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Each year, an audition committee of professional musicians selects a few exceptional student ensembles to represent the NEC Honors Ensemble Program. The ensembles work with a faculty coach and are given an opportunity to perform a spring recital in NEC's Jordan Hall. 4racas is composed of pianists Shaoai Zhang and Nicholas Loh and percussionists Miles Salerni and Robert O'Brien. Their faculty coach is Stephen Drury.
4racas's program ranges in time from Béla Bartók's 1937 sonata—one of the composer's most-performed works in spite of its unusual instrumentation—to brand new music by Lee Weisert and fellow student Mattia C. Maurée '14 M.M., who studies with Malcolm Peyton. Maurée received a Spring 2013 Entrepreneurial Musicianship grant for her one-stop publishing resource for young composers, Printing Service.
Béla Bartók Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
Luciano Berio Linea
Mattia C. Maurée Smackity Bang Bang world premiere
Lee Weisert Worm & Wheel world premiere
Weisert: Worm & Wheel
A worm and wheel is a type of gear drive in which a screw-shaped component (the worm) meshes with a rotating wheel. The tuning pegs on some string instruments use a worm and wheel mechanism. In relation to the piece, it alludes to the many pulsing cross-rhythms and tempo modulations that form the architectural framework. Tempo ratios with integers 2-5 are used in every combination (2:3, 2:4, 2:5, 3:2, 3:4, 3:5, etc.). This scenario results in twelve sections, each defined by a metronomic pulse articulated by a distinct pitch in an ascending all-interval twelve-tone row. Within the sections, gestures and hits collide unpredictably, like decorative shrapnel peeling off a lumbering machine. The drum set part is indeterminate to some degree; rhythms are provided, but the drummer is free to articulate them however he/she prefers. – Lee Weisert
Maurée: Smackity Bang Bang
This is an intriguing instrumentation, because it has specific limits balanced with nearly unbounded timbral possibilities. While I'd been meaning to write more for percussion in general, Berio's Linea was my first encounter with this type of ensemble, and within about five seconds I was hooked. The Bartók was also an inspiration, especially in virtuosity for the percussionists. Smackity opens with varied rhythmic gestures strung together and tossed between the various keyboards. In Bang Bang, two repeated hits are slowed down and re-orchestrated, speeding up to reveal their original impetus. Three-and-a references the timber of Berio's opening, and stacks a lot of thirds without really taking the hint from the metronomic leading tones. In Four Or Or, everyone finally gets to dance, but they don't seem to be taking that hint, either. – Mattia C. Maurée
Manège (fr. roundabout) I – Entrèe (fr. entrance) I – Ensemble I - Manège II – Ensemble II - Manège III – Ensemble III - Entrèe II – Coda I – Allegro – Coda II – Ensemble IV – Notturno.
When Luciano Berio conceived Linea (meaning ‘line’ in Italian) in 1973, he envisioned “the constant transformation of a very simple melody into more complex, differentiated and independent articulations”. Passing through each of its ‘differentiated sections’, the melodic line, germinated through the vacillation of middle C# and E, undergoes a series of transformations and it frays out and twists back together, stretches and skews within the same (tempo) plane, or gets tossed about antiphonally between the four players. There are moments of transparent unison, and some of wild polyphony, but the constant ebb and flow of musical gestures always brings the melody back to its equilibrium point, only to be deconstructed once again. Dissonant chords suggest neither a tonal centre nor a harmonic relationship, but rather mimic the irrational overtones of struck percussion as the sound decays.
In the original programme notes, Berio speaks of “the implied elements” of melody, and that “these elements are not taken for granted or given by history, but have to be invented anew”. Perhaps the biggest illusion of Linea lies in its instrumentation. The very nature of how the piano and tuned percussion instruments creates sound inevitably means that there is never a true continuous ‘line’, but rather a virtual game of ‘connect the dots’ created by the ear as it processes the many individual percussive sounds to extrapolate the line within. – Nicholas Loh
Bartók: Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion
Béla Bartók was born March 25, 1881 in Nagyszentmiklós, Hungary and died September 26, 1945 in New York City. During the mid-1930s, Bartók spent a lot of his time composing chamber works and smaller pieces. Some of his works during that period included Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta; Forty-Four Duos; and Twenty Hungarian Songs for Voice and Piano. He worked in conjunction with conductor Paul Sacher, who helped premier many of these works. In 1937, Sacher commissioned Bartók to write a piece for the International Society of Chamber Music. Bartók delivered the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. It was premiered on January 16, 1938 in Basel with the composer and his wife, Ditta Pástory Bartók, at the pianos, and percussionists, Fritz Schiesser and Philipp Rühlig. The American premiere came in 1940 in New York City with the same pianists, and percussionists Saul Goodman and Henry Deneke. The instrumentation of this piece was very new to the classical world, and Bartók encompassed the versatile timbres of both the pianos and the various percussion instruments. For instance, striking the cymbal with a stick on the bell produced a different sound than if it was played on the rim.
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