Oliver Knussen (b. 1952)
Requiem: Songs for Sue, Op. 33 (2006)
Tony Arnold, soprano; Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor; Bart Feller, flute; Tara Helen O’Connor, alto flute; Chen Halevi & Todd Levy, clarinets; Stephen Ahearn, bass clarinet; Julie Landsman & Julia Pilant, horns; Andrew Russo, piano & celeste; Lynn Gorman DeVelder, harp; David Tolen, percussion; L. P. How & John Largess, violas; Anssi Karttunen & Felix Fan, cellos; Marji Danilow, bass
These songs grew from the inclusion of a fragment from Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend” (chosen by Alexander Goehr) in a memorial booklet for Sue Knussen. These extraordinary lines gradually acquired both music and other texts in my mind over the next few years, and Requiem– Songs for Sue is the outcome (though perhaps there will be more one day). The other words are from Emily Dickinson (an assemblage of lines and verses from several poems), Antonio Machado, and W.H. Auden (a special favourite of Sue’s and mine). I hope the music allows them still to speak for themselves, although on occasion I have taken phrases quite far from their original sense. I wanted the sound to be predominantly autumnal in tone, and the instrumentation was chosen to that end: flute, alto flute, two clarinets with bass clarinet, and pairs of horns, violas and ‘cellos plus double bass, marimba with tam-tam, keyboards and harp. This Requiem, which plays continuously for a little less than a quarter of an hour, was written for Claire Booth to sing, and commissioned for MusicNOW, the new music chamber series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with whom I conducted the first performance in April 2006.
– Oliver Knussen
Marc Neikrug’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by major festivals, orchestras and opera houses worldwide. He is also active as a pianist and conductor, and since 1998 has been artistic director of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Here is an excerpt from his conversation with Kerry Frumkin about Requiem: Songs for Sue for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble, Oliver Knussen’s 2005 musical tribute to Knussen’s late wife.
Flutist Tara Helen O’Connor has played Songs For Sue before, with Oliver Knussen conducting, and she told Kerry that the skillful way he matches fragments of poetry with orchestration really inspires her performance.
Clarinetist Todd Levy finds that the orchestration of the text, with pairings of flutes, clarinets and strings, creates a very intimate effect.
An amalgam from poems of Emily Dickenson opens the work, followed by lines from Antonio Machado’s ‘Los Ojos’, WH Auden’s ‘If I could tell you I would let you know’, and, finally, Rilke’s ‘Requiem for a Friend’.
Ernst von Dohnányi (1877-1960)
Piano Quintet No. 1 in C Minor, op. 1 (1895)
Jon Kimura Parker, piano; William Preucil, violin; Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Aloysia Friedmann, viola; Gary Hoffman, cello
Marc and Kerry discuss Dohnányi’s 1895 Piano Quintet No. 1 in C Minor, op. 1. The piece evokes comparisons to Brahms and yet it clearly, they say, it heralds the arrival of an emerging composer with a singular style and voice.