West Side of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where this work was premiered.

The work is in three sections. The first section is the initial virtuosic “redlining” section, with constantly-driving 16th-notes and a gradual increase in intensity. After the peak comes the second section, the “tango,” which is rather light but demented, and even a bit sleazy. The material for the tango is derived directly from the first section of the work. A transition leads us back to an even “redder” version of the first section, with one final pop at the end.

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