Music from Copland House with Carolina Eyck, thereminist
Sun, July 12, 2015, 4:30pm
Music from Copland House returns to Caramoor with thereminist Carolina Eyck to perform works by Copland, Debussy, Martinu, Rózsa, and Shostakovich which explore the border between real and surreal. Caramoor’s founder, Lucie Bigelow Rosen (1890-1968), was a student and patron of Leon Theremin and performed throughout Europe and in concert halls in New York City and throughout the Northeast. We are delighted to celebrate traditions new and old through Copland House’s mission of bringing new works and collaborations to our audiences.
Debussy Sonata for Cello and Piano RózsaSpellbound Concerto for Theremin, Oboe, Piano, and String Quartet Shostakovich Trio No. 2 in E Minor for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Op. 67
Martinu Fantaisie for Theremin, Oboe, Piano and String Quartet Copland Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet
“Music from Copland House is our paramount keeper of Copland’s flame.”
– American Record Guide
Carolina Eyck with collaborator Christopher Tarnow performing Sonata for Theremin and Piano (2013)
2:30-3:00pm Pre-Concert Recital Venetian Theater Ticket holders are welcome to join us for a free pre-concert recital by Carolina Eyck and Christopher Tarnow. They will perform Tarnow’s Sonata for Theremin and Piano (2013).
3:15-4:30 Caramoor: The Theremin’s American Home Spanish Courtyard Acclaimed thereminist Rob Schwimmer will explain the science, music, and history of this curious instrument. Schwimmer will demonstrate performance techniques and offer “hands-off” instruction to attendees, followed by a Q&A.
The theremin was the world’s first electronic instrument. Untouched by the performer’s hands, it produces unusual and unexpected musical sounds and effects. Lucie Rosen, Caramoor’s Founder, was both patroness and protégé of Leon Theremin, the Soviet Russian inventor of this fascinating instrument. The “September Theremin,” the last instrument Theremin made before leaving the country in 1938, was built to Lucie Rosen’s specifications and played by her on international concert tours. Materials from Caramoor’s archives, including promotional posters of her tours, copies of works for the theremin commissioned by Mrs. Rosen, and correspondence with the composers and from Theremin to Mrs. Rosen, will also be on display.
We are grateful to New York Theremin Society for their assistance and participation in today’s events.
Light refreshments will be served.
Concert begins at 4:30
Music From Copland House
Music from Copland House is the acclaimed resident ensemble at Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home in New York, now restored as a unique creative center for American music. Since its triumphant New York debut as the Opening Night of Merkin Hall’s 1999-2000 season, Music from Copland House (MCH) has come to occupy a special place on the U.S. musical scene as perhaps this country’s only wide-ranging American repertory ensemble. Provocatively uniting past and present, American and non-American, it journeys across 150 years of our nation’s rich musical legacy, reaching back deep into the 19th century and forward to just-completed compositions.
The ensemble has been engaged by some of America’s foremost concert presenters, including Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, and the Caramoor International, Cape Cod, Bard, and Ecstatic Music Festivals. MCH has collaborated with the European Broadcasting Union and National Public Radio on a special concert showcasing American works that has been extensively aired in over 20 European countries, and makes its Mexican debut in 2014-15. MCH is the featured ensemble on Copland House’s popular main-stage concert series at the historic Merestead estate in nearby Mount Kisco, only an hour north of New York City. The ensemble has commissioned Chen Yi, Richard Danielpour, Tamar Muskal, Pierre Jalbert, Derek Bermel, and Sebastian Currier, whose Copland House work, Static, won the highly-coveted Grawemeyer Award in 2007, and has also premiered many compositions written especially for it by Du Yun, Samson Young, Henry Mollicone, and Leung Kei Cheuk (Gaybird). The ensemble followed its much-praised debut recording on Arabesque, the first complete cycle of Copland’s chamber music, with two releases on Koch International, respectively devoted to chamber music by Currier and John Musto. Inspired by Copland’s peerless, lifelong advocacy of American composers, MCH also offers children’s programs, master classes, lectures, residencies, and workshops, and other educational and community outreach activities.
MCH’s exceptional Founding Artists are widely admired for their instrumental command and musical insights in works both old and new: clarinetist-composer Derek Bermel, pianist and Copland House Artistic and Executive Director Michael Boriskin, flutist-conductor Paul Lustig Dunkel, violinist Nicholas Kitchen (of the Borromeo String Quartet), and cellist Wilhelmina Smith (of The Mannes Trio and Variations String Trio). They are regularly joined by outstanding, award-winning Principal and Guest Artists, including violinists Curtis Macomber, Harumi Rhodes, and Jesse Mills; violists Danielle Farina and Kathryn Lockwood; cellists Alexis Pia Gerlach, Nicholas Canellakis, and James Wilson; flutist Linda Chesis; clarinetists Meighan Stoops, Carol McGonnell, and Alexander Fiterstein; pianists Michael Barrett, John Musto, and Blair McMillen; sopranos Amy Burton and Julia Bullock; baritones James Martin and Philip Cutlip; and many others.
German-born musician and composer Carolina Eyck is one of the world’s foremost theremin virtuosi. After her debut in the Berlin Philharmonic, she has been invited to the Bohuslav Martinu International Music Festival in Basel, the Davos Festival (Switzerland), the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Großes Festspielhaus Salzburg (Austria), the Teatro Nacional Lisbon (Portugal) and the Palace of Arts Budapest (Hungary). She has given concerts in Poland, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Hungary, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States. These concert tours are also an occasion for Carolina to learn some words of the respective national languages.
During her concert tours, Carolina is especially inspired by meeting other musicians and ensembles. She has collaborated with Heinz Holliger, Robert Kolinsky, Gerhard Oppitz, Andrey Boreyko, Michael Sanderling, Gürer Aykal, John Storgårds, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Bern Symphony Orchestra, the Essen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Brandenburg State Orchestra, the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, the Heidelberg Symphonic Orchestra and the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg.
Pianist and Copland House Artistic & Executive Director Michael Boriskin has performed in over 30 countries with leading international orchestras and in major concert halls, including Lincoln and Kennedy Centers, Carnegie Hall, BBC, and Vienna’s Schoenberg Center. A frequent presence on NPR and American Public Media, his extensive discography for many labels includes his award-winning SONY CD of Gershwin’s complete piano and orchestra works, which is featured in NPR’s 1000 Recordings to Hear before You Die.
Violist Danielle Farina has toured extensively in North America, Europe, and Scandinavia, and has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Budapest’s Tibor Varga Festival, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Detroit, and the International Istanbul Music Festival. Upon graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music she joined the renowned Lark Quartet, of which she was a member for three years, and is now violist of the Elements Quartet. She can be heard on the Agora and Arabesque labels.
Oboist Roni Gal-Ed has performed with the Munich Philharmonic, Bavarian Chamber Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Berlin Symphony, and Bremen Kammerphilharmonie, and is a First-Prize winner of Germany’s International Lauschmann Oboe Competition. Since moving to New York in 2009, she has appeared with Orpheus, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, and many other ensembles.
Alexis Pia Gerlach
Cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach has performed internationally with conductors Mstislav Rostropovich, James DePreist, and Peter Oundjian, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Charleston and Fort Worth Symphonies, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and at the Marlboro, Telluride, and Aspen Festivals. As a member of the Trio Solisti, she performs on major series around the U. S., and is heard on the ensemble’s four CDs. As a founder of Concertante, she appears across the country.
Clarinetist Moran Katz has performed in recital at Washington’s Phillips Collection, Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess Series, Merkin Hall’s Tuesday Matinee Series, the Berlin Philharmonic’s Chamber Music Hall, and in chamber music at the Marlboro Music Festival, United Nations Hall in Switzerland, France’s “Les Musicales” Festival, Ireland’s Music in Drumcliffe, Germany’s Homburg Musiktage. A Juilliard graduate, she was a member of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble ACJW.
Violinist Curtis Macomber is a member of the Manhattan String Quartet, DaCapo Chamber Players, and Speculum Musicae. He was first violinist of the award-winning New World String Quartet, Artists-in-Residence at Harvard. He has recorded extensively, including the sonatas of Edvard Grieg (Arabesque), sonatas of Amy Beach and John Corigliano (Koch), and Songs of Solitude (CRI). He is a member of the faculties of both Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music.
Violinist Harumi Rhodes is a founder of the Naumburg Award-winning Trio Cavatina, and an Artist Member of the Boston Chamber Music Society. She has appeared at the Marlboro, Bard, Bridgehampton, Caramoor, and Saito Kinen Festivals. She has recorded Milton Babbitt’s formidable Sixth String Quartet for the Tzadik label, as well as works by Pierre Jalbert and Robert Xavier Rodriguez with Music from Copland House. She teaches at Juilliard, and is a Professor of Violin at Syracuse University.
Aaron Copland was one of the most beloved, profoundly influential, and honored musical figures in American history. He received three of America’s highest civilian awards (the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and National Medal of Arts), a Pulitzer Prize, one of the first Kennedy Center Honors, Academy Award for Best Original Musical Score (1950, for The Heiress), and numerous other awards, foreign decorations, and honorary doctorates. In addition such iconic works as Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Lincoln Portrait, and modern classics like the Short Symphony and Symphony No. 3, Piano Variations, Piano Fantasy, Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, and Clarinet Concerto, his catalogue includes a wide range of chamber, piano, vocal, operatic, choral, and film music. Copland was also an active and accomplished pianist and conductor, author, lecturer, mentor, peerless champion of American composers and their work, and founder or pivotal early supporter of Tanglewood, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, League of Composers, American Music Center, and many other important institutions on the U.S. musical landscape. Born in Brooklyn, NY to Russian immigrant parents, he spent over half of his adult life in Westchester, mostly in Cortlandt Manor at a home that is now an award-winning creative center for American music and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Terror is not a word that normally comes to performers’ minds when they think of Copland’s music, but the Sextet for Clarinet, Piano, and String Quartet (like the orchestral work from which it is derived, the Short Symphony) still strikes fear into otherwise intrepid musicians. British critic Anthony Burton once called the symphonic original one of the “most canceled major works of this century.” The outer movements have a sometimes bewildering succession of syncopations, cross-rhythms, and constantly changing meters, imparting a spicy flavor and jittery, playful character to the music. “I wouldn’t have thought of those rhythms…if I hadn’t had a jazz orientation,” Copland explained. The contrasting middle movement is tranquil and flowing. “I expended a great deal of effort to write as perfected a piece as I possibly could,” Copland said. At one point, he thought to call the symphony The Bounding Line, reflecting the work’s lithe vitality and infectious buoyancy. Copland’s friend and fellow composer Carlos Chavez raved about “the way each and every note comes out from the other as the only natural and logical one possible.” After two illustrious Copland champions, conductors Serge Koussevitzky and Leopold Stokowski, declined to give the premiere (with the Boston Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, respectively) because of the Short Symphony‘s rhythmic difficulties, and Chavez required ten orchestral rehearsals for his 1934 World Premiere performance, Copland decided to reframe the Short Symphony for six instrumentalists, in hopes of improving the work’s performance chances; in that chamber version, the work has flourished.
– MICHAEL BORISKIN
Miklós Rózsa/1907-1995/Spellbound Concerto for Theremin, Oboe, Piano and String Quartet (1945)
Hungarian-born Rózsa received the finest musical training possible, including studies in Leipzig, with every indication that he would be a significant composer primarily of concert music. But when he accompanied his friend Arthur Honegger to see a film for which Honegger had composed the score, he was fascinated, and decided to try his hand in that aspect of composition. The results were historic. From 1937 to his last score in 1982, he wrote the music for some 94 films, including some of the major scores of the century, sometimes filled with imaginative novel ideas. At the same time, Rózsa continued writing music for concert purposes, some of which became very well known.
The work to be performed here is a chamber composition that bears, confusingly, the name of one of Rózsa’s most successful adaptations of a film score to a concert piece, the Spellbound Concerto, which is built of the main themes created for the 1945 film Spellbound, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. Peck’s character suffers from a paranoia that may turn him into a deadly killer. To illustrate this aspect of the score, Rózsa persuaded Hitchcock and producer David Selznick to use the largely unknown theremin to suggest psychological instability (later in the same year he used it for Ray Milland’s alcoholic binges in The Lost Weekend).
This attracted the attention of Lucie Bigelow Rosen, a noted performer on the theremin, (and owner, with her husband Walter, of the Caramoor estate.) She requested a chamber version of the music from Spellbound from Alphonso d’Artega (1907-1998), Mexican born and Russian educated, whose most frequently-heard musical composition is the three-note motto that identifies NBC in its broadcasts.
Mrs. Rosen wanted to perform this music in a Town Hall recital along with Martinu’s Fantasia, so she requested that the arrangement be made for the same group of instruments. The premiere took place on November 30, 1946, with the Kouzen Quartet.
The chamber version is about half as long as the various orchestral versions (it runs about six minutes). Though labeled a “concerto,” it is clearly a work in which the various performers interact in a concertante manner, though the theremin plays almost throughout (clearly an homage to the performer who commissioned the piece).
In the film as well as the orchestral versions, the theremin tends to be reserved for the suspenseful music associate with Gregory Peck’s mental condition, while the love music is more conventionally rendered. In the chamber composition, the theremin also takes part in the romantic sections of the score. The score is preserved in the Caramoor archives.
Dmitri Shostakovich/1906-1975/ Trio No. 2 in E minor for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 67 (1942)
When Shostakovich composed his Second Piano Trio in late 1943 and 1944 (the First had been a youthful work written in 1923 which Shostakovich called Opus 8, though he never published it), he was turning from large-scale orchestral works—especially the two wartime symphonies, No. 7 (“Leningrad”) and No. 8. In September 1943, he played through the Eighth for his closest friend, the musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky in Moscow. He was trying to get Sollertinsky established there as well, because the years of the war had enforced a separation that was difficult for both of them. By mid-December the plans were set for Sollertinsky’s move. In early February 1944, the musicologist had given a lecture to introduce the local premiere of Shostakovich’s Eighth in far-off Novosibirsk. Less than a week later, after complaining of heart pains, he died suddenly at 41.
Shostakovich was devastated. To Sollertinsky’s widow he wrote to say how impossible it was to express the depth of his grief. “Ivan Ivanovich was my very closest and dearest friend. I am indebted to him for all my growth. To live without him will be unbearably difficult.”
Shostakovich began work on the Trio before Sollertinsky’s death, which occurred just a few days before he completed the first movement. Periods of depression and ill health in the spring—partly, no doubt, in reaction to his friend’s death—kept him from composing at all. In April he wrote that “it seems to me that I will never be able to compose another note again.” By the end of the academic year, though, when his responsibilities as teacher and head of the committee evaluating pianists at the conservatory were finished, he returned to the Trio while spending the summer with his family at an artists’ retreat in Ivanovo.
At last he was able to work quickly, finishing the second movement on August 4 and the last on August 13. Then he turned quickly to his Second String Quartet, completing it in just over a month. Both works were premiered in November, when the Trio was particularly warmly received. Sollertinsky’s sister felt that in the second movement—the first to written after the dedicatee’s death—Shostakovich had captured her brother’s “temper, his polemics, his manner of speech, his habit of returning to one and the same thought, developing it” with remarkable accuracy. At the same time, the work as a whole cannot fail to evoke the wider world situation in 1944, and throughout all four movements the mood is essentially elegiac.
The work opens with an astonishing texture, probably unique in the trio literature: a slow fugato with the cello in a high register, the violin entering in the middle, and then the piano in the bass. Throughout the work Shostakovich takes great pains to prevent the piano from overpowering the strings. The bulk of the first movement is in sonata form. It is followed by a scherzo-like movement in F-sharp, where the two stringed instruments band together, as it were, against the onslaught of the piano. The third movement is a passacaglia in the dark key of B‑flat minor, based on a series of eight chords sounded in the piano at the outset. These repeating harmonies modulate from B-flat minor to B minor and back. Over them, the violin and cello sing their mournful song. At the final statement, the B becomes a dominant to the home key of E minor, leading directly into the finale.
The last movement is cast in a kind of sonata-rondo form, but what is most striking is its half-mocking tone with uneasy shades of meaning. This has sometimes been called the “Jewish” part of the trio—a daring choice on the composer’s part at a time when the regime was often noted for its anti-Semitism. That portion had to be repeated, by audience demand, at the opening performance, on November 14, 1944.
Bohuslav Martinů/1890-1959/ Fantaisie for Theremin, Oboe, Piano and String Quartet (1944)
Bohuslav Martinů is now recognized as one of the leading Czech composers, though he spent almost no time during his adult years in his homeland. Yet despite his long absences—by choice and by the force majeure of politics—he rediscovered his Czech nationalism during the ‘30s and never again lost it, always remaining thoroughly himself, thoroughly Czech. The thirty-three year old composer went to Paris in 1923 to study with Albert Roussel, whose music he admired enormously. Impressed by the unstuffy music of Les Six, inspired in turn by the refreshing iconoclasm of Erik Satie, Martinů wrote several short ballet scores and other works either for piano or chamber orchestra using elements of jazz and the new styles of popular music that had invaded Europe from America.
After seventeen years of hand-to-mouth existence in Paris, Martinů found himself blacklisted by the Nazis. On June 10, 1940, he left Paris with his wife and all his manuscripts; after several months of wandering, he managed to obtain exit papers to escape to America. Life was difficult at first, but Serge Koussevitzky commissioned his First Symphony. With renewed confidence, Martinů composed a symphony each year from 1942 to 1946, along with many chamber works. He turned down a post-war invitation to become professor at the Prague Conservatory in opposition to the Communist regime that had come to power there. He was invited to teach at Tanglewood in the summer of 1948, but injuries suffered in a severe fall left him unable to accept the appointment. He spent three years teaching at Princeton, then divided the remainder of his life between Nice, Philadelphia, Rome, and Basel.
He composed the Fantasia in 1944 for the unusual combination of theremin, piano, oboe, and string quartet. The piece illustrated Martinů’s willingness to consider novel possibilities and to employ them in fresh ways. In this case the inclusion of the theremin was due to a commission from Lucie Bigelow Rosen (1890-1968), the wife of Walter Rosen, who owned and developed the Caramoor estate. Lucie Rosen was a distinguished performer on the instrument and an ardent promoter of repertory for it. She premiered the Fantasia, and the score is dedicated to her.
Unlike the jazzy music he had written in France during the 1930s, the Fantasia deals mostly in dark moods, with touches of poignant reflection. This can hardly be a surprise. The score was composed in the middle of World War II, and Martinů had only recently finished his Memorial to Lidice (Památník Lidicím) to remind the world of the horrific destruction of a Czech village—all the men shot, the women sent to concentration camps, the children rounded up for “re-education,” and every building razed to the ground—in retribution for the assassination of one Nazi official. The Fantasia explodes with strong outbursts and sighs of lamentation, a solemn tone that brings the work to a quiet resting point.
Aaron Copland/1900-1990/ Sextet for Clarinet, Piano and String Quartet (1933, 1937)
Aaron Copland was one of the most beloved, profoundly influential, and honored musical figures in American history. He received three of America’s highest civilian awards (the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, and National Medal of Arts), a Pulitzer Prize, one of the first Kennedy Center Honors, Academy Award for Best Original Musical Score (1950, for The Heiress), and numerous other awards, foreign decorations, and honorary doctorates. In addition to such iconic works as Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Billy the Kid, Fanfare for the Common Man, and Lincoln Portrait, and modern classics like the Short Symphony and Symphony No. 3, Piano Variations, Piano Fantasy, Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, and Clarinet Concerto, his catalogue includes a wide range of chamber, piano, vocal, operatic, choral, and film music. Copland was also an active and accomplished pianist and conductor, author, lecturer, mentor, peerless champion of American composers and their work, and founder or pivotal early supporter of Tanglewood, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, League of Composers, American Music Center, and many other important institutions on the U.S. musical landscape. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. to Russian immigrant parents, he spent over half of his adult life in Westchester County, mostly in Cortlandt Manor at a home that is now an award-winning creative center for American music and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Terror is not a word that normally comes to performers’ minds when they think of Copland’s music, but the Sextet for Clarinet, Piano, and String Quartet (like the orchestral work from which it is derived, the Short Symphony) still strikes fear into otherwise intrepid musicians. British critic Anthony Burton once called the symphonic original one of the “most canceled major works of this century.” The outer movements have a sometimes bewildering succession of syncopations, cross-rhythms, and constantly changing meters, imparting a spicy flavor and jittery, playful character to the music. “I wouldn’t have thought of those rhythms … if I hadn’t had a jazz orientation,” Copland explained. The contrasting middle movement is tranquil and flowing. “I expended a great deal of effort to write as perfected a piece as I possibly could,” Copland said. At one point, he thought to call the symphony The Bounding Line, reflecting the work’s lithe vitality and infectious buoyancy. Copland’s friend and fellow composer Carlos Chavez raved about “the way each and every note comes out from the other as the only natural and logical one possible.” After two illustrious Copland champions, conductors Serge Koussevitzky and Leopold Stokowski, declined to give the premiere (with the Boston Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, respectively) because of the Short Symphony’s rhythmic difficulties, and Chavez required ten orchestral rehearsals for his 1934 World Premiere performance, Copland decided to re-frame the Short Symphony for six instrumentalists, in hopes of improving the work’s performance chances; in that chamber version, the work has flourished.
– Michael Boriskin
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Late in his life Claude Debussy planned a large chamber music project to consist of six sonatas, of which he completed only three. He wrote the first of these, the Cello Sonata, in the space of a few days in late July and early August 1915‑‑a difficult time for the composer and for all of Europe. For the first year after the outbreak of World War I, Debussy had composed little or nothing, but suddenly in 1915 he began to write feverishly in a mood of instinctive patriotism, “to prove, in a small way, that not thirty million Boches [Germans] could destroy French thought even though they had attempted to degrade it before annihilating it.”
After finishing En blanc et noir, a work for two pianos with explicit references to the war (including a dedication to a young friend killed in action), Debussy began his Cello Sonata. The new work had no specific references to the state of the world, but its air of fantastic unreality—the composer himself dubbed the sonata “Pierrot angry with the moon”—seems to be a self‑protective withdrawal into fantasy. His musical language moves about as far as can be imagined from the style of Beethoven, in which events have consequences that build a logical shape to the piece, a rhetorical argument.
In Debussy, ideas race by with such speed that we experience rather a surrealistic juxtaposition of apparently unrelated passages. The singing legato characteristic of most romantic cello music dissolves into arpeggios and nervous ornaments, or disappears entirely in the second movement, which calls upon the cello to imitate a guitar, a flute, or a tambourine. The extraordinary special effects of the middle movement, which the cellist is called upon to play “ironically” or “nervously” or “fantastically,” yield to the more folk-like thematic character of the finale, which is interrupted in its rushing pace by a highly expressive rubato passage before racing to its conclusion. But even here the atmosphere is almost wholly allusive, avoiding direct assertions as something too cut and dried for the distracted times.