Program Notes

Two Rivers Brass Quintet – Concert on the Lawn: June 25, 2017

Eric Ewazen

(Born in Cleveland, Ohio on March 1, 1954)

A Western Fanfare

Ewazen is one America’s finest living composers. He studied composition with a handful of the 20th Century’s most important composers (Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt and Gunther Schuller, to name a few) at the Eastman School of Music and the Julliard School. He has remained an important figure in the New York City scene and teaches composition at Julliard.

Ewazen began writing more and more for brass instruments from the 1990’s onwards, and many of his commissions feature brass. “A Western Fanfare” is one such commission. It was requested by the Music Academy of the West (Santa Barbara, California) in 1997 for their 50th Anniversary. Ewazen responded with a fanfare for a brass orchestra and percussion, which he soon afterwards arranged for brass quintet. It’s meant to be celebratory, and it bursts with energy and pride. It’s also extremely fun and a bit devilish to perform.

Surprisingly, perhaps, for a 20th to 21st Century composer, Ewazen is unregretful in his tonal approach to music because, as he says, it’s “the language that speaks to me.” But tonality also speaks wonderfully to audiences and performers, and he believes that when a performer gets excited about a piece of music, he or she will really “sell” it to the audience. “A Western Fanfare” is one of those kinds of pieces: exciting, lyrical and tonal, wonderfully “brassy” and fresh. This concert’s performers will have no trouble “selling” it and listeners will want to hear more of Ewazen’s great pieces.


Anonymous

Sonata from “Die Bankelsangerlieder” (c. 1684, Germany)

As composer Eric Ewazen pointed out in a 1994 interview, the Renaissance period witnessed the flourishing of works composed for brass instruments. Most notable was the antiphonal music of Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1553-6 – 1612) in Italy, and as the Renaissance spread throughout Europe, so did its musical designs. Near the end of this epoch in the late 17th Century, Germany was at its own Renaissance height and a group of unattributed vocal works called “Die Bankelsangerlieder” was published. At the very end of the collection was this “Sonata” scored for five brass instruments.

The Renaissance term “bankelsanger” referred to a travelling singer, otherwise known as a “troubadour” in Renaissance France, who made his living by standing on a bench in taverns and singing for his supper. The term “Sonata” came from the Italian word “sonare” which simply meant “to sound” or “play” – a precursor form to what became the fugue and later the classical sonata form we know from Mozart and Haydn. The anonymous Sonata that’s included in today’s program is a remarkable piece because of its energy and brass sonorities. Notable also is its within-group antiphonal playing that sounds like a “Call and Response” – a technique that clearly prefigures the fugues soon to come in the Baroque era. This Sonata is timeless, too, in its beauty. Indeed, it has remained so popular that most listeners have probably heard it before without knowing its title, and yet it never grows old for performers or listeners alike.


Leonard Bernstein

(Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918; died in New York City in 1990)

Selections from West Side Story/arranged by Jack Gale

1. Prologue

2. Something’s Comin’

3. Maria

4. Tonight

5. America

6. I Feel Pretty

7. Somewhere

Like many composers before him – Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Gounod and Berlioz, just to name some of the more famous – the American composer Leonard Bernstein was attracted to Shakespeare’s tale of tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.  Bernstein’s first musical vision for this tragedy of “star-cross’d lovers” began by imagining the feuding parties as Catholics and Jews in the lower East side of New York’s Manhattan during Passover and Easter. It then eventually morphed into a musical focused on Puerto Rican and Anglo street gangs in the city’s upper West Side. This contemporary scenario was perfectly suited for Shakespeare’s tale of woe, and Bernstein hoped it would awaken the public’s awareness to what some called New York City’s “War zone” of the 1950’s and ‘60’s.

But even without the “story,” the music to West Side Story is undeniably Bernstein’s masterpiece. In the honored tradition of classical composing from Mozart to Mahler, motives and just a few themes are the driving force for the whole work, and they give the music an extraordinary cohesiveness. That and Bernstein’s uncanny ability to absorb musical genres, which is heard in the jazz and Latin-feel that pervades the score, make the work both contemporary and ageless, from the swinging coolness in the “Prologue” to the popping, ethnic cross-rhythms in “America.” Bernstein’s greatest strdength, though, was his understanding that a beautiful tune always wins the day, and in this work he magically created some of America’s most cherished songs. Many of these songs are heard in our program’s excellent brass quintet arrangement: “Maria,” “Tonight” and a wonderful brass-chorale rendition of “Somewhere.”


John Cheetham

(Born in Taos, New Mexico in 1939)

Scherzo

Cheetham was born and raised in America’s Midwest, and he has essentially remained there all of his life, save for PhD studies at the University of Washington. He served as Professor of Music Theory and Composition at the University of Missouri (Columbia) from 1969 – 2000. Because of this background, he might be even more “American” than Aaron Copland (Copeland was long considered the Dean of American composers until his death but he was actually more of a “New York city boy” than Cheetham).  And Cheetham’s music reflects his middle-America sentiments – libertarian, unapologetically conservative, singable melodies and bracing rhythms. Such is his Scherzo for brass quintet.

Like composer Eric Ewazen, Cheetham writes equally for the performer as well as the listener. His Scherzo is quick-paced and catchy, and is thorny to play with its changing meters and rhythms. However, the musical delights are very much worth the performers’ effort. The main tune is something you’ll find yourself humming or whistling on the way home from the concert; as Cheetam says, “a good tune goes a long way.” In a recent e-mail exchange with Cheetham, he described his Scherzo as follows:

“[The Scherzo] was written in 1962 during my senior year at the University of New Mexico for a faculty quintet teaching at a UNM summer music camp. Through no fault of my own, it immediately became popular and was published and recorded by 1964. Its simple ternary design and tuneful melodies make it easily accessible.”


Johann Sebastian Bach

(Born in Eisenach, Germany in 1685; died in Leipzig, Germany in 1750)

Contrapunctus IX, “alla duodecima,”
from The Art of the Fugue, BWV 1080

As Bach entered the last decade of his life, he renewed his interest in keyboard music and especially counterpoint, or the way in which fugues are made and how musical themes can be manipulated. In this decade, he began his ultimate offering to musical counterpoint – a series of fugues and canons all derived out a single musical theme – The Art of the Fugue. He worked on this series for 10 years but never finished it. His son, Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach, gathered, titled and published it in 1751 just after his father’s death.

The Art of the Fugue may well be Bach’s seminal work. It contains 14 fugues and four canons, all in D-minor, arranged in increasing difficulty. These pieces are, as Bach historian Christoph Wolff has observed, “an exploration … of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject.” That “single subject” is disarming in its simplicity but it is nevertheless rich seed material for Bach’s fugal explorations that follow. Instead of calling them “counterpoint(s),” Bach preferred the Latin word “Contrapunctus.” Number IX (9) is a study of turning that simple subject into a new derivation and into a double fugue (two themes treated as a fugue at the interval of a twelfth, thus the subtitle “alla duodecima”). Bach then adds the original “single subject” fugue theme into the mix as an additional subject. Always a masterpiece, this Contrapunctus becomes especially spirited and extremely powerful when performed by a brass quintet.


Victor Ewald

(Born in St. Petersburg in 1860; died in Leningrad in 1935)

Brass Quintet No.1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 5 

1. Moderato – Più mosso

2. Adagio non troppo lento – Allegro vivace – Tempo I – Adagio

3. Allegro moderato

Brass ensembles of every imaginable sort were a big part of Russia’s musical history, but it was Victor Ewald who established the nation’s first works for brass quintet with four exceptional works written between 1888 and 1912. Quintet No. 1 was published in 1890 and since then has remained in the genre’s performing repertoire as a huge favorite with performers and audiences.

Ewald was a civil engineer by trade but a serious musician by avocation. He wasn’t one of the “Russian Five” (Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, etc.), the Russian Nationalist musicians, but he was very close in their orbit. He often played chamber music with them, in sessions that came to be known as “Friday Evenings,” and he was an integral part of their musical discussions. He wrote his four quintets essentially for these chamber music gatherings and he himself played the bass part which was equivalent to the tuba part you will hear in our performance.

Ewald’s Quintet No. 1 is challenging to play, packed with fantastic melodies, and has a wonderful “Russian-ness” – that indescribable sound, dark and rich and melancholic.  And fittingly, for the performer/composer Ewald, the opening theme played on the tuba exemplifies that very special sound. Later in the third movement, a lovely Russian-folksong theme emerges that would have made his Nationalist musician friends proud.  Although Ewald never tackled the larger orchestral genres, he could well have been considered the “Russian Sixth” based on the wealth of lyricism and inventiveness filling his delightful Quintet No. 1.

Program Notes ©Max Derrickson

Two Rivers Piano and Wind Ensemble: April 29, 2017

Windswept!
PROGRAM NOTES

Paquito D’Rivera

(Born in Havana, Cuba in 1948)

Invitación al danza (Invitation to dance)

D’Rivera’s first teacher was his father, a well-connected classical saxophonist and music educator, who brought him up on recordings by Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. No doubt this is where Paquito first began to understand jazz and improvisation. But perhaps the youngster’s greatest tutelage came from sitting in the orchestra pit along with his father in Havana’s lavish, notorious and jazz-rich Tropicana Club, where he recalls very memorable evenings sitting close by and watching many of the jazz greats who visited there. Still, he always remained grounded in the Classical music of composers like Bach, Mozart and Chopin – music that still informs his compositions to this day.

D’Rivera soon became one of Cuba’s musical wonders, active in both classical and Latin jazz music, and both a composer and performer on clarinet and sax. However, he eventually realized that he would never be able to flourish in Cuba’s anti-jazz ideology (Castro insisted jazz was “imperialist poison”), so in 1980 he defected to the United States. His international reputation has soared since then. He has won 14 Grammy Awards for both performance and composition and has made over 30 recordings. But, as a boisterous yet generous soul, he is most proud for being known – in the words of the National Endowment for the Arts – as “the consummate multinational ambassador, creating and promoting a cross-culture of music that moves effortlessly among jazz, Latin, and Mozart.”

Invitación al danza was composed in 2008 and came into prominence on a recording with Yo Yo Ma (“Songs of Joy and Peace,” 2008). This is considered one of D’Rivera’s Classical works, and with his love for Classical music he gave it the same title as a famous work by Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826). But one immediately realizes the work’s extraordinary fusion of styles, from Classical to Jazzy riffs and improvisation, to even a tip of the hat to early Rock-n-roll (listen for the echoes of Louie, Louie by The Kingsmen). Originally written for clarinet, cello and piano, Invitación has invited and inspired all kinds of arrangements. In this case, the French horn takes the place of the cello. Invitación dances easily from gentle swaying to joyful smiling, and slide-steps between some lovely ballroom dancing to downright foot stomping and arm jangling. Invitación al danza is infectiously tuneful and fun, and makes good on its invitation.


Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt

(Born in Koblenz, Germany in 1833; died in Bernburg, Germany in 1894)

Nocturne for Clarinet, Horn, and Piano, Op.75

Voigt followed his father’s vocation of being a military musician after completing his musical studies in Berlin. He rose quickly through the ranks and by 1857, at the young age of 24, became the conductor of the high profile First Guard Regiment in Potsdam, a post in which he served for 30 years. He became well known for his compositions for military bands and ensembles, and as a conductor and music educator. In 1870, in his role as military conductor, Voigt found himself marching to Paris in the Franco-Prussian War, composing and performing music as necessary for any moment, from celebratory evenings when Kaiser Wilhelm visited in the field, to funeral music for fellow soldiers. But there was more to do than perform: Voigt and his military musicians often were tasked with, among other things, burying the fallen. His diaries describe some horrid scenes of death. Finally, in 1871, Voigt arrived in a devastated, occupied Paris now under Prussian rule. Voigt’s role in Paris was to provide music for victorious Prussians and defeated French alike. Performing much of his own military music along with other classics, he was proud, but moreover astonished, when his French audiences applauded and thanked him for his musical craft. Voigt wrote home to his wife “Yes, music is a fine art; it connects the souls of men, and this effect is not granted even to language.”

In 1885, long after those extraordinary times, Voigt had returned to Germany and composed his endearing Nocturne. It’s tempting to imagine this work as a tender musical memorial to those lost Prussians and Frenchmen, but whatever his inspiration, the piece has been loved for generations since. The Nocturne has the air of a quiet operatic duet between two old friends, reminiscing in nostalgia, with an edge of sadness lacing their song, sometimes a flight of fancy from the clarinet, and a brief recitative-like passage mid-way through. The piece ends with both instruments singing the opening phrase in unison above some lovely pianistic filigree, before closing in gentle contemplation. All in all, it is a tuneful, surprisingly enchanting gem, a pacific counterpoint to a military musician’s life work.


Francis Poulenc 

(Born in Paris in 1899; died in Paris in 1963)

Trio (for oboe, bassoon and piano), Op. 43

1. Lento – Presto

2. Andante con moto

3. Rondo. Très vif

At the turn of the 20th Century, Paris was an exciting tumult of new and adventurous artistic ideals. The Parisian salon was the place to be for anyone who was someone, a place where artists and thinkers came to discuss conquering – or at least profoundly changing – the world. Out of this intoxicating brew came a group of musicians called “Les Six” (also known as the “French Six”). Francis Poulenc, a frequent visitor to the salon, rather unwittingly found himself to be part of this group. The group’s general goal, formulated by its founders (first the composer Erik Satie and then the author Jean Cocteau) was to write unabashedly French music. Poulenc himself was mainly self-taught and had an innate and immense talent for music; he had no conservatoire trappings and was urbanely Parisian in the best sense, and he thus embodied the group’s ideals perfectly. As the writer Jean Roy, a chronicler of the “Les Six,” said:

“Francis Poulenc improvised, invented, disregarded conventions …. He was daring, but not provocative. … he showed himself for what he was, with a frankness which is rare, … drawing from a tremendous fund of knowledge that included the fine arts, literature and the music of his predecessors. … His music expresses the way he looked at things… sincerity… his own way of hoping, of praying, of showing confidence.”

From this sense of freshness came Poulenc’s first great chamber work in 1926: his Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano, written when he was 27 years old. The work is equal parts silly, lively, beautifully melodic, and fun. Poulenc admitted that parts of his Trio were based, structurally and thematically, on the music of his forbearers – Haydn, Beethoven and Saint-Saens – but in Poulenc’s hands these echoes only add to the delight of the music. Regarding his musical lineage, he wittily remarked that he “wouldn’t like to be thought ‘born of an unknown father.'” What the listener hears in the Trio is anything but a pastiche of the past; instead, this is a splendidly lyrical and playful piece that features each instrument with an uncanny notion of their interplay. The Trio has become one of Poulenc’s most adored works, and rightly so. It is a superb example of the composer’s joyful music-making, and of his own harmonic and lyrical inventiveness.


Ludwig van Beethoven

(Born in Bonn in 1770; died in Vienna in 1827)

Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 16

1. Grave – Allegro ma non troppo

2. Andante cantabile

3. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Life was a jolly affair for Beethoven when he moved to Vienna from Bonn in 1792. He was known to be fiery, but he was also a congenial socialite. And as a free-spirited youth, he was taking Vienna by storm as a “wild” piano virtuoso and magnificent improviser. However, he also had an extraordinary composing talent and needed to make it known.

Before tackling the symphonic genre, Beethoven started with a form that bridged the chamber-symphonic barrier: the Piano Quintet. Well acquainted with Mozart’s works, Beethoven used Mozart’s masterful Quintet for Piano and Winds in E-flat Major, K. 452 (1784) as a model for his own Quintet that featured a piano, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and horn. Beethoven completed this work in 1797 but he withheld its publication until 1801 and in the meantime also produced a reworked version that took the form of a Quartet for three strings and piano – a clear sign that he was trying to show off his abilities by demonstrating his range as a composer.

The Quintet is a very early Beethoven, and very “Classical” in sound, when compared to his later works. But it is no less Beethoven in spirit, clearly foreshadowing his boldness and compositional cleverness. The very somber and slow Grave opening is as much a statement to the world about the seriousness of Beethoven’s compositional intentions as it is a musical introduction. Soon after the Allegro proper begins, one is reminded of Beethoven’s abiding love for piano – indeed, this Quintet is much like a mini-piano concerto. But even in this particularly early work, Beethoven shows uncanny prowess in his writing for the winds: each instrument is featured especially well through a great deal of musical material, and each is given many moments to shine. One great example is just near the end of the first movement when Beethoven asks the horn to navigate some treacherous arpeggios.

The second movement is rightly titled cantabile (singing), with some meltingly song-like moments for every player, and it seems that it is here where Beethoven truly begins to find his own voice in this great, early masterpiece. The third movement finale is leisurely-brisk and sunny-bright, even allowing for a brief piano cadenza near its end. It is said that at the Quintet’s early performances, the “wild” Beethoven manned the piano himself and often took some extended liberties with this cadenza – to his great delight, though peeving his wind players.

 

© Max Derrickson

Songs and Dances of Love: March 25, 2017

Johannes Brahms

(Born in Hamburg in 1833; died in Vienna in 1897)

Liebeslieder walzen, Op. 52

1. Rede, Mädchen (“Speak, Maiden”)

2. Am Gesteine rauscht die Flut (“Against the stones the stream rushes”)

3. O die Frauen (“Oh, women”)

4. Wie des Abends schöne Röte (“Like the evening’s lovely red”)

5. Die grüne Hopfenranke (“The green hop’s vine”)

6. Ein kleiner, hübscher Vogel (“A small, pretty bird”)

7. Wohl schön bewandt war es (“Quite fair and contented”)

8. Wenn so lind dein Auge mir (“When your eyes look at me”)

9. Am Donaustrande (“On the banks of the Danube”)

10. O wie sanft die Quelle (“Oh how gently the stream”)

11. Nein, es ist nicht auszukommen (“No, there’s just no getting along”)

12. Schlosser auf, und mache Schlösser (“Locksmith, get up and make your locks”)

13. Vögelein durchrauscht die Luft (“The little bird rushes through the air”)

14. Sieh, wie ist die Welle klar (“See how clear the waves are”)

15. Nachtigall, sie singt so schön (“The nightingale, it sings so beautifully”)

16. Ein dunkeler Schacht ist Liebe (“Love is a dark shaft”)

17. Nicht wandle, mein Licht (“Do not wander, my light”)

18. Es bebet das Gesträuche (“The bushes are trembling”)

In the first years after Brahms settled in Vienna, he quickly became appreciative of a new and very Viennese (and European bourgeois) musical fashion – Hausmusik. No longer was music just for the very rich, but indeed, the rise of a healthy middle class made music a household necessity. Young ladies, in order to be at all eligible for marriage, needed to know how to read music, sing and play the piano. But music in the house wasn’t just for young ladies. All manner of parlor works were written as well as re-arranged from larger works like symphonies, solely for the enjoyment of music lovers in their homes. For many a composer it was a cash cow. Brahms, not above the need for money, discreetly cashed in on this Hausmusik phenomenon with the young lady singer-pianist in mind, first and famously with his Hungarian Dances (1869), and then in the same year with his delightful Liebeslieder walzen (of which, over a few years, he composed several sets, Op. 52 being essentially his first).

Brahms’s Liebeslieder walzen (Love song waltzes) were inspired during a project of editing a batch of Schubert’s works, several groups of landlers, which are the waltzes especially loved by the Viennese. Also a model were the Spanische Liebeslieder (1849) by Schumann, Brahms’s fraternal mentor. No less an influence, too, were the delightful waltzes by Johann Strauss II (the Viennese “Waltz King”), which Brahms appreciated for their perfect form and delicious tunefulness. It’s often suggested that Brahms’s Love song waltzes were intended as a musical flirtation for Julie Schumann, the daughter of Robert and Clara Schumann. But as always, Brahms was much too discreet to have made this a public affair. What matters is that the waltzes are enchanting. As Brahms’s biographer Jan Swafford calls them, these are musical “Schlagsahne” (whipped cream).

The 18 waltzes are indeed confections, but they are certainly not trifles. They assume the ballroom dress of society waltzes, but Brahms doesn’t spare his genius on them. Even as early as the first waltz, the main theme is eventually turned upside down. Especially delightful are the rich harmonies and contrasts that appear in numbers 5, 6 and 7. A lovely homage to Strauss’s “The Beautiful Danube” is undeniable in number 9. Throughout, Brahms’s inventiveness for both tunefulness and sophisticated compositional craftsmanship make these love songs little wonders. Brahms had originally written them as “one-offs” – single sheet works for the parlor, for piano (four hands) and varying small groups of singers. The lyrics came from a large set of poetic translations from various cultures by the philosopher and poet Georg Friedrich Daumer (1800 – 1875). The songs range from giddy young love to broken heartache, but they are all quite lighthearted. Brahms, too, keeps the melodic themes light but infuses them with his typical soulfulness. The waltzes were immediately adored, and brought Brahms a sure amount of early fame and fortune; they have remained a cherished part of the chamber music repertoire. This arrangement for strings was first transcribed by Friedrich Hermann in 1889 and it has been loved ever since. In any arrangement, these love songs’ beauties are rich and genuine Brahms.


Edward Elgar

(Born in Lower Broadheath, England in 1857; died in Worcester, England in 1934)

Serenade in E-minor for String Orchestra, Op. 20

1. Allegro placevole

2. Larghetto

3. Allegretto

Elgar was the quintessential underdog, and as such, his masterpieces make us all the more glad that he finally achieved his rightful praise. He was a self-taught composer, learning his craft by borrowing books on counterpoint and harmony from the library in his small hometown of Broadheath. He was an accomplished violinist but also played the organ and bassoon and viola (and other instruments), and it was upon these instruments that he relied to make a living for many years as a private music teacher. He also picked up conducting and freelanced as a conductor in some of the most obscure places (such as the County and City Pauper Lunatic Asylum) for many, many years. His beloved wife, Alice, was his greatest champion and brought Elgar through some severe bouts of low self-esteem and depression. Had it not been for her constant support, Elgar may have never persevered to write some of Western music’s most beloved pieces.

His lovely Serenade was written in 1892 and is Elgar’s earliest piece to eventually become well known, although it took another six-and-a-half years for this now middle-aged British musician to find any fame as a composer with his Enigma Variations (1899). The Serenade was written “in the musical trenches,” as Elgar crafted out a patchwork living by teaching, performing and conducting. He also credited some of the piece’s material to his wife, Alice, by marking in the score in several places “Braut” (his German nickname for her, meaning “bride”). The success of his Enigma Variations, his Violin Concerto and other masterpieces eventually, and finally, landed him fame and security, But it was this Serenade that he always referred to as his favorite piece, and any listener will quickly understand his devotion. Here is Elgar at his lyrical best and at the very beginning of a long line of beautifully elegiac masterpieces for which he would become famous.

The first movement is marked a curious “placevole” which means “pleasing.” Indeed, its quietly propelling main rhythm and the rising and falling melody is pleasantly nostalgic and cheery – so wonderfully British. The middle movement is romantically and harmonically rich, capturing a kind of enlightened melancholy that only Elgar seemed to be able to conjure. The third movement rounds out the Serenade with delicate charm, perfectly moving from the deep beauty of the middle movement into a musing on the work’s placevole beginning, and lastly, closing in gentle contentment. Elgar was one of the first composers to seriously use the beginning technologies of sound recording, and fittingly, in 1933 a year before his death, he made a recording which included his beloved Serenade.


Ney Rosauro

(Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1952)

Marimba Concerto No. 1, Op. 12

1. Saudação (Greetings)

2. Lamento (Lament)

3. Dança (Dance)

4. Despedida (Farewell)

According to his own website, Ney Rosauro “… is recognized as one of the most original and dynamic symphonic percussionists and composers today.” He studied in Brazil, Germany and Florida, and in his professional career has performed the world over as both a marimba virtuoso and as a timpanist/percussionist, along with composing over 100 works. He became especially recognized, however, with his wonderful Marimba Concerto No. 1 (1987) when another famous percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1990. Since then, this Concerto has become probably the most widely performed marimba concerto in the world.

The marimba is a tuned percussion instrument with tubes underneath the pitched bars to enhance resonance. It became a prominent solo instrument in the late 1970’s when composers began recognizing its exceptional versatility – from its ability to sound like an organ with sustained, humming chords, the fact that it could be played like a piano with both melody and harmony, concurrently, as well as its potential for complex rhythms and extended range of notes (typically 4-1/3 octaves). All of this became especially possible with the introduction of playing with four (and occasionally more) mallets simultaneously. Rosauro, though, was the one of the first composers to really exploit the marimba’s four-mallet capabilities in a symphonic concerto form. His Concerto No. 1 does this marvelously and uses all the instrument’s possibilities superbly, taking care to not only showcase the soloist with virtuosic leaps from one end of the large instrument to the other and dazzling mallet work, but to showcase the instrument’s beauty. The Concerto was begun as a Master’s thesis while Rosauro was studying in Germany. In that year, his son Marcelo was born, and it’s fitting, with the Concerto’s energy and life-affirmingness, that Rosauro dedicated it to his newborn son.

As a Brazilian, Rosauro understandably uses Brazilian motives for the subtitles of his Concerto‘s four movements and as their inspirations. The first movement maintains a near-perpetual-motion kind of incessancy, with lots of wonderful moments for the soloist to make some jazzy melodic runs – it’s infectious and fun. The second movement explores the marimba’s soulful, organ-like timbres and includes some lovely duets between soloist and orchestra (especially the first violin). The third movement is called a dance, but it begins with a lovely cantabile section that features some fun mallet work, before becoming truly quick-footed and virtuosic, then closing in song. The finale is again a driving movement, jazzy and somewhat Brazilian in flavor, with a delightfully catchy tune, changing meters and virtuosity aplenty. The fervor leads up to a cadenza that is as much about fancy mallet work as it is wrapping up the musical narrative of the Concerto, musing with the various themes of the earlier movements. The work then ends in a fiery-quick blaze of virtuosity.
© Max Derrickson