KSO’s New Q Series at the Square Room

A new series is on the horizon for Knoxville Symphony Orchestra audiences–one that will be particularly attractive to those who enjoy a little music and a downtown lunch.

The KSO Q Series begins in September with five one-hour performances on Wednesday at Noon at The Square Room on Market Square. The concerts will feature the KSO Woodwind Quintet and the KSO Principal Quartet, and will include a boxed lunch from Cafe 4.

KSO_Quartet2Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door if available, with single tickets going on sale August 18. However, it’s worth considering the better value of a subscription, available now, to all five performances for $75 – subscribers receive reserved priority seating.

The Q Series performance dates are:
• Wednesday, September 24
• Wednesday, October 22
• Wednesday, January 28
• Wednesday, March 25
• Wednesday, April 29

The programs will be announced by the KSO prior to each performance date. Based on past performances, audiences can count on  fresh and interesting selections.

The KSO Woodwind Quintet consists of: Ebonee Thomas, flute; interim principal oboe, Claire Chenette; Gary Sperl, clarinet; Aaron Apaza, bassoon; and Jeffery Whaley, horn. The Principal Quartet consists of Gordon Tsai and Edward Pulgar, violins; Kathryn Gawne, viola; and Andy Bryenton, cello.


Listening: Erik Satie, the Velvet Gentleman

The sounds of summer come in many forms. To understand how one might associate the music of the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925) with summer, one has only to listen to his Trois Gymnopédies for piano from 1888. Although the works were quite early in the eccentric composer’s career, they represent a style and attitude that defined his life and music.

Satie’s importance extends far beyond his own music. He was a supporter, if not a quasi-creator, of the group Les Six ( Georges Auric, Louis Durey,  Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre) which grew out of his ideas of musical simplicity.

VelevetGentlemanAlthough the Trois Gymnopédies were originally written for piano (recordings abound, some mentioned below), the simple works have inspired other orchestral arrangements that have extended their reach into many other musical niches. The works have received treatments in a number of film scores; from Blood, Sweat, and Tears; in a Bob James jazz arrangement for flutist Hubert Laws; and in a Janet Jackson single, among many. However, in an atmospheric and evocative orchestral arrangement from 1970, the Camarata Chamber Ensemble offered up an LP entitled The Music of Erik Satie: The Velvet Gentleman which featured the works. Oddly, this LP has never been moved to the digital realm of CDs, but its strong sense of 70s style have made it popular enough to have a place online. Here are the Trois Gymnopédies from that LP on a YouTube clip.

l07371fvglvOf course, recordings of the original piano versions abound and can be found online and in the Sight and Sounds department at the downtown Knox County Public Library. I can suggest pianist Reinbert De Leeuw  on Philips #446672.



Independence Week Listening Suggestions

New music favorites for July 4th? Surely, you say, we’ve heard all the American patriotic music there is to hear. Maybe, maybe not.

Obviously, my first suggestion is to catch the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s July 4th concert in World’s Fair Park, either live or on WBIR-TV starting at 8 p.m. (Details of that concert were covered in the previous post in this blog.)

However, there are a lot of interesting works that rarely, or never, make it onto Independence Day concerts for a variety of reasons– reasons such as length or sophistication.  Admittedly, the attention span of ebullient crowds filled with potato salad, cherry cobbler, and adult beverages waiting for fireworks to begin is not too long. Nevertheless, if you aren’t familiar with either of these two suggestions, give them a whirl.

CharlesIvesAmerican composer Charles Ives (1874-1954) was truly a man ahead of his time. Most of his music was largely unplayed during his lifetime and, even today, the brilliant rhythmic and tonal sophistication presents obstacles for players… and audiences.

One of his more accessible works for audiences went unpublished until 1949, his Variations on “America,” written in 1891 as a work for solo organ specifically for the Fourth of July. Today, we often hear the work in an orchestral arrangement done by composer William Schumann  in 1964. This work, based of course on the melody to “America” (“God Save the Queen”), is witty and charming, yet is as emotionally driven and moving as any piece of patriotic music.

vieuxtempsHenri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) was born in Verviers, Belgium, and became something of a violin prodigy, giving his first concert at the age of six, later touring Europe as a youthful virtuoso. He later studied composition and began to write, mostly music for violin with other instruments for his own performances. The violinist/composer made three tours of the U.S., for which he composed appropriate music. His Greeting to America (Salut à l’Amérique, Fantaisie originale), published posthumously in 1883, is a charming piece for virtuoso violin and orchestra  that incorporates entertaining references to “Yankee Doodle” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Both works can be found on YouTube. For the Vieuxtemps, I strongly recommend the Naxos CD “Fantasia appassionata / Ballade and Polonaise / Fantaisie-Caprice / Greeting to America” with violinist  Misha Keylin and the Slovak Radio Symphony, conducted by Andrew Mogrelia, Naxos 8.570974.

For Variations on America, check the Sight and Sounds department at the Knox County Public Library for a CD. While you are there, you might want to check out a biography on Ives, Charles Ives : a life with music by Jan Swafford or Charles Ives, the ideas behind the music by J. Peter Burkholder.




Alan Sherrod serves up a big plate of nourishing commentary on the Knoxville classical music and fine arts scene.