Paul Freeman IntroducesÂ…...Volume 4



Paul Freeman Introduces. . .














Czech National Symphony Orchestra


PAUL FREEMAN, Music Director


JoAnn Falletta, Guest Conductor


featuring Robert Alemany, Melissa White,


Joan Yarbrough, Louise Toppin, & Robert Russell




Volume 4






Elie Siegmeister Clarinet Concerto


We are very happy to welcome Maestro JoAnn Falletta as a Guest Conductor in our Albany Series. This is a particularly moving performance as she accompanies Robert Alemany in the seldom-recorded Clarinet Concerto by Elie Siegmeister.


Falletta began her tenure as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic in September 1998. As one of the few women Music Directors of a major American orchestra, she brings a great deal of experience to the podium. She has served as Music Director of the Women's Philharmonic, the Long Beach Symphony and the Virginia Symphony, which post she maintains. A champion of contemporary music, Ms. Falletta has performed over 350 works by American composers, including approximately 90 world premieres. Having received eight consecutive awards from ASCAP, she is also the recipient of the American Symphony Orchestra League's John S. Edwards Award for creative programming. With a growing discography, including recordings with the London Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra and the New Zealand Symphony, she is in great demand as a guest conductor around the world.


Robert Alemany has performed as clarinet soloist with a number of orchestras and ensembles including the Moravian Philharmonic, China's Central Philharmonic, the Denver Chamber Orchestra and the orchestras of San Remo (Italy), Santa Cruz, Juilliard and the Queens Philharmonic. He is presently a member of the Scandia Chamber Orchestra and the Waterbury Symphony. He has recorded on the Koch, Classic CD and Newport Classic labels. The Koch recording of trios by Beethoven and Kreutzer received a `CD Choice' recommendation from Classic CD magazine and rave reviews from Fanfare, American Record Guide and Clarinet magazines. Alemany's performance of the rarely played Siegmeister Clarinet Concerto garnered praise from New York Newsday: “…a fluent and spirited performance, with warm, rich, very even and controlled tone.”


Elie Siegmeister was born in New York in 1909 and died in 1991. Having received his B.A. from Columbia University at age 18, he studied with Wallingford Riegger, Nadia Boulanger and at Juilliard. He helped to establish the American Composers' Alliance and contributed richly to the “folk music renaissance in America.” The Clarinet Concerto was written in 1955 and reflects Siegmeister's involvement with Broadway theatre and his interest in a type of personalized jazz. The four movements are described by the composer as follows:


I. Easy, freely


The clarinet opens with a long, rhapsodic melody marked by a blues inflection. A lively section follows, returning to a reflective mood at the end of the movement.


II. Lively, lightly


A perky scherzo opens rhythmically with cymbal, timbales and bass drum, quickly followed by a bouncing clarinet theme. There are light-hearted surprises, explosions, changes of mood. The whole movement is transparent and dissolves into air.


III. Slow Drag


The original title of this was “Deep Blues.” The playing should be as “dirty” as possible. Oddly enough, I use neither the standard blues chords nor the twelve-bar pattern; it's my own concept of blues.


IV. Fast and Driving


Here is a “get up and go” finale. When composing it, I wondered whether it was not moving outside of the jazz framework but then, why not? At times the music struggles, barbed and prickly; at other times, it races along. Toward the end, the feeling of intense struggle between clarinet and orchestra mounts, until finally a clear, triumphant passage is reached; a healthy resolution, and good-bye!




Gwyneth Walker An American Concerto


In this concerto the listener might hear three movements as distinct elements from the American musical heritage — rock, folk, jazz. Perhaps these categories merge into one (American) composer's style. A Burst of Energy, Movement I, is the most rock-influenced of the three. However, the rhythms border on jazz, and energy lurks within the raw sonorities throughout. A Reflection, Movement II, speaks in the language of folk music with a C Major melody in the solo violin. But the melody is framed by blurred background textures to add depth. On occasion, the violin blurs its own lines as the melody shifts to the orchestra. Often the soloist emerges in unaccompanied cadenza passages with flexibility. Another Stroll, Movement III, is an easy-going jazz “excursion” for an adventurous violinist! Personality and humor accompany the strolling soloist on this short trip around the block.


Gwyneth Walker is a rarity among composers, in that she supports herself entirely by her writing. Her catalog contains over 100 commissioned works for orchestra, band, chorus and chamber ensembles. Walker composes music for professional musicians, skilled amateurs and school ensembles. Her artistic and personal goal is “to provide music where it is needed and will be enjoyed.” Dr. Walker is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music and is a former faculty member of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. She lives on the Brainstorm dairy farm in Braintree, Vermont, surrounded by more than 200 Holstein cows.


I am extremely happy to introduce the young African-American violinist Melissa White, who at age 14 made her professional recording and European debut with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra under my baton in September 1998. Melissa has won several awards including the Sphinx competition, the Zerounian and Lansing Symphony Association Youth Competitions, and the Interlochen National Arts Concerto Competition. Melissa has also performed with the Detroit, Savannah and Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestras. In the year 2000 she is scheduled to perform in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Prague, and Otsu, Japan. Past recital performances include the Young Steinway Concert Series in Chicago, the Ben Holt Memorial Concert Series, American String Teachers Association Conference, the Kennedy Center “25th Anniversary Celebrating the Arts,” and concerts honoring Simon Estes in New York, Samuel Ramey and William Warfield in Chicago. Melissa studies at the Music Institute of Chicago with Dr. Roland and Almita Vamos, who are professors of violin at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music.




Paul Creston Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 32


The Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra was completed in September, 1942 and first performed by the High School of Music and Art Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. This is its first recording. It is in four contrasting sections based on one principal theme. The first section presents this theme in a short but vigorous orchestral introduction, the solo piano immediately entering with an arabesque treatment of the theme. After a minor climax, the mood subsides, leading to the second and lyric section, wherein the piano maintains the prominent role and the orchestra supplies a simple accompaniment. The third scherzo-like section picks up the pace abruptly, and stresses the rhythmic aspect. The music gradually mounts in intensity and dynamics, leading to the final section: a majestic, march-like fugato.


Paul Creston (born Giuseppe Guttoveggio) was born in 1906 in New York City (of Italian immigrant parents) and died in 1985. During high school he was nicknamed `Cress' after a character he portrayed in a play and later in life lengthened this name to Creston, legally changing his name in 1944. In 1927 he married Louise Gotto, a dancer, who influenced him in his ideas about rhythm and dance. Between 1940 and 1975 Creston worked as a composition instructor at over 16 colleges and universities. He wrote over 120 compositions including piano pieces, songs, chamber, choral, and band works, and over 35 orchestral works including six symphonies as well as many works for radio, television and film. The documentary on poet William Carlos Williams, “In the American Grain” earned Creston an Emmy award. In addition, he wrote numerous articles for music journals and authored two published books: Principles of Rhythm and Rational Metric Notation. Among Creston's awards and honors are two Guggenheim Fellowships, New York Music Critics' Circle Award, and the Music Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


I am particularly pleased to introduce Joan Yarbrough to our Albany Series. As Executive Producer, she has worked tireless hours to insure the quality and continuity which has made our series successful. Ms. Yarbrough began piano lessons at age 4 in Boston. By the time she reached age 7, she was playing Beethoven's C Major Piano Concerto. She made her orchestral debut playing the Grieg Concerto at age 15 with the Wheeling Symphony. With Robert Cowan she embarked upon a highly acclaimed duo-piano career which, in 32 years took them to three continents and 37 states, performing more than 400 concerts, many with orchestra. They commissioned, premiered and recorded a number of works, including several compact discs with the London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic and the Moscow Philharmonic under my baton. This marks Ms. Yarbrough's debut solo recording.




René Staar-Alan Levy Just An Accident?


(A Requiem for Anton Webern and Other Victims of the Absurd)


Just An Accident? was first written as a chamber work, commissioned by the Festival of New Music in Wiener Neustadt, Austria for the Webern Centennial in 1983. As a symphonic work for full orchestra it was premiered in America in 1986 with Philippe Entremont and the New Orleans Philharmonic. Subsequently, it won the Ernst Krenek Prize and was performed in the Konzerthaus in Vienna. This recording is taken from a live performance in Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague with the esteemed Czech National Symphony Orchestra under my baton on November 25, 1998.


About the principals:


Composer René Staar (born 1951 in Graz, Austria) is a violinist with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and co-founder of the chamber ensemble Wiener Collage (1987-) and Ensemble Wien-Paris (1996-), which he conducts. He has taught at the University of California Santa Barbara and, since 1994, has been a guest professor at the conservatory in his native Graz.


Text author Alan Levy (born 1932 in New York City) is founding editor-in-chief of The Prague Post (1991-) and U.S. Author of the Year (1995) for his book, The Wiesenthal File. His eyewitness account of the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia — Rowboat to Prague (1972) — is still in print in English as So Many Heroes. On July 1, 1999, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic awarded him the Jan Masaryk Gratias Agit Prize for enhancing the reputation of the country abroad.


Soprano Louise Toppin (born in Akron, Ohio), recent winner of the Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions, has received critical acclaim for her operatic, orchestral, and oratorio performances in the United States, England and Spain. Dr. Toppin holds degrees from the University of North Carolina, Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan, where she received her doctorate in music. In 1995 she coached with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge and more recently with Elly Ameling at the Britten-Pears School in England. Currently she is an Associate Professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. She has won numerous awards and prizes and is in constant demand on the opera and concert stage in America and abroad.


Narrator Robert Russell (born in Scotland) studied languages at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities before working as an English instructor in Germany and the Far East. For more than a decade he taught in Greece, where he first indulged his long suppressed love for theater. In 1991, he trained at the Actors Institute in London before moving to Prague, where he has worked as an actor and director — first with English-language groups and more recently in Czech theatre productions of Strindberg, Stoppard and Smocek.


Notes by Paul Freeman






Just An Accident?


Male Voice


The Alpine village of Mittersill in Salzburg Land. The American Zone of Occupation. A Saturday night in September of 1945. At a family dinner, the host gave the Grandfather a precious American cigar: his first since the war ended. All evening, the Grandfather looked forward to smoking that cigar when he went home. Toward nine o'clock, some American soldiers knocked on the door and asked to speak with the host. While the host conferred with them in another room of the small house, the Grandfather fingered the cigar and finally, finally! — waiting to say goodbye and wanting to go home and smoke his cigar — he could wait no longer and announced that he would take “just a few puffs.” Stepping outside the house so as not to disturb the grandchildren, he lit a match — and three shots broke the quiet of the night. For his host was a suspected black marketeer and his American callers were part of a raid. A trap had been set and the soldiers had orders to shoot anybody who tried to leave the house. Clutching his stomach, the Grandfather staggered back in, telling his family: “I've been hit!” A few minutes later, he breathed his last words, “It's over,” and, in his sixty-second year, the composer Anton Webern, a giant of modern music, was brought to earth by the bullets of an American GI who had never heard of him.


Female Voice


Ars longa, vita brevis. Our lives are but our marches to the grave. The death of Anton Webern was just an accident: an ugly, unnecessary, absurd accident, an aftermath of war.


Male Voice


Another casualty of war was Enrique Granados. The Paris Opera had commissioned the Spanish composer to adapt his piano suite, “Goyescas,” into an opera. But, with the outbreak of war in 1914, the venue for the world premiere was shifted to New York's Metropolitan Opera in early 1916 with the composer present. “Goyescas” was a triumph and Granados was a hero who wrote home to a friend: “I have a whole world of ideas in my head. Only now am I starting my work.” But he and his wife deferred their departure thanks to a command performance at the White House: a piano recital that Granados gave for the President of the United States, thereby missing the boat that would have taken them directly home to Spain. Instead they took a transatlantic liner to England and then another ship, the Sussex, for the Channel crossing from Folkestone to Dieppe. In mid-Channel, the Sussex was torpedoed by a German submarine. Enrique Granados was rescued by a lifeboat, but when he caught sight of his wife struggling in the water, he dived back in to save her. Both were drowned.


Female Voice


Life is fragile. Death is final. Any one of us can leave this hall, turn a corner, and be no more. Life is fragile. Death is final. Only art is immortal — only art! — and Webern lives, Granados lives.


Male Voice


On the day after Christmas, 1969, in a studio above Wenceslas Square in Prague, a middle-aged man took a teen-aged girl to bed. When he was ready to rest, she poured him a drink that made him sleep as long as she wanted. Then she turned on the gas and, within an hour, both were dead. He was Jiri Slitr of the Semafor Theater, Czechoslovakia's most beloved popular composer and performer. She was a mistress who wanted to be seen in public with a man who only saw her secretly. She told two high-school friends that she would have one more talk with him at Christmas and, if he didn't see it her way, the whole world would know by New Year that she was Jirka Slitr's girl.


But the censored obituaries never mentioned a second body. The police called Slitr's death a gas accident. The foreign press hinted that he might have been hounded to death by the secret police monitoring his satire. The people of occupied Czechoslovakia believed for years that Slitr committed suicide rather than recant the ideals that had been crushed by tanks the year before. But the death of Jirka Slitr was not political and no inquest, no verdict, no state organ can ever produce a single tone of music such as Jiri Slitr composed.


Female Voice


Life is fragile. Yes, it is! Death is final. Any one of us can leave ths hall, go home, turn a knob or push a button, and be no more. Art is long and time is fleeting. All our lives are but our marches to the grave. The victims of the absurd are legion.


Male Voice


From Maestro Jean Baptiste Lully, struck down by his own baton while conducting a Te Deum in 1687, to the playwright Ödön von Horvath, felled by a branch of a tree while walking along the Champs-Elysées in 1938…from Rainer Maria Rilke, whose death of leukemia was hastened when he pricked his finger on a rose in 1926, to Alban Berg, who died of an insect sting in 1935…from Isadora Duncan the dancer, strangled by her own scarf in 1927, to John Lennon the Beatle, shot by an autograph hunter in 1980…from the English dramatist Thomas Otway, who, after days of starvation, choked to death on his first bite of food in 1685, to Tennessee Williams, who choked on a bottle cap in 1983…homage is paid to the victims of the absurd whose art outlives their deaths.


Female Voice


They have left their footprints on the sands of time, but the numbers are legion: nameless legions in Jonestown and Kampuchea, Auschwitz and Treblinka, Sabra and Chatila. And every legion has its unknown soldier.


Male Voice


There is another victim of the absurd. The soldier who shot Anton Webern, Private First Class Raymond Norwood Bell of Mount Olive, North Carolina, never knew the importance of the man he had killed in the line of duty. Bell died of alcoholism a decade later. He became an alcoholic not because of the man he had killed but because he had killed a man. Every time he turned to drink, he would tell his wife: “I wish I hadn't killed that man.” And so he drank himself to death.


Female Voice


The unknown, unknowing soldier of the absurd, Raymond Bell, is remembered, too.




Paul Freeman


Paul Freeman has distinguished himself as one of the world's pre-eminent conductors. Much in demand, he has conducted over 100 orchestras in 28 different countries including the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and major orchestras in London, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin. Maestro Freeman has served as the Music Director of Canada's Victoria Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Associate Conductor of the Detroit and Dallas Symphony Orchestras. He is currently Music Director of the renowned Chicago Sinfonietta and simultaneously serves as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. With over 200 recordings to his credit, he has won numerous awards for his unique interpretations of the classical, romantic, and modern repertoire. Dr. Freeman, who studied on a U.S. Fulbright Grant at the Hochschule in Berlin, holds a Ph.D. degree from the Eastman School of Music and LH.D. degrees from Dominican University and Loyola University.




Czech National Symphony Orchestra


Since the Czech Republic's bloodless “Velvet Revolution” of 1989, the country has been riding a rapid wave of democratization, which has affected the music industry as well. Orchestras in order to survive must concern themselves with the procurement of foreign funds through recording contracts and overseas performances. These developments have necessitated the need for higher performance standards.


Out of this chaotic scene Jan Hasenöhrl, an outstanding solo trumpet player, sensed the acute need to reshape the Czech orchestral scene and, in 1993, invited the top musicians from Prague's major orchestras to form a new orchestra, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra gave its first concert, conducted by Vladimir Valek, in November 1993 in Prague's Rudolfinum Dvorak Hall. In 1994 the Czech music world's national treasure, Zdenek Kosler, was named chief conductor. The first recording was made at the beginning of April 1994. Maestro Kosler died in August 1995.


In January 1996 the brilliant American Conductor and Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, Paul Freeman was appointed Music Director and Chief Conductor. Under Maestro Freeman's leadership, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra has shown stunning development. Already he has made over 30 compact discs with the orchestra and has toured Italy and Great Britain. So successful was the November 1997 United Kingdom tour of 19 concerts under Paul Freeman and Libor Pesek that IMG Concert Management has recently signed a 5-year contract to tour the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Europe, Asia, and America. Through its many recordings, concerts and television productions it is fast becoming one of the most important ensembles in the Czech Republic.


Artistic Director: Paul Freeman


Executive Producer: Joan Yarbrough


Producer: Jiri Gemrot


Engineers: Jan Kotzmann and Oldrich Slezak


Mastering: Jan Kotzmann


Recorded: September-December 1998, ICN Recording Studios, Prague


Cover Art: Charla Freeman Puryear








Melissa White's participation in this project is made possible through several sponsors including International Ambassadors of Music, TCFNational Bank Illinois, Bettiann Gardner and Michelle L. Collins.


The recording of Just An Accident? is made possible in part through the generosity of Mary Kay Cosmetics, Czech Republic, and was recorded live from the Rudolfinum, Prague.






Paul Freeman Introduces. . .




Elie Siegmeister


Clarinet Concerto


1 Easy, freely (5:57)


2 Lively, lightly (2:21)


3 Slow Drag (3:36)


4 Fast and Driving (4:21)


Robert Alemany, Clarinet


JoAnn Falletta, Guest Conductor




Gwyneth Walker


An American Concerto


5 A Burst of Energy (4:34)


6 A Reflection (9:33)


7 Another Stroll (4:25)


Melissa White, Violin




Paul Creston


8 Fantasy for Piano


and Orchestra, Op. 32 (8:48)


Joan Yarbrough, Piano




René Staar-Alan Levy


9 Just An Accident? (21:12)


Louise Toppin, Soprano


Robert Russell, Narrator


Czech National Symphony Orchestra


Paul Freeman, Music Director




Total Time = 65:42