By Russ Warren Performing a program on Bastille Day cries out for an all-French program. Midsummer’s is featuring two well-known Parisian composers and two who are not so well known, including the very talented female composer, Cecile Chaminade, and the rock star pianist of his age – deemed equal to Franz Liszt – Charles-Valentin Alkan.
Chaminade was the first woman composer to win the Légion d’Honneur and among the first musicians to record her piano pieces via the gramophone. Today, these are highly sought after. Alkan wrote mostly piano pieces, which he used in his extensive concertizing. Alkan was of Jewish heritage, which he valued highly as revealed by the Jewish melodies he incorporated into his works. Fluent in Greek and Hebrew, he devoted much of his time to a new French translation of the Bible. Since the second half of the twentieth century, concert pianists have been working to restore Alkan’s music to its rightful place before the public. The Trio in G Minor is a rare ensemble work by him.
Fauré’s late Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano is his only chamber work including a wind instrument. It is also known in a version he made substituting the violin for the clarinet to increase the likelihood for sales, but the clarinet version is how it was conceived. Ravel’s Jeux d’eau for solo piano is one of many works depicting water in different aspects by French impressionist composers. Ravel chose to focus on the way water can delight as in the bubbling of a fountain or the spray of waves. In this dimension it is our Bastille Day Celebration’s contribution to the Celebrate Water initiative.
The Bastille Day Celebration program premiered on July 5, and the concerts play three more times: 7:00 pm July 13 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; 7:30 pm July 14 at Björklunden; and 7:00 pm July 15 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Dinner concerts are a favorite of Midsummer’s Music audiences. By popular request Midsummer’s returns to the Fireside Restaurant in Ellison Bay on July 23 at 5:00 pm and presents the fifth concert series, Bach at 333. This series will also have a performance at Woodwalk Gallery at 7:00 pm July 18 where a new work of art created specifically for this program will be unveiled; 7:00 pm July 20 at Sister Bay Moravian Church; and 7:00 pm July 21 at the Old Gibraltar Town Hall. The program is all Bach and includes his Brandenburg Concerti Nos. 3 and 5, a harpsichord concerto and Concerto for violin and oboe.
- S. Bach was fascinated by numbers. He may have been a mathematical – as well as musical – genius. Particularly in the later part of his life, he worked numbers of significance to him into works like The Art of the Fugue, his B Minor Mass, and the Goldberg Variations. It was not difficult enough to write a complex four-part fugue; Bach enjoyed the challenge of throwing in inscrutable number puzzles to make a real challenge. He often focused on his name. In German, the note B-flat is symbolized by the letter B. The note a half step higher, B-natural, is symbolized by H. Therefore, his name could be spelled out in music as B-flat, A, C, B-natural. In addition, he might use the number 14 which was the sum of the alphabetical ranking of each letter in his name – B , A , C , H  = 14. Thus, a theme might have 14 notes, or a whole passage, its inverse, 41.
As a good Lutheran inheriting sacred traditions going back to the Renaissance and Middle Ages, he knew that the number 3 was of divine significance. It symbolized the trinity. Ancient musical forms like the Kyrie and Agnus Dei of the Mass were made up of three parts. Triple meter was deemed more appropriate than duple meter for sacred music. Triptychs had three panels for the same reason. It was ingrained, and Bach responded appropriately but at a higher level than anyone else. Therefore, a birth year of 250 or 400 wouldn’t be as significant to J. S. as 333. Triple 3s – how appropriate for this very religious musical numerological genius!
Most concerts are $29 for adults, $10 for students, and children 12 and under are free, and concerts are usually followed by a reception to meet the musicians. The July 23 dinner concert is $75 for adults and $56 for students. Woodwalk Gallery invites concertgoers to bring their own picnics at 5:00 and requests picnic table reservations by calling 920-629-4877. Subscriptions consisting of four concert tickets and flex-packs of six or eight tickets are available. Tickets, subscriptions and flex-packs can be ordered online at midsummersmusic.com or by phone at 920-854-7088.
Midsummer’s Music was co-founded in 1990 by Jim and Jean Berkenstock, long-time Door County summer residents and principal orchestral players with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The concert series has drawn on the extraordinary talent of professional musicians and artist/faculty of universities throughout the Midwest. Offering chamber music for winds, strings, and piano performed in intimate and unique settings throughout Door County, venues include art galleries, churches, and private homes. From such masters as Mozart, Schubert, and Dvořák to some lesser-known but very accomplished composers, each concert is an unforgettable musical experience.