Sunday, March 6, 2022, 3:00pm
At the door: $20
TOWER: Fanfare for the Uncommon Women, No. 1
COPLAND: A Lincoln Portrait
JERRY FRANKLIN, narrator
BARBER: Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24
LISABETH MILLER, soprano
FLORENCE PRICE: Symphony No. 1 in E minor
Allegro ma non troppo
Allegro: “Juba Dance”
Joan Tower (b. 1938) American, Female
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, No. 1 (1987)
First Performance: January 10th, 1987. Houston Symphony Orchestra (commissioned), Hans Vonk, conductor. Dedicated to conductor Marin Alsop.
Commissioned as part of the Houston Symphony’s Fanfare Project in 1986, the work has garnered praise and acclaim from critics and orchestra and can be heard regularly in concert halls around the world. Music critic Micahel Clive writes, “this first Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman has traditional, brass-heavy scoring, as in Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. But to this Tower adds extended and highly expressive percussion, including glockenspiel, marimba and chimes. It is the first in a six-part suite that Tower revised and unified in 1997. In 2014 the entirety of Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman was recognized for inclusion in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically important.”
Aaron Copland (1900-1990) American, LGBTQ+
A Lincoln Portrait (1942)
First performance: Cincinnati. 14 May 1942. William Adams, narrator; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, conductor André Kostelanetz asked three composers—Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Jerome Kern—to compose portraits of eminent Americans. It was hoped that these would inspire our country and strengthen morale in the enormous struggle ahead. Copland first considered Walt Whitman, but as Jerome Kern had planned a piece devoted to Mark Twain, it seemed more appropriate for Copland to choose a figure who was not also a writer. In light of the current fight against fascism, Abraham Lincoln, one of history’s greatest advocates for freedom, was the perfect choice. The work concludes with a passage from the Gettysburg Address, but other portions of the text have become familiar to us primarily because of their quotation in A Lincoln Portrait.
Copland wisely has the narrator serve as a neutral observer of historical fact (“This is what Abraham Lincoln said . . . “), leaving the listener’s response to Lincoln’s words intimate and personal.
Copland employs a large ensemble, and his orchestration is rich, varied, and distinctive. He also draws upon songs Lincoln himself would have known, such as “ Camptown Races ” and “On Springfield Mountain.” (At the time of the premiere, the latter song might have been familiar to listeners because of the popular recording by folksinger Burl Ives). Copland was a “populist” composer in several respects, one of these being his ability to quote music from America’s past without it sounding trite or derivative. This is in evidence also in Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring. A Lincoln Portrait was completed in April of 1942. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, written at the request of conductor Eugene Goosens, dates from the same year. The list of prominent actors and public figures who have narrated A Lincoln Portrait is a very long list indeed. It remains one of Copland’s most beloved works and is among the best known pieces by an American composer. When Copland died in 1990 at age 90, his obituary in The New York Times occupied a full page. Because of his legacy of great music, his personal example, and the generosity and encouragement shown to his fellow composers, Aaron Copland richly deserves the apt sobriquet “dean of American composers.”
Program note by Charles Turner
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) American, LGBTQ+
Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24 (1947)
First Performance: 1948. Eleanor Steber, soprano; Serge Koussevitsky, conductor; Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 was the result of a commission from soprano Eleanor Steber in 1947 to write a piece for her to perform with Serge Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Among singers Samuel Barber was somewhat of a kindred spirit, for he was one of few composers to have been seriously trained in singing. A handsome man with a beautiful, light baritone voice, he had been encouraged to pursue a career as a recitalist. Recipient of various fellowships and awards in composition, he was able to spend much of his time in Europe composing.
While there he would occasionally give solo recitals, some broadcast on radio, and sang for the famous singer and pedagogue Pierre Bernac. Barber’s vocal performance of his own Dover Beach was issued on 78 RPM disc and is a prized collector’s item today.
Knoxville: Summer of 1915 was dedicated “to the memory of my father.” Barber’s father had been terminally ill at the time of the commission, and the composer was moved to set this prose poem by James Agee. It reflects the point of view of a child in
the company of his loved ones, casually enjoying time together sitting on the front porch, rocking in chairs, swinging on swings, and spread out on blankets on the lawn during a cool summer evening. Cast in the form of a large rondo, the work is
structurally unified by a gentle rocking motive recurring between episodes. The voice is sometimes used in speech-like narrative, at other times reflects the hustle and bustle surrounding him (sounds of streetcars, etc.), and occasionally soars in dramatic fashion. Near the end, the child asks God to bless the members of his family and to show them kindness in time of trouble and “at the hour of their taking away.”
Program note by Charles Turner
Florence Beatrice Price (1887 – 1953) African-American, Female
Symphony in E minor (1932)
First Performance: 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Frederick Stock conducting.
Florence Beatrice Price was the first female African-American composer to have a full-scale symphonic work premiered by a major US orchestra. In 1933 this was an incredible achievement, and even today works being premiered by African-American composers and women by major orchestras is still uncommon. Price’s work has a unique sound that has elements of folk song, pastoral landscapes, languid summer days as well as influences of Dvorak and Gershwin. Rooted in her sound is her deep faith and at times the listener will be reminded of music reminiscent of the African-American church music tradition. Despite numerous prizes and recognitions, Price struggled to have her works performed. In 1943 she wrote to BSO conductor, Serge Koussevitzky asking him to program some of her pieces. His response followed:
“Unfortunately the work of a woman composer is preconceived by many to be light, froth, lacking in depth, logic and virility,” he said. “Add to that the incident of race — I have Colored blood in my veins — and you will understand some of the difficulties that confront one in such a position.”
The FVSO is proud to present the first performance of this symphony in the Greater Hartford area.