Brave New Works Presents
Picasso and his influence on composers
June 13, 2002
Music of modernism
The turn of the 21st century was a time of exploration and dramatic
change in art and science. Old barriers were broken, new invention and
concepts, in a sense, a new world order was made.
Brave New Works is presenting a program in conjunction with the opening
of the Picasso exibit at the University of Art Museum exploring modernism
in music, particularly as it relates to Picasso.
In visual arts the great debate was representation versus abstraction,
in music, tonality versus atonality. This program includes reporesentatives
of both views. Schoenberg was the creator of the twelve tone technique.
He saw it as a continuation of what came before, a natural step in the
evolution of composition, in a same way that cubism grew out of previous
as primitivism. Millhaud and Poulenc represent a French style that
undoubtedly was greatly influenced by the impressionists, and stayed in
the fringes of tonality. Stravinsky created great ballets for Diaghilev's
Ballet Russes in Paris and pushed the limits of the muscial language as
well as the audiences. Suite Italienne is a Suite from the ballet "Pulcinella"
for which Picasso himself created the set-design. Finally, the most resent
of the compositions, Rorem's String Quartet takes inspiration from the
master himself- each movement in the work depicts a certain painting of
Picasso: Masterworks from the Collection
June 8-September 15, 2002
During his artistic career (which lasted more
than seventy-five years and earned him the reputation as the most famous
artist of the twentieth century), Pablo Picasso created thousands of works
in a wide range of media-paintings, sculptures, prints, and ceramics. From
his pioneering role in Cubism, Picasso continued to develop his art at
a pace and with a vitality that mirrored the accelerated technological
and cultural developments occurring around him. UMMA will present an overview
of Picasso's prolific career drawing principally from the Museum's own
extensive holdings of his works. The exhibition will feature approximately
thirty-five pieces, including drawings, prints, and oil paintings dating
from 1905 to 1968. The UMMA collection is one of the few, if not the only,
university collections with this kind of depth in its Picasso holdings,
and this project will mark the first time such a large body of these works
have been shown together.
Phantasy for violin and piano
Picasso, Igor Stravinsky
Louis Marcoussis, Darius Milhaud, 1936
Sonata Op. 47
Cocteau, Ned Rorem
The Dexter String Quartet
Esther Noh, violin
Since its formation in April of 2000 in Ann Arbor Michigan, the Dexter
String Quartet has been received to public acclaim in both Ann Arbor’s
university community and in concert venues statewide for its presentation
of Classical and Contemporary string quartet repertoire. The Dexter
formerly served as the resident string quartet of the University of Michigan
Contemporary Directions Ensemble.
Individually, the members of the Dexter have studied at some
of the finest musical institutions in the United States and abroad, including
Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory, the Shepherd School of Music,
the University of Michigan, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Salzburg Mozarteum,
the Aspen Music Festival, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Pacific
Music Festival. With specializations ranging from improvisatory jazz
to baroque performance practice, each member brings a unique experience
and expertise to the ensemble.
In its first year, the Dexter has coached extensively with Andrew
Jennings at the University of Michigan, Lorand Fenyves, Laurence Lesser,
as well as with saxophonist Donald Sinta, composers John Zorn and Michael
Torke, and conductor Steven Byess. In February, the quartet recorded
music for the television show ‘Xena: Warrior Princess,’ which aired later
that month. The group’s first commission, ‘FINDS’ for String Quartet,
by composer Tom Schnauber was premiered in February of 2002. In the
summer of 2002, the Dexter Quartet will be in residence at the Musicorda
festival in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Phantasy for violin and piano
One of the most influential and at times controversial figures in music
of the 20th century, Arnold Schoenberg never witnessed overwhelming success
in his lifetime. Even today, many shy away from the abstract sounds
of his atonal Expressionist and twelve-tone periods. Glenn Watkins
calls this “disparity between the acknowledged importance of the music
of Arnold Schoenberg and the minimal attention given to it in the concert
hall” “one of the most interesting paradoxes of contemporary music” (Soundings,
p. 24). Schoenberg, however, was firmly rooted in the traditions
of his Viennese musical ancestors and thought of his own music as a logical
step in the Mozart-Beethoven-Brahms continuum. He wrote that his
“own work arose clearly and naturally out of a post-Wagnerian chromaticism
and post-Brahmsian asymmetrical phrasing.” “Schoenberg admired the
compact richness of [Brahms’] harmonic language and his ability to spin
themes, sections and even entire compositions from a few small motifs.
For Schoenberg, these procedures of Stufenreichtum (abundance of scale
degrees) and ‘developing variation’ paved the way towards an ‘unrestricted
musical language’ of the 20th century” (New Grove, “Brahms”). Other
profound influences for Schoenberg were the music Gustav Mahler and Alexander
Zemlinsky and the art of Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Kokoschka, and Richard
Schoenberg spent most of his formative years in Vienna. He was
born into a Jewish family of Czech descent. In 1898 he converted
to Lutheranism but still was a victim of the hardship and persecution faced
by the Jewish population of Vienna. Schoenberg was largely self-taught.
His only private instruction came from fellow Viennese composer, Zemlinsky.
Teaching, however, would be a large part of Schoenberg’s life and among
his pupils and disciples one can list Alban Berg, Anton Webern, and John
Cage. The social and musical hardships of life in Vienna led Schoenberg
to take up residence in Berlin three different times (1901-3, 1911-15,
1925-33) before finally leaving Europe altogether and immigrating to the
United States. Although his life in the United States was more prosperous
than that of many European émigrés of the era (he managed
to make a living teaching and lecturing at various academic institutions),
Schoenberg still struggled to reconcile the life he left behind in Europe.
He contemplated a return to Austria several times during his years in America
but was deterred by the continued deterioration of his health.
Schoenberg composed his Phantasy for Violin, opus 47 in 1949.
It was written for Adolf Koldofksy who gave the first performance of the
work at Schoenberg’s 75th Birthday celebration concert. Schoenberg
took the unusual approach of writing out the violin part in its entirety
before turning to the piano part. The piece is made up of five sections.
The first and last contain similar material and both showcase difficult
displays of harmonic double stops for the violin, huge intervallic leaps
and swiftly contrasting dynamics. The scherzando sections in the
center of the piece are evocative of waltz or dance patterns and throughout
the work, one can hear moments that hearken to Brahms both metrically (duple
against triple patterns) and harmonically.
-notes by Maria Sampen
Trois mouvements perpétuels (1918)
The French composer Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was 14 years old and
living in Paris when Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring took that musical capitol
by storm. Picasso’s reputation there had bloomed more gradually,
but was already in full flower when Poulenc began issuing his earliest
works. These included the Trois mouvements perpétuels
of 1918. This work for piano shows the young, precocious Poulenc
displaying a simplicity of expression which would remain his trademark.
The mouvements enjoyed a great deal of popularity among amateur pianists
in Europe. It is performed here in an arrangement for flute and guitar.
It is for the straightforward simplicity and directness of his writing
that Poulenc was at one time dismissed as a serious composer. However,
appreciation has grown for Poulenc’s gift with mélodie. Few
20th-century composers were able to mine the fields of tonal music for
new, beautiful melodies (and indeed many of them would abandon tonal music
altogether). In this way, he has been compared with Schubert, who
created remarkable new music without making significant harmonic innovations.
In the art world, Picasso was of course far more groundbreaking, and is
more readily identifiable in the musical world with Stravinsky. Still,
there is a two-dimensional directness and clarity to his Cubist
-notes by Matthew Ardizzone
String Quartet #4 (1994)
2. Child Holding a Dove
3. Acrobat on a Ball
4. Still Life
5. Seated Harlequin
6. Head of a Boy
7. Basket of Flowers
9. Three Nudes
10. Death of a Harlequin
Yes, Picasso’s paintings did impel this suite, yet to subtitle it “Picasso”
seems nervy and irrelevant (nervy, in hitching my wagon to the great man’s
star; irrelevant, in that no music irrefutably depicts other than itself).
But yet again, composers do often seek to conjoin their art with another
art—with the poetry of song, for instance, and more exceptionally with
the visual, by representing through sound their special “Pictures at an
Exhibition.” So when the chips are down, will I remove the titles
and simply offer my work like the abstraction that it is? Or will
I retain the titles? You, reading this, will know the ultimate decision—that
I want it both ways.
The music came rapidly, four of the movements being composed in January
of 1994, the six others during a fortnight at Yaddo in July. Most
of the ten “Pictures” are related thematically, and all are related—I pray—theatrically.
The central piece is Self Portrait, which bears the interpretive suggestion:
“with horror and indifference.” While feeding solely off the given
material, this movement means unequivocally to portray the schizoid temper
of any artist—or, indeed, any human—whose hot urge for self-expression
is met by the cold self-protection of his alter ego. Thus is it too,
though more hidden and serene, in the nine other sections.
Now, lest this program-note melt into psychobabble, I’ll only add that
the music was commissioned by the South Mountain Association especially
for performance by the Emerson String Quartet, and that it lasts about
-notes by Ned Rorem
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