Song and Dance in Darkness and Light

Our April Sanders concert promises thrills and chills unlike any heard recently at BCMS.

We open with the kind of music that might have greeted us at the opening of a great outdoor Renaissance Festival, not unlike our own Boston Marathon.  Charles Wuorinen’s fun-filled jaunty variations on Renaissance dances are re-composed here for four modern instruments (flute, clarinet, violin and cello) and disguised under a formidable German title as Bearbeitung über das Glogauer Liederbuch. (Don’t be fooled!)

Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, or Songs of Madagascar, are three he wrote for Baritone, flute, cello and piano, in response to a commission late in his career (1925) from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. They are set to poetry translated (or written) by Évariste de Parny (1753-1814). The scenes they paint and situations describe might require each of us to secure parental permission to attend this performance.

In the first song a man anticipates the arrival of his lover, sensuously repeating her name, Nahandove. She arrives…The second song is written from the point of view of African natives who might have read, if not experienced, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1899). It opens with a native cry “Aoua!” “Menez-vous des blancs” i.e., ‘beware the white men’ (despoiling colonialists). In the third song, we are shown a scene of erotic leisure in the moonlight, one man served by many women.

In this, the fiftieth year since his death, we present two works to honor the memory and spirit of the youngest member of Les Six, Francis Poulenc. His Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano and Le Bal masque, a ‘profane cantata’ for Baritone, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Cornet, Violin, Cello, Piano and Percussion will each be performed for the first time on our BCMS series. (His song cycle Le Bestaire, ou Le cortège de Orphée was performed two seasons ago as part of our Winter Festival season.)

The Trio, in three movements, follows the familiar chamber format but with the notable exception of the harmonic and motivic language translated from Germanic gravitas into French dry wit, charm and love of life. The cantata, commissioned in 1932 for a ‘spectacle concert’ or soiree, is set to surrealist poetry of Max Jacob. Apparently, there exists a photo of some of those who attended the party. Among them are noted surrealist artists, Alberto Giacometti and Luis Buñuel. (One should not expect to make immediate sense of the text.)

Between the two Poulenc’s will be a performance of the Suite from Dancing with the Shadow for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Piano and Percussion by Jamaican composer, Eleanor Alberga. I think of it as her more recent answer to Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat (whose Suite we heard on our last concert), a work that also deals with courting and coming to terms with our darker forces.

Taken together, these should all be quite a show of darkness and light!


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