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Also Sprach Zarathustra

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It Became Dark
Chris Rogerson
b. 1988
A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, the Yale School of Music and Princeton University, Rogerson was honored in 2012 with a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In the same year he co-founded Kettle Corn New Music, a new music presenting organization in New York City, and currently serves as its co-artistic director. He has been named the Composer-in-Residence for the Amarillo Symphony for 2014-2017.
Rogerson composed It became Dark in 2017 on commission from the Kansas City Symphony. He writes:
“There is something very poignant about sleep. Sleep unites us: we all participate in this ritual, however different we may be. Over four movements, It Became Dark explores an emotional journey as night falls and sleep beckons.
“As a child I was often afraid of bedtime; the imminent plunge into the unknown frightened me, and my parents came up with a nightly ritual to help calm me down. The first movement, “Ritual”, is child-like, simple, and tranquil, and depicts the tenderness of this time.
“As I grew up, I’d sometimes ask for “three more minutes!” to play or read or whatever I was doing. The second movement of this work, which is orchestrated from an earlier solo piano work of a similar topic, attempts to portray these frenetic and playful moments.
“The third movement describes stillness. Here my thoughts gravitated to a recent memory, late at night on the South Island of New Zealand. After a rain, my sister and I walked out on the road, in the middle of nowhere and in complete darkness, and we saw the Milky Way in all its grandeur. Our eyes were soon drawn to a nearby forest: glowworms illuminated the woods, creating their own miniature, shimmering constellations. In one mysterious, magical moment, we could witness the immense beauty and vast potential of our universe and compare it to the ephemeral beauty we have here on Earth.
“The final movement is called “Sleep Music”: a fleet, flowing lullaby that attempts to evoke the world of dreams.”
Cello Concerto No. 2 in D major, link:2
Franz Joseph Haydn
Haydn belonged to the last generation of servant-musicians. Most of his life was spent, ostensibly contentedly, at the Esterháza estate (now in Hungary). There, the music-loving and talented Count Nikolas kept him on a demanding schedule of composing for his court orchestra, chamber ensembles opera – and the Count’s favorite instrument, the barytone. He was finally able to break out on his own at the end of his long life when Nikolas’ successor, a parsimonious and unmusical sort, took over the estate.
The authenticity of Haydn’s cello concertos has been in question for the last 200 years. The existence of Concerto No. 1 in C major, however, has never been in doubt since the composer listed it in his Entwurf-Katalog (a thematic draft catalog) of his works, which he began compiling in 1765 after his patron admonished him for “negligence.” But the manuscript was lost, and for a long time only romanticized and souped-up versions were available. Finally, a copy was discovered in 1962 in the Czech National Library bearing the signature of Joseph Weigl Sr., Haydn’s cellist, who had been in the service of the Esterházy family from 1761 to 1768, and for whom it was probably written. All other cello concertos attributed to Haydn – the number is in dispute – have been suspect, although recent research and the mining of archives have removed some from the “doubtful” list.
The Concerto No. 2 belongs to the recently authenticated category. Although it was always well known, it is missing from the Entwurf-Katalog and was believed for over 100 years to be by Anton Kraft, one of the Esterháza cellists from 1778 to 1790. But in 1954, Haydn’s lost autograph dated 1783 was discovered in Vienna. He had probably composed the Concerto for Kraft, who became one of Vienna’s most sought-after cellists.
In 1783, the year of the autograph manuscript, Haydn’s orchestra at Esterháza was adequate, but still limited. Consequently, in the D major Concerto the soloist always played with the orchestra in all the tutti sections, a tradition that is not always followed today. Moreover, since at that time it was customary for soloists to improvise their own cadenzas, Haydn specified none in the autograph.
Haydn appears to have composed the Concerto by the time he had already produced 80 of his more than 104 symphonies and around the time of the Op. 33 String Quartets. These were the two genres in which he was most prolific and innovative, significantly advancing the “state of the art.” His name was by then well known, especially in Vienna, where the Esterházy family spent a good part of the year, bringing their prize musician with them.
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
Richard Strauss
In 1892, by then a well-known composer and respected conductor of the opera at Weimar, Richard Strauss became seriously ill, the lingering after-effects of pneumonia. To regain his health, he spent November of that year on an extended Mediterranean cruise, stopping over in Egypt, Greece and Sicily. The respite gave him time off from his hectic conducting schedule to concentrate on the composition of his first opera, Guntram, and to plan two future works: Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche and Also sprach Zarathustra.
The conceptual leap between the musical portrayal of the low-life prankster Till, and the utterances of a nineteenth century philosopher’s interpretation of an ancient Persian prophet, boggles the imagination. Zarathustra, or as the Greeks called him Zoroaster, probably lived in the sixth or fifth century B.C. in eastern Persia. Proclaiming himself the prophet of Ahura-Mazda (“The Wise Lord”), Zarathustra’s name for God, he saw man as the focal point of the conflict between God and the spirits of darkness. Persecuted by the Persians, Zoroastrians fled East to India, where they are called Parsees and still practice their religion.

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