21-22 Grand Finale
Laura Kenney Henckel, cello
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Saturday, April 9, 2022 (7:30 pm)

Location: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Christopher Ducasse (b.1993): Fòs Nou (Our Strength)                                                                                     
World Premiere, Commissioned by Dr. Kevin Sütterlin and April Ann Brock as a gift to the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, in honor of Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma.

Edward Elgar (1857-1934): Cello Concerto in E Minor, op.85
I. Adagio -- Moderato
II. Lento -- Allegro molto
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro -- Moderato -- Allegro, ma non troppo

Stella Sung (b. 1959): The Phoenix Rising                                                                                                 
 
Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): The Firebird, Suite (1919) 
I. Introduction
II. L'Oiseau de feu et sa danse & Variation de l'oiseau de feu
III. Ronde des princesses
IV. Danse infernale du roi Kastcheï
V. Berceuse
VI. Final
 
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Program Notes

(Program notes by Erik Leveille, FVSO Violin I.)

Christopher Ducasse: Fòs Nou (Our Strength) 

A native of Port-au-Prince Haiti, Christopher attended Holy Trinity Music School where he learned voice, violin, and piano. Christopher became a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Holy Trinity in 2007 and conducted their main choir "Les Petits Chanteurs" for three years beginning in 2011. He was a BLUME HAITI Scholar in the Haitian student exchange program at Lawrence University in 2015, and in 2017 he joined Silver Lake College of the Holy Family to get a Bachelor in Choral Music Education. Christopher is currently getting a master’s in music in Choral Conducting at McGill University in Montréal, Canada.

Christopher was the Winner of the WCDA Conducting Competition in 2018. He has also composed vocal and instrumental pieces that have been performed by various groups, most notably Petits Chanteurs and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Holy Trinity Music School, the Lawrence University Cello Ensemble, and the Silver Lake College of the Holy Family Chorale. Christopher sings baritone, in addition to playing piano and violin, and does photography as a hobby.

Commissioned by Dr. Kevin Sütterlin, "Fòs Nou" is a Haitian Creole title and translated to "Our Strength" in English. This composition is based on a Haitian Rhythm called "Yanvalou". Yanvalou, a rhythm and dance of Haiti, gets its name from its associated movements. It is one of the most important rhythms in Haitian folklore, and is sometimes linked to "knowledge," "patience," "strength" and "healing." It is usually played on three different congas named "Manman (mother)," "Segon (second)" and "Kata," the latter being always played with sticks on the body of a conga. I used one conga to play a combination of the "manman" and "segon" rhythm and two bongos with sticks for a variation of the "Kata." The beat of the rhythm of Yanvalou is a combination of triple-duple time (1-2-3 |1, 2) in this composition with three quarter-notes forming the triple and two dotted quarter-notes for the duple. Haitian rhythms are mostly passed by oral tradition from mentors to apprentice drummers. I had to create a notation sheet for the conga with a classical notation that will express the sound and soul of the rhythm.
(Notes by the composer)

Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 

The great cataclysm that was the First World War both shattered the musical world of Europe and simultaneously created a great creative ferment that radically shifted away from fin de siècle nostalgia and towards new horizons. This was true not only of the generation of composers including Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky but late Romantic stalwarts such as Edward Elgar. Elgar, like so many of his fellow artists, was shattered and traumatized by the brutality and senseless loss of the war. He had largely withdrawn from composing during the four long years of conflict, yet in 1918, despite ill health culminating in surgery, Elgar’s creative impulse returned (he in fact sketched down what would become the 9/8-meter first theme of the Cello Concerto not long after he emerged from anesthesia!). He and his wife Alice journeyed to their cottage Brinkwells in Sussex, where he composed his Violin Sonata, String Quartet in E minor and Piano Quintet in A major. These works marked a departure from the plush, burnished Edwardian splendor of his pre-war works, and certainly gone was the imperial swagger of the Pomp and Circumstance marches. In their place was a sparer, pared-down intimacy and a greater freedom of form. 1919 found Elgar transforming that post-surgical sketch into one of the greatest works for cello and orchestra.
 
The resulting Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor was Elgar’s last major work; intensely personal in nature, the soloist is narrator and soliloquist, and rarely is the cello at rest. The tone is largely one of deep sadness, but this is no funereal dirge, either—there is lightness and humor, and the technical demands of the solo part are considerable. The concerto opens with the lone voice of the cello—four declamatory chords lead into a recitative both defiant and grieving. The violas take up the 9/8 theme the convalescing Elgar had sketched down in 1918, its tone gently elegiac. The section cellos and then the soloist take up the theme, as well as a contrasting second theme in E major. The movement ends in near silence, and leads directly into the Scherzo, which is introduced by the soloist’s ghostly pizzicato [plucked strings] evocation of the opening soliloquy. The soloist then begins to introduce fragments of the racing Scherzo theme before launching headlong into a movement as much marked by lightness of touch as it is hair-raising virtuosity. The Adagio third movement is the emotional heart of the work, and the orchestra is pared down to a minimum while the cello unfolds a sustained lament. An impassioned cadenza segues into the fourth movement, which rouses itself with a brusque theme, with the orchestra taking a newly aggressive stance. A second theme introduced by the soloist introduces both lyrical and bluffly humorous elements, but the relentless first theme returns, now developed by both soloist and orchestra. A slackening of tempo leads to the return of the grief-stricken plaint of the third movement. Will Elgar lead us to some sense of consolation and resolution? Alas, it is not to be; the fateful opening soliloquy breaks forth once again from the cello before being violently interrupted with one final terse statement of the brusque theme. Stern defiance, or bitter resignation?  Both interpretations are possible, and yet this pain-suffused work was incredibly dear to the composer’s heart. In his final illness and near death, he mustered what little strength he had to whistle the tune he had sketched in 1918 to his friend, the violinist William Reed, and said, “...if ever you’re walking on the Malvern Hills and hear that, don’t be frightened. It’s only me.”

Stella Sung: The Phoenix Rising (2008) 

Dr. Stella Sung has won both national and international recognition as a composer. Her works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Symphony Hall in Boston, and the Sydney Opera House, among many other venues. She utilizes digital and multimedia applications in her symphonic music, as well as compositions for dance, ballet, and film. She is the director of the Center for Research for Education, Arts and Technology and Professor of Music at the University of Central Florida.
 
The Phoenix Rising was commissioned by the Florida Young Artists Orchestra and premiered by that ensemble at Carnegie Hall in 2008. The work features two contrasting themes and textures; the first is dense, dissonant, and replete with percussion. The second is dominated by a yearning melody in the violins, and a solo violin emerges and concludes the work with a tranquil, soaring elaboration of this melody. 

Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird, Suite (1919) 

The three ballets Stravinsky composed for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe—The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, with their brilliant, complex music, exotic story lines based on Russian folk lore, flamboyant costumes and innovative choreography caused a sensation in Paris and established the young expatriate composer as one of the most prominent in Europe.

The Firebird shows the strong influence of Stravinsky’s teacher, the legendary orchestrator Rimsky-Korsakov. The simple plot describes the prince Ivan Tsarevich in a magic garden in the realm of the evil ogre Katschei. Ivan encounters and captures the enchanted Firebird, which grants him a magic feather in exchange for its release. He then encounters thirteen princesses and falls immediately in love with one of them. Ivan learns that the thirteen are captives of Katschei and that all previous would-be rescuers have been turned to stone. Katschei and his court of demons appear and capture Ivan, but he uses the feather to hypnotize the villains. The Firebird itself reappears, and Ivan is then able to defeat and destroy the ogre and his minions and free the captives.

Stravinsky’s 1919 Suite from his 1910 ballet is the most-performed and outlines the plot. Low, ominous ostinatos and eerie string glissando harmonics in the Introduction describe Katschei’s magic realm. Virtuosic, innovative writing for the winds and strings describe the fluttering, scintillating Dance of the Firebird. The Round of the Princesses is introduced by a beautiful melody for the oboe. A shattering shriek heralds the Infernal Dance of Katschei, with a menacing syncopated melody in the low brass that gradually takes over the entire orchestra. The Berceuse features a haunting melody in the solo bassoon; out of the shimmering chords that end the movement, a lone horn intones the noble melody of the Finale. The theme builds in strength and ardor, and in an ingenious coup Stravinsky transforms the triple meter theme into a chanting ostinato for the entire orchestra punctuated by the timpani. Blazing chords in B major herald the triumph of good over evil and bring the work to a triumphant conclusion.

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