An evening of Jewish art song with composers Dan Asia and Brian S. Wilson
Breath In A Ram’s Horn; Daniel Asia (1953- )
Piano Trio No. 2 in G Minor, opus 70, 1932; Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968)
Byron Songs 6 Songs from Lord Byron’s “Hebrew Melodies”; Brian S. Wilson (1962- )
Breath in a Ram’s Horn is a song cycle of five poems. They range from the sublime to the mundane, from the sacred to the profane.
The texts are by the writer/poet Paul Pines. He and I first met at the MacDowell Colony, an artist’s retreat in Peterborough, New Hampshire. We became close friends, partly as the result of a shared ferocity brought to the game of table tennis. I requested books of poetry. I have so far written five works based on his writings.
His poems seem to bring together very disparate worlds, uniting a wealth of emotional perspectives. The imagery ranges from Ecclesiastes to the Blues, stating something universal that is culled from the simple and earthy. At the core of the work is man’s uneasy place in the universe; that of a curious bystander to his own inner world, living in a physical world he also hardly understands. How these interior and exterior worlds meet and interact is the enigma at the center of these poems. However it is an enigma that is often imbued with a wry and delicate sense of humor.
The poems in this cycle are imbued with images of family and Judaism, and their intertwining. One finds memories of the poet’s father, mother, and grandfather; memories of prayer shawls, phalacteries, praying; imagery of the high holydays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and the power of recollection; and a reflection on Job and David. And just like the lives of these two Biblical characters, the poems are not pretty or easy, but rather filled with the difficulties and anguish of a life as it is really lived.
Byron Songsis a Song Cycle in 6 parts for soprano and piano based on texts from Lord Byorn’s Hebrew Melodies commissioned by Sonoma Musica Viva. The first performance was in November 2011, Carol Menke, soprano, Marilyn Thompson, piano. Byron wrote that the Hebrew Melodies were written "partly from Job and partly my own imagination". They reflected his general sympathy with the downtrodden.
—Brian S. Wilson
Born in Seattle, WA in 1953, Daniel Asia is one of a small number of composers who have traversed both the realms of professional performance and academia with equal skill. After receiving his BA degree from Hampshire College, Mr. Asia received his MM from the Yale School of Music. After serving as Assistant Professor of Contemporary Music and Wind Ensemble at the Oberlin Conservatory from 1981-86, Mr. Asia resided in London from 1986-88 working under the auspices of a UK Fulbright Arts Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is presently Professor of Composition and head of the Composition Department at The University of Arizona, Tucson.
Mr. Asia has been the recipient of the most competitive grants and fellowships in music including a Music Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Meet The Composer/ Reader’s Digest Consortium Commission, United Kingdom Fulbright Arts Award Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and four NEA Composers Grants.
The composer's major orchestral works include five symphonies, a piano concerto, a cello concerto, 2 song cycles and the works AT THE FAR EDGE, BLACK LIGHT, and GATEWAYS.. He has had a long interaction with the relationship of classical music and Judaism, many of his compositions reflecting this interplay.
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco was born in Florence to an Italian Sephardi Jewish family, his father’s forebears having resettled there as refugees following the Spanish Expulsion in 1492. As a child, he was composing by the age of nine. His maternal grandfather apparently harbored an almost secret interest in synagogue music. This was learned many years after his death, when Mario discovered a small notebook in which his grandfather had notated musically several Hebrew prayers. Mario later recalled that this incident made a profound impression on him: “one of the deepest emotions of my life … a precious heritage.” It inspired his first Jewish composition, Danze del re David, as well as Prayers My Grandfather Wrote (1962).
He articulated three principal thematic inspirations at the core of his musical expression: Italy, Shakespeare and the Bible.
Just before the German invasion of Poland and the commencement of the war, he and his family left for America. In 1940 Jascha Heifetz organized a contract between Castelnuovo-Tedesco and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) film studio, launching his fifteen-year career as a major film composer, for some 200 films. In addition, his influence as a teacher of many other “Hollywood” composers was significant—among them such people as Henry Mancini, and John Williams.
- Neil W. Levin
BRIAN SCOTT WILSON
Brian S. Wilson is currently Professor of Music Theory and Composition, Director of Jewish Studies and Faculty Advisor to Hillel at Sonoma State University. As a composer he frequently incorporates tropes from the Jewish liturgy, sometimes in outwardly “Jewish” music (for example, his original setting of the Avinu Malkeynu prayer), other times for no particular reason than the melody just sounds good (Symphony No. 1, Ancient Calls and Echoesfor Two Horns and Organ). Wilson’s extensive collaboration with klezmer clarinetist Robin Seletsky has resulted in several original works for klezmer band and a widely acclaimed arrangement of Rumania! for klezmer band and orchestra.
A versatile composer, arranger, conductor and educator, Brian Scott Wilson (b. 1962, Lynn, MA) creates music with economy, purpose and humor. Winner of the International Trombone Association Composition Competition for The Avanti, Wilson’s scoring and sense of pacing have earned him a reputation as a master of craft.
Finding inspiration in the music of Stravinsky, Mingus and Varese, Wilson’s eclectic style utilizes classic and jazz elements in a way that feels simultaneously familiar and new. His jazz-inflected harmonies are evident in the whimsical Modes of Transportation for orchestra as well as the elegiac Orange Was Her Colorfor wind band.
This concert is part of Sonoma Musica Viva!
Sonoma Musica Viva was founded in 2010 at Sonoma State University as a chamber music alliance dedicated to the recognition of significant works from the 20th and 21st centuries. Founding director and conductor Brian S. Wilson combines the talents of university faculty and North Bay professionals alongside qualified student performers.
Sonoma Musica Viva's debut concert took place on October 10, 2010, with a program of Hungarian and Czech music written before 1940 that included Bartók's Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano; Mikrokosmosfor piano; and Janáček'sCapricciofor piano left hand, flute, two trumpets, three trombones and tenor tuba. The ensemble has presented programs of Stravinsky and Ravel; an all-Messiaen program; Music From the Second Viennese School, The music of Charles Ives, The music of Edgard Varese. In March 2020, SMV will present the music of Paul Hindemith and William Walton.
Sonoma Musica Viva's goal is to increase awareness of significant, lesser-known works composed after 1900, specializing in repertoire for mixed chamber ensembles. Sonoma Music Viva creates performances in an inviting and informal atmosphere without the stuffy trappings of traditional classical concerts.