OUTSIDE IN: MUSIC ABOUT PLACE
Saturday, September 1, 2012 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 2, 2012 4:00 p.m.
The confluence of art and nature, and the theme of restoration, conclude our season with a program featuring music inspired by the outdoors, music to be played outdoors, and music inspired by and created at the farm in Token Creek.
Bach — "Öffne dich," from BWV 61 (1714)
Bach — "Alles mit Gott" (1714, discovered in 1995)
John Harbison — Crane Sightings
Mozart — Divertimento in D, K. 334
Anna Slate, soprano
Rose Mary Harbison, Heidi Braun Hill & Laura Burns, violin
Jennifer Paulson & John Harbison, viola
Karl Lavine, cello
Elizabeth Foulser, bass
John Harbison, conductor
Token Creek Festival 2012
Outside In – Music About Place
Bach - Aria: Alles mit Gott
In 1995 the Harvard Bach scholar Michael Maul was in the Weimar Court Library
thumbing through a sheaf of ceremonial texts by poets working for Duke Wilhelm
Ernst in the early 1720s when, on the reverse of one of these unremarkable
poems, he encountered in a very familiar hand an aria for soprano and strings.
From both stylistic and handwriting perspectives authentication was automatic:
the first Bach discovery since 1935. In music very characteristic of his cantatas
from around 1715, Bach had composed an anthem for the Duke’s 52nd birthday.
There were twenty-one verses, embodying an acrostic of the Duke’s name,
so all of them must have been performed (duration: more than an hour!). Our
performance of this sweet pantheistic piece, which neither adds to nor subtracts
from the great composer’s reputation, will be abridged.
Harbison - Crane Sightings
In 2004 John Harbison turned into the large field, long set aside to natural
growth and perennially attractive to animal life, and perceived a singular
sort of ritualistic movement at the top of a gentle rise. Grand, vocal, and
imperturbable, two large birds pursued their conversational dance, allowing
the observer very near, as if after thousands of years they didn’t fear
for their existence. The truth is, for some time this species, the sandhill,
was precarious, as are other cranes now. Their emerging persistence is part
of the piece Crane Sightings, as is the celebration of their yearly returns,
this pair and /or others, to similar sites in these fields.
Mozart - Divertimento for Strings and Horns, K. 334
After concluding the first half of our concert with an outdoor piece which
needs to be performed indoors, we conclude the concert with an indoor piece
composed for outdoor performance. The two brilliant Mozart divertimenti – K.
287 (performed last season) and K. 334 (presented this year) – each have,
in addition to symphonic movements associated with large-scale orchestral music
(sonata-allegro, rondo), two Menuets in each piece. The Menuet is a courtly,
civilized dance (to which Mozart brings, in K. 334, a subversive undertow).
It is interesting to know that the initial venue for these pieces, in spite
of their small forces, was an outdoor theater. Why is it hard to receive Mozart’s “Divertimenti” as
pieces to accompany aristocratic festivities, conversation, eating? Well, it’s
because he could not compose backgrounds, he was too much of a showman – a
musical savant and, for these pieces, a great violin virtuoso – to step
aside even for a minute.
Eclogue for violin and strings*
There are few locations in North America where meetings with sandhill cranes spontaneously occur; southern Wisconsin, especially in early spring, is one such place. The surprised rural walker is allowed a very near approach, not dissipating but intensifying the sense of the bird’s otherness and ancientness. No attempt here to suggest their amazing cries and movements, or their tranquil sense of ownership of the ground beneath them. Instead, celebration of the persistence of these birds, as they inhabit less and less of our planet with undiminished dignity.
1. Encounter. In responding to my spontaneous close meetings with cranes, I wanted to make a music which happens naturally (perhaps reacting to a surfeit of in-your-face, “impressive” pieces, some my own). Eclogue–a pastoral, idyllic poem.
2. Flight. For these birds flight seems to be a formal, un-hurried, sensuous ritual.
3. The Sadness of Marshes. “The sadness discernible in some marshes arises, perhaps, from their once having harbored cranes.” Since Aldo Leopold wrote this, a half-century ago in A Sand County Almanac, the cranes have somewhat recovered, but many of their former haunts no longer host this bird –“symbol of our untamable past.”
4. Dance-Variations. While the chorale-tune subject of these four dance-variations is known here as “Now Thank We All Our God,” its origins are three centuries ago in Europe, making this song of thanksgiving many millenniums younger than the crane species.
*Crane Sightings: Eclogue for violin and strings [string quintet or string orchestra 4-4-3-3-2]
First performance: Rose Mary Harbison, violin; Tanglewood Music Center, July 9, 2006. Duration: 14 min.
— John Harbison, summer 2012