Concert Notes

Cobalt Clouds and Clear Blue Seas

Tonight’s concert is comprised of four powerful concerti of the 20th and 21st centuries. Much of the evening’s work is influenced by, or responds to, the beauty and power of the sea and the sky, including Anna Clyne's luxuriant Prince of Clouds, Jocelyn Morlock's radioactive Cobalt, and John Estacio's heroic, Triton-inspired Trumpet Concerto. As in our January 22nd concert, the progression of moods in tonight’s program travels from the bright light of day towards more nocturnal sounds. The evening concludes with one of the first pieces to create a strong connection between “early music” and “new music.” Alfred Schnittke’s famous and highly influential Concerto Grosso No. 1, originally for two violin soloists, is heard tonight in the lesser-known 1988 version for two solo flutes – a Canadian première of this groundbreaking work in Schnittke’s polystylistic mode. 

JOHN ESTACIO (b. April 8, 1966, Newmarket, ON, Canada) - JUNO nominated composer John Estacio is a recipient of the 2017 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award. His Trumpet Concerto was commissioned by 19 Canadian orchestras and will be performed throughout the country in the 2017/18 season. In 2017, the NACO and conductor Alexander Shelley toured Canada with his work I Lost My Talk, inspired by Rita Joe’s poem and commissioned for the Right Honourable Joe Clark on the occasion of his 75th birthday.


Trumpet Concerto (Triton’s Trumpet) (2017) – The first movement of this tripartite work, Triton’s Trumpet, is inspired by Poseidon's mythical son Triton and his conch shell-trumpet which can both soothe and agitate the seas. The music of this movement alternates between lyrical passages and more ominous, fervent sections, ending in a rather chaotic mood. The second movement, Ballad, showcases the lyrical aspect of the trumpet; Rondo, the final movement, is more spirited, energetic, and kaleidoscopic.

ANNA CLYNE (b. March 9, 1980, London, United Kingdom) - Grammy-nominated composer Anna Clyne has been described as  "dazzlingly inventive" (Time Out New York) and as a "composer of uncommon gifts and unusual methods" (New York Times). Having served as Composer-in-Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (2010-15), and for both the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (2015-16) and L’Orchestre national d’Île-de-France (2014-16), she is currently the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the Berkeley Symphony.


Anna Clyne notes: When writing Prince of Clouds I was contemplating the presence of musical lineage—a family-tree of sorts that passes from generation to generation. This transfer of knowledge and inspiration between generations is a beautiful gift. Composed specifically for Jennifer Koh and her mentor at the Curtis Institute of Music, Jaime Laredo, this thread was in the foreground of my imagination as a dialogue between the soloists and ensemble. As a composer, working with such virtuosic, passionate and unique musicians is also another branch of this musical chain.

JOCELYN MORLOCK (b. December 14, 1969, St. Boniface, MB, Canada) - JUNO-nominated composer Jocelyn Morlock's music is hailed as "airy but rhythmic, tuneful but complex" and with "uncanny yet toothsome beauty" (Georgia Straight). Her music is recorded on 22 CDs including newly-released Halcyon, and Cobalt, whose title track won the 2015 Western Canadian Music Award for Best Classical Composition. Jocelyn won the 2016 Mayor's Arts Award for Music in Vancouver, and is Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Composer in Residence.


Cobalt (2012) - Cobalt is poisonous, magnetic, and radioactive. The element was originally named after a kobold, a mischievous and possibly evil goblin or sprite found in German folklore. Though it is a necessary element found in both humans and animals, in large amounts it is highly toxic, and cobalt salts used to create this vivid shade of blue in pottery or glasswork can be fatal if touched or inhaled. The luminous cobalt blue of the night sky, just before it becomes completely dark, is one of the most beautiful colours found in nature, visible only for a very short time every evening.

ALFRED SCHNITTKE (b. November 24, 1934, Engels, Saratov Oblast, Russia; d. August 3, 1998, Hamburg, Germany) - Renowned Russian/German composer Alfred Schnittke’s early work showed a marked influence of Shostakovich. By the mid-1960s he explored serialism, but wasn’t satisfied with that as a sole method of writing. His Symphony No. 1 (1969-1974) was the first work in which he began writing in what he called polystylism, the mashup technique for which he is best known, and which influences countless composers and musical collaborations to this day.

Concerto Grosso No. 1 (1977/1988), one of the best-known of Schnittke’s groundbreaking “polystylistic” pieces, aims to unite popular and serious styles of music within one composition. Among the many stylistic markers heard in the piece are the almost academically serious use of the BACH motto in the second movement Toccata, frequent stylistic references to Vivaldi (which may be considered both “serious” and “popular”) throughout the piece, and the rather vulgar use of tango in the fifth movement (Rondo). Perhaps the biggest juxtaposition, if not pile-on, of style occurs at the end of the second movement, where a 12-tone waltz occurs, beginning with the BACH motive.

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