NEC Wind Ensemble + Charles Peltz: NEC Favorites

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Sometimes throwing together a meal of one’s favorite dishes is the most satisfying – nothing ties it together, each dish stands deliciously alone.  This program puts together music that has been played often here at NEC bringing great reward to the musicians and enjoyment to the audience.   Two French favorites – Baroque dance delights from the court of Louis the 14th (coached by Handel and Haydn’s world-renowned oboist Debra Nagy) is followed by a brass tour de force:  Tomasi’s passionate and reverent Fanfares. John Luther Adams' work for massed flutes was recorded to great acclaim by NEC’s Callithumpian Consort and is coached here by NEC’s own John Heiss.  Michael Tippet broke new formal and rhythmic ground with jewelry Mosaic, the first movement of his Concerto for Orchestra. New England itself claims America’s most important composer – Charles Ives.  His Decoration Day is a musical collage drawn from childhood memories of Memorial Day – the civil war veterans on parade, the horse carts, the fire wagons and of course, the marches played with more passion than accuracy by the village band.  This was the piece that caused Stravinsky to say “There is a great man living in this country – a composer……..and his name is Ives”
-- Charles Peltz

View the concert program in light mode & dark mode, recommended for in-person audiences.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here

  1. Jean-Baptiste Lully | Suite: Le Bourgeois gentilhomme

    Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs    
    Deuxième air pour les Turcs
    Troisième air
    Chaconne des scaramouches


    Program note

    In the court of Versailles during the reign of the Louis 13th and 14th, music held a place of high esteem.  Under the towering presence of Jean Baptiste Lully, musicians honed performances of grandeur and detail to rival the palace itself.  So numerous were the musical events that the musicians were divided into two now famous ensembles. The strings formed Les Vingt-quatre Violons du Roiand the winds intoLes Grand Hautbois or Douze grandhautbois du roi. These ensembles of 24 and 12 not only supplied the court with music, but their sense of ensemble, their musical discipline and their command of the French style dominated music of the time and set standards which are the foundation of today’s ensembles.
            The hautbois, made up of the strongly projecting members of the oboe and bassoon family, primarily served the ceremonies of court as well as other outdoor activities.  Marches, to which they often actually marched, were a staple of their repertoire, but they performed as well dances and other incidental music. Music from Lully’s stage work Le Bourgeois gentilhomme is featured here and includes a sampling of these marches, dances, all introduced by a quintessential French overture.
    - Charles Peltz

  2. John Luther Adams | Strange Birds Passing (1983/2003)


    Program note

    The following is excerpted from Adams’ website:

    For John Luther Adams, music is a lifelong search for home—an invitation to slow down, pay attention, and remember our place within the larger community of life on earth.

            Living for almost 40 years in northern Alaska, JLA discovered a unique musical world grounded in space, stillness, and elemental forces. In the 1970s and into the 80s, he worked full time as an environmental activist. But the time came when he felt compelled to dedicate himself entirely to music....he has become one of the most widely admired composers in the world, receiving the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy Award, and many other honors.
            …Adams brings the sense of wonder that we feel outdoors into the concert hall…he employs music as a way to reclaim our connections with place, wherever we may be.
            … If we can imagine a culture and a society in which we each feel more deeply responsible for our own place in the world, then we just may be able to bring that culture and that society into being.
            Composers have for centuries attempted to convey bird song in music.  John L. Adams has approached the task differently than Beethoven with his gilded cage birds or Messiaen with his wild ones.  One senses Adams is trying to capture the soul of being a bird – what it is to soar and circle, to move as the breeze dictates. In Strange Birds Passing, his repeated figures, using the same pitches in floating arpeggios working in easy counterpoint, are as a flock of birds whose wings flap in the same way but each in their own space.
    – David Shimoni and John Luther Adams

  3. Henri Tomasi | Fanfares liturgiques

    Apocalypse (Scherzo)
    Procession du Vendredi-Saint


    Program note

    Henri Tomasi originally wrote the Fanfares Liturgiques in 1947 to be included in his opera Don Juan de Mañara. The opera itself wasn’t premiered for another decade, but the Fanfares Liturgiques quickly became a staple of the brass ensemble repertoire. The first movement (Annonciation) opens with a true fanfare, heroic and biting. This is followed by a lyrical and nostalgic passage in the horns. The movement ends as it begins, with the same blazing fanfare. The second movement (Evangile) contains more of a mysterious and sparse landscape. Percussion, muted brass, strange trills create the backdrop for a declaratory and pious trombone solo. The movement closes with somber resignation. The third movement (Apocalypse) conjures up imagery of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, galloping ever closer with their chilling warnings. The music never lets up, rushing to the end in a blaze of virtuosic playing. The final movement (Procession du Vendredi-Saint) is the longest of the piece. It depicts a procession during Holy Week in Seville. At first we can barely hear the procession in the distance, but as the music grows in force our devoted marchers come into focus. The repeated cry reaches a screaming peak, begging from the heavens. After a beautiful, reverent chorale the movement ends once more with the exclamatory prayers of religious ecstasy.                                                          
    – Iverson Eliopoulos

    • Iverson Eliopoulos '23 MM, conductor

  5. Michael Tippett | "Mosaics" from Concerto for Orchestra


    Program note

    Michael Tippett gave both elegant music and passionate belief to post war British audiences.  A committed pacifist, defiantly refusing service in World War II, he turned his pen to eulogize war’s ravages in A Child of our Time (1939-41) which stands as his masterwork.   Scores of works fill his catalogue, many for the theater, often using engaging texts and with social politics as subtext. 
            Mosaic (1962-63) is the first movement of his Concerto for Orchestra, a three movement work that was a watershed moment for Tippett.  The dense text of his opera King Priam, which preceded the Concerto, forced Tippett to employ new, more declamatory melodic ideas and a more muscular orchestration palette. He felt at home in this new language, and so the first movement of the Concerto is much like the male-only second act of Priam: scored for the wind and brass section of the orchestra.

            Like Bach’s Goldberg Variations which introduce materials successively and then bring them together at the end of large sections, Tippett introduces small chamber groups (e.g two flutes and harp, tuba and piano) and then brings them together in polyphony at the conclusion of a section.  There are three of these large sections with three chamber groups apiece; the first two sections at a tempoprimo and the third section at a tempo secondo.  This secondo is at a one-third faster tempo (arrived at through metric modulation).  After the three introductory sections are played, then a vigorous working out ensues with all nine groupings worked out in a “mosaic” of polyphony.  The piece employs one of Tippett’s  inconclusive “non-endings”.
    - Charles Peltz

  6. Charles Ives (transcr. James Sinclair) | Charlie Rutlage


    Program note

    Charlie Rutlage is an example of Ives at his best. Originally for voice and piano, the song was part of a collection of 114 Songs which Ives published privately in 1922. The text comes from John A. Lomax’s ballad, which tells the story of a Texas ranch cowboy who is crushed when his own horse falls on him during a roundup. The piece begins with a vocal solo performed by the euphonium, which then travels around the rest of the band for a short while. In the beginning of the piece, a steady trot of hooves can be heard. As round up begins, this trot quickly turns into a panic. As the dust settles, a single trumpet announces the death of Charlie Rutlage. This eulogy is short lived – the horse is soon back to trotting away, with the storyteller wishing Charlie Rutlage to “see his loved ones beyond in eternity” set to a peaceful plagal cadence.                                  
    Jack Earnhart, ‘23 Euphonium Performance

  7. Charles Ives (transc. Jonathan Elkus) | Decoration Day, from "Holidays" Symphony

    “These…holiday movements…are but attempts to make pictures in music of common events in the lives of common people…They could be played as abstract music (giving no titles [or] program), and then they would be just like all other “abstract” things in art—one of two things: a covering up, or ignorance of…the human something at its source—or just an emasculated piece of nice embroidery!
    – Charles Ives, Memos

    Decoration Day is the second movement of Charles Ives’s A Symphony: New England Holidays.  As its title suggests, each movement depicts a particular national holiday: Washington’s Birthday, Decoration Day, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving.  Ives offers the following “postface” to the Decoration Day score:

    In the early morning the garden and woods about the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the day’s memorial.  During the forenoon, as the people join each other on the green, there is felt at times a fervency and intensity – a shadow, perhaps, of the fanatical harshness – reflecting old abolitionist days.  It is a day, Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of ‘Nature’s kinship with the lower order – man.’

    After the town hall is filled with the spring’s harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street.  First come the three marshals on plough horses (going sideways); then the warden burgesses (in carriages!!), the village cornet band, the G.A.R. two by two, and the militia (Company G), while the volunteer fire brigade, drawing the decorated hose-cart with its jangling bells, brings up the rear – the inevitable swarm of small boys following.  The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets.  The roll of muffled drums and Adeste fideles answer for the dirge.  A little girl on the fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

    After the last grave is decorated, “Taps” sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung.  Then the ranks are formed again, and we all march back to town to a Yankee stimulant – Reeves’s inspiring Second Regiment – though to many a soldier the somber thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band.  The march stops, and in the silence the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the town, and the sunset behind West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the day. 

            Decoration Day was originally scored for full orchestra.  The New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble, however, performs a 1962 concert band transcription by Jonathan Elkus of Ives’s orchestral score, published in 1978.  The piece begins with just a whisper of a motive that hints at the Adeste Fideles material, which returns in a fuller statement in the second section.  Ives cleverly has this introductory motive give way to a five-note motive made up of three whole steps.  The gesture is stated first in the flugelhorn (in Elkus’s arrangement) and then developed and embellished throughout the entire first section.  In his 1987 critical edition of the orchestral score, James Sinclair notes that this motive could be a quotation from “a now-forgotten song perhaps relating to the gathering of flowers… in Ives’s scenario.”

             The second section of the piece begins with the Adeste Fideles theme heard in the brass.  The music moves through several other fragmentary quotations of hymns, marches, and patriotic songs, including Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground in the euphonium and The Battle Cry of Freedom in the flutes.  A solemn and distant setting of “Taps” leads into the third section, the Reeves Second Regiment Connecticut March, which held particular significance for Ives from his boyhood through the end of his life.  Ives quotes the march in the final strain of Holiday Quickstep, his earliest surviving instrumental piece.  In Memos he cites the march as being “as good a march as Sousa or Schubert ever wrote, if not better!”  In his Essays Before a Sonata (1920), Ives writes passionately of the effects of the march on him:

    “In the early morning of a Memorial Day, a boy is awakened by martial music…[As] the strains of Reeves’s majestic Seventh [sic] Regiment March come nearer and nearer…he seems of a sudden translated—a moment of vivid power comes, a consciousness of material nobility—an exultant something gleaming with the possibilities of this life—an assurance that nothing is impossible, and that the whole world lies at his feet.”

    The piece ends much as it began with the five-note “flower song” motive (this time in the alto saxophone), disappearing in a whisper.                                            
    – Darryl Harper

    The music of Charles Edward Ives (1874-1954) is a collage of sonic illustrations, preserving myriad musical portraits of American life at the turn of the 20th century. Ives was introduced to music at a young age – his father was a Civil War and later town bandleader and music director at a local church.  As an example of his father’s unusual musical training of Charles: He would sit down a young Charles during storms to create a musical portrait of the thunder rumbling from above or having Charlie sing a song in one key while George played it on the piano in another. For Ives, the idea of creating a collage of memories is what drove his artistic process: his works are living nostalgia.