Signature Concert 3: Solemn, Joyful & Ecstatic
February 5 @ 7:30 pm – February 13 @ 2:00 pm
This concert is also available for Livestream on February 5th or Webcast replay.
Slip into our mid-winter concert to resonate with Oskar Morawetz’s powerful Memorial to Martin Luther King and the quiet solemnity of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, composed in 1936 as a reflection of the changes occurring in America and Europe. Counterpoints include Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s joyful Serenade for Strings, Igor Strainvsky’s vibrant Symphonies of Wind Instruments, and Joan Tower’s ecstatic Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.
At the Lincoln Center
417 West Magnolia St.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
- Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman – Joan Tower
- Symphonies of Wind Instruments – Igor Stravinsky
- Memorial to Martin Luther King – Oskar Morawetz,
- Featuring Guest Cellist Anthony Elliott
- Serenade for Strings – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
- Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber
Please Note: Our goal is to keep all of our attendees, musicians, and staff safe and healthy! Thank you for cooperating with the protocols listed below:
Each attendee must provide proof of full vaccination (14 days from their final shot) or a valid negative COVID test within 72 hours of attendance, present a valid photo ID, and wear a mask at all times inside the venue (nose and mouth fully covered). Please plan to arrive early for hall entrance checks.
For more information, please visit the Lincoln Center’s Safety Protocols or call the Lincoln Center Box Office: 970-221-6730
Cellist Anthony Elliott
The first Grand Prize winner of the Emmanuel Feuermann Memorial International Cello Solo Competition, Anthony Elliott garners critical acclaim for his performances as a concert cellist, conductor, and soloist. A frequent guest soloist with major orchestras, he has performed most of the standard concerto repertory with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, the Vancouver Symphony, and the CBC Toronto Orchestra. He has also commissioned new works by such composers as Primous Fountain III, Augustus Hill, James Lee III, and Chad E. Hughes. Mr. Elliott is also in great demand as a chamber musician. He has appeared in chamber music with the present and former concertmasters of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, among others. As a soloist, his performances have been recorded and broadcast on radio and television across the United States and Canada.
A highly successful conductor, Mr. Elliott has conducted professional symphony, opera, choirs, ballet, youth and chamber orchestras. A number of his CD recordings are available at www.cdbaby.com. Presently, Elliott is Emeritus Professor of Cello at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Learn more about Anthony Elliott at UMich.edu.
Interview with Cellist Anthony Elliott on the Open Notes Podcast
Kenneth and Myra Monfort Charitable Foundation
Dr. David and Alison Dennis
Dr. Ed Siegel
Dr. Peter Springberg and Janet Kowall
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Week-of Concert Events:
Wednesday, February 2 at noon Mountain Time
Join CSU professor Dr. Dawn Grapes on the Wednesday prior to most Signature concerts for an entertaining and informative lecture about the upcoming featured composers. Light refreshments. Sponsored by the Friends of the Symphony.
Meeting ID: 823 1447 7068
Saturday, February 5 at 6:30 p.m.
at the Lincoln Center
included with ticket purchase
Prior to each Signature concert, join Maestro Wes Kenney for his musings on what you are about to hear.
Dr. K. Dawn Grapes
Joan Tower (b. 1938)
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1
Date of Composition: 1987
Duration: 3 minutes
American composer Joan Tower certainly fits into the category of “uncommon.” As a female composer coming of age in the mid-twentieth century, she had to overcome perceptions as to what a composer was and could be. Although Tower states she never personally felt discrimination, she notes the obstacles other composers have faced and has served as a staunch advocate for younger colleagues trying to break into the traditionally male-dominated field. Perhaps her upbringing in Bolivia from the age of nine kept her far enough removed from expectations of the American musical establishment to allow her to dream of a career generally unheard of for a woman in the U.S. at the time. Whatever the circumstances, she graduated with a DMA from Columbia University and was soon hired as a professor of composition at Bard College in 1972. Four years later she was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship. Since then she has received many prestigious awards, as well as commissions from major orchestras across the country.
Tower modeled her Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman on the similarly-titled Copland masterwork, utilizing the same performing forces of brass and percussion. The instrumentation seems an apt choice for a work written, in the composer’s words, to honor “women who take risks and who are adventurous.” The inscription is striking, especially when one considers that brass and percussion are the two orchestral sections least likely to feature female players. Tower dedicated the piece to noted conductor Marin Alsop, who finds herself in the top echelon of another musical discipline in which women are far underrepresented. Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was originally commissioned by the Houston Symphony and premiered in 1987. Since then, Tower has composed five more fanfares with the same title, three for brass and percussion and two for full orchestra. Alsop recorded the first five with the Colorado Symphony in 1999. In 1987, interviewer Bruce Duffie asked Tower if she would rather be known as a woman composer or simply a composer. Her response? “… some people are not aware that there are no women composers on their concerts. So for that reason, I do like to be reminded this is a woman composer. ‘Have you ever heard a woman composer? Oh, yes, come to think of it, no.’ I think that’s an important reminder. Other than that, the music is the music.”
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Date of Composition: 1920/1947
Duration: 9 minutes
Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments displays several sides of the Russian-French-American composer’s compositional personality. Its clear form, unusual instrumentation, and even its title lend towards Stravinsky’s so-called “neo-classical” period. Yet several Russian folk themes are disguised within, recalling earlier works written for Diaghalev’s Ballet Russe. In these ways, the composition stands as a transitional work in the composer’s catalogue. Stravinsky undertook the piece in 1920. While working on it, the French journal Le Revue Musicale issued a call for compositions to honor the memory of Claude Debussy, who had died just two years previously. Ten composers completed memorial pieces, among them such notable names as Bartók, Ravel, Satie, Dukas, and de Falla. Stravinsky, who had been deeply influenced by the French master, contributed a short chorale written for piano. Highly affected by the experience, he decided not only to conclude his Symphonies d’Instuments à Vent using material from the musical tribute, but also ultimately dedicated the entire work to Debussy.
Stravinsky had not written such a substantial work for winds and percussion before. Music for wind ensemble, however, was gaining popularity at the time, thanks especially to concert band movements in the United States and England. The 1920s were fruitful in terms of wind literature. During the decade, composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Gordon Jacob, and Percy Grainger wrote a number of compositions now considered canonic in the band repertoire. These works were intended for full-size band, featured tuneful melodies often based on folk or nationalistic tunes, and were (and still are) quite accessible to audiences. Stravinsky’s composition is austere, at times even jagged, featuring instrumentation closer to an orchestral wind section than the British military bands of the time. Thus, it is not surprising that the audience did not quite know what to make of the piece at the 1921 premiere at London’s Queen’s Hall. Stravinsky responded, “This music is not meant to ‘please’ an audience, nor to arouse its passions. Nevertheless, I had hoped that it would appeal to some of those persons in whom a purely musical receptivity outweighed the desire to satisfy their sentimental cravings.” Stravinsky did not publish the work until 1947, after he had made substantial revisions to the score. The original 1920 version was published posthumously in 2001. Modern audiences have the advantage of hindsight, or “hindsound” as it may be. Contemporary performances offer fewer surprises to listeners who understand that in Stravinsky’s music, the unexpected is always to be expected.
Oskar Morawetz (1917–2007)
Memorial to Martin Luther King
Date of Composition: 1968
Duration: 21 minutes
Oskar Morawetz was one of Canada’s most successful composers. Yet many audiences have not heard his music. Morawetz was born and raised in Czechoslovakia. Just as he reached an age when his professional musical aspirations were in sight, the Nazi regime invaded his homeland. He moved to Vienna to continue his piano study, but as a young man of Jewish heritage, it became increasingly clear that remaining in the German lands was unrealistic. When Hitler occupied Prague in 1939, Morawetz’s father obtained documentation allowing the family to travel to England, eventually resettling in Canada. Morawetz, however, decided he would be safe in Paris, which was not the case. After a harrowing journey from France to Switzerland to Italy to the Canary Islands to the Dominican Republic, in 1940 he was finally reunited with his family in Canada where he completed his education at the University of Toronto, eventually joining the composition faculty himself.
Morawetz is, in many ways, a performer’s composer, as evidenced by the number of esteemed musicians who have commissioned or embraced his compositions. Glenn Gould, Jeanne Baxtresser, Itzhak Perlman, Jon Vickers, and Yo-Yo Ma are just some of the artists who have championed his work. In fact, it was famed cellist Mstislav Rostropovich who asked Morawetz to compose a cello concerto, but with some sort of unexpected instrumentation. This was the impetus for what was to become one of the composer’s most performed works, a Memorial to Martin Luther King. The concerto, composed in 1968 shortly after King’s death, programmatically portrays the civil rights leader’s final days, with sections musically depicting the Freedom March, the gunshot that claimed King’s life, and a funeral procession marked by quotation of the spiritual “Free at Last.” The composer described his vision as “the solo cello weeping above the marching procession epitomizing the cry of the people.” Morawetz honored Rostropovich’s instrumentation request by writing for an ensemble of orchestral winds and an expanded percussion section. He later explained, “It struck me. The image of the funeral processions passing by our house in Úpice when I was seven. I used to watch it with despair and deep sadness, thinking of the person who had died. I recalled that these processions were always accompanied by a wind band and drums. And so the idea of the funeral march being played solemnly by the wind instruments was born.” Thus, Morawetz’s words reveal the nostalgic recollection of a young boy whose life was irrevocably changed by notions of racial superiority in a land far away, while the composition itself stands as a tribute honoring the suffering felt throughout the Black community upon the death of King, and as an ongoing nod to those who continue to fight for an equality not yet achieved.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
Serenade for Strings, op. 48
Date of Composition: 1880
Duration: 34 minutes
Few composers have possessed the ability to reflect emotions within their music as well as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Born in a small Russian village, Tchaikovsky began music lessons at an early age. His talent soon became apparent. His parents, however, hoped for a more stable profession for their son and so he trained for a career in public service. The pull of music was too great, however, and Tchaikovsky ended up at the conservatory in St. Petersburg. Upon graduation, he accepted a job at the Moscow Conservatory, where he taught composition. A decade later, Tchaikovsky received an offer of sponsorship from the wealthy widow, Nadezhda von Meck, under the strange condition that the two never meet in person. Von Meck’s patronage allowed the musician to spend his time composing without interruption. The two corresponded regularly, and she became a primary means not only for financial, but also for emotional support.
Serenade for Strings was composed one summer when Tchaikovsky was in the Ukraine. While many of his works exhibit an ability to emote feelings, the serenade seems to encapsulate multiple sentiments, sometimes at the same time. Like Tower’s Fanfare and Stravinsky’s Symphonies for Winds, Tchaikovsky honored an important predecessor with his composition. In a letter to von Meck he revealed that the first movement was “my homage to Mozart; it is intended to be an imitation of his style, and I should be delighted if I thought I had in any way approached my model.” Tchaikovsky aptly captures the balance and charm of Mozart’s chamber settings, but also infuses the four-movement composition with the lush, heart-rending harmonies that are his trademark. The composer also combines a larger classical structure with elements of the nineteenth-century Viennese waltz, a moving elegy, and a finale that utilizes Russian folk themes, bringing together disparate worlds and channeling both solemnity and joy into one perfect package.
Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
Adagio for Strings
Date of Composition: 1936/1938
Duration: 9 minutes
… Wistful. Nostalgic. Touching.
Few pieces bring to mind as many emotion-filled adjectives as Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Yet the Adagio really needs no words to describe it at all, for the composition is a complete sonic experience all its own. Although the work created a lasting legacy for its composer, Barber still would be considered one of America’s greats even without his most iconic piece of music. He was a prolific composer, producing a full catalogue of songs, piano works, operas, chamber music, and orchestral works. He won numerous awards, including the American Prix de Rome and not one, but two Pulitzer Prizes. Music seems to have been Barber’s destiny from the start. A child prodigy, Barber began composing at the age of seven. He wrote a one-act opera at ten. At twelve he served as church organist. Accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music at age fourteen, he studied piano, singing, and composition. The academy provided him with many opportunities and connections that would help him later in his career. His first publications appeared during his student years. In 1939, at 29 years old, he accepted a position teaching composition at his alma mater. He discovered, however, that academia was not his calling and after a few years he began concentrating on composition full time. Mary Curtis Bok, founder of the Curtis Institute, helped make this possible, taking the role of dedicated benefactor, both financially and through professional introductions.
In 1936, Barber composed his first string quartet, published as opus 11. He knew he had something special on his hands in the work’s slow, second movement even before its first performance in Rome. Not long afterward, Barber sent a version of the Adagio, arranged in seven parts for string orchestra, to Arturo Toscanini. The esteemed conductor premiered the work with the newly formed NBC Symphony Orchestra and the piece was immediately successful. The Adagio for Strings highlights much about Barber’s compositional style. His embrace of tonal music put him at odds with many of his contemporaries who were experimenting with modernist techniques at the time. The resulting accessibility, however, is what ensured the longevity of his work. Since its inception, Adagio for Strings has become inextricably linked to certain moments of shared heartache in our national experience: the announcement of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death, a broadcast of the National Symphony Orchestra playing to an empty hall after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the memorial after 9/11. Yet one might argue that it is not the feeling of grief emanating from Barber’s creation that makes the work so moving, but rather an inherent, introspective perception of hope that looks ever forward.
© 2022 Dr. K. Dawn Grapes