Showcase March-April 2014 - page 35

apr 10, 11
Program Notes
Wojciech Kilar
Born:
Lwów, Poland (now in Ukraine), July 17, 1932
Died:
Katowice, Poland, December 29, 2013
Orawa
Eric Whitacre
The River Cam
Whitacre wrote
The River Cam
in late 2010 as a
60th-birthday present for the famed British cellist
Julian Lloyd Webber. At the time, the composer was
spending a term as a Visiting Fellow at Sidney Sussex
College, part of Cambridge University, where “every
day I would stroll through the streets of Cambridge
out to Newnham, following the idyllic banks along the
River Cam. As I walked alongside the river these little
melodies began forming in my mind, informed by the
sights, the sounds, the history of the land and of the
University. As the piece was beginning to take form I
realized that I was writing a ‘pastoral piece,’ undeniably
British, with serious echoes of Elgar and Vaughan
Williams. I just tried to capture as best I could the quiet
and heartbreaking beauty of the River Cam.”
Instrumentation:
solo cello with strings
Eric Whitacre
Selections from
Songs of Immortality
In 2010, Whitacre turned 40 and his father was taken
seriously ill, requiring surgery. Out of these potentially
life-altering experiences, Whitacre composed the three
Songs of Immortality
for chorus and orchestra. Tonight
we hear the first and third, set to Dylan Thomas’ poem
“Lie still, sleep becalmed” and Emily Dickinson’s “After
great pain.” Both of these songs were commissioned
by the American Friends of the London Symphony
Chorus, which gave the first performance on October
24, 2010, in collaboration with the London Symphony,
conducted by the composer. Whitacre describes the
songs as “darker, more abrasive” than most of his works
“and in a style I don’t normally use.” (The middle
movement, a setting of Thomas’ “Do not go gently into
that good night,” was commissioned by the Berlin Radio
Chorus and premiered in April 2012.)
Instrumentation:
mixed chorus and orchestra
Program notes by
Robert Markow
.
ojciech Kilar, who died less than four months
ago, might well be thought of as the Polish
equivalent of John Williams in America, or of
Erich Wolfgang Korngold in Vienna, since his
compositional career generously encompassed the worlds
of film and classical concert music.
He left five symphonies, numerous other orchestral
works and much choral music, some of it with
orchestra. But it is as the composer of more than 130
film scores, particularly those done abroad, that Kilar
will be most remembered. Leading the list are Francis
Ford Coppola’s horror film
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
,
for which the composer won an ASCAP Award, and
Roman Polanski’s
The Pianist
, for which he won a
César Award. So prominent a figure was Kilar in his
homeland that his funeral was attended by Poland’s
First Lady and its Culture Minister.
Orawa
, named after a region in south-central Poland
bordering on Slovakia, was written in 1986 for an
ensemble of 15 strings (which may be doubled)
and premiered in March of that year by the Polska
Orkiestra Kameralna (today the Sinfonia Varsovia)
in Zakopane, conducted by Wojciech Michniewski.
It begins innocuously, with seemingly little variation.
But careful listening reveals a continuously if subtly
changing surface as well as, later on, shifting textural
and harmonic substrata. Much like Ravel’s
Boléro
, it
achieves its effect through cumulative growth. In the
final pages of the score, the performance directions read
Precipitando
, a few bars later
Feroce
, then
Furioso
, then
fff Ferocissimo
, and finally
ffff Ardente
. The surprise
ending consists of a C-major chord—something to be
experienced as well as heard.
Instrumentation:
strings alone
35
MARCH / APRIL 2014 MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
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