Concert “For Peace and the Climate”

The power of the arts to bring people together, question the status quo, and encourage empathy for all walks of life directly represents what is needed in the global effort to advance peace and forestall climate change. In the spirit of bringing together diverse perspectives to address these noble goals, the musicians of the Fondation des Etats-Unis present this concert featuring both classical and modern works that will aim to encourage environmental and social solidarity.


Hillary Tann, Windhover Alyssa Hoffert, Saxophone
Windhover, composed for solo flute or soprano saxophone in 1985, is based on the idea of flight from a falcon’s point of view. Sections of slow soaring, where strength and detailed focus predominate, alternate with swifter sections, where the blurring of the rush of flight takes over.

Johannes Brahms, Intermezzi no. 1 & 2, op. 118 John Kamfonas, Piano
Late in his life, Brahms composed four successive sets of intermezzi (1893) for solo piano which would be his final works written for the instrument. As opposed to the colossal musical forms for which Brahms had become known, these pieces avoid extroversion in favor of intimate and poetic lyricism that evoke a heartfelt tenderness and profound empathy for the human condition. Admired for his unconditional support to his friends, family, and surrounding community throughout his life, Brahms represents a true example of humility and generosity towards his environment and fellow man. This spirit remains ever present in these pieces.

“Fluctuat nec megritur”, an Improvisation John Kamfonas, Piano
She is tossed by the waves but does not sink.

François Rabbath, Iberique Peninsulaire Sarah Favinger, Bass
Dedicated to the Spanish singer Paco Ibañez, François Rabbath’s Iberique Peninsulaire (1970) tells the story of a lovesick shepherd watching his sheep go to pasture on the mountain. The work begins with a rumbling of the earth and a reflection on nature with open fifths, tension, and dark timbres. Rising out of the sounds of nature, the shepherd shouts the name of his fiancée to the mountains, but in response he hears only an echo of his own voice. A primary love motive appears, fixed upon a low, resonant note, as a sequential melodic phrase, which returns throughout the piece in several variations. Suddenly, an intense and rhythmic idea dramatically divides the work—the shepherd is dancing like a whirling dervish until he collapses in happiness. After a frantic repetition of the love motive the composition returns to the earthy introduction before the piece forlornly repeats the love motive one final time as the shepherd accepts his solitude. This work was chosen as a reflection of both human love and our communion with nature. The rich sound of the double bass reflects the depth of nature and passion. As the piece spans over three octaves between the sequential love motives, it develops a cyclical progression similar to something one may find in nature, such as the seasons, or even, in love.

William Sharpe, Two Preludes for Solo Piano William Sharpe, Piano
In Prelude III—Portrait of Diana I attempted to create a portrait in music of a friend who is a pianist and a composer. The theme of the piece can be reduced to a chromatic scale, which gradually builds as the piece becomes harmonically richer and contrapuntally more complex. After a short climax, the music dies down and returns to the calm mood of the original scale. Prelude IV is also based on a chromatic scale and was inspired by the music of Alban Berg and the Second Viennese School. The piece was conceived for four separate voices which trade off taking center stage. I chose to perform these two works for you today because together they create a mood of restfulness and peace ideal for reflection.

Marc Mellits, Tachycardia Wilson Poffenberger & Alyssa Hoffert, Alto Saxophones
Tachycardia is a new composition. A minimalist work in nature, this duet for two alto saxophones evokes a strong sense of discomfort that quickly resolves into harmony. The composer takes a simple motive, breaks it apart, then slowly puts it back to together. The soundscape created by this process relates to the discomfort of the current conflict around the world, which is resolved by the unity of people resulting in peace.

Andrew Seager Cole & Wilson Poffenberger, Frozen Atmospheres Wilson Poffenberger, Alto Saxophone
Frozen Atmospheres for Alto Saxophone and Video was written in Wisconsin, a particularly cold and snowy part of the US. The work is comprised of three short movements each of which strives to convey a different affect. The electronic portion of the work uses many different samples, from saxophones, a large trashcan, and water, to ice melting and a prayer bell. While writing Frozen Atmospheres I was thinking of my experiences living in both Maine and Wisconsin and the frozen otherworldly nature of the winters in each location.

Jacob Henry Leveton, The Rhythm of Climate & The Atmosphere of Peace: A Reflection Department of Art History, Northwestern University
In this short thought piece, I reflect on the art-historical significance of sound for re-visioning the ways human beings relate to their environment and one another, concluding that the two are indissociable.

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