Love & Loss


Jonah M. Gallagher (b. 1993)

From primal rhythms to soulful harmonies, Vocare explores the beauty and extremes of the string orchestra.  String instruments are often considered to have a more refined sound palette than the more colorful woodwinds or brass, but in fact they possess a world of astonishing sonorities.

The first movement, Tenacious Endeavors, uses all manner of percussive sounds to build organic, visceral rhythms that build in a primal and possessed manner. In stark contrast, the second movement – An Honest Prayer – uses more sustained lyrical textures to explore the tune from the  hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.”  Echoes of Dance closed the pieces with echoes and fragments of imagined ancient dances.

From the Latin word “to call,” vocare is the root of many words such as evoke, provoke, and evoke – and the piece seeks to use a wide variety of sounds to impact the listener.  Vocare came about after a dear friend and mentor of mine finally lost his battle with cancer. He never gave up on me and was willing to have hard conversations about the important things in life. This piece is for him.

~Program Notes by Jonah M. Gallagher

Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

The G minor Symphony was the second of three symphonies that Mozart wrote in the space of just two months during the summer of 1788. It was finished on July 25.

We have only speculation about why Mozart wrote these works and whether any of them were performed during Mozart’s lifetime. They may have appeared on programs in Leipzig in May, 1789, or at a pair of concerts at the court theatre in Vienna conducted by Antonio Salieri in April, 1791. On the latter occasion, the brothers Anton and Johann Stadler played solo clarinets, a fact which leads some to infer that the G minor Symphony was the “Grand Symphony” on the program, since Mozart did revise the score to include two clarinets.

A great deal has been written about the G minor Symphony, much of it nonsense, some of it useful. A French critic in 1828 called it “one of the very finest productions of the human mind.” About twenty years later, a Russian commentator wrote: “I doubt if there exists in all music anything more deeply incisive, more cruelly anguished, more violently distracted, more agonizingly passionate than the second half of the finale.”

Most of the Romantics seem to miss the point. Berlioz called the work “that model of delicacy and naïveté.” Schumann found in it “Grecian lightness and grace.”

In his book The Classical Style, Charles Rosen wrote in 1972: “The limit of dramatic complexity in a classical finale is reached with Mozart’s G minor symphony: despairing and impassioned, it is also rhythmically one of the simplest and squarest pieces that Mozart ever wrote.”

Stabat Mater

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

After the production of William Tell in 1829, Rossini wrote no more operas. During a visit to Spain two years later, he reluctantly accepted a commission to write a Stabat Mater for the archdeacon of Madrid, Don Manuel Fernandez Varela. Rossini feared comparisons with Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, and stipulated that Varela retain sole possession of the score and never allow publication.

The text dates from the 13th century and is attributed to Jacopone da Todi. It has twelve sections. Rossini set six of them before a severe attack of lumbago forced him to bring in his friend Giovanni Tadolini to finish the work. The Rossini-Tadolini Stabat Mater was duly introduced in Madrid in 1833.

When Varela died in 1837, the score fell into the hands of the publisher Antoine Aulagnier, who wrote to Rossini regarding possible publication. Rossini replied that “if my Stabat Mater should be published without my authorization, whether in France or abroad, my very firm intention is to pursue the publisher to death.” Rossini contracted with Eugene Troupenas to publish the Stabat Mater. There were lawsuits and counter-lawsuits. In the end, Rossini won.

Meanwhile, he set to work finishing the remainder of the Stabat Mater, contracting Tadolini’s six sections into four. “I am searching for motives, and all that comes into my mind is pastries, truffles, and such things,” he complained.

The first performance of the all-Rossini Stabat Mater took place in Paris on January 7, 1842. “Rossini’s name was shouted out amid the applause,” said one account, “the entire work transported the audience; the triumph was complete…. The audience left the theater moved and seized by an admiration that quickly won all Paris.”

The Italian premiere was entrusted to Gaetano Donizetti, “the only maestro in Italy who knows how to conduct my Stabat as I wish it,” according to Rossini. There were three concerts in Bologna in March, 1842. After the last, said a friend of the composer, “Rossini was able to respond to the summons of those applauding, enter the hall, and go out onto the platform, where he embraced and kissed Donizetti, to whom, if he could, he meant to attribute a large part of the good success of the Stabat. In the meantime, the people in the piazza were shouting for Rossini.”

~Program Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2017