Winnipeg Art Gallery
April 7th 2019 at 2 pm
Tickets: $25. Under 30 $15. Students $5.
Garrett Hudson, flute
Emily Tsai, oboe
Julian Hernandez, clarinet
Anni Hochhalter, horn
Kara LaMoure, bassoon
WindSync is five outstanding North American wind musicians who come together as performers, educators, and community-builders. WindSync concerts are intimate, joyful, and thoughtfully programmed with people and places in mind. The quintet eliminates the “fourth wall” between musicians and audience by performing from memory. Recent winners of the Concert Artists Guild and Fischoff competitions, they approach their mixed repertory of classics for quintet, new American music, and in-house transcriptions with infectious excitement and artistic dedication.
This season, WindSync celebrates their 10th anniversary as an ensemble with an exploration of origins and home. The program opens with two pieces that broke ground in establishing a uniquely American sound in classical music–Antonín Dvořák’s American Quartet and Alberto Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas.The two other works are virtuosic examples of how the American style has since developed–a brand new piece by Marc Mellits celebrating NASA’s Apollo moon missions and Maslanka’s Quintet for Winds No. 3, which is based on the Bach chorale “Your stars, your cavernous sky”.
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): Finale from Quartet No. 12 in F major, “American”
Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983): Danzas Argentinas
Danza del viejo boyero
Danza de la moza donosa
Danza del gaucho matrero
Marc Mellits (b. 1966): Apollo
II: Sea of Tranquility
III: The Buzz
IV: Luna Nova
V: Debbie Waltzing on the Moon
VI: One Small Step
David Maslanka (1943-2017): Quintet for Winds No. 3
Slow – moderate
Antonín Dvořák: Finale from Quartet No. 12 in F major, “American”
Though he was Czech, Antonín Dvořák can be credited among the first composers to attempt a truly American style of classical composition. After a long and diligent career in Prague, he was recruited to be director of the new National Conservatory of Music in New York from 1892 to 1895, and he set to work identifying the unique musics of the United States. In the spring of 1893 the composer attended one of Buffalo Bill Cody’s traveling shows, where Sioux musicians and dancers performed. A few months later, he attended a performance of the Kickapoo Medicine Company. He concluded that Native American music offered a rich foundation for a new sound world, writing, “The fact that no one has as yet arisen to make the most of it does not prove that nothing is there.”
The summer of 1893, Dvořák accepted an invitation to set up residence with his family in Spillville, Iowa, an agricultural community of 300 residents, many of them Czech. Newly inspired by life in the American Midwest, he set to work on two major chamber works: a quartet and a quintet for strings that now both go by the nickname “American.” Dvořák sketched the works at lightning speed, writing at the end of the draft, “Thank God. I am pleased. It all went so quickly!”
The finale for the quartet was completed on July 25, 1893, less than three weeks after Dvořák created the initial sketches for the piece. The themes are mostly pentatonic throughout the quartet, perhaps inspired by the Kickapoo and Sioux music he had recently heard, and the ostinato rhythms under the main melody hint at a drum beat. The hymn-like middle theme may recall the Church of St. Václav in Spillville, where the composer would occasionally play the organ during his summer visit. Dvořák was a violist, and he is known for paying extra attention to the instrument in his music. In WindSync’s version, the clarinet and bassoon take these middle-range melodies.
Alberto Ginastera: Danzas Argentinas
Danzas Argentinas was composed in 1937 while Ginastera was completing his studies in Buenos Aires, and they comprise his first work for piano to be claimed with an opus number. Much like Antonín Dvořák, Ginastera was searching for a distinctly New World sound in classical music, and he drew upon nostalgic or perhaps even imagined sounds of Argentina, making him a musical nationalist. Though he would ultimately leave for the United States and Switzerland over political concerns, Ginastera became a musical hero for his country, working as a renowned professor, founding music schools, and receiving honorary degrees from Argentine universities. The Danzas Argentinas depict three characters that reflect the folk life of Argentina.
The Danza del viejo boyero (Dance of the old herdsman) limps along with a short, quirky motive. In the piano score, the left hand plays only black keys while the right hand plays only white keys, creating an unsettling tonality. At the end we hear the strings of a guitar being plucked one by one (in WindSync’s version, by each instrument) before the herdsman stumbles into a final pose.
The Danza de la moza donosa (Dance of the beautiful maiden) presents a heart-wrenching melody with increasing passion. The wide intervals of fourths and fifths recall the wide-open expanses of the Argentine grasslands, known as pampas. These intervals are also associated with the American sound of composer Aaron Copland, with whom Ginastera would later study at the Tanglewood Institute in Massachusetts.
The Danza del gaucho matrero (Dance of the outlaw cowboy) is dissonant and loud, closing the set with swashbuckling attitude. The title references the Gauchesco tradition, which revered landless horsemen as national symbols of Argentina. At times, the dissonance clears way to a bright major sound, and you can hear the gaucho galloping away to the rhythm of the horn and bassoon.
Marc Mellits: Apollo
Apollo is commissioned by and dedicated to WindSync, inspired by the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969.
Marc Mellits is one of the most performed living American composers, enjoying hundreds of performances throughout the world every year. His music is eclectic, all-encompassing, and colorful. Mellits often composes works that comprise short, contrasting movements—sets of miniatures that form a multi-angled view of a single image, setting, or subject. His unique musical forms alternate driving rhythms with soaring lyricism.
Mellits has been commissioned by groups such as Kronos Quartet, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bang On a Can All-Stars, Canadian Brass, New Music Detroit, Third Coast Percussion, and the Society for New Music. Mellits has scored numerous films, including the PBS mini-series “Beyond the Light Switch,” which won a 2012 Dupont-Columbia award. He also directs and plays keyboards in his own ensemble, the Mellits Consort. Mellits studied at the Eastman School of Music, Yale School of Music, and Cornell University, and he is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
David Maslanka: Quintet for Winds No. 3
In recent years I have developed an abiding interest in the Bach Chorales, singing and playing them daily as warm-up for my composing time, and making my own four-part settings in the old style. The chorales now regularly find their way into my music and have become a significant “leaping off” point for me.
The first movement of Quintet No. 3 opens with the chorale “Ihr Gestim ihr hohlen Lufte” (“Your stars, your cavernous sky”). The movement is a “continuous play” kind of piece. After the chorale there is a sharply contrasting first theme, which works its way over time into a second theme, and this becomes the subject of a short and very pushy set of variations. There is a restatement of the first theme, and the movement ends with a blunt presentation of a new chorale: “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht” (“Christ, you are day and light”).
In the second movement, the chorale “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (“Take courage, my weak spirit”) serves as a backdrop for an impassioned flute soliloquy. This is an intimate and personal music. The movement closes with a simple and uninterrupted statement of the chorale.
The third movement is exceptionally demanding for the performers because of its speed and length. It is something of a sonata form. However, the second theme, which sounds like a chorale melody, becomes the subject of a set of variations. The movement finished with a partial recapitulation and an extended coda.