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Fontainebleau 100th Anniversary Concert

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About Fontainebleau

The American Conservatory at Fontainebleau opened its doors to students on June 26th, 1921. Held in the Palace of Fontainebleau, which was built during the reign of Francois the First in 1529, the school had been established by the governments of France and the United States to offer to Americans the opportunity to experience the long tradition of French musical pedagogy.  Among the teachers was Nadia Boulanger, then a 34 year-old teacher of harmony.  In the first class was Aaron Copland, who discovered Mlle. Boulanger there, and remained in Paris for the next three years to study with her.  Composers from America and around the world came to study with Mlle. Boulanger from then until her death at the age of 91 in 1979.

This concert includes pieces by seven composers who attended Fontainebleau during the last decade of Mlle. Boulanger’s teaching.  Each composer is represented by approximately ten minutes of music;  their piece or pieces are preceded by a brief video of testimony about Fontainebleau and Mlle. Boulanger by each composer. 

Program

Robert Xavier Rodríguez (b. 1946)
Above All, Women: Four Images of Gustav Klimt (2016)
     III. “Judith”
The Amernet Quartet
Misha Vitenson and Franz Felkl, violins
Michael Klotz , viola
Jason Calloway, cello

Malcolm Singer (b. 1952)
Triflute’s Travel’s in Saturn’s Magic Square (1975)
Karen Jones
Sandra Skipper
Rowland Sutherland

Fugue (1974)
Chloe Stowers-Veitch
Leyla Cemiloglu
William Dutton
Leonid Plashinov-Johnson

David Conte (b. 1955)
Sonatine for Piano (1975)
     I. Moderately fast
Samuel Grodin, piano

String Quartet No. 2 (2010)
     V. Allegro
Friction Quartet
Kevin Rogers and Otis Harrell, violins
Taiija Warbelow, viola
Doug Machiz, cello

Martha Helen Schmidt (b. 1956)
Three Sonnets (2017)
Joseph Hubbard, bass/baritone
Nicholas Phillips, piano

Laura Karpman (b 1959)
Catch the Fire (2020)
Unison Orchestra

Enile Naoumoff (b. 1962)
Cathedral in Tears (2019)
Emile Naomouff, piano

Philip Lasser (b. 1963)
Scherzo Movement to Trio in F# for Violin, Cello and PianoThe Lee Trio
Lisa Lee, violin
Angela Lee, cello
Melinda Lee Masur, piano

Program Notes

Rodriquez - “Judith”

This movement depicts Klimt’s painting of the Apocryphal story of Judith, a beautiful Israelite widow who defends her country by seducing Holofernes, an Assyrian general, and cutting off his head. The music begins with an agitated pizzicato passage that depicts Judith furtively making her way into Holofernes’ camp. When she enters Holofernes’ tent, a cello outburst expresses the general’s outrage, which turns to delight as he is taken with Judith’s beauty. She dances for him and gets him drunk. They have an intense sexual encounter, followed by a period of contented relaxation. Judith waits until Holofernes falls asleep; then, she cuts off his head and, carrying the head, makes her escape.

Singer - Triflute’s Travels in Saturn’s Magic Square

Triflute’s Travels in Saturn’s Magic Square was written at Fontainebleau during the Sumer school in 1975. At my first lesson in the chateau, Mademoiselle asked me to write it for three flautists on the course. I remember a very busy time composing early morning and late at night, since the day time was full to brimming with the wonderful Fontainbleau curriculum. The piece was performed by the three flautists during the course, and the following year it won a prize in the Hitzacher Festival in Germany. Later the Amercian composer, Robert Rollin, wrote an analysis of it in The Musical Quarterly - the July 1980 volume.

Singer - Fugue

Fugue, was written in the spring of 1974 for my final exams at Cambridge. It was originally part of a larger work ‘A Set of Madrigals’, but is regularly performed as a stand-alone work. The text is self-reflective. I clearly wanted my examiners at university to know that I understood the structure of a fugue! Fugue was premiered in Fontainebleau at the 1975 course.

Conte - Sonatine

Sonatine  for Piano was composed during the years of 1975-78 while I was studying with Nadia Boulanger in Fontainebleau and Paris. Much of the work is based on a three-chord progression which was modeled after an exercise given to me in a class by Mlle. Boulanger. (I discuss the application of this to my compositional process in detail in a lecture I gave about Boulanger’s teaching methods at the Nadia Boulanger Symposium at the University of Colorado in 2004. {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gg1UjCO01iI}). The first movement, marked Moderately fast, is characterized by a lilting melody set with frequently changing meters.

Conte - String Quartet No. 2, 5th movement

String Quartet No. 2 was commissioned by the Ives String Quartet and composed between July 2009 and January 2010. I wrote my First String Quartet in 1979 as my Master’s Thesis at Cornell University, and having composed a great deal of music for strings in the intervening 30 years, I was eager to return to a medium that I believe, next to a cappella choral music, shows a composer’s strengths and weaknesses more clearly than any other.

Karel Husa was my primary composition teacher during my years at Cornell. He guided every phase of the composition of my First String Quartet, and I have studied deeply and been inspired by his string quartets. String Quartet No. 2 is dedicated to him, after 38 years of friendship. Karel Husa studied with Nadia Boulanger in the late 1940s.

The fifth movement is a spirited and energetic Allegro in 4/4 meter. This finale is designed as a modified rondo form with three contrasting themes. The third of these is related to the second theme of the first movement and, like that melody, is consciously romantic and expressive in character. The finale concludes with brisk coda in compound meter that concludes with a flourish in all instruments.

Karpman - Catch the Fire

Catch the Fire is an excerpt from the film of the same name, which depicts an event where white mobs terrorized Black residents and destroyed Black-owned homes and businesses in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  

Schmidt - Three Sonnets

Three Sonnets was premiered at the Source Song Festival in Minneapolis in August 2018. William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 speaks of a man who is disgraced, outcast, depressed, and drowning in self-pity. Yet, the thought of a special woman saves him and brings him hope to the point he would not trade places with kings to be with her. Unceasing Light, by Edward Shanks, is a poem from a larger work called Songs of Separation. You can visualize the scene as it unfolds from laboring bees, to the sun, drenched and soaked in light with shining threads. In Sonnet to a Stilton Cheese, G. K. Chesterton has written a poem that cleverly parodies the English House of Lords. It is light in character, but has serious undertones. 

Naoumoff - Cathedral in Tears

Watching in disbelief and painstaking helplessness the screens which were streaming live the fire of Notre-Dame’s Cathedral in Paris on that fateful April 15th of 2019, I was stricken how vulnerably strong she stood while being consumed by the flames burning centuries of her body parts. Hope and solace filled up my heart when translating through the piano’s keyboard the emotional rainbow of feelings which were bursting in me giving birth to this Cathedral in tears. 

Lasser - Piano Trio 

Inspired by the C minor Brahms Piano Trio, Op. 101, the Trio in F# is a dark and brooding work, punctuated by a joyous and optimistic Scherzo. The first movement travels through darkness with moments of great light and expansive lyrical arcs. The Scherzo comes from my American side. Its open harmonies and noble demeanor speak of the light in mid-afternoon on a New England common in early June. 

Without a doubt, my Trio is among my most overtly emotionally expressive works. It speaks of my deep love and reverence for the music of Brahms. Hopefully with my eclectic musical "genetics" and tastes which travel the soundworlds of Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Bach, Brahms to the new world of Copland, Barber and Gershwin, something akin to my own voice is born and can derive its message not from novelty but from a fresh perspective on tradition.

Commissioned by cellist Zuill Bailey for the El Paso Pro-Musica Festival in 2004. The Trio in F# has enjoyed many performances in the United States and Europe.   

Artist Biographies

Robert Xavier Rodríguez’s compositions have received over 2000 performances by organizations such as the New York City Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Seattle, Houston Dallas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, and Chicago Symphonies. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has served as composer-in-residence with the San Antonio Symphony and the Dallas Symphony. He holds an Endowed Chair at the University of Texas at Dallas, where he conducts the Musica Nova Ensemble.

Malcolm Singer was Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School for nineteen years, and teaches composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He was a 1980 Harkness Fellow and was awarded the 2012 Cobbett Medal from the Worshipful Company of Musicians for services to Chamber Music. He is much in demand both as a composer, conductor and teacher. His many works include commissions for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Singers, the Shipley Festival and others, He is particularly known for his choral music and his pieces for young performers.

David Conte has written over 150 works published by E.C. Schirmer (a division of ECS Publishing), including six operas, a musical, works for chorus, solo voice, orchestra, chamber music, organ, piano, guitar, and harp. He is Professor of Composition and Chair of the Composition Department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he has taught since 1985. From 1975 to 1978 he studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Fontainebleau. He served on the faculty at Fontainebleau in 1991. In 2010 he was appointed to the composition faculty of the European American Musical Alliance in Paris. He has lectured extensively about the pedagogy of Nadia Boulanger, and will be a featured composer and lecturer at the Bard Music Festival’s “Nadia Boulanger And Her World” in August, 2021. 

Martha Helen Schmidt is a composer and retired educator from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her composition teachers have included Nadia Boulanger, Louise Talma, James Ming, Libby Larsen, and Pulitzer Prize winners Steven Stucky and Karel Husa.  Ms. Schmidt's choral octavos are published by Theodore Presser. Her choral works and Art Songs have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. She self publishes her other works which you can find on her website:  https://www.marthahelenschmidt.com/  

You can view a perusal copy of Three Sonnets  at:  https://www.marthahelenschmidt.com/solo-vocal

Laura Karpman collaborates with the most creative filmmakers of our time, including Steven Spielberg, Alex Gibney, Kasi Lemmons, Rory Kennedy, Sam Pollard, Kathy Bates, and Eleanor, Francis Ford and Sophia Coppola. Her film and television credits include, the HBO series, Lovecraft Country, the Discovery Channel docu-series, Why We Hate, Miss Virginia, starring Uzo Aduba, the Netflix fan-favorite romantic comedy, Set It Up, Sony’s Paris Can Wait, starring Alec Baldwin and Diane Lane, Lionsgate’s The Cotton Club Encore, Fox Searchlight’s Step and Black Nativity, WGN America’s award-winning historical drama series Underground, PBS’ Peabody award-winning series Craft in America, and Showtime’s Sid and Judy. Karpman has received a Critic’s Choice award for her song, Jump, co-written with frequent collaborators Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson, sung by Cynthia Errivo. Karpman is especially proud to have recently scored the animated film Sitara, executive produced by Darla Anderson and Gloria Steinem. Additionally, Karpman has helped shape dozens of winning political campaigns, with music written for candidates such as Diane Feinstein, Charles Schumer, and Lois Capps.

Emile Naoumoff is a Bulgarian pianist and composer. He revealed himself a musical prodigy at age five, taking up study of the piano and adding composition to his studies a year later. At the age of eight, after a fateful meeting in Paris, he became the last disciple of,[Nadia Boulanger who referred to him as "the gift of my old age". He studied with her until her death in late 1979. Boulanger gave him the opportunity to work with Clifford CurzonIgor Markevitch, Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Nikita MagaloffJean FrançaixLeonard BernsteinSoulima StravinskyAram Khachaturian and Yehudi Menuhin. Lord Menuhin conducted the premiere of Naoumoff's first Piano Concerto, with the composer as a soloist when he was ten years old. He pursued studies at the Paris Conservatory with Lélia Gousseau, Pierre Sancan,  Geneviève Joy-Dutilleux, as well as at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris with Pierre Dervaux (conducting) In 1981, at age 19, he was signed as a composer with the music publisher Schott, Mainz. He was the youngest on their roster. Upon the death of Mlle. Boulanger, Naoumoff took over her classes at the summer sessions of the Conservatoire d'Art Americain in Fontainebleau. Later, in 1984, he was appointed at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Paris. Emile Naoumoff is Professor of Piano at Indiana University.  

Philip Lasser is an American composer with French musical roots. Trained from an early age at Nadia Boulanger’s famed Ecole d’Arts Americaines in Fontainebleau, France, Lasser has created a unique sound world that blends together the colorful harmonies of French Impressionist sonorities and the dynamic rhythms and characteristics of American music.  Following his studies at Harvard College, Lasser moved to Paris to work with Boulanger’s closest colleague and disciple, the Catalan composer, Narcis Bonet and continue his piano studies with Gaby Casadesus. Lasser later received his master’s degree in composition at Columbia University and his doctorate in musical arts at The Juilliard School. Lasser’s works are recorded on major labels and performed by leading artists the world over. Philip Lasser is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and is Director for the elite EAMA Summer Music Programs dedicated to training young composers, chamber musicians and conductors. For more information, visit www.PhilipLasser.com.