Ariel Barnes, Canada’s cellist!
Winnipeg audiences seem to have a unique appreciation for the cello and Ariel Barnes is uniquely qualified to satisfy that appetite. A player of dazzling virtuosity and magnetism, Barnes
is, in the words of the late Maestro Bramwell Tovey, “the outstanding Canadian cellist of his generation.”
Canadians have noticed. His recordings have garnered two Western Canadian Music Awards and one JUNO nomination, and they are met with critical acclaim — not least of all his 2017 recording of Michael Oesterle’s Cello Concerto recording with the MCO.
We could go on until we’re blue in the face listing his brilliant accomplishments. But they are a poor substitute for actually listening to Ariel — which you should go do right now. He creates a “mesmerizing musical experience” by combining his “deep personal connection” (Toronto Live Music Report), “luscious tone and technical prowess” (Vancouver Sun).
At this concert Barnes and the MCO perform, at long last, Glenn Buhr’s new cello concerto, whose premiere was postponed by the pandemic. Buhr, formerly the WSO’s composer-in-residence, will be well-known to Winnipeggers as one of Canada’s leading composers and a favourite Manitoba musician.
The esteemed Tania Miller conducts one of Winnipeg’s most exciting fall concerts.
The concert begins at 7.30pm on Thursday, November 9th, in Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue. Casual tickets will be available 7 July 2023 here and on MCO’s Ticketline at 204-783-7377.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Crescent Arts Centre, 525 Wardlaw Avenue
7.30pm, Thursday, 9 November 2023
Tania Miller, conductor
Ariel Barnes, cello
Violoncello concerto No. 2 (7 couplets)
Commissioned by the MCO with the assistance of the Manitoba Arts Council; world premiere performance.
Appalachian Spring — original version
Funding assistance provided by the Manitoba government
Music Director sponsor / In memoriam, Edd Groening
Canadian Conductor Tania Miller has distinguished herself as a dynamic interpreter, musician and innovator. On the podium, Maestra Miller projects authority, dynamism and sheer love of the experience of making music.
Recently named as interim Principal Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Miller’s 22/23 season also features debuts with the Warsaw Philharmonic, I Musici de Montreal, the New Haven Symphony and Springfield Symphony. Miller has conducted the Virtuoso Chamber Orchestra at the World Orchestra Festival in Daegu, South Korea and the KBS Symphony Orchestra in Seoul. Maestra Miller has appeared as a guest conductor in Canada, the United States and Europe with such orchestras as the Bern Symphony Orchestra, NFM Wroclåw Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestra Métropolitain de Montreal, Vancouver Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec, Naples Philharmonic, Hartford Symphony, Madison Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Winnipeg Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic and numerous others.
Maestra Miller was Music Director of Canada’s Victoria Symphony for 14 years, and was named Music Director Emerita for her commitment to the orchestra and community. She has distinguished herself as a visionary leader and innovator with a deep commitment to contemporary repertoire and composers and has gained a national reputation as a highly effective advocate and communicator for the arts.
Maestra Miller conducted Calgary Opera’s recent production of Lehar’s The Merry Widow and conducted numerous opera productions as Artistic Director of Michigan Opera Works and guest conductor of Opera McGill in Montreal. She was Assistant Conductor of the Carmel Bach Festival for four seasons, and Assistant and Associate Conductor of the Vancouver Symphony from 2000-2004. She was Assistant Conductor of the Banff Summer Festival of the Arts opera production of Michael Daugherty’s Jackie O.
Ms Miller has a Doctorate and Masters degree in Conducting from the University of Michigan.
Praised by the international music press, Ariel Barnes has also been hailed, more simply, as “the outstanding Canadian Cellist of his generation” (Maestro Bramwell Tovey).
Equally comfortable with Baroque to Modern musical languages, his international concert engagements in Europe, North America and Asia include concerto appearances, chamber music collaborations and solo recitals. Ariel’s critically acclaimed recordings have been released on labels across the world. His solo appearances include collaborations with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Varsovia, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, and many other orchestras. With a passion for creating 21st century art music, he is consistently involved in working with composers and ensembles to develop new literature for the cello as a solo and chamber music instrument, including the eight concerti and 11 solo and chamber works written especially for him. Ariel was awarded 1st Prize at the 24th International Johannes Brahms Competition, is a recipient of two Western Canadian Music Awards, a JUNO nomination, and the Felix Galimir Chamber Music Award.
At the core of his nourishment as an artist are his chamber music projects and collaborations. Dedicated to this genre for nearly 20 years now, his partners have included the Zodiac Trio, Dover String Quartet, St. Lawrence String Quartet, Musica Intima, members of the Attacca String Quartet, Manhattan Chamber Players, Australian String Quartet, Lars Vogt, Jane Coop, Kiveli Doerken, Steven Schick, Caroline Shaw and many other ensembles and individual artists. He has enjoyed repeat appearances at the Saronic Chamber Music Festival (Greece) Ottawa Chamberfest (Canada), Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada), Victoria Summer Music Festival (Canada), The Zodiac Music Festival and Academy (France), and is proud to be a founding member and regular guest of the Northern Lights Festival de Febrero (Mexico). Ariel currently plays in ensemble Kontraste, the Giocoso String Quartet and is one vital half of COULOIR, a cello/harp duo dedicated to developing a body of 21st Century Art Music for this colourful and evocative combination of instruments.
Arvo Pärt is one of those composers in the world whose creative output has significantly changed the way we understand the nature of music. In 1976, he created a unique musical language called tintinnabuli, that has reached a vast audience of various listeners and that has defined his work right up to today. There is no compositional school that follows Pärt, nor does he teach, nevertheless, a large part of the contemporary music has been influenced by his tintinnabuli compositions.
He was born on 11 September 1935 in Paide, Estonia. After studies in Heino Eller’s composition class at the Tallinn State Conservatory, he worked as a sound engineer for Estonian Radio. Since the late 1960s, Pärt has been a freelance composer. Both the avant-garde spirit of Pärt’s early works as well as the religious aspect of the music he composed in 1970s led to controversial reviews and confrontations with Soviet officials. In 1980, Arvo Pärt and his family were forced to emigrate—first to Vienna and then to Berlin, where they stayed for almost 30 years.
Arvo Pärt gained recognition already in 1960s, when he became one of the leading figures of the so-called Soviet avant-garde. Several significant modernist composition techniques entered in Estonian music scene namely with Pärt’s works—Nekrolog, Perpetuum mobile, Pro et contra, among others. His dramatic collage piece Credo (1968) turned out to be a turning point in his ouvre as well as his life—Pärt withdrew and renounced the techniques and means of expression used so far. Pärt’s quest for his own musical voice drove him into a creative crisis that dragged on for eight years. During these years he joined the Orthodox Church and studied Gregorian chant, the Notre Dame School and classic vocal polyphony.
In 1976, Pärt emerged with a new and highly original musical language which he called tintinnabuli (tintinnabulum—Latin for ’little bell’). The first tintinnabuli-piece, Für Alina, for piano (1976) was soon followed by works like Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten (1977), Fratres (1977), Tabula rasa (1977), Spiegel im Spiegel (1978) and many others.
Pärt’s oeuvre is rich and versatile, including many large-scale compositions for choir and orchestra, four symphonies and works for soloists and orchestra, as well as numerous choral pieces and chamber music. The majority of his works are based on liturgical texts and prayers, like Passio (1982), Te Deum (1985), Miserere (1989/92), Kanon pokajanen (1997), and Adam’s Lament (2010), to name a few.
Glenn Buhr has a broad and various musical life. He’s a composer of concert and stage music for symphony orchestras, ballet companies, string quartets and mixed chamber ensembles. He’s also a jazz pianist and guitarist, a rock musician, and a singer-songwriter. He became well-known in Canada in the mid-80s when the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras first championed his work, and in the mid-90s as front man—with conductor Bramwell Tovey—of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Festival.
He’s leader of The Button Factory Band, a subversive off-jazz/hard-rock oriented quintet. And he’s developed a reputation as creator of unique remixes of other artists’ songs, giving them all his own peculiar compositional voice; he’s made creative arrangements and expansions of songs by Jane Siberry, Gordon Lightfoot, Jacques Brel, Bluebloods, and Scott Nolan for a collection of artists, including Sarah Slean, Ron Sexsmith, Steven Page, and Madeleine Peyroux. He won the Genie Award for best song from the film Seven Times Lucky in 2005, and he’s the winner two recent SOCAN awards for his music.
His music has been performed all over the world by a collection of diverse ensembles: the London Sinfonia, the Tokyo Ballet Orchestra, the BBC Symphony, the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, pianist Louis Lortie, soprano Tracy Dahl, and many others. In 2003, his full-length ballet Beauty and the Beast was premiered by the Birmingham Royal Ballet in Birmingham, England. The work has toured the UK three times for a total of more than 150 performances. The ballet has also toured to Hong Kong Japan and to mainland China and was re-mounted for a fourth UK tour in 2019. He performed his 4th Symphony—subtitled Guernica 2017—with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and the Button Factory Band in 2017.
Glenn Buhr’s book, Our Native Song—a collection of essays on music—was published in May 2013.
Up to the mid-1970s, Estonian composer Pärt adopted a chilly, intellectual modern style. Dissatisfied with that approach, and having been deeply impressed by his first exposure to the church music of the Middle Ages, he virtually withdrew from composing. After spending eight years on an intense study of medieval music, he emerged with a radically different creative style emphasizing beauty and eloquent simplicity. He calls it “tintinnabulation.” In one of his rare statements on music, he has written, “I work with very few elements—with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials—with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a moment of silence, comforts me.” His style has made him the most frequently performed of all contemporary classical composers. For additional information on him, please turn to the notes for the concert of 20 March.
He composed Fratres (Brothers), one of his most widely heard works, in 1977. He has prepared several versions for different groups of instruments. Although the instrumental colours change between them, the timeless essence remains the same. He has offered no explanation of the title, but either a solemn plea for brotherhood, or an impression of the devotional life of monks, would not seem too great a stretch of the imagination.
Appalachian Spring — original version
Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, USA, on November 14, 1900, and died in Peekskill, New York, on December 2, 1990. He composed the ballet Appalachian Spring between 1943 and 1944. The first performance took place at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. on October 30, 1944, conducted by Louis Horst. Copland prepared this concert suite the following year. It was premiered by the New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinski conducting, on October 4, 1945.
Copland once said, “So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.”
Although Copland composed in a variety of styles, including the moderately avant-garde, he won his most enduring successes with compositions that celebrate (and directly quote from) the folk culture of America. Topping his list of ‘hits’ are the ballets Billy the Kid (1938), Rodeo (1942), and above all, the pure, glowing miracle that is Appalachian Spring.
The interests in simple, natural expression and American folk culture that Copland shared with choreographer Martha Graham inspired a mutual sense of admiration. Their relationship began indirectly in 1931, when Graham set a solo dance to Copland’s rhythmically intricate, stylistically challenging Piano Variations. The composer approved of it heartily. A decade later, she suggested a direct collaboration, on the mythological subject of Medea. Copland declined, citing the brutality of the scenario. The tiny fee Graham was able to offer—an advance of $100, plus no more than $150 in royalties—may have influenced his decision, as well.
In 1942, Graham’s partner, dancer Erick Hawkins, persuaded noted philanthropist Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge to sponsor an evening of new Graham ballets, set to newly commissioned scores. The production was targeted for the following year’s dance segment of the Coolidge Foundation’s annual autumn arts festival. After some debate over which composers to commission (Heitor Villa-Lobos and Paul Hindemith were among those put forward), Copland and Mexican composer Carlos Chávez were offered $500 each for new scores. Coolidge’s only stipulations were a maximum length of about 30 minutes and an orchestra of no more than a dozen players. The second limitation flowed from the size of the pit in the designated venue, the auditorium at the Library of Congress, and the reduced availability of symphonic musicians in wartime.
When Graham worked with newly written scores, her regular method was to provide the composers with a detailed scenario, then to re-interpret it freely once she had absorbed their completed contribution. So it was with what proved to be her and Copland’s sole collaboration. One of the scripts she sent him, bearing the working title Daughter of Colchis, was a domestic psychodrama set in New England during the early nineteenth century. Another, House of Victory, took place further west, during the Civil War. Over time, she dropped the proposed names without proposing an alternative, and gave Copland a bare outline of what became Appalachian Spring’s final plot. He found this sufficient to work with. “I knew certain crucial things,” he wrote, “that it had to do with the American pioneer spirit, with youth and spring, with optimism and hope.”
As the music evolved, he referred to it simply as Ballet for Martha, its eventual subtitle. “I was thinking primarily about Martha and her unique choreographic style, which I knew well. There’s something prim and restrained, simple yet strong, about her which one tends to think of as American. Appalachian Spring … would never have existed without her special personality. The music reflects, I hope, the unique quality of a human being, an American landscape and a way of feeling.”
Graham suggested that Copland quote American folk tunes in the score. He chose just one: Simple Gifts, a song associated with the Shakers. Due to religious persecution, the members of this Protestant sect (officially the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) had emigrated from England in the late eighteenth century and settled in the north-eastern United States. They lived simple, communal lives that advocated pacifism. They became notorious for their religious services, during which they shook and trembled to rid themselves of evil.
Joseph Brackett, Jr., a Shaker elder, composed Simple Gifts in 1848. He intended it as a combination of hymn and work song. A group standing in the centre of the meeting hall would sing it, while the other members of the congregation danced around them, until everyone collapsed with exhilaration and exhaustion. Copland had recently been considering the composition of an opera about the Shakers. This may have pointed him toward using one of their melodies in the Graham ballet. The inclusion of Simple Gifts is the only connection between the Shakers and Appalachian Spring. It is also the source of the song’s now widespread popularity.
As the date of the premiere approached, it became clear that neither composer would have his score ready in time. Coolidge reluctantly agreed to postpone the event for a year. Chávez fell so far behind that Coolidge suspended his commission. Graham’s company would produce the score he eventually provided in 1946, as Dark Meadow. Hindemith, his replacement, composed Mirror Before Me (later re-titled Hérodiade) for the occasion. Darius Milhaud’s Jeux de Printemps (Springtime Games), which Graham choreographed as Imagined Wing, completed the program.
Once Copland had finished his piano score in the spring of 1944, he laid out the not-inconsiderable sum of $26 to have it recorded on 78 rpm discs. He dispatched a set to Graham, then awaited her comments with a mixture of eagerness and anxiety. She found it entrancing: “The music so knit and of a completeness that it takes you in very strong hands and leads you into its own world … I also know that the gift to be simple will stay with people and give them great joy.” He completed the scoring that summer, choosing an ensemble of double string quartet, double bass, piano, flute, clarinet and bassoon. This called for one more player than Coolidge had specified, but she agreed to indulge him in this “extravagance.”
The ballet remained nameless until Graham announced, shortly before the debut, that she had decided to call it Appalachian Spring. She took this name from The Dance, a poem by American author Hart Crane (1899-1932). She admitted that she had chosen it simply because she liked the sound of it, and that it had no connection with either the location or scenario of the ballet. Copland sanctioned her choice, citing his admiration for Crane’s writings. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on him. “Over and over again,” he said in 1981, “people come up to me after seeing the ballet on stage and say, ‘Mr. Copland, when I see that ballet and when I hear your music I can just see the Appalachians and I just feel spring.’ Well I’m willing if they are!”
Copland saw the ballet for the first time at the dress rehearsal. He was surprised to find that it bore only distant resemblance to the scenarios with which he had been working. “Music composed for one kind of action had been used to accompany something else,” he commented. “For example, music originally conceived for children at play was used for the Revivalist’s dance. But that kind of decision is the choreographer’s, and it doesn’t bother me a bit, especially when it works.”
For the premiere, which coincided with Coolidge’s eightieth birthday, Graham danced the role of the bride, and Erick Hawkins, the groom. The production scored a major success, with audiences and critics alike. Copland’s tender and exuberant music, the finest achievement on the “populist” side of his output, won the Pulitzer Prize. The ballet won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award for the outstanding musical theatre work of the season. It brought the names of Copland and Graham to a wider public than either had enjoyed previously.
Although Appalachian Spring continues to be staged as a ballet, it is best known through the concert suite. In preparing this, Copland expanded the instrumentation to a moderately sized symphony orchestra, without losing its freshness and transparency. He also shortened the music by roughly eight minutes and made minor adjustments to the remainder. Most of the excised material came from a pantomime scene, which he considered of little purely musical value. It occurs between what in the suite are the final two variations on Simple Gifts. At this concert you will hear the original, chamber-size version.
The scenario unfolds during the early nineteenth century, on the site of a Pennsylvania farmhouse that has just been built as a pre-wedding gift for a young couple. Here is Copland’s own synopsis: “The bride-to-be and the young farmer-husband enact the emotions, joyful and apprehensive, which their new domestic partnership invites. An old neighbour suggests, now and then, the rocky confidence of experience. A revivalist and his followers remind the new householders of the strange and terrible aspects of human fate. At the end the couple are left quiet and strong in their new house.”
And here is how he related the concert suite to the scenario.
1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
2. Fast. Sudden burst of A Major arpeggios to start the action. A sentiment both elated and religious is the keynote to this scene.
3. Moderate. Duo for the bride and her intended—scene of tenderness and passion.
4. Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feelings—suggestions of square dancers and country fiddlers.
5. Still faster. Solo dance of the bride—presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear.
6. Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene to music reminiscent of the intro.
7. Calm and flowing. Scenes of daily activity for the bride and her farmer-husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by solo clarinet, was taken from a collection of Shaker melodies. It was compiled by Edward D. Andrews and published under the title The Gift to Be Simple. The melody I borrowed and used almost literally is called Simple Gifts.
8. Moderate. Coda. The bride takes her place among her neighbours. Muted strings intone a hushed, prayer-like passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music.
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘Tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves
in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend, we will
not be ashamed
To turn, turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning,
we come round right.