Showcase May-June 2014 - page 25

‘a river of melodies’
“Symphony No. 4 begins with music designed for
performance within the reverberant walls of Mission
San Juan Bautista…Rather ‘archaic’-sounding melodic
lines recall the simplicity of early chant and feature an
echo effect which is written into the orchestration.…
Melodic lines are staggered by a fraction of a beat, like a
written-out reverberation.
“The second movement (
) is an imaginary
compendium of Mutsun tunes loosely based on the
shapes and motifs I found in Arroyo’s diary. From
this festive and varied river of melodies, a prosaic,
unchanging hymn tune repeatedly emerges and
recedes. A return to the opening music follows this
movement in the form of an interlude and reaches a
climactic upheaval of some magnitude. It leads to a
‘healing song,’ which—in the midst of the current world
climate—seems to me as appropriate as ever.”
3 flutes (2 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets,
2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani,
conga drum, cymbals, triangle, bass drum, tam-tam,
suspended cymbals, Chinese cymbals, crotales, chimes,
glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone, marimba, harp and strings
Program note by
Robert Markow
n the summer of 1901 Mahler retreated to the new
chalet he had built at Maiernigg, on the southern
shore of the Wörthersee in central Austria. At age
41, he was ready for new directions, and now he
composed a single movement, a huge symphonic
scherzo, very different from the manner of his first four
symphonies, which had been inspired by folk legends.
june 12, 14
Program Notes
Gustav Mahler
July 7, 1860, Kalischt, Bohemia
May 18, 1911, Vienna
Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor
the fourth symphony
Puts’ Fourth Symphony was commissioned by the
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz,
California, and Marin Alsop conducted the premiere
with the Festival Orchestra in August 2007. The final
concerts of each Cabrillo Festival are given in the old
Spanish mission in the town of San Juan Bautista,
about 30 miles south of Santa Cruz. This is the site,
so familiar to film buffs, where Alfred Hitchcock shot
scenes in his 1958 classic
. It is also a site that has
fond memories for one of the Festival’s most devoted
patrons, Howard Hansen (no relation to the composer
Howard Hanson). As a gift to his wife, Hansen asked
Puts to write something inspired by this place. The
result was Puts’ first symphony in a decade, his Fourth.
The composer writes: “I did more research on this than
I’ve ever done for a piece. I was interested in learning
more about the Native Americans, the Mutsun people,
who had been there before the mission.…That San
Juan Bautista has been called ‘the Mission of Music’
owes itself to the musical predispositions of some its
founding friars, who baptized thousands of Mutsune
Indians and took it upon themselves to teach them
to sing church music. They were disturbed by the
Mutsuns’ failure to abandon their own music in favor of
that which the friars presumably considered to be more
civilized.…It’s an amazing place, a very reverberant
space. I wanted to create a sense of that reverberation
with the music.”
Puts was guided by Victoria Levine, a specialist in
Native American music, to a manuscript of Francisco
Arroyo da la Cuesta at the University of California–
Berkeley. It was revealed to be Arroyo’s
, a
dictionary of several hundred Mutsun words that also
contained a few song transcriptions. Puts notes that
he learned from Quirina Luna-Costillas, “one of the
few surviving descendants of the Mutsuns and a highly
regarded leader among this small community,” that “the
songs of her people should not be misused—healing
songs are for healing, wedding songs are for weddings,
etc.—and that if the few songs I had found in Arroyo’s
journal were to find their way into my piece, it could
cause a sickness for her people. With this in mind, I
decided I…would try to imitate the flavor and nuance
of it but avoid direct quotation.”
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