Program Notes for Stockton Symphony – Made in America: Salute to American Composers

Sunday | November 13, 2022 | 2:30 pm
Atherton Auditorium

Stockton Symphony
Peter Jaffe,
conductor
Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, alto saxophone


Robert Lowden
(1920–1998)

Armed Forces Salute


George Gershwin/ Robert Russell Bennett
(1898–1937/1894–1981)

Porgy and Bess, Selection for Orchestra


John Williams
(b. 1932)

Escapades from Catch Me If You Can
Closing In
Reflections
Joy Ride

Jonathan Hulting-Cohen, alto saxophone

intermission


Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
(1867–1944)

Symphony in E minor, op. 32, “Gaelic”
Allegro con fuoco
Alla Siciliana—Allegro vivace
Lento con molto espressione
Allegro di molto


Concert sponsors: Nancy Schneider and David Snyder in memory of their parents Paul and Irene Snyder


Program Notes by Jane Vial Jaffe

Armed Forces Salute
Robert Lowden
Born in Camden, New Jersey, July 23, 1920; died in Medford, New Jersey, October 30, 1998

Robert Lowden
Robert Lowden

Composer, music educator, conductor, arranger, and trombonist Robert Lowden played in the Camden High School band and orchestra before studying music at the College of South Jersey. His studies were interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a trombonist

and arranger for the 322nd Army Band at Fort Dix. After the war he

resumed his studies at Temple University in Philadelphia though he was largely self-taught as an arranger. He taught in the public schools in Camden, New Jersey, and served as an arranger for Johnny Austin, Oscar Dumont, and Claude Thornhill. From 1958 to 1968 Lowden arranged for the 101 Strings Orchestra, receiving credit on their more than 150 popular music and easy-listening albums.

One of the best-known arrangers for big bands, jazz ensembles, and pops orchestras, Lowden also arranged for college and high school ensembles and was in demand as an adjudicator and clinician at festivals and schools. He also composed over 400 advertising jingles, of which the most famous was probably the Melrose Diner jingle “Everybody who knows goes to the Melrose.” In his last years he also worked as an arranger for the Pennsy Pops Orchestra (Norristown, Pennsylvania) and for the Ocean City Pops (Ocean City, New Jersey).

One of Lowden’s most often played arrangements is his stirring tribute to the five principal branches of the United States Armed Forces, which is played for Veteran’s Day concerts and other patriotic events across the country. Lowden begins with snippets of “America the Beautiful,” “Dixie,” and “Yankee Doodle” to introduce the first of his armed forces songs, the U.S. Army’s “The Caisson Song” (words and music by Edmond L. Gruber, later revised by H. W. Arberg as “The Army Goes Rolling Along”).

A bit of “Columbia Gem of the Ocean” brings on the U.S. Coast Guard’s “Semper paratus” (Frances S. van Boskerck)—slow at first, then in march time— followed by the “The Marines’ Hymn: From the Halls of Montezuma” (words: anonymous, some attributed variously to Henry C. Davis, Charles Doyen, and L. Z. Phillips; music based on a melody from Jacques Offenbach’s comic opera Geneviève de Brabant). Lowden inserts a fragment of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” to lead into “The U.S. Air Force (The Wild Blue Yonder)” (words and music by Robert Crawford).

Fragments of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” bring on the U.S. Navy’s “Anchors Aweigh” (music by Charles A. Zimmerman; words by Alfred Hart Miles, additional verse by Royal Lovell, revision by George D. Lottman). At the end Lowden cleverly inserts a bit of the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” before the closing phrase from “America the Beautiful” brings the Armed Forces Salute full circle.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, oboe, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, chimes, bells (glockenspiel), piano, and strings


Porgy and Bess, Selection for Orchestra
George Gershwin/Robert Russell Bennett
Born in Brooklyn, New York, September 26, 1898; died in Hollywood, California, July 11, 1937/
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, June 15, 1894; died in New York, August 18, 1981

George Gershwin
George Gershwin

Immediately upon reading DuBose Heyward’s novel Porgy in 1926, George Gershwin wanted to transform it into an opera. It took seven years, however, for Gershwin and Heyward to begin work on it—they were joined by George’s brother Ira as co-lyricist—and two more before it reached the stage. George spent several weeks with Heyward on Folly Island, near Charleston, to absorb the rhythmic language and singing of South Carolina black culture. Porgy and Bess, billed as an “American folk opera,” deals with the harsh realities of life in the “Catfish Row” tenement—crap games, murder, drugs—and the love that grows between Porgy, a disabled beggar, and Bess, abused by her man Crown.

The premiere took place in Boston on September 30, 1935, and, after revisions, opened with the same company in New York on October 10. Despite the audience’s enthusiasm, several critics judged it harshly for its “halfway” stance between opera and musical. Porgy and Bess later achieved international success, but unfortunately Gershwin did not live to witness it.

Suites from the opera for various ensemble combinations have proliferated, among them two by Robert Russell Bennett, who is best known as the orchestrator for some of the repertoire’s most famous musicals by such illustrious composers as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers— and George Gershwin. In 1942 Fritz Reiner heard a revival of Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess and, unaware that Gershwin himself had made an orchestral suite, asked Bennett, who had been a good friend of Gershwin, to make such an arrangement. When Gershwin’s own suite surfaced many years later, his brother Ira titled it Catfish Row to distinguish it from Bennett’s by-then-famous suite.

Reiner specifically wanted a piece that would fit on three 78 rpm records (six sides at four minutes per side), which dictated the twenty-four-minute length.

That arrangement, entitled Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture, premiered on February 5, 1943, with Reiner conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony. Many orchestras, though, wanted a shorter version, so Bennett obliged in 1961 with the present Porgy and Bess, Selection for Orchestra, which accomplishes the amazing feat of presenting ten of the opera’s famous vocal numbers—tied together with various motives from elsewhere in the score—in less the half the time of the earlier suite.

Bennett’s great skills as an orchestrator and his affection for Gershwin and his music show to great advantage in this work. The four chords that “herald the day” at the opening of Act II, Scene 3, set the mood for the collage of excerpts, which appear in a different order from the opera though basically close to the 1942 arrangement. Bennett’s first substantial selection, “Clara, Clara, Don’t You Be Downhearted,” originated in Act III’s chorus of women mourning those who died in the previous night’s storm. It leads directly into “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing,” which Clara’s husband Jake sings in Act I as he volunteers to put their baby to sleep but which turns out to be more his musings on romance rather than a real lullaby.

Next comes Clara’s lullaby, “Summertime,” which actually precedes Jake’s in the opening scene. Its sultry lyricism has made it the opera’s most famous number. Bennett juxtaposes this with Porgy’s jaunty “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” which he sings in Act II, happy that Bess now lives with him and in direct contrast with Jake’s more serious attitude about making ends meet. A melancholy cello solo brings on Porgy and Bess’s heartfelt love duet “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” sung just before the church picnic on Kittiwah Island, which Bess attends only reluctantly since the disabled Porgy can’t go. The ensuing chorus “Oh, I Can’t Sit Down” reflects the high spirits of the picknickers about to board the boat.

The bluesy, syncopated “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York” follows, sung in Act III by drug dealer Sportin’ Life to entice Bess to New York after she’s been tricked into thinking Porgy will be jailed for a long time for the murder of Crown. Backing up to the church picnic scene, we next hear Sportin’ Life’s witty “sermon” on skepticism, the popular “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Bennett’s last substantial selection, the exuberant “Oh Lawd, I’m on My Way,” comes from the end of the opera, when, only a week after Bess has left for New York, Porgy gets out of jail and sets out to follow her. Bennett cleverly superimposes fragments of other songs and fittingly concludes with a grandiose return to their love theme, “Bess, You Is My Woman Now.”

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, 2nd doubling piccolo, 2 oboes, 2nd doubling English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, harp, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, suspended cymbal, and strings


Escapades
John Williams
Born in New York, February 8, 1932

John Williams
John Williams

The music of John Williams is more widely known than that of any other film composer—period. His scores for the Star Wars movies, the Indiana Jones series, Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, the Harry Potter series, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and myriad television shows such as Lost in Space and four different Olympics have made his name recognized in households throughout the world. Williams’s credits include over one hundred feature films, a mind-boggling achievement, to which he has more recently added the music for Star Wars: Episode VIII, directed by Rian Johnson, and Spielberg’s The Papers.

John Williams has almost singlehandedly shaped the movie and television music of the past four decades, recognized in the industry by five Academy Awards (nominations for fifty, second only to Walt Disney), twenty-two Grammys, four Golden Globes, three Emmys, seven awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, several gold and platinum records, and many honorary degrees and other awards, among them Kennedy Center Honors in 2004 and the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in June 2016.

Alongside his monumental contribution to film and television music, Williams has also penned substantial output for the concert hall—sixteen concertos (the latest, Markings, premiered by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in July 2017), many fanfares, a piano sonata, and several chamber works. He also served as the conductor of the celebrated Boston Pops for thirteen years (1980–93) and has guest-conducted many of the world’s major orchestras.

Williams made his European conducting debut in 2020—with the Vienna Philharmonic, no less! The album from those concerts became 2020’s best-selling orchestral album, and the orchestra commissioned him to write a piece to replace Richard Strauss’s 1924 fanfare at the annual Philharmonikerball. His second European engagement, with the Berlin Philharmonic, took place in 2021, and he returned to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic the following year in celebration of his 90th birthday and was also royally honored at Tanglewood.

Escapades originated in Williams’s nineteenth collaboration with Spielberg, Catch Me if You Can (2002). The story revolves around Frank W. Abignole, a con man who already at the age of twenty-one had passed himself off as an airline pilot, a surgeon, and a lawyer, and had stolen millions by forging checks. Williams features the alto saxophone in three sections that form a kind of mini concerto. The first, Closing In, based on the film’s main theme, draws on cool jazz as the FBI pursues Abignole, and the second, Reflections (Father’s Theme), with its poignant introspection, stems from the point in the movie when Abignole’s family life begins to crumble. The energetic final movement, Joy Ride (The Float), accompanies the extended scene where the quick-witted Abignole, after his unsuccessful attempt to pass off checks, seizes his opportunity to pose as a Pan Am pilot, enabling him to cash payroll checks and actually fly as an assistant pilot.

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 3 flutes, 3rd doubling piccolo, 2 oboes, 2nd doubling English horn, 2 clarinets, 2nd doubling E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 2nd doubling contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, vibraphone, glockenspiel, marimba, chimes, xylophone, suspended cymbal, bass drum, bell tree, sleigh bells, triangle, chimes, tambourine, harp, piano/celesta, and strings


Symphony in E minor, op. 32, “Gaelic”
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
Born in Henniker, New Hampshire, September 5, 1867; died in New York, December 27, 1944

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach
Amy Marcy Cheney Beach

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (born Amy Marcy Cheney, listed on programs after her marriage as H.H.A. Beach, and now often referred to as Amy Cheney Beach) was a member of a group of composers referred to as the “Boston Classicists” or “Second New England School,” which ecstatically embraced the European Classic-Romantic tradition. The late nineteenth/early twentieth-century group included John Knowles Paine, Arthur Foote, George Chadwick, Arthur Whiting, Horatio Parker, and Daniel Gregory Mason. Her style, based on traditional forms, is marked by the rich chromaticism, frequent modulation, intensity, and lyricism associated with late Romanticism.

As a professional musician, Beach combined the career of a composer, whose compositions were almost all published and frequently performed, with that of a piano virtuoso. She was the only child of parents from politically and culturally distinguished New England families. She was a precocious child who at the age of one could sing forty songs always in the same key she had first heard them; before the age of two could improvise alto lines against her mother’s soprano melodies; taught herself to read at age three; and at four played hymns by ear in correct four-part harmony and composed her first pieces.

Amy began performing publicly at age seven and, when the family moved to Boston the following year, she began piano study with Ernst Perabo (Boston- born, Leipzig-trained) and later Karl Bärmann, former student of Liszt. Her successful debut with orchestra in 1883 led to a highly acclaimed performance with the Boston Symphony in 1885; she was just seventeen. That year she married widower Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, a socially prominent physician and lecturer at the Harvard Medical School who was slightly older than her father. She curtailed her performing at his request and concentrated on composition.

Beach’s training as a composer, she stated, was “completely unorthodox.” It consisted mainly of digesting countless theoretical treatises in numerous languages and copying out works by Bach and Beethoven from memory. Her husband, who at one time considered a musical career, offered critical advice. Beach said later that “my husband refused to allow me to study formally, which in my earlier years I sometimes wanted to do, in the belief that such instruction would rob my work of its freedom and originality.” Nevertheless, most of her major works—a symphony, a Mass, a violin sonata, a piano concerto, choral works, a piano quintet, many songs including her most famous “The Year’s at the Spring” and “Ah Love, but a Day,” and piano works—were written during her twenty-five-year marriage.

After her husband’s death in 1910 she rekindled her performing career, beginning with a four-year sojourn in Europe where she often presented her own music. From 1914 she lived in New York City, performing during “the season,” and spending summers in New England composing. Although she achieved success both as a performer and composer, she was in many ways a victim of her family’s and society’s values. Marriage and social position were considered more important than her career. Critics of her compositions were almost always guilty of gender bias—melodic gifts, grace, and tenderness were condescendingly approved, efforts “to be masculine” were put down. It is to the credit of her independent spirit that she accomplished as much as she did, becoming a symbol of feminine achievement.

Beach’s Gaelic Symphony, the first symphony composed by an American woman, was completed in 1896 and first performed by the Boston Symphony, conducted by Emil Paur, on October 30. Received with exceptional enthusiasm and critical acclaim, it became the most widely performed symphony by any American of her generation.

Beach called it the “Gaelic” Symphony because it reflected her fascination with old Irish melodies. Dvořák had stated just before the 1893 premiere of his New World Symphony in New York that future American music should be based on Black spirituals and American Indian songs and dances. Beach said rather that: “We of the North should be more likely to be influenced by old English, Scotch, or Irish songs, inherited with our literature from our ancestors.” In turning to a collection of old Irish tunes she found that “their simple, rugged, and unpretentious beauty led me to . . . try to develop their ideas in symphonic form. The work was so fascinating that I decided to systematize it seriously, and the ‘Gaelic’ Symphony is the result. Most of the themes are actual quotations from this collection of folk music and those which are original I have tried to keep in the same idiom and spirit.”

It is curious that in an extremely long and detailed analysis of the Symphony, written for biographer Walter Jenkins, Beach named none of the Irish tunes and made only two passing references to themes of “folk-song character.” Instead she offered a blow-by blow description dealing with aspects of form, tempo, melody, instrumentation, harmony, articulation, and dynamics. The focus of the description emphasizes the importance of traditional form for the work.

The first movement indeed follows a sonata-form outline, apart from what Beach calls a “free fantasia” rather than a development section. The closing theme of the exposition (oboe), just before the “fantasia,” is one that she singled out as having Gaelic character. Other commentators have noted her reliance in this movement on one of her own songs, “Dark is the Night,” for motivic material and mood. A passage close to the end of the movement, related to material in the exposition, will reappear in the finale.

In the second movement a “siciliana”—traditionally a slow, pastoral piece in lilting compound meter, characterized by a dotted rhythmic figure—frames what Beach called “a short free prelude” in a fast tempo. The fast section contains a variation of the siciliana theme, which is developed and subjected to numerous modulations.

The slow movement, in which solo violin plays a prominent role, is based on two Irish tunes—the lullaby “Paisdin fuinne” (The lively child) of limited range, circling around its beginning note, and the ascending, mournful “Cia an bealach a deachaidh si” (Which way did she go.”) Beach said these represent “the laments of a primitive people, their romance and their dreams.” In the detailed description, however, she does not name the tunes, and emphasizes the architecture of the movement, in which the “folk-song character of the melody” only becomes clearly apparent when the strings play it as softly as possible before the “long working-out” section.

The sonata-form finale begins with the theme from near the close of the first movement. Again Beach calls the development a free fantasia, remarking that it is “comparatively short, owing to the extensive development of the themes when first presented.” The Symphony ends triumphantly in the key of E, the parallel major, “with fanfares of trumpets and trombones, surrounded by rapid fortissimo figures in the strings and full chords in the winds.”

—©Jane Vial Jaffe

Scored for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, and strings

Guest Artist

Jonathan Hulting-Cohen

Jonathan Hulting-Cohen’s performances as soloist and chamber musician have been considered “adroit” (ModernJazz.gr), “impressive,” (Schenectady Daily Gazette), and “fun to watch” (Oregon Arts Watch). From a musical family in Philadelphia, Jonathan’s early training was as a concert violinist, Irish fiddler, and classical singer. He picked up the saxophone at age twelve and continuing his classical training while studying the foundations of jazz. His early performances included a debut at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center at age seventeen performing Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto. At twenty-one he performed Luciano Berio’s Chemins IV and Roger Boutry’s Divertimento with the Philadelphia Classical Symphony.

Jonathan’s concerto engagements have also featured him with the Adrian Symphony Orchestra (Michigan) and the Sequoia Symphony Orchestra (California), as well as with the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Band, and Concert Choir. Those performances have included Kenneth Fuchs’s Rush and John Williams’s classical-jazz crossover concerto Escapades among others. In 2017 he premiered Guggenheim-winning-composer Felipe Salles’s double concerto Sagrada familia with Dutch saxophone virtuoso Arno Bornkamp. Jonathan’s world-premiere recording of Stacy Garrop’s Quicksilver with the UMass Amherst Wind Ensemble was released in 2020.

A laureate of the Classics Alive Competition and North American Saxophone Alliance Solo Competition, Jonathan was twice a finalist in the Astral Artists Competition. In 2017 he toured with Echoes of American Jazz, a program of classical works by jazz composers David Liebman, David Amram, Stephen Rush, and Jackson Berkey, which he also presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He built upon this repertoire for the following year’s tour through six commissions that connect classical aesthetics with jazz and folk. Notable among this repertoire are the jazz-influenced duet I Choose You by Rudesh Mahanthappa (seven-time Alto Saxophonist of the Year in DownBeat magazine’s International Critics’ Poll) and Annika Socolofsky’s Norwegian-folk- influenced Rise for alto saxophone and bowed piano. Innova Recordings released his album of this repertoire in 2021.

A vibrant chamber musician, Jonathan has performed at Chamber Music Northwest and at Carnegie Hall in the 21st Century Ensemble. He is cofounder of The Moanin’ Frogs, an internationally recognized saxophone sextet performing entertaining arrangements of masterpieces and new commissions. The group earned notoriety as winner of the Senior Winds Division at the 2018 M-Prize Competition. The Admiral Launch Duo, cofounded by Jonathan and harpist Jennifer Ellis, has commissioned and premiered ten new works nationwide and released its debut album, Launch, on Albany Records in 2018. Jonathan recorded the saxophone quartets of Emily Koh with the New Thread Quartet in 2020 and joined the group in 2022.

Jonathan trained at the University of Michigan under Donald Sinta. He is associate professor of saxophone at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, codirector of the New England Saxophone Festival and Competition, and cochair of the North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) Committee on Gender Equity. He endorses Conn-Selmer, D’Addario Woodwinds, and Silverstein products.