Spring is coming,
Spring, my joy;
Now I will make ready to go journeying
Our April program heralds the return of spring with Schubert’s ever-hopeful “The Shepherd on the Rock” (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 985, 1828) for Soprano, Clarinet and Piano. That return is mirrored on a different scale in the echo of phrases repeated back to a lonely shepherd pining for his distant love from the top of a mountain to the deep, dark valley below. The poem and the piece are a conversation between what appears on the surface and what lies beneath.
Our April program also heralds another return of new life with the premiere of Pierre Jalbert’s Street Antiphons, the second work commissioned by our own BCMS Commissioning Club. Coincidentally, it is also a dialog, or conversation between opposites that ultimately shapes the new. As Mr. Jalbert describes it:
“My piece, Street Antiphons, attempts to present and contrast secular and sacred music. Having said that, this is very much my own take on these two contrasting types of music within my own style of writing. The title of the piece comes from combining the idea of music of the street and music of sacred chant–the third movement is a theme and variations based on a Gregorian chant antiphon. The ‘secular’ music (music of the street) comes in the form of rhythmically driving sections, while the ‘sacred’ music is often lyrical and suspended.
The first movement is set up by each instrument entering and adding to a very syncopated groove (with many mixed meter changes). After a clarinet and violin canon-like duo over the rhythmic accompaniment of pizzicato cello and piano, the initial process reverses itself and the instruments exit one by one. The second movement really contains two movements in one–it begins as a lyrical and ethereal slow movement, with the use of many string harmonics, but gradually transitions into a rapid scherzo-like movement, with the use of the bass clarinet. The final movement is a set of variations–the theme is a Gregorian Chant entitled ‘O Antiphon’. The variations become more and more animated and after the final, extremely disjunct variation, there is a reprise of music from the first movement, only to dissipate and once again recall the more ‘sacred’ music from the piece.”
The program concludes with Brahms’s Piano Trio in C major, Op. 87, published in 1883. It is a powerful work in four movements in which the two string players are often used together in dialog with the piano and shows Brahms’s continued exploration of overall shape and continuing variation. That shape is based on earliest material we hear: i.e. C–E–A–F–D–B–G–g…an expanding tonal wedge in search of the octave. (Does this idea sound like something evolving or growing from nothing? Like evolution, or the big bang, or maybe just the opening of a flower?)
The work continues with a movement of five variations based on a snappy theme in the Hungarian style followed by a Mendelssohn-like Scherzo.
The last movement opens with an evolved variation of the first (C–E–F#–A–G) and proceeds with a lightness of spirit married to content that is grand, symphonic and celebratory.
Spring has arrived!!!