PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR: PROGRAM NOTES

“Tenebrae (Trisagion) Interludes” by Nicholas Palmer (b. 1963)

The beautiful setting of the Orthodox hymn, “Trisagion”, or “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”  by Myecnekov is given three freely composed variation settings for string quartet arranged by Nicholas Palmer, a musician residing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (www.nicholaspalmer.com)

 “O the Deep, Deep Love” arr. Duane Funderburk (b. 1954)

Samuel Trevor Francis is the author of this hymn. Nothing else about it is known for sure. There is a legend that he wrote it as a personal testimony after nearly committing suicide as a young man by jumping into the Thames River off London’s Hungerford Bridge. While this suggests a certain dramatic angle for interpreting the hymn, no reputable evidence has been found to corroborate the story. The most common tune for this text is a Welsh one, EBENEZER. It was written by Thomas Williams in the late nineteenth century. This hymn could be used for a service where the love of God or testimony to God’s love is a theme. (Tiffany Shomsky, www.hymnary.org)

The arranger, Duane Funderburk, has been involved with church music his entire life and has written many instrumental works based on hymn tunes for use in the church service. These original arrangements were written specifically for professional musicians with whom he has collaborated over the years. (www.duanefunderburk.com)

 “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

 The universally loved “Claire de lune” (Moonlight) is the third movement of a suite for solo piano which Debussy began composing in 1890, when he was twenty-eight years old. Debussy left no doubt that his creative life was heavily influenced by both literature and painting—even expressing some regret for not having become a painter rather than a musician.  And while the “impressionism” of painting is clear as a metaphor for much of his musical work, it is basic to understanding his musical psyche to appreciate the influence that the “symbolist” poets—Verlaine, Malarmé, and others—had in his style.

The title of Verlaine’s poem, Claire de lune, is also the title of the evergreen third movement of Debussy’s suite.  The movement has no other meaning than that of a delicate evocation of the idea in the title.

© 2015 William E. Runyan (www.runyanprogramnotes.com/claude-debussy)

Claude Debussy has become recognizable over the years as one of the most notable and influential French musical composers that has ever lived. At the turn of the 20th century he was one of the most prominent figures in music and his contributions to the world of music are still enjoyed today. (www.claudedebussy.org)

“Dissonance Quartet”, Movement 1 by W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)

Dissonance Quartet, byname of String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K 465, in four movements by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was completed on January 14, 1785, and it was noted especially for its divergence—especially in the slow introduction—from the then-standard rules of harmony. The Dissonance Quartet is the last of a set of six string quartets that were dedicated to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn. Although legends persist regarding Mozart’s rivalries with other composers, he established a friendship with Haydn that was untainted by envy and characterized by mutual admiration. Haydn asserted to Mozart’s father, I tell you, before God and as an honest man, that your son is the greatest composer known to me, either in person or by name. Mozart, for his part, spoke equally highly of Haydn in his dedication: Your good opinion encourages me to offer the[se string quartets] to you, and leads me to hope that you will not consider them wholly unworthy of your favor. Please, then, receive them kindly and be to them a father, guide, and friend! 

The first movement, which is the source of the piece’s nickname, is in sonata form, and it opens with a sombre “dissonant” passage that suddenly gives way to an animated ascending four-note figure that forms the main theme. (Betsy Schwarm, www.britannica.com/topic/Dissonance-Quartet)

Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

In an idyllic spot near Salzburg in the summer of 1936, Barber composed his String Quartet in B minor, op. 11. He arranged the slow movement for string orchestra in 1937 in the hopes that Toscanini would perform it during the next season with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. The great conductor did indeed perform it, on November 5, 1938. Titled simply Adagio for Strings, the work has since become Barber’s most popular and frequently performed piece, often played at funerals, in restaurants, in commercials, and on soundtracks.

The movement’s soaring quality is enhanced by the fact that its key (B-flat minor) is never explicitly confirmed; the piece even closes on an open-ended note of resignation. The Adagio’s single, beseeching theme is introduced by the first violin, taken up by each member of the quartet, and built to one of the most sublime climaxes in the repertoire. Following a pause the movement subsides pensively. © Jane Vial Jaffe (www.parlancechamberconcerts.org/parlance-program-notes/adagio-for-strings/)

Samuel Barber was an American composer who is considered one of the most expressive representatives of the lyric and Romantic trends in 20th-century classical music. His style was distinctive and modern but not experimental. Structural considerations govern Barber’s instrumental writing; there is great astringency in harmony, but the basic tonality remains secure; the rhythmic lines are very strong, without loss of coherence. (Amy Tikkanen, www.britannica.com/biography/Samuel-Barber)