About this Recording
8.559763 - BROUWER, M.: Chamber Music - Shattered Glass / Lonely Lake / Clarinet Quintet (Shattered) (Blue Streak Ensemble, Maia String Quartet)

Margaret Brouwer (b. 1940)
Shattered Glass • Quintet for Clarinet in A and String Quartet • Whom do you call angel now? • Lonely Lake • Arrangements for Blue Streak Ensemble


The award-winning composer Margaret Brouwer has earned critical accolades for her music’s lyricism, musical imagery and emotional power. Brouwer is continually in demand for new works, and recent commissions have come from the Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, American Pianists Association, CityMusic Cleveland Chamber Orchestra, and the American Composer’s Orchestra. Other performances of her works have included the Seattle Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Tanglewood and Cabrillo Music Festivals and in venues including Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Severance Hall and more. Recent performances include the premieres of Caution Ahead – Guard Rail Out, commissioned and performed by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Arild Remmereit conducting; Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, commissioned and performed by the Dallas Symphony, Ellen Rose, solo violist; and Path at Sunrise, Masses of Flowers commissioned and performed by the Cleveland Women’s Symphony. Brouwer was a composer-in-residence at the 2011 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music where Marin Alsop led the Festival Orchestra in a performance of Brouwer’s Pulse. Prelude and Toccata for solo piano was commissioned by the American Pianists Association for the final round of APA’s 2013 Classical Fellowship Awards competition.

Brouwer is professor emeritus at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she served as head of the composition department from 1996 to 2008. She is a recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2006), Guggenheim Fellowship (2004), Meet The Composer Commissioning/USA award (2010), and Ohio Council for the Arts Individual Fellowship (2005). Residencies include those at the MacDowell Colony, Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. In addition to Naxos, recordings of Margaret Brouwer’s music can be found on New World, CRI, Crystal and Centaur labels.

Shattered moves through shifts of emotions and energy levels reflecting my musical journey through the first decade of the twenty-first century. As an undergraduate Junior at Oberlin Conservatory and while preparing for Oberlin’s year abroad in Salzburg, Austria, studying at the Mozarteum, I attended many seminars on how not to be “ugly Americans”. This had a lasting effect on me. Consequently, when the US invaded Iraq in 2003 and we were behaving like ugly Americans in so many ways, I was consumed with anger and frustration, which is expressed in the Clarinet Quintet and in the song that follows on this recording. Along with the tumultuous first and last movements of the Quintet, the second movement expresses the shock and sadness of the September 11th attack. In contrast, in 2008, hope for the future was in the air when I was composing Lonely Lake. It was a welcome relief to visit the remote and isolated Lonely Lake in Canada. The songs of the birds, gentle sound of the waves, seeing the expansive universe above, the sparkling sunrise over the lake at dawn, and ending the day with the lonely calls of the loons were revitalizing and inspiring experiences. After anger, war, heartbreak, and spiritual renewal in nature, it was a relaxing and fun diversion to create arrangements of works by Bach and Debussy for Blue Streak Ensemble.

Shattered Glass is like a musical kaleidoscope. Instead of seeing the constantly changing colours as you do in a kaleidoscope, you hear them. There are two contrasting yet related sound worlds. A soft but brittle atmosphere with sharp stabs of piercing sound that sometimes builds to wild cacophonous moments, and soft, blurred, mysterious sections that still have tiny intrusions of bright, pointed stabs of sound. The brittle and blurred timbres eventually mix and overlap, becoming sometimes rhythmic, sometimes raucous, and sometimes mysterious and melodic. There are solos for each instrumentalist throughout the work culminating in short, rhapsodic, cadenza-like flourishes for each. Shattered Glass was written for and is dedicated to MOSAIC.

Quintet for Clarinet in A and String Quartet was commissioned by clarinetist Daniel Silver and the University of Colorado. The Quintet represents new compositional explorations for me using multiple compositional techniques and layering. In 2006, things in the world were bad and getting steadily worse. Frustrated, angry and despairing, I set out to reflect this in the Clarinet Quintet. The music became a complex expression with many layers, overlaying a twelve-tone harmonic plan with tonal sonorities as well as Middle Eastern influences. It is sometimes assertive or aggressive, sometimes passionate, anguished, punctuated by jolts of anger and frustration. It is also a musical experiment to see whether cultures can keep and honour their own special heritage while respecting those of others, and whether the overlaying of different cultural influences can add to and enhance one another. There are short musical quotes: the line ‘All men of tender heart, forgiving others…’ from the (Christian) hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, and the line ‘That in our darkened hearts thy grace might shine…’ from All Praise to Thee mixed and overlaid with a melody that is an imitation of the Muslim Call to Prayer—a superficial imitation because the complexities of the rhythmic figures and the melodic fragments were impossible to duplicate. Sometimes these melodic fragments and quotes overlap.

For the second movement, My white tears broken in the seas, I used the melody from my song of the same name. The fairly simple tune of the song is elaborated and expanded for instruments. The original song follows on this recording and the poem is listed below. The third movement, Scherzo, provides a momentary respite from the intensity of the other movements. The last movement, Moderato, Vivace, employs a strict twelve-tone row with no inclusion of other harmonic material—something I rarely do. The middle section of this movement, though sounding quite different, maintains the row.

Whom do you call angel now? is a setting of David Adam’s poem An Angel’s Song, found in Adam’s September Songs: 9/11. Though I originally set this as a folk song, I later included it in my song cycle, Declaration. Re-setting this song as an art song proved to be a real struggle. After trying a plethora of possibilities, I decided the strongest presentation would be to leave the accompaniment simple, even stark at times.

Whom do you call angel now?
(from September Songs: 9/11: An Angel’s Song by David Adams)

Whom do you call angel now?
If I am as old as stars,
I am the speech of God,
Find my shadow in the apple boughs.
Find my green wings in the mountains,
My white tears broken in the seas.

For even as you die,
No stalk bends without its angel.
I have heard wailing centuries.
I am waiting in their silences like snow
To dream the music of a single tongue—
One pure leaf in a voiceless wind.

Whom do you call angel now?
Who will teach you how to love?

Lonely Lake was commissioned by Hank and Mary Doll and is inspired by their summer “camp”. On Lonely Lake in Canada and accessible only by boat, this small settlement of cabins has been in their family for over a hundred years. Picture Hank walking through the quiet early dawn to the lake. There is hardly any motion in the air, and just an occasional birdcall. Beginning with instrumental renditions of the calls of the sand hill crane, wood thrush, the belted kingfisher, and the song sparrow, Lonely Lake goes on to reflect the early morning swim—gradual sounds of the swishing water at the beginning of the swim that gain momentum into a steady breast stroke—and then the beauty and brilliance of the rising sun glinting on the water and in the eyes. Of his early morning swims, Hank says: “On the mornings when the sun isn’t shrouded by clouds, I’m usually looking directly into it. When I close my eyes, I always see a vivid orange/red colour, which is split by the silvery brilliance of the sun. If I keep my eyes closed for a few strokes, the colours change somewhat, particularly when I put my head under water. Usually the sun-streak becomes blue, often looking a bit like a jagged fence or a deep blue insignia. The image takes on the quality of some Indian paintings I’ve seen where primary colours are used to depict the boldness and awesomeness of nature.” Lonely Lake progresses through musical development of the birdcalls and swimming motifs into busy daytime activities, and ends with the haunting sounds of loons at dusk.

Masterworks from the past come alive in a new way when arranged for a contemporary mix of instrumental colours. Blue Streak plays arrangements by Brouwer of Bach’s Two Part Invention in F and Debussy’s Clair de Lune.

Margaret Brouwer

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