All of the poems are concerned with the subject of time: time that is wasted, the unceasing nature of time, the perishability of beauty in time, our desire to change our experience of the flow of time, the finality of time, time and timelessness. I think that they fit together beautifully as a cycle, and I have been holding on to them for a number of years waiting for an opportunity to set them. This opportunity came in the form of a commission from Wanda Kaluzny and the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, which I was pleased to fulfill. The works were written for soprano Sarah Kirsch.
Movement 1 excerpt. Alejandro Escuer, Flute; Orquestra Sinfónica Nacionial, José Luis Castillo, conductor
Movement 2 excerpt. Alejandro Escuer, Flute; Orquestra Sinfónica Nacionial, José Luis Castillo, conductor
Commissioned by the San Luis Potosi Symphony Orchestra for flautist Alejandro Escuer, with funds from the Manitoba Arts Council. First performance: May 30, 2010, Mexico City, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, José Luis Castillo, conductor, Alejandro Escuer, soloist.
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
Mvt. 1 excerpt – Saskatoon Symphony, Douglas Sanford
Mvt. 2 excerpt – Saskatoon Symphony, Douglas Sanford
For a certain number of composers, a group into which I put myself, the composing of symphonies is both a supreme challenge and a supreme joy. For many composers of my time the symphony as a form has fallen out of favour. For some this is a practical matter, since the difficulties of having large symphonic works performed are remarkably daunting. An excellent example of this is the 1972 orchestral work by R. Murray Schafer, …No longer than ten minutes. Schafer was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony to write the work, and took the title from a line in the commissioning agreement which stipulated the length of the work. This was Schafer’s humourous, but also somewhat barbed, jibe at the reluctance of Canadian orchestras to encourage the creation of large symphonic compositions. That these practical difficulties deter composers from writing symphonies is hardly surprising, but it is not the only reason that there are relatively few contemporary symphonies, particularly in Canada. The other reason is a sense shared by many composers that the “symphony” as a form or structural entity is anachronistic, a museum-piece remnant from the 18th and 19th centuries. For some, the symphony is something that simply seems odd, quaint, and somewhat out of place, like a powdered wig; for others is represents something more insidious, such as the exploitation of the working class or a throwback to a Eurocentric view of the arts.
Though I understand these perspectives, the symphony remains for me both a vital form and a special challenge. With this work, my third symphony, I have chosen a different structure than in my first (four movements) or second (three movements). The work that you will hear tonight is in two movements, essentially one fast and one slow. I might say that I have tried to make the first movement the visceral heart of the work, and the second movement the emotional heart. As I frequently do in my music, there are musical ideas which occur between movements (Berlioz is an important model for this). Regarding the character of the work, I hope that the music speaks for itself. Perhaps the best thing for me to say in this regard is to mention some of my own compositional influences, which include Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Schnittke, and, more recently, Scandinavian composers Pettersson and Aho.
Finally, I shall mention that this work represents the final piece of my two-year residency with the Saskatoon Symphony. This time has been a creatively fertile one for me, having written four pieces for the SSO. I would like to take the opportunity to express my thanks publicly to Douglas Sanford, Karen Conway, and the musicians of the Saskatoon Symphony; all of these people have, with their talents and generosity of spirit, made my time with the orchestra an exciting and enjoyable experience which I shall never forget.
Symphony No. 3 is dedicated to Douglas Sanford and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.
Prelude to Macbeth is a work in which I sought to capture some sense of the strangeness, emotional intensity and violence that pervade one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s plays. Appearing throughout the work are recurring passages of rhythmic ambiguity, always differently orchestrated, interspersed with powerful climaxes and two extended lyrical/dramatic passages for strings alone. There are often sharp and dramatic contrasts of texture and dynamics. The work fades into silence at the close, with a final variation of the rhythmically ambiguous section giving way to a layered statement of a motive first introduced by muted trumpet near the beginning of the piece.
Prelude to Macbeth was commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra to honour noted Canadian teacher Bob Hinitt.
Homegrown talent delights SSO audience
Written by Joanne Paulson from Saskatoon StarPhoenix on November 18, 2002
Centara fest reaches high water mark
Written by Andrew Thompson from Winnipeg Free Press on January 29, 2004
This work was commissioned by the BIT 20 Ensemble for violinist David Stewart. The premiere performance took place in Bergen, Norway, on March 19, 2004; Trond Korsgård conducted the BIT 20 Ensemble on the opening concert of the Borealis New Music Festival.