A New World
Fort Worth Civic Orchestra
Kurt Sprenger, Music Director
Shauna Thompson, Flute Soloist*
Saturday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
2001 West Seminary Drive, Fort Worth, TX
Shauna Thompson is the Assistant Professor of Flute at Texas Christian University. She is currently coordinator of the Professional Flute Choir Competition for the National Flute Association and has previously served as co-chair for the Texas Flute Society’s annual festival. Dr. Thompson has been a featured performer at the National Flute Association’s Chicago and Washington D.C. conventions and in 2014 she was honored to perform Joel Puckett’s concerto Shadow of Sirius with the Texas Christian University Wind Symphony at the TMEA convention in San Antonio. Dr. Thompson is on faculty for the summer camp Floot Fire in Plano, TX and also performs in the DFW area as a member of Metroplex Flutes.
Dr. Thompson won the 26th annual Myrna Brown competition with the Texas Flute Society and was honored to return as a guest artist to their following convention. She is also a prizewinner of many other competitions including the National Flute Association, Pittsburg Flute Club, Claude Monteaux, Frank Bowen, Mid-South Flute Society, and MTNA.
She holds a DMA and a MM in flute performance from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music where she studied with Brad Garner and served as his teaching assistant. She completed additional studies with Randy Bowman, principal flute of the Cincinnati Symphony. Dr. Thompson also received a Bachelor of Music from Texas Tech University where she studied with Lisa Garner Santa. Prior to joining the TCU faculty Dr. Thompson served as Consortium Instructor of Flute at the University of Evansville and principal flute with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. She has also previously served as principal flute of the Lubbock Symphony and second flute with the Midland Odessa Symphony Orchestra in addition to performing with the Cincinnati and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras.
Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)
It’s pronounced “Pacific Two-Three-One” – after a class of steam locomotives with two guide wheels in front, three large driver wheels and one trailing wheel. There’s actually some question as to whether Honegger, the Swiss member of the modernist French collective known as Les Six, intended to compose a literal rendering of a train ride. As he put it, this short work from 1923 was simply a formal “symphonic movement” without a program:
- “To tell the truth, in Pacific, I was pursuing a very abstract and quite unalloyed idea, by giving the feeling of a mathematical acceleration of rhythm, while the actual motion of the piece slowed down. In musical terms, I composed a huge, formal chorale, strewn with counterpoint in the manner of J. S. Bach.”
He went on to say that it seemed quite dry to him, and then “suddenly, a romantic idea crossed my mind, and when the work was finished I wrote the title, Pacific 231, which indicates a locomotive for heavy loads and high speed.” Critics and audiences instantly seized on the extramusical association, going so far as hearing the grunts and snorts of a hulking steam locomotive. After all, the entire art world was in thrall of The Machine Age in the 1920s – from Fernand Léger’s Mechanical Elements (1920) to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). And composers were no less fascinated by the possibilities: consider George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique (1924), Alexander Mosolov’s The Iron Foundry (1927) and Heitor Villa-Lobos’ The Little Train of the Caipira (1930). Even Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was a musical depiction of a train ride between Boston and New York. But whatever his original intentions, Honegger eventually admitted or conceded to the train as his source of inspiration:
- “I have always had a passionate love for locomotives. For me, they are living creatures, and I love them as others love women or horses… That which I have endeavored to portray in Pacific 231 is not the imitation of the noises of the locomotive, but the translation into music of the visual impressions and the physical sensations of it… Its point of departure is an objective contemplation: the quiet respiration of an engine in repose; the effort in starting; the progressive increase of speed, passing from the static to the dynamic state of an engine of 300 tons driven in the night at a speed of 120 miles per hour. As a subject, I have taken an engine of the Pacific type, known as 2-3-1, an engine of heavy trains for high speed.”
Martin Blessinger (b. 1978)
Rhapsody for Flute and Orchestra
Program note by the composer:
Music, at its core, is an exquisite form of communication, and rhapsodies are among music’s most evocative expressions. They spin tales in much the same way a good story-teller does, through colorful language, expressive gesture, episodic narrative, and a sense of improvisatory freedom – all fired in the kiln of audience imagination. Free of the formal expectations that bind other kinds of musical works, rhapsodies are uniquely transportive with the power to sweep the listener to another time or place. It comes as little surprise, then, that so many of them bear titles like Hungarian Rhapsody (as by Liszt) or Rapsodie Espagnol (Ravel) or that so many have earned a privileged place in our cultural consciousness, from Rachmaninoff’s moving Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini to Gershwin’s bombastic Rhapsody in Blue to Queen’s genre-bending Bohemian Rhapsody.
The rhapsody presented here is not without form – it articulates a vague large scale rondo structure but maintains the episodic story-telling of the genre and, I hope, weaves an engrossing narrative web. The opening material in the flute becomes the basis for nearly all of the subsequent music, transformed through alterations in character, pitch center, tempo, and instrumentation, among other factors. Through these varied presentations, the music indeed takes a rhapsodic journey which, as many journeys do, concludes with an exuberant return home.
This piece exists in two versions – one for orchestra, completed and premiered in spring 2017 and another for flute and piano, which was premiered in fall 2016. For her kind collaboration on both of these versions, as well as her friendship, advice, and belief in this project, Dr. Shauna Thompson has earned my utmost gratitude and is the dedicatee of the work. Her energy, enthusiasm, and personality informed every note. I am also particularly indebted to TCU, the College of Fine Arts, and the School of Music, which generously granted me a sabbatical leave to complete the majority of the piece as well as the commission which supported the completion and implementation of the version for orchestra.
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 (From the New World)
Its first audience on December 16, 1893, recognized an instant classic on hearing. Reviewing the Carnegie Hall concert for the New York Post two days later, critic Henry Theophilus Finck wrote:
- “Any one who heard it could not deny that it is the greatest symphonic work ever composed in this country. But is it American? … A masterwork has been added to symphonic literature, and the [New York] Philharmonic audience was not slow in noting the fact.”
Finck’s judgment of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony – and his questioning of its American identity – have persisted ever since. The subtitle, “Z nového světa,” was a hasty addition to the manuscript he handed to Philharmonic Society director Anton Seidl, but the work has been variously described as a musical postcard from America, a reflection on native and slave songs and a homesick composer’s longing for his Czech homeland.
Dvořák had been persuaded by a generous offer from New York philanthropist Jeannette Thurber to serve as director of her National Conservatory of Music (located in Gramercy Park near Union Square) from 1892 to 1895. The Panic of 1893 ate into her family’s Gilded Age fortune so that Dvořák was still owed several thousand dollars when he returned to his native Bohemia. But he composed some of his greatest works during those years, including his “American” String Quartet, his Cello Concerto and what we now call his Ninth Symphony (originally, No. 5 in order of its publication).
We know that his African-American conservatory student (and future composer) Harry Burleigh sang Negro spirituals to Dvořák and that he enjoyed the native dances of the Oglala Sioux at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But whether the slow movement theme was inspired by spirituals or the lively scherzo movement by Indian dance, the question is best left to the power of suggestion.