September 7, 2019
September 8, 2019
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Divertimento in F Major, K. 138
Stan Charkey (b. 1948)
J/J, for cello and strings
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Serenade for Strings, Op. 20
J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Sinfonia from Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174 (1685-1750)
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Symphony in B major, No. 46, Hob. 1:46
Jake Charkey studied cello under Zon Eastes, Paul Cohen, Leopold Teraspulsky, and finally with Norman Fischer at the Shepherd School of music at Rice University in Houston. Broadening his musical skills and vocabulary, he explored Hindustani music, studying first in Toronto with the sarangi player, Aruna Narayan, who urged him to adapt Hindustani music to cello rather than learn an Indian instrument. He continued in Los Angeles with Jagan Ramamoorthy, a senior disciple of the violin virtuoso Padmabushan Dr. N. Rajam. He completed his M.F.A. at CalArts in Hindustani music under the guidance of Aashish Khan and Swapan Chaudury. While at CalArts he also incorporated other modalities of improvisation into his playing with Vinny Golia, Wadada Leo Smith, and Charlie Haden.
In 2010 he travelled to India with an arts fellowship from the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute to support formal study for six years under Padmabushan Dr. N. Rajam. While in India, he recorded and performed with many of the most celebrated musicians in Bollywood. His unique sound can be heard on season 2 of MTV’s Coke Studio, multiple episodes of MTV Unplugged, and in a number of Bollywood soundtracks.
Since returning to the USA in 2016 Jake has joined the Slipstream Ensemble at Marlboro College. He also performs with Adam Rudolph’s GO Organic Orchestra and is a frequent collaborator with the Brooklyn Raga Massive. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Composer Stan Charkey is a recipient of awards for composition from Renée B. Fisher Foundation and Vermont Music Teachers Association as well as fellowships at the Ragdale Arts Foundation and the Kimmel-Harding Center For the Arts. His compositions include commissions for a variety of ensembles and musicians, including the Apple Hill Chamber Players, cellist Paul Cohen, pianists Luis Batlle and Michael Arnowitt, violist Michael Tree, and cellist Jake Charkey. In addition, he has written for dance, theater, and television. Vermont Headstones, 12 Songs for Baritone, Viola and Oboe, settings of headstone inscriptions in Vermont cemeteries, was performed throughout the state in recent years.
Brief program notes
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Divertimento in F major, K. 138
The first and last pieces on today’s program were written in the same year, 1772. Mozart was 15, maybe 16. Haydn was older by nearly 25 years. They shared a warm friendship years later.
Mozart composed three relatively similar pieces, dubbed Divertimenti, as he prepared for yet another musical tour with his father, this one a return trip to Italy. For Mozart, these Divertimenti might have indeed been intended as his first set of Quartets (a genre invented and developed fairly recently by Haydn). The fact that they were not published that way, but rather as Divertimenti, indicates something about perceptions concerning potential marketability and perhaps the decorum of withholding aspirations. Whatever, the three are bright illustrations of Mozart’s spirited good will as well as his promising, facile talents as composer.
The Divertimento’s three movements are each attractive gems. Enjoy the sparkle. The first opens with an eager call and response followed by what might be described as an exposition introducing two siblings (first and second violins). They tumble forward with clear, individual energy and cleverness, making it impossible to imagine one without the other. The second movement, swelling and resting, should charm the socks off any listener. The last movement, a rondo, is, well, contagiously clicky.
J/J, for cello and strings
Early on, the idea became clear that Jake Charkey would solo with Juno. Once that was settled, it wasn’t too long before the idea of commissioning a new work from Jake’s father, Stan, became the obvious next step. The resultant commission is a one-movement concerto in three parts, designed for Jake’s particular gifts and experiences. The piece is tightly conceived, built on techniques and structures from both the western musical tradition and traditional Indian practice (think ragas). Stan Charkey has employed a rigorous, mathmatically generated structure, one through which a full range of melodic and expressive elements emerge. As described by the composer, the work is part Dvořák, part Indian raga.
The piece opens with a simple evocation between soloist and orchestra, then moves through a churning interchange organized around fluctuating rhythmic cells. An extended ‘cadenza’ reveals Jake’s intimacy with traditional Indian improvisation. The orchestra re-enters and moves steadily to a quiet close.
Serenade for Strings, Op. 20
Edward Elgar was the first English composer to gain wide international standing since Henry Purcell, who had died about 200 years before Elgar wrote the Serenade, in the late 1880s. In the United States, many graduates have processed down aisles to a certain Pomp and Circumstance. For others, Elgar’s Enigma Variations sparks particular, poignant memories.
The Serenade for Strings, written in his mid-30s, is sometimes called Elgar’s first truly mature work. Because Elgar had not yet achieved commanding notoriety, he waited for its premier, which came four years later, not in London, but in Antwerp. While still relatively modest in stature (he had produced lots of small salon pieces), the work is substantial in craft and expressiveness. Toward the end of his life, Elgar deemed the Serenade to be one of his personal favorites.
Like the Mozart, the Serenade appears in three individual movements, the difference being that, here, you will hear the first movement circle back in the final movement. The first movement lilts quietly, delicately, with perhaps a bit of wistfulness. As if moving through some internal melancholy, the second movement stretches long lines upward and upward again. The last movement, also subdued, moves like a gentle country dance before cycling back to the snap of the opening movement.
Johann Sebastian Bach
Sinfonia, Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, BWV 174
Whenever you comes across a Bach cantata that opens with a Sinfonia, you’ve likely discovered a Sunday on which the choir was free on break (mind you, it wasn’t that common). In this particular case, for Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte (I love the Highest with my entire being), the ever inventive, ever reworking Bach supplanted the first Chorale with a movement of his third Brandenburg Concerto. Many audience members will recognize the piece immediately: a familiar piece now placed into a surprisingly fresh soundscape.
Bach has encircled the well-known solo group with a masterfully conceived halo of oboes, horns, and additional strings. Bach’s treatment gives real insight into his compositional and artistic mind. It’s as if, at a certain moment, one blinks, “Oh, that’s what he intended.” Delightful.
Franz Joseph Haydn
Symphony No. 46 in B major, Hob. I:46
The single most startling thing about Symphony No. 46 is that it is in B Major, five sharps. It is fairly unusual to find pieces from the era that use even four sharps, let alone five. Granted, we modern-eared audiences won’t likely hear anything unusual (after all, we’ve experience 250 years or so of ‘equal temperament’). But, from the outset, orchestra players and listeners with perfect pitch are on notice.
That aside, we are once again cast into Haydn’s world. Whenever one talks about these Sturm und Drang symphonies, one repeats words like unexpected, dramatic, quirky, bedazzling. Remember that Haydn composed in a venue where orchestral concerts, operas, plays, and puppet theater were weekly fare. In this very active, well-supported arena, one can hear Haydn weaving connections, crafting pointed surprises, borrowing and expanding previously composed material, and inventing new opportunity.
Haydn symphonies are often held up as models to clarify that most classical of forms: sonata allegro (roughly, the double-themed ABA form that offers composers disciplined yet endless opportunity to explore tonal tension and resolution). His Symphony No. 46 might be the example in which he broke many theoretical ‘rules’, yet produced a tightly woven, highly expressive composition. For instance, the first movement opens with a spare four-note declaration built on an upward leap. Such a fragment, as Haydn knew, is perfectly suited to contrapuntal development (after the first repeat). So, when we get to the development, it seems as if we are almost immediately, without any said development, turned toward the recapitulation. A fake recap. True to Haydn the trickster, that four-note non-tune does get developed, as a sort of canon, after that false return. In fact, we never achieve a ‘standard’ recap! The movement just ends.
The second movement takes its own sweet time, a rather forlorn, lightly swinging siciliano. Often when the winds are introduced in this sort of second movement, the music itself becomes more generous, more open. The third movement is one to remember, not because it is so particularly tuneful (it isn’t), but because Haydn makes good use of the minuet, as you will discover later. The attached trio is utterly tuneless, and just swings through iterations of loud and soft. Quirky.
The final movement is perhaps one of the strangest, and thereby most delightful of Haydn final movements. The opening tune is speedy and purposeful, maybe whistle-worthy. But, it’s the empty spaces, the sudden crashes, the unexpected turns that startle. There are theories out there, coming from the world prior to equal temperament, that the sharper the key signature, the more ecstatic, or frenetic, or electric the intent (conversely, the flatter the key, the darker, or burdened, or devoid). It feels compelling to believe that Haydn chose to close this amazing B major foray with a bit of commedia dell’arte, puppets in pantomime.