The Second Concert in the Festival of Contemporary Music

Concert VII

Katie Wolfe, violin
Ketty Nez, piano

Friday, April 3, 2009, 8:00 p.m.
at Macbride Hall

|| download program ||


Bird as Prophet (1999) Martin BRESNICK (b. 1946)
selections from Waldscenen, op. 82 (1848-9)
        1. Entering
        3. Solitary Flowers
        7. Bird as Prophet
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)
Postcards from the 1930's (2008) Ketty NEZ (b. 1965)
between (2008) Ketty NEZ
Duo Concertant (1931-2)
        1. Cantilène
        2. Eclogue I
        3. Eclogue II
        4. Gigue
        5. Dithyrambe
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Paired Dreams: All of a Piece (2007) David LEFKOWITZ (b. 1964)


Violinist Katie Wolfe enjoys an intriguing career mix as soloist, recording artist, chamber musician, orchestral leader and adjudicator. She has performed in the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, the Soviet Union, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. She currently is on the faculty of the University of Iowa, Oklahoma Arts Institute and the Assisi Music Festival.

Along with pianist and composer Ketty Nez, Ms. Wolfe has been involved in the creation and performance of many newer works for violin and piano. The Wolfe/Nez Duo performs works written especially for them, in addition to other works written in the past 20 years and other masterpieces of the 20th Century literature. Their adventuresome programs have been presented at schools across the country, including the Eastman School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, University of Iowa and Boston University, among others.

Ms. Wolfe holds degrees from Indiana University, as a student of Miriam Fried, and the Manhattan School of Music with Sylvia Rosenberg and also has received the prestigious Fulbright Lecture Award to teach and perform in Bolivia. She also served as concertmaster or assistant concertmaster of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, the Jupiter Symphony, and the National Symphony of Bolivia. Ms. Wolfe has recorded for Centaur Records, Albany Records, Newport Classics, and Kleos Classics.

Composer/pianist Ketty Nez joined the composition and theory department at the Boston University School of Music in the fall of 2005, after teaching for two years at the University of Iowa. At BU, her orchestral work cirrulian ice was premiered by ensemble Alea III, and take time by the Boston University Wind Ensemble. Projects in 2008-9 include a CD of her recent duos for solo string instruments and piano; CD of timed curves with the Venetian ensemble Ex Novo; and collaborative performances with artists Mark Berger, Ari Streisfeld, Katie Wolfe, and Peter Zazofsky.

Ketty completed, in 2002-3, a residence of several months at the École Nationale de Musique in Montbéliard, France, prior to the premiere of her chamber opera An Opera in Devolution: Drama in 540 Seconds, at the 2003 Seventh Festival A*Devantgarde in Munich. In 2001, Ketty spent several months as visiting composer/scholar at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), and in 1998 participated in the year-long computer music course at the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). Before computer music studies, Ketty worked for two years with Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam, and co-founded the international contemporary music collective Concerten Tot and Met. Her music has been performed in festivals in Europe, North America, and Asia.

Ketty holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Berkeley (1994), a master's degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music (1990), a bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Curtis Institute of Music (1983), and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Bryn Mawr College (1987).



Bird as Prophet

is the last in a series of twelve pieces entitled Opere della Musica Povera (Works of a Poor Music). These compositions have occupied the composer since 1990. The title Bird as Prophet refers to a piano miniature of the same name from the Waldszenen of Robert Schumann. Bird as Prophet's combination of simple programmatic suggestiveness and abstract patterning seeks to recapture the vivid, oracular, but finally enigmatic spirit of Schumann's (and Charlie Parker's) remarkable musical prophecies. If you look and listen carefully you will find (among other things) an implacable passacaglia - a descending chromatic scale that begins over and over - continually emphasizing the tri-tone G - C# - the very tritone that Schumann plays with so beautifully in the original Vogel Als Prophet. Commissioned by and dedicated to the Rosa/Laurent (violin/piano) Duo.
- Martin Bresnick

Vogel als Prophet ("bird as prophet")

Schumann's Waldscenen, op. 82 ("forest scenes"). Waldescenen was written between 24 December and 6 January, 1849, launching the composer's infamously most productive year, which witnessed the composition of 40 new chamber and vocal works. Similar to other poetic keyboard cycles intended not for concert stage but private enjoyment at home, e.g. Scenes from Childhood (1838), Album for the Young (1848), Album Leaves (1854), these nine intimate musical miniatures are surprisingly demanding to perform, though virtuosity is not at all a feature, and cover a theatric array of musical-dramatic scenarios.
- Ketty Nez

Ketty NEZ
Postcards from the 1930's,

In 1934-35, Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord searched for modern-day descendants of Homeric epics in mountainous areas of Bosnia, Hercegovina, Montenegro, and southern Serbia. Finding 350 of these epic heroic poems, or "men's songs," they also recorded 260 lyrical-narrative "women's songs," and 16 instrumental works. In 1941-2, as Associate in Music at Columbia University, Béla Bartók transcribed 75 of these unaccompanied "women's songs," with Lord co-publishing them in 1951 as Serbo-Croatian Folk Songs. Possessed of extremely sensitive hearing (ordinary loud noises would cause him pain), Bartók's notations are meticulous, marking microtonal inflections and extremely subtle rhythmic detail of the elaborately ornamented parlando-rubato melodies. Determining underlying skeletal melodic and rhythmic structure, he statistically catalogued various melodic features, such as mode, cadences, ambitus, and the text's syllabic metric structure. Using these new research methods, he determined "family resemblances" among melodies, and historical cultural influences with folk music of neighboring cultures. One of unresolved ideological issues in ethnomusicology is the question of how - and how accurately - to annotate a specific performance of repertoire from an oral tradition, inevitably modified with each rendition, according to performer and context. Brushing aside these deeper questions with artistic license, I chose several of Bartók's transcribed melodies as 'raw material' for Postcards from the 1930's, and wanted to present the songs unadorned, as if snapshots from the past. - Ketty Nez


Written in the summer of 2008, between explores possible types of interactions, given different musical worlds and sensibilities. Inspired by Ketty's mixed Macedonian/Slovenian heritage, several Macedonian and Serbian thematic fragments appear. These folk elements morph as they reappear, continuously 'conversing' with highly abstract algorithmic textures generated by IRCAM's OpenMusic software. Spectral sonorities derived from stretched overtones are controlled by exponential curves applied to rhythmic attack times, chord fundamentals, and overtone spacing. Counterpointing the contrast of these musical worlds, the violin plays the role of 'fiddler' to the piano's abstract and jazzy 'free improv' textures.
- Ketty Nez

Duo Concertant

Stravinsky wrote Duo Concertant (1931-2) for performance on tour with Polish/American violinist Samuel Dushkin, for whom he also wrote his Violin Concerto (1931). The duo was formed at the end of 1932 for the purpose of performing in towns which did not contain orchestras which could play his orchestral works. Dushkin collaborated with Stravinsky in the transcription of several works, including Suite Italienne (from Pulcinella, actually one of two such violin-piano transcriptions made by Stravinsky), Divertimento (from Le baiser de la fee), and shorter arrangements from The Firebird, Mavra, Petrushka, and The Nightingale. The duo recorded Duo Concertant in 1933, and performed these works together on tours in Europe until 1934. The duo again performed similar programs in the States in 1935 and 1937, made several recordings in the 1930's, and again collaborated in 1940 for Balanchine's ballet Balustrade, which used the Violin Concerto.

Stravinsky writes, in his Autobiography:
Far from having exhausted my interest in the violin, my Concerto, on the contrary, impelled me to write yet another important work for that instrument. I had formerly no great liking for a combination of piano and strings, but a deeper knowledge of the violin and close collaboration with a technician like Dushkin had revealed possibilities I longed to explore. Besides it seemed desirable to open up a wider field for my music by means of chamber concerts. . . . This gave me the idea of writing a sort of sonata for violin and piano that I called Duo Concertant . . . . My object was to create a lyrical composition, a work of musical versification, and I was more than ever experiencing the advantage of a rigorous discipline which gives a taste for the craft and the satisfaction of being able to apply it."

This extended work begins with a the Cantilène (cradle song), followed by two Eclogues (from ancient Greek and Latin poetry, short pastoral poems reflecting on the life of shepherds), a Gigue (lively Baroque dance in triple time), and finally a Dithyrambe (ancient Greek choral hymn to Dionysus, of passionate character).

Written soon after the Violin Concerto, Duo Concertant shares similarities in the style of Baroque concertante, and explorations of virtuosic violin idioms. The piano also features strikingly original passages, e.g. the repeated notes in the Cantilène which recall the percussive strokes of the cimbalom. Captivated by hearing one of these folk instruments in Geneva, 1915, Stravinsky purchased one and used it in Renard, and imitated it in several other works. In Eclogue I, a folk-like melody is played in canon between the two instruments, and is reminiscent of the panoply of folk references found in Petrushka and Rite of Spring. The middle section of Eclogue II features, in the piano, a Baroque-styled walking bass and written-out ornamentation. The spry Gigue is parodies the Baroque dance. Notated in 6/16, metric shifts into duple meter (4/4), as well as the combination of the two (12/8) and hemiolas (3/8), go far beyond what a Baroque composer might have done! The Dithyrambe is a slow, stately movement, featuring even more florid Baroque-style ornamentation than Eclogue II.
- Ketty Nez

Paired Dreams: All of a Piece

is not all about peace, but in its progression from the first movement (War and Passion) through the second movement (Love and Peace) to the last movement (Peace and Hope) it is a prayer - a hope - for peace. It is based upon several different pairs of pre-existing melodies, most of which are Jewish tunes from the Sephardic tradition (Sephardic Jews are those who settled in Spain and the Iberian Peninsula two millennia ago, and after being expelled in 1492 settled throughout the Mediterraneane). Some of these songs are more than five centuries old, but survived as part of the rich oral tradition of many Sephardic communities.

The first movement, War and Passion incorporates "Lavava y Suspirava" ("Washing and Sighing"), which tells of a young woman who falls in love with a knight who has just returned from war, and "De las Mares Altas" ("From the High Seas"), which tells of the love a king has for a beautiful young woman who has come from across the sea, and of the queen's jealousy towards her. Both melodies make use of a distinctive Middle-Eastern/Jewish mode.

Love and Peace, the second movement, starts with "Una Noche al Lunar" ("One Moonlit Night"), a love song which is melodically simple, but intricate and unpredictable metrically. The resulting dance-like feel is continued in the next tune, a setting of a well-known Medieval liturgical poem "Shalom Aleichem" ("Peace be upon you, ministering angels"). All my life I have known one particular setting of this tune - used by the Ashkenazi (originating in Eastern Europe) community in the United States - so coming upon the Sephardic setting, with its metric vitality and energy, was a pleasant surprise.

I could not use the Sephardic setting of "Shalom Aleichem" without incorporating the Ashkenazi tune as well, so following two short references to it in the second movement, Peace and Hope is based almost entirely upon it. This setting quite explicitly progresses from anxiety and passion, at the outset, to a welcoming and acceptance of peace at the end. Along the way it quotes two other tunes: there is a short reference to the melody "Elijah the Prophet" (which reflects the Jewish hope for ultimate peace at the end of time), and a more veiled reference to a melody from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. The piece ends with long, descending scales taking the music down into peaceful eternity.

Paired Dreams was written for and commissioned by Yarlung Artists for Lindsay Deutsch and Joanne Pearce Martin, and is based upon the work Dreams: All of a Peace, a piano quintet written for and commissioned by Pacific Serenades, Mark Carlson, Artistic Director.
- David Lefkowitz