PROGRAM NOTES (by the composers)
Buffing the Gut(1995)
Buffing the Gut was commissioned in 1995 by Buffi Jacobs, then an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina studying cello with Robert Jesselson. I was a doctoral Teaching Assistant, studying with Dick Goodwin, and Buffi was in my Sight Singing class. One day she asked if I’d write a piece for her senior recital. A relative would get that for her as a graduation gift, and so we sat down together to explore ideas. I recall asking, “what do you like to do on cello when you are just messing around and having fun?” Her eyes widened she played some “rock guitar licks” that I then embellished and used in the piece. We had a fun time collaborating on the first draft, which Dick helped me refine and Robert expertly edited. It is no surprise that in addition to her professional “classical” career, Buffi has been a long-time member of the acclaimed rock group, The Polyphonic Spree. My title was inspired by Buffi’s name and the image of a cellist bowing so ferociously that the strings on the cello smolder and appear buffed. I ask you to imagine a cellist alone in an empty concert hall after a concert, playing for the sheer joy of playing.
Two Movement Sonata (2011)
The first movement of the Sonata, Rondeau, begins as a five part rondo i.e. A, B, A, C, A. That pattern is then repeated in ever shorter statements. The reduction in the length of each part is roughly equivalent to the proportions of the Fibonacci Series. This process continues to a point about four minutes and a few seconds into the piece. Then it goes in reverse to expand each part to the end. The second movement, Scherzo Canonico, recalls lines and textures from the first movement in a scherzo, trio, scherzo form. The scherzos are round canons at the unison and the trio, a cancrizans canon. The Sonata seeks to tell no story nor to reveal any deep spiritual truth. It is a piece of abstract music. It is what it is. Here end the program notes for a piece which has no program.
Samuel O. Douglas
Lilies, as a flower, are thought to symbolize purity and a return to innocence. In that spirit, “Lilies” is a reflective and gentle vocalise for cello and piano. The work is in three, expansive sections. The opening features a long, lyrical cello line over a slowly rocking bass in the piano. This gives way to a more restless, searching middle section, which in turn leads back to an altered version of the original melodic material, and a quiet, if somewhat mysterious, resolution. "Lilies" was commissioned by the Jesselson/Fugo Duo in 2011, and is dedicated in memory of John McElyea.
John Fitz Rogers
The German novelist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) once said that architecture is “frozen music.” In architecture, a frieze refers to a horizontal band of decorative images found along the top of a wall that are typically a set of variations on a single theme. Written for cellist Bob Jesselson and pianist Charles Fugo on the thirtieth anniversary of the Jesselson/Fugo Duo, Frieze (2011) explores musical analogues of mathematical frieze groups, symmetric line patterns on a two-dimensional surface that infinitely repeat in a single direction. These types of patterns are mapped onto the pitch and time domains to create the musical ideas that form the basis of the work. The titles of the seven movements are double entendres, terms with very precise meanings in mathematical music theory that have very different meanings outside of music. For example the second movement, titled “Mosaic,” refers to a design made from small pieces of colored tile or stone in art, whereas in twelve-tone music it refers to a way to partition the aggregate into subsets.
Dr. Reginald Bain
In Memoriam (September 11, 2001)
I wrote these sketches while watching the horror of the attacks of September 11, 2001: the collapse of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon, the plane-crash in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have a piece in mind, or consciously set out to write one. But the sketches seemed to belong together, afterwards, and to fit the solo cello.* It was my way of holding each other in our loss. It reflects my sadness, our collective sadness-- the loss of loved ones, looking for survivors, not finding. Hoping it isn’t true, disbelief...it is true. The slow motion collapse of the towers--with that collapse, all of our losses, our national sense of invulnerability gone…humility, interdependence, prayer.
*Originally for solo cello. Subsequent versions for violin solo (commissioned by Gregory Harrington), violin and cello duo, violin and bass clarinet duo, clarinet solo, clarinet and bass clarinet duo, clarinet and cello duo (arr. By Suzanne Mueller). Also available for solo cello with string ensemble (9 players: 3 2 2 1 1) or string orchestra, and for solo cello with cello ensemble (6 celli, arranged by Mirel Iancovici). Published by Kol Meira Publications (ASCAP), 3526 Boundbrook Lane, Columbia, SC 29206, USA.
Yizkor (Remember) (2009)
Mourning can be both private and public. When we visit a grave or observe the anniversary of a person's death, we generally do so in private. "Yizkor" (which is Hebrew for "Remember") is a prayer for the public observance for the community of bereaved. These two movements are the last two movements of a three movement work called "Yizkor". I had written a one movement piece for cello solo by that name in 2001 after the horrific events of 9/11.
The cello was the solo voice that cries, the solo voice that is heard no more. In 2009 I felt that the piece needed more, so I added the two movements included in this album as further amplification of that feeling. These second and third movements of Yizkor are included on this CD to reflect the afterthought, or aftershock, that follows an emotional loss. The second movement depicts the frantic and frenetic feeling that follows such a shock. That is why I used a figure of two sixteenth notes at the beginning of every measure. The third movement has a descending legato melodic mirroring an ascending line in the first movement. This last movement is the afterthought, and the solemn feeling we have when remembering. With my background in composition combined with film scoring, I tend to see music more as an underscore, be it to a film, or to our lives. From my perspective as a songwriter I also feel strongly about the human voice and the power of song.
Dessau Dances (2011)
There is a famous German dance hall outside of Austin, Texas – well, really outside of Pflugerville, TX to be more precise -- that dates back to 1876. For decades Dessau Hall hosted about every major traveling music act … from polka bands to the dance orchestras of Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw and Stan Kenton, to country artists like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and Willie Nelson. Even Elvis Presley played there several times. Programs were often broadcast over KTBC which was owned by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson and his wife Lady Bird. I recall performing at Dessau Hall with different territory bands … and remember that there was a big oak tree growing out of the dance floor and up through the roof.
I thought that it would be fun to abstract rhythms from three popular dances that we were always asked to play at Dessau Hall -- a schottische, a waltz and a polka. The evenings also featured promenades -- little marches that would stop abruptly providing a kind of musical chairs to identify the next dance partner. So I decided that Dessau Dances needed a promenade theme to open the set and tie each of the movements together.
Gordon (Dick) Goodwin
Duet for Cello and Piano (2011)
Program notes in the classical music tradition provide historical and background information on the piece, the composer, giving the audience tips for what to expect when listening to the work. Program notes in the jazz world go like this: tell a bad joke or two, remind people to tip the waitresses, and then count off the tune.
The duet is in three parts: Radio in Frame, a transition, and Vines. The piece is tonal in that the music is centered around key areas, but those key areas keep shifting. That search for the central key area may drive the piece. It borrows harmonic, melodic and formal language from jazz. Since the piece celebrates the thirty year partnership, both instruments share the accompaniment and melodic roles.
The cello begins the transition to Vines, which the piano echoes, all pieces of themes to be developed later. Vines climb and trail, are not as restricted to form, with tendrils reaching out in any direction, but in the end, vines appear logical and organic. Vines decides on the key of C minor in a funky waltz ostinato. It remains a waltz, but often suggests other meters. The funky ostinato bass line returns a few times, and toward the end, becomes the primary melodic line on top. The piano and cello crescendo to an ending, the piano plays one last bell-like statement of the transition theme before one last delicate chord that may suggest a new tendril growth reaching out. Please enjoy, and don’t forget to tip your waitress.
At the Marion Opera House (2012)
The first performance presented by the Jesselson/Fugo Duo was in October 1981 in Marion, SC at the Marion Opera House. Similar to other buildings of the age throughout SC and the south built with the same moniker, this functional two story brick classical revival structure in downtown Marion was more of a municipal activity center than it was an opera house. As it did the year it opened in 1892, this facility has annually hosted as many criminals as music performances, as many bakery and butcher shop customers as operas, and served as many community citizens stricken by home fires as it has patrons of theatre and visual art openings. While its modern manifestation is a civic center where meetings and auditoria events are held, it has served a great variety of common good capacities over the decades.
I was so struck by the analog between impact that the Jesselson/Fugo Duo has had on music audiences over their 30 year history and the impact that the Opera House as had on Marion County's citizens for 120 years, that I decided to let my impressions of the place impact and influence my own conception of the work these fellows asked me to write for them celebrating their 30th anniversary. So, each of the work's three movements has a very specific former public use of the Opera House as its title and inspiration.
For a number of years a very important civic event in Marion was held at the House--The Pink Tea. It was at the pink tea that Marion selected its annual participants who would be sent to represent the community at a debutante fashion event in New York City. The first movement of my new duo for Bob and Charles is inspired by the formality and etiquette for which this tea was locally famous. Early in the Opera House's history a part of the main floor was devoted to an almost old-west-style courtroom and jail. Persons accused of every conceivable crime were tried in this courtroom and many of them served time in its long-gone jail cell behind the "bench." A lament for the Duo, both laconic and sarcastic, is the a result of my imagining what such an occurrence might have been like in this portion of the Opera House. Marioners tell me that the firehouse that was also in a part of the ground floor saved many a burning building in Marion in the early years of the 20th century, and what better way to capture the madhouse of volunteers rushing to a town blaze from the old-fashioned fire station than with a circus march. The Duo presents the march, complete with a few surprises, to close the piece as its third movement.