David Hernando-Rico - Light and Shadow: The Music of Christopher C. Tew

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David Hernando-Rico
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3 Panoramas-Memories of Japan is based on sketches made after my wife, Laura, and I visited Japan to see friends we had made when they stayed with us during their visits to the United States. I refined the sketches from 1986 until 2013, when I settled on their final form. 1. Dawn to Dawn: City Life begins with sounds of nature and the brilliant dawning of a new day as the sun rises from the Pacific Ocean. A faster section uses stylized, ever-changing, pulsating figures to describe industry and modern buildings. This music leads to an ebullient lyrical melody, energetic and dashing, that describes the hustle and bustle of commuters and city markets which alternates with the sounds of industry. Soon, another lyrical melody, more casual and "pop," sings in downward moving spirals, but both melodies display the syncopated energy of a vibrant urban lifestyle and a popular culture that is everywhere evident. A short development combines elements of the two lyrical melodies. The three groups of faster material - industry, enthusiasm, and casual lyricism - repeat and build to a climax that reminds us of the natural and man-made destruction that many of Japan's cities have suffered before being rebuilt. The second dawn is reflective and introspective. 2. Nocturne: Mountains and Seas by Moonlight is often lush in it's lyricism. Repeating harmonies are colorfully dissonant, and the violin and 'cello melodies, though softly played, are always in a slight state of tension. Rising and falling figures represent the grandeur of night-clad mountains and rolling seas. The rhythmic motion is steady and evenly paced even though the meter changes from five, to three, to four, and back to three. The sound increases in intensity until a "big tune" accompanied by the dawn figures of the first movement sings of the radiant moon shinning by reflected sunlight. Mysterious nocturnal harmonies and melodic fragments dominate this section. Clouds hide the moon and a brief storm covers mountains and seas with mysterious mists. The clouds disperse, revealing the moon and leading to a repeat of the first section which again climaxes with the moon theme. The movement concludes with a "bluesy" sound that features gentle bell tolling and tonal ambiguity. 3. Beppu no Jigoku: The Hells of Beppu are beautiful and colorful geothermal pools and hot water spouts side by side with touristy, carnival-like attractions. The first section's main melody is a danse infernale whose shape and modal flavor, proceeding oblivious to frequent clashes with repeated figures in lower and upper voices, are derived from the first movement. Plucked passages mimic the roiling and bubble-bursting nature of Beppu's hot spots. The middle section depicts the brash carnival atmosphere and gives a simian catch-as-catch-can figure to the two violin sections and then a related hippopotomine tune to the double basses. The first section repeats in a backward and even busier fashion and leads to a surprisingly subdued coda before a final steamy eruption ends with three chromatic chords to outline the movement's basic motive and lead to the bright concluding chord. Atridae-The House of Atreus is a dark and violent horror story for orchestra, a tone poem fashioned after the overture-fantasies of Tchaikovsky with their emphasis on the characters' emotional states rather than a blow-by-blow description of plot. Atridae involves the family whose best known member is Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks against Troy. The Roman stoic philosopher and playwright, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, took the stories of Agamemnon and his father, Atreus, and uncle, Thyestes, and made them even more bloody and treacherous - Thyestes appears as a vengeful ghost in Agamemnon's tragedy. Musically, the key to Atridae (ah-TREE-dye) lies in the slow introduction which depicts the sordid throne room at Mycenae. Bits and pieces of the introductory materials are building blocks for the subsequent melodies, and the four-note motive that begins the work reappears throughout. The faster main section has melodies representing Thyestes' ghost and the family curse, aggressive and militaristic melodies typifying the male egos involved, a lyrical melody that summarizes women of renowned beauty who contribute to the mayhem, an upside down and melancholy lyrical version of the curse melody that hints at the vagaries of fate, and just enough of mystery, chicanery, and horror to make things interesting. Atridae ends with Thyestes' ghost reveling in his revenge, the curse, and a brief but brutal denouement. Sonata Movement for Viola and Piano is unusual in that the entire work makes use of a device called hemiola: the harmonic interval of a fifth, and also a rhythmic device that contrasts divisions of three against two. The first section is quite jaunty and angular, with it's harmonies based on fourths and fifths. The lyrical second section features slightly dissonant triads and a wide-ranging melody. These materials are developed in a frantic, combative manner, then repeated with modified accompaniments. The piece ends with improvisatory possibilities for the viola and a fade-away coda wherein it's contrasts are reconciled. Lux et Umbra-Scenes for Organ and Strings was commissioned by Richard Cormier for his Chamber Orchestra of Tennessee (COOT, as he delighted in calling it), a 14-member string ensemble occasionally joined by additional musicians. Richard wanted a moderate-length piece for strings and organ to be performed in his home church. He had begun study of the score, and we had done some preliminary work with the organist, but Richard's tragic death from an hospital infection led to the premiere taking place at his memorial concert. Lux et Umbra combines aspects of a set of theme and variations and a rondo. It begins with a viola solo accompanied by the organ. The viola's melody has several fragments ending in long notes, and each fragment is featured in one of the subsequent scenes. The resting points of this melody also outline a dissonant c-minor triad, which influences many of the work's harmonies. My inspiration for Lux et Umbra was the many loci sacri that my wife and I have visited over the years, such as Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, Quetzalcóatl's Temple at Chichén Itzá, the Gedächniskirke in Berlin, St. Peter's Cathedral in Bologna, and Nara's Todai-ji Temple, where architects used the interplay of light and shadow to create feelings of awe and wonder. These sites have been witness to some of man's most lofty aspirations and basest deeds. The first scene presents a theme that is heroic, assertive, and somewhat tragic in nature. The organ and strings trade melodic and accompanying roles, and the scene ends with a mysterious cadence that leads directly into the second scene. Scene two is pastoral in mood. String and organ sections become more joyous and exuberant as it proceeds, until it falls into a strangely threatening ending. The third scene begins with a repeated figure in the lower strings while the organ reiterates the core theme of scene one. The scene's energy and volume increase to a thunderous climax, followed immediately and quietly by the mysterious cadence. An interlude for organ leads to the fourth scene, a lyrical but tonally unsettled nocturne based on a repeating sequence of mildly dissonant chords. This scene also builds to a grand climax and then quickly calms. Scene five abruptly returns to the mood of scene one and a melodic variation of scene one's theme, even more aggressive and troubled. Soon the full melody of scene one is heard, but underneath is a new, consoling melody in the bass voices which eventually displaces the earlier unrest into a mood of resignation. The mysterious cadence leads scene six to a celestial song of peace. An organ interlude, a wordless hymn, brings the work back to the viola's opening melody, this time for 'cello solo. Lux et Umbra ends with the 'cello's unresolved last note held against a C-major chord. Rhapsody on Jewish Folk Melodies was originally commissioned by Rubin Sher for Louisville's Jewish Community Center Orchestra. It was conceived for strings but has been expanded and re-orchestrated over the years. The version recorded here for 14 strings and harp was commissioned by Richard Cormier for his Chamber Orchestra of Tennessee. The Rhapsody tells a story: Grandmother is putting her grandchild to bed when the question arises, "What was life like in the Old Country?" The answer proceeds through music. Rhapsody on Jewish Folk Melodies sets the scene of it's story with a lullaby fragment, elaborated by the harp, solo violins, and solo viola. Following is a series of songs describing tragedies of the past, daily life, courtship, religious observance, love, and marriage. "Eyli, Eyli" is a solemn prayer beginning with the renowned cry from Psalm 22, reflecting on the tribulations and misfortunes of the past and the continued devotion of the Jewish people. "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem" is a lively song of hope and joy: "We have brought you peace." "Vu Iz Dus Geselle" is a bittersweet, waltz-like love song: "Where is the little street" where my sweetheart lives. "Baigelach, Koift Heisenke Baigelach" sings of the plight of street vendors trying to survive in winter's cold: "Bagels, buy your fresh, hot bagels!" I have reshaped this melody a bit. "Dayenu" is sung at Passover Seder to express wonder at and give thanks for biblical miracles as they are recounted: "It would have sufficed if only..." "Tumbalalaika" is a waltz tune known around the world, a dialogue between lovers pondering their life together: "Strum, balalaika, strum!" "Chosen Kalah Mazel Tov" is a wedding song: "Congratulations to the bride and groom!" This section includes brief reprises of "Hevenu Shalom Aleichem" and "Baigelach, Koift Heisenke Baigelach" before the rousing return of "Chosen Kalah Mazel Tov" and a hint of "Eyli, Eyli." Most of these melodies come from the tradition of Yiddish stage performances, reflecting life in the ghettos and shtetlach of eastern Europe, a way of life that was largely swept away by pogroms and the horrors of Naziism. Rhapsody on Jewish Folk Melodies ends quietly with the lullaby fragment, as though Grandmother's memories were transforming into her grandchild's dreams. An Overture for Hanukkah was commissioned by Leonard Atherton and the Muncie Symphony Orchestra while Laura and I lived in Corydon, Indiana, the first state capital. It begins with song fragments, as a child might imagine after hearing the popular story of Hanukkah. Motives from "Hanukkah" and "Maoz Tsur (Rock of Ages)" lead to a climax based on the beginning phrase of "Hanukkah, Oy Hanukkah." The first song quoted extensively is "Mi Y'malel (Who Can Retell)" which recounts the feats of Judas Maccabeus. "S'vivon (Spin Dreydel)" describes a put-and-take children's game played with a four-sided top. Next are extended treatments of "Maoz Tsur" and "Hanukkah, Oy Hanukkah." The former song of faith and praise is presented with nobility and calm determination; the latter song with increasing agitation, hinting at the battles of Maccabeus. An Overture for Hanukkah concludes in triumph with a restatement of "Maoz Tsur" and a brief coda based on "Mi Y'malel." My use of these melodies has been guided by the symphonic nature of the work and my imagination; they modulate and have altered pitches, rhythms, and tempos when necessary.

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1) 3 Panoramas Memories of Japan: I. Dawn to Dawn - City Life
2) 3 Panoramas Memories of Japan: II. Nocturne - Mountains and Seas By Moonlight
3) 3 Panoramas Memories of Japan: III. Beppu No Jigoku - the Hells of Beppu
4) Atridae - the House of Atreus - a Horror Story for Orchestra
5) Sonata Movement for Viola and Piano - Tomas Cech
6) Lux Et Umbra - Scenes for Organ and Strings
7) Rhapsody on Jewish Folk Melodies
8) An Overture for Hanukkah

Light and Shadow: The Music of Christopher C. Tew
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Light and Shadow: The Music of Christopher C. Tew | David Hernando-Rico