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Aaron Copland

Short Symphony

Chia-Hsuan Lin, conductor

After studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, Aaron Copland returned to America in 1924 with a taste for the spiky, crystalline sounds of modern European music, a style popularized by Stravinsky and the young French composers known as “Les Six.” Copland had some success with the early works that he studded with jazz elements, but as he ventured deeper into the austere and elemental sound of neoclassicism, performers and audiences alike chafed at his bold new approach. One score that suffered a particularly cold reception was the Short Symphony from 1932–33, later renamed the Symphony No. 2. Copland himself saw hope for this music in a more practical configuration, and he arranged it in 1937 as a Sextet, scored for clarinet, string quartet and piano. The version heard here, arranged by the conductor Dennis Russell Davies in 1978 (during his tenure as music director of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra), uses a chamber orchestra to maintain the symphonic scope of Copland’s original while navigating the irregular rhythms and darting phrases with more nimble forces.

Aaron Grad ©2019

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John Corigliano

Voyage for Flute and Strings

Chia-Hsuan Lin, conductor
Alicia McQuerrey, flute

Whether composing for the concert hall, the opera house or the Hollywood sound stage, John Corigliano has made his mark producing scores of uncanny beauty and sensitivity. It is a testament to his enormous range that he won an Academy Award for film scoring in 2000 for his work on The Red Violin, followed by a Pulitzer Prize the next year for his Symphony No. 2. The version of Voyage heard here, arranged for flutist James Galway and strings in 1983, started as a work for a cappella chorus, based on the translation by Richard Wilbur of L’Invitation au voyage” by the French poet Charles Baudelaire. As Corigliano wrote in a program note, “Wilbur’s poignant setting pictures a world of obsessive imagination — a drugged version of heaven full of sensual imagery. The music echoes the quality of the repeated refrain found in this lush translation: ‘There, there is nothing else but grace and measure, richness, quietness and pleasure.’”

Aaron Grad ©2019

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Aaron Copland

Clarinet Concerto

Chia-Hsuan Lin, conductor
Sang Yoon Kim, clarinet

By the time Copland introduced his Symphony No. 3 in 1946, which included the rousing Fanfare for the Common Man, he was the clear leader among American composers. His music even caught the ear of an unlikely champion of contemporary concert music: Benny Goodman, the “King of Swing,” who had taken to using the windfall from his commercial successes to commission new repertoire for the clarinet. Goodman gave Copland $2,000 and free reign on what to compose. Two years later, Copland delivered his Clarinet Concerto, scored for a small orchestra of strings, harp and piano. The structure is more compact than a typical concerto, using only two linked sections instead of three separate movements. A cadenza connects the two sections, with the clarinet playing music that gives an impression of free improvisation, even though it is fully notated.

Aaron Grad ©2019

Intermission
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Stephen Prutsman

Color Preludes for String Orchestra (World Premiere)

Chia-Hsuan Lin, conductor

I remember my first piano lesson when I was five years old. My teacher brought out a strip of very thin cardboard and placed it behind the keys. Each color on this strip represented a specific note of the C major scale. The color of each note head on my beginner’s sheet music corresponded with the colors on the cardboard strip. To this day, I associate keys with these colors. In 2015, I composed a series of preludes for piano and string quartet inspired by the glorious set of preludes for piano solo by Frederic Chopin. Continuing to associate pitch with color, I toyed with the idea of sharing my color preferences for my set of preludes. However, as one’s experience of life is unique, so is one’s experience of tonality. Just because I experience G as green doesn’t mean someone else should. This realization led to a decision to instead give each of these preludes a character title instead, allowing listeners to experience the rainbow of chromaticism in their own peculiar way. A simple question awaits: What color do you hear?

Aaron Grad ©2019

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Aaron Copland

Suite from Appalachian Spring

Chia-Hsuan Lin, conductor

In the wake of two well-received ballets set in the American West — Billy the Kid (1938) and Rodeo (1942) — Aaron Copland began Appalachian Spring in 1943. He created the ballet for the dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, and he worked under the title Ballet for Martha until not long before the premiere, when Graham suggested Appalachian Spring, borrowing a phrase from Hart Crane’s poem “The Bridge.” Created for the 500-seat auditorium at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, this ballet needed a suitably compact pit orchestra, so Copland used just thirteen instruments in the original version. The next year he arranged most of the ballet into a concert suite for orchestra, and his publisher later added the option heard here, which preserves the original chamber ensemble scoring while adopting the structure of the concert suite. Copland built the unmistakable sound world of Appalachian Spring out of simple and familiar musical materials, like the major triads and the resonant intervals of perfect fourths and fifths heard at the beginning. The famous section near the end, starting with a theme in the clarinet, quotes the tune of Simple Gifts, a Shaker dance song written in 1848 by Joseph Brackett.

Aaron Grad ©2019

About This Program

Approximate length 1:38

To celebrate Thanksgiving weekend, the SPCO continues its tradition of presenting a wide range of compositions by American composers. Chia-Hsuan Lin conducts favorites by Aaron Copland including his Clarinet Concerto, featuring SPCO Principal Clarinet Sang Yoon Kim, and the Suite from Appalachian Spring. Flutist Alicia McQuerrey is the soloist for John Corigliano’s lush Voyage and the orchestra premieres a new arrangement of former Artistic Partner Stephen Prutsman’s Color Preludes.

Can't attend any of these performances? Join us for an open rehearsal on Thursday, November 27 at 10:00am

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