Bach to the Mouse People and beyond
by Jan Jezioro
A Musical Feast at the Burchfield Penny
Who are the Mouse People, you might well ask, and what does the music of J.S. Bach have to do with them? If you are interested in finding out, you might well consider attending this Friday’s A Musical Feast 8pm event at the Burchfield Penny Art Center on Elmwood Avenue on the Buffalo State College Campus.
Amy Williams, a Buffalo hometown favorite who is a professor of composition at the University of Pittsburgh, is returning this weekend for an appearance in both of her roles, as pianist and composer. She designed a program that reinforces the unique role of A Musical Feast in keeping alive the spirit of the now legendary UB Creative Associates, led by Lukas Foss, in the larger Buffalo classical musical community.
The music of J.S. Bach introduces each half of the program. To open the concert, flutist Lindsey Goodman, who will be making her Buffalo area debut, performs the Partita in A minor in a transcription for solo flute. Goodman, the principal flutist of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, teaches at West Virginia State University. After the intermission, Amy Williams will perform Two Preludes, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, on the piano.
In the first half of the program UB professor of cello Jonathan Golove will join Williams in an arrangement for cello and piano of Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen, or Scenes from Childhood, a work originally composed for solo piano. As Williams observes, “Even in the short character pieces of Kinderszenen, one can hear Bach’s influence in the way the inner, contrapuntal lines weave together—this is perhaps even more apparent in this beautiful arrangement for cello and piano.”
About his recent work, Another War, Golove says “It is the final song in my setting of poems by Susan Lewis entitled Imaginary Songs II. Imaginary Songs II is scored for soprano, alto flute, and cello. My setting of Another War takes hold of certain poetic images and renders them musically, very much in a word-painting or madrigalist mode, beginning with a nod to the cowboy song to go with the ‘odd horse’ of the poem’s first line. It was composed for the late flutist Cheryl Gobbetti Hoffman and premiered in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall in 2004. Cheryl was an imaginative and generous colleague and friend who gave me my first opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in 2002. For our follow-up trip to Weill in 2004, she offered me the chance to premier an original work there. What a thrill!”
Williams says that the motoric, repetitive textures heard in Bach’s Partita and Preludes are referenced in her new solo piano work, Cineshape 4. According to the composer “This piece also borrows structural elements from the German film Run Lola Run. This film is divided into three episodes; Lola repeats the same day three times, starting in exactly the same way, but each time hoping that a slight modification of her actions will save the life of her boyfriend. This simple concept—that there are numerous ways to develop a particular idea and that minor choices have serious consequences—leads to a multifaceted structure. The three sections of the piano piece, each lasting approximately four minutes, can be performed in any order, predetermined by the performer and played without pause. Each episode must be perceived as convincingly reaching its inevitable conclusion, despite the three different results. Much like the film, the piece is a high-paced, energetic tour-de-force, literally running from start to finish with only occasional moments to stop and take a breath.”
Soprano Tiffany DuMouchelle joined the faculty of the UB department of music this semester, and based solely on her mesmerizing performances of a setting of a poem by Baudelaire by Elliott Carter, along with a pair of the vocally challenging Récitations by Georges Aperghis at a UB lunchtime concert last week, it’s clear that she has the talent necessary to succeed the much-loved soprano Tony Arnold, who left UB over a year ago for a new position in Boston.
DuMouchelle, who has gained an enviable international reputation as an interpreter of contemporary music, will be singing a selection of lieder by Clara Schumann, the wife of Robert. “I’ve always been drawn to the subtleties of vocal expression,” says DuMouchelle. “For me, singing is much more than vocalizing a beautiful line, it’s about communicating emotion and experience. As a lieder, or art song singer, chamber musician, or contemporary music specialist, I am offered an opportunity to explore human nature and auditory perception. Lieder offers singers the opportunity for intimacy and vocal experimentation that orchestral singing, such as opera cannot afford. In orchestral music, a singer’s first priority is always projection, but in lieder, projection is rarely an issue.”
“When I was a student at Mannes College, opera and lieder singing were both emphasized. I found lieder to be a wonderful creative outlet for me, where I would create the back story of each character I portrayed. Songs become mini operas, and because they are so short, an interpreter must use a wider variety of vocal colors and textures, and explore the sounds of the words themselves to demonstrate a deeper meaning. I find this style of interpretation incredibly rewarding. Another aspect of lieder is the interactions between voice and piano, the piano becoming an active participant in harmony and rhythm. I find Clara Schumann’s lieder especially rewarding because of this. Clara was a fabulous pianist, and her songs offer an interesting relationship between voice and piano of both intensity and intimacy.”
So, what about those Mouse People? “Martin Bresnick’s Songs of the Mouse People, which has near quotes from Bach’s solo cello sonatas,” says Williams, “is based on Franz Kafka’s last short work ‘Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse People.’ In that remarkable valedictory story, Kafka meditates on a mouse diva, and her relationship to her art and her audience. Bresnick has translated sentences from the original that suggest titles in the mouse people’s multi-volume treasury of songs.” Songs of the Mouse People will be performed by Golove and percussionist Steve Solook, who will be making his Buffalo debut.
Tickets: $20/$10 students/Burchfield Penney members. Phone: 878-6011 or visit: www.burchfieldpenney.org.blog comments powered by Disqus
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