david conte
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David Conte with the Golden Gate Men's Chorus


Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall
50 Oak Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
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Kevin Korth, piano
Oliver Moore, piano
Dale Tsang, piano
John Huang, piano
Fred Cummins, piano
Jonas Koh, marimba
Brandon Topolski, marimba
Jerome Simas, clarinet
Hailey Gutowski, soprano
Emil Miland, cello
Joseph Piazza, conductor
The Golden Gate Men’s Chorus


Partita for Marimba and Piano (2022)            
     I. Prelude
     II. Canon
     III. Chorale Prelude
     IV. Gigue 

Fantasy for Solo Piano (1987)                

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (2019)            
     II. Lento molto 

Sonata for Two Pianos (1981)
     I. Largamente, expansively, not too slow     
     II. Allegro 

Two Winter Scenes (2018)
     I. Mistletoe
          text:  Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
     II. The Harper’s Song
          text; Adam Christensen (1951-2021)

Give Us Music (2015)
     text:  Williams Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Songs of Love and War (2013)
     I. Slumber Song
     II. Everyone Sang 
          texts:  Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)


Program Notes 

Partita for Marimba and Piano is a transcription of my Partita for Two Marimbas, which was commissioned by the ISGM New Music Commissioning Fund for marimbist Makoto Nakura, and was premiered by him and Kazuko Ogawa on October 13th, 2021 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Recital Hall. Because this recital featured music by J. S. Bach, in that spirit my Partita features some of the most salient characteristics of the style and form of Bach’s music, including motor rhythm, Baroque dance suite forms, and various contrapuntal procedures.  

The Partita begins with a Prelude in D major marked Allegro which features an animated, “perpetual motion” rhythm in the marimba, accompanied by supporting harmonies in the piano. The character is exuberant and cheerful. The second movement is modeled somewhat on Robert Schumann’s pieces for the pedal piano.  This movement is in the contrasting tonality of G minor and in a moderate 4/4 meter. The two parts are in strict canon at the octave.  The third movement is a Choral Prelude in the sunny key of C major.  The piano plays a flowing, cantilena melody in the right hand, accompanied by a steady “walking bass” in the left hand.  A tune in the marimba in longer tremolo notes resembling a chorale melody weaves in and out.  The suite concludes with a Gigue in the opening tonality of D major, which is a transcription of the 3rd movement of my cello sonata.  This movement is marked Allegro giocoso, and features three successive contrasting themes - the first jovial; the second, more humorous; the third, lyrical -  which are developed and restated.  The work ends with a fast and brilliant coda. 

The Partita was composed between December of 2020 and January of 2021 in close consultation with Makoto Nakura. He gave invaluable suggestions and advice to make the work as idiomatic as possible.  I am very grateful for his generous collaboration. 

Fantasy for Solo Piano was composed for Scott Foglesong and was premiered by him on the San Francisco Conservatory's Faculty Artist Series on March 4, 1987.

The work is  ten minutes in length and is cast in three contrasting sections, and is based on a single melodic idea reminiscent of both chant and the blues.  The first section is ruminative in mood and gradually becomes more expansive, leading to a first climax. After a brief transition in the manner of a recitative, the second section is an energetic and syncopated Allegro which rises to a second, more massive climax.  The final section is suddenly calm and plaintive. The work gradually winds down and fades into silence. 

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, 2nd movement

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was composed especially for  Franklin Cohen, former Principal Clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra.   Having grown up in Cleveland, I have long admired Mr. Cohen’s playing.  The Sonata was commissioned in 2015 for the 25th anniversary of the Arts Renaissance Tremont Chamber Music Concert Series. Mr. Cohen premiered the first movement of the work on October 25th, 2015.  The complete work was premiered at Trinity Cathedral on April 5th, 2017, with Mr. Cohen and Todd Wilson, pianist.  The final revised version the piece was performed by Jerome Simas, clarinetist, and Eric Zivian, pianist, presented by the Left Coast Ensemble, on March 4th, 2019. 

The second movement begins in a Largamente tempo, with an expressive, declamatory recitative motive in the clarinet, leading to a Lento molto tempo, which introduces a syncopated ostinato in the bass register of the piano.  The entire movement is build on these two ideas.  There is a contrasting middle section which is more playful, and slightly jazzy in character, with humorous interplay between the clarinet and piano.  The opening ideas return, leading to a climax, and the work ends with a final statement of the recitative motive, accompanied by mysterious rising chords in the piano. 


Sonata for Two Pianos

Sonata for Two Pianos was composed while I was a graduate student at Cornell University. It was the first composition of mine to be performed publicly in San Francisco, soon after I arrived in 1985 to teach at the San Francisco Conservatory.  Scott Foglesong and I performed the work in the spring of 1986 at Hellman Hall. Inspired by Brahms, who had transcribed his sonata for two Pianos for piano quintet, I transcribed my sonata to fulfill a commission from Pacific Serenades,  a chamber music concert series based in Los Angeles.  The Piano Quintet was premiered on April 3rd, l990 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.  

The Sonata  is cast in two contrasting movements.  The first movement is in a five-section arch form.  The declamatory opening idea gives way to a second more lyrical theme.  The music builds to a central development section in fast tempo, which breaks into a majestic climax of  arpeggios and trills.  The lyrical second theme returns, and the movement ends with a quiet statement of the opening idea.

The second movement is a rondo based on a twelve-tone row.  The main sections are syncopated, agitated, and mysterious.  The moods of the contrasting sections are sometimes violent, sometimes playful, and characterized by less syncopation.  The movement accumulates rhythmic tension which is released in a brisk coda.


Two Winter Scenes   

Mistletoe was originally composed for soprano and organ for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s annual “Deck the Halls”  concert at Disney Hall.  It was premiered by soprano Lisa Thelen and organist David Higgs in 2014.  A version for soprano, cello, and piano was arranged to pair with The Harper’s Song, which was commissioned by the Young Women’s Choral Projects, Susan McMane, conductor.  The two songs as arranged for solo voice are gathered as a pair entitled  Two Winter Scenes.  

Walter de la Mare’s poem Mistletoe was first published in 1913, and remains popular today.  His poetry frequently references the supernatural. The scene of this poem is someone sitting alone at Christmas time in a room under mistletoe.  It is nighttime, as there is “one last candle burning low.”  The narrator is tired and lonely, and somehow, mysteriously,  the narrator receives a kiss from an angel or spirit.   The message of the poem is that at Christmas time, there is love for everyone, even if we cannot see it.  In ancient British cultures, mistletoe was thought to bring good luck.  My musical setting is at turns mysterious, eerie, and joyful, as the narrator gratefully receives the good fortune of this mysterious “kiss.” 

I. Mistletoe 
Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Walter de la Mare

II. The Harper’s Song

Adam Christensen’s poem The Harper’s Song  imagines the music of harps warming the winter’s night.  The music features a modally inflected melody evocative of English folk-music, accompanied by the piano which imitates the arpeggiations of a harp.  

When harpers once in wooden hall
A shining chord would strike,
Their songs like arrows pierced the soul
Of great and low alike.

Aglow by hearth and candle flame
From burning branch or ember,
The mist of all their music sang
As if to ask in wonder:

Is there a moment quite as keen
Or memory as bright,
As light and fire and music sweet
To warm the winter's night?

            - Adam Christensen


Give Us Music was commissioned by the University of Notre Dame Men’s Glee Club, Daniel Stowe, conductor, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, and the 100th anniversary of the Notre Dame Men’s Glee Club.  The text is built of excerpts compiled from Henry IV, As you Like it, and Antony and Cleopatra. 

Give Us Music

Give us some music;
Music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.

Let there be no noise made, my gentle friends;
Unless some dull and favorable hand
Will whisper music to my weary spirit.

Play, music!
And you, brides and bridegrooms all,
With measure heaped in joy,
To the measures fall.


Songs of Love and War

Songs of Love and War were commissioned by the Golden Gate Men’s Chorus, Joseph Piazza, conductor, in celebration of their 30th anniversary, and premiered in April  2012.  

I. Slumber Song

Siegfried Sassoon was an English war poet, writer, and solder.  Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. Slumber Song was written while Sassoon was in a hospital, recovering from war wounds.  After declaring himself a pacifist, he began to feel that he had abandoned his men.  Shortly after writing this poem he reenlisted for front line duty.

Sleep; and my song shall build about your bed
A paradise of dimness. You shall feel
The folding of tired wings; and peace will dwell
Throned in your silence: and one hour shall hold
Summer, and midnight, and immensity
Lulled to forgetfulness. For, where you dream,

The stately gloom of foliage shall embower
Your slumbering thought with tapestries of blue.
And there shall be no memory of the sky,
Nor sunlight with its cruelty of swords.
But, to your soul that sinks from deep to deep
Through drowned and glimmering colour, Time shall be
Only slow rhythmic swaying; and your breath;
And roses in the darkness; and my love.

II. Everyone Sang

This poem expresses the varied emotions of joy at the end of the war, sadness for those who have died, ending with an affirmation of the freedom gained by struggle.  

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on- on- and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away...O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless;
the singing will never be done.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)


Departments and Faculty Involved with This Event


Woodwind Chamber Music

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