A resolutely contemporary landscape representation animates the future NOVA Chamber Music Series concert Songs of the Americas (April 10, 3 p.m., Libby Gardner Hall at the University of Utah). The concert, which celebrates not only the United States but all of the diasporas of the entire American continent, will feature works by three composers already represented in the previous concerts of the season: Gabriela Lena Frank, Jessie Montgomery and Clarice Asad.
These include Four folk songs by Frank; Loisaïda, my love by Montgomery, for cello and mezzo-soprano, which celebrates the history of Puerto Rican activism on New York’s Lower East Side, and Canções da America d’Assad, a string quartet commissioned for its Utah State University debut last October with the Fry Street Quartet. Anthony R. Green’s Gettysburg Address is a 2010 work that, nine years later, was featured in an artist residency the composer received through sponsorship from the National Parks Arts Foundation. This concert theme wouldn’t be complete without highlighting selected songs by Charles Ives, an American composer who has yet to receive his full credit as one of the nation’s most important musical figures.
Assad’s work will be presented for the second time in Utah. Last October, the Fry Street Quartet, also musical director of NOVA, gave the world premiere of Assad Canções da America in a concert at Utah State University, where the quartet is in residence at the school of music. While much of Assad’s original music comes from his Brazilian roots, this work explores influences from his native country’s neighbors, including Argentina, the homeland of Claudia Montero, a composer whom Assad regards as a founding mentor for her and her peers in the last generations of South American women. composers. The six movements, like Assad, the tracks in his note for the work, emerge from various dance forms, including the Brazilian milonga choro from Uruguay and the Argentine tango as well as music from Paraguay and Andean melodies. associated with Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and indigenous peoples.
This is the second piece that the Fry Street Quartet has commissioned from Assad. The first was Chaos, a concertino for string quartet and string orchestra, which was premiered by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra in 2012. Assad says that one of her most valuable experiences in developing as a composer came from the realization of arrangements by a deep immersion in the original scores, which she did for the Orchester de Chambre du Nouveau Siècle.
“The quartet [Canções da America] is sprinkled with dances, themes and gestures that celebrate life,” Assad said in an interview last fall with The Utah Review. While she selected traditional dance forms with familiar harmonies, she also unveiled some of the more unpredictable roots of these forms. Thus, she capitalizes on the modulation of harmonies through tonalities that might not resolve at the time or end up surprisingly resolving later in the work. Likewise, she plays with rhythmic contrasts that oscillate from perpetual motion to quasi-static. The idea is to keep the listener’s brain sharp. As for writing for the Fry Street Quartet, Assad said, “They have no limits and enjoy the freedom to experiment. The clashes of harmonies as well as the dissonances, they play them with pure joy.
This is the second opportunity in the past three weeks for Salt Lake audiences to hear a work by internationally acclaimed composer Green. Last month, Green’s Baudouin Sonata received its world premiere by pianist Jason Hardink at the three-concert event Concord/Revisited in Westminster College, which celebrated the centenary of Charles Ives Concord Sonata. As The Utah Review recently noted, elucidating the literary legacy and profound influence of James Baldwin. Green found the parallel that inspired Ives to create the Concord Sonata in the first place. Ives had seized the unique opportunity to write about local authors, who were alive when he was growing up in the mid-19th century. Baldwin, who died when Green was still very young, is a monumental influence on the composer. Thus the sonata includes quotations and other material that were instrumental in Green’s life, in the same way that Ives incorporated those from his own life into the Concord Sonata.
While the Baudouin Sonata pointed out a lot of space in his score, Green’s earlier work, Gettysburg Address, written when he was 26, is fuller, denser and more compact. “I was much more drawn back then to appealing to a certain type of new music connoisseur,” Green said in an interview with The Utah Review. During his formative years he was alerted by various composers including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Elliott Carter, Jason Eckardt (who also had a world premiere at Concord/Revisited), Edward Bland, Helmut Lachenmann and others.
The work was originally commissioned by The Playground Ensemble, who premiered it in Boulder and Denver in the spring of 2010. Gettysburg Address was also featured on the ensemble’s debut album. Dreams run through me.
Many are familiar with the historic tale of the occasion and arguably the most famous speech ever delivered by an American President. In fact, the 1863 event featured Edward Everett, one of the most famous orators in the country at the time, as the keynote speaker. Lincoln was to make a few remarks by way of protocol. There are five versions of the speech. Green uses a version that was among the first available. In Lincoln’s own writing, he omitted mention of God in the conclusion. Thus, it read: “The nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and this government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Apparently at the dedication Lincoln added the reference to God.
Green says he wanted to compose something different from the usual patriotic hagiography associated with the speech, which took just two minutes to deliver. The 12-minute work is written for soprano, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion. Red Desert Ensemble co-founder Devin Maxwell will lead NOVA’s performance, which is a first in Utah.
When he wrote the article, he had never visited Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. In 2010, when the work premiered, he said the initial response was somewhat mixed, with some audience members failing to applaud at its conclusion. “The honesty and vulnerability of the job was too much for some people,” he recalls. But, it also turned out to be a prescience project. Nine years later, his reception was different, reflecting these subtle but significant shifts in conscious reflection and awareness of how the vision Lincoln articulated in this speech has yet to materialize or crystallize into its most heartfelt form. possible. Green says that in 2019, while in residence for the performance at Gettysburg, he burst into tears and began singing the work in its entirety, inspired by the interaction with the physical presence of the location of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. And it is in Green’s music that the most critical conclusion to Lincoln’s speech, delivered in wartime but with a vision that stretched far beyond 1865, reminds us of ‘the great task before us’. .
For tickets and more information, see the Website for the NOVA chamber music series.