Symphony No.5: Son et Lumière
Prologue & Narrative for cello & orchestra
James Yannatos was born and educated in New York City. After attending the High School of Music and Art and the Manhattan School of Music, he pursued composition and studies with Philip Bezanson, Nadia Boulanger, Luigi Dallapiccola, Darius Milhaud, and Paul Hindemith, as well as conducting studies with William Steinberg and Leonard Bernstein which took Yannatos to Yale University (B.M., M.M.), the University of Iowa (Ph.D.), Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals, and Paris.
He has been music director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra since 1964 and has led that group on tours to Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Asia.
He has appeared as guest conductor-composer at the Aspen , Banff, Tanglewood, Chautauqua, and Saratoga Festivals, and with the Boston Pops, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Baltimore, and San Antonio Symphonies and the Sverdlovsk, Leningrad, Cleveland and American Chamber Orchestras. He was also founder and co-music director of the New England Composer's Orchestra.
Dr. Yannatos has received numerous commissions for orchestral, vocal, and instrumental works which includes Cycles (recorded by Collage), A New England Overture, Sounds of Desolation and Joy, and the Concerto for Bass and Orchestra.
His most ambitious work, Trinity Mass (for soloists, choir, and orchestra), was premiered in Boston and New York in 1986 with Jason Robards, narrator, and was aired on national Public Radio. The work has been released on Albany Records.
He has been a consultant and conductor for major orchestras in Bankok, Thailand, and a guest composer and conductor in international festivals in Leningrad. The latter led to the premiere of his Symphony No. 3 for Strings in the former USSR by the Lithuanian State Orchestra in 1989.
Dr. Yannatos has also published four volumes of “Silly and Serious Songs” based on the words of children. In addition, he has written music for television including Nova's “City of Coral” and Metromedia's “Assassins Among Us.” He has received innumerable awards as a composer, including the Artists Foundation Award of 1988 for his Trinity Mass.
Symphony No. 5: Sons et Lumière
Symphony No. 5: Sons et Lumière (1991) derives its title from the sound and light shows so popular in France in which historical events related to a particular epoch, chateau, or monument are dramatized through the use of sound and light.
The title, Sons et Lumière, alludes to past as well as to present events in which the political face of Europe and Africa is changing. On another level, Sons et Lumière refers to vibrations and waves that move through real time and space in the form of sound and interplay between the various levels of musical sound and meaning, referring to our physical world as we live it, our sensory world as we see, hear, and feel it, and our spiritual world as we attempt to comprehend it.
The first movement is a joyful tone poem in three parts that utilizes thematic elements from Beethoven's Ode to Joy of the Ninth Symphony and various European national anthems.
In part I (allegro), motives of the Marseillaise and the Internationale are mixed in a collage of bright instrumental textures.
In part II (broad), the Polish national anthem predominates with suggestions of the Hungarian anthem in an extended lyrical section. The Czechoslovakian anthem is introduced in the final section, along with those anthems already heard previously. The final cadence is extended to bring the piece to a quiet conclusion, projecting a hopeful, but questioning glance into the future.
The second movement is a broad aria in three parts (A, B, A+coda) that utilizes folk elements from southern Europe-Asia Minor (Greek, Turkish) and Southeast Asia (Thai, Vietnamese, Tibetan, etc.) to create a contrast in moods, textures, and tempi.
In part I (A), section I (andante), woodwind and percussion solos create an extended contemplative mood piece. Section II (piu moderato) contrasts quicker paced dance elements in the percussion and woodwinds.
Part II (B), an extended development section, contains quicker juxtapositions of those thematic elements stated in A, with quicker shifts in mood and color.
Part III (A+coda) is the climactic point, extended by a coda with the original theme in the lower strings used as a cantus firmus against other fragments of themes in the winds quietly entering and disappearing.
The third movement is an extended rondo form (ABAB, etc.) utilizing African thematic elements, including A.N.C. Hymn (African National Congress) and Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
The shape of the music is influenced by the ballade of the African “Story Teller” telling-singing a narrative tale of African history. The theme (A) in the trumpet — the “narrator” — recurs throughout, juxtaposed with dance elements (B). As the “story” progresses, elements of the A.N.C. Hymn and the Ode to Joy are introduced along with suggestions of European (British, French, German, etc.) anthems.
The final section brings back the allegro of the first movement to accompany the final statement of the A.N.C. Hymn and the Ode to Joy. The Symphony concludes in a mood of exhilaration and hope.
Yehudi Wyner, composer, pianist, and conductor, was born in 1929 in Canada, but raised in New York City. Son of composer and conductor Lazar Weiner, he attended Juilliard as a pianist, then studied composition at Yale with Richard Donovan and Paul Hindemith and at Harvard with Randall Thompson and Walter Piston. After receiving the Rome Prize in composition, he began an active musical career as solo pianist, chamber musician, collaborator with notable singers and instrumentalists, director of two opera companies, conductor of numerous chamber and vocal ensembles in a wide range of repertory, and of course, composer and teacher.
His compositions include works for orchestra, solo voice and solo instruments, small ensembles, and music for the theater, as well as liturgical services for worship. He has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Library of Congress, Ford Foundation, Koussevitsky Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fromm Foundation among others. His Horntrio (1997) was a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
Since 1990 Mr. Wyner has held the Naumburg Chair of Composition at Brandeis University and also been a frequent visiting professor at Harvard University. He has served as dean of the Music Division at SUNY Purchase and was head of the composition faculty at Yale University where he taught for 14 years. As keyboard artist of the Bach Aria Group since 1968, Mr. Wyner has played and conducted a substantial number of the Bach cantatas, concertos and motets, and he was on the chamber music faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center from 1975-97.
His honors and awards include, among other things, two Guggenheim Fellowships, The Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and the Brandeis Creative Arts Award as well as the Elise Stoeger Prize given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for lifetime contribution to chamber music. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Prologue and Narrative
In May of every other year more than 900 cello lovers — from beginning cellists to esteemed cello soloists — congregate in Manchester, England for the International Cello Festival (ICF). The brain-child of cellist Ralph Kirschbaum, this festival features workshops, films, exhibitions, and performances by and for cellists. The ICF almost always features a premiere of a cello piece, and in 1994, Yehudi Wyner was commissioned to compose a piece for cello and orchestra. The result was the Prologue and Narrative for 'cello and orchestra, which Wyner himself describes:
“Finding a title for the piece we are hearing this evening has been a difficult task. To call it a Concerto for 'cello and orchestra would be misleading, since the term `concerto' implies a form as well as a relationship. In general, my musical thinking is not comfortable with conventional modes of construction, nor does it rely on received conventions of form. While the music is constructed with great attention to contextual unity and formal coherence, it also strives for a sense of the informal, the improvisational, the spontaneous.
“Increasingly, my music has welcomed the absorption of musical elements from many sources, not for the purposes of quotation or superficial reference, but for the possibility of fusion and transformation. Among these sources has been popular music of our culture. I see the vernacular much in the way the American poet William Carlos Williams did — as raw material which awaits the transforming power of the imagination. As an artist I seek to explore this material, to trace connections with other seemingly unrelated materials — unrelated in terms of culture, time, style, genre — and to allow the contrasts and collisions to evoke new states of being. The magic of unanticipated transformation is what interests me. When it happens in my own work I am surprised and grateful.
“The present composition is composed without movement divisions; nevertheless, it will travel through a variety of clearly characterized musical territories. The duration is roughly 26 minutes. It is dedicated with affection and respect to Ralph Kirshbaum.”
Composer Charles Fussell was Artistic Director of New Music Harvest, Boston's first city-wide festival of contemporary music and Co-Founder and Director of the New England Composer's Orchestra. He is a member of the composition faculty at Boston University.
His works include five symphonies; Julian (after Flaubert) for chorus, soloists, and orchestra; Cymbeline, a chamber drama after Shakespeare; Specimen Days for baritone solo, chorus, and orchestra; plus smaller scores for various combinations. Wilder, a symphony for baritone and orchestra was runner-up for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize. In 1992, Mr. Fussell received a citation and award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In addition to advanced degrees in composition and conducting from the Eastman School of Music, Mr. Fussell has received Fulbright, Ford, and Copland Foundation Grants, grants from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, and numerous commissions.
His music is published by G. Schirmer, Peer Southern, Lawson-Gould and Fallen Leaf Press. Recordings of his music appear on the Koch label.
Symphony No. 5
Symphony No. 5 was written in 1994-95 in memory of Virgil Thomson. The premiere was given in November 1996 by the New Hampshire Symphony under the direction of James Bolle.
Although in one movement, as the title indicates, the work consists of six sections, each one clearly articulated by the introduction of different ideas. The first section contains most of the main themes of the work. It opens with bells introducing three-note groups above long imitative lines on the strings. This theme will dominate the middle section of the Scherzo, almost 300 measures later. In an almost antiphonal fashion, the strings combine with a chorale passage in the winds, which brings the music to a cadence on F-sharp. A cadenza for solo flute leads to the second section, for full orchestra, where percussion and wind instruments predominate. This massive orchestral sound gradually leads to a concluding pianissimo and a slow theme on the strings ushers in the third section. A choir of muted brass plays the chorale theme, which is combined with the opening theme on the strings. The fourth section is a miniature Scherzo movement for string orchestra, this time combined with harp, celesta, bells, and percussion. The intensity of the music is interrupted by a sudden entrance of the timpani, brass, drums, and winds. In a climactic fortissimo, the fifth section brings back the main themes of the previous sections. The music dissolves into another cadenza, this time for oboe, flute, piccolo, and celesta, which functions as a transition to the sixth section. This concluding section is in two parts: quick music with ever shorter measures and faster divisions and a recall of the chorale melody, this time played forte by the brass and woodwind. This idea is harshly interrupted on all sides by the remaining instruments of the orchestra, playing fragments of the opening string theme, also forte and transformed in character, as the symphony drives to its forceful close.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra traces its history back to the night of March 6, 1808, when six Harvard men first formed the Pierian Sodality, an organization dedicated to the consumption of brandy and cigars as well as the serenading of young ladies. Its midnight expeditions “were not confined to Cambridge, but extended to Watertown, Brookline, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Boston, etc....wherever, in short, dwelt celebrated belles.” An entry in the Sodality's record book for June 29, 1840 reads:
It has come to pass in the reign of Simon the King, that the Pierians did meet in the tabernacle. And lo! a voice was heard saying, Let us go serenading - and they lifted up their voice as one man and they said, Let us go. And behold we went to the city of the Philistines, and did serenade their daughters, and came home about the third hour. And the fame of the Pierians did wax exceedingly great, and did reach all the places round about Cambridge.
The early Pierians had so much spirit that in the 1830s the Faculty of Harvard College publicly admonished the Sodality “for absenting themselves from Cambridge for a whole night, serenading.” Administration censure was so great, in fact, that in 1832 the Pierian Sodality was reduced to one man: Henry Gassett. According to Time magazine (March 29, 1943), “He held meetings with himself in his chair, paid himself dues regularly, played his flute in solitude...and finally persuaded another flautist to join in duets. Gradually they elected other members. The Sodality played on.”
The Sodality not only played on, but profoundly influenced the development of music in Cambridge and Boston over the next 50 years. The Harvard Glee Club and the Boston Symphony, for instance, both owe their existence to the early Pierians.
By the turn of the century, the Pierian Sodality could at last justly refer to itself as the Harvard University Orchestra. It had grown into a more serious musical organization and had become the largest college orchestra in America. Soon it deemed itself ready for its first out-of-state tour, the Centennial Tour of 1908, which took the orchestra through New York state, and which was so successful that other tours quickly followed. The orchestra gradually built an international reputation and played for some of the most respected people in the United States.
It was not until November of 1936 that members of the Pierian Sodality agreed to assist the Radcliffe Orchestra in some of its larger concerts. Joint concerts became more frequent in the late Thirties and in 1942 the Pierians suggested that the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra be formed. Since during the war years the Sodality's membership was depleted, and since the Radcliffe Orchestra lacked certain instruments, both groups benefited from the merger.
It is said that around 1950 the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra stopped making history and started making music with a degree of seriousness never before seen at the University. Since then the orchestra has toured around the world and continued to improve in quality and reputation.
Andrés Díaz was born in Santiago Chile in 1964 and began playing the cello at the age of five. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia a few years later and studied at the Georgia Academy of Music with Martha Gerchefski. Mr. Díaz graduated from the New England Conservatory where he worked with Laurence Lesser and Colin Carr. He was on the faculty of Boston University as Associate professor of Cello and Co-Director of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Quartet Program.
In 1986, Mr. Díaz won First Prize in the Naumburg International Cello Competition and since then has appeared with numerous orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony and the orchestras of Seattle, Milwaukee and Victoria, B.C. He has performed recitals at the Library of Congress, Boston's Gardner Museum and Jordan Hall. He was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a grant from the Susan W. Rose Fund for Music.
James Yannatos' Symphony No. 5 is published by Sonory Publications.
Yehudi Wyner's Prologue and Narrative is published by Associated Music Publishers.
Charles Fussell's Symphony No. 5 is available from the composer.
All works were recorded at live performances in Sanders Theatre, Harvard University.
Recording and editing by Thomas Stephenson.
Photo of James Yannatos by Bachrach. Photo of Yehudi Wyner by Susan Davenny Wyner.
This recording was made possible in part by the support of the Virgil Thomson Foundation.
Cover design: Malvina D'Alterio
Art direction: Bates Miyamoto Design
Symphony No. 5: Sons et Lumière
1 Europe [9:13]
2 Asia Minor-Asia [6:44]
4 Prologue and Narrative for cello and orchestra [25:39]
Andrés Diaz, cello
5 Symphony No. 5 [17:51]
James Yannatos, conductor
Total Time = 66:15