Token Creek Chamber Music

Program IV

Finale: Strings!

Saturday, September 4, 4:00 P.M.
Sunday, September 5, 4:00 P.M.

Tickets: Regular $32 · Students $12


Violin Concerto in C Major, RV 181 (from La Cetra) Vivaldi Suite for Two Cellos & Piano Menotti Presences, for solo cello and string quintet Harbison Concerto in G minor for Two Cellos and Strings Vivaldi

Program Notes

Our friend the composer Donald Sur, whose tendency to manic thoroughness led him to research, for twenty years, official documents relating to the history of Slavery in the United States, reached a remarkable goal as a product of these studies, his full-evening cantata Slavery Documents, a powerful and now especially relevant piece of music.  Whether his attempt to study all 350 of Vivald’s concerti for strings bore similar fruit in his own music is yet to be fully investigated, but we remember his often reiterated claim: “every one of them is unique, there is no template.”

This remark is interesting for its distance from most of what is said about this very popular composer.  Both his fans and his detractors mention his emphatic energy, his eccentrically long harmonic sequences, his flow of generous mainstream Italian melody.  For Donald everything was predictably unpredictable.  The mannerisms were to him shapes to arrange, as in a Kandinsky painting, with willful inconsistency. The simple tunes were so simple they were essences, extremes.

Going back to this composer, it is true that the pigeon does not fit the whole.  Whether you want to get him on a preserve and study his predictabilities, quirks, and absolute undeniable influence is for every listener to decide. 

Presences is most interestingly considered as an attempt to cross over, to meet and know someone now on the other side, never met here, but needing to be brought back.  

This is rather unnerving and dangerous, and only the sincerity and clarity of the outline of the project by the eventual commissioner, Charles Felsenthal encouraged me to attempt it. He was interested in a memorial piece for his friend the cellist David Anderson (1978-1998).   He furnished me with a great deal of data about David’s  life and personality, and in spite of not knowing him in life I attempted to get to know him in 2014,  in  in some way.  In the process I found myself making a piece for solo cello and strings that was more “metaphysical, “ more speculative about the boundaries between life and death than I would normally choose to make.   It was not an easy place to be, but as with so many projects that lead  out of comfort level, I was grateful to be on that cliff for a while.   

— Notes by John Harbison
Artistic Co-Director, Token Creek Chamber Music Festival