For the bicentennial of Norway’s most distinguished writer, Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), composer Edvard Grieg penned two tributes: a cantata for men’s voices, and a piano suite titled From Holberg’s Time. The next year, Grieg reworked his Baroque-inspired piano suite into an arrangement for string orchestra.
Decades before the trend of “neoclassical” music, Grieg’s “Suite in the Olden Style,” as he subtitled it, mined Baroque conventions that flourished during Holberg’s life. The Praeludium launches the suite with a galloping rhythm in the accompaniment, establishing an exciting, propulsive mood. The Sarabande, by contrast, steps patiently through the ornate, three-beat pulse of a dance that originated in Spain. The Gavotte, a muscular dance from France, begins with the customary lead-in of two strong beats. A contrasting section takes the form of a Musette, characterized by the droning accompaniments inspired by bagpipes.
The Air leaves dance forms aside for a long, singing melody in a melancholy minor key. The closing Rigaudon reflects a lively French dance style, while also delving into the Baroque style of the concerto grosso, with soloists—here a violin and viola—offsetting the texture of the full string sections.
Aaron Grad ©2014
Orinoco Sketches was written in 2011 for the LA Phil as a memorial for my grandmother, Hannelore Kahane (née Schaefer), who died in May of 2010 at the age of 89. Lore, as she was known to my family, fled Germany in January of 1939 on the SS Orinoco, the last ship to cross the Atlantic before the ill-fated St. Louis, which was famously turned away from all ports. Some nine months later—her family having been denied entry into the U.S. while they waited in Havana for their lottery number to be called— she settled in LA, where both my father and I were born. In her final years, amidst a courageous battle against multiple cancers, my grandmother translated the diaries she'd kept as a teenager from German to English. The last time that I saw her, I asked for permission to email myself those diaries, which became the initial impulse for this piece. In today's political climate, little else need be said about this brief song cycle, suffice it to say that I would not be here to perform it had my grandmother not been allowed into this country. This week's performances mark the world premiere of a newly orchestrated version of the piece, commissioned by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
Gabriel Kahane ©
About This Program
Happy Hour 4:00–6:00pm
About the music:
In this program, the SPCO and Kuusisto bring together contemporary classical and traditional folk music, and a wide range of musical guests who share a love of programming that bridges multiple musical worlds. The SPCO will premiere a new orchestration of Gabriel Kahane’s Orinoco Sketches, a work that draws its text from the diary of Hannelore Kahane (the composer’s grandmother) and the story of her emigration from Germany to the United States in 1939. The Norwegian fiddling in Grieg’s popular Holberg Suite is complemented by fiddling and improvising on traditional folk songs by Kuusisto and Amidon.
Beer provided by: Brooklyn Brewery