Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 7:30pm
Concert Hall at the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, Hope College
Jack Unzicker, double bass
We will be hosting not only the Classical Chat series at Freedom Village, but also Pre-Concert Talks! Details below:
Classical Chats at Freedom Village: These informative and fun talks are led by Johannes Müller-Stosch and take place at 3:00pm on the Thursday before each Classics concert. (Freedom Village, 6th Floor Auditorium, 145 Columbia Ave.)
Pre-Concert Talks: These talks, led by Johannes Müller-Stosch and Amanda Dykhouse, will be posted online this year, approximately one week before each Classics concert. Look under the "Pre-Concert Talk" tab.
New to the Symphony? Check out the Frequently Asked Question page…
Parking Map at the Miller Center
Holland Symphony Orchestra will reserve and monitor Lot 40 for handicapped parking. The faculty parking lots are available for parking after 5pm
I perform in a wide range of ensembles and styles, from early music to contemporary, solo, chamber music, orchestral, jazz and electric bass. I perform frequently with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony, and Dallas Opera, and as the Principal Double Bassist of the Dallas Chamber Symphony, Caminos Del Inka, Santa Fe Pro Musica, and Plano Symphony Orchestra. I maintain an active performing schedule, over 450 performances since my appointment at UT Arlington in 2012.
In 2018, I was performed Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2 with Gary Lewis and the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale. And in 2016, I was a featured soloist with the Dallas Chamber Symphony, performing my transcription of Hindemith’s Trauermusik. Upcoming projects include a recording for commercial release by Albany Records, of an ongoing duo project. This duo project is in collaboration with Dr. Martha Walvoord, UT Arlington violin professor, and contemporary composers to commission, perform, and record new works for violin and double bass. Composers include six-time Grammy-award winner Michael Daugherty, Andrea Clearfield, Tom Knific, George Chave, and Daniel M. Cavanagh. The duo performed this new repertoire at the International Society of Bassists 2017 Convention in Ithaca, NY on June 10, 2017.
My recent chamber music performances include the Adams Chamber Symphony, Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, 2, 3, & 6, Beethoven Septet, Bruch Octet, Ginastera Variaciones Concertantes, Labor Quintet, Prokofiev Quintet, Stravinsky L’Histoire du soldat, and Brahms Sextet in B-flat Major, Svendsen Octet, and Schubert Octet with members of the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony, and professors from Rice University and the University of North Texas.
As an orchestral musician, I have performed with the Artosphere Festival Orchestra, Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, Fort Worth Opera, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Holland Symphony, Waco Symphony, and as principal of the AIMS Festival Orchestra (Austria), Dallas Chamber Orchestra, Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Divertimento (Costa Rica), and Plano Symphony Orchestra. I have worked extensively with conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, as well as Jaap Van Zweden, Fabio Luisi, Otto Werner-Mueller, Larry Rachleff, Rossen Milanov, James Conlon, Anshel Brusilow, and Gunther Schuller.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London to Alice Hare Hartin, a white woman from England, and Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, a black surgeon from Sierra Leone. His father was a descendant of a group of enslaved people in America who stayed loyal to England during the Revolutionary War and were returned to West Africa following the war. He struggled with building a medical practice in England due to his race and returned to Africa before Samuel was born. Alice lived with her parents after Taylor left and named her son after the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Samuel showed musical ability at a very young age, so he started violin lessons with his maternal grandfather at age five. He also began singing in the choir at his local Presbyterian church. At age fifteen he was one of the first black students admitted to the Royal College of Music. He started as a violin student but he switched his focus to composition, earning a scholarship to study with Charles Villiers Stanford.
Coleridge-Taylor may have lived his entire life in England, aside from his occasional travels, but he was keenly interested in what black musicians and composers were doing in America at the turn of the century. He also felt a strong connection to the US due to his father’s heritage. He was intrigued by the currents that would grow into the jazz movement, but he found his strongest voice in the melodies of spirituals and the stories of Native Americans. Following in Dvořák’s footsteps, Coleridge-Taylor combined the solid classical training he received in England with these “new” American voices. The resulting pieces are full of big romantic sounds, colorful orchestration, and the full range of colors in an orchestra, earning him many comparisons with Dvořák. Edward Elgar called him “the cleverest fellow’’ among the young composers in England at the time, and his teacher Charles Villiers Stanford acclaimed his “assured technique and stylistic panache.”
Coleridge-Taylor also became active in politics and social justice issues. As his music became well-known, he used his influence to promote European and American musicians of African descent. In the early 1900s, Coleridge-Taylor toured the US three times. His pieces were so popular that he was invited to meet with President Teddy Roosevelt at the White House in 1904. At that time a group of musicians in this country formed the Coleridge-Taylor society, dedicated to performing and promoting his music. He ultimately taught at the Guildhall School of Music and Trinity College of Music in London and conducted some of England’s leading choirs. Sadly, he died of pneumonia at age thirty-seven.
During his student years Coleridge-Taylor wrote his most famous piece, a cantata entitled Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem, The Song of Hiawatha. It was received enthusiastically and was the one of the most frequently performed choral and orchestral works, only behind Handel’s Messiah and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. The score sold over 200,000 copies when it was published, prompting the commission of the second part before the first was even performed. (Unfortunately for Coleridge-Taylor, he sold the rights for a one-time fee. “If I had retained my rights in the Hiawatha music,’’ he once said, “I should have been a rich man.’’) He completed his choral trilogy based on Longfellow’s poem, including The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha’s Departure, in 1898-99. He felt so connected to this material that he named his son Hiawatha.
Coleridge-Taylor wrote a ballet about Hiawatha in 1920. It is remembered today primarily through the orchestral suite. He said he wanted to portray the poem’s “native simplicity, unaffected expression and unforced realism.” The six short sections, played in rapid succession, are reminiscent of early movie soundtracks. The music is listenable and descriptive, with driving rhythms, country dances, bird calls, and joyful celebrations.
To listen to a very old recording of Hiawatha Suite (the only recording that exists!), click here.
Nino Rota was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher. He was a child prodigy, writing significant works at an early age. He lived in the United States from 1930-1932, when he attended the Curtis Institute of Music on scholarship. He went on to earn a degree in literature from the University of Milan. He is best known as a composer of film scores, including two of Franco Zeffirelli’s Shakespeare films and Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, for which he earned an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1974. As a film composer, Rota developed a lush, Romantic sound and became a very skilled orchestrator. He had a wonderful grasp of all the instruments in the orchestra and the variety of sounds each could produce. The result is music that is exciting and dramatic, elicits a wide range of emotions, and can build a lot of enthusiasm in an audience. In total he wrote 157 film scores, along with twelve operas, thirty ballets and other dramatic works, and other orchestral and chamber pieces.
Despite his busy schedule as a composer, Rota was appointed a Lecturer at the Bari Conservatoire and served as its Director from 1950-77. One of his colleagues there was Franco Petracchi (b.1944), an Italian double bass virtuoso, teacher, and composer. In 1967 Petracchi asked Rota for a piece for double bass and piano. Rota's office was below the double bass studio at the school, and Rota could hear Petracchi's practicing and double bass lessons, so Rota was well acquainted with Petracchi’s skill. Rota wrote the Marcia movement first. Petracchi wrote: "This Marcia contained numerous exercises that I used to give to my students, a kind of training music, realised in living music to 'make them [the exercises] more enjoyable,' as Rota said. In fact his studio and his sitting room were situated right below my classroom. It certainly was not enjoyable for the Maestro to rest at certain times with that 'concert of scales.'"
Rota composed the third movement, “Aria,” in 1968. He originally wrote this melody for the film Doctor Zhivago. He had a disagreement with others involved in that production and withdrew from the project, re-working the musical material for his growing bass piece. Petracchi writes: "For the interpretation, Rota told me that I should think of a slow march of Russian exiles heading towards Siberia at night and then, bit by bit, lentemente and with ampiezza, at the unfolding of dawn (like Respighi's The Pines of Rome)." This movement explores the lyrical qualities of the double bass and the various colors that performers can draw from the large range of this instrument. Pizzicato and high harmonics conclude the movement.
In 1969 Rota composed the Finale, originally entitled “Galop.” It is very fast and energetic, pushing the soloist’s skills to the edge of what is possible. It provides a fitting conclusion for this diverse work. The first movement was the last to be written, in 1971. The piece was published in 1973. It is dramatic, lyrical, and sometimes light. It has a neo-classical feel that sometimes recalls the humorous music of Prokofiev and his Soviet contemporaries.
To listen to the Rota, click here.
Born: December 16, 1770, Bonn, Germany
Died: March 26, 1827, Vienna
Written: Spring and Summer, 1808 (sketches as early as 1802)
Premiered: A famous four-hour benefit concert (to benefit Beethoven) on December 22, 1808 at the Theater an der Wien, along with the premiere of his fifth symphony and performances of the fourth piano concerto, two movements from the Mass in C, and the Choral Fantasy.
Approximate duration: approximately 40 minutes
Instrumentation: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, strings
Thanks to Brian and Gay Landstrom for underwriting the purchase of this piece.
Ludwig van Beethoven loved nature! While living in Vienna, he took long walks through the nearby woods and fields almost every day. These escapes provided respite and inspiration for him, but also proved to be fertile times for him to think about whatever music he was composing. Beethoven sought longer escapes to the country during the hot Vienna summers. He stayed with friends and supporters at their country estates, often sketching pieces that he would develop and complete once he was back in Vienna for the winter.
The countryside clearly provided inspiration for Bethoven’s sixth symphony. This masterpiece is his most striking example of program music, written to describe something outside music itself. Beethoven wrote, “Anyone who has the faintest idea of country life will not need any descriptive titles to imagine for himself what the author intends,” he wrote. “Even without a description one will be able to recognize it all, for it is (a record of) sentiments rather than painting in sound.” He began sketching the piece the summer of 1802 and completed it in 1808. This was a time when he needed the solace that the country provided for him. His deafness, apparent in 1802, had increased dramatically by 1808. That year he suffered an infection in one of his fingers that threatened to end his career as a pianist. A potential romantic relationship ended badly. His brother and secretary, Carl, got married and wasn’t nearly as available. Beethoven moved at least four times in 1808. And Vienna was occupied by Napoleon’s troops during some of that time. This all seems like a better backdrop for Beethoven’s fifth symphony, whose composition overlapped with the sixth symphony.
Perhaps Beethoven’s sixth symphony provided a necessary distraction from all his challenges in the first decade of the 1800s. He gave it the title “Pastorale” and wrote very descriptive phrases at the beginning of each movement. This was unusual for Beethoven. He usually avoided this level of specificity, saying “The hearers should be allowed to discover the situations,” and “All painting in instrumental music is lost if it is pushed too far.”
The first movement, “Awakening of Cheerful Thoughts Upon Arriving in the Country,” opens almost mid-phrase, with a gentle pause before the melody really gets underway. The pace throughout this movement is gentle and leisurely. The music is so comfortable that there are very few dissonant or even minor harmonies. The little melodic fragment from the beginning provides the source material for much of the movement, which, instead of focusing on complex melodies, features expansive harmonic changes from one relaxed key to the next, in an uncharacteristically broad manner. Beethoven really only introduces “dissonance” through overlapping contrasting rhythms--the cellos will be playing triplets while the violins are playing eighth notes, for example--as if two different groups of animals are chattering in the woods. This movement captures Beethoven’s thoughts when he wrote, “How delighted I shall be to ramble for a while through bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks! No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.”
The second movement, “Scene by the Brook,” continues the relaxed and spacious mood. The strings are all muted to provide a calm, slightly distant sound. Second violins, violas, and cellos provide the murmuring sixteenth notes of the babbling brook for much of the movement. The melody is relatively simple, slow to unfold, and completely relaxing. Beethoven wrote notes at the end of the movement identifying the birds he was quoting: nightingale by the flute, quail by the oboe, and cuckoo by the clarinet.
The last three movements are played without pause. The scherzo, “Merry Gathering of Country Folk,” seems to portray a cheerful country dance scene. This light hearted dance in triple meter is “interrupted” a couple times by a contra dance in duple meter. Anton Schindler. Beethoven’s biographer, wrote: “Beethoven asked me if I had noticed how village musicians often played in their sleep, occasionally letting their instruments fall and keeping quite still, then waking up with a start, getting in a few vigorous blows or strokes at a venture, although usually in the right key, and then dropping to sleep again. Apparently he had tried to portray these poor people in his Pastoral Symphony.” Perhaps this explains why the oboe enters on the “wrong” beat and other wind instruments come in and out of the texture in unexpected places.
At the end of the dance the low strings quietly shudder, like animals sensing a sudden weather change. Violins articulate tiny raindrops in their quiet scales. Suddenly the “Thunderstorm” breaks into the calm of the countryside with thunder, lightning (emphasized by the piccolo), and thrashing winds. The trombones and timpani make an appearance for the first time. Hector Berlioz later wrote, “it is no longer just a wind and rain storm; it is a frightful cataclysm, a universal deluge, the end of the world.” Eventually the storm passes as the wind grows quietly distant. The last flash of lightning seems almost relaxed. Soon we hear distant yodeling that leads into the melody of the last movement, a hymn of thanksgiving. Beethoven entitled the movement, "Shepherd's song. Cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm," and wrote, “We give thee thanks” over the main theme, a folk-like tune. Conflict and danger have passed, and Beethoven again invites listeners to enjoy the peace and happiness to be found in nature.
To listen to the Beethoven, click here.