Piano by Nature will present two exceptional chamber music concerts by area musicians at the Hand House in Elizabethtown, NY, one on the evening of Saturday, November 9th at 7PM and the other as a matinee on Sunday, November 10th at 3PM. We ask a donation of $15 per adult, and $5 for 15-and-under. We will take reservations by phone and encourage you to call ahead. And if you would like to volunteer to help out with concert prep, or give a bit extra and sponsor a ticket for a student or senior, please let us know.
For more information visit www.pianobynature.org, our Piano by Nature Facebook page, and/or call 518.962.8899.
Voices of America
November 9 & 10
Katherine Comegys Mongulla, soprano
Rose Chancler, piano
Esther Rogers Baker, cello
Piano by Nature has combined three wondrously lyrical instruments into one glorious concert, presenting soprano, cello, and piano in music that sings straight to the heart of every listener. These concerts will begin with three powerhouse American composers -Aaron Copland, Andre Previn, and Scott Gendel- sharing their soaring and intimate works based on the poetry of Emily Dickenson and ‘Beloved’ author Toni Morrison. And more. These concerts will carry and lift us all into the hearing and seeing of humanity at its best surrounded by the absolute beauty of words and music.
Here is a bit about each composer:
“There is something about music that keeps its distance even at the moment that it engulfs us,” composer Aaron Copland wrote in his book, Music and Imagination. “It is at the same time outside and away from us and inside and part of us.” The same could be said of the poems of Emily Dickinson, which Copland set to music in 1950 in the song cycle, 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson.
“I fell in love with one song, ‘The Chariot,” Copland said, “and continued to add songs one at a time until I had twelve. The poems themselves gave me direction, one that I hoped would be appropriate to Miss Dickinson’s lyrical expressive language.” “Each song is meant to be complete in itself, but I prefer them to be sung as a cycle. They seem to have a cumulative effect.” Each poem is dedicated to a composer friend: David Diamond, Elliott Carter, Ingolf Dahl, Alexei Haieff, Marcelle de Manziarly, Juan Orrrego- Salas, Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, Camargo Guernieri, Alberto Ginastera, Lukas Foss, and Arthur Berger.
Copland is best known for the unique American character of compositions that blend jazz and American folk tunes. His most renowned works include the Fanfare for the Common Man, and the ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring, which garnered him the Pulitzer Prize. He also composed music for such films as Of Mice and Men, Our Town, The Red Pony, and The Heiress, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Score.
Copland’s song cycle, composed for voice and piano, includes contemplative poems, such as “Nature, the Gentlest Mother” and “Heart, we will forget him!” as well as starker ones, such as “I felt a funeral, in my brain” and “The Chariot”. Copland echoed Dickinson’s concise yet lyric language with abrupt leaps in the vocal line that matched her unique dashes and pauses. Vivian Perlis, an American music historian, explained, “The songs are unusual in style with irregular meters and stanzas, wide jumps in the vocal lines, and difficult passages for the pianist that present special challenges.” To better capture Dickinson’s psyche, Perlis explained, Copland visited the poet’s home in Amherst, MA, soaking up the atmosphere of the room where she spent most of her hours, writing.
Following the first performance, which took place in New York in May 1950, Copland wrote in a letter to Verna Fine, wife of composer Irving Fine: “The songs went well with composer friends and audience but got roasted in the press […] I’m pleased with them–and everybody seemed to think it was a real song- cycle–which pleases me also.”
In 1958, Copland orchestrated eight of the twelve poems, in an effort to reach a wider audience. It is worth noting that at the time Copland first set these poems to music, Thomas Johnson’s 1955 edition of Dickinson’s poems, the first complete and accurate collection, was not yet available.
The conductor, composer and pianist André Previn, who has died aged 89, was not only among the most charismatic performers of his day, but also enjoyed one of the greatest classical-music lives since Berlioz and Liszt – and one that did not grow less eventful with old age. His pedigree was unique: no other Oscar-winning conductor-composer from the Hollywood film studios became equally successful in the strictly classical world of the London Symphony Orchestra – which Previn headed from 1968 to 1979 – while also maintaining a side career as a jazz pianist.
As a composer, his successes were singular in their range: from film scores such as that for the Oscar-nominated Elmer Gantry (1960) to stage musicals for the West End (The Good Companions, 1974) and Broadway (Coco, 1970) that were also hits. Later, he returned to composing after a dormant decade with a succession of song cycles, concertos, and two major operas, A Streetcar Named Desire (1998) and Brief Encounter (2009), often in a style reaching back to his pre-second world war training in his native Berlin. Advertisement
“The words offer wistful, often deflected passions,” the New York Times said in its review of his songwriting style, “and Mr. Previn — a man seemingly loath to bear his heart too openly in public — has responded with an elegant gentility.”
Scott Gendel’s music has a wide-ranging scope, but he is particularly fond of all things vocal, having written sixteen song cycles, fifteen stand-alone songs and duets, five pieces for voices and orchestra, thirty-six choral works, two full-length musical theatre works, and two operas. Opera News has called Scott Gendel’s music “luminous, transcendently lyrical” and composer Daron Hagen wrote that “Scott Gendel’s art songs combine superb craftsmanship, a sophisticated and well-honed sense of prosody, texts of excellent literary quality, and a sure heart.”