Dear Friends of Music:
Our last concert of the 2014-2015 season will take place on Sunday, May 3 starting at 2 pm in the Church of the Nazarene, 14040 Ridge Road, in Sutter Creek.
We have a very entertaining program prepared for you, starting with the delightful Septet in A minor for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, cello and piano of Louis Spohr, a contemporary of Mendelssohn. In the second half, our Distinguished Young Artist of the Year, Alden Cohen, has put together a terrific program showcasing the double bass as a solo instrument, accompanied by Ron Brickman on piano. Full details follow.
As usual, we plan on serving drinks and easy-to-serve food items during intermission. Please bring any food donations to the kitchen before the concert starts.
We take this opportunity to thank all of our members for their faithful support during the current season. Your enthusiastic reception of our concerts encourages us to plan events of similar interest and quality in the season ahead.
Ron Brickman, President
Program May 3, 2015
Louis Spohr (1784-1859). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Septet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon,
violin, cello and piano in A minor, Op. 147
I. Allegro vivace
II. Pastorale: Larghetto
III. Scherzo: Vivace
IV. Finale: Allegro molto
Sandra Betti, flute
Hank King, clarinet
Bill Minkel, horn
Gail Buzzard, bassoon
Randy Fisher, violin
Alice Williams, cello
Ron Brickman, piano
Alden Cohen, double bass
Ron Brickman, piano
Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra,
First Movement, Allegro
Niccoló Paganini (1782-1840). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cantabile
Max Bruch (1838-1920) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kol Nidrei, Op. 47
Jean Françaix (1912-1997). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Mozart New-Look”
John Clayton (1952- ). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bach to Blues (unaccompanied jazz solo)
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) (arr. J. Bragato). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kicho
The Program--Louis Spohr was a highly successful violin virtuoso, conductor and composer in his own day. He was born in 1784 in Braunschweig, Germany, to musical parents. As an adult, while touring repeatedly throughout Europe, Spohr also obtained major appointments as a conductor in Gotha, Vienna, Frankfurt, and Kassel. As a composer, his oratorios were second only to Mendelssohn’s in popularity. He wrote several operas and symphonies and his output of chamber music was prodigious, including seven string quintets, thirty-six string quartets, and various other pieces. Although no longer regarded as a composer of the first rank, Spohr’s legacy remains highly regarded among connoisseurs, particularly his compositions for larger mixed ensembles, such as his nonet, an octet, and the septet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, cello and piano, performed here. The Septet in A minor was composed during the composer’s sixth and last visit to England, in 1853. His second wife, who completed his autobiography after his death, writes that on his return to Kassel, at the age of 70, the composer completed “one of his finest masterpieces, replete with youthful freshness, and with a Larghetto which has scarcely its equal in bewitching harmony and beautiful modulations.”
The first movement begins in a serious, almost Brahmsian mood, but there is later a warm and tender second subject in C major. In the recapitulation, the key changes to A major, where it remains to the end. The much-admired second movement, Larghetto, in F major plays almost overt tribute to Schubert’s octet. The horn takes the lead at the outset, and the violin is prominent in the more agitated central episode in D minor. The third movement is somewhat capricious and whimsical, and encloses two trios: the first in A major is virtually a solo for the clarinet, reminiscent of Mozart’s clarinet quintet; the second trio in F major features the horn, over a rippling accompaniment in triplets by the piano. The vigorous sonata-form Finale follows to a large extent the pattern of the first movement, beginning in the home key of A minor with a second subject and the recapitulation in the relative major.
Among all the instruments of the modern symphony orchestra, the double bass has perhaps the most limited repertoire as a solo instrument. Nevertheless, many composers from the Baroque era onward have turned their attention to the instrument’s unique qualities. A further obstacle to solo performances of the instrument is a lingering tradition whereby something like half of the repertoire requires the instrument to be tuned up a whole step, in contrast to the more normal turning used in orchestra playing. A performer could not as a practical matter play a recital using both tunings unless he had two instruments. (In our program, Mr. Cohen will play works only with the normal, orchestral tuning.)
Several of the most prominent composers for the instrument, such as Bottesini and Dragonetti, were themselves double bass virtuosos. Both wrote concertos that join those of Dittersdorf, Vanhal, and Maxwell Davies as showcases for the instrument. Undoubtedly the most popular double bass concerto remains that of Serge Koussevitsky. Born into a poor Jewish family in a town outside Moscow, the young Serge distinguished himself as an exceptionally talented player of the double bass, joining the Bolshoi Theatre orchestra at the age of twenty. In 1905 he moved to Berlin where he pursued his study as a conductor. After returning to Russia, he left for Paris in 1920 to escape the turmoil of the post-war years in his home country, then in 1924 he migrated to the United States. There, he succeeded Pierre Monteux as conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a post that he held with the highest distinction until 1949, turning the orchestra into one of the world’s finest ensembles.
Koussevitsky composed his concerto for double bass in 1902, reportedly with the help of Reinhold Gliere. The work remains solidly in the genre of a Romantic concerto, with attractive melodies and multiple opportunities to highlight the qualities of the instrument, proving once and for all the double bass’s capacity as a solo instrument.
Niccoló Paganini was a gifted performer on both violin and guitar. But he was also a great composer. His Cantabile was originally composed to be performed as a duo of his two preferred instruments, but
the melody is so beautiful that it has become a favorite solo for virtually all instruments, including this version for double bass and piano as arranged by Mr. Cohen himself.
Kol Nidrei of the German composer Max Bruch was originally composed for cello and orchestra. It uses a Hebrew melody that is sung in synagogues on the eve of the Day of Atonement and has become one of the most popular solos for cello and double bass alike.
The 20th-century French composer Jean Francaix has left us a large body of thoroughly delightful works, most of which illustrate the composer’s sense of humor. His compositions show both an intriguing complexity and a desire not to be taken too seriously. His composition for double bass and piano, “Mozart New-Look” is a case in point. Originally for double bass and a small ensemble of woodwinds, the composer subtitles it a “little fantasy on the Serenade from Don Giovanni.” But sharp listeners will also hear a well-known tune that has nothing to do with Mozart.
The jazz bassist John Clayton. began seriously undertaking the study of double bass at age 16, studying with bass legend Ray Brown. By age 19, he had become a bassist on Henry Mancini's television series The Mancini Generation and later graduated in 1975 from Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music with a degree in bass performance. He went on to tour with the Monty Alexander Trio and the Count Basie Orchestra before taking the position of principal bass in the Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam, Netherlands. However, after five years he returned to the U.S. for a break from the classical genre to work more towards jazz and jazz composition. He now serves as Artistic Director for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival as well as other major jazz festivals. His composition Bach to Blues for unaccompanied double bass allows Mr. Cohen to illustrate the prominence of the bass in modern jazz composition and performance.
Like most of his compositions, Kicho for double bass and piano was originally composed to be performed by Piazzolla’s own combo of bandoneon (like an accordion), violin, piano, guitar and bass. The arrangement for bass and piano was done by José Bragato, who did much to arrange Piazzolla’s music for more familiar instrumentation and therefore to help make his music an international sensation. Kicho starts out with an extended cadenza for solo bass, before leading into a typical tune in tango rhythm. After an interlude presenting another of the composer’s ravishing lyrical melodies, the works returns to an upbeat tango conclusion.
The Performers—Our septet is made up of some of the Mother Lode’s finest instrumentalists, all of whom have performed frequently before Friends of Music audiences. All serve in the Friends of Music Orchestra, most as principals of their sections. Randy Fisher, who performed as recently as our concert on April 12, returns for this concert, this time playing violin rather than viola.
Alden F. Cohen, a San Francisco native, is a professional free-lance double bassist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mr. Cohen received his bachelor’s degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and his master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Since 2004, he has been on the San Francisco Symphony double bass substitute list and often performs with the symphony. Recently, he placed as a finalist for the Marin Symphony Principal Bass audition and co-won the Berkeley Symphony Assistant Principal Bass audition. In 2008, Mr. Cohen won the Santa Cruz County Symphony principal bass audition. He is also a contracted section bass member of the Napa Valley Symphony and Modesto Symphony. He has performed as Principal Bass for the Berkeley Symphony, Fresno Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony, Pacific Chamber Symphony, and San Francisco Lyric Opera.