The program is an exploration of interpretations of Ophelia by diverse composers, including Richard Strauss’ Ophelia-lieder; Brahms’ five Ophelia Songs; settings of Mort d’Ophelie by Berlioz and Saint-Saens; John Cage’s early piano solo “Ophelia,” Schumann’s Herzeleid; and several Ophelia songs from the opera Hamlet by The Shakespeare Concerts’ founder, Joseph Summer.
Other Upcoming Events:
Parma Recordings and The Shakespeare Concerts begin a collaboration with the upcoming release of Shakespeare’s Memory, the first in a series of Shakespeare themed CDs which will include interpretations of the bard in music from diverse composers. The first release features the music of Joseph Summer and a cameo appearance by Shakespeare contemporary William Byrd. The second in the series, The Fair Ophelia, will include the music of Strauss, Schumann, Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Brahms, and John Cage.
Albany Records releases The Garden Of Forking Paths, string quartet in c major, by Joseph Summer, performed by The Kalmia String Quartet: Shawn and Scot Moore, violins; Leah Gastler, viola; Tamás Zétényi, cello. The quartet was first performed at the Pierre Menard Art Gallery in Cambridge, presented by The Shakespeare Concerts, April 1st, 2011.
The string quartet is in five movements:
I: Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote
II: Shakespeare’s Memory
III: Laudatores Temporis Acti
IV: An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain
V: The Library of Babel
Each movement is a musical interpretation of the named stories of the preeminent 20th century fabulist, Jorge Luis Borges. The first and second movements are played without pause, as are the fourth and fifth.
I: Pierre Menard is an author whose most intriguing novel is an attempt to rewrite Cervantes’ Don Quixote, word for word. Borges’ tale concerns Menard’s fastidious and acknowledged plagiarism. The first movement begins with a mirror image of the opening bars of Mozart’s “Dissonant” Quartet. After the avulsive introduction, the movement reflects those chapters Menard emulated (the violins and viola) and Menard’s temporally displaced imitation (cello).
II: An Argentinan author, perhaps Borges himself, acquires the bard’s memories, but doesn’t lose his own. The second movement combines elements of the life of Edward DeVere, the 17th earl of Oxford and the author of the English Language’s greatest plays under his familiar pseudonym: William Shakespeare; with the sounds of Buenos Aires. The Oxford March by William Byrd (written in honor of DeVere) becomes enmired in a South American tango.
III: Laudatores Temporis Acti concerns an Asian religious sect first brought to the attention of Europe by a fictional Portuguese sea captain in 1669. The sect believed the past was completely disconnected from the present, though they worshipped it (the past) as if it were an idol. The third movement explores this notion through the invention of an artificial “old” style music, which, however is deliberately inauthentic and thus disconnected from current musical schools.
IV: Another author explored in Borges’ collection is Herbert Quain whose works are less interesting for their content than for their structures. Quain defined his novel’s construction through musical like patterns of repetition and transition. The fourth movement is similarly constructed, taking the mundane material of a minuet accompaniment and allowing it to be framed in an unusually restructured minuet – trio – minuet form.
V: The final movement is a description of one of Borges’ most satisfying deconstructions of artistic creativity. The library of Babel contains all possible combinations of a set of letters and orthographic symbols. Thus Shakespeare’s Hamlet resides in the library as does a book which contains nothing but the letters “a” and “z” repeated ad nauseum. In my interpretation I have discovered a volume in a musical library of Babel which contains the music of my very own quartet, but not quite as I wrote it. It is one of the many variants which exist in the library. A theme and variations structure shows how my original music could have been generated in several different ways, some more outlandish than others. Also, it is discovered herein that the entire quartet is really merely a variant version of the one I thought I had written as musical conflicts from earlier in the quartet are resolved in a way I would not have chosen.
Additionally, the story The Garden of Forking Paths intrudes at times, and the piece finishes with a coda inspired by the story The End.