Sunday, February 10, 2013
Bryan Fine Arts Building, Tennessee Tech University
• 2 p.m., concert preview, Room 223
• 3 p.m., concert begins, Wattenbarger Auditorium
• 5 p.m. (estimated), post-concert reception, lobby
Schumann: Overture, Scherzo and Finale
Dvorak: Cello Concerto
Principal cellist with one of the country’s first-tier symphonies, the Cleveland Orchestra, Mark Kosower returns to the BSO stage in February 2013 for a performance of the Dvorak Concerto. A Naxos recording artist and Grand Prize winner of the Irving Klein International String Competition, Kosower has given recitals at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Avery Fisher Hall.
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association gratefully acknowledges the sponsors of our February 2013 performance: Robert and Julia Lowe and First Tennessee Foundation.
A limited number of individual tickets may still be available for this performance and may be reserved in advance of each concert -- or they may be available at the box office prior to each concert.
- Adult: $32
- Seniors (65+): $27
- Students: $8
Call the box office at 931-525-2633 for ticket reservations or stand-by ticketing.
Directions and Parking
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra performs all regular subscription and education concerts in Wattenbarger Auditorium, the concert hall of the Bryan Fine Arts Building on the Tennessee Tech University campus. The Bryan Fine Arts Building is located on the corner of 12th Street and North Dixie Avenue in Cookeville.
From Interstate 40, take Exit 286 (Willow Avenue). Turn north on Willow and travel approximately two miles to 12th Street and turn right.
Free parking on concert Sundays is available anywhere on campus. The nearest large parking lots are across Dixie Avenue from the Bryan Fine Arts Building, between Tucker Stadium and the Volpe Library, behind the Roaden University Center and at the former Prescott Middle School, two blocks away on 10th Street.
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• BSO Backstage: 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31; Sunday, Feb. 3; and Thursday, Feb. 8. BSO Backstage is an independent production of public television station WCTE-TV (Ch. 10 on Charter cable in Cookeville and Ch. 22 on Dish and Direct satellite). The series is hosted by Desiree Duncan with guests Dan Allcott, music director of the BSO, and Laura Clemons, interim executive director of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association.
• Cumberland County concert preview luncheon: 11 a.m., Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Palace Theater on Main Street in Crossville. Cost is $10 and payable at the door. Call 931-484-6133 for reservations by Monday, Feb. 4.
• Symphony Social: 7-8:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8, at the Cookeville Performing Arts Center. The evening's festivities include talks by Maestro Allcott and guest soloist Mark Kosower, champagne and dessert, and musical entertainment. Admission is $25. Call 931-525-2633 for reservations by Monday, Feb. 4. CPAC is located at 10 East Broad St.
• Concert preview lecture: 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10, in Room 223 of the Bryan Fine Arts Building, led by Catherine Godes of the TTU music faculty.
• Concert: 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10, Wattenbarger Auditorium in the Bryan Fine Arts Building.
• Post-concert reception: Sunday, Feb. 10, Bryan Fine Arts Building lobby, hosted by Sean and Michelle O’Neil.
• Post-concert dinner: Sunday, Feb. 10, Mauricio’s Italian Restaurant, located at 232 N. Peachtree Ave. Call 931-525-2633 for dinner reservations by noon, Friday, Feb. 10.
Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013
BRYAN Overture to Singin’ Billy
SCHUMANN Overture, Scherzo and Finale
DVORAK Cello Concerto
“We believe that the painter can learn from a symphony by Beethoven, just as the musician can learn from a work by Goethe.” – Robert Schumann, inaugural issue of Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik (New Journal for Music).
By setting poems to music, using folktales as inspiration or quoting a simple song within the complex network of the orchestra, a composer has added a language to his or her repertoire. Cross-pollination isn’t required for genius, but it’s an excellent tool that has been used to great affect by composers the world over. It adds a new layer to a piece of music, giving the audience extra meaning and one more way to experience the music.
OVERTURE TO SINGIN’ BILLY (1952)
Charles Faulkner Bryan (1911-1955)
Classically trained in voice, piano and composition, Tennessee composer Charles Faulkner Bryan achieved what many other composers of the 20th century strived for: a clearly American voice. If you were going to write “American music,” you needed to sound like American music – and American music sounded like folksongs and work songs, spirituals and hymns, and a little later on, jazz and the blues.
Born along the Southern stretch of the Upper Cumberland in McMinnville, Tenn., Bryan grew up captivated by the simple songs of Appalachia, and his classical training was never meant as a rejection of the music of these hills; if anything, it was an enhancement of the music of place.
In the last few years of his life, Bryan wrote several orchestral works, including the folk opera “Singin’ Billy,” which relies heavily on folk music, and singing, for its thematic material. The story is loosely based on the life of William Walker, a bookstore owner, songbook writer and teacher who traveled from town to town conducting singing schools. Before the Civil War, his songbook The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion was the most popular in the country.
Bryan’s folk opera draws from five of the hymns collected in Southern Harmony, the most-repeated being “Wondrous Love,” which serves as a foil to the harvest/drinking song “John Barleycorn” in this story pitting human corruption against the will of God:
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
There were three men came out of the west, their fortunes for to try
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn must die
They've plowed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in
Threw clods upon his head
And these three men made a solemn vow
John Barleycorn was dead
To find a librettist for “Singin’ Billy,” Bryan looked to the literary community of Nashville, where a member of Vanderbilt University’s Fugitive movement, Donald Davidson, had become intrigued with the project. A shining light in American letters, Davidson – like Bryan – championed the American South and its folk tales, lamenting the loss of the rural South to industrialization, to farms being replaced by factories. Donaldson was a natural complement to Bryan.
In 1952, “Singin’ Billy” premiered as a joint production between neighboring campuses Vanderbilt and Peabody in Nashville. Accessible to a wide audience due to its Southern roots, “Singin’ Billy” received good reviews, but also criticism – chiefly of the wordiness of the libretto. It went on to be performed regionally two more times, both in 1954. That year, when Davidson tried to interest Metropolitan Opera administrator Francis Robinson, a native Nashvillian, in the work, Robinson complimented both the music and lyrics, but declined, citing the times as being not conducive to works from “off the beaten path.”
“The history of the arts is littered with the carcasses of critics, art patrons, [and] directors who stood like jackasses in the way of works off the beaten path and of artists who accepted their braying as gospel,” the jilted Davidson wrote. “But the good art works somehow found a path, beaten or not, and survive.”
During his short lifetime, Bryan had multiple brushes with fame, from his early success with the second movement of the White Spiritual Symphony to the Carnegie Hall premiere of the Bell Witch Cantata. Several of his compositions were supported by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, the latter providing him a modest stipend for the research leading up to “Singin’ Billy.”
In 1955, not long before Bryan died, NBC began considering a nationally televised production of “Singin’ Billy,” but the composer’s death seems to have scuttled any further negotiations with the television network.
As far as Davidson was concerned, Bryan was the first truly American composer, “because he wrote not only with the force and individuality of his own gifted hand, but also with the strength, feeling and voice of the past generations that brought us forth. To our young people of the rising generation, his imagination and courage give a high example to follow.”
Today’s performance of Bryan’s Overture to “Singin’ Billy” is the second presented by the BSO. The first, conducted by Music Director Jonathan May, opened the orchestra’s 30th anniversary season on Sept. 20, 1992. It was also the season that the Tech Community Symphony Orchestra was renamed the Bryan Symphony Orchestra in honor of Tennessee’s most celebrated composer and former Tennessee Tech music director. This semester, our current Music Director, Dan Allcott, is on sabbatical scouring the Bryan archive with the intent of making more of his works in to contemporary performing editions.
OVERTURE, SCHERZO AND FINALE in E MAJOR (1841)
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
German composer Robert Schumann epitomized the Romantic movement, with its emphasis on self-expression and diving inward for emotional content. Deeply intellectual and a man of letters, his pursuit of a musical career ran concurrent with his career as an important writer and publisher on the topic of music.
Schumann grew up in a literary household. His father was a writer, translator and book dealer who encouraged Robert’s early forays into music but died when Robert was just 16, at which point his mother pushed him toward law school. A terrible student, the young Schumann preferred a life of literature and music … and carousing and womanizing. He resumed piano lessons – a decision that changed his life, not only because of the re-immersion in musical studies but because he chose as a teacher the father of the piano prodigy Clara Wieck. In his haste to improve he damaged his hands – a lucky turn of events for us. For the rest of his life, composition was his focus
From 1828 to 1840, Schumann studied, wrote and championed music. His Papillons, or Butterflies, was a musical interpretation of Jean Paul's novel Die Flegeljahre. He founded the periodical Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, which he edited for 10 years. Chopin, Schubert and Brahms were all beneficiaries (sometimes unwillingly) of Schumann’s enthusiastic writing.
All the while, studying alongside the already famous Clara Wieck, Schumann fell in love, composing pieces for her, work he hoped would persuade her father of Robert’s worthiness, because the young man’s dissolute nature horrified Herr Wieck. Schumann’s obstinacy, year after year, is famous; he went so far as to challenge Wieck in court for the right to marry his daughter. Finally, Clara herself broke free, and the couple married.
Thus followed a golden age for Schumann, who wrote more than 150 songs in his first year of marriage alone. This outpouring resulted in some of the most beautiful German lieder, or art songs, ever written.
In early 1941, Schumann turned his attention to the symphony – the genre composer Carl Czerny considered the “grandest species of musical creation.” The young composer flew into the work, writing the first full draft of the symphony “Spring” in just four days and finishing the scoring in barely a month. The aftermath of what he called his “symphonic fire” left him mildly depressed, but he rallied by April with the “symphonette” on today’s program.
Overture, Scherzo and Finale is for all intents a symphony missing only its slow movement. It’s less grand than its predecessor, the “Spring” Symphony, and it’s not performed nearly as often as many of Schumann’s other works. But it is a bright piece, with striking contrasts between his heroic and softer voices, and it has an ambitious reach and Mendelssohnian flow.
Those contrasts between the heroic and gentle could well have echoed the warring personalities inside poor, doomed Schumann’s head. He wrote criticism and music from the perspectives of two Schumanns: “Florestan,” the impetuous, and “Eusebius,” the contemplative. His health declined early - late in life, it is thought he suffered from tinnitus, hearing the pitch “A” relentlessly.
But he persevered, moving on from symphonies to chamber music, choral music and then a performance tour of Russia with his beloved Clara – again, in a white heat, and again, resulting in depression, this time severe. He gave up the music periodical and for the next six years, the family lived a quieter life, allowing Schumann to rest. He turned his attention to conducting, moving the family yet again, but he wasn’t a success, and this time, when his health failed, he leapt from a bridge into the Rhine. Upon his rescue, Schumann voluntarily committed himself to an asylum. Locked away from friends and family, his condition only worsened. He died two years later.
An outsider, Schumann brought to Romantic music a lush and gorgeous lyricism, as well as a freshness and vitality that perhaps only an outsider could contribute. This is as true of his songs and chamber music as it was his orchestral compositions.
In March 1841, between the composition of the Spring Symphony and Overture, Scherzo and Finale, Schumann wrote that he intended his next symphony to be named for Clara, who would be musically represented by flutes, oboes and harps. We don’t know whether this was the genesis for Overture, Scherzo and Finale or another piece; what does seem obvious is that much of his work was informed by his love for Clara in one fashion or another.
CELLO CONCERTO IN B MINOR, OP. 104 (1896)
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
By the time Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak wrote the Cello Concerto in B Minor, he was at the height of his career, a nationalist composer whose work transcended the purely regional, even while it embraced it. Dvorak sprinkled his music with Czech national style and created dances in the Slavonic style; indeed, it was his Slavonic Dances that brought him to international stature. His genius for this very personal, very regional approach brought him to the attention of philanthropist Jeanette Thurber, who founded the National Conservatory of Music in New York and lured him across the Atlantic to serve as the conservatory’s director with the express intent of helping us find the sound of America.
Dvorak traveled widely in his three years here, listening and writing. His most well-known symphony, “From the New World,” opened the American frontier for symphonic music, infusing it with the songs of black Americans, Native Americans, and the wild and vast natural beauty of North America.
The last work Dvorak wrote in New York was his Cello Concerto, which is clearly Czech in nature, as though the composer were preparing himself for the trip home. It’s poignant and wistful, the way homesickness might sound, but even more so, it’s sweeping and heroic, with a rich emotional undertone that’s almost anthemic.
Some of the most emotional and haunting sections of the Cello Concerto are thematic material Dvorak pulled from a much earlier work, the Cypress song-cycle, much of which he later destroyed. The cycle tells through song the story of unrequited love, and its inspiration was one of his students, Josefina Cermakova, who rejected Dvorak’s advances. Seven years later, young Antonin married Josefina’s sister, Anna.
Dvorak called his early work the product of his “mad period,” and while he refused to publish it, he was occasionally drawn back to bits of it, including a song from the Cypress cycle called “Leave Me Alone.” It had been Josefina’s favorite, and when he heard she had fallen mortally ill, just as he was writing the Cello Concerto, he added the song’s melody to both the second and third movements. Indeed she died before his return to Bohemia.
The Cello Concerto is a masterpiece, probably the most famous cello concerto today. It’s nearly a symphony unto itself, massive, as long as Dvorak’s longest symphony, “From the New World.” The strength of the cello is its humane, somewhat masculine sound. This presents unique challenges in having it rise above the orchestra in a concerto setting. Brahms, upon reading Dvorak’s score, said that if he’d known a cello concerto could be written like that, he’d have tried it himself.
Dvorak, a violist, was finally convinced to write for cello after hearing Metropolitan Opera principal cellist Victor Herbert perform his own second cello concerto. For years, friend and cellist Hanus Wihan had begged Dvorak to write a concerto, and when he finally did, Wihan had several significant revisions to the work, including the addition of two cadenzas, which Dvorak rejected. In later years, Wihan performed the work, but he wasn’t chosen to premiere it; that honor went, instead, to Leo Stern, for reasons no one has ever made clear.
The finale of the concerto is particularly striking, with a long and slow diminuendo before the orchestra comes back for a final heroic statement. Dvorak wrote that it should sound “…like a sigh, with reminiscences of the first and second movements – the solo dies down to pianissimo, then swells again, and the last bars are taken up by the orchestra, and the whole concludes in a stormy mood.”
It’s pure drama, that contrast between the sigh and the exclamation – as dramatic as the heartbreak of unrequited love or the triumph of a mythological hero returning from war.
While the Dvorak Cello Concerto is considered far more of a gesture homeward for the Czech composer, it has been suggested that it contains at least a slender thread of American music – specifically, the music of Native Americans. While Dvorak was writing the concerto, Native Americans were being pushed farther and farther from their homes toward the new reservations on the American frontier – a place Dvorak had been especially inspired by.
This is a deeply Romantic concept – this notion of self-expression, of the emotional over the abstract, of celebrating the indigenous sound of a particular place or how a human feeling might be expressed through music.
-- By Laura Clemons and Dan Allcott