CONVERSE: The Mystic Trumpeter / Flivver Ten Million / Endymion's Narrative (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/ JoAnn Falletta) (Naxos American Classics: 8.559116)
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Frederick Shepherd Converse (1871-1940)
The Mystic Trumpeter
Flivver Ten Million
Frederick ShepherdConverse was born on 5th January 1871 at Newton, MA, and died on 8th June 1940at Westwood, MA. The youngest of seven children, he began lessons on the pianoat the age of ten. His unusual talent was spotted very early on, in particulara gift for composition. In turn, he pursued advanced musical studies atHarvard, from which he graduated summa cumlaude. He then tried his hand in business, although it was not longbefore his passion for music reforged the course of his life. Converse beganserious study in composition with George W Chadwick in Boston and followed withwork under Joseph Rheinberger in Munich. In a relatively short time, his musicbegan to attract considerable attention. In fact Converse's The Pipe of Desire of 1905 became thefirst American opera ever to be performed at the Metropolitan Opera in NewYork. Today he is best known for a small but hearty collection of orchestraltone poems, three of which are featured on this recording.
About The Mystic Trumpeter of 1904, Converserelated that he recast Whitman's Leaves ofGrass into five contrasting sections, omitting the fourth stanza. Asa tone poem the music follows the new literary scheme in a sequence of fivemusical events without pause The following has been excerpted from the poem:
1) Mystery andPeace (Moderato molto e tranquillo): Hark,some wild trumpeter; some strange musician, hovering unseen in ail; vibrates capricioustunes to-night I hear thee trumpeter, listening alert I catch thy notes, nowpouring, whirling like a tempest round me....thou freest, launchest me, floatingand basking upon heaven's lake.
2) Love (Poco pi??moto, arnoroso): Blow again trumpeter! Andfor thy theme, take now the enclosing theme of all, the solvent and the setting- Love, that is pulse of all, the sustenance and the pang, the heart of man andwoman all for love, no other theme but love - knitting, enclosing,all-diffusing love.
3) War and Struggle(Allegro con molto fuoco): Blow againtrumpeter - conjure war's alarums Swift to thy spell a shuddering hum likedistant thunder rolls - Lo, where the arm 'd men hasten -Lo, mid the clouds ofdust the glint of bayonets, I see the grime-faced cannoneers, I mark the rosyflash amid the smoke, I hear the cracking of the guns;
4) Humiliation(Adagio lamentoso): O trumpeter, methinks Iam myself the instrument thou playest, thou melt'st my heart, my brain - thoumovest, drawest, changest them at will; And now thy sullen notes send darknessthrough me...I feel the measureless shame and humiliation of my race...Utterdefeat upon me weighs...Yet 'mid the ruins Pride colossal stands unshaken...
resolution to the last.
5) Joy (Pocolargamente, Grazioso, Allegro molto): Nowtrumpeter for thy close, vouchsafe a higher strain than any yet, sing to mysoul, renew its languishing faith and hope, rouse up my slow belief, give mesome vision of the future, give me for once its prophecy and joy...O glad,exulting, culminating song!... Joy! joy! all over joy!
Flivver Ten Million was inspired inpart by the success of another graphic in sound, Pacific 231, by Arthur Honegger, who in 1924 used orchestralsound to 'paint' an image of a great steam locomotive. Converse followed in1927 with a score titled in full. FlivverTen Million: A Joyous Epic Inspired by the Familiar Legend "The TenMillionth Ford is Now Serving Its Owner." The term 'flivver' isold American slang that was appropriated by the Ford Motor Company as anickname for its inexpensive, production-line automobiles. About the pieceConverse noted. "I set about it for my own amusement. I wondered what MarkTwain would have done with such a theme if he had been a musician. He who wishes to expressAmerican life or experience must include the saving grace of humor:
Flivver is scored as a series of eight musicalvignettes played without pause:
1 Dawn in Detroit (sunrise over the city)
2 The Call to Labor (the auto workers reportto work)
3 The Din of the Builders (factory noises)
4 The Birth of the Hero - He Tries His Metal (thecar wanders off into the great world in search of adventure)
5 May Night by the Roadside - America's Romance (lovemusic via solo violin)
6 The Joy Riders - America's Frolic (happy,have-a great-time music)
7 The Collision -America's Tragedy (poignant,sad intonations)
8 Phoenix Americanus - The hero, righted and shaken,proceeds on his way with redoubled energy, typical of the indomitable spirit ofAmerica. (great fun)
Quite early in hiscareer, Converse wrote two work, based on the exquisite poem Endymion by John Keats (1795-1821). Bothwere set in the lyrical form ofthe orchestral romance, the first completed in 1900 and titled Festival of Pan, Op.9. This was followedin the spring of 1901 with Endymion'sNarrative, Op.10. About the latter
Converse wrote that the idea for the piece derived from a scene inKeats' poem at the point where Endymion is withdrawn from the festival by hisanxious sister Peona, who leads him to a secluded place. There she divines thesource of her brother's sorrow and soothes him with sisterly affection.
Converse describes Endymion's despondency as "The struggle of a mindpossessed by an idea beyond the common view, and yet bound by affection anddevotion to conditions which confine and stifle its surging, internal impulses- one of the most painful spiritual struggles to which a man is subject,whether it be found in the life of an artist, a patriot or a martyr."
Keats wrote Endymion in 1817, set in four books ofabout a thousand lines each. It is one of the most revered masterpieces inEnglish literature and begins with the celebrated lines:
A THING of beauty is a joy forever
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams,
and health, and quiet breathing.
The world-renownedBuffalo Philharmonic was founded in 1934 and makes its home in Kleinhans MusicHall, a National Historic Site with an international reputation as one of thegreatest concert halls in the United States. Through the decades the orchestrahas grown in stature under a number of distinguished conductors, includingJoseph Krips, Lukas Foss, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Semyon Bychkov. AsBuffalo's cultural ambassador, the Philharmonic has performed across the UnitedStates and Canada, including concerts at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center,Boston's Symphony Hall, San Francisco's Davies Hall, Montreal's Place Des Arts, with more than twentyappearances in Carnegie Hall. The Philharmonic also made two national toursunder the well-known Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fielder, as well as a highlysuccessful European tour in 1988 under Semyon Bychkov. Currently, the orchestrapresents more than a hundred concerts each year in Western New York.
BuffaloPhilharmonic Music Director JoAnn Falletta has been hai