Rooted in Oakland

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Overture to The Barber of Seville

In 1816 Rossini signed a contract to provide an opera for carnival season in Rome. After one libretto–and librettist–was rejected, Cesare Sterbini was selected. He suggested Beaumarchais’s The Barber of Seville, which Giovanni Paisiello had already set as an opera in 1782.

To avoid undue comparisons, a pre-performance libretto was issued, with a note explaining that the opera was to be titled Almaviva or the Useless Precaution, “in order that the public may be fully convinced of the sentiments of respect and veneration by which the composer of the music of this drama is animated with regard to the celebrated Paisiello, who has already treated the subject under its original title.”

Rossini wrote the entire opera in less than three weeks. Armed with the requisite disclaimers, “I believed myself sheltered from criticism by his (Paisiello’s) friends and legitimate admirers. I was wrong! On the appearance of my opera, they rushed like wild beasts upon the beardless little maestro, and the first performance was one of the most tempestuous. I, however, was not troubled, and while the audience whistled, I applauded my performers.”

That performance, on February 20, 1816, was plagued by bad luck. In the first act, a string broke on Almaviva’s guitar as he serenaded Rosina. Basilio tripped over a trap-door and nearly broke his nose. Later, a cat appeared on stage, eluded the singers and finally disappeared under Rosina’s skirt. All of this produced, according to an eyewitness, “an abominable hubbub” in the audience. The second act was virtually inaudible.

The Overture played at the first performance is not the one we know today. Somewhere between Rome and Bologna–where the opera was staged the following August–the music was lost. Rossini substituted an overture he had written in 1813 for Aurelia in Palmyra. He then used the same overture for Elizabeth, Queen of England two years later.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Symphony No. 5 in B flat major, D. 485

The Fifth Symphony was completed on October 5, 1816 and probably performed shortly thereafter by an amateur orchestra that met twice a week at violinist Otto Hatwig’s house in Vienna. According to Schubert’s friend Leopold Sonnleithner, the orchestra’s members included merchants, tradesmen and minor officials. They had practiced enough to handle most Mozart and Haydn symphonies, as well as the first two symphonies of Beethoven. Schubert played viola in the orchestra.

The first performance by a professional orchestra had to wait until some forty-five years after Schubert’s death. Two Englishmen–George Grove (later of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians) and Arthur Sullivan (later of Gilbert and Sullivan)–had tracked down the long-lost score in the 1860s. They then convinced Sir August Manns to conduct the work at the Crystal Palace on February 1, 1873.

Alfred Einstein places the Symphony in the tradition of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. “The only remaining reminiscence of Beethoven,” he writes, “is the four-bar ‘curtain’ in the first movement, but this time it rises quietly…. The dynamics are pre-Beethoven. The Andante con moto hovers between Haydn and Mozart…. The Minuet is so Mozartian that it would fall into place quite naturally in the G minor Symphony. The Finale, on the other hand, is once again pure Haydn…. From the point of view of form the Finale is perhaps the purest, most polished, and most balanced piece of instrumental music that Schubert had yet written.”

The Symphony is sometimes called the “Symphony without Trumpets and Drums” presumably because Hatwig’s orchestra lacked those instruments.

George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898): Overture to Rip van Winkle

Born in Brooklyn, Bristow was named after George Frederick Handel. At the age of five he began music lessons with his father, a pianist, clarinetist and conductor. The plan was that “he might have a son who should also become a musician and a great one.”

Bristow made his first public appearance as a pianist at the age of nine. At seventeen, he was hired as a violinist in the New York Philharmonic Society Orchestra. He remained until 1879, and was concertmaster from 1850-1853. He also taught music in the New York public schools, and conducted two choral groups, the New York Harmonic Society and the Mendelssohn Union.

Bristow was a tireless promoter of American symphonic music. In 1854, he and fellow composer William Henry Fry protested the New York Philharmonic Society’s sparse programming of American works. They noted the numerous German musicians in the country’s orchestras, and accused them of “little short of a conspiracy against the Art of a country to which they have come for a living.”

Bristow composed 135 works, including five symphonies, an opera, two oratorios, two cantatas, four concert overtures, and numerous shorter works scored for various small ensembles.

His opera, Rip van Winkle, with a libretto by Jonathan Wainwright based on Washington Irving’s story, was first performed at Niblo’s Garden in New York on September 27, 1855. According to one account, “the capacity of the house was taxed from pit to dome, and enthusiasm was riotous…. Both press and public dared and were delighted to lend patronage and encouragement to the composer of their own nationality.”

Some regard Rip van Winkle as the second American opera (after William Henry Fry’s Leonora), and the first opera on an American subject. After the premiere, the correspondent for Dwight’s Journal wrote: “The composer evidently aimed at producing a popular, and not a classical work. The melodies are light, resembling those of Auber…. However the sincere devotee to Art may regard this popular success, still as a believer in the English opera yet to come, I rejoice even at the production of works like this, because the public will learn in time that all inspiration was not given to the Italian and Teutonic races.”

~Program Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2018.

Kev Choice (b. 1975): Soul Restoration Suite

Soul Restoration Suite is Kev Choice’s revival, rejuvenation, re-establishment, and transformation. Choice set out to blend influences from classical music composers such as Ravel and Rachmaninoff with elements of Hip-Hop production from greats such as Jay Dilla, Kanye West, Neptunes, and Dr. Dre. Add in some Soul/Funk artist such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Marvin Gaye, and hints of 80’s and 90’s R&B and nods to trap music of today.

“I see a need of restoration within myself, in my community, and in the world. A renewal to commitment of our values, or culture, our spirit, and our soul.”

Many composers have used the term suite such as Bach, Massenet, and Tchaikovsky. While not adhering strictly to classical form, Choice’s suite is by definition, a set of short pieces. Some are instrumental featuring Choice on piano, while others feature Choice on vocals as an M.C. along with his Ensemble and OSA High School Vocal Department.

Overture – opening  prelude with a grandioso piano intro and cadenza

Humble Beginnings – lyrical tale of growing up in Oakland, travelling the world, and staying the course through struggles in life as an artist in modern day Oakland

Song for Huey – an instrumental piece representing the love of the people, the community, and the ideology of Oakland legendary revolutionary Huey P. Newton.

Hommage a instrumental tribute featuring excerpts of some of the greatest Hip-Hop songs in Oakland history from artist such as Too Short, Dru Down, The Luniz, 3xKrazy, Digital Underground, The Coup, Richie Rich, Souls Of Mischief, Mistah F.A.B., Goapele, and  Saafir.

The Greatest – a medley of some of Kev Choice’s greatest hits from his 5 albums including songs Feel The Love, The Greatest, That Life, I Don’t Walk, I Fly.

~ Notes by Kev Choice, Copyright 2018