Program notes for a chamber music concert
given at the Fort Whyte Nature Reserve
This concert for the eve of summer begins with an old French song, La Terre Naguère Glacée, set by Adrien Le Roy (c. 1520-1598). It is in the air de cour style, a very flexible song format that arose in the later 1500s in the royal court of France. In its early stages the term referred to popular songs that were secular in nature and were sung either by a group of unaccompanied voices or by solo voice with lute accompaniment. The general style, marked by very simple and direct chords and melodies, eventually spread to other countries and languages. Tonight's performance will be presented in two alternate ways which represent contrasting aspects of the original air de cour tradition: First, the words will be sung in French according to Le Roy’s original musical setting. Following that, the text itself will be recited in English, underscored by a little passemèze (also by Le Roy) played on guitar. The words of the song contrast the beauty of nature with the deep sadness of the human condition.
The program continues with Mozart's String Quartet No. 14, also known as the Spring Quartet. It is the first of a group of six string quartets that were dedicated to Haydn. The Spring Quartet is in four movements and reflects the harmonic and melodic fullness of Mozart's middle years. A lovely opening movement, cheerful yet serene, gives way to a Menuetto and Trio, where the Minuetto's gentle three-beat rhythm is occasionally upset by chromatic scales with forceful syncopated accents arranged in pairs or duples. The contrasting Trio section is much darker in tone. A songful slow movement is next. It is dominated by a lyrical and much ornamented melody in the first violin, which contrasts with more intricate sections marked by rich interplay among all four instruments. The exciting finale is full of counterpoint and driving figures which propel the music swiftly forward. The conclusion, rather surprisingly, is quiet and peaceful. Like a summer's evening, it is a perfect resolution to the wide emotional contrasts that came before it.
Franz Schubert composed some 600 songs (lieder), many of which rank among the most famous ever written. The four songs chosen for this concert are all united by the themes of love, pain, youth, and images of nature – be it the morning breeze, flowers in the rain, the light of the moon, or the raging sea. Orginally written for voice and piano accompaniment, they are sung here with the original piano accompaniments arranged for guitar by Willy Domandl.
Composer and guitarist Guy Michaud was born in Manitoba. Also a teacher of choir and guitar, his compositions have enjoyed considerable exposure across Canada as well as in the United States. His Loon Cry is a recent work, and was commissioned by fellow guitarist Kurt Tittlemier. In it, the loon's evocative sound acts as a motive that colours the spirit and texture of the work. The cry of the loon, of course, is one of the identifying features of the Canadian wilderness. But beyond that, its fragmented, haunting sound may also serve as an apt commentary on the melancholy state of our environment.
The concert continues with the music of Brazillian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. Villa-Lobos wrote a set of five guitar preludes, four of which depict different aspects of Brazillian life, while a fifth is intended as a homage to Bach. The first prelude in the set is a homage to the Brazilian sertanejo, which refers to rural Brazil including its vast rainforests and back country. These regions have a distinctive style of music, and Villa-Lobos surrounds the deeply evocative melodies of his prelude with sonorously arpeggiated chords.
Finally, the evening will conclude with the Aria (Cantelina) from Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5. This piece contains one of the most famous tunes in all of classical music. Its ethereal soprano line, much of it wordless, floats magically out of the plucked accompaniment – which the composer originally conceived for an orchestra of cellos, but is adapted here for string quartet and guitar by Kurt Tittlemier. The text, when it appears, evokes the sight of the moon as it rises out of the evening mist. It is an appropriate image to conclude this outdoor concert on the eve of summer, reminding us one last time of our original concept, "All Things Natural."