About this Recording
8.559743 - ADLER, S.: Cantos III, VI A, X, XVI, XIX and XXI / Close Encounters / 5 Snapshots (Fulmer, Kelly, Eldan, Muroki, Iznaola, June Han)

Samuel Adler (b. 1928)
Cantos • Close Encounters • Five Snapshots


In 1970 four of my trumpet playing colleagues at the Eastman School of Music, where I was teaching at the time, asked me if I would write them some solo pieces which they could perform on their recitals. They suggested concert etudes. Having been a student of Paul Hindemith who wrote a sonata for every possible instrument in the orchestra and beyond, I decided to take up my colleagues’ challenge and try to write concert etudes for them and after that for as many instruments as I could. As a result, I have written 21 such works for as many instruments between 1979 and 2009. On this recording I am delighted to present all the works for string instruments. I decided to call the entire set Cantos, and except for No 5 which is for voice, flute, cello and three percussionists, all the other Cantos are for single instruments.

Canto III

Canto III was written at the request of my good friend, the great violinist, Zvi Zeitlin to whom it is dedicated and who performed the première of the work. It is in one continuous movement beginning with a slow introduction followed by a portion marked ‘Quite fast and with great rhythmic excitement’. A variation of the first lyrical part follows and then a variation of the ‘fast’ movements ends the work. As in all the Cantos, I have tried to show the great possibilities of the instruments as well as the instrumentalist always trying to show the wonderful range of expression produced on the instrument by a fantastic artist.

Canto XVI

In the year 2000 the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra commissioned me to write a Viola Concerto for its principal violist Randolph Kelly. After his wonderful performance and subsequent recording of that work, he asked me if I would write him a solo viola piece for the many recitals he gives. I obliged with Canto XVI. This Canto is also in one continuous movement, but it has only two sections. A lyrical and quite nostalgic part opens the piece and is followed by a rigorous, driving fast movement. The fast movement is a kind of variation of the gestures of the first slow part but has a character all its own. This vigorous section closes the work in bravura style.

Canto X

After performing several of my chamber works with his quartet, the cellist David Crowley approached me to write him a solo cello work. Since I had already begun to flesh out my Canto series I wrote him the tenth of the pieces. This is a rather ‘moody piece’, again in one continuous movement. I call it ‘moody’ because it goes back and forth between slow pensive parts and fast energetic sections. In all there are five short episodes: 1. Slowly and expressively, 2. Just a bit faster, 3. Fast and constantly driving forward, 4. Slow – Fast – Slow, 5. A longer variation of the first fast sections ends the work brilliantly.

Close Encounters

Taking a break between Cantos is a duet for violin and cello commissioned by the violinist Joseph Swenson on the occasion of his wedding to the cellist Elizabeth Anderson. I felt this was a good work to have a broad meditation on love. The work is in three short movements. The first is to reflect the excitement of falling in love and the ecstatic feeling from being together and experiencing the ‘high’ resulting from these experiences. The second movement is a contrast to this and tries to depict quiet, intense feelings of love, followed by a final movement of the excitement at the wedding and the optimistic sensations hoping for a most rewarding future.

Canto VIA

Early in the 1970s, I wrote a Canto (VI) dedicated to my friend and colleague Oscar Zimmerman, the principle double bassist of the Rochester Philharmonic and professor of double bass at the Eastman School of Music. It was a wild and strange theater piece. Many years later when his successor JB Vandermark asked me to write another piece for solo bass which he could use as an encore, I wrote Canto VIA. This work is a kind of pastiche beginning with one of the most ‘rehearsed’ double bass passages in the double bass repertory, the passage from the opening of the trio section of the third movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. After stating it in a variety of ways other Beethoven themes are eluded to, and the entire piece becomes a fun filled romp on all these little Beethoven gestures. I have always felt this was a good and humorous way for a double bass recital to end.

Canto XIX

Whenever I write any work for a particular performer, I try to listen to his/her performance and the quality as well as to the personality it presents to me. I have heard Ricardo Iznaola perform for many years now live at the Bowdoin international Music Festival as well on his many fine recordings. So, when he asked me to write a work for him, his musical personality and our great friendship contributed to my thinking when composing this solo guitar Canto. It is in one movement and from beginning to end is of an optimistic and dance-like nature which I have always felt were the strengths of Ricardo’s performances. There are moments of lyricism, which are then again offset by vigorous figures sometimes related to the nature of Spanish dances. This is of course also in Dr Iznaola’s background since he was very much influenced by Spanish culture when he studied in Spain.

Canto XXI

The final Canto in this series is the one for solo harp written for two of my very favorite harpists, Bridgit Kibbey and June Han. I have always loved chants especially biblical chants and wanted to base this Canto on an original chant but influenced by the many religious chants I love. I also felt that we often associate the harp with King David and therefore the chant would certainly be appropriate. After a short introductory phrase, the chant is introduced and in some way or other runs through the entire four-minute work with many variations. Towards the end of the piece the chant returns in almost its original form and is followed by a short but vigorous coda recalling the beginning introduction.

Five Snapshots, a Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello

A few years ago I was commissioned by the Deutsches Streich Trio to compose a work for them. They were all members of the famous Bavarian Symphony Orchestra. They sent me several CDs which they had recorded through the years and hearing the excellence of their performance I was happy to fulfill their request. My frequent visits to Europe, especially Germany, influenced this work since I wanted to record some of my impressions of the natural beauty I always experience when traveling abroad. There are five short movements to this work each recalling some kind of a nature scene. I want to emphasize that the impressions are of a general nature rather than a particular place or occasion. The first snapshot is of a dense forest scene with the wind blowing furiously through the trees, yet that there is nothing ever symmetrical about the movement of the vegetation. The second and fourth snapshots are of two pastoral scenes, quiet and relaxed, which I often encounter when I go into the countryside during the summer. The third and fifth snapshots are the excitement which I feel visiting waterfalls as well as teeming cities all over the world.

Samuel Adler

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