Saturday, January 3, 2015

World Premiere: Ricordi d’Italia

Ah, I remember it well. Italy, that is. The good weather, the better food, the best gelato. Making music, making friends, and now, making memories  literally. Memories of Italy. Ricordi d'Italia.

I already blogged about my summer 2014 trip to Italy. You can read it, and see some fun photos, HERE. Part of that experience included a commission to compose music for brass quintet, based on my experiences in Italy. I recently finished that work, Ricordi dItalia (Memories of Italy). The world premiere is to be given at 8pm, Saturday, January 10, 2015 on the Sounds of Italy concert at All Saints Episcopal Church, 555 Waverley St., Palo Alto, CA. 

I hope you will attend and tell your friends!

Two brass quintets will perform: the Amici Americani degli Ottoni  the quintet that went to Italy last summer  and the Oxford Street Brass, a quintet from the San Francisco Bay area. Each quintet will give about half of the program, and the combined quintets will perform two pieces for large brass ensemble  a transcription of Giovanni Palestrinas Jubilate Deo and my arrangement of Giovanni Gabrielis Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2. The Amici will premiere my Ricordi dItalia, and the Oxford Street Brass will perform my earlier work, Italian Postcards (see blog). It’ll be great to have both works on the same program, along with music by Antonio Vivaldi, Gioachino Rossini, José Carli, Luigi Zaninelli, the Costantini brothers, and Zack Smith.

The concert is free. A free-will offering will be taken to support causes supported by the two ensembles.

I’m truly grateful for the ways in which the rest of the Amici – Tom Hyde, Tyler Morse, John Monroe, and Mark Lindenbaum – and the Oxford Street Brass – Rob Lenicheck, Ken Walter, Cathleen Torres, Greg Bergantz, and Bob Lipton – are participating in and supporting the Sounds of Italy concert.

New logo by Emilie Pallos Graphic Design

Ricordi dItalia was commissioned by Mark Lindenbaum, Margaret Jahn, and John and Meg Monroe. Thank you!

Here are some other notes about Ricordi dItalia.

The first movement, Staffolo Fanfare, is based on the rhythm of the phrase, “I love Staffolo!” And indeed, I do.

In the slow second movement, The Ancient Wall, I hope to evoke the venerable mystery suggested by the ancient walls that still surround old sections of many Italian hilltop towns. To me, these medieval walls stand as silent witnesses to centuries of events, both great and small, momentous and ordinary. The theme is derived from the group warm-ups the Amici enjoyed each morning, as we sat on one of the porches at Mark’s home just outside Staffolo, taking in the gorgeous views and exhaling the sweet farmland air through our instruments.

The third movement, Bella Valentina, is more fanciful than autobiographical. I did meet a lovely young college student named Valentina in a gelato shop (Gelateria Riva) during a sudden rainstorm one afternoon in the charming little town of Varenna on Lake Como, and while we enjoyed a good chat, a legendary romance was not in the making. I was, however, immediately struck by the melodiousness of her name, and I suspected it would figure in some way in my new composition. When it came time to write a love song movement, I rejected the idea of slow music – I had already composed The Ancient Wall – in favor of something joyful and rousing. I recalled how, at some of the dinners that the Amici Americani enjoyed with the Staffolo City Band, that a guest band would not commence to eat until they had sung a particular, very jolly song. So, I crafted Bella Valentina as a seemingly old folk song, overlayed with increasingly complex contrapuntal lines – sort of a musical lasagna. There is even an optional vocal section in which the audience may sing along.

The fourth movement, Canzon San Marco, is my homage to the great polychoral music popular in Venice at Basilica San Marco around the year 1600, especially the music of Giovanni Gabrieli. This repertoire – whose original popularity was widely influential, but relatively brief – is still engaging and much enjoyed today, especially by many brass players. I deeply treasure the experience of visiting St. Mark’s, observing its remarkable design, and imagining Gabrieli’s music sounding throughout the space. Treading the same floors and stairwells used by Gabrieli and his musicians over four centuries ago had special meaning for me. The movement opens, Gabrieli-like, with imitative counterpoint. I formed my theme by combining melodies from the first and penultimate measures of Gabrieli’s Canzon Septimi Toni, No. 2 (from Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597). The successive entrances of my five voices, however, outline a major 9 chord, which, along with other departures from Gabrieli’s style, modernize the late-Renaissance Venetian sound. This leads to a cadence that sets off a jazz-rock waltz, complete with solos for horn and trombone. The movement closes with another Gabrieli-ish section, and musicians familiar with Gabrieli’s style will note many places where I employ or imitate nuances of his composition and orchestration.

I’ll report back after the concert. I hope to see you there!


Dr. Ray

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