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American Women



February 4, 2023 @ 7:30 PM - Belle Mehus


We continue our feature of female composers with the premiere of Amy Beach’s “Maria Stuart” featuring soprano Tammy Hensrud, as well as Florence Price’s Symphony No. 2 and Libby Larsen’s “Parachute Dancing.”

You can purchase tickets here, or at the Bismarck Event Center box office.

Program

Parachute Dancing.......Libby Larsen (b. 1950)
 
Maria Stuart: Scena for Alto and Orchestra, Op. 18.....Amy Beach (1867-1944)
                        Tammy Hensrud, mezzo soprano 

Tovaangar: Coronation and Chaos...............Kathryn Bostic 

Chants d'Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne-Series 1).....Joseph Canteloube(1879-1957)
      "La pastoura als camps (La bergère aux champs)"
      "Baïlèro (Chant de bergers de Haute-Auvergne)"
      "Trois bourrées"
      "L'aio de rotso (L'eau de source)"
      "Ound'onoren gorda ? (Où irons-nous garder?)"
      "Obal, din lou limouzi (La-bas dans le limousin)"
                        Tammy Hensrud

 
INTERMISSION
 
Symphony No. 4 in D Minor...............Florence Price (1899-1952)
        I. Tempo moderato
        II. Andante cantabile
        III. Juba Dance
        IV. Scherzo 
 

Program Notes

Parachute Dancing
 
During the Renaissance, there was a spectacular court dance involving parapluie, or umbrellas, the forerunner of the parachute. Dancers would climb atop courtyard walls carrying enormous brightly colored silk umbrellas. They would begin dancing short, hopping steps which become raucous leaps along their precarious ledge until suddenly, they would hurtle themselves off the wall, umbrellas overhead, and float down into the midst of the spectators. - Libby Larsen
 
Libby Larsen, born December 24, 1950 in Wilmington, Deleware, is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CDs of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.
 
 
Maria Stuart: Scena for Alto and Orchestra
 
In 1892, Beach had her second work performed, an aria entitled Eilende Wolken, for contralto and orchestra, based on Friedrich von Schiller's Mary Stuart. Beach was asked to write this for Mrs. Carl Alves, who had been the alto soloist for the premiere of Mass in E-flat major. The first performance of Eilende Wolken was given by the Symphony Society of New York. Again, this was the first work arranged by a woman to be performed by this group.
 
In May of 2021, Tammy Hensrud contacted Beverly Everett to inquire if the BMSO would like to be the premiering ensemble for the newly orchestrated version of this piece. Hensrud had been asked by Lian Curtis, President of the Women’s Philharmonic Association and Founder of the Amy Beach Society, to premiere the work that was recently transcribed from its manuscript version. And Tammy had chosen our orchestra for the premiere! 
 
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (September 5, 1867 – December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. Her "Gaelic" Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman. She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany.
 
 
Tovaangar: Coronation and Chaos
 
“Tovaangar” means “the world,” as seen through the eyes of the Tongva, the first residents of the land in southern California. This land was theirs before it belonged to anyone else, before European settlers arrived and began to bend the region to their will and Tovaangar disappeared.  This is my tribute to our great land, a living and breathing being who provides endless sustenance for us all.
- Kathryn Bostic
 
Award-winning composer and musical artist Kathryn Bostic has garnered great admiration and recognition for her work in film, television, theatre and the concert hall. She is a recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including the prestigious Sundance Institute Time Warner Fellowship, Sundance Fellowship for Feature Film Scoring, Sundance/Skywalker Documentary Film Scoring, BMI Conducting Fellowship, Society of Composers and Lyricists Best Independent Film Score, Best Music in Film by the African American Film Critics Association. She is the first female African American score composer in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
 
Bostic has written for Broadway, most notably collaborating with the award-winning playwright August Wilson on “Gem of the Ocean.”  As a result of her collaboration with Mr. Wilson, she was asked to score the PBS American Masters program “August Wilson – The Ground on Which I Stand.”
 
A performance highlight from Bostic’s concert music catalog was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 premiere of her “The Great Migration: A Symphony in Celebration of August Wilson.” The Pittsburgh Symphony subsequently commissioned and performed, live to picture, excerpts of her award-winning score for the acclaimed 2019 documentary, “Toni Morrison- The Pieces I Am.”
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra opened its 2019-2020 season with the commissioned work, “Tovaangar: Coronation and Chaos,” and, for the 2020-2021 season, Bostic will be in residence with the Chicago Sinfionetta with the orchestra performing several newly commissioned works, in addition to her work as a mentor for the organization’s 2020-2021 Project Inclusion Freeman Fellowship.
Recent career highlights include her scoring the critically acclaimed documentary, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2019, followed by theatrical release with Magnolia Pictures. For the Sundance Grand Jury Winner, “Clemency,” released with Neon Pictures in December 2019, Bostic provided the original score, wrote and performed the featured original song “Slow Train,” as well as serving in the role of executive producer for the film.
As a solo artist, Bostic toured extensively in festivals and venues including The Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott’s, Birdland,Tokyo and Osaka Blue Note, and The Pori Jazz Festival. Also a vocalist, Bostic recorded and performed with many renowned artists including Nas, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and David Byrne. Bostic served as vice-president for the Alliance for Women Film Composers from 2016-2018.
 
 
Chants d'Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne-Series 1)
 
I roamed through farms and villages listening to the songs of the country folk — old men and women, shepherds and shepherdesses in the fields, farm-labourers and harvesters at their work.’ 
-  Joseph Canteloube
 
Cantaloube began writing his Songs of the Auvergne on a train traveling through the southern French countryside in 1923. The Auvergne is a region south of Lyons, full of hills and forests, fertile valleys and picturesque villages and towns. Cantuloube was born in the there in 1879, in the town of Annonay, and first encountered the local dances and folk songs as a boy. He believed passionately in the power of folk music to renew and enrich classical music. Artists, he said, should value feeling above thinking, and should have a real love for the soil of their own land. He composed five books of Songs of the Auvergne, over a period of over 30 years. The tunes are traditional melodies, and the words are in the local language, Occitan. Canteloube uses the orchestral colors and nuances to capture in music the atmosphere of the time and place in which the songs were traditionally sung.
 
 
Symphony No. 4 by Florence Price
 
The triumphant premiere of Florence Price’s First Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 was fraught with demeaning messages. On the one hand, for anyone, let alone an African American woman, to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra at a World’s Fair with an average of some 74,570 paid visitors per day in 1933 was a major achievement. On the other hand, Price was surely aware that her work was programmed only because African American arts advocate Maude Roberts George and the Chicago Music Association had directly paid the orchestra to perform it. Worse, that program titled “The Negro in Music” began with In Old Virginia, a concert overture that musically celebrated and valorized the Confederacy, written by John Powell, one of America’s most notorious eugenicists and White supremacists.
 
A lesser composer might have been discouraged—but not Florence Price. She penned three more symphonies over the next 12 years. The last of those symphonic ventures is perhaps the most adventurous of them all. For in it the composer brings together an even wider variety of idioms than she had in her previous symphonies.
 
Price was a genius in synthesizing the music of her African-American heritage with stereotypically White forms and genres, integrating musical styles that were traditionally kept apart. Aside from the symphonies, she wrote two string quartets, three concertos, a major piano sonata, dozens of character pieces small and large for piano, instrumental chamber music, art songs, cantatas, and more—all of it in addition to arrangements of spirituals for voice and for piano, and most of it richly informed by Black vernacular styles. Her post-Romantic language also draws on American Impressionist and other Modernist techniques. But the many solos in the Fourth Symphony, entrusted to virtually every instrument of the large orchestra, transform the ensemble into a brilliantly colored assembly of soloists, while the scoring for the brass and percussion sections evokes the military bands that are everywhere in wartime. The Fourth Symphony’s references to spirituals and other Black vernacular repertoires are further matched by suggestions of Anton Bruckner and Duke Ellington.
 
Composed in 1945, the Fourth Symphony was not performed during Price’s lifetime, and the score was among the hundreds of musical manuscripts and other papers found in an abandoned garage south of Chicago in 2009. The work was posthumously premiered and published in 2018, and the premiere recording was issued in 2019.  The Fourth Symphony stands as a major contribution to the American symphony as a genre—a work that treats Price’s ancestral inheritance and Black vernacular expression as the full equals of White and patently European expressive styles. It is a work that, along with the symphonies of Amy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, George Whitefield Chadwick, Aaron Copland, William Dawson, Charles Ives, and William Grant Still, makes an engaging and brilliant contribution to the search for a distinctively American musical language that gives expression to musical practices born of American experience and on American soil.
 
Price’s D-minor Symphony is cast in the traditional four movements, but because the first three movements all end abruptly, the close of the finale is the first distinct conclusion in the entire work. The short, tense introduction leads to a main theme (Tempo moderato), presented in soldierly scoring, that quotes the spiritual “Wade in the Water”; this movement’s air of wartime strife is most obvious at the end of the development section, when an impassioned crescendo driven mainly by references to “Wade in the Water” comes to an abrupt halt. The second movement (Andante cantabile) is in a more intimate mode, contrasting a plaintive pentatonic melody assigned mostly to solo woodwinds with hymn-like writing for brass choir—and like the first movement, its return is preceded by a dramatic crescendo that comes to an abrupt halt (this time with a hit on the gong).
 
The main theme of the third movement is a light-footed Juba dance (Allegro), but this movement’s heart is its contrasting section, whose syncopated accompaniment, modal melodies, and scoring associate it with Ellington’s “jungle style.” The finale, a whirling scherzo (Allegro), includes short-lived but persistent allusions to the scherzo of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, whose popularity was on the ascent in the United States in the early 1940s. Here, too, we see Price’s dramatic flair, for the movement builds to a climax featuring brass and percussion outcries with no strings, followed by an abrupt silence. The tension builds through a brooding recitative for the solo bassoon before letting loose the coda, which brings the Symphony to a furious close.
- Patrick Riley
(This note is adapted from an annotation by Michael Cooper and is used with the kind permission of the Philadelphia Orchestra.)