Chamber Players
October 24, 2021

Program Notes:


Old Wine in New Bottles
Gordon Jacob

Gordon Jacob was an English composer who wrote prolifically, with over seven hundred original compositions or arrangements of existing music attributed to his hand. He earned a Doctor of Music degree from the University of London in 1935, was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1946, and was awarded appointment to the Order of the British Empire in 1968. 

He composed Old Wine in New Bottles in 1959, for the St. Bees Festival of Music. The festival was hosted by the St. Bees School in St. Bees Village on the coast of Cumbria near the English and Scottish border. Earlier that year, music director at St. Bees School Donald Leggat approached his friend Gordon Jacob to compose a piece for the festival, and Jacob obliged. The premiere performance, conducted by Leggatt, was warmly received and successfully reviewed. The players were mostly members of the St. Bees Symphony Orchestra; notably among them was young French horn player Timothy Reynish, now a longtime friend of the United States Coast Guard Band and past guest conductor.  

Old Wine is a suite of four folk-song settings for woodwind and brass in which the composer displays all the dexterity of instrumental writing and harmonic ingenuity for which his music is well known. “The Raggle Taggle Gypsies,” “The Three Ravens,” and “Begone Dull Care” formed the basis of three well-contrasted movements. The fourth movement “Early One Morning” blends discreet sentiment, wit, and high spirit with a playful craftsmanship in a manner which recalls that of a Haydn finale.


Stephen Gryc
Soloist: MUC Brooke E. Allen, bassoon

American composer Stephen Michael Gryc was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1949. He earned four degrees in music, including the degree Doctor of Musical Arts, from the University of Michigan where he studied composition with Pulitzer Prize laureates Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom.  His music is published by Alphonse Leduc, Boosey and Hawkes, Carl Fischer, Robert King, and others and is recorded on the Albany, Capstone, Centaur, Klavier, Navona, Naxos, Opus One, Parma and Summit labels.  Among his many awards are the 1986 Rudolf Nissim Prize for orchestral music from the ASCAP Foundation and the James and Frances Bent Award for Artistic Achievement from the University of Hartford. The composer offers the following program note about his bassoon concerto Guignol:

“The character of Guignol was created at the beginning of the nineteenth century by a dentist in Lyon, France, who attracted customers to his chair by presenting puppet shows. The verbally adept puppet characters were based on those of the Italian commedia dell’arte, and the stories were relevant to the social concerns of the day, so the shows attracted adults as well as children. The scenarios inevitably ended with the clever and courageous Guignol defeating evildoers.

The satirical music of the concerto epitomizes the witty banter and frenetic action of a puppet show, with the soloist playing the part of the comic hero. The titles of the three movements provide a general description of the mood and character of the music though not a specific plot or program. Listeners may imagine their own scenarios suggested by the titles: “Disputes,” “A Strange Occurrence in the Night,” and “Running Amok.”

Guignol was commissioned by conductor J. Thomas Seddon IV and the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse for bassoonist Richard Hoenich. The concerto was completed in December of 2016 and was premiered on April 23, 2017, by soloist Hoenich and the UWL Wind Ensemble conducted by Dr. Seddon.”


General Lavine
Claude Debussy/arr. Stephen Gryc

General Lavine was composed by Claude Debussy in late 1912/early 1913 as part of his Préludes, twenty-four pieces for solo piano divided into two books of twelve. In 2020, Stephen Gryc arranged General Lavine as an encore after a performance of Guignol with the addition of a contrabassoon. General Lavine refers to the great American clown, Edward Lavine, famous in the early twentieth century music halls of France for his impersonations as both tramp and soldier. In the capacity of the former, he does a “cakewalk”, taking a tumble or two in the process; at two junctures, allusions to the American tune Camptown Races can be heard. 


Ruth Gipps/ed. Rodney Winther

British composer Ruth Gipps was a pioneer of music composition and performance during a time in which orchestras, wind bands, and military bands were male-dominated. She founded and conduced the Portia Wind Ensemble, a group comprised solely of women. An important part of the British musical landscape, her group premiered works by the likes of John McCabe, Peter Maxwell Davies, Gordon Jacob, and many more. Seascape is a programmatic work inspired by a trip to the coastal town of Broadstairs in Kent, where Gipps was a visiting guest lecturer; Gipps wrote “I spent the night in a hotel right on the beach. I could hear the sea. I always loved the sound of the sea and particularly storms.” Seascape is written for double wind quintet with an English horn substituting for a second oboe.


Lied et Scherzo
Florent Schmitt
Soloist: MU1 Matthew Muehl-Miller, horn

American orchestra conductor JoAnn Falletta has described Florent Schmitt as “the most important French composer you’ve never heard of. Rhapsodic, brooding and startlingly beautiful, Schmitt’s language is deeply personal—passionate yet extraordinarily detailed, sophisticated and elusive.” His work Lied et Scherzo, dedicated to one of his more famous French contemporary counterparts Paul Dukas, lives up to Falletta’s words. Though conceived as a work for double wind quintet highlighting one of the French horn players as soloist throughout, the music sounds more orchestral in its conception. Its texture is woven from a diverse collection of both progressive and familiar musical techniques, traditions, and ideologies. 


Serenade, Op. 7
Richard Strauss

To the always self-deprecating Richard Strauss, his Op. 7 Serenade was “nothing more than the respectable work of a music student”—it was written in 1881 when Strauss was seventeen years old. The subsequent 140 years disagrees with his modesty, and the work is one of the most beloved and popularly performed chamber works for wind musicians. Young Richard’s father Franz was the principal hornist of the Munich Court Orchestra and was recognized as Germany’s leading virtuoso of that instrument. Strauss completed a conventional education, but he devoted most of his time and energy to music—and the Serenade has been analyzed to represent his filtering and assimilation of Mozart and Mendelssohn into something entirely original. Soaring melodic contours, rich scoring, and marked contrast between calmness and intensity abound throughout Strauss’s compositional oeuvre, particularly in his tone poems and operas; these signatures are on clear display throughout the Serenade too.