La Jolla, Calif. (November 11, 2011) — The second concert of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus (LJS&C) “Stravinsky Circus!’ season highlights a choreographed version of Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces on December 3-4, 2011 in Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD. The program begins with the local premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang’s Grind to a Halt, followed by Béla Bartók’s magical Cantata Profana. The second half leads off with György Ligeti’s daring work for 100 metronomes, Poème Symphonique followed by Les Noces. Music Director Steven Schick and Choral Director David Chase share the podium in this concert. Guest artists include pianist Aleck Karis, red fish blue fish, Allyson Green and Lux Boreal dancers, soprano Jessica Aszodi (2011 LJS&C Young Artists’ Competition vocal winner), mezzo-soprano Martha Jane Weaver, tenor Chad Frisque, and bass-baritone Phil Larson.
Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize, David Lang was born in Los Angeles in 1957 and currently resides in New York City. His works are generally characterized by a combination of modernism, minimalism, and rock. Grind to a Halt, written in 1996, was a commission by the San Francisco Symphony. The piece Lang set out to compose portrayed a machine slowly running out of energy, going out of sync, becoming incoherent, and falling apart. Mid composition, however, the writing took a darker turn when Lang’s mentor from Yale School of Music, Jacob Druckman, suddenly died. Influenced by his feelings over this unexpected loss, Lang says, “The image of a machine running down began to feel much more serious to me and much more personal, and about something much darker and more human.” David Lang joins us for the Sunday performance.
Béla Bartók’s Canata Profana, written in 1930, is considered one of his masterpieces. It tells the folk-tale about a father who has nine sons, and instead of teaching them a trade in the town or fields he encourages them to become hunters and to spend their time in the wild forest. They become so much a part of the natural world that–in a magical moment–they are transformed into stags.
Bartók scores the Cantata Profana for large and unusual forces. It calls for a double chorus, which sometimes sings antiphonally, sometimes in unison, and sometimes divided into many parts. The role of the favorite son-turned-stag offers a demanding part for tenor solo, while the baritone solo sings the part of the father, pleading for his son’s return. The orchestra is large and–like the chorus–is sometimes treated antiphonally. Performances of this difficult score are understandably rare, and as a result one of Bartók’s finest creations remains almost unknown to general audiences.
György Ligeti began his career as a composer in Hungary in the years after World War II, when musical life in that country was rigidly controlled by a repressive communist bureaucracy. Desperate for more musical freedom, he escaped Hungary in 1956. Suddenly in Western Europe he found the musical possibilities almost limitless, and he began to explore them. His Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes was written in 1962 and called into question not only the competing musical ideologies of that time, but the very nature of music itself. Poème Symphonique requires 100 mechanical metronomes, each set at a different tempo and wound tight. At a signal from the “conductor,” they are all set in motion. At first, the sound produced is simply an unformed mass of ticking sounds, but as the springs in the metronomes wind down, it becomes possible to pick out the strands of individual rhythms until finally only one metronome is left in motion, gradually ticking its way into exhaustion and silence.
Les Noces is a portrait of a folk wedding in pagan Russia. Stravinsky originally conceived of it as a theater-piece and subtitled it “Russian choreographic scenes with song and music.” The four vocal soloists, the four-part chorus, and the instrumentalists combine to tell of the events and customs of a Russian peasant wedding in the early nineteenth century. For the listener, the effect is of being in the midst of a peasant wedding and overhearing the songs and cries and asides that such an occasion might produce.
Though the vocal portion -- scored for mixed chorus and soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, and bass soloists -- was completed in three years, it would be another six years before Stravinsky settled on the instrumentation. At first considering a symphony orchestra along the lines of The Rite of Spring, after numerous variations he settled on what would be the final instrumentation: an ensemble of four pianos and a large percussion battery. The first performance, given by the Ballets Russes, took place in Paris on June 13, 1923. The LJS&C performances feature original choreography by UCSD’s Allyson Green employing the dance troupe Lux Boreal Contemporanea Danza and dancers from the UCSD Dance Department.
The performances take place December 3-4, 2011 in Mandeville Auditorium at UCSD. Concert times are 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Individual tickets are $29 general, $26 senior, and $15 student. Group discounts are available. Parking is free. A pre-concert lecture is offered one hour prior to concert times. To purchase tickets or for more information, call the LJS&C office at (858) 534-4637.
The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, San Diego’s oldest and largest community orchestra and chorus, is a non-profit musical performing group dedicated to inspiring San Diego with the joy of music. Its 110-person orchestra and 130-person chorus perform groundbreaking orchestral and choral music along with traditional favorites from the classical repertoire. During the 2011-2012 season, music director and conductor Steven Schick and choral director David Chase lead works by Stravinsky, Britten, Beethoven, Mozart, and more.