Desde uno de tus patios haber mirado las antiguas estrellas, desde el banco de la sombra haber mirado esas luces dispersas que mi ignorancia no ha aprendido a nombrar ni a ordenar en contelaciones, haber sentido el circulo del agua en el secreto aljibe, el olor del jazmin y la madreselva, el silencio del pájaro dormido, el arco del zanguán, la hemedad –esas cosas, acaso, son el poema.
–Jorge Luis Borges (b. 24 August 1899) (de la edición 1969 de Fervor de Buenos Aires)
To have watched from one of your patios the ancient stars, from the bench of shadow to have watched those scattered lights that my ignorance has learned no names for nor their places in constellations, to have heard the note of water in the cistern, known the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle, the silence of the sleeping bird, the arch of the entrance, the damp –these things perhaps are the poem.
Translation by William S. Merwin
From the bench of shadow was commissioned by the Quasar Saxophone Quartet with financial assistance from the Canada Council.
String Quartet No. 3 has had somewhat of a long genesis, with the first sketches dating back to April of 2004. The work that you will hear tonight has gone through many and varied incarnations over the intervening four and a half years to reach it’s current four-movement form. Most of the material from the original sketches has found its way into the 3rd movement. The overall structure of the piece, in broad general terms, is that of two outer fast movements and two inner slow ones. The second movement is fugal in nature and in the third a very simple canonic idea frames a group of lyrical and textural episodes. The first movement focuses on the development two contrasting ideas stated in the opening section. The final movement is somewhat obliquely influenced by Schumann’s quartets, which I was listening to a great deal while composing this work, and more directly by Shostakovich. I would like to thank the Manitoba Arts Council for their financial support during the composition of this work.
The Molinari Quartet gave the world premiere of String Quartet No. 3 on January 23, 2009, in la Chapelle historique de bon Pasteur in Montreal.
Six Poems of Novica Tadic is a group of setting by this exceptional poet from the former Yugoslavia. One of the most respected poets of his generation, Tadic was born in 1949 in a small village in Montenegro and has lived most of his life in Belgrade. His collections include Presences, Death in a Chair,Maw, Fiery Hen, Foul Language, The Object of Ridicule, Street, Sparrow Hawk and others. For this setting I have used English translations by American poet Charles Simic.
Tadic depicts a dark and sardonic and unsettling Boschian world, yet within that world I find both innocence and lyricism, and a strangely expressive beauty. In setting these poems I have tried to keep this incongruity in mind.
I loved Tadic’s poetry when I first came across it several years ago, and immediately resolved to set some of his texts when the right moment arrived. This turned out to be when Michelle Mourre and I were planning this concert last year, and deciding that we would have strings, harp and percussion for this concert. It seemed to perfect opportunity both to use these poems and to work again with Michelle and with mezzo-soprano Mireille Lebel, who, respectively, conducted and created the title role in my the world premiere of my opera Prince Kaspar a few years ago. This work is dedicated to them both.
For Mezzo Soprano and Chamber Orchestra
Premiered October 27 and 28, Brandon and Winnipeg
A co-production of GroundSwell and the Brandon Chamber Players
Mireille Lebel – Mezzo Soprano
Michelle Mourre – Conductor
This work was commissioned by Elroy Friesen and the University of Manitoba Singers for their 2008 tour of Argentina and Paraguay. The commission was made possible with financial assistance from the Manitoba Arts Council.
Tú me dijiste: no lloró mi padre;
Tú me dijiste: no lloró mi abuelo;
No han llorado los hombres de me raza,
Eran de acero.
Así diciendo te brotó una lágrima
Y me cayó en la boca… más veneno.
Yo no he bebido nunca en otro vaso
Débil mujer, pobre mujer que entiende,
Dolor de siglos conocí al beberlo:
Oh, el alma mía soportar no puede
Todo su peso.
Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938)
Once you told me my father never wept;
Once you told me his father never wept;
The men of my line have never wept
They were made of steel.
As you were saying this your cried a tear
That dropped into my mouth… I have never
drunk more of poison than I did
from that little cup.
Vulnerable woman, poor and comprehending woman,
When I tasted it I knew the pain of centuries.
Oh, my soul cannot endure
All of its burden.
For about the past ten years I have been composing, on and off, a number of pieces for solo piano, variously named preludes and bagatelles. This piece, Einklang, came out of that project, and started life in 2006 when I thought of expanding the collection to include a prelude for two pianos. I worked on the piece on and off for a while, until it became clear that it had grown beyond an entity that I felt could reasonably be described as either a prelude or bagatelle. I gave it a working title of “Sonata for Two Pianos”, but that really never felt like more than a placeholder as I continued to work on the piece.
What attracted me in particular to the medium of two pianos was the myriad of possible sonorities and contrapuntal textures that were simply not available on a single instrument. In particular I came to focus during the compositional process on exploring rhythmic unisons between the two instruments, and on some of the possible chords and lines that could be achieved with that technique. The work’s title Einklang, meaning variously unison, accord, concord, harmony, sympathy, grew out of this approach.
After reflecting for some time on the idea of composing a piece for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra strings, I decided not to write for the players in their standard sections or groups, but rather to treat each musician as a solo performer, thereby giving myself twenty-two independent voices. (This is certainly not a new idea; it is one that has been exploited by many composers over the past hundred years.) The advantage of this approach is that one gains a tremendous diversity of contrapuntal and textural possibilities.
Many sections of the piece are collections of parallel time streams, which are often just slightly out of alignment with one another, occasionally coming together at certain key structural moments in the music, moments that often correspond with dynamic climaxes. Apart from the few powerful moments, the music tends toward quietness, though not always tranquility.
Motivically there are several relatively short and closely related melodic ideas used throughout the piece. These are sometimes audible as foreground material, though often, as a result of a web of intertwining, they are lurking below the surface.
The title is taken from the opening sequence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s mid-century masterpiece, Canto General.
No one could remember them afterward: the wind forgot them, the language of water was buried, the keys were lost or flooded with silence or blood
life was not lost, pastoral brothers. But like a wild rose a red drop fell into the dense growth, and a lamp of earth was extinguished.
Commissioned by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra with financial assistance from the Manitoba Arts Council, whose support is gratefully acknowledged.
September 27, 2006
Westminster United Church, Winnipeg
Theodore Kuchar, conductor
Powerful pianist's concert a triumphant affair
Written by Holly Harris from Winnipeg Free Press on September 29, 2006
INTERNATIONALLY acclaimed pianist Janina Fialkowska showed her mettle at the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra’s 34th season-opener. She is a soloist who has earned her place in the world’s top echelon of keyboard artists.
But she also proved she is a formidable fighter who has stared down her own demons, successfully winning a battle with cancer that included several delicate surgeries on her left arm. Diagnosed with a tumour in January 2002, the Canadian pianist beat the odds and returned to a full schedule of touring, recording and teaching a mere two years later.
Wednesday night marked her first appearance with the MCO in nine years. It became a triumphant — and emotional — homecoming for the well-loved artist.
Fialkowska’s perfect balance of grace and temperament in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto, No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37 brought new shades of colour to the timeless work. Powerful technique and careful honing of phrases brought out all the drama of the first Allegro con brio movement, contrasted by sublime voicing and a luminous tone that seemed to suspend time in the second Largo section. It is always a pleasure to hear Fialkowska, particularly in the intimate setting of Westminster United Church. Let’s hope she returns soon.
The MCO continues its highly commendable record of commissioning new works, and this program was no exception.
Still waters run deep in local composer Michael Matthews’ The Language of Water for 22 Solo Strings, an evocative one-movement work that submerges the listener into a soundscape of his own devising.
In this work scored for 22 independent voices, Matthews (in attendance for the world premiere) seamlessly crafts a fabric of sound that ebbs and flows through shimmering harmonies and motivic rivulets. The surprisingly romantic 17-minute work washes over the ear, with every note carefully set in place and an ambiguous ending that hints at depths yet unexplored.
The concert opened with Prokofiev’s high-spirited Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25 (Classical) which has retained its buoyant charm throughout the years. Guest conductor Theodore Kuchar imbued the performance with his own high energy, setting a breakneck tempo in the Finale that at times careened towards derailment.
MCO continues to pack houses with winning programming that offers something for both the music traditionalist and the restless explorer. A respectable mid-week audience of 850 is a positive sign that this orchestra is doing everything right, and bodes well for a rich new season of music making.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Westminster United Church
Sept. 27 Attendance: 850
4 stars out of five