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Wowing American audiences since 1977, The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio here performs the two piano trios of Stanley Silverman who, for over 50 years, has enjoyed a varied and rich career in both the classical and popular musical worlds, in theatre and in film.
Herman Sandler was a victim of the 9/11 attacks. He, along with his wife Suki, supported the entire gamut of the classical concert world, from student development to the Israel Philharmonic. Professionally, I was involved with Herman at the Rainforest Fund Benefit Concerts held at Carnegie Hall. But it was as a family friend that I have the most cherished memories of Herman. Our children were classmates from grade school through college, and he was a mentor and important influence on my son Ben.
Dear listener, this piece is not intended to 'hang together'. It was conceived as a Serenade or pièce d’occasion, inspired by the dedicatee, a joyful, lively chap, who would spend an entire day shopping and cooking a Michelin restaurant-quality gourmet dinner and then gleefully roll out corner store candy bars for dessert with an aperitif.
Several musical languages, both tonal and abstract, each with their own rules, are referenced, including classical key relationships and 'schoolboy' fugues, all connected thematically.
'Meadow Lane' is a narrow strip of land in Southampton, New York, which separates the waters of the rough Atlantic Ocean from the calm bay. The piano introduces the accompaniment part of the upcoming fourth movement in passages that alternate between rough and smooth, resulting in a kind of water music.
'Prelude to Guajira y Fuga' (cello solo): This movement also looks ahead as the cello comments on themes from the fifth movement with variations that are fed by permutations (inversions, for example). The florid improvisatory sound of the cello owes a debt to Sainte Colombe, a 17th-century basse de viol master. The cello also gives a free-form introduction to the next movement through rhythmic pieces that are prevalent in Latin dance music.
'Guajira y Fuga' takes its direct inspiration from the fact that the classical and Latin music radio stations in New York are right next to each other; I often compulsively switched from one to the other. The challenge presented to the performers is to be able to surf the abruptly shifting musical languages. A 'Guajira' is a traditional Cuban 'vaquero' (cowboy) song. Over this particular 'Guajira' I have introduced Boccherini-esque variations. The fugue is original and uses the bass line of the 'Guajira' as the theme, and is meant to sound authentic.
'Introduction & Lute Song' (Fear no more the heat o’ the sun) is a setting of Shakespeare’s lyric from Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene 2. It is a prayer sung by two princes in which a family member is laid to rest in peace unthreatened by extreme elements. The form is based on an Elizabethan Pavane with the setting inspired by Sting’s performance of songs by John Dowland.
'Postlude to Guajira y Fuga' features the violin, and it is a variation of the cello movement which I further developed.
'Closer: Les Folies d’Al (Second Line)' is a set of variations on the well-known motif from Paul Simon’s landmark song, You Can Call Me Al, used with permission. The movement celebrates a 1970 holiday party at Mr Simon’s home to which I brought Pierre Boulez, who was then in his first year as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. This was the very party that inspired the song, where Paul was inadvertently called 'Al' and his wife Peggy called 'Betty'. Consequently, as an homage to that evening, I have written a set of abstract variations called 'couplets', derived from the French Baroque.
'Closer' is the term for the finale in a pop concert, while 'Second Line' refers to the upbeat dance that follows traditional New Orleans funeral music. Perhaps the biggest influence for this work was Jordi Savall, the Catalan viol player. Particularly impressive is his ability to build long improvisations based on four-measure fragments.
In celebration (Trio No 1)
In celebration (1989) was co-commissioned by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois in honor of its 20th anniversary and by the Tisch Center for the Performing Arts at the 92nd Street Y in New York. The composition is dedicated to the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio in response to their request to write something 'jazzy'. The Trio gave its premiere on March 31, 1989 at the Krannert Center and its New York premiere at the 92nd Street Y on April 11, 1989.
The piece celebrates a generation that at the time of the writing had recently turned 70 years of age. I cite my teacher Leon Kirchner as well as American artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Miller, and the English writer Anthony Burgess. Add to this list the wonderful baseball players of my youth, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. The energy of the piece is characterized by the use of dance rhythms that spanned the 70 years prior to its writing. From the Charleston to Salsa, the music specifically recalls the spirit of the post Second World War era when one could imagine these various personalities in their blossoming.
'Introduction': A twelve-note theme divided into four motifs is introduced by the violin in its higher register and imitated in halved rhythms by the pizzicato cello. A jazzy piano figure which appears at the end of the Introduction presents the principal rhythmic motif of the 'Kinematic' movement.
'Kinematic': The movement travels through a series of dance episodes, linked by passages of rhythmic unisons. A Boogie-woogie punctuated with bebop accents dominates the movement. The material in the left hand of the piano is based on the twelve-note theme of the 'Introduction'. It and the right hand becomes the basis for the entire piece.
'Cantilena – Chaconne': The movement is divided into two parts. The 'Cantilena' is a free, singing melody and features the solo violin. The music develops from the Boogie-woogie piano right hand into plaintive bluesy passages. The 'Chaconne', a musical form popular in the Baroque era, is characterized by the repetition of a bass or harmonic pattern. This 'Chaconne' derives its bass line from the piano left hand of the Boogie-woogie (itself derived from the theme of the Introduction). The result is a ballad in which the cello and piano play long melodies against a jazz-colored, G major harmony. The method of composing these jazz-like improvisations is similar to Boulez’s practice of 'improvisation' which is to isolate thematic material in fields or groups of pitches, whose individual notes are used in a free order.
'Montuno': The closing movement celebrates the Hispanic influence found on New York streets and in clubs. Having just returned from a trip to Spain I was interested in writing something 'Spanish'. I recalled the composers of the Classical era who liked to end their pieces with the exotic, i.e. Gypsy finales, Spanish dances, etc. It occurred to me that New York composers such as Gershwin and Copland had traveled to Hispanic countries in order to write their Spanish or Spanish-American style pieces. I found the cultural richness of the Spanish speaking people to be in full force right here in New York City. Consequently, I tried to capture this sense of the Latin music of the street in the finale.
Stanley Silverman © 2023