The final concert of the 2011-2012 season features Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor, Op. 18, No. 4, a work that Robert Simpson says shows Beethoven “at full power [for the time].” Also on the program is Gayfer’s Suite for Woodwind Quintet, Francaix’s Octet and the premiere performance of ‘Gone is All Your Fear.’ a new work by SSO Principal Bass, Richard Carnegie.
If you love to experience expertly performed classical music in a relaxing, intimate setting, this concert is especially for you. Presented in the Delta Bessborough’s elegant ballrooms, with ensembles drawn from the Symphony’s principal players, the series presents musical gems from the masters and from modern composers—works ideally suited for these “close encounters” with great music and musicians. Music for a Sunday Afternoon concerts are the perfect antidote to hectic weekends and a great way to get to know the gifted musicians in the orchestra.
There is a coffee and tea service during intermission.
Prepared by Margaret Wilson (Gayfer, Beethoven, Francaix) and Richard Carnegie, Saskatoon Symphony. © 2012
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James MacDonald Gayfer 1916–1997
Suite For Woodwind Quintet
James MacDonald “Doc” Gayfer was born in Toronto where he began his early musical training studying piano, organ and clarinet at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Toronto in 1941 and continued his studies in England at the Royal Military School of Music, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. In 1947 he returned to the University of Toronto to complete his doctorate in music in 1950. A large part of his career (1942–1967) was spent in the armed forces where he went overseas playing the clarinet with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals Band (1943–45).
At home again after the war Gayfer held many positions as a bandmaster and teacher, but also began to think seriously about composition. Although the decision was difficult he did perservere while anticipating “the ridicule of some of my friends, the laughter of my acquaintances, the hurt of those who love me, and the smiling disgust of my family, who only want their son to ‘succeed’.” In the ensuing years he wrote a considerable body of music including 23 works for military (concert band), one for British brass band, six orchestral works, 11 solo piano pieces, three chamber works, three choral pieces, seven vocal pieces with piano accompaniment, and a number of songs.
The Suite for Woodwind Quintet was written in 1947 and is a charming addition to the wind quintet repertoire. Gayfer’s style is conservative and as he says, “I am a traditional composer: non-serial, non aleatoric or electronic. However, I do see great value and significance in all forms of creative expression, as long as it contains real ideas and concepts, in order to communicate, first for the composer, then for the performer and then for the listener. Give me a ‘tune’, and I’ll follow you anywhere!”. [/sws_ui_toggle]
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Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827
String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December, 1770 to Johann van Beethoven and Maria Magdelena Keverich. Two generations of musicians already preceded him in his family—he was called Ludwig after his grandfather, a choirmaster. His father was also a musician and gave young Ludwig his early training. Ludwig’s prodigious talents were obvious at a very young age and he went on to become one of the most famous composers of all time. He was very influential in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras of music.
Beethoven wrote 16 string quartets in all. The first group of six, Op. 18, were worked on painstakingly for two years between 1798 and 1800. They were published in 1801 and fall into his “Early Period”. This was also the time of his first and second symphonies—1800 and 1803 respectively. During this time Beethoven was already struggling with the early symptoms of hearing loss which first appeared in 1796, and he was eventually to become completely deaf.
Beethoven was very aware of the rich legacy of string quartet literature left by both Haydn and Mozart. Their influence is most keenly felt in this early set of string quartets, although in the C minor quartet there is already a departure from the typical form. Instead of a slow second movement there is a moderately paced scherzo. This quartet is the only one of the set in a minor key, giving an air of drama and tragedy. Beethoven also used this same key for the famous “Pathetique” sonata, his fifth symphony and his final piano sonata, Op. 111. [/sws_ui_toggle]
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Richard Carnegie Principal Double Bass, SSO
Gone is All Your Fear. premiere performance
Whenever I perform music there is a story running through my head. This is true even if the piece is so-called “absolute music”, instrumental music composed purely as music, and not intended to represent or illustrate something else. This is a habit which I established while at music school. The idea came from my theory and ear training teacher; he encouraged students to always have an invented narrative floating through our minds as we perform. The narrative didn’t need to have anything to do with what the composer intended. In fact, it was often best not to try and do that. Your own imagination will make it more personal. The story didn’t need to be shared with the audience, but my teacher felt that it was critical that performers use this tool in their music making. He wanted us to become story tellers.
Most of my time as a musician is spent performing so I am constantly coming up with new stories that run through my head. When I sit down to listen to music the habit doesn’t change. Music is, to me, a story. Perhaps this is why I’m so reluctant to write program notes for my own piece! If there is a narrative for this piece I would like it to be your own as the listener. I will share a little bit of background on what prompted the music though. The title is taken from a poem by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The text to the poem is below, but it is not the narrative of the piece. The narrative for me is always prose. What’s the story of this piece for me? I’m not telling! If you choose to weave your own narrative I hope you enjoy where your thoughts take you and thank you for listening.
Don’t let go, hold on tight,
and win through, my dear.
All night’s darkness is in flight.
Gone is all your fear.
Look above – on the East’s face,
over the deepest forest-place,
the morning star has risen clear.
Gone is all your fear.
These are marauders of the night:
self-doubt, the sceptic’s sneer,
dejection, sloth. At dawn’s light
see them disappear.
Come outside, come quickly, fly-
look up, look up and see – the sky
is full of light and bright and sheer.
Gone is all your fear. [/sws_ui_toggle]
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Jean Francaix 1912–1997
Octet “A Huit”
Jean Francaix was born in Le Mans, France, into a prominent musical family. His father was a composer, pianist, historian and director of the local conservatory, and his mother taught singing. Jean began composing at the age of six, and went on to study with the great teacher Nadia Boulanger. He also studied piano with Isidor Phillipp at the Paris Conservatory. Francaix composed in all musical genres including solo piano, chamber music, concertos, symphonies, operas, cantatas, as well as film music. He continued to compose into his eighties.
In 1972 Francaix was commissioned to compose “A huit” by Willi Boskovsky, founder-leader of the Vienna Octet. Until the early 1980s Boskovsky led the Vienna Philharmonic in their famous New Year’s Day Concerts and was a master at interpretation of Strauss waltzes. Although many composers of the period (notably Pierre Boulez) were interested in pushing boundaries with innovative compositional techniques, Willi Boskovsky and Jean Francaix harkened back to the charm of a more conservative time. Francaix dedicated his Octet “to the memory of Franz Schubert” and used the same instrumentation. The Schubert Octet was also played at the premiere performance of the Francaix Octet on November 7, 1972, in Vienna. [/sws_ui_toggle]