Five successful years for the Commissioning Club

Mozart Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370
Debussy Sonata for Cello and Piano, L. 135
Godfrey Ad Concordiam: Quintet Variations for Oboe, Strings and Piano (BCMS commission)
Mendelssohn Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66

Beethoven’s real teaching…was not to preserve the old forms, still less to follow in his early steps. We must throw wide the windows to the open sky; they seem to me to have only just escaped being closed forever. The fact that here and there a genius succeeds in this form is but a poor excuse for the laborious and stilted compositions which we are accustomed to…

Claude Debussy (writing as Monsieur Croche, The Dilletante Hater)

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Five years is a long time to sustain a successful venture, never mind the thirty-five years that BCMS has shared its extraordinary music-making with the greater Boston area. We are grateful that since BCMS Season 31 we have had a community of supporters who felt that BCMS should be more than a museum of the past; that we should take our place sponsoring the creation of new work that shows the versatility of our Member Musicians, and assures the continuation of our art in our time and beyond. For those reasons our Commissioning Club members have contributed to the creation of new works by George Tsontakis, Pierre Jalbert, Harold Meltzer and David Rakowski.

Our commissioned works have gone on to have life beyond our initial performances: most recently, George’s Portraits of El Greco (Book 1) was featured in Colorado and Ohio; and Harold’s Piano Quartet premiered in New York at National Sawdust by our musicians and on a fine new recording available at our boutique table and online. Pierre’s Street Antiphons, co-commissioned by Da Camera of Houston, SOLI (San Antonio), and Voices of Change (Dallas), was performed just last week at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center!

This week we hear a new work for oboe, string trio, and piano by Daniel Strong Godfrey entitled Ad Concordiam in celebration of our thirty-fifth anniversary season. He is new to the Boston area, having settled near Concord, MA. About his new work, he says:

As a title for my quintet, Ad Concordiam has overlapping meanings, as does its translation from the Latin: toward (in search of, in tribute to, aspiring to) harmony (or agreement, or unity, or…Concord). Having recently moved just next door to Concord, Massachusetts, and having frequented it often since attending high school nearby, I have always found it to be a central locus of my values and my sense of place. When it comes to values, Concord represents historically the ideals that motivated the formation of our union and that established, through the transcendentalists, a new standard for intellectual and moral integrity. I can’t claim that Ad Concordiam is “about” concord—or Concord—in light of the above, but only that this sense of place and these values, which recently seem under threat in our world, have been very much on my mind during its composition.”

“The quintet is in four parts (Moderato–Lietamente–Scorrevole–Veloce), mostly defined by tempo, played without pause from beginning to end. The contemplative melodic fragments introduced by the oboe at the outset appear throughout the work, but combined, recombined, and expanded into longer themes. Hence the subtitle “Quintet Variations.”

“I find, though, that the music does come together more readily when it reflects a state of mind, a view of the world, that feels deep and personal—but when it (the music) is then allowed to emerge from that inner environment on its own terms. In this case, the title Ad Concordiam is one way to identify the fearful, hopeful, uncertain yet aspirational state of mind that seemed to prevail as I composed.”

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The April program also includes works that reflect a variety of combinations, periods and styles that have become the hallmark of BCMS programming. Mozart’s Quartet for Oboe and Strings in F major, K 370 (1781) opens the program, followed by Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, our fourth work in observance of the passing in 1918 of the man regarded as the first modern composer.

The Cello Sonata is a product of Debussy’s high ideal of promoting the best of French music, opening with a Baroque gesture he may have encountered in music of Rameau, and seeking harmonic and expressive freedom in a reference to Albert Giraud’s poem “Pierrot Lunaire,” while rooting the structures in those one might encounter in a sonata by Beethoven. He seems to follow his own advice by accompanying the sounds of his serenading puppet (Pierrot) with guitar-like strumming, and by incorporating every conceivable instrumental effect in his Finale.

Our program closes with Mendelssohn’s Second Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66 (1845). Its significance to our program enhanced by the fact it will be the final appearance of violinist Harumi Rhodes who has been a Member Musician for the past nine seasons. She may be back as a guest but will probably appear more in our region as the new violinist of the Takács String Quartet. Stay tuned.

Enjoy,

Marcus

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