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This event ended on: Mar 16, 2021

NACO at the Fourth

with members of NACO Brass

Francophone Music Classical music Chamber music
  • #CanadaPerforms
  • NAC Orchestra

  Mar 16, 2021 - 8 PM  EDT   60 minutes with no intermission.

J.S. BACH Selections from
Andante from the Motet “Jesu, Meine Freude”
Bouree II from English Suite No. 2
Fugue XI from The Well Tempered Clavier, Vol. 1
Gigue

LAUREN BERNOFSKY Trio for Brass (13’)
I. Allegro deciso
II. Berceuse
III. Vivo

ERWIN CHANDLER Duo for Trumpet and Tuba (1979)
I. Presto
IV. Andante
III. A la Jazz Waltz

CHRISTER DANIELSSON Concertante Suite for Tuba and 4 Horns (15’)
I. Largo – Allegro vivo
II. Moderato misterioso
III. Andante con sentimento
IV. Alla Marcia

Louis-Pierre Bergeron, horn
Douglas Burden, bass trombone
Karen Donnelly, trumpet
Julie Fauteux, horn
Chris Lee, tuba
Elizabeth Simpson, horn
Lawrence Vine, horn

This program opens with a selection of movements extracted from various works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) and arranged for horn trio. Composers (including Bach himself) often arranged the music of other composers they admired and wanted to perform or have performed. With Bach, many musicians and composers over the past couple of centuries have turned frequently to some of his most notable works—such as the preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, his keyboard suites, and vocal pieces—and set them for an abundant variety of instrumental combinations. Performing them in chamber music concerts like this one enables musicians and audiences to experience them in fresh ways, in this case, through the rich sonorities of the French horn.

“My philosophy of composition is simple: music should be a joy both to play and to hear,” says American composer Lauren Bernofsky (b. 1967). Her Trio for Brass (trumpet, horn, and trombone) is no exception; commissioned in 2002 by the Del Mar Trio, a professional brass ensemble founded at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, the piece has since been hailed as “a major addition to the brass literature” by Fanfare magazine.

In Bernofsky’s words, “I wanted to write a piece that would be an exciting challenge for the performers (though not impossibly difficult). The piece is cast in three contrasting movements, following the traditional fast-slow-fast scheme. I tried to create variety in the piece through different textures. The outer movements often alternate between sections of homophony, where the instruments all play the same rhythms together, and more complex-sounding contrapuntal textures. Much of the middle movement has a clear bass line, middle voice, and melody, and I wrote it as a necessary release from the more complex outer movements.” The diversity of moods and characters also contribute to the appeal of the Trio. In the first movement, a section featuring a majestic fanfare plus a lyrical melody played by the horn bookends a lilting central part inflected with piquant harmonies. The trumpet soothes with a gentle tune in the “Berceuse”, accompanied by the horn’s rocking figures and the trombone’s long notes. The finale consists of lively counterpoint between the instruments, punctuated by repeated note patterns, with syncopations at the climax adding a jazzy flair.

Erwin Chandler (1944–2020) was an American hornist, composer, and pedagogue. He had an active career performing music of classical, popular, and jazz genres (the latter as a pianist also) and his compositions have been performed on both sides of the Atlantic. Duo for Trumpet and Tuba (1979) was commissioned by Chris Gekker (trumpet) and Gary Maske (tuba) while they were teaching at the Tidewater Music Festival in Maryland. Tonight, you’ll hear three of the four movements from the piece, which was written to let the musical and technical skills of the players shine. A feisty Presto opens the work, with snappy motives alternating with more smooth-lined melodies. The fourth movement, a contemplative Andante, is performed tonight in lieu of the second movement, after which an energetic jazz waltz rounds things off.

The Concertante for Tuba and Four Horns (1977) is among Christer Danielsson’s most admired works. The Swedish Danielsson (1942–1989) was a self-taught composer but in his career as a trombonist, he was adept at performing in multiple genres and styles, from orchestral music to experimental pieces to big-band jazz. This wide-ranging experience shaped his own compositions and arrangements for brass ensembles, including this brilliant work for a rather unique, though as you’ll see pleasing, combination of instruments.

In four movements of roughly equal length, the Concertante is witty and entertaining. It opens with a stately summons in the horns, answered by the tuba, which then takes the lead in the Allegro vivo with a playful and slightly sarcastic main theme. Later, a horn introduces a jaunty tune. The Moderato misterioso evokes “night music”: the tuba tiptoes first onto the scene, with each of the horns gradually joining in. Tension builds gradually, with the horns punching out short chords, while the tuba takes on a meandering melody that later wanders into a cadenza-like moment…before it finally sneaks away. A wistful waltz of a movement follows. The beginning of the finale suggests an advancing marching band (likely inspired by Danielsson’s own experience playing in the Swedish Navy band in Karlskrona), which eventually opens out into a rambunctious theme. A central section of varied textures lend contrast, after which the boisterous march and theme return to bring the piece—and this concert—to a rousing close.

By Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley

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