Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 8, 2022 at 3:00pm

Pictures at
an Exhibition

Season Subscriptions are currently on sale, to purchase call Patron Services 203.325.1407 x10

Single tickets will go on sale October 1st

Questions? Email Patron Services at office@stamfordsymphony.org

Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 8, 2022 at 3:00pm

Pictures at
an Exhibition

Season Subscriptions are currently on sale, to purchase call Patron Services 203.325.1407 x10

Single tickets will go on sale October 1st

Questions? Email Patron Services at office@stamfordsymphony.org

Saturday, May 7, 2022 at 7:30pm
Sunday, May 8, 2022 at 3:00pm

Pictures at
an Exhibition

Season Subscriptions are currently on sale, to purchase call Patron Services 203.325.1407 x10

Single tickets will go on sale October 1st

Questions? Email Patron Services at office@stamfordsymphony.org

Time to event

 

Duration

2 hours
with a 20 minute intermission

About this performance:

The season concludes with the Symphony’s first ever performance of the gargantuan, Pictures at an Exhibition. Florence Price’s Piano Concerto, “real American music,” evokes her experiences as an African American woman raised in the post-Civil War South and is played by the sparkling Michelle Cann. This concert will take the roof off the Palace Theater!

Musical Program to include:

Arturo Márquez Conga del Fuego Nuevo (New Fire Conga)

Ravel Suite from Ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose Suite)

Florence Price Piano Concerto in One Movement

Michelle Cann, piano

Mussorgsky (orch. Ravel) – Pictures at an Exhibition

Michael Stern, conductor

A Message From Music Director Michael Stern

This concert is made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Laura and Dean Godown through the Crescendo Fund for the future of the Stamford Symphony.

Featured Artists:

Michelle Cann, piano

Pianist Michelle Cann made her orchestral debut at age fourteen and has since performed as a soloist with numerous ensembles including The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Florida Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, and the New Jersey Orchestra.
A champion of the music of Florence Price, Ms. Cann performed the New York City premiere of the composer’s Concerto in One Movement with The Dream Unfinished Orchestra in July 2016 and the Philadelphia premiere with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin in February 2021, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “exquisite.” She has also performed Price’s works for solo piano and chamber ensemble for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Detroit, and the New World Symphony, among other presenters.
Highlights of her Summer 2021 activities include a repeat performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, an appearance with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, and a role on the jury of the Cleveland International Piano Competition.
Ms. Cann regularly appears in recital and as a chamber musician throughout the U.S., China, and South Korea. Notable venues include the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and the Barbican in London with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Ms. Cann regularly performs duo recitals with her sister, pianist Kimberly Cann; together their “sheer verve and evident passion is something to behold” (Mountain Xpress).
Ms. Cann has appeared as cohost and collaborative pianist with NPR’s From The Top, collaborating with actor/conductor Damon Gupton, violinist Leila Josefowicz, and violinist and MacArthur Fellow Vijay Gupta. She has also been featured on WRTI-FM and WHYY-TV in Philadelphia. Her summer festival appearances have included the Taos Chamber Music Festival, Yellow Barn, Perlman Music Program, Music Academy of the West, Geneva Music Festival, and Pianofest in the Hamptons, where she serves as artist in residence.
Ms. Cann has won top prizes in state, national, and international competitions including the International Russian Music Piano Competition, the Blount Slawson Young Artists Competition, and the Wideman International Piano Competition. In 2019 she served as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s MAC Music Innovator in recognition of her role as an African-American classical musician who embodies artistry, innovation, and a commitment to education and community engagement.
Ms. Cann manifests this commitment through her activities in Philadelphia and as part of touring engagements around the globe. She has served as the director of two children’s choruses in the El Sistema-inspired program Play On Philly and was among the first class of ArtistYear fellows at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she worked with community partners City Year, Teach for America, and AmeriCorps to provide arts education and access to underserved communities in Philadelphia. In 2019 she served on the faculty of the Sphinx Performance Academy during its inaugural year at the Juilliard School.
Ms. Cann holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Paul Schenly and Dr. Daniel Shapiro, and an Artist’s Diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Robert McDonald.
Ms. Cann served as a collaborative staff pianist at the Curtis Institute of Music for several years. She joined the faculty in 2020 as the inaugural Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies.

Program Notes:

Conga del Fuego Nuevo (New Fire Conga)
Arturo Márquez
b. 1950
Born in a small town in the Sonoran Desert of northern Mexico, Arturo Márquez was the oldest of nine children of a professional mariachi-player. He studied piano, violin and trombone at the Escuela Nacional de Música, later adding composition. In California on a Fulbright Fellowship, he received an MFA in composition at the California Institute of the Arts. He currently teaches composition at the Escuela Nacional de Música.
Márquez’ Danzón No. 2, composed in 1994 on a commission from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, gained instant popularity and is sometimes referred to humorously as Mexico’s second national anthem.
Marquez composed the Conga del Fuego Nuevo in 2009. The conga originated in Cuba as a carnival dance and is the origin of the conga line dance popularized by the big bands in the USA before and after WWII, while the New Fire Ceremony was a pre-Columbian Mexican ritual. Marquez’ combining of the two has, therefore, no historical significance.
Ma mere l’oye
(Mother Goose)
Maurice Ravel
1875-1937
Maurice Ravel loved children although he never had any of his own. While visiting friends, he frequently ended up in the nursery playing with the kids. Two of his favorites were Jean and Marie, the children of his long-time friends Cyprian and Ida Godebski. Both children played piano well, and in 1908 Ravel surprised them with a gift of a composition, the five-piece suite for piano four hands, Ma mère l’oye. Ravel wrote: “My intention of awakening the poetry of childhood in these pieces naturally led me to simplify my style and thin out my writing.” The inspiration for the work came from the seventeenth-century collection of European fairy tales by Charles Perrault entitled Contes de ma mère l’oye (Mother Goose Stories). These, incidentally, do not correspond with the collection of nursery rhymes by British writer John Newbery, whose collection of mostly traditional rhymes, published in 1765, usurped the title. Rather, some of Perrault’s tales turn up in the nineteenth-century collection of the brothers Grimm. Ravel’s Suite was premiered in Paris in 1910, but not by the Godebski children.
When in 1911 Ravel was asked to compose a ballet for performance in the Théâtre des Arts, he orchestrated the Suite and added some numbers, always retaining the light touch. But it is the original five-movement Suite that is usually performed:
1. Pavane de la belle au bois dormant (Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty): In this slow dreamy dance, Ravel uses the flute and harp to portray Sleeping Beauty in the forest.
2. Petit poucet (Tom Thumb): The oboe and English horn depicts Tom Thumb’s disappointment when the birds (piccolo, clarinet) eat the crumbs that were meant to guide his family home.
3. Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodas (Ugly Little Empress of the Pagodas): A popular decorating accessory in eighteenth-century France, a pagoda was a Chinese figurine with a grotesque face and a movable head. The Empress is taking a bath while little dolls entertain her by singing and playing on tiny instruments. Ravel employs the pentatonic scale, played by glockenspiel and xylophone to give it oriental flavor.
4. Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête (The Conversation between Beauty and the Beast): In this slow waltz, Beauty is represented by the clarinet; grotesque bass notes in the contrabassoon imitate the grunting of the ugly beast until a glissando on harp, transforms him back into a handsome prince.
5. Le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden): Here, the Prince awakens Sleeping Beauty. A quiet melody develops into the only forte section of the whole work, a series of bell-like glissandi.
Piano Concerto in One Movement
Florence Price
1887-1953
Florence Price joined the already small field of African-American classical composers to become the first African-American woman composer to have a work played by a major orchestra. Born into a middle-class family in Little Rock, Arkansas, she received support from her dentist father in addition to early training in piano from her mother. Given the impossibility of getting a proper musical education in Little Rock, she traveled to Boston, where she earned degrees in organ performance and piano pedagogy.
Rather than remain in a more comfortable northern environment, Price returned to Little Rock and established a teaching career between 1907 and 1927 in two African-American colleges. She eventually became head of the music department at Clark College in Atlanta. After her marriage, she moved with her husband to Chicago, where she continued her education in composition. In 1932, she achieved national recognition when she won first prize in the Wanamaker competition for her Symphony No. 1, which was premiered the following year by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Like so many Black composers of this period, Price supplemented her income by playing organ gigs for silent movies and writing choral or vocal arrangements for churches. And like so many women composers, she produced a significant body of art songs. Contralto Marian Anderson featured her arrangement of the spiritual “My soul’s been anchored in de Lord” and Price’s own Songs to the Dark Virgin with a text by Langston Hughes.
Most of her manuscripts were thought to have been lost, but in 2009 a trove of them were discovered in an abandoned house in St. Anne, Illinois. It turned out that the house had been the Price’s summer home.
Price composed the Piano Concerto in 1931-32 and premiered it in Chicago in 1934 with her as soloist. There is no record of any further performances, and the score disappeared, only a two-piano version and a few orchestral parts surviving. In 2011, composer Trevor Weston (b. 1967) reconstructed the Concerto successfully, and it began to enter the repertoire. Then, in 2019, a copy of the original orchestration appeared at auction. Finally, in February 2021, after some 85 years, the original version was heard again, with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
In a letter to the conductor Serge Koussevitzky, Price acknowledged the two big strikes against her: Her race, and her sex. But there was a third: in the 1920s and 30s, her late-Romantic musical language was unacceptable to Classical music trend-setters – unless your name was Rachmaninov, whose musical language this Concerto speaks.
While it is referred to as “in one movement,” the Concerto is actually in three distinct sections, played without pause. While the first and longest section recalls Rachmaninov with all the pianistic flourishes, the main theme offers echoes of African-American spirituals. The second, Adagio, is a more direct exposition of a Black spiritual, including blue notes. The playful third section brings in the joyous rhythm and tunes of the Juba dance.
As we emerge into an era of “politically correct” discourse and art, it is interesting to note that Florence Price came from a different world in which her musical education and subsequent career depended on her adapting to white–even elitist–aesthetic standards. Yet Price balanced the two traditions of her heritage and education with brilliance and grace.
Pictures at an Exhibition
(Orchestrated by Maurice Ravel)
Modest Musorgsky
1839-1881
Modest Musorgsky, one of the wild cards of nineteenth century Russian music, left very few completed scores by the time of his early death from alcoholism. Of his meager output, the operas Boris Godunov and the uncompleted Khovanshchina, some songs, the short orchestral score St. John’s Night on Bald Mountain and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition, have stood the test of time. Although Boris and St. John’s Night are most often heard in Nikolay Rimsky Korsakov’s “corrected” form, they now are considered among the highlights of Russian music. Musorgsky was a member of the “Mighty Five” – together with Mily Balakirev, Aleksander Borodin, Cesar Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov – whose goal was to further the pan-Slavic movement and Russian nationalist music.
In July 1873 Musorgsky’s close friend, the young architect and painter Victor Gartman, died suddenly. The following year a posthumous showing of his drawings, paintings and designs was presented in St. Petersburg. The fantastic and bizarre elements of much of Gartman’s work fascinated Musorgsky, who set out to create a musical memorial to his friend in the form of a suite of piano pieces. He depicted his impressions of ten of the pictures, portraying himself as the observer in the Promenade that introduces the work and serves as connector between the tableaux.
A striking aspect of the suite is the nearly complete absence of any subjective emotion in a work directly inspired by a great personal loss. Musorgsky gives us his personal impressions of Gartman’s art, but rarely of his feelings about Gartman’s death. Even in the Promenade, strolling from picture to picture, he usually portrays a cool, objective viewer rather than a grieving friend.
There is no evidence that Musorgsky ever planned to orchestrate the suite, although many of the pieces stretch the piano to its limits, crying out for orchestration. The score was not published until five years after the composer’s death, at which point other composers started its long history of orchestrated versions. The first arranger was Mikhail Tushmalov in 1890, followed by Sir Henry Wood, Lucien Cailliet, Leopold Stokowski, Vladimir Ashkenazy and others. But the most popular and by far the most successful arrangement is by Maurice Ravel, commission 1922 by the conductor Sergey Koussevitzky.
One of the most striking features of Musorgsky’s piano version, further enhanced by Ravel’s orchestration, is the vivid tone painting that enables the listener to actually visualize the painting. And it’s a good thing too since the originals of some of Gartman’s works upon which the suite is based are lost.
The musical “exhibition” comprises the “Promenade” and musical renditions of ten pictures:
1. Gnomus: A sketch of a little gnome on crooked legs, said to be a design for a nutcracker.
2. Il vecchio castello: A medieval castle before which a troubadour sings a love song. The mournful sound of the alto saxophone was Ravel’s stroke of genius.
3. Tuileries: Children quarreling and nurses shouting on a path in the Tuileries garden in Paris.
4. Bydlo: A Polish oxcart with enormous wheels is heard in the distance as it approaches, passes and gradually disappears again.
5. Ballet of chicks in their shells: A design for a scene for the ballet Trilby; the orchestra imitates the pecking birds.
6. Two Polish Jews: One rich, the other poor. No picture by Gartman corresponding to this tableau has ever been found. The subtitle “Samuel Goldenburg and Schmuyle” is a late addition, not by Musorgsky. Ravel uses the basses and a solo muted trumpet to represent the two characters.
7. The Marketplace of Limoges: Chattering strings imitate French women haggling violently in the market.
8. Catacombs: A sudden, grim shift of mood transports the listener into the catacombs in Paris illuminated by lantern light with the figure of Gartman himself in the shadows.
8a. “Cum mortuis in lingua mortua” (“With the dead in a dead language”): The Promenade, in the minor mode, constitutes the second part of the Catacombs.
9. The Hut on Fowl’s Legs: Baba-Yaga, the hideous crone of Russian folklore, who lives in a hut supported on fowl legs and flies around in an iron mortar was Gartman’s design for the face of a clock.
10. The Great Gate of Kiev: Gartman’s design for a memorial gate in Kiev in honor of Tsar Alexander II. The design is in the massive Old Russian style, topped by a cupola in the shape of the helmet of the old Slavic warriors. Musorgsky portrayed the quintessential deep Russian church bells at the bottom of the keyboard; Ravel employs low brass, harps and percussion in the bass with woodwinds and strings for the faster bells.
Program notes by:
Joseph & Elizabeth Kahn
Wordpros@mindspring.com
www.wordprosmusic.com