Nebraska Chamber Players

November 8 & 10, 2013
Jean Françaix: Quintette for winds
Luciano Berio: Opus Zoo
Jean Phillip Rameau: Symphonies and Danses
Václav Trojan: Wind Quintet in E-flat

Jean Françaix: Quintette for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet in A, Bassoon and Horn (1948)

Jean Françaix was born in Le Mans, and lived his entire life in France. Françaix's parents, his father the Director of the Conservatoire of Le Mans and his mother a teacher of singing, recognized early that he was a child with many gifts and encouraged him at an early age.He was only six when he took up composing, and his first publication (1922) caught the attention of a com­poser working for the publishing house, who subsequently steered the young Françaix to Nadia Boulanger, composer at the Paris Conservatory.She encouraged Françaix's career, considering the young composer to be one of the best, if not the best, of her students. Noted pianist and pedagogue Isidor Philipp also taught him.Françaix often played his own works, to public acclaim; notably in the premier of his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra at the festival of Baden-Baden in 1932.

An accomplished pianist from an early age, earning a First Prize in Piano at the Paris Conservatory, and was sought after for accompanying as well as solo performances.He performed notably in a duo with the French cellist Maurice Gendron, and also performed Francis Poulenc's Two-Piano Concerto with Poulenc for several engagements when Jacques Février was not available.His own Two-Piano Concerto was written for his daughters, both of whom were budding young pianists at the time of the composition.

Jean Françaix was primarily a composer, writing over 200 pieces in a wide variety of styles.In 1981 he described himself as "constantly composing," barely finishing one piece before beginning another, and continued thus until his death at 85.Maurice Ravel said of the young Françaix, "Among the child's gifts I observe above all the most fruitful an artist can possess, that of curios­ity: you must not stifle these precious gifts now or ever, or risk letting this young sensibility wither."

Françaix's style is marked by lightness and wit posed in a conversational style of interplay between the musical lines.He acknowledged influence from composers he admired such as Chabrier, Stravinsky, Ravel, and Poulenc; however, he integrated those influences into his own distinct aesthetic.

The Quintette was written during the height of his chamber music output from the 1940s–50s.There is no specific dedication, although bassoonist William Waterhouse and his group the Melos Ensemble were collaborators on other chamber works during this period.Throughout this work Françaix shows us his understanding of each instrument's character.He doesn't shy away from giving the horn a key role in the first and fourth movements with­out the instrument overwhelming the winds.The flute and clarinet are the background energy in these movements.The bassoon is used both in its high register for that very Middle-eastern sound, and then, of course, as the foundation harmonically.The conversational interplay throughout is in call-and-response imitation with lines literally talking over each other.His theme and variations are more reminiscent of Hindemith than any of his acknowledged influences.The Presto is a scherzando quasi rondo with a classical Trio that is interrupted by bringing the Presto back for two-measure announcements.The Quintette is full of wit and humor, the ever-present raised eyebrow, and quick u-turns found in French music of this era.

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Luciano Berio: Opus Zoo—Children's play for wind quintet (1951, rev. 1970)
[notes by Chantry Nelson; reprinted from Sept. 2004]

Luciano Berio is one of the best-known of the 20th-century avant-garde composers.He was the kind of composer who would try anything as long as it was different, and he had a long, prolific, and illustrious career as a composer, teacher, and promoter of new musical sounds.He pioneered the frontier of musical electronics, was involved in numerous musical "think tank" projects, and specialized in vocal works, "chance" music, serialism, and electronic music.He ranks alongside Karlheinz Stockhausen, Arnold Schönberg, Pierre Boulez, Edgar Varčse, and John Cage.

But the work you will hear today hardly sounds revolutionary now.One of Berio's first published works, it was written in 1951, when he was 25 and jump because Rameau used oboes, bassoons, high recorders and horns as prominent solo instruments in his orchestrations.Adding the clarinet as the middle voice works extremely well.The whole work is an elegant representation of Rameau's style and writing.

Berio wrote Opus Zoo during his first year of marriage to his first wife, the extraordinary soprano and Armenian-American Fulbright scholar Cathy Berberian, who would become the chief interpreter of his vocal works.(They had both been students at the Conservatorio and met when he was assigned to accompany her Fulbright audition.) Originally, he wrote Opus Zoo for a Re­citer (Berberian), two clarinets and two horns.It was first performed in Milan in 1952.In 1951 Berio revised Opus Zoo for woodwind quintet, and in 1970 it was further revised to allow the instrumental players to recite the text.

The poems in Opus Zoo have a folksy tone, but their intent is serious."The Fawn" and "Tomcats" are anti-war, "The Grey Mouse" is about the inevi­tability of old age, and "Barn Dance" perhaps refers to Italy's disastrous affair with Mussoini and fascism.
Berio had had personal experience with war.His family of small-town northern Italian musicians enthusiastically supported Mussolini.Berio did not.In 1944, at age 19, Berio was drafted, and after considerable hesitation and to protect his parents, he very reluctantly reported for duty—and a gun exploded in his hand on his first day.He spent the next three months in a military hospital which, again due to the war, didn't have the drugs with which to treat his septic wounds.

Until this point, Berio had been thinking of a career as a pianist.As soon as the war ended, he entered the Milan Conservatorio as a piano and clarinet major, but found that his hand had permanently compromised his playing.Instead, he was forced to concentrate on composing.

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Jean Phillip Rameau: Symphonies and Danses
Suite after J. Ph. Rameau for Woodwind Quintet arranged by Fernand Oubradous

Luciano Berio is one of the best-known of the 20th-century avant-garde composers.He was the kind of composer who would try anything as long as it was different, and he had a long, prolific, and illustrious career as a composer, teacher, and promoter of new musical sounds.He pioneered the frontier of musical electronics, was involved in numerous musical "think tank" projects, and specialized in vocal works, "chance" music, serialism, and electronic music.He ranks alongside Karlheinz Stockhausen, Arnold Schönberg, Pierre Boulez, Edgar Varčse, and John Cage.

But the work you will hear today hardly sounds revolutionary now.One of Berio's first published works, it was written in 1951, when he was 25 and jump because Rameau used oboes, bassoons, high recorders and horns as prominent solo instruments in his orchestrations.Adding the clarinet as the middle voice works extremely well.The whole work is an elegant representation of Rameau's style and writing.

Berio wrote Opus Zoo during his first year of marriage to his first wife, the extraordinary soprano and Armenian-American Fulbright scholar Cathy Berberian, who would become the chief interpreter of his vocal works.(They had both been students at the Conservatorio and met when he was assigned to accompany her Fulbright audition.) Originally, he wrote Opus Zoo for a Re­citer (Berberian), two clarinets and two horns.It was first performed in Milan in 1952.In 1951 Berio revised Opus Zoo for woodwind quintet, and in 1970 it was further revised to allow the instrumental players to recite the text.

The poems in Opus Zoo have a folksy tone, but their intent is serious."The Fawn" and "Tomcats" are anti-war, "The Grey Mouse" is about the inevi­tability of old age, and "Barn Dance" perhaps refers to Italy's disastrous affair with Mussoini and fascism.
Berio had had personal experience with war.His family of small-town northern Italian musicians enthusiastically supported Mussolini.Berio did not.In 1944, at age 19, Berio was drafted, and after considerable hesitation and to protect his parents, he very reluctantly reported for duty—and a gun exploded in his hand on his first day.He spent the next three months in a military hospital which, again due to the war, didn't have the drugs with which to treat his septic wounds.

Until this point, Berio had been thinking of a career as a pianist.As soon as the war ended, he entered the Milan Conservatorio as a piano and clarinet major, but found that his hand had permanently compromised his playing.Instead, he was forced to concentrate on composing.

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Václav Trojan: Quintet in E-flat (1935)

This is another new composer to us, discovered by fellow Czech and NCP clarinetist, Ed Love.Václav Trojan, pronounced Troyahn, lived very close to the same time period as Françaix, in his homeland of Czeckoslavia.He studied composition at the Prague Conservatory under Jaroslav Kricka and Otaker Ostrcil from 1923 to 1927.He continued his studies in the composition masterclasses of Alois Hába, Josef Suk and Vítezslav Novák until 1929.In the 1930s he composed and arranged music for dance and dabbled in jazz.During the war years he was music director for Radio Prague.After the end of World War II, Trojan composed most frequently for film, stage and radio, develop­ing a close association with director Jirí Trnka, earning international fame for his music for Trnka's popular animated puppet films.Trojan's music is mostly written in a neo-classical style, and he often drew inspiration from the traditions of Czech folk music.In 1940 he was given the Czech National Prize for his remarkable children's opera, Kolotoc ("The Merry-Go-Round"), and in 1960 the K.Gottwald State Prize for his music for Sen noci svatojanské ("A Midsummer Night's Dream").

This Quintet, the first of two woodwind quintets, was composed during the period when he was primarily freelance composing and arranging before his appointment with Radio Prague.The Quintet is very classical in form: based on Czech folk themes, developed in a style similar to Haydn, exposition/development/recapitulation, typical minuet/trio but there are modern twists similar to our cartoon music, the occasional chromatic twist or dramatic har­monic shift.Trojan's scoring for animated films is really evident in the second movement which has five tempo shifts including a short scherzando and a final chase theme.

Trojan uses these Czech folks songs:
First movement: "Grass, grass, green, grass," "I had a dove," "We bring you glad tidings"
Second movement: theme and variations on "When I see you kneeling at the altar"
Third movement: "The Cuckoo," "Run, Kate, run!"
Fourth movement: themes from "When I was Sowing millet," "Vavra walked along a field path," "Isn't God's world a beautiful sight?"

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