Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Program notes for my recital this Friday

Hey All!

Here are my program notes for my recital, this Friday, November 22nd at 8 pm in Redpath Hall on the McGill campus. Please come if you are able or want a holiday in Montreal :) These notes follow the rules for note writing at McGill, hence no citations. My information was gathered from Grove, DMA and PhD dissertations, other scholarly articles, professional websites, and personal score study.

Programme Notes for Master of Music in Oboe Performance Recital
Alana E. Henkel
Recital Date: 22 November 2013

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), son of Johann Sebastian Bach, was a composer, Clavier player, court musician, and writer of Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen. In this treatise, we have a succinct discussion on how musicians were to ornament during the Baroque era, although it received heavy criticism since it did not agree with Johann Quantz. This affects how one interprets his Sonata for Oboe Solo in G minor, H. 562, Wq. 132 (originally for flute in A minor). CPE Bach wrote this work (1747) while he was in service of Frederick II, an amateur flutist and composer, for whom many of Quantz and CPE Bach’s flute works were written. CPE Bach was underappreciated during his lifetime because he never was awarded the title of virtuoso from the King.

This late Baroque work with movements Poco Adagio, Allegro, and Allegro, is written as an unaccompanied solo; because of this, the figured bass is often written within the melody and the three movements feature contrasts between the lower and upper registers of the oboe. All three movements are also heavily ornamented. CPE Bach is known for writing out his preferred ornamentation, which contrasted with Baroque composers’ tendencies to write skeletally so that the musician could improvise his or her own ornaments. Bach did this for teaching purposes and because he didn’t believe that musicians should ornament music unless they positively enhance the original music. By writing in his own ornamentations, he did not have to risk having musicians perform his works poorly. He also writes many appoggiaturas. In his treatise, he states that they should be performed on the beat and for a long duration as to create dissonance. This is where he disagreed with Quantz, who believed appoggiaturas should be before the beat and quick in duration.


Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896) was a Romantic virtuosic pianist from Leipzig, Germany who in recent history has begun receiving recognition for her compositional genius. She was trained as a pianist by her father and began touring Europe at an early age, making her solo debut at age eleven. In 1840, she married composer Robert Schumann. She continued to compose and perform while raising their eight children. She and Robert had a partnership in which they studied topics such as the pedal piano and counterpoint of J.S. Bach. Robert often quoted her compositions in his work—sometimes too much of her work to Clara’s annoyance.

Her Three Romances for Violin, op. 22 was composed in 1855 for Joseph Joachim. Brahms had hinted in a letter to Joachim that he would greatly enjoy his Christmas present that year, which was this piece. Joachim and Clara took it on a European tour and the piece was well received, especially by King George V of Hanover. These Romances were written a year before Robert died. Robert was in a mental institution for two years prior to his death in 1856 and Clara was not permitted to visit until two days before his passing. During that time, she mainly performed to earn money for her family, but she did compose the Romances, and then only composed one more work after Robert’s death.

The first movement, Andante molto, is a through-composed Romance in Db major. The oboe is the main melodic instrument, but the piano does equal the oboe in melodic importance in two sections and overshadows the oboe in melodic influence shortly after the climax.  The second movement Allegretto starkly contrasts the first movement. It is written in ABA form, with the “A” sections in G minor and the “B” section in G major. In this movement, the piano propels the harmony through a chorale-like accompaniment, only becoming a melodic force in the “B” section during a brief call-and-response dialogue with the oboe. The third movement, Leidenschaftlich schnell, is also in ABA form, “A” in Bb major and “B” in G major”. While the movement is marked as “passionately fast,” it is written in a way where the piano is expeditious, while the oboe floats a heartfelt melody on top of the speed. The combination creates a movement that is both quick and unhurriedly wistful.


Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) was a notable French composer and conductor from the mid-twentieth century. He won the Prix de Rome in 1927 and helped found the contemporary music group “Triton” with prominent composers Prokofiev, Poulenc, Milhaud, and Honegger.

Évocations for solo oboe (1967) is dedicated to Étienne Baudo, a student of Georges Gillet, and professor of oboe at the Paris Conservatory from 1961-1973. In this work, Tomasi aurally describes women from around the world in four movements: Peru (South America), Nigeria (Africa), Cambodia (Asia), and Scotland (Europe). In each movement, he uses styles from parts of each woman’s culture.

The opening movement, Peruvienne, uses stylistic elements from the herranza and the huauco.  The herranza is a supernatural mourning piece where a woman sings and plays a small drum. The opening (and reoccurring) line mimics the small drum, while the short phrases with large legato intervals mimic the vocal element of the herranza. The huauco is a communal labor festival where performers play pipes and large drums. This is illustrated with glissandi, fast turns, and diatonic phrases. These two contrasting styles are interwoven to demonstrate the cultural variety of a Peruvian woman.

Nigerienne is written in a five-part Rondo form in a cultural style called Ajogan. Queens use the Ajogan to praise their husbands, slander their husband’s enemies, and to highlight their lineage. In this style, women repeat their phrases so that the audience can clearly understand what has been said. Tomasi repeats short phrases to emphasize the story-telling role the oboe plays.

The third movement, Cambodgienne (Apsaras) is a depiction of the pinn peat ensemble of southeast Asia. This ensemble has approximately ten instruments, including drums, xylophones, and gongs. It is used for a variety of purposes such as court entertainment, shadow puppet plays, and religious ceremonies. Apsaras are women who dance to the pinn peat ensemble. According to mythology, they are timeless and beautiful female creatures who sing and dance for the gods. This movement alternates between melodic and percussive elements of the pinn peat ensemble. The first and third sections attempt to imitate a Cambodian scale by leaving out Cb and at times, Gb. The middle section imitates the Roneat Ek, the “female” xylophone instrument of the ensemble.

The final movement, Ecossaise, includes the famous Scottish folk song, “Now simmer blinks on flow’ry braes” by Robert Burns and a traditional jig, which contains short quotes from “The Countess of Eglinton’s Delight.” The folk song is important to Scottish culture and Robert Burns was an important nationalistic poet. The text to this poem, which introduces the movement is:

Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go?
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy? (1787)

Birk is the Scottish word for Beech tree, and this particular area overlooks the Falls of Moness. It is a beautiful site in Scotland and the text is asking a woman to visit this waterfall. The following jig is a celebratory form of entertainment, and is written in the traditional detached 12/8 fiddle style.


Arthur Honegger (1892-1955) was a Swiss composer and member of the Parisian group “Les Six,” which comprised of Poulenc, Milhaud, Auric, Durey, Tailleferre, and himself. Honegger used this group for companionship, as his compositional style is different than the other five members. He studied at the Zürich and Paris Conservatories and is considered one of the twentieth century’s most dedicated contrapuntists. His music is described as tonal with an individual use of dissonance. His music was and is still popular, with almost all of it recorded during his lifetime.

American philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge commissioned Honegger’s Concerto da Camera for flute, English horn, and string orchestra (1948). She requested a chamber piece be written that featured English horn as a soloist. She intended this work to be premiered by Louis Speyer, English horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The concerto was actually premiered in 1949 by Marcel Saillet on English horn, André Jaunet on flute, and Musicum Zürich conducted by Paul Sacher.

Honegger’s Concerto is comprised of three movements, Allegro amabile, Andante, and Vivace. The piece as a whole is optimistic in style. The first movement is based on three motives; the English horn introduces the lyrical motive, the flute then introduces the spritely motive, and the intervallically distant motive is introduced partway through the piece. The two instruments develop the first two concepts together and separately, each time in longer phrases until the third motive is introduced, then each instrument begins taking on a distinct personality until the piece unites in unison.

Andante consists of dissonances that flow in and out of one another. The theme is constructed in two parts. The low strings introduce the first part, while the flute then continues the second. This elongated melody is repeated throughout the movement, mainly by the strings and English horn with flute floating in a mournful obbligato, and finally, in dialogue between the flute and English horn.

The final movement, Vivace, is an intervallic romp, which showcases the technical abilities of a flutist. The melody reminds one of a jig, but it contrasts with soaring lines that harken us back to the first movement of the concerto. Throughout the textural excitement, Honegger includes contemplative moments that may be perceived as quiet inside jokes.

The work as a whole is orchestrated in ways that showcase the exemplary attributes of the flute and English horn.


Concerto No. 1 in D minor (1776-1777) by Ludwig August Lebrun (1752-1757) is a classical concerto composed for Lebrun himself to perform. Lebrun was a famous oboe virtuoso. He was a member of the Mannheim Court Orchestra beginning at age fifteen for Elector Karl Theodor. His playing was described by The Mercure in 1779 as velvety, sweet, and having perfect execution. Schubart described him as “a genuine musical genius.” In his lifetime, he wrote six oboe concerti and performed in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and England.

This concerto consists of Allegro, Grazioso, and Rondo. The first movement, Allegro is in the classical sonata-allegro form. It is introduced in d minor, modulates to the relative major of F, and then is recapitulated in d minor. The Grazioso is a lyrical aria in ABA form in F major. The final Rondo is, as it is labeled, in Rondo form. It is mainly in D major with a short modulation to d minor during the “C” section. This section uses the same “alla turca” rhythm in the celli and bass that was used by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven during this time.

Lebrun’s concerto reveals how talented he actually was. The first movement uses the third octave F twice. Mozart’s Oboe Quartet K. 370, composed in 1781, also utilizes this note, but this range of the oboe is so extreme that one rarely finds it in classical works. However, Lebrun was writing for himself and he decided to showcase the extent of his personal tessitura. He also featured lyricism, quick articulations, room for ornamentation, and places in each movement for the oboist’s own cadenzas.

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