Program Notes: Opening Weekend (September 17-18, 2022)

Program

September 17-18, 2022


Stéphane Denève, conductor

Nathalie Joachim, vocals



Jacques Ibert

Escales (1922) Rome—Palermo Tunis—Nefta Valencia

Nathalie Joachim

Fanm D'Ayiti (Women of Haiti) Suite (2019)

Suite pou Dantan Prelid Alléluia Resevwa Li Madan Bellegrade Fanm D'Ayiti

Nathalie Joachim, vocals


Antonín Dvořák

Symphony No. 8 in G major, op. 88 (1889)

Allegro con brio Adagio Allegretto grazioso Allegro ma non troppo

 

Program Notes

By Tim Munro


The French word ailleurs has no direct translation to English. St. Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Stéphane Denève says that it speaks of “elsewhere,” or “another place.”


In the 2022/2023 season, Stéphane takes us on a season-long journey across the globe. “Music connects people with other places,” he says. “Physical places, other cultures, places of the imagination.”


In these concerts, Jacques Ibert checks our tickets, shows us to our seats for a Mediterranean Sea voyage. Nathalie Joachim “evokes the spirit of strength, activism, and hope” in the important voices of Haitian women. Then Antonín Dvořák opens Powell Hall’s doors and lets in the warm Czech sunshine.

 
Jacques Ibert

Escales

Jacques Ibert

Born 1890, Paris, France

Died 1962, Paris, France


Jacques Ibert was a Parisian through and through. Born there, died there, his music is raucous with the sounds of the city, bending the tang of early jazz and pop to classical manners. Both joyful and perfumed, it often wears an impish smile.


The story of Escales (“Ports of call”) begins at sea. As a young naval officer in the First World War, Ibert traveled Europe’s shores. But such voyages “only allowed me to patrol [a city harbor] or foggy coastlines.”

After the war, Ibert was honored for his service with the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’honneur. Indeed, he was wearing his officer’s uniform when he successfully auditioned for the Rome Prize, which would allow him to live in Italy for several years.


The sea voyage to Italy doubled as a honeymoon. The newly married 29-year-old took in the sights of Spain and North Africa with his wife, the sculptor Rose-Marie Veber, on the way to Rome. Escales emerged from the sights and sounds of this vacation.


“When I travel,” wrote Ibert, “I am interested in everything, from snake charmers to overcrowded neighborhoods.” He was particularly drawn to the sounds of the “exotic,” the unfamiliar. Today, many recognize that works created with exoticism in mind can tokenize entire cultures. These new sounds, though, were thrilling to contemporary audiences.


Each of Escales’ three movements draws from a leg of the voyage:


1. Rome to Palermo. “Documents the trip at sea from Rome south to Palermo in Sicily,” wrote Ibert. “Heavy swells of the sea” is followed by a tarantella, an energetic dance.


2. Tunis and Nefta. Two cities of Tunisia: northern Tunis and the southern desert of Nefta. The oboe melody is Ibert’s transcription of a tune heard in Nefta.


3. Valencia. The finale, with its “strongly marked Iberian character,” according to Ibert, captures memories of the Iberian Peninsula and eastern coast of Spain.

First performance: January 6, 1924, by the Lamoureux Orchestra, Paul Paray conducting

First SLSO performance: October 30, 1931, Vladimir Golschmann conducting

Most recent SLSO performance: March 20, 1998, David Loebel conducting

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 piccolos, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, castanets, cymbals, field drum, tam tam, tambourine, triangle, xylophone), 2 harps, celesta, strings

Approximate duration: 14 minutes

 
Nathalie Joachim

Fanm d'Ayiti (Women of Haiti)


Nathalie Joachim

Born 1983, Brooklyn, New York

Nathalie Joachim is a Grammy-nominated composer, vocalist, and flutist. She is the Artistic Partner with the Oregon Symphony and co-founder of the flute duo, Flutronix, as well as a newly appointed faculty member at Princeton University.


Joachim’s music runs the gamut from classical to indie-rock, always advocating for cultural awareness and social change. Joachim performs and records with an impressive range of artists and ensembles.

Joachim writes:


My journey to Fanm d’ Ayiti (“Women of Haiti”) started in late 2015, shortly after the passing of my maternal grandmother. She and I spent many a cherished moment underneath the mango and coconut trees in her yard in Haiti—and in my childhood home in America—singing songs with one another.


It was our way of telling each other stories, and her way of passing on a centuries-long cultural practice of oral history. Her death ignited a deep desire for understanding in me. In what ways did our voices connect with the voices of other Haitian women? What did our songs tell us about our past, and what might they mean for the future?


This collection of songs from the original evening-length, GRAMMY-nominated project for soloist and string quartet includes my grandmother’s voice intertwined with recordings of the girls’ choir from my family’s farming village of Dantan, woven together in a musical celebration.

It also includes the song bearing the project’s title, which evokes the spirit of strength, activism, and hope. The entrance to my grandmother’s yard was a beautiful archway of red hibiscus flowers—her favorite and a national emblem of Haiti.


Walking through that archway into her light was a rite of passage. These songs have also welcomed me into a space of self-discovery and historical reckoning, guided by the irrepressible spirit of my ancestors...a revelation now given voice through Fanm d’Ayiti.


Tim Munro sat down with Joachim to reflect on the scope of the project and how the process has changed her. Below is an edited transcript of Joachim’s words.


In Haiti, the women are badasses. You’re definitely going to be on your best behavior—you don’t want to mess with anyone’s Haitian mother.


I started to focus on three artists: Emerante Morse, Carole Demesmin, Toto Bissainthe. I felt connected to them. Going to Haiti, talking to these women, meeting their families, seeing where they’re from, hearing their deep commitment to Haiti, it felt inspiring. They’re each from distinct eras, but each influenced the other. Many consider these women revolutionaries.


The piece of the puzzle that made Fanm d’Ayiti come together was recording a Haitian children’s choir. They were singing the music for a Catholic church service, accompanied by a drummer who was playing these very distinct voodoo drum patterns. Two worlds colliding: this Catholic religion passed on through colonialism and a musical practice that came all the way from Africa.


Fanm d’Ayiti is linked by the idea of strength and freedom and empowerment. It is made up of music woven together with some of the recorded testimony of the women I interviewed, the field recording of the girls’ choir, and recordings of my grandmother. Some of the material is completely original, and some are arrangements of these artists.


The entire piece has a religious lens. Some of the songs in the show are Haitian voodoo songs. There is a stigma attached, but it’s akin to Native American religious practice. Voodoo as a practice is more about storytelling than anything else. Many of the gods are tied to nature.


The show has helped me focus on a new direction. For so long I thought, “I’m a classical flutist, and this is what I do.” It’s this thing I’m “supposed” to be doing. I had never stood solidly on my ability as a composer.


In this project, I’m writing and performing in a way that I would have been scared to do a decade ago. So much of my musical instinct and influence comes from being a kid growing up in Brooklyn, with electronic music and hip hop steeped in my ear.


Also, vocally, this project is the most I’ve been myself. Making music in Haiti happens with abandon. I found a vocal quality that feels the most natural. The songs have such deep meaning, and you just give yourself to it.


First performance: June 4, 2022, by the Oregon Symphony, David Danzmayr conducting

First SLSO performance: These concerts

Instrumentation: solo flute/voice, flute (doubling piccolo), oboe, clarinet, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, trombone, percusssion (bongos, brake drum, cowbell, glockenspiel, kick drum, ribbon crasher, splash cymbal, temple blocks, tom toms, vibraphone), harp, strings

Approximate duration: 20 minutes

 
Antonín Dvořák

Symphony No. 8

Antonín Dvořák

Born 1841, Nelahozeves, modern-day Czech Republic

Died 1904, Prague, modern-day Czech Republic


“I’m happy and blissful in my work,” wrote Antonín Dvořák while working on his Eighth Symphony. “My head is full—if only I could write it down all at once! Tunes are flying towards me.”


Dvořák’s musical satisfaction was hard-earned. In his 20s and 30s, this butcher’s son worked doggedly, gigging as a violist, sharing an apartment with as many as six roommates. In his 40s, a glowing review led to a run on sheet music stores, and his star shot around the world.


As a composer, Dvořák was largely self-taught. Rising early, staying up late, for two decades he scribbled like mad, seeking a musical voice that adhered to classical manners but would be touched by the sounds of his native Bohemia.


Now, in middle age, Dvořák could celebrate. Taking joy in mastery, music now poured effortlessly from his pen. Taking joy in success, his material and family life matched his dreams. We might hear the Eighth Symphony as an expression of that joy.


A joyful symphony

Dvořák’s music refreshes. The music of the Bohemian countryside, he wrote, “is like a rare and lovely flower growing among encroaching weeds. It is trampled, so chances are it will perish before it is seen by the one discriminating spirit who will prize it above all else.”


The Eighth Symphony seems to drift through the warmth of idealized country life. After his Seventh, a dark, jowl-wobbling affair, here instead is hearth and home, the curves of a river, the games of a playground, the quiet rapture of church, the dances of a town square.


1. Allegro con brio. Cellos draw us close—the melody could be a prayer, could be a hymn. A flute calls in the distance, then anticipation gives way to explosive joy. “My motto,” wrote Dvořák, “is God, love, homeland!”


2. Adagio. An evocation—a quiet place, filled with birds. The music is reminiscent of one of Dvořák’s Poetic Tone Pictures for solo piano, written at the same time as the symphony, titled “At the old castle.”


3. Allegretto grazioso—Molto vivace. If we expect a furious, skipping dance, we are instead seduced by a perfumed waltz, which is interrupted by a rustic interlude.


4. Allegro ma non troppo. Trumpets proclaim! (According to Czech conductor Rafael Kubelik, “in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle—they always call to the dance.”) A theme and variations lead us on an eventful journey, but never far from the warmth of the Bohemian sun.


First performance: February 2, 1890, by the National Theatre Orchestra in Prague, the composer conducting

First SLSO performance: March 7, 1959, Edouard van Remoortel conducting

Most recent SLSO performance: February 8, 2015, Stéphane Denève conducting

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (2nd doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, strings

Approximate duration: 34 minutes

 

Tim Munro served as the SLSO’s Creative Partner from 2018-2022. In 2023, he becomes Associate Professor of Music at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University in Australia.


Program Notes are sponsored by Washington University Physicians.