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Shostakovich Symphony No. 10

Kayoko Dan, conductor John Lofton, bass trombone   JONATHAN McNAIR         E Pluribus Unum CHRIS BRUBECK               Concerto for Bass Trombone & Orchestra SHOSTAKOVICH                Symphony No. 10   Often described as joyous, bright, and even a little adventurous, Brubeck’s Concerto for Bass Trombone & Orchestra is fun and full of whimsy. Featuring John Loftonof the LA Philharmonic, this is sure to be an impressive work! Written after the death of Stalin, Shostakovich’s monumental Symphony No. 10 evokes many emotions: despair, terror, darkness, light, and climactic triumph. Can’t make the concert? See the CSO dressed down and up-close at our Open Rehearsal on Tuesday, March 26th at 7:45pm at the Tivoli Theatre as they rehearse Chris Brubeck's Concerto for Bass Trombone & Orchestra. Click here to purchase your tickets.  

Program Notes

Jonathan McNair (b. 1959 in Villa Rica, GA) E Pluribus Unum Tonight brings us the third and final fanfare commissioned by the CSO this season. All have been written by local composers and each is distinctive in musical style and message. McNair began working on his piece during July 2018 and finished in December, even as he was juggling other significant projects in between. The title did not occur to him until he was nearly finished, but he emphasizes the many ways it is an excellent fit. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one):Out of many notes, one piece. Out of many players, one orchestra. From many instruments, one sound. More important, however, was the message in the de facto motto of the United States from 1782 until 1956 when Eisenhower, in the depths of the Cold War, approved In God We Trust as the official US motto in reaction to what was perceived as godless Communism. Despite the old words disappearing from currency, most US coins since 1787 and all of them by law since 1873 continue to carry the words to remind ourselves, whatever and whoever we are, we are one nation. McNair speaks passionately of our current deep divisions and our need to come together. In this time we remember, “We are not enemies, but friends,” as Abraham Lincoln said. “The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” In his fanfare McNair creates fun for the orchestra and for the audience. He acknowledges the difficulty in writing music that sounds hard but remains accessible to any orchestra. He highlights “energetic string writing; strong, declamatory brass writing; and some active, engaging timpani parts” The work begins with those energetic violins, plus winds, playing scales that race up and down and create a bright wash of sound as the rest of the orchestra offers bits of melody. The wash ebbs and melody comes front and center, kinder and gentler, with a chorale moment for the horns. The beginning of the end comes with tutti jagged, fierce accents supported by bravura timpani playing. A tuneful passage finishes with a final melody statement from trumpets and horns, bells up (turned outward for a more intense sound), a “quite dramatic” moment, McNair says. Two sustained chords, timpani holding forth beneath, and a tutti exclamation point end it. Chris Brubeck (b. March 19, 1952 in Wilton, CT) Concerto for Bass Trombone A bass trombone concerto! How many of those are there? In 1960 a researcher might spend a day in a fine library and find little or nothing. One might find a note in passing how Rimsky-Korsakov’s trombone concerto can also be played on bass trombone. In the Internet age everything is different. Internet searching matches tiny audiences to adventurous creators instantly and with exquisite precision. In such a world Chris Brubeck, son of the legendary Dave Brubeck, confidently created a work for the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Youth Orchestra because he believed in supporting the arts in secondary schools, but also knew that other audiences would find it. As a high-school trombone player himself, Brubeck remembered the boredom of counting endless measures of rests before he would play a few notes and dreamt how irresistible it could be to stand up at the back of the orchestra and unleash a torrent of improvisations while the conductor looked on aghast. Brubeck created a work where no players would get bored and all of them would be challenged, to “expose them to odd time signatures, polytonality, and above all, remind them that music was supposed to be joyous, energetic, beautiful, adventurous, powerful, and even humorous!” Brubeck’s concerto is in three movements, each with a descriptive name to heighten interest. He provided notes to describe each movement. The 1st Movement, "Paradise Utopia", is sizzling with American expansionist energy. I imagine a Donald Trump-like figure maniacally rebuilding the New York skyline. Jazz elements were inescapable and, realizing my old nightmare/dream, quite a bit of the trombone solo is meant to be improvised. The 2nd Movement, "Sorrow Floats", is a reflective Adagio; I must admit I was inspired to name the movement after a chapter title from one of my favorite novels [The Hotel New Hampshire] by John Irving. The name of the 3rd Movement, "James Brown in The Twilight Zone", might benefit from a note of explanation. The title refers to dual compositional elements used throughout; 2 bars from the "turn-around" of the GodFather of Soul’s "I Feel Good", and an ascending chromatic passage (originating in the piano and pizzicato strings) which is reminiscent of the music used in Rod Serling's innovative TV anthology. In addition to these very American cultural influences, the First Gulf war was being waged and Middle Eastern threads started to weave through the music. The Internet age, where things can “go viral,” served Brubeck well. His work for high-school orchestra and an unlikely solo instrument has found wide favor and has been played by many orchestras all over the world. Dmitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 in St. Petersburg; d. August 9, 1975 in Moscow) Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, Op. 93 We in the West still cannot hold in our heads all the horror of the ubiquitous, maleficent Soviet regime, Its citizens, down to the street sweeper and collective farmhand, knew that a misunderstood word or action might get them disappeared. That backdrop for a perceptive, playful, and creative genius like Dmitri Shostakovich impacted him in profound ways. As a man he was a survivor and developed complex and subtle survival strategies that, in large part, he kept to himself. Two generations after his death it is no surprise that people who knew him well argue over exactly what he thought and how he chose to cope. What we do know is the way the regime whipsawed him, praising his work one year and denouncing it the next. We also know that a lot of what he wrote he wrote “for the desk drawer” and kept most of it there, risking bringing something out occasionally when the cultural climate changed at least temporarily for the better. The circumstances around his tenth symphony have similarities to those around his fifth symphony from 1937 (CSO, 2010). After being lauded for his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk then lambasted (after Stalin attended a performance) for its abject degeneracy, he presented a contrite public face, calling his fifth, “a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism.” It was nevertheless an ambiguous work that seemed to say one thing to the authorities but would convey a different message to his countrymen. A year earlier he had fearfully withdrawn his fourth symphony (not played until 1961). Soviet composers got a break during WWII because music supported the morale of a desperate nation. After the war, when Stalin turned to internal matters, life did not get better for everyone. Grotesquely cruel, the paranoid Stalin ordered returning Soviet POWs to the gulags because they might be bringing home toxic influences from Nazi Germany. In 1946 Shostakovich was sharply criticized for his ninth symphony because it did not exalt the glorious Soviet war victories sufficiently and again formally denounced in 1948 with many of his works banned. His next major orchestral work, Symphony No. 10, didn’t arrive until 1953, the longest silence in his career. Stalin died that year and Shostakovich said he wrote the symphony that summer about Stalin. Other information seems to confirm a much longer gestation. For example one theme is out of an incomplete violin sonata from 1946. Pianist Tatyana Nikolaeva, one of Shostakovich’s confidants, recollects hearing him play some of the symphony and definitely the first movement in 1951. Remembering that desk drawer we must assume that notes from the drawer along with the creative process always percolating in his head mean that what he wrote down in summer 1953 was already highly developed. All of Shostakovich’s instrumental symphonies are recognizable in broad outline but each is special in its details. No. 10 begins with a much slower than usual pace and stretches the movement out for nearly half an hour. It follows a great arc from soft to very loud to very soft. Listen for the many sections where a solo instrument or small groups get melodies to themselves with sparse accompaniment from the rest of the orchestra. The two piccolos at the end are mesmerizing. The violent second movement scherzo is generally thought of as descriptive of Stalin. Although it is less than five minutes long, this is the movement no one forgets. Shostakovich called the third movement a nocturne. Except for an impassioned interlude, it mostly tiptoes. Shostakovich was wont to play games with note names. The movement is loaded with his signature, DSCH (in our notation, D, E-flat, C, B-natural). There is another embedded acronym in notes for ELMIRA, a mashup of French and German systems, E, L (for la, A), MI (from mi, E), R (re, D), and A. Shostakovich was smitten in 1953 with a young composition student, Elmira Nazirova. He dropped in small remembrances of his muse during his summer of composition. The two themes play back-to-back to end the movement, ELMIRA by muted horn then D-S-C-H by flute and piccolo. The finale begins slower than the first movement, dark and even more brooding, wondering if it can escape the melancholy. Violins bring relief at a cheerier tempo. D-S-C-H reappears, now a forceful assertion of Shostakovich the survivor who said, “Even if they chop my hands off, I will continue to compose music – even if I have to hold the pen between my teeth.” In the exultant last bars there is hope today. Tomorrow can wait. (c) 2019 by Steven Hollingsworth, Creative Commons Public Attribution 3.0 United States License. Contact steve@trecorde.net
 

John Lofton, bass trombone

A native of Philadelphia and a graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, John Lofton began his professional career as Bass Trombonist with the State Orchestra of Mexico. After his years in Toluca, Mexico, Lofton moved to Hawaii to perform with the Honolulu Symphony and later became the Bass Trombonist of the Phoenix Symphony. In 2008 he was appointed to the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Bass Trombonist. In addition to his responsibilities with the LA Phil, he has toured and recorded with the Cleveland Orchestra and performed with the San Francisco Symphony as well as the Santa Fe Opera. Lofton’s musical interests also include chamber music; he has performed with several brass quintets and is a faculty member at the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute featuring the Summit Brass. He teaches at California State University Long Beach, and has students from several L.A. colleges. In addition to appearing on several sound stage recordings, Lofton has produced both solo and chamber recordings.
Tivoli Theatre
Thursday, March 28, 2019 07:30 PM
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