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Southwest Chamber Music
2013 Summer Festival
Program Notes — Concert one
Concert One
Saturday, July 13 & Sunday, July 14
Igor Stravinsky
Oliver Knussen
Oliver Knussen
W.A. Mozart
Igor Stravinsky
Octet for Winds
Oliver Knussen
Hums & Songs of Winnie the Pooh
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Serenade, K. 361 “Gran Partita”



The Octet began with a dream, in which I saw myself in a small room surrounded by a small group of instrumentalists playing some attractive music. I did not recognize the music, though I strained to hear it, and I could not recall any feature of it the next day, but I do remember my curiosity—in the dream—to know how many the musicians were. I remember, too, that after I had counted them to the number eight, I looked again and saw that they were playing bassoons, trombones, trumpets, a flute and a clarinet. I awoke from this little concert in a state of great delight and anticipation and the next morning began to compose the Octet, which I had had no thought of the day before, though for some time I had wanted to write an ensemble piece—not incidental music like the Histoire du Soldat, but an instrumental sonata.
— Igor Stravinsky


Hums & Songs of Winnie the Pooh, op. 6

An early version of this piece was written and performed in 1970. Hums and Songs, which lasts about thirteen minutes and contains much new material, was composed in spring of 1983 for the Aldeburgh Festival. It isn’t exactly a setting of the episode with tree, bees and balloon near the beginning of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh—indeed, words are rarely discernible; neither is it a small-scale tone-poem, though there are many onomatopoeic devices. It is, rather, a sequence of faded snapshots and reflections, by an unwilling grown-up, on things remembered from the book, and on what those things meant to him as a child. So the piece is whimsical: it hops back and forth between Pooh-like expressions and the inner world of a child just after the light is switched off, following no particular pattern—I allowed the music to take itself where it wanted to go. The two worlds meet in the last song during which, perhaps, the child falls asleep. — O.K.


Serenade No. 10 in B Flat Major, K.361 “Gran Partita”

Unlike his flamboyant 19th century predecessors, Mozart is rarely thought of in terms of brilliant orchestration. His instrumental choices can make our comparatively gargantuan symphony orchestra an obese product of a crude Industrial Revolution. A careful study of the pure sound of his music, its voicing, its timbres, its characterizations, can quickly bring one to the idea that he is best approached as one might Shakespeare. His music is a testament to the character of a given idea being ideally represented in sound. And, like Stratford’s favorite son, Mozart takes all sides of imaginary abstract scenarios. His instruments are his characters, particularly in his chamber music, and they always exist in the world of an opera without words. This gives a unique individuality to his music, one that is aptly synchronous with the political chaos of the French Revolution that defines his era, and puts him miles apart from most of his contemporaries save Haydn. To consider Mozart without the backdrop of the cataclysmic social change roaring throughout Europe courtesy of Paris and Versailles is to minimize Mozart’s power as the musical mover and shaker of an entire epoch. The three operas with Lorenzo da Ponte are touchstones of social change. Beethoven is indeed unthinkable without Mozart’s music. The young composer from Bonn sadly had little time to study with the Salzburg native while both were in Vienna, but the impact was long and deep.

The Gran Partita is a summit of wind music and is a perfect piece for a celebratory concert opening our 20th anniversary of the Summer Festival at The Huntington. Begun in 1781, it was written shortly after the premiere of Idomeneo, most certainly for musicians in Munich who were also members of the famous Mannheim Orchestra. However, the first record of public performance is in Vienna in March or April 1784, and involved Mozart’s great clarinetist friend Anton Stadler. The Gran Partita was performed as part of a benefit concert at Vienna’s National Theater—one hopes that the donors were sufficiently impressed to leave behind large sums of money for a worthy cause. Mozart certainly did his best to pull out all the stops. The scale of this particular serenade is immense, with an impressive assembly of wind instruments: two oboes, two clarinets, two basset horns (making their first appearance in a work of Mozart and functioning as tenor clarinets), four French horns (tuned in pairs with different crooks in F and B flat), two bassoons and, during Mozart’s era, usually a stringed double bass. Mozart’s contrabassoon was a freakish instrument literally called “the serpent” and was most probably unreliable (and more importantly, the player could not stand and play, which often was necessary during entertainment music; the double bass could be tied to the player’s body allowing him to move). The seven movements are heaven on earth for any lover of Mozart and wind players. — Jeff von der Schmidt

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