Program Notes: 40th Anniversary Season Finale Celebration

So far this season, NOVA has presented 8 world premieres of new works, 7 chamber concerti featuring Utah soloists, a chamber opera, the completion of a Bartók and Haydn string quartet cycle, 2 vast instrumental works by Michael Hersch, 6 education concerts in public schools; all of this in addition to an array of beloved classical works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, and Messiaen.

Our 2017-18 season closes with both a nod to the past and an eye toward the future. NOVA’s incoming Music Director Madeline Adkins leads a group of local musicians in Schubert’s Octet, a work first performed on NOVA in the 1970s and most recently featured in 2006 during Corbin Johnston’s tenure in a series of concerts devoted to the chamber music Schubert composed in the year 1824.

This program will open with Olivier Messiaen’s gorgeous Trois Mélodies. Composed at the age of 22, the two outer songs are musical settings of the composer’s own poetry, while the middle song sets a poem by Messiaen’s mother, the poet Cécile Sauvage. She had written and published the collection of poems (“The Budding Soul”) while pregnant with Olivier, and Messiaen often credited his mother for foreseeing his own career as an artist in these poems. Composed three years after the death of his mother, the Trois Mélodies won the 1930 first prize in composition at the Paris Conservatoire.

Attendees of NOVA’s Gallery Series for the past two seasons will recognize elements of Bartók’s music in Witold Lutosławski’s Five Bucolics for Viola and Cello. Composed early in Lutosławski’s career on commission from the Polish government, these short pieces tested his ability to conform with state-held musical aesthetics- that new music must come from the people (incorporate folk music) and belong to the people (must be accessible to the general public and devoid of avant garde techniques or sounds). Lutosławski began
a successful career under these artistic constraints and was an active force in freeing up governmental restrictions on Polish artists and composers during the 1960s and 70s.

Franz Schubert’s vocal and instrumental chamber music resides at the pinnacle of the repertoire, offering some of the most inspired experiences an audience can have in the concert hall. Schubert idolized the poetry of Goethe, whose words roused Schubert to daring harmonies and evocative musical landscapes. This adoration was not mutual, however, as Goethe himself preferred musical settings that were simplistic, offering an unadorned presentation of his poetry. But the synergy between Goethe’s texts and Schubert’s music is what attracts a modern audience to Schubert’s songs, from the more obvious musical depictions of the wind in ‘Ganymed’ or the spinning wheel in ‘Gretchen am Spinnrade’ to music that more subtly describes the psychological state of the narrator.

Schubert composed his Octet in F Major in early 1824 at the behest of the clarinetist Ferdinand Troyer, who asked for a piece in the tradition of Beethoven’s Septet, opus 20 (last performed on NOVA’s season finale in May, 2016). A celebratory and uplifting masterpiece, Schubert’s Octet is the most expansive work of his chamber output (a performance lasts the better part of an hour). Like Beethoven’s model, the Octet harkens back to 18th-century serenades of Mozart and Haydn, music that perfectly functions for a celebration but also offers much deeper layers of sophistication for the attentive listener.

-Notes by Jason Hardink


Nova Chamber Music Series
Nova Chamber Music Series

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