Thoughts About the Music

Saturday, June 12

Béla Bartók – Selected Duos for Two Violins

While Hindemith’s educational contributions lay mainly in his teaching of composition and music theory, Bartok dedicated much more of his time to educating children. His 44 duos for two violins emerged as a way to educate beginning violin students on rhythms and harmonies, levitating simple Hungarian and Slovak folk melodies to prominent art music. Usually known for his harmonically intricate compositions, these Bartok duos are the stripped-back, fundamental grounds from which he grew, showcasing the dissonant yet innocent beauty of folk music.

Alexander Zemlinsky – Clarinet Trio, Op. 3

Born in Vienna in 1871, the musical talent of Alexander Zemlinsky was recognized from a very young age. At thirteen, Zemlinsky was studying composition and piano at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Konservatorium, where he became well-known as an insightful interpreter of Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, and Schoenberg. Despite his studies of contemporary, atonal composers like Webern and Schoenberg, Zemlinsky was never won over by their styles, believing that every great artist must pay their respects to “the boundaries of beauty”. Masterfully crafted, his compositions reflect the dramatic nature of the romantic era with perfection. His Opus 3, a clarinet trio, was composed just before Zemlinsky became fully recognized as a great composer of his era. The opening is broad and poignant, tinged with nostalgia, before being interrupted by a stately, heroic main theme in the piano which is built upon and varied by each instrument. While the presence of Brahms’s swaying, warm harmonies are evident throughout the work, Zemlinsky claims them as his own through intense, theatrical modulations and spritely runs. The piano leads into the second movement, with a shining yet somber melody that is then adopted by the clarinet in a lyrical, broad dance. The middle section moves in a quick, unrestrained manner that comes to a screeching halt with the clarinet and cello playing a crushing unison line. The movement continues with a melodramatic aura that colors it to the very end. The finale is an outburst of passion and liveliness. Rife with flourishing lines in the clarinet and piano, the two seem to interact with one another with the cello offering providing the foundation. The finale builds in intensity and drive as agility and exotic flair give way to amourous charm.

Franz Schubert – Lebensstürme: Allegro in A minor, D. 947

Schubert is unmatched in his capacity to portray life’s most devastating and joyful moments with the utmost beauty and sophistication. His Lebensstürme, “storms of life”, explores the depths of Schubert’s emotional capacity. To Schubert, music was the sole purpose of life. Tormented by his emotions, Schubert wrote “Every night when I go to bed, I hope that I may never wake again, and every morning renews my grief”. Even so, he dedicated every moment of his existence, day and night, to composing; finishing one piece only to start the next. Lebensstürme, composed in May and June of 1828, begins turbulently with dramatic piano octaves followed by a serene second theme. A choral melody echoes faintly in the distance with plunging piano lines that cut off unexpectedly on multiple occasions only to resume in startling, far away key areas. The development is masterfully crafted as Schubert builds on his opening subject, transforming the mood from stormy to melancholy sentiments, with nostalgic and stately sections that overlap with one another until the subject furiously interrupts once again. The recapitulation is explosive with its agile yet delicate piano lines that eventually give way to a comforting solace. Reflecting on the past year, where loneliness and isolation were at the forefront of so many minds, perhaps we can find common ground with this work, giving us an even clearer picture of Schubert’s humanity as we return to embrace life’s joys.

Folk Songs from Around the World

I. Sede Sedenkya (Traditional Bulgarian song from the Shop region)

I learned this fabulous piece at a community singing retreat–a woman from Bulgaria taught this song. When I asked her about the traditional nasal and forward singing of Bulgarian women, she said, “in my country, women’s voices are not often heard so when we sing, you better believe you are going to hear us!” – Amanda Powell

Sede sedenkya shto sede
pa poi de da se raz turya
Koi sbrata koi spobrata tima
Sirota Zanka, snikoga
Eta go Gencha ot vrata
Pa vati Zanku za ruku
Pa vodi, vodi, ta doma
E te ti male otmena
Na tatu meka postelya
Na makya bela premena
Na bratu voda studena
Na mene bulka zasmena
The women and the girls were together at the “working bee”
At the end of the gathering, they gossiped about all the boys and who was dating who.
“Zanka has no one, poor Zanka.”
Suddenly, Gencha comes through the door and grabs Zanka by her hand!
Then, he took her home to meet his family.
“I brought someone to replace you, mom” He said.
(Gencha says)
“For my father –soft blankets.”
“For my mother—white clothing.”
“For my brother—cold water.”
“For me, a smiling bride.”

II. To Yasemi (Traditional Cypriot)

To Yasemi stin porta sou, yasemi mou
O, Irtha na to klathepso, Ox jiavri mou
Ke nomise I mana sou, yasemi mou
O, pos irtha na se klepso, Ox jiavri mou
To yasemi stin porta sou, yasemi mou
O, mouskolo oun I strates, Ox jiavri mou
The jasmine at your doorway, my jasmine flower,
I came to prune it, oh my yavrum*
And your mother thought, my jasmine flower,
That I had come to steal you away, my love
The jasmine outside your door, my jasmine flower
O, the fragrance is entrancing to all who pass by, my love

*(Yavrum is a Turkish word meaning my beautiful love.)

III. Lamma Bada Muwashah (Arabic folk song)

Lamma bada yatathanna
Hubbi jamalu fatanna
Amru ma bi-laHza asarna
Ghusnun thana Hina mal
Waadi wa ya Hirati
Men yaraheemo shakwati
Fil hub min lawaati
Illa maliku el jamal


When I saw my love sway,
His beauty amazed us
Something in a moment captivated us
Like a branch bending gracefully
Oh my fate, and the reason for my perplexity
Who could be the one to alleviate my suffering?
In love and suffering,
Except the Maker of beauty.
Have Mercy!
IV. Echoes from the Valley (Traditional UK/American)

O Shenandoah, I long to see you.
Away, you rolling river.
O Shenandoah, I long to hear you.
Away, I’m bound away, ‘cross the wide Missouri.
‘Tis seven long years since last I saw you,
Away, you rolling river.
And still I feel I never left you.
Away, I’m bound away, ‘cross the wide Missouri.
The water is wide, I can’t cross oe’r
and neither have I wings to fly.
Give me a boat that can carry two,
and both shall row, my love and I.
There is a ship that sails the sea,
She’s loaded deep, as deep can be
but not as deep as the love I’m in,
I know not if I sink or swim.
V. Sephardic Songs (Traditional Ladino)

La Prima Vez “The First Time” (Text: Traditional Sephardic)

La prima vez que te vidí,
De tus ojos me ‘namorí.
La prima vez que te vidí,
De tus ojos me ‘namorí.
D’akel momento te amí,
Fin a la tomba te amaré.
Aserkate, mi querida,
Salvadora de mi vida.
Aserkate, mi querida,
Salvadora de mi vida.
Deskubrite y avlame
Secretos de tu vida.
La prima vez que te vidí,
De tus ojos me ‘namorí.
La prima vez que te vidí,
De tus ojos me ‘namorí.
The first time I saw you
I fell in love with your eyes.
The first time I saw you
I fell in love with your eyes.
From that moment on I loved you,
And I will love you until I die.
Come closer my beloved,
Savior of my life,
Come closer my beloved,
Savior of my life.
Reveal to me, tell me
Of the secrets of your life.
The first time I saw you,
I fell in love with your eyes.
The first time I saw you
I fell in love with your eyes.

Los Gayos Empezan a Cantar “The Roosters Begin to Sing”

Los gayos empezan a cantar
Ya es la ora d’alevantar
Non esperemos el sol y el día
En muestra chica colonía
En montes altos vamos ir
Alegres días a vivir
Fondaremos la cazica
Muestra suerte chica
The roosters begin to sing.
It is the hour to wake
But we don’t wait for the sun nor the day
In our little colony.
To high mountains we shall go
To live our days happily.
We will build a little house.
It will be our little piece of luck.

©2021 Nicole Martin