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SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2021

SEVEN O'CLOCK SHOUT (2020)

Valerie Coleman (b. 1970)

Seven O'Clock Shout is an anthem inspired by the tireless frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the heartwarming ritual of evening serenades that brings people together amidst isolation to celebrate life and the sacrifices of heroes. The work begins with a distant and solitary solo between two trumpets in fanfare fashion to commemorate the isolation forced upon human kind, and the need to reach out to one another. The fanfare blossoms into a lushly dense landscape of nature, symbolizing both the caregiving acts of nurses and doctors as they try to save lives, while nature is transforming and healing herself during a time of self-isolation.

When a composer has the rare opportunity to create for musicians they have gotten to know, the act of composing becomes an embrace tailored to the personality and capabilities of the musicians with elements of both challenge and appreciation. One such moment is dedicated to humanity and grace, as a clarinet solo written for Ricardo Morales, followed by a flute solo with both Jeffrey Khaner and Patrick Williams in mind, providing a transition into a new upbeat segment. Later, to continue tradition from the first commission the composer received from the orchestra, a piccolo solo dedicated to Erica Peel dances with joy.

It was suggested that a short work for a debut by multi-track recording could account for the ensemble performing together as if they were in the same room. One of the devices used to address this is the usage of Ostinato, which is a rhythmic motif that repeats itself to generate forward motion and in this case, groove. The ostinato patterns here are laid down by the bass section, allowing the English horn and strings to float over it, gradually building up to that moment at 7pm, when cheers, claps, clangings of pots and pans, and shouts ring through the air of cities around the world! The trumpets drive a infectious rhythm, layered with a traditional Son clave rhythm, while solo trombone boldly rings out an anthem within a traditional African call and response style. The entire orchestra ‘shouts’ back in response and the entire ensemble rallies into an anthem that embodies the struggles and triumph of humanity. The work ends in a proud anthem moment where we all come together with grateful hearts to acknowledge that we have survived yet another day.

Note by Valerie Coleman

ELEGÍa ANDINA (2000)

Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972)

Elegía Andina for Orchestra (2000) is dedicated to my older brother, Marcos Gabriel Frank. As children of a multicultural marriage (our father being Lithuanian-Jewish and our mother being Chinese-Peruvian-Spanish), our early days were filled with Oriental stir-fry cuisine, Andean nursery songs, and frequent visits from our New York-bred Jewish cousins. As a young piano student, my repertoire included not only my own compositions that carried overtones from Peruvian folk music but also rags of Scott Joplin and minuets by the sons of Bach. It is probably inevitable then that as a composer and pianist today, I continue to thrive on multiculturalism. Elegía Andina (Andean Elegy) is one of my first written-down compositions to explore what it means to be of several ethnic persuasions, of several minds. It uses stylistic elements of Peruvian arca/ira zampoña panpipes (double-row panpipes, each row with its own tuning) to paint an elegiac picture of my questions. The flute part was particularly conceived with this in mind but was also inspired by the technical and musical mastery of Floyd Hebert, principal flutist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. In addition, as already mentioned, I can think of none better to dedicate this work to than to "Babo," my big brother — for whom Perú still waits.

Note by Gabriela Lena Frank

Symphony no. 5 in C minor, op. 67 (1808)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

It had to be one of the most amazing concerts of all time: December 22, 1808. Beethoven had been given the free use of the Theater-an-der-Wien for a concert of his own. The event, lasting some five hours in an unheated theater, offered a marathon parade of new works to an audience that remained spellbound (though tested on a Herculean scale) for the evening of “new music.” The program featured premieres of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, followed by the aria Ah! Perfido, two movements from the Mass in C Major, the fourth piano concerto, Symphony No. 5, and the entire Choral Fantasy. An unrehearsed orchestra, a soprano trembling with stage fright and freezing temperatures could not dampen the wonder of the music.

Beethoven worked on several works simultaneously, and as it happened, all of these were at the starting gate. It was the fifth symphony that jolted the audience to attention with its shockingly wild drive and tension incorporated in unrelenting vehemence. Reviewers, however, gave relatively short shrift to No. 5. The poet Goethe said that “it is merely astounding, grandiose.” A year later, the romantic novelist E. T. A. Hoffman, in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, hoisted the flag and gave his florid viewpoint: “Radiant beams shoot through the deep night of this region, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy all within us except the pain of endless longing — a longing in which every pleasure that rose up amid jubilant tones sinks and succumbs. Only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope and joy, tries to burst our breasts with a full voiced general cry from all the passions, do we live on as captivated beholders of the spirits.”

The fifth symphony was completed in 1808, although sketches appear as early as 1800 and more frequently in the composer’s notebooks between 1804-1806. After completion, Beethoven wrote to his patron, Count Franz von Oppersdorff, “Your symphony is, at last, ready, but in case you do not want it, let me know … I am not well, and I am being treated for an injured finger. Things are going badly with me. The cost is 300 florins and the balance is due.”

1808 was a terrible time for Beethoven. Impending deafness frightened him to the core, the Emperor Napoleon was marching over his homeland, and his brother had married a wretched woman whom he called “Queen of the Night.” Money was short. Music alone made life bearable, and through music, he became a master of his destiny. That journey is reflected in the iconic fifth. And through this, Beethoven comprehensively speaks for and to us all.

The opening begins with a thunderclap: the famous four-note motto theme, three quick Gs and a long E flat, proclaimed fortissimo. Momentum generated by the repetition of the first three notes is dramatically halted in an extended fourth tone. The composer holds us breathless and then insistently repeats the three notes on a lower tone and again holds us tight on the fourth. After this unbelievable introduction, Beethoven unleashes a movement unlike any other in his time. From the opening kernel, he developed a symphonic masterpiece, demonstrating a new symphonic principal: the potential of a single gesture to generate an enormous piece. Rhythms are torrential, but the single focus on the motto insists upon that underlying idea. Sometimes the idea screams, sometimes whispers or pants in the depths of the orchestra, but it is unstoppable. A lyrical second theme introduced by French horn is beautiful but overwhelmed by the rage and insistence of the opening grip. A turbulent development continues the obsession with the opening motto, not uttered in tight integration. Within a traditional recapitulation, Beethoven stops the action with an expressive oboe cadenza, and then he moves us into a long coda, hammering the motto again and again into our soul. “This is one of the most powerfully integrated movements in all symphonic literature.” (Edward Downes)

His second movement, Andante con moto, spins a series of four variations on two main ideas. Violas and cellos first sing a richly declaimed song before clarinets, flute and bassoons chant a sturdier, more assertive idea. Although writing double variations on these two ideas, Beethoven cannot resist allowing rhythmic allusions to the opening cell to persist.

The third movement, Allegro, is a scherzo rather than a traditional minuet and trio. Ominously, hushed cellos and basses restlessly stir the first musical ideas before French horns emerge with a strong theme, again referencing the opening idea. Themes spar back and forth. A dramatic pianissimo section, underscored by muttering timpani, charges the atmosphere before an extended crescendo moves directly to the brilliant finale.

The fourth movement ratchets up instrumental color by the addition of piccolo, contrabassoon and three trombones. (This was the first time trombones appeared in a symphony orchestra.) A panoply of themes occupies the enlarged canvas and palette. Trombones are invoked to lead the extroverted march-like theme, which sets the stage for the greater dimensions. While the contrabassoon adds depth, the piccolo provides glitter. Within the exuberant mood, Beethoven leads us to his triumphant coda, now stressing the light of C Major for 54 measures. Michael Steinberg has written, “This victory symphony was a new kind of symphony, and Beethoven’s invention here of a path from strife to triumph became a model for symphonic writing to the present day.”

The fifth spoke a musical language no one had heard before. Paul Bekker noted, “In Beethoven, a composer arose who completely understood the possibilities of the art. He knew the secret forces of his spiritual kingdom…. He was artist enough to enforce his will.” The musical mission lay far beyond entertainment. We are also provided a window into what was yet to come from the Beethoven sound, as well as his conviction that music was a critical and elevating force for life. “Beethoven broke all the rules and turned out pieces of breathtaking rightness. He had the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish: Something is right with the world.” (Leonard Bernstein)

Note by Marianne Williams Tobias

Kevin M. Geraldi

Dr. Kevin M. Geraldi is Director of Instrumental Ensembles and Professor of Conducting at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he conducts the UNCG Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and Casella Sinfonietta, and teaches graduate and undergraduate conducting. With UNCG ensembles, he has performed in Dvořák Hall in Prague, Czech Republic, the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, MD, at the national CBDNA conventions in Austin, TX, and Greensboro, NC, and at the American Bandmasters Association convention in Norfolk, VA. Previously, he taught at Lander University in Greenwood, SC and in the public schools of Westchester, IL, and was assistant conductor of the Central Illinois and Michigan Youth Symphonies.

Dr. Geraldi appears regularly as a guest conductor and he maintains an active schedule as a clinician and adjudicator throughout the country. Committed to promoting contemporary art music, he has commissioned and premiered numerous compositions and collaborated with composers including Philip Glass, Christopher Theofanidis, Joel Puckett, Steven Bryant, Carter Pann, and John Mackey. He has collaborated with artists including Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Lynn Harrell, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and Lindsay Kesselman. He has published several articles in leading scholarly journals on topics that reflect his interest in the history and performance practice of chamber music for winds, brass, and strings. His recordings with the Minerva Chamber Ensemble, Casella Sinfonietta, and UNCG Wind Ensemble are available on the Equilibrium and Centaur Records labels.

A devoted advocate for music education, Dr. Geraldi conducts dozens of clinics annually with high school orchestras and bands and honors ensembles throughout the country, presents frequently at music education conferences, and has published articles for music educators on concert programming and effective rehearsal strategies.

Dr. Geraldi holds the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees in conducting from the University of Michigan, where he studied with H. Robert Reynolds and Michael Haithcock, and the Bachelor of Music Education degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, where he studied with Steven Eggleston. His other conducting teachers include Gustav Meier, Kenneth Kiesler, Daniel Hege, and Rossen Milanov. He has also participated as a conducting fellow in workshops with Pierre Boulez, Paul Vermel, William Henry Curry, and Frederick Fennell. Dr. Geraldi is a recipient of the Thelma A. Robinson Award, presented by the Conductors Guild and the National Federation of Music Clubs, and the Outstanding Teaching Award in the UNCG School of Music. He is a member of the American Bandmasters Association, the Conductors Guild, the College Orchestra Directors Association, the College Band Directors National Association, the National Association for Music Education, Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and is a National Arts Associate of Sigma Alpha Iota.