VintageAlice • Dracula
Fantascene on “A Mad Tea Party”
Drawn from Lewis Carroll’s
Alice’s Adventures inWonderland
1 Narration 2:23
2 First Evocation of the Queen 0:24
With crude pomposity
3 Cadenza I 1:05
“Bat! – at!. Bat! – at!”
4 The Mad Hatter’s Song: VerseI 3:55
“…little bat! Twinkle, twinkle,little bat!”
The Star: Verse I
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star”
The Star: Verse II
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star”
“You know the song,perhaps?”said the Hatter
5 Second Evocation of theQueen 0:29
With crude pomposity
6 Cadenza II 0:32
“Fly – sky… Fly – sky…”
7 The MadHatter’s Song: Verse II 2:35
(with the Time “murdered”)
“…world youfly…Up above the world you fly”
“Well, I’d hardly finishedthe first verse,” said the Hatter
8 Interlude 1:51
Then a bright idea cameinto Alice’s head
9 Changing Places 3:24
“Let’s all move one place on”
He moved on as he spoke
10 Cadenza III 1:28
“move…moving…Let’s all keep on”
“But what happens when youcome to the
beginning again?” Alicerepeated.
11 Quodlibet-Return 2:47
“Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!”
12 Hymn to the Queen 3:16
“God save our gracious queen”
Here the Dormouse shookitself,
and began singing in itssleep.
13 Sleeping-Coda 1:53
14 Dracula 21:46
Hila Plitmann, soprano
Cleveland Chamber Symphony
David Del Tredici, guest conductor
Against the Grain ofUnconventionality
Americancomposer David Del Tredici, often referred to as “the father ofNeo-Romanticism,” writes music that is full of sentiment and humor. A masterfulorchestrator and a wizard at setting music to text, he composes with a clarityof ideas, both musical and social. His music is at times subtle and refined, at others blatantlyover-the-top. A strong sense oftheatricality infuses his work, instrumental and vocal pieces alike.
“Everyonehas a secret music,” Del Tredici once said. “You just really have to listen, follow yourinstincts.” In the liner notes forhis CD SecretMusic, heelaborates on this notion, describing a “Secret music” as “a musical event, oran enthusiasm—that [composers] enjoy, but think is irrelevant, shameful,or somehow ‘wrong.’ They think ofit, too often, as a blemish to be removed, rather than a beauty spot to becherished. Yet paradoxically, thiscan be the composer’s most original attribute—his vein of gold…hisauthentic self.
DelTredici’s own trajectory as a composer illustrates this concept perfectly: Hewas trained as a serial composer in the late fifties and early sixties, writingatonal music because, as he puts it, “every young composer wants to be bad.” During the sixties, he starteddeveloping his own sense of tonality that introduced the whole-tone scale intoa music of highly organized mechanical processes. During this period he produced masterpieces such as Syzygy and Night Conjure-Verse (both set to poems by James Joyce),which have been praised by academics and romantics alike, while containingseeds of the sumptuous music of his future.
Uponthe recommendation of a friend, he discovered Martin Gardner’s book, The Annotated Alice, which – by including theVictorian poetry that Lewis Carroll parodied – made Alice’s wonderlandmuch more interesting and ultimately opened up a whole new world for DelTredici: that of tonality. Thetexts he took from Lewis Carroll are far more playful and narrative-driven thanthat of Joyce’s dark modernist poetry, seeming to urge him to write “wholesome,more energetic” music, and break out of the “green horrifying fog” of modernacademic composition. Bravely, heforged ahead. He kept to himselffor a while, remaining true to the Alice texts that he was setting (which hedid to the point of obsession for about twenty years), nervous about sharinghis music with colleagues, afraid they would dismiss his music and call himcrazy. On the contrary, in 1980 hewon the Pulitzer Prize (notorious in music for being a prize given to academicsby academics) for InMemory of a Summer Day.
DelTredici’s music goes against the grain of unconventionality: At a time when itwas taboo to write in the tonal idiom associated with older music, he followedhis native impulse. But he hasbeen revolutionary in another important way. He is among the first gay composers to openly celebrate hissexuality with his music, which he does primarily by setting homoerotic textsto music. He seems to be reactingto a long history of shame associated with sex, recognizing that social tabooshave had their strongest hold on gay culture. Although many composers have been gay, few, if any, haveshown it in their music, and some have been inclined or even forced to keeptheir sexuality to themselves: Virgil Thomson and Henry Cowell were arrested onseparate occasions for homosexual activities, and Cowell even spent four yearsin San Quentin State Prison (where he wrote nearly sixty compositions) afterbeing convicted on a “morals” charge.
Withhis Alice music, Del Tredici was dealing, in a sense, with the closetedVictorian way of life, as the texts arguably deal indirectly with Carroll’srepressed love for a young girl. Whether conscious or not, there is a clear parallel linking the subjectof these pieces to the struggles of gays living in an intolerant society.
DelTredici’s music has outraged some concertgoers, but it has delighted manymore. In the long run, it may helpto inject a more irreverent attitude into the staid “serious” classical musicscene. This has happened before,musically speaking, with composers like Cage, Stockhausen, Varese, Boulez, andCowell. However, there is clearlystill some progress to be made on a social level. Del Tredici is making his way along that path, all the whilestaying true to his musical impulses.
— Sergei Tcherepninis a composer/performer of new music currently based in Brooklyn; this essay isexcerpted from a review published in the May 2007 online edition of The Brooklyn Rail <brooklynrail.org>.Used by permission.
Fantascene on “A Mad Tea Party”
Vintage Alice, dating from 1972, is the fourth ofDel Tredici’s compositions based on episodes from Lewis Carroll’s Alice books;the series started with Pop-Pourriin 1968 andculminated in the 1990s with the opera Dum Dee Tweedle, which is still awaiting stage production. These works trace the composer’sevolution away from atonality towards a reconsideration of Romantic tonalpractices and idioms.
Vintage Alice – so named because it wascommissioned for the concert series of Paul Masson Winery in California –stands mid-way in this stylistic trajectory. The basic material of the work is a pair of famous, evenbanal, tunes: God Save the Queen” (known to Americans as “My Country, ‘tis ofThee”) and “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” Their treatment is not conventionally tonal, however, andits manic complexity frequently results in Ives-like mayhem.
As well as singing all the roles,the soprano narrates Lewis Carroll’s text and is joined by a moderate-sizedchamber orchestra and, as in Del Tredici’s other Alice pieces, a “folkgroup.” The composer comments that“the use of a folk group…with the normal symphony orchestra is a kind ofmetaphor for whimsical incongruity. The serious listener needs only to glimpse an accordion, a mandolin, abanjo and two saxophones gathering together on a concert stage to know thatthings are not as they ought to be and may yet become curiouser and curiouser…”
Vintage Alice is a setting of the Hatter’s famous“mad tea-party” in Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland. It reflects both theinspired lunacy of the party itself and the Hatter’s account of his performanceat the Queen of Hearts’ “great concert.” The Queen is duly invoked in a raucous rendition of “God Save the Queen”in several keys and speeds simultaneously, and Del Tredici juxtaposes theoriginal texts of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” with the Mad Hatter’s parodyof it as “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat.” The work culminates in the densely layered “Quodlbet – Return,”which combines several renditions of “God Save the Queen” with the Mad Hatter’ssong and “Twinkle, twinkle,” in canon, poly-rhythm, augmentation anddiminution, against a decorative vocalize in the soprano.
Throughoutthe piece, multiple use of augmentation, diminution, and other speeddistortions for a brilliant musical analogue to the Queen of Hearts’ commentabout the Hatter’s performance: “He’s murdering the time!”; the resultanttextures exemplify the precisely calculated chaos that is the hallmark of DelTredici’s mature style. Finally,only the somnambulant murmurs of the Dormouse remain, until the others silencehim with a sharp pinch, clearly audible in the concluding orchestral tumult.
— Julian Anderson isan English composer; this text originally appeared in the liner notes to theDeutsche Grammophon recording of Vintage Alice.
The Hatter’s Song
(from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, 1865)
Twinkle, twinkle, littlebat!
How I wonder what you’reat!
Up above the world youfly,
Like a tea-tray in thesky.
(Jane Taylor, 1806)
Twinkle, twinkle, littlestar,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world sohigh,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun isgone,
When he nothing shinesupon,
Then you show your littlelight,
Twinkle, twinkle, all thenight.
Then the traveller in thedark
Thanks you for your tinyspark:
He could not see which wayto go,
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky youkeep
And often through mycurtains peep,
For you never shut youreye
Till the sun is in thesky.
As your bright and tinyspark
Lights the traveller inthe dark,
Though I know not what youare,
Twinkle, twinkle, littlestar.
Hymn to the Queen
God save our graciousQueen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us,
God save the Queen.
Violin I: Laura Martin,concertmaster
Violin II: Peter Briedis
Viola: Heather Walker
Cello: Heidi Albert
Bass: Dianna Richardson
Keyboard: Mark George
Flute: Sean Gabriel, Mary KayFerguson, Sally Sherwin
Oboe: David McGuire, Martin Neubert
Clarinet: Louis Gangale, DaielWilliams
Bassoon: Mark DeMio, Todd Jelen
Horn: David Nesmith, Cynthia Wulff
Trumpet: John Brndiar, Michael Chunn
Trombone: James Taylor, Eric Rowles
Tuba: Gary Adams
Percussion: Andrew Pongracz, JanetPemberton
Soprano Saxophone: Thomas Reed,Richard Shanklin
Accordion: Henry Doktorski
Banjo: Robert Tye
Mandolin: Michael George
Dracula is a 20-minute setting of AlfredCorn’s poem, “My Neighbor, the Distinguished Count.” It is written for a soprano-narrator and thirteen players:flute (doubling on piccolo), clarinet (doubling on bass clarinet), trumpet,horn, percussion (two players), theremin, piano (doubling on celesta) and aquintet of strings.
Thetext retells the famous gothic tale from the point of view of a woman livingnext-door to “the distinguished count.” In five scenes, the poem chronicles her initial disinterest, gradualseduction, then degradation, rejection and finally, “vampiristic” transformation.
Thepiece makes enormous demands upon the soprano soloist, who must speak even morethan she sings and, when singing, must negotiate over three octaves –from the D below middle-C (when conjuring up the voice of the count) to the Ebabove high-C (when depicting the woman in extremis).
Theinstrumental ensemble is perhaps most notable for the inclusion of the theremin– the exotic, other-worldly-sounding electronic instrument that evoked“horror” and “mystery” in early Hollywood films. Most of the poem is written in the past tense – thewoman is telling us what happened. When the narrative reaches the present and Dracula himself comes to her“for the last time,” the theremin – with its whooshes and wails –announces itself, personifying the (excitingly) depraved count.
Singing,in Dracula, is reserved for special occasions,such as when the count himself speaks or when the woman is mostoverwrought. As well, at keymoments throughout the setting, I repeat, like an incantation, certain texts ofthe menacing count (“I come to you, dearest, because you think / Of me. An irresistible summons.”) and of theecstatic woman (“How often I long to stay profoundly asleep / And never beconscious again.”).
Midwaythrough the musical discourse, there is a fugue (the count’s “troop of haggardfollowers…congregate”) and a final aria of transformation wherein the soprano’shigh-flying voice and the wail of the theremin merge as one…
Thepiece touches many emotional levels. With the use of the theremin, copious amounts of wind-machine androiling bass drum, “scary" is a primary reaction – as is“funny.” Nervous giggles andstartled gasps would not be unwelcome here. Deeper down, the listener confronts the more ominous worldof addiction, betrayal and obsession. And inevitably, there comes the ultimate degradation – a Faustianbargain with a devilish price: devolution into the living dead.
— David (Count) DelTredici
Dracula was commissioned jointly by the EosOrchestra, Jonathan Sheffer, conductor, and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. It was premiered by the Eos Orchestraon March 4th, 1999 and by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony on September 27, 1999.
Flute (doubling piccolo): SeanGabriel
Clarinet (doubling bass clarinet):
Trumpet: John Brndiar
Horn: David Nesmith
Piano: Mark George
Two percussionists: Andrew Pongracz,Janet Pemberton
Two violins: Laura Russell, PeterBriedis
Viola: Nicole Divall
Cello: Martha Baldwin
Double bass: Dianna Richardson
Theremin: Dalit Warshaw
Soprano soloist: Hila Plitmann(amplified)
The Distinguished Count
by Alfred Corn
At first thinking it washarmless
Enough, I told myself Ihad pints
To spare, so why refuse asimple favor?
Hannah could have turnedhim away at the door,
But I didn’t think thatwas necessary.
I’d always liked hismother and father
(Whom he grew sadly toresemble less
As months passed, hiscondition progressing).
The visits came bearablyseldom,
And no one could havebrought everything
Off more smoothly. Afterwards I’d feel calmer,
Drowsy, reconciled. Easy to see why
People once regularly bledthemselves
For medical reasons,though of course
That was a cure normallyreserved for men,
Who labor under greaterpressures than we.
Easy, too, for one to thinof donor service
As the good deed for theday – thy neighbor
As thyself, no? – aneighbor so visibly
In need, his pale browfurrowed, an electric
Tic active at the cornerof his mouth
Thoughts less reassuringsurfaced later
When what he meant ascompensation arrived,
The flowers, touring caridling outside,
Heart-shaped boxes ofintricate chocolates,
Young Burgundies, springlamb nicely done up.
Why did the visitsmultiply? No doubt
There had been otherclients beforehand,
But perhaps they moved ordied, who can say?
Or else, he’d concluded Iwas, for the moment,
A likely vintage and apleasant temperature.
One afternoon I broughtmyself to ask.
“I come to you, dearest,because you think
Of me. A irresistible summons.”
Manners: how tell anacquaintance serene
In the conviction ofhaving been your constant
Preoccupation for how longnow that,
In fact, you hardly everthought of him?
He answered, even betterthan that, he could read
Signs. It seemed I’d left them everywhere.
And true messages alwaysreached their addressee,
Wasn’t it so? From this I knew the mere facts
Of our erratic situationcounted for nothing
When placed beside his owninner persuasions.
He told me he’d beenseeing more “signs” than ever,
And certainly he came tome more and more often,
Insisting I call him Tony,as his friends did.
I tactfully refused. When dealing with
Obsessions, as a rule thesafest plan
Is to maintain a strictformality.
Yet it occurred to me atsome point symptoms
Might creep up with nowarning. You would be
Quite unaware of newexpressive habits
Connected, he said, to your daydreams – which,
In this case, were alsotraps. I must outwit them.
Have you ever tried not to think of a face
Or a voice, going overeach confused tangle
On the mental loom to makesure the banned
Thread of referencedoesn’t appear in it?
How often I longed to stayprofoundly asleep
And never be consciousagain…. Waking,
I brooded on little buthow to stop our meetings,
A rebellion no doubtproving just how much his
I was. For what demonstrates more clearly
The power of a creatorthan fierce resistance
From his creature? If alive, it will be free.
Free, it will insist onits own ideas–
And so, at last, have tobe disciplined.
Lately, there’s beenanother turn of the screw.
His chauffeur arrives witha silver cover
Under which lies a rat,spitted and roasted.
Or his gardener will leavea fistful of poisoned ivy
Tied with catgut in themailbox. And then, the dresses,
Too small, too large,jaundice yellow, black violet.
Now it’s hopeless, no ourpasses without thoughts
I’ve given up trying tosidestep or quench–
Which he has taken aslicense to appear
At all hours, day ornight, and send, with thanks,
More frequent tokens ofdeclining esteem.
I gather from what he says(we sit, we chat)
I’m not what I used to be,his visits, indeed,
A gesture of sentimentalgallantry.
Apparently, there’ssomeone else less…shopworn.
Yesterday I asked, in avoice admittedly weak
(The constant drain), why he still bothered to call.
“Because,my dear, you haven’t stopped thinking of me.”
Iblushed (faintly), he smiled, and when he left there was–
Where? Oh yes, the kitchen–a coiledblood sausage,
Old, wizened, utterlydried out, resting
On a small hand mirror. I remember this now
Only because I can’t helpdoing so, aware
Of the acrid little joke:that, according
To his iron code ofgamesmanship, I have
Just authorized anothercourtesy call.
In full knowledge also(hideous necklace of sores
That no longer heal, veinslike blackened vines!)
That today he will comefor the last time.
My quaint request is thatthe coup de grace
Be administered by himselfalone and not
By any of his troop ofhaggard followers
Who have begun tocongregate outside.
Thick as autumn leavesready for the bonfire,
They throng my doorstep,basser eyes pleading;
And without giving theirnames, they pronounce my own,
A silken cajolery drollyintoned, as if–
As if they were oldfriends I’m about to rejoin.
And then , this drivingpain in my eyeteeth,
This thirst…. Well, you see, I want my turn, too.
A country mile off, I sawand felt the change.
It has the magnetism ofall dimly grasped ideals.
Surely by now no one cansay I am not deserving?
I understand the problemsand am willing to work.
Look, he has arrived. Hannah’s white cap vanishes
Down the dark passage andis replaced by his face
Floating in the gloom likea full moon, eyes lowered,
Hisleft hand dangling a gold watch on its long chain.
Never have I seen so much,nor ever felt so deeply–
Hence the sudden piercingintimation of what I am
Oneday to be, this twilit picture of discretion, the set
Of his features calm as anengraving of one who lets words
Of gratitude pass insilence as he settles to the task.
Generallyrecognized as the father of the Neo-Romantic movement in music, David Del Tredici has received numerous awards(including the Pulitzer Prize) and has been commissioned and performed bynearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble. “Del Tredici,” said AaronCopland, “is that rare find among composers – a creator with a trulyoriginal gift. I venture tosay that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the Americanmusical scene. I know of noother composer of his generation … who composes music of greater freshness anddaring, or with more personality.”
Bornon March 16, 1937 in Cloverdale, California, Del Tredici was a child piano prodigywho gave his professional debut at 17 with the San Francisco Symphony. In his formal training, he earneddegrees at the University of California (Berkeley) and Princeton University.
Stylistically,over the course of his compositional life, Del Tredici has moved –controversially – from mid-20th-century serialism (exemplified by hiselaborate vocal settings of James Joyce – I Hear an Army; Night Conjure-Verse; Syzygy) to an individualistic musicallanguage re-embracing tonality. The breakthrough came with his unique series of “Alice” works, based onstories and poetry of Lewis Carroll and written for amplified soprano and largeorchestra (FinalAlice, Child Alice, Pot-Pourri andAdventures Underground,to name just a few).
BeyondJoyce and Carroll, Del Tredici has more recently set to music a cavalcade ofcontemporary American poets, producing a number of song cycles – Miz Inez Sez, Chana’sStory, Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter and On Wings of Song – and several works celebrating a gay sensibility. Gay Life, Wondrous the Merge and Three Baritone Songs are three examples of the latter;OUT Magazine, in fact, has twice named the composer one of its people of theyear.
Overthe past several years Del Tredici has ventured into the more intimate realm ofchamber music with StringQuartet No. 1, Grand Trio (brought to life by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio), and –harkening to his musical beginnings as a piano prodigy – a large numberof solo-piano works: Gotham Glory, ThreeGymnopedies, Ballad in Yellow, Opposites Attract, Wedding Song and Wildwood Etude.
Still,the extravagant Del Tredici remains at large. In May 2005, Robert Spano conducted the AtlantaSymphony and Chorus, with Hila Plitmann as soprano soloist, in premiering Paul Revere’s Ride – an impassioned workinspired by Del Tredici’s 9/11 experience. (Recorded by Telarc, it became a Grammy Award nominee forBest New Classical Composition of 2006). November 2005 brought the premiere of the melodrama Rip Van Winkle with the National SymphonyOrchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and narrated by world-famous Broadwayactor Brian Stokes Mitchell.
Besidesthe recent Telarc CD, Del Tredici’s new releases include an all-Del-Tredici CDon Deutsche Grammophon, and In Wartime, a spectacular new work for concert band on the Dorian label. (Among past recordings were twobest-sellers ¬– FinalAlice and In Memory of a Summer Day, the work that won Del Tredici thePulitzer Prize in 1980.)
Concertsplanned throughout the years 2007-2008 mark Del Tredici’s 70th birthday,culminating with the return of Del Tredici’s seminal, evening-long Final Alice, which will be performed May 8, 9and 10, 2008 by soprano Hila Plitmann and the National Symphony at Washington’sKennedy Center, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Originally commissioned and premiered by Sir GeorgSolti in 1976, FinalAlice received asecond premiere – of a sort – when a chamber-ensemble version(created and conducted by Alexander Platt) was played at the edgy MaverickConcerts in Woodstock, New York, on September 1, 2007. Also of special interest is a newconcert series in New York City (“Then and Now”), which is devoting itsinaugural season to Del Tredici, offering a four-concert survey of his works.
Thepassing years have done nothing to dampen Del Tredici’s creative fires, with anexplosion of newly-commissioned works marking his most recent birthday: Love Addiction (a baritone/piano song-cycle onpoems by John Kelly), MagyarMadness (forclarinet and string quartet), Queer Hosannas (for male chorus and piano) and S/M Ballade (for piano).
Havingpreviously taught at Harvard University, Boston University and the JuilliardSchool, Del Tredici is currently Distinguished Professor of Music at The CityCollege of New York. He and hislife-partner, Ray Warman, make their home in Greenwich Village.
Overthe past twenty-four years under the visionary leadership of founder andartistic director, Dr. Edwin London, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony has steadily climbed to the summitof new music’s Mount Olympus. Ithas had a long history of commissions (premiering over 170 new works), nurturesyoung composers, and regularly receives significant national accolades, mostrecently a 2007 Grammy Award. Theorchestra’s Artistic Director is currently Steven Smith.
Hila Plitmann has been praised by the New YorkTimes for her “brilliant top register”; the Los Angeles Times calls her“exceptionally gifted” and the Chicago Tribune has described her as “...superb,with an expressive range and communicative power.”
Shehas performed as featured soloist with ensembles such as the New YorkPhilharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and theAtlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Amongnumerous recordings, she's appeared as soloist in three recordings that havereceived Grammy nominations for 2007, one of which is the soundtrack to theHollywood blockbuster TheDaVinci Code.
Upcomingengagements include the NAXOS world premiere recording of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man with the Buffalo Symphony; andDavid Del Tredici’s FinalAlice with theNational Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Slatkin.
Shereceived her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School ofMusic. She has a Black Beltin Tae Kwon Do.
This CD was funded in part by theAaron Copland Fund for Music Recording Program, administered by the AmericanMusic Center. And by the New YorkState Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at theRockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
Special thanks to Mark George, CoreyField, and David Del Tredici.
Engineer: David Yost
Program Annotator: Robert Finn
General Manager: Daniel Morgenstern
Dracula performed October 30, 2000
Vintage Alice performed September 24, 2001 atDrinko Recital Hall, Cleveland State University, OH
Published by Boosey and Hawkes
Innova is supported by an endowmentfrom the McKnight Foundation.
Director, design: Philip Blackburn
Operations: Chris Campbell