AUDIO Rabia Brooke and members of Fifth House Ensemble
YEAR COMPOSED 2012 COMMISSIONER Michele and Rafiq Mohammadi for their daughter, Rabia ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES In Greek mythology, Athena was the goddess of war, wisdom, justice, and the arts. She was born out of the head of her father, Zeus, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield. More interested in strategy than bloodshed, Athena led armies that only fought for just causes. In times of peace, Greek artisans prayed to her for guidance in their artistic endeavors. Athena Triumphant portrays Athena as she marches into battle and emerges victorious. -S.G.
VIDEO (online until Aug. 31, 2021) IV. Sometime I feel like a motherless child Kronos Festival 2021, Program #1 Kronos Quartet with audio of Mahalia Jackson and Mildred Falls Featuring San Francisco dance artist Tadi Todi
Kronos Quartet has first refusal of recording rights after 1/19/21. YEAR COMPOSED 2017 COMMISSIONER Kronos Quartet and Carnegie Hall PROGRAM NOTES Louis “Studs” Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and oral historian, hosted a daily nationally syndicated radio broadcast show from Chicago’s WFMT station from 1952 to 1997. Studs’ curious, inquisitive nature led him to interview people from all walks of life over the course of his career. For WFMT alone, he conducted over 5,000 interviews. Before he worked for WFMT, Studs had a radio program called “The Wax Museum” on WENR in Chicago. It was on this radio network that Studs first featured the glorious voice of Mahalia Jackson.
Studs heard Mahalia sing for the first time around 1946. He was in a record store in Chicago when Mahalia’s voice rang out over the store’s speakers. Studs was captivated; he had to meet the woman who possessed that remarkable voice. At that time, Mahalia was gaining fame as a singer of gospels and spirituals in black churches both within Chicago and out of it, as she did a fair amount of touring around the country. Outside of these black communities, however, Mahalia wasn’t yet known. With a little sleuthing, Studs discovered where she regularly sang at the Greater Salem Baptist Church on the South Side of Chicago. Studs went to the church, introduced himself to Mahalia, and invited her to sing on his radio program. Studs and Mahalia developed a close friendship over the ensuing decades, and they occasionally worked together professionally. As Mahalia rose to international fame and became known as the greatest gospel singer of her time, she and Studs never lost contact.
In researching WFMT’s Studs Terkel Radio Archive, I found several broadcasts when Studs featured Mahalia Jackson and her recordings on his show. Two broadcasts in particular stood out. The first broadcast occurred in 1963, when the pair sat down for a conversation that covered a wide range of topics, including Mahalia’s experiences of working in the South, the continuing hardships she faces being a woman of color, and the civil rights efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and many others (including Mahalia, who was a staunch supporter of Dr. King). The second broadcast dates from 1957; it features Mahalia performing a number of gospels and spirituals for a live audience at a hotel in Chicago. In crafting my composition, I decided to highlight many of the salient points of Studs’ and Mahalia’s 1963 discussion, with a musical performance from the 1957 concert featured prominently in the work.
Glorious Mahalia consists of five movements. In movement 1, Mahalia discusses the origin and meaning of the spiritual Hold on. In Stave in the ground(movement 2), she and Studs talk about the work she did when living in the South, and the continuing prejudice she faces. This is followed by a more heated discussion between Studs and Mahalia in Are you being treated right (movement 3). The fourth movement features Mahalia’s soulful performance of the spiritual Sometime I feel like a motherless child. The piece concludes with This world will make you think (movement 5), in which Mahalia speaks of her hope that we can unite as one nation.
Glorious Mahalia was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Carnegie Hall, with support from David Harrington Research and Development Fund. I wish to thank Kronos Quartet’s violinist David Harrington for suggesting Mahalia Jackson’s interviews with Studs Terkel as the topic for the piece, as well as Tony Macaluso, Director of the WFMT Radio Network and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, and Allison Schein, Archivist for the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, for their help in locating and securing my chosen broadcasts within the Archive. –S.G.
AUDIO Rackham Quartet YEAR COMPOSED 1992 ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES String Quartet No. 1 was my first exploration into the world of string writing. It consists of three movements (Rose Thorn, Struggle, and Perilous Water), all of which delve into various types of counterpoint. -S.G.
AUDIO Biava Quartet Composers in the Loft •Cedille Records CDR 90000 100 • Purchase recording YEAR COMPOSED 2005 COMMISSIONER Peter Austin and Music in the Loft for the Biava Quartet ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES Disguised demons, forgiving angels, tortured human souls. String Quartet No.2: Demons and Angels tells the story of a man who thought his actions were guided by the forces of good, only to discover that he has lost his mind and wreaked havoc on earth. The first two movements explore the man’s personality: I. Demonic Spiritsaddresses what he has become, while II. Song of the Angels remembers the goodness in him before he became transformed. III. Inner Demons depicts the man as he loses his mind. The piece concludes with IV. Broken Spirit, as the man faces a life in prison, in which his fleeting thoughts alternate between chaos and the hope of finding redemption by the grace of an angel. This piece was commissioned by Peter Austin and Music in the Loft. -S.G.
YEAR COMPOSED 2008 COMMISSIONER Thomas J. Hamilton as a gift to his wife, Nadine, through a grant to the Chicago Classical Recording Foundation
ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Both physical and digital score options available. Click to visit Presser’s ordering page PROGRAM NOTES Gaia is the mythical Greek goddess of the earth. There is a wide range of stories about Gaia which depict her creations and kindness, as well as of her anger and vengeance.I. Gaiais a short introductory movement in which we first encounter Gaia’s theme. In the programmaticII. Creation of Mother Earth, we hear the Greek myth of the planet’s beginnings: from chaos, Gaia emerges in full splendor, then creates the night sky glittering with stars. Gaia and her creations celebrate life in III. Dance of the Earth. In IV. Lamentation, Gaia is crying out against what civilization’s use and abuse of the planet. This movement combines wailing sirens, S.O.S. distress calls, and the cry of the earth itself, represented by a viola solo. The quartet ends with V. …et in terra pax,which translates to “…and on earth, peace.” This movement represents what so many of us hope and want both in the world, as well as for the planet itself. I envision that this is how Gaia began, and to what I hope she can return.
This quartet was commissioned by Tom Hamilton for his wife Nadine. I wanted Nadine herself to be embodied in the piece. So I took the two letters of her name that stand out to my ear – the A and the D. These two notes create the interval of a rising perfect 4th; this is a bright sound that worked well in my conception of Gaia. I also turned the interval into a simple ascending scale: A B C D. Gaia’s interval, scale, and theme (that emerges in the 1st movement) appear in various guises throughout the entire quartet. -S.G.
VIDEO Mathias Tacke and Sarah Plum, violins; Catherine Brubaker, viola; Nick Photinos, cello 11/15/20 EISMA Friendraiser Concert YEAR COMPOSED 2011 COMMISSIONER Nicholas Yasillo of the Norton Building Concert Series for his wife Susan
ORDERING SCORES Theodore Presser Company Click to view product page PROGRAM NOTES Stacy Garrop’s String Quartet No. 4: Illuminations was inspired by five illuminated pages from a medieval Book referred to as “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves.” Books of Hours, the most prolific book of the late Middle Ages, are prayer books for lay people that enable a person to participate privately in the daily round of prayers and devotions that were originally recited only by monks and priests. The main text of a Book of Hours contains a cycle of daily devotions consisting of psalms, lessons from scriptures, hymns, collects and other prayers. Because Books of Hours did not have page numbers or indexes, the illuminations (or illustrations) enabled the owner to quickly find the text needed for reciting the prayers. The quality and number of illuminations, often using silver and gold, depended upon the patron’s ability to pay.
Catherine (1417-1476), duchess of Guelders and countess of Zutphen, commissioned her Book of Hours and received it around 1442. Today her Book of Hours is considered to be the masterpiece of the finest (although anonymous) Dutch illuminator of the late Middle Ages. “The Hours of Catherine of Cleves” is one of the finest in the collection of Books of Hours in the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City.
In trying to craft the experience of reading Cleves’ Book of Hours, the composer approached the work similarly to Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. As in Mussorgsky’s work, the audience follows the reader as he or she opens the Book of Hours, studies and reflects upon five illuminations, and then closes the book at the end of prayer.
Below is a brief description of the five illuminations represented in the quartet:
Plate 1. Catherine of Cleves Prays to the Virgin and Child The first illumination in Catherine’s book shows her kneeling before the Virgin and Child praying, “O, Mother of God, have mercy on me.” The setting may be the castle chapel in Cleves and the statue at the top center of the panel may be of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Cleves castle. Musical angels are on the battlements and coats of arms of Catherine’s ancestors surround the illumination. The composer based this movement on the Gregorian Chant “Ave Maria.”
Plate 3. Singing Angels Three angels start to sing the hymn “Te Deum Laudamus” (although this hymn is not utilized in the quartet). The beginning words are on the banderol, “We praise thee, O God.” It is thought that this illumination refers to the preceding one, now missing, of the Annunciation to St. Anne (Mother to be of the Virgin Mary). The large open pea pods of the boarder are symbols of fertility. For this plate, the composer envisioned a harmonious chorus of angels and achieved this sound using high string harmonics.
Plate 24. Christ Carrying the Cross This illumination shows Christ carrying the cross with Simon of Cyrene, St. John and the Virgin Mary behind him. Hanging from Christ’s waist are two blocks of wood with nails that torture his ankles and feet. St. Veronica appears on the left side margin. The music for this plate invokes the sound of Christ’s feet as he slowly walks to his final destination.
Plate 99. Mouth of Hell This illumination of Hell begins the Office of the Dead. One prayed often for protection from and to prepare for death, which could be sudden and unexpected due in part to the plague and new strains of influenza. This frightening entrance to hell has one mouth with talons and pointed teeth leading to a second fiery mouth with creatures boiling souls in the depths of hell. Around the picture, souls are being tormented while at the top a third mouth of fire is heating caldrons into which souls are cast. At the bottom is a green creature spewing out scrolls with the names of the seven deadly sins. The music captures both the ghoulish glee of the demons as they carry out their tortures, as well as the wailing souls of the unfortunate inmates of hell.
Plate 35 Trinity Enthroned The Trinity, similar in posture and dress, sit on a throne with the Father on the left, the Son in the middle and the Holy Ghost on the right. The banderoles address death and salvation. The text on this page begins with the plea, “Oh, God, come to my assistance.” In the middle of the text a prayer begins, ”Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” The nine different colored angels around the throne are thought to represent different orders of celestial beings. The composer sought to represent the majesty and benevolence of the Trinity, represented by a string of three-note chords (one note for each member of the Trinity).
String Quartet No. 4: Illuminations was commissioned by Nicholas Yasillo in honor of his wife, Susan, who has a passion for learning about Books of Hours.