Behind the Scenes: CB Squared! Program Notes + Guest Artists

LexPhil does a double take in CB Squared!, featuring the talent of composer, Chris Brubeck and Canadian Brass! Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture opens, followed by Stravinsky’s playfully sublime Pulcinella Suite and the beauty of Vaughan Williams’ The Wasps Overture. Closing the night, we pull out all the stops in Chris Brubeck’s world premiere concerto for Canadian Brass and LexPhil. Purchase your tickets today!

By: Daniel Chetel

When we hear Giacchino Rossini’s (1792-1868) overture to his comic opera The Barber of Seville, many of us will recall the famous 1950 Looney Tunes short entitled The Rabbit of Seville, centering on the ongoing feud between the crafty Bugs Bunny and the bull-headed Elmer Fudd. The irony of this adaptation of Rossini’s eminently sing-able score is that the Looney Tunes version is only marginally sillier than the mistaken identities, misplaced passions, and overblown emotions of Don Basilio, Rosina, and Count Almaviva in the original.

After a cautious introduction, almost as if the music is peering around the corner of a building, Rossini entrances us with melody after melody, all leading to the boisterous, presto finale.

Growing up in a musical household, Stravinsky was exposed to the folk music of the rustic countryside, the Eurocentric music performed in the concert halls and opera houses of the city, and the Eastern Orthodox musical tradition of the church. Having studied with the Russian master composer and orchestrator Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), Stravinsky took this comprehensive set of musical ideas with him as he developed his own unique musical voice. By the 1920s Stravinsky’s Slavic-inspired ballets—The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1910-11), and The Rite of Spring (1913)—were long behind him as Stravinsky searched for an original style of composition. Scholars refer to this as his neoclassical period, featuring the oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927), choral-orchestral Symphony of Psalms (1930), and the ballet Pulcinella (1920).

The term neoclassical refers to a style of composition that looks back to a simpler aesthetic to feature smaller ensembles, less complex harmonies, contrapuntal textures, and references to baroque and classical dance forms and structures. In the case of the ballet score to Pulcinella, Stravinsky draws on stock characters from Commedia dell’Arte and uses the baroque Italian music of Giovanni Battisti Pergolesi (1710-1736) as a model. Stravinsky’s humorous side is on full display in this jocular take on older forms. Another in a long line of collaborations, Pulcinella was originally conceived along the legendary director of the Ballet Russe, Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929), choreographer and dancer Léonide Massine (1896-1979), and the cubist painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

The second half of the program opens with the energetic overture to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s (1872-1958) incidental music to the The Wasps, an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes. While the suite of music composed by Vaughan Williams is not often heard in its entirety, this overture—spirited and heartfelt in equal measure—has found a solid place in the modern repertory. The music buzzes at the outset before leaping into a joyful overture. While Vaughan Williams’s style is more closely associated with the English church tradition (as in a work like Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis) or thickly-scored modernist harmonies (as in his later symphonies), The Wasps displays a deftly nuanced musical voice perhaps influenced by the French master Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), who was Vaughan Williams’s teacher for a few brief months in Paris in 1907 and 1908.

The evening concludes with the world premiere of a concerto for brass quintet and orchestra by American Grammy-nominated composer Chris Brubeck (1952-). Brubeck was raised in one of the most iconic families of American jazz, playing bass, trombone, piano, and guitar. He was trained in both jazz and classical styles and toured the world alongside his father Dave as part of the New Brubeck Quartet and with his brother Dan as part of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet. His compositions have featured a skillful blending of jazz and classical idioms which makes his eclectic expertise uniquely suited for this evening’s featured guests, the Canadian Brass. Since 1970 the Canadian Brass has been performing music in nearly every genre imaginable from Dixieland jazz to Broadway standards. Over the last 47 years the ensemble has had just 25 players including current tuba player, Chuck Daellenbach, who was one of the founding members and their newest member, Caleb Hudson, who grew up here in Lexington and was a member of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras.

Chris Brubeck, composer-in-residence

Grammy-nominated composer Chris Brubeck continues to distinguish himself as a multi-faceted performer and creative force. An award-winning writer, he is tuned into the pulse of contemporary music. Chris’s background of playing in rock, folk, classical, and jazz groups all influence his writing and can be heard in the diversity of pieces he has written. The respected music critic for The Chicago Tribune, John von Rhein calls Chris: “a composer with a real flair for lyrical melody--a 21st Century Lenny Bernstein.”

Chris has created an impressive body of symphonic work while maintaining a demanding touring and recording schedule with his two groups: the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (with brother Dan on drums), and Triple Play, an acoustic trio featuring Chris on piano, bass and trombone. The Brubeck Brothers joined LexPhil in December of 2015 for their annual New Year’s Eve concert. In October 2015, LexPhil performed Chris’ multi-genre work Travels in Time for Three with the acclaimed string trio for which it was written.

Additionally, Chris performs as a soloist playing his trombone concertos, which have been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

Following the premiere of his concerto for Canadian Brass Quintet, Chris has been commissioned to write a double concerto for cellist Sharon Robinson and violinist Jaime Laredo to premiere in August 2018. His “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra” was written for celebrated guitarist Sharon Isbin, premiered in April, 2015 and recently performed with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony, and at the 2017 Aspen Music Festival with Maestro Scott Terrell.

Chris’ long list of compositions are varied and range from a project commissioned by the Hermitage Museum and the National Gallery; to the French premiere of a piece to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, Brothers in Arts; to songs for mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade, and Patti Labelle; as well as concertos for violinist Nick Kendall and the exciting trio, Time for Three. Chris has received commissions from The Kennedy Center, Baltimore Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, 3 commissions from The Boston Pops, and many other orchestras in the U.S. and Europe.

Canadian Brass

Canadian Brass has been a formidable force in the world of Chamber Music since its inception. The group has been hailed as the “Kings of Brass” by the press as it singlehandedly established brass as a major influence on the classical music scene at this moment in history.

Masters of concert presentations, Canadian Brass has developed a uniquely engaging stage presence and rapport with audiences. Each of their concerts will show the full range from trademark Baroque and Dixieland tunes to new compositions and arrangements created especially for them – from formal classical presentation to music served up with lively dialogue and theatrical effects.

Whatever the style, the music is central and performed with utmost dedication, skill and excellence. The varied Canadian Brass repertoire features brass standards as well as a wide-ranging library of more than 600 original arrangements. With a discography of over 130 albums including several videos and an extensive world-wide touring schedule, Canadian Brass continues to score Billboard chart positions. They are an important pioneer in bringing brass music to mass audiences everywhere throughout  the USA, Canada, Japan and Europe. They have toured South America, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and Australia.

They were the first brass ensemble from the West to perform in the People’s Republic of China as well as the first brass group to take the main stage at the venerable Carnegie Hall.

Exclusive artists for Conn-Selmer Musical Instruments, the five play on state-of-the-art 24K gold-plated Artisan Bach and Conn horns, hand crafted in the USA. Canadian Brass records for Opening Day Entertainment Group [Odeg], their sheet music (published with Hal Leonard Corporation) and recordings are available in their online store

With four decades under their belts, Canadian Brass continues to thrill audiences around the world – and they don’t look like they are letting up anytime soon!