Program Notes

Theresa Dimond and Friends
Program Notes 

Concerto a Tre  (1946) by Ingolf Dahl

Composer Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970) was born Walter Ingolf Marcus, in Hamburg, Germany.  From 1930-1932 he was a student of Philipp Jarnach at the Cologne Hochschule für Musik.  Fearing the oppression of the Nazi party, he fled to Switzerland and continued his studies at the University of Zürich. Dahl’s first professional assignment out of school was as conductor and coach for the Zürich Stadttheater.  In 1938, Dahl emigrated to the United States, changing his surname to Dahl (his Swedish mother’s maiden name), is it assumed, in order to mask his Jewish heritage.  He settled in Los Angeles, where he worked as a composer and conductor for radio and film, gave lectures and piano recitals, and attended master classes with Nadia Boulanger. In 1945 he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California.  As conductor of the university’s symphony orchestra, Dahl gave West Coast premieres of a wide variety of contemporary works from the U.S. and Europe. His close collaboration with Igor Stravinsky had a significant effect on Dahl’s own work, leading him to lecture, perform, and arrange Stravinsky’s music as well as translate his Poetics of Music (1947). From 1964 to 1966 he directed and conducted at the Ojai Festival in Ojai, California. In his last years, Dahl conducted the Los Angeles Guild Opera and again the University of Southern California symphony orchestra. Among Dahl’s many honors are two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Huntington Hartford Fellowships, an Excellence in Teaching Award from USC, and the ASCAP Stravinsky Award.

Dahl wrote the Concerto a Tre  in 1946, providing his own notes on the work, as follows:

“The basic thematic idea… consists of six notes: E-flat, B-flat, B-flat, C, F, F. The character of the work is concertante  and playful but at the same time very strictly organized on the basis of the previously stated “thematic germ.” These notes are almost ever-present in harmonic and melodic guises too numerous to mention: they are contracted (as at the very end) or expanded (as at the beginning); they are transposed, inverted, telescoped, and also hidden under elaborate melodic designs. It is not the intention of the composer that the manipulations of the “thematic germ” be consciously experienced by the listener. They form the inner-musical mechanism which is a means to an end: the expressive and intellectual musical whole.

Although written in one continuous movement, the Concerto clearly falls into three symmetric sections to which a fast coda is added. The Allegro opening section (in which the main theme is not presented at the outset, but evolves gradually) is not written in any of the traditional forms, but it creates its own form in a variety of inter-related short sections. Rhythm (sometimes reminiscent of jazz techniques) and polyphony are the musical elements most in the foreground. (In a little episode near the beginning, marked bucolico, a faint echo of the fifths and fourths of Swiss folk music can be interpreted as a tribute to that country where the composer spent many of his youthful years.)

The slow central part of the Concerto begins with an intricately worked out color contrast: The warm tone of the clarinet is accompanied by the cold sounds of high string harmonies and open strings. In this Moderato part, organ-like sonorities alternate with the long flowing melodies that culminate in a climactic central section. It ends with a brilliant cadenza for the clarinet. This cadenza leads back to a return of the opening of the work, which is varied and fugally developed. Without a break, the movement gains momentum and ends in a Presto that carries in a headlong flight to the end.”

 

Spiegel im Spiegel  (1978) by Arvo Pärt

Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt (b. 1939) is one of the few composers in the world whose creative output has significantly changed the way we understand the nature of music. In 1976, he created a unique musical language he named tintinnabuli  (Latin for ringing bells), that has reached a vast audience of listeners and that has defined his work since then.

Pärt’s compositional oeuvre can be divided into two time periods, pre- and post-1976.  Pärt attended the Tallinn State Conservatory, where his early works embraced serialism, collage, neo-classicism and aggressive dissonance, the prevalent trends of the avant-garde of his day. Like Shostakovich before him, Pärt’s early works were not embraced by Soviet audiences or censors. In 1968, when his work Credo was not well received by critics, he stopped composing altogether.  The next eight years were spent in Vienna and Berlin searching for his own new and unique musical voice.  During those years he turned to his deep religious beliefs in the Russian Orthodox church, studying Gregorian Chant, the Notre Dame School and Classical vocal polyphony, as a new source of inspiration.  What emerged was a highly personal and religious musical language that is immediately recognizable as Arvo Pärt. Spiegel im Spiegel  (1978) was one of the first works in this newly developed compositional style.

Spiegel im Spiegel  is the best-known of all of Pärt’s music. An excellent example of minimalist music, it has a meditative and serene simplicity to its elements which include the formal structure, and its melodic and harmonic construction. It was originally written for solo piano and violin, though many other versions exist, which feature solo piano and one other melodic instrument.  The piece has been transcribed for piano and cello, viola, clarinet, or flute. This evening’s performance features a transcription for marimba and cello.

The German title Spiegel im Spiegel  means both “mirror in the mirror,” as well as “mirrors in the mirror,” referring to the infinity of images produced by the parallel plane of mirrors. The work, firmly grounded in the key of F major, is built on two recurring motifs, a rising second-inversion arpeggio, in this version played by the marimba, and sustained notes in the cello, in slowly ascending and descending scales.

The “mirroring” is achieved through the statement of three-note arpeggios in the marimba, which are endlessly repeated with small variations, as if reflected back and forth in the mirror. The accompaniment also reaffirms the melody of the cello line with parallel thirds and octaves, and occasional bell-like punctuation, both bass and soprano, that marks the ends of phrases. The melody is based on a slow ascending melodic line, beginning with two long notes, which alternately ascends, then descends, a step. With each subsequent ascent and descent, a note is added to the line, a process which could go on indefinitely (the “mirror in mirror” again). It is this continuity and constant inversion of the cello line, combined with the water-like drip-drip constancy of the marimba, that creates a sense of perfect tranquility. There is no drama or ambiguity here because we know the music will always return to its harmonic home. Rather, the emotional content comes from the introspective atmosphere created by the simplicity and pure sonorities of the music.

It is easy to dismiss Pärt’s music as simplistic, sentimental and clichéd “holy minimalism,” but the music’s power lies in both its absolute simplicity and the austere rigor applied to its construction. As a result, his music sounds both ancient and avant-garde simultaneously, while the new tonalities of the “little bells” and the simple harmonic progressions give the music a spare profundity and a meditative expressivity.

 

Burn3  (2018) by Nathan Daughtrey

The idea for Burn3  simply came from the title and the myriad number of ways a fire can burn. The original piece, Burn  (no. 3 in the title), was commissioned and premiered by saxophonist Robert Faub for performance at the 2016 North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. It was later revised and, also, published in this iteration for flute, Bb clarinet and 5 octave marimba with the new name Burn3.

The work is a perpetual motion tour-de-force for all three players that takes listeners on a fast and often wild ride. It is divided into seven distinct short sections with the titles Spark, Ignite, Dance, Scorch, Smolder, Incinerate, and Extinguish.

Composer and keyboard percussionist Nathan Daughtrey is driven by curiosity, relentlessly seeking ways to meld his lifelong passions. As a performing artist and clinician, his varied career has taken him all over the world, appearing as a keyboard soloist in Australia, Asia, Eastern Europe, and throughout North America. Daughtrey has released two solo marimba albums – Spiral Passages and The Yuletide Marimba – the latter featuring his original arrangements of popular Christmas carols for the instrument. Additionally, he has appeared on many other albums, including Emma Lou Diemer’s Pacific Ridge, performing as soloist on her Concerto in One Movement for Marimba & Orchestra with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Daughtrey first discovered and cultivated his compositional voice through works involving percussion, including solos, duets, and ensembles. After one too many experiences as a bored, young “drummer” in the back of a band room, he made it his mission to compose wind band music across all difficulty levels with engaging, independent percussion parts that add color and drive, making the percussion section indispensable. Perhaps best known for his percussion ensemble pieces, like Mercury Rising and Firefly, Daughtrey has also amassed an impressive catalog of chamber works combining percussion with woodwinds, brass, strings, and voice. Being a collaborative chamber musician, often on his own pieces, has been the most rewarding means of combining his passions for performing and composing. He maintains a healthy commission schedule, composing works across genres for performers, ensembles, and directors worldwide.

In January 2020, Daughtrey took over as owner and president of C. Alan Publications after having been a vital member of the publishing company since 1998. To this new role, he brings with him the same curiosity and zeal he applies in the rest of his life, to curating a catalog of music that is genuine, forward-looking, educational, and inspiring.

Daughtrey currently teaches composition, performs, composes new music, runs a publishing house, and lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with his wife and daughter.

 

Homage à Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton  (1976, rev. 1977) by Barbara Kolb

Barbara Kolb was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1939. She received her B.M. and M.M. degrees from the The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, where she studied both clarinet performance and composition, the latter with famed composers Lukas Foss and Gunther Schuller. Upon graduation, Kolb was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship grant, and relocated to Vienna, Austria to further her musical studies. A few years later she was awarded the Prix de Rome, the first American women to receive this honor. From 1979 to 1982, Kolb served as the Artistic Director of Contemporary Music at the Third Street Music School Settlement where she produced the well-known “Music New to New York” concert series. She also taught composition at Rhode Island College and the Eastman School of Music as a visiting professor. Kolb’s compositions have been featured at the Kennedy Center as part of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and have included commissioned works by the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony and the Atlanta Symphony. Recordings devoted solely to Kolb’s music have been released on CRI and New World Records, and her large catalogue of music is published exclusively by Boosey and Hawkes.

Kolb’s music is notable for the use of sound masses that create vertical structures, or harmony, through the simultaneous layering of different rhythmic and melodic motifs, very much akin to the improvisational styles of Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett. Kolb’s style can be identified by her use of colorful textures, her stylistically impressionistic touch, and her vast colorful and expanded harmonic vocabulary that borders on, but never passes into atonality. Kolb points to being heavily influenced by both the literary and visual arts of her time. Notably this Homage  has an evocative black and white pencil drawing by Hannah M. G. Shapero in its “notes to the performer.”

Kolb says of the work, “When asked to write a short work for vibraphone and flute by the Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) in 1976, it occurred to me that this ensemble would lend itself well to jazz.  At the time, I had become extremely interested in the music of Keith Jarrett and wanted to express myself in a similar style, in spite of never having had any direct experience in jazz improvisation.  In addition, my entire musical education had been influenced by the “masters” and I felt a need to be uninhibited and free from this disciplined background.  Since it was difficult for me to conceive of a work for this combination in the style which I had learned and in which I had come to express myself, I decided to trespass on new and unfamiliar territory.  “HOMAGE…” is based on a 30-second improvisation of a tune entitled “Grow Your Own” which I literally stole from the record.  Having this skeletal outline, I then worked my material around that of Jarrett’s creating a pot pourri (sic) of Jarrett, Kolb and reminiscences of my past.”

The piece was premiered in 1976 at the Dallas MTNA convention and is dedicated to percussionist Gordon Gottlieb.

 

Point Bak (1997) by Gerard Lecointe

Gerard Lecointe was born into a musical family.  His earliest musical experience was studying piano with Marcel Ciampi at the Paris Conservatory of Music until he turned 18.  Throughout his childhood, he was deeply influenced by French music, including specifically the music of Debussy, Ravel, Saint-Saens, Faure and Cesar.  Along with his interest in piano, and later jazz piano, he joined the percussion class at the Lyon Conservatoire, eventually completing his degree in percussion in 1979.  Lecointe was a founding member of the percussion section of the Opera National of Lyons where he regularly performed with conductors John Eliot Gardiner and Kent Nagano. He has worked with many percussion ensembles, most of which are dedicated to the performance of contemporary music including Forum and the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain.  He currently dedicates himself to writing, arranging, and performing with FIPA, the International Forum for Contemporary Percussion.

Point Bak  was composed in 1997 for a French festival dedicated to the work of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Since Lecointe is well-known as an arranger, the commission specifically requested that he not “arrange” the works of Bach, but compose a new work for percussion ensemble loosely based on the first book of the Well-Tempered Klavier.  The result, Point Bak, extracts literal excerpts from Bach in their original tonalities.  Each cell is then used verbatim for only a few bars before alternately becoming the basis for a mutating rhythmic or melodic cell.

The first movement, marked Allegro, is based on Fugues 1 and 2, and Prelude 2.  Lecointe describes this high energy movement as a “rhythmic obstinancy with unceasing repeated notes…with the power of sound to cause musical hallucination.”

The last movement starts with several short themes from Bach performed in the style of Prokofiev.  He playfully quotes Preludes 5, 21 and 22 and Fugue 3 in just a matter of 11 measures before furiously embarking on an explosive rhythmic exploration of Bach’s Prelude 10 in e minor. The first and fourth movements, performed here tonight, are the most alike with their obstinate rhythms and pleasant harmonies.  The two movements form a beautiful musical arch.

The piece ends with a short Epilogue. Ironically this ending is the first work in Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, and arguably Bach’s most famous piece, Prelude 1 in C major.  It is serene and beautiful, and possibly the most influential of all Bach’s works, ending this journey through the Well-Tempered Klavier with what can only be described, in reference to the rest of the piece, as an antithetical moment of calm.