February 9, 2013 at
(Pre-concert lecture at 7
Liberating the Soul
College Main Theatre
4200 Farm Hill Blvd, Redwood City
Maestro Eric writes...
The Harrison concerto is a work of great lyricism, but also of wonderful, infectious dancing rhythms. Corigliano's Symphony No. 1 is one of the most searingly emotional works written in the last 50 years, a memorial to the victims of AIDS. read more
* Blue Cathedral
program notes by composer Jennifer Higdon
Blue…like the sky. Where all possibilities soar. Cathedrals…a place of thought, growth, spiritual expression…serving as a symbolic doorway in to and out of this world. Blue represents all potential and the progression of journeys. Cathedrals represent a place of beginnings, endings, solitude, fellowship, contemplation, knowledge and growth. As I was writing this piece, I found myself imagining a journey through a glass cathedral in the sky. Because the walls would be transparent, I saw the image of clouds and blueness permeating from the outside of this church. In my mind's eye the listener would enter from the back of the sanctuary, floating along the corridor amongst giant crystal pillars, moving in a contemplative stance. The stained glass windows' figures would start moving with song, singing a heavenly music. The listener would float down the aisle, slowly moving upward at first and then progressing at a quicker pace, rising towards an immense ceiling which would open to the sky…as this journey progressed, the speed of the traveler would increase, rushing forward and upward. I wanted to create the sensation of contemplation and quiet peace at the beginning, moving towards the feeling of celebration and ecstatic expansion of the soul, all the while singing along with that heavenly music.
These were my thoughts when The Curtis Institute of Music commissioned me to write a work to commemorate its 75th anniversary. Curtis is a house of knowledge—a place to reach towards that beautiful expression of the soul which comes through music. I began writing this piece at a unique juncture in my life and found myself pondering the question of what makes a life. The recent loss of my younger brother, Andrew Blue, made me reflect on the amazing journeys that we all make in our lives, crossing paths with so many individuals singularly and collectively, learning and growing each step of the way. This piece represents the expression of the individual and the group…our inner travels and the places our souls carry us, the lessons we learn, and the growth we experience. In tribute to my brother, I feature solos for the clarinet (the instrument he played) and the flute (the instrument I play). Because I am the older sibling, it is the flute that appears first in this dialog. At the end of the work, the two instruments continue their dialogue, but it is the flute that drops out and the clarinet that continues on in the upward progressing journey.
This is a story that commemorates living and passing through places of knowledge and of sharing and of that song called life.
This work was commissioned
and premiered in 2000 by
the Curtis Institute of
program notes by composer Lou Harrison
My Piano Concerto with Selected Orchestra is so called for the reason that it is composed in my favorite keyboard temperament—Kirnberger's No. Two, and this meant that I wanted to use only the orchestral instruments as could correctly play the tones of this tuning. Thus, I had to forgo the woodwinds and the valved brass. To my pleasure, it turns out that the three slide Trombones used, because of the majesty of their tones, actually give a rich, full-orchestra sound to the ensemble, and indeed the reduced orchestra has made the piece accessible to community orchestras, at least to those which can gather a few extra percussion players. I composed the piece for Keith Jarrett and Dennis Russell Davies (who introduced the two of us) and who first introduced the work in Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra. The well temperament heard has on the white keys an almost perfect C Major in just intonation—(when the "A" is very slightly high) and then the whole lovely opalescence of intervals reaches out to more remote keys. I have exploited this range of tones in many ways throughout the piece. In the second movement I have made use of an “octave bar” which will produce all of the tones of a full octave at once, while slightly emphasizing the octave interval. I have left the two-octave clusters to the forearm, as did Henry Cowell.
Maestro Eric writes...
I will add that this is work of great lyricism, but also of wonderful, infectious dancing rhythms, all shot through with the sound of the Javanese Gamalan (orchestra of bells and gongs) that Harrison loved so much. I’m delighted to be doing this work again!
Another work I’m excited to return to is John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1. This is one of the most searingly emotional works written in the last 50 years, a memorial to the victims of AIDS originally, but it can (and should) certainly be experienced as a memorial to anything that resonates with the listener. This is music on a grand, operatic, cinematic scale, but with Mahlerian oases of uneasy calm and stillness, and passages of cartoon-like madness. This is a work that has a very different effect when experienced live .
I hope that reading these notes will whet your appetite to hear this music played live at our concerts! You may enjoy the live performance even more by listening in advance (or watching on YouTube) to works marked * if they are unfamiliar to you.
-- Eric Kujawsky
- Higdon: blue cathedral
- Harrison: Piano Concerto
Louise Costigan-Kerns, piano
- Corigliano: Symphony No. 1