Youth Symphony of Kansas City Midwest Performance Program Notes:
Suo Gan (2014) – Grade 2 : Larry Clark (4:00)
Suo Gan is a Welsh lullaby. It is a hauntingly beautiful folk song that has been set by many composers because of its pure and simplistic beauty. You may recognize this song from its use in movies and television. It was my goal to approach this song in a different manner than others and to bring out the lush nature of the song in various harmonic settings.
The song is a mother’s lullaby to her sleeping child. It speaks of the child’s look of content as they sleep in their mother’s arms. With this in mind, I set out to write a subtle treatment of this lovely song. It starts out with soft tremolo figures in the upper strings to set up the lush harmonies of the piece. The melody is then expressed the first time very simply with basic chords in the other strings. This is then expanded with arpeggiated chords and a counter line in the middle strings. I then composed a transition section that serves as a bridge between statements of the melody to give the piece some variety.
This song’s sixteen-measure form is made up of simple four-measure phrases that can be outlined as AABA with the B-phrase being the climatic one. I took this idea and used my transitional section in place of some of the A-phrases at times. After the piece builds to a strong forte, the melody is stated in parallel seventh chords with the whole ensemble playing similar rhythms for a different harmonic twist. This is a nod to a technique used by Percy Grainger, who is well-known for his folk-song settings. The piece then builds to a climax fermata before dying down with a return to the opening material and the last phrase of the melody stated in the cello, followed by a short coda with lush harmonies to end the setting.
It has been my pleasure to have the opportunity to write this piece. I hope you and your students enjoy it and find it useful for your program.
Fountains (2014) – Grade 1 : Derek Jenkins (3:00)
Kansas City and Rome are considered by many to be the cities of fountains. I have lived in Kansas City for many years, and I pass several fountains every day. For me, they stand as reminders that I need to slow down and relax more often. In his iconic Fontane di Roma [Fountains of Rome], composer Ottorino Respighi depicts the majestic fountains in Rome. Respighi’s music has had a profound effect on me as a composer, and as a small homage, snapshots and fragments reminiscent of his Fontane di Roma have been interspersed throughout my piece. This work takes Respighi’s Roman fountains and integrates them with the serenity I have experience while viewing the Kansas City fountains. Essentially, Fountains merges two cities half a world apart.
Fountains was commissioned by Steven D. Davis and the Youth Symphony of Kansas City for their performance at the 68th Annual Conference of the Midwest Clinic.
Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74 (Pathetique)(1893) – Grade 6 : Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (43:00)
Luck’s Music Library/Tempo Press
First, a word about the subtitle. “Pathétique” in its Russian form does not mean what it does in English. Hardly “pathetic” or “pitiable,” in this context it was intended to conjure an “enthusiastic,” “passionate” and “emotional” experience. The 4th Symphony had a specific program attached to it while the 5th did not (an admittedly nebulous fact that has not kept biographers over the years from attempting to assign one). The 6th Symphony most certainly did have a program, but unlike the 4th, it was not at all specific. The fact that Tchaikovsky originally called it his “Program Symphony” did not mean that he planned to share the story with the world. He envisioned it from the start as an enigma and when considering the questions of future curious listeners he wrote, “let them guess.” Other than a mention that the symphony was “saturated with subjective feeling,” the specifics of the program are with him still. The structure of the “Pathétique” is unique and the juxtaposition of the third and last movements is particularly daring, even for today. The third movement is a march that builds to an incredible level of excitement and is so effective in its rousing climax that audiences, nearly without exception, still applaud luxuriously at the end of it. The ensuing finale is a patient funereal dream and fittingly, given Tchaikovsky’s matter-of-fact view of death and the beyond, it simply disappears into itself without comment or conclusion.
– Jeff Counts [Source: utahsymphony.org]