Tchaik 5 & Brothers in Arts – Nov 7, 2014

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64

“In the summer I shall certainly write a symphony,” wrote Tchaikovsky to his brother Modeste in 1888. This was the first mention of what would become his Fifth Symphony. As early as May of that year, he complained: “To tell the truth, at present I’ve no inclination at all to create. Have I really finally used myself up? But I hope that little by little materials for a symphony will accumulate.”

Despite the composer’s doubts about his inspiration, the Fifth Symphony was finished in August. It was first performed on November 17, 1888, at a concert of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society, with Tchaikovsky conducting.

Tchaikovsky never revealed a program for the Fifth Symphony, but Nicolas Slonimsky discovered the following note among Tchaikovsky’s sketchbooks: “Introduction. Complete resignation before Fate, or, which is the same, before the inscrutable predestination of Providence. Allegro (I) Murmurs, doubts, plaints, reproaches against XXX…. II. Shall I throw myself in the embraces of faith???” What this note means is the subject of some speculation. “Whether or not XXX refers to an actual person,” writes John Warrack, “it seems certain that Tchaikovsky is alluding to his central emotional problem, his homosexuality.”

The Symphony begins with a slow introduction, whose theme acts as a motto in the other three movements. Biographer Edwin Evans writes: “The slow movement is a perfect poem, and more than one writer has professed to find here the finest symphonic movement Tchaikovsky has bequeathed us. The waltz, which takes the place of the scherzo, is also a triumph.” In the finale, according to Ernest Newman, “the motto phrase, which has appeared like a sinister intruder, an unwelcome guest at the musical feast, emerges as the chief thematic factor, not only of the introduction to the Finale, but of the whole movement.”

~ Notes by Charley Samson, copyright 2014.

Chris Brubeck & Guillaume Saint-James
Brothers in Arts: 70 Years of Liberty (West Coast Premiere)
New work for Jazz Quintet & Orchestra

The idea for Brothers in Arts: 70 Years of Liberty originated in Rennes, France, when Chris Brubeck and the French saxophonist/composer Guillaume Saint-James met during a performance with the Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne in October, 2012.  During a school concert, the two composers spoke to the children about why they had become jazz musicians. They discovered that they had two things in common. First, they both came to jazz through their fathers – Dave Brubeck, the jazz icon, and Alain Saint-James, a country doctor and amateur jazz musician in post-war France.  More importantly, they found out that their fathers had a shared history – the liberation of France by Allied troops in 1944.  Dave was a soldier in Patton’s Army and Alain was saved by Allied doctors on June 7, 1944, during the Normandy landing.

Chris and Guillaume decided to write a work together in homage to their fathers and to all those who fought for freedom 70 years ago.  This new piece salutes the friendship and partnership between France and America.  Brothers in Arts is a play on “brothers in arms,” and celebrates the fathers who lived through the war and helped create a new world where their sons could become brothers in arts.  The work runs the gamut of the emotions of 1944 – the French people’s and the American soldiers’ struggles, the battles, the elation of victory, liberation and the need for reconciliation.

The work, for symphony orchestra and jazz quintet, has eight “movements,” although some movements are made up of multiple parts.  Brubeck and Saint-James each composed separate movements, borrowed themes from each other, and collaborated on orchestration and musical architecture. The addition of button accordion in the quintet offers a unique texture which gives the piece a “French accent.”

Brothers’ first movement, “Wave of Tranquility,” starts with a theme composed by Saint-James reflecting the calm of Normandy beaches before the war. You will hear the sounds and rhythms of waves and the beautiful countryside, represented by an inviting melody. The second movement, by Chris, “Dave Brubeck, American Cowboy,” represents his father, the young musician and California cowboy, dreaming of the future.  In this section you will hear his influences, ranging from Classical to Ragtime, and from Ellington to Stravinsky-inspired riffs and rhythms. The music starts out with simple and wide-open voicings but, just as the world grew more complicated and sinister with war looming in Europe, the music evolves into a more violent and complicated style. This section flows without a break into Guillaume’s composition, “Red Sand,” which depicts the invasion of Normandy and lays out the ominous war themes heard throughout the piece.

Movement 3, “D-Day March to Freedom,” starts reverently as Brubeck imagined the troops marching through the shelled villages of Normandy, which had been battered and bombed when the Allies conquered the retreating Germans.  Eventually this section takes on a distinctly American style, from the marches of John Philip Sousa to the joyous sounds of New Orleans.

Movement 4, “Liberty Waltz,” is Guillaume’s portrayal of the French in a highly celebratory mode. It is an animated and charming fast waltz that gets a little surreal as the French people, in their exuberance, enter into a state of euphoria brought on by their liberation and libations.

In a sober response to the French celebration, movement 5 moves directly into Dave Brubeck’s true WWII story. Three days before the Battle of the Bulge, he was stationed near the front when a truck with three USO girls showed up to sing for the troops. They asked if anybody could play the piano for them and Dave volunteered. His performance saved him from one of the most horrible battles of the war, since the commanding officer asked Dave to form a band. That band was called the Wolf Pack and was the first racially integrated ensemble in Army history. This story is told with the jubilant “Wolf Pack Boogie,” complete with three USO singers. The next part of this movement is “The Battle of the Bulge.”  The war theme returns, even more frenzied and desperate, ending with drum breaks and apocalyptic chords in the brass.

“Hymn,” by Guillaume, is music representing more positive times as Spring arrives in 1945 and the end of the war is coming.  The ardent prayer for a lasting peace is reflected in the uplifting melodic sense of this 6th movement.

While much of the musical language of “Brothers in Arts” makes a reference to the musical sounds and styles of World War II, “Song of the Sons” (movement 7), was included to be a section where Guillaume and Chris could play more modern jazz that featured the jazz quintet.  The music represents the kind of world our parents left us, both open and free, because of the courage displayed by their generation in the 1940’s.

The 8th and last movement is called “Epilogue,” and it revisits the melody of “Wave of Tranquility.” Overlooking the Normandy beaches today, monuments to Americans, British, Canadians, French Resistance and all Allied Forces repose on green lawns high above the cliffs.  In this movement a lone trumpeter plays taps, the musicians of the orchestra call out in many languages in hushed tones through the sounds of the orchestra, “never again,” “we are brothers,” “vive la liberté.”  A church bell tolls through the French countryside – it is a hymn to peace.

~ Brothers in Arts Notes by Chris Brubeck.