by John Green
Jeffery Ryan (b. 1962)
Jeffrey Ryan was raised in Fergus, Ontario. He left the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University to join the Faculty of Music, graduating in 1984 with an Honours Bachelor of Music degree. After earning a Master's degree in composition from the University of Toronto, he went on to receive his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music composition from The Cleveland Institute of Music in 1995,
Mr. Ryan's varied catalogue includes opera, art song, choral music, chamber ensemble and orchestral works. His compositions have been performed across Canada and internationally. Mr. Ryan is currently serving as composer-in-residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and as composer advisor for the chamber music presenter Music Toronto.
Drivetime is inspired by the idea of travelling and the way that we perceive time when in motion. When we are in a car on a highway, for example, it may feel like we are moving quickly. But to someone looking down from a plane flying overhead, that car looks like it is barely moving. The music first moves forward then slows down becoming suspended, finally closing in an explosion of energy.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)
Valse triste, Op. 44 No. 1
Widely recognized as Finland’s national composer, Jean Sibelius’ musical output, including seven often-performed symphonies, is credited with helping Finland through its struggles with and eventual separation from Russia in 1917. Immediately recognizable are his popular Finlandia, Karelia Suite and the Valse triste(Sad Waltz).
Although intended as incidental music to accompany his brother-in-law’s play Death, the valse soon became popular as a stand-alone concert selection. The piece is brief, a mere six minutes, but displays “a magical intensity of the work’s mood and colour,” to quote one critic’s phrase.
The waltz portrays a sense of melancholic reminiscences that come with old age, the scene in the play where “Paavali, the central character, is seen at the bedside of his dying mother. She tells him that she has dreamed of attending a ball. Paavali falls asleep, and Death enters to claim his victim. The mother mistakes Death for her deceased husband and dances away with him. Paavali awakes to find her dead.”
Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)
Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor
The first of the significant Romantic era composers, von Weber wa an important figure in the development of German romantic opera: Der Freischutz (1821), Euryanthe (1823) and Oberon (1826) are the most notable among the ten he completed. His scores abound in recollections of German folksong and dance set to backdrops of German landscapes. Notable composers that followed him, including Wagner, were heavily influenced by these works, and his incidental piano compositions also had a profound impact on Chopin and Franz Liszt. He was also an admired producer of works for the concert hall, writing concertos for the bassoon, horn and particularly the clarinet; his complete understanding of the clarinet allowed him to explore its full potential.
The Clarinet Concerto No. 1 is in three traditional movements: Allegro, Andante and Rondo. Of note is its controversial history. It is well known that the composer left the score’s clarinet solo part undeveloped. Instead, it was left for the soloist (his friend Heinrich Baermann) to “phrase, add and embellish as he pleased”. This was not an uncommon practice in concerto writing during this period. Then, in 1868, Heinrich’s son Carl, an accomplished clarinetist, published a copy of the concerto which included his father’s additions for the solo part. Much of the score was not what von Weber had written in the original edition, and today there is no correct or “verifiable” way to perform the composer’s masterpiece. To add to the debate there now exists several hybrids of the concerto, and…the controversy lives on.
Symphony No. 2 in D minor
Jean Sibelius’ close friend conductor Robert Kajanus—a distinguished Sibelius interpreter—wrote an essay in which he commented the composer’s second symphony was “a broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and the flowers of their scent.” The comparison is allegorical, whether intended or not. Sibelius chose to ignore the comment; instead he insisted that any symphony is more than just composition, “it is a confession at a given stage in one’s life.”
The work, throughout its four movements, is a study in contrasts. The pastoral atmosphere of the first movement is soon replaced by passages of dark unease and apprehension. Yet again, the music turns to warmth and ease, only to return to outbursts of rugged textures. One critic described the symphony “the like of which we’ve never heard before.”.
Sibelius himself conducted the symphony in Helsinki in 1902 where it wasmet with enormous success. It was a time of intense patriotic emotions—thestruggle for Finnish independence. To this day the Finnish people finddeep-seated pride in the music of the second symphony, a work that has becomean unchallenged concert mainstay.