Prismatic Colors: October 3, 2021
Philharmonia Northwest, conducted by Julia Tai
Gabriela Lena Frank: Five Scenes
II. Himno de zapoñas
IV. Adios a churín
Karl Stamitz: Viola Concerto in D major, op. 1
I . Allegro non troppo
II. Andante moderato
~ INTERMISSION ~
Edward Elgar: Serenade for strings in E minor, Op. 20
I. Allegro piacevole
Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances, (arr. for strings by Arthur Willner)
I. Jocul cu bâtă (Stick Dance)
II. Brâul (Sash Dance)
III. Pe loc (In One Spot)
IV. Buciumeana (Dance from Bucsum)
V. Poarga Românească (Romanian Polka)
VI. Mărunțel (Fast Dance)
About Gabriela Lena Frank:
Currently serving as Composer-in-Residence with the storied Philadelphia Orchestra and included in the Washington Post’s list of the 35 most significant women composers in history (August, 2017), identity has always been at the center of composer/pianist Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. Born in Berkeley, California (September, 1972), to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural heritage through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Gabriela has traveled extensively throughout South America in creative exploration. Her music often reflects not only her own personal experience as a multi-racial Latina, but also refract her studies of Latin American cultures, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.
Notes for Gabriela Lena Frank’s “Five Scenes”, written by the composer:
Alborada: Traditionally a Spanish song of welcome or beginnings, this is in the style of music for the chifro, a small high-pitched wooden panpipe played with one hand. It is often employed by a traveling guild worker to announce his services as he walks through the streets of town.
“Himno de Zampoñas” features a particular type of panpipe ensemble that divides up melodies through a technique known as hocketing. The characteristic sound of the zampoña panpipe is that of a fundamental tone blown fatly so that overtones ring out on top, hence the unusual scoring of double stops in this movement.
Juegos (Games): A romp inspired by the teasing games that children play.
Adios a Churín (“Goodbye to Churín): Churín is a small city on the side of a mountain with seemingly little horizontal ground, famous for its healing bath waters. I visited during a time when it was on the verge of becoming a ghost town as its youth were migrating in droves to urban coastal cities. Allusions to guitar music are made against a melancholy singing cello line.
“Coqueteos” is a flirtatious love song sung by gallant men known as romanceros. As such, it is direct in its harmonic expression, bold, and festive. The romanceros sing in harmony with one another against a backdrop of guitars which I think of as a vendaval de guitarras (“storm of guitars”).
Notes by Justin Henderlight:
Carl Philipp Stamitz (1745–1801) hailed from a highly musical family, as both his father and brother composed and played the violin as talented virtuosi. Carl’s father Johann founded the Mannheim school of symphonists, a prodigiously influential musical establishment at the court of the Elector. After having received his early musical training from his father, the younger Stamitz continued his training with the elder generation of the composers at Mannheim, such as Christian Cannabich and Franz Xavier Richter. Stamitz’s viola concerto is one of the earliest highly virtuosic compositions for the instrument in an era that treated the instrument as rather an afterthought, which is a shame since its rich timbre brings a unique voice to Classical-style melodic figuration.
The opening ritornello begins with suave grace notes and gentle chromatically altered neighboring tones, suggesting a flirtatious Affekt. The orchestra also features common aspects of the Mannheim style, including resonant multiple stops in the violins and the so-called “Mannheim steamroller,” an ensemble-wide crescendo coinciding with an acceleration of the rhythmic pace that increases the energy to set off the soloist with a sense of drama. The second movement provides contrast in its use of the parallel minor key, a device also used in the final movement. The last movement offers a wider variety of textures, starting with the soloist accompanied by the violins alone giving extra buoyancy.
Edward Elgar (1857–1934) led a highly varied musical career, from playing piano and violin to acting as a church musician, teacher, and festival conductor. The Serenade for strings was written in 1892 after Elgar moved to London from his more provincial early life. There, he absorbed the vibrant concert scene, enriching and broadening his musical style with influences from Meyerbeer, Weber, Gounod, and Wagner. Some scholars suspect that the piece was actually based on lost fragments that could have dated from as early as 1888. He had not yet achieved fame by that point, surviving by teaching (it doesn’t hurt that he married a wealthy woman, too). Records survive of his frustrations early in his life, including his own comment in a letter that the Serenade was the first thing that he had ever written that he liked. While it is now one of Elgar’s most often performed pieces, it did not receive a public premiere until 4 years after it was written, and he struggled to find a publisher who would print it.
The Serenade starts with a skipping series of triplets in the violas before the main theme enters, lushly harmonized with the strings fairly low in their range. The sweeping upward moving quality of the main theme is punctuated by the staccato triplet figure from the beginning. A brief foray into the parallel major key coincides with a murmuring effect created when the mid-strings play syncopated repeating notes. The movement then returns to the character of the opening, ending on a rather inconclusive cadence, given that the tonic—the main note of the key—does not sound in the highest voice. The cadence also has a modal quality, likely due to Elgar channeling English folk melodies. The second and third movements feature more sweeping themes and clever use of musical texture, before the major theme returns to round off the form.
Béla Bartók (1881–1945) composed his Romanian folk dances in 1915, based on tunes he collected from the Transylvanian region of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Bartók was one of the pioneers of ethnomusicology, collecting and preserving the music of the cultures in his region of Europe. Originally for piano, Bartók arranged the pieces for chamber orchestra in 1917. The orchestra grows with winds as the dances progress. The tunes themselves were played on folk flutes in the original oral tradition that uses modal inflections (which is what makes them sound rustic). Bartók’s earlier music draws heavily on folk music, whereas his later music becomes considerably more Modernist, drawing on the equal use of all tones that avoids establishing a sense of key. In these works, however, the pitch center is strong, a typical feature of music for rustic instruments that Bartók drew upon.
AMBER ARCHIBALD – VIOLA SOLOIST
Amber Archibald has been praised for her bold and vivacious playing that matches her personality. ARTS! Houston Magazine exclaimed that her technique was “seemingly effortless…precise,” and that she was “a natural in every sense.” As a soloist, her career highlights include performances at the Gewandhaus with the Leipzig Academic Orchestra in Germany and with the Seattle Symphony in a series of community concerts. Her collaborative career has allowed her to perform at major venues and festivals throughout the United States and Europe such as Benaroya Hall, Kimmel Center, University of Washington World Series, Raleigh Chamber Music Guild Series, Caroga Lake Arts Collective, the Arizona Bach Society, Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, and the Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle. Dr. Archibald was a member of the Young Eight string octet, an all Afro heritage ensemble devoted to spreading a positive message through classical and hip-hop music to underserved communities. Her 2017-18 season included performances and workshops at the University of Arizona, and performances of the Hoffmeister Viola Concerto and Ralph Vaughan Williams exquisite work, “Flos Campi,” for solo viola, orchestra and choir.
In demand as a teacher and pedagogue, Dr. Archibald is the Adjunct Professor of Viola at Seattle Pacific University and works with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s National Take A Stand Festival as the Junior Orchestra’s viola coach. She previously held the position of Instructor of Viola at Seattle University and was on the faculty of the Burgos International Music Festival in Burgos, Spain. Her university and private studio students have been accepted to and attended prestigious schools of music and festivals such as the Rice University, Northwestern University, Peabody Conservatory, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, the University of North Texas, Aspen Music Festival, Meadowmount, Domaine Forget, and Green Mountain Music Festival just to name a few.
During her tenure at Seattle University, the viola studio was one of two collegiate ensembles in the United States selected to perform at the 2016 American Viola Society Festival at the Oberlin Conservatory. As the largest conference in the world for the instrument, this was a tremendous honor. In addition to her highly successful studios, Dr. Archibald is regularly asked to coach with several organizations in the greater Seattle area
Dr. Archibald was born and raised in Houston, Texas to parents from the Dominican Republic and Panama. An avid interest in her heritage has fueled her continuing research and performance of music by African American, Afro-Latino and Spanish composers. Dr. Archibald earned her Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Washington. She holds her Master of Music from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and her Bachelor from Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music. Her principal teachers include Melia Watras, Karen Ritscher, and Mimi Zweig.
Dr. Archibald is married to violinist, Ervin Luka Sešek. Together, they are the chamber music force CernaBella and the founders and instructors of the Sešek String Studio. In her down time, she enjoys cooking, watching documentaries, and cheering for the Seattle Seahawks.
Yi-Ting Kuo, concertmaster
Ann Rackl, principal
Janice Gockel, principal
Rumei Mistry, principal
Brent Armstrong, principal
J J Barrett