Spiritus Winds

OSSCS Chamber Music II

Spiritus Winds joins the Olympic Brass Ensemble and the Orchestra Seattle String Quintet for an evening of chamber music at the Woodhouse Wine Estates in Woodinville. The $25 ticket price includes: chamber music in the private, Woodhouse Wine Estates tasting room; a glass of Woodhouse Wine Estates signature Riesling when you walk in the door (must be 21 or over); hors d’oeuvres provided by OSSCS. A dedicated bartender and Woodhouse Wine Estates wines will be available for purchase by the glass.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 • 6:00 p.m.
Woodhouse Wine Estates (15500 Woodinville-Redmond Rd NE, Woodinville)
advance tickets: Brown Paper Tickets or 1-800-838-3006

Program

Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
String Quartet in F major, Op. 41, No. 2

David Maslanka (*1943)
Quintet for Winds No. 4

Victor Ewald (1860–1935)
Brass Quintet No. 2 in E♭, Op. 6

About the Music

By age 30, Robert Schumann had composed a significant amount of music, virtually all of it for keyboard or voice and piano. After wedding his beloved Clara in September 1840, Schumann turned his attention to orchestral music during 1841, producing two symphonies, the Overture, Scherzo and Finale, and the first movement of his piano concerto. During the following year he focused on chamber music.

After studying the Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven quartets during April and May 1842, Schumann spent a miraculous six weeks during June and early July composing three string quartets—the only ones he would ever produce—including the F-major quartet hear this evening.

The sonata-form opening movement shows the influence of Haydn, while the ensuing theme and variations seems to be modeled after the corresponding movement from Beethoven’s Op. 127 string quartet. The scherzo evokes the style of the quartets’ dedicatee, Felix Mendelssohn, who spoke highly of them after hearing private performances (arranged to celebrate Clara’s 23rd birthday) at the home of violinist Ferdinand David. Schumann returns to sonata form for the vibrant finale, which quotes Beethoven’s final song, “An die ferne Geliebte” (“To the Distant Beloved”).

David Maslanka stands unchallenged as the world’s foremost living composer of music for wind ensemble— including seven symphonies, 15 concertos, a Mass, and many other works—in addition to a variety of compositions for orchestra, chorus and various chamber ensembles.

When asked what inspires him to write music, Maslanka responds, “I can say that the need to compose is always with me. I can’t say that I am directly inspired by any one thing…. All of experience is the filter through which the impulse to compose makes its way. That impulse comes from a place well beyond my conscious mind. I think of it as ‘universal mind.’ This is not something apart from us but the very core of who we are. I am moved to compose when people ask me for music. It is my work to find the flow from universal mind that meets the need of the people asking for music. I guess that that can be called inspiration.”

David Maslanka completed the first of his (to date) four wind quintets in New York during January 1984. A second, written for the Manhattan Wind Quintet, debuted in January 1987. The Missouri Quintet commissioned the third (influenced by the chorales of J.S. Bach), premiering it on March 14, 2000. After the Florida Wind Quintet, a resident ensemble of the Florida West Coast Symphony, performed these three works between 2003 and 2005, the FWCS commissioned Maslanka to compose a fourth quintet for the group, which premiered it in Sarasota on March 29, 2008.

“After all the innovations of the past century—the explosion of forms, methods, and media—Quintet No. 4 will seem to be radically conservative,” writes Maslanka. “It is a compact 20-minute work in three movements and its main historical reference is French wind music of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, especially that of Francis Poulenc.

“I love melody, and music that speaks plainly. The first movement…begins and ends with a very quiet and plaintive music, but the body of the movement is a hard trek through a challenging emotional space. The second movement is a brief lullaby, with solo oboe taking the lead, and with an utterly simple supporting web of colors and gentle rhythms in the other instruments. The fast and furious third movement is filled with good humor and enthusiasm.”

Between 1848 and 1850, Frenchman Jean-François-Victor Bellon (1795–1869) composed a dozen brass quintets, but these languished in obscurity for 150 years. Thus Victor Ewald, a Russian composer of German heritage, came to be acknowledged as the father of the brass quintet. Born in St. Petersburg, where he studied cello and composition at that city’s conservatory, Ewald maintained a “day job” as a successful professor of civil engineering while playing cello in an ensemble organized by Mitrofan Belyayev (a violist, timber merchant and music publisher) and widely recognized as the most influential string quartet in Russia.

Around 1888, Ewald—who also played cornet, horn and tuba—composed a quintet in A♭ major for five brass instruments. His B♭-minor quintet debuted a couple years later and became the first—and only—one of Ewald’s four quintets to be published (by Belyayev) during the composer’s lifetime. Ewald returned to the form some 15 years later, composing the E♭-major quintet heard this evening. A fourth quintet, in D♭ major, debuted around 1912.

Ewald created these works for an ensemble consisting of two cornets, a rotary-valve alto horn, a rotary-valve tenor horn and tuba, but today they are generally performed by the standard brass quintet, substituting French horn and trombone for the alto and tenor horns.

Jeff Eldridge