Kent/Blossom Music Festival
KEITH ROBINSON AND DANNA SUNDET, Artistic Coordinators
The Kent/Blossom Music Festival program brings music students from all over the world to study chamber music and orchestral music at the highest level. Visiting master artists, members of the Cleveland Orchestra, and Kent State University faculty teach classes, coach student groups, and perform on the Faculty Series Concerts. Participants attend open rehearsals and concerts of the Cleveland Orchestra as well as the Kent/Blossom Faculty Concerts throughout the five-week festival. The music on this disc radiates the fun and eclectic nature of our concerts ― as well as the enjoyable communion of performing artists and music of varying styles.
Since the inception of Blossom Music Center in 1968, The Cleveland Orchestra has been a partner with Kent State University and its College of the Arts in developing and creating a complete environment for the arts. Over 2,250 alumni have shared the Blossom experience since 1968. Many have been propelled into major artistic positions: 20 are current members of The Cleveland Orchestra and 17 are members of the Atlanta Symphony; others are members of the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, along with the Emerson, Miami, Borromeo, Arriana, Grancino and Euclid Quartets, just to mention a few. Each summer, the Kent/Blossom Music Festival combines performance with education and joins working professionals with talented students to teach, explore, and produce great music. This important relationship between a premier performing ensemble and a public university has served as a model for other collaborations.
Sinfonia Concertante (Margi Griebling-Haigh, 2010) for two solo oboes, solo bassoon, and strings was commissioned by N. David & Sue Larky in memory of founding Kent/Blossom Music Festival faculty member and long-time principal oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra, John Mack. Mr. Larky has the distinction of being Mack’s oldest friend; their history together goes back to preschool in Somerville, New Jersey. Mr. Larky requested a work for two solo oboes and one solo bassoon. Discussion ensued about whether the oboe parts should represent “teacher & student” since Mr. Mack was one of the most renowned oboe teachers of all time, or whether the parts should be evenly matched. The latter option was chosen because many of Mack’s students have reached the top of their professions as both teachers and players. Mr. Mack was a favorite chamber music coach and champion of bassoonists as well, and this is reflected in the bassoon part. Although much of the music in the first and second movements of Sinfonia Concertante is dramatic and passionate, the final Rondo ai coniglietti (Rondo of little rabbits) is a personal nod to Mr. Mack’s playful side: more than once an intense lesson would be interrupted as he looked out his studio window and exclaimed, “Oh, look! There goes a bunny rabbit! Hippity-hop, hippity-hop!”
String Quartet No. 14 in G Major, K. 387, nicknamed the “Spring” quartet (W. A. Mozart, 1782) Mozart probably had met Haydn soon after moving to Vienna, and it is likely that the pair played together at some of the many “string quartet parties” popular in the city. Despite the difference in their ages, they delighted in each other's music. At age twenty-six, Mozart was in complete command of the range of technique and expression that his friend and dedicatee Haydn had lavished on the string quartet genre. The contrasts between diatonic writing and chromaticism, between loud and soft dynamics, between closely related and distant tonal centers, and between joie de vivre and a more introspective lyricism are features that unify the first of Mozart’s six “Haydn” quartets. Nicknamed the “Spring” quartet, the work opens with a generous melody followed by a cheerful secondary theme. The ingenious development section touches upon some of the chromatic possibilities implied earlier. Full, rich, and sophisticated, the Menuetto’s chromatic fourths are set apart by constant dynamics changes. The contrasting and rather dark Trio, in a mysterious sounding minor key, would have excited envy and admiration among Mozart’s rivals. The lyrical Andantino, in the subdominant C major, explores remote key areas. The second theme is nocturnal in color, using fluid falling triplets. The finale, with its theme of four whole notes foreshadowing the closing of the “Jupiter” Symphony six years later, is a thrilling display of spirited counterpoint.
Premiered in 2007 at Kent State University by CO5, a quintet formed by members of The Cleveland Orchestra, Phases for Woodwind Quintet (Jeffrey Rathbun, 2007) was commissioned by Daniel McKelway and the Kent Fine Arts Series. The work is divided into five movements, or "phases". Much of Phase 1 is jazzy and polytonal―its counterpart is the fourth movement, Phase 1a, which utilizes the same themes and harmonies, but is slow and romantic. Phase 2 is a gentle intermezzo, while the final movement, Phase 2a, is very fast and energetic, both movements representing different phases of the same material. The middle movement, Phase 3, stands by itself as a noisy and aggressive pantonal fanfare. In 2012 K/BMF brought this fabulous quintet to the fore on its faculty concert series and decided to record it as one of our 2012 highlights. Phases is published by Theodore Presser Company.
Alegrías (Margi Griebling-Haigh, 2009) composed for the unusual combination of accordion, oboe, strings, dumbek (middle-eastern hand drums), tambourine, and piano was written in honor of James D. Ireland III, as a surprise 60th birthday gift. Mr. Ireland’s enjoyment and interest in Sephardic music led to this choice of instrumentation. The character of the music is by turns flamboyant, playful, mysterious, brooding, ornate, and wild, but Spanish, middle-eastern, and Moorish influences can be felt throughout.