Samuel Adler: Concertino No. 3 - Viola Sonata


Samuel Adler

Concertino No. 3

Cleveland Chamber Symphony

Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor

Rocking Horse Winner

The Plymouth Trio

Sonata for Viola and Piano

Randolph Kelly, viola

Elizabeth DeMio, piano

Domestic Tranquility

The Plymouth Trio

Time in Tempest Everywhere

The Plymouth Trio

Cleveland Chamber Symphony

Edwin London, conductor

Composer SAMUEL ADLER was born in Mannheim, Germany, and came to the United States in 1939. He holds a bachelor's degree from Boston University, an MA from Harvard and four honorary doctorates. During his service in the US Army he founded and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra and was awarded the Army's Medal of Honor for that orchestra's impact on the European cultural scene.

In 2001 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His catalog of compositions numbers more than 400 published works, including five operas, six symphonies, eight string quartets, 12 instrumental concerti, many shorter instrumental works, much choral music and published books on choral conducting, sight singing and orchestration. From 1966 until 1995 he was professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music. He has served as guest composer or conductor at over 300 colleges and universities worldwide. Since his formal retirement he has taught at Ithaca College, the University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State University, Indiana University and other institutions. He is now a member of the composition department at the Juilliard School of Music. He has received many commissions and grants and has won many prizes, including one in 1990 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1984-85, five MacDowell Fellowships, and in 1993, during his second visit to Chile, election to that country's Academy of Fine Arts. His works have been performed by such major orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the orchestras of Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Detroit, Dallas, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles. His works are recorded on such labels as RCA, Vanguard, Crystal, CRI, Lyrichord, Gasparo and Albany Records.

Concertino No. 3

This work was commissioned by the Missouri Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, written in the spring of 1993 and premiered at that organization's convention in January of 1994. Its three movements last about 15 minutes and feature constant contrast between two musical procedures-motoric rhythms and lyric lines. In the first movement, marked “fast and with verve,” the energetic opening recurs like a rondo theme between long lyric passages that are themselves energized by a sixteenth-note motion at various times. The composer remarks that this movement “should not sound relentless, but it should be exhausting.”

The second movement (“slowly and lyrically”) begins quietly and builds large chords that are set off by brief melodic solo sections. Suddenly a light dance breaks in, forming a middle section, only to be quieted once again by the sounds of the beginning. The third movement (“fast and wild”) recalls the dance-like center section of the second movement and builds rhythmically into a full-blown tarentella characterized by a relentless repeated-note figure.

The Rocking Horse Winner

In the spring of 1985, the faculty of the English Department at the University of Rochester approached me with an idea to write a work to celebrate its retiring Chairman, George Ford. Dr. Ford is one of the world's greatest authorities on the works of Dickens and D. H. Lawrence. It was suggested that I consider setting the first paragraph of D. H. Lawrence's famous short story “The Rocking Horse Winner.” After reading the paragraph and, of course, the poignant story following it, I became very excited about the project, for the words of this brief excerpt certainly suggest a mini-drama in themselves. Oboe, cello, and piano came to mind as an ideal accompaniment for the voice, and though I did not try to “word paint,” I did endeavor to catch the subtle or often overt images presented by the author. The singer is encouraged to use her dramatic skills to present this mini-psychological drama with as much “operatic” flair as possible. The audience is encouraged to read the text ahead of time so as to better appreciate the frequent changes of mood in both text and music.

Sonata for Viola and Piano

The Sonata for viola and piano was composed between December 15, 1983 and January 26, 1984 and is dedicated to Atar Arad and Evelyn Brancart.

I have written sonatas for many instruments including piano, violin, cello, flute, oboe and guitar besides this one for viola. Each of these sonatas has a different form, for each is a new adventure for me; an experience with a different “friend.” By the word “friend” I mean both a person and an instrument. Every one of the sonatas was written for a specific person and therefore reflects my perception of that particular performer's musical personality, as well as my “love affair” with their instrument; its timbre and its sound.

The viola sonata is a “pastoral work” which begins rather slowly with a solo viola line; develops into a dance-like dialogue between the two instruments; abruptly stops, to pause for a slow variation of the opening viola line, before exploding into a very energetic final episode. Although there are three definite sections in this work, it is played as one movement without interruption. As was indicated above, the sections are indeed variations of one another. This does not necessarily mean only variations of the opening viola tune, but rather progressive variations; meaning that all the material introduced in the first section (up to the “slow movement”) is “metamorphosized” throughout the rest of the work.

Domestic Tranquility

Domestic Tranquility, a song cycle of three songs for soprano, oboe, and piano, was written during June and July 1992 for the Plymouth Trio: Christina Price, John Mack, and John Herr. The poems are by three women poets from three different countries, Britain, Ireland, and the United States, and deal with a domestic situation. Each of the women looks at her domicle from a different perspective. The first poem House, paints a picture of a house that is lonely without the lover being there also. The second, called Nocturne, on the other hand, views a house of tranquility after a “friend” is gone. Finally, Elizabeth Bishop's poem, It is Marvelous…, is an ecstatic portrait of two lovers waking up together in the morning, sharing their excitement “to wake up at the same minute.”

Time in Tempest Everywhere

Time in Tempest Everywhere was written on a commission by the Plymouth Trio and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony in memory of John Herr who for many years was the pianist of the Plymouth Trio, and whose untimely death in the summer of 1993 grieved all of us who were his friends. The five movement work was composed in the spring of 1994 for performance during the 1994-95 season.

For this work, I have selected five poems by the poet W. H. Auden which discuss the illusive nature and the ambiguity of time vis-à-vis our lives. The first poem is perhaps the most quoted of the five, and speaks to the knowledge of death which is beyond our understanding. The musical setting begins with the `mocking' of a clock since it cannot tell us how much time we have on earth. A faster section follows with the words “Nor can our question satisfy the answer in the statues eye.” The first idea returns in resignation. Another Time is a music that celebrates living today; we must do this since we cannot know about tomorrow. This movement is fast and furious throughout with a quasi waltz-like section introduced by the solo piano as a centerpiece. The third movement Poet, Oracle, Wit is for the three soloists alone and is the most introspective of the four settings. The form is slow-a bit more agitated-and then a slow ending which once again is resigned to the fact that it cannot resolve the puzzle of time, and at the very end repeats the word “but” twice and leaves it hanging. Our Bias is related to the second movement and is a wild “romp” musically throughout. I meant it to signify once again life's triumph over time and our eternal struggle to do whatever we dare despite time's ever ticking clock. The final movement is a setting of the beautiful poem If I Could Tell You. It is related musically to the first poem and once again is a resignation that despite everything we must go on though time only tells us “I told you so”. The work ends ethereally on a question but without bitterness yet at the same time without resolution of the problem.

The Plymouth Trio, a unique combination of soprano, oboe, and keyboard, performs a varied repertoire of music by baroque,classical, romantic, and contemporary compsers. Founded in 1983, the Trio has had the distinction of presenting new works by leading international composers including Samuel Adler, Richard Cumming, Lewis Jones, Klaus George Roy, and Eric Stokes and has released two compact discs on the Crystal Records label.

Soprano Christina Price is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and studied at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. She has performed with the Choral Arts Society in Washington, D.C., the Louisville Bach Society, and the Robert Page Singers as well as in two preconcert programs for The Cleveland Orchestra, in the Music from Stan Hywet Chamber Music Series in Akron, and as a soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra. She is a member of the voice faculty at The Cleveland Music School Settlement, vocal coach for the Ohio Boychoir, and soprano soloist at Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights.

John Mack, oboe, is Principal Oboist of The Cleveland Orchestra. He studied at the Juilliard School of Music and the Curtis Institute, served as first oboist with the New Orleans Symphny and the National Symphony, and has participated in the Casals and Marlboro Festivals. Mack is chairman of Oboe Studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, teachs at the Kent/Blossom School and directs the “John Mack Oboe Camp” in North Carolina. He has performed with leading conductors throughout the world and has made numerous solo recordings, all available on Crystal Records.

Elizabeth DeMio, keyboard, is an Associate Faculty member of the Cleveland Institute of Musuic. She is a graduate of both the preparatory and conservatory departments of CIM, where her principal teachers were James Tannenbaum and Vitya Vronsky. She received a master's degree from the University of Michigan where she studied with Theodore Lettvin. Ms. DeMio made her solo orchestral debut in 1982 with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Veracruz, and since then has enjoyed a busy life as a solist, recitalist, and collaborative artist. She is also a member of the collaborative piano staff at the Encore School for Strings in Hudson, Ohio.

Randolph Kelly has enjoyed a distinguished and multifaceted career as principal violist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He was hired by André Previn in 1976, and has since played under the direction of Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons.

In addition to his orchestral career, Mr. Kelly's virtuosity as a soloist and chamber musician has been celebrated around the world. He has recorded and toured extensively with the Los Angeles Piano Quartet. In reviewing a performance of theirs, the German Press Passauer Neuve stated, “Randolph Kelly is in a class of his own. He has a richness of tone such as one seldom hears...” Additionally, Mr. Kelly has been invited to perform as a guest artist at chamber music festivals in Japan, Australia, Europe, Taiwan, and Russia.

As a soloist, Randolph Kelly has appeared on some of the most prestigious concert stages in the world. He performed the New York premier, in Carnegie Hall, of Sir Michael Tippet's Triple Concerto. He made his European solo debut when Lorin Maazel invited him to play the Walton Concerto with the National Orchestra of France. James DePriest conducted the Oregon Symphony when Randolph Kelly played the Bartok Viola Concerto.

In addition to his rigorous performing schedule, Kelly has recorded a wide range of music for the Albany, Naxos, and Music Masters labels. Randolph Kelly is a graduate of the Curtis Institute, where he worked closely with the esteemed violist Joseph DePasquale.

After an international career as a soprano, conductor Susan Davenny Wyner has received acclaim for an equally impressive career as a conductor. Her conducting credits include the Los Angeles Philharmoic, The Boston Lyric Opera, and members of The Cleveland Orchestra. She has also conducted concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, in the Czech Republic, at the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Feestivals, in Chicago's Orchestra Hall, as well as in New York and for CBS Radio. She is Music Director and Conductor of the New England String Ensemble and The Warren Philharmonic Orchestra.

As a conductor she has presented a wide range of literature — conducting symphonic, oratorio, operatic, and choral a cappella works from the 14th to 20th centuries. In addition to her guest conducting, she has held conducting positions at the Cleveland Institute of Music, New England Conservatory, Wellesley College, and at Brandeis and Cornell Universitites. She was named Assistant Conductor of Chicago's Grant Park Music Festival in 1998, a position created especially for her.

Edwin London, music director of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, has served living music throughout his distinguished career. He has formed two highly acclaimed ensembles: Ineluctable Modality, a new music choral ensemble, in 1968, and the award-winning Cleveland Chamber Symphony in 1980. He has earned the Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center, the ASCAP-John S. Edwards Award and the Laurel Leaf Award from the American Composers Alliance.

Born in Philadelphia in 1929, London began his career as a horn player in both symphony orchestras and the Oscar Pettiford Jazz Band. After graduation from the Oberlin Conservatory, he received a doctorate from the University of Iowa. Subsequent teachers have included Luigi Dallapiccola, Darius Milhaud and Gunther Schuller. He taught at Smith College, the University of Illinois and the University of California at San Diego before becoming a professor at Cleveland State University in 1978.

The Cleveland Chamber Symphony is the professional ensemble-in-residence at Cleveland State University whose mission is to present new American music. Since its founding in 1980 by Edwin London, the orchestra has performed the world premieres of 146 works, 85 of which were commissioned by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. The Cleveland Chamber Symphony has received repeated national recognition for its strong commitment to new American music including the coveted John S. Edwards award three times. It has also received the American Music Center Letter of Distinction and nine ASCAP awards for adventuresome programming of Contemporary Music.