More than half a century of studying music has convinced me that rhythm is the most important element in both understanding and creating a musical composition. In fact, the element of pitch is a type of rhythm: a continuous pulsation of air pressure that occurs a particular number of times each second, or more simply, sound waves. Indeed, many aspects of music and our responses to it occur in pulsations or wave-like shapes over time, quickly or slowly, at both even and uneven time intervals.
Many walks in the woods of southern Vermont have been the major source of inspiration for shaping the musical elements that form the sonic peaks and valleys of Mountain Paths. From my former home in Arlington and my present home in Manchester, the woods and mountains have always been a short distance away. Close encounters with bear, deer, birds, and once with a moose have made these walks an exciting part of my life in Vermont. Of course, the wildest creatures in the forest may be the humans—walking during hunting season seems too exciting for me.
Deep Forest—Dark Dance and Ice Storm Light Show are musical portrayals of some of the wide variety of sensations that I have experienced during these mountain walks. The visual aspect of each title is intended to direct the listener to the emotional tenor and mood of the music.
Mountain Paths was commissioned by the Sage City Symphony of North Bennington, Vermont and had its world premier on May 28, 2000.
My String Quartet, completed in 2004, is based on a single rhythmic and melodic wave-like shape whose crests and troughs are the inspiration for both the large and small scale musical expression of the piece. The musical example below shows the theme of the work and its relationship to the seven sections, which are separated and emphasized by pauses.
Rhythms, melodic contours, and expressive trajectories of the theme are freely employed to form the work from the smallest motive through phrases and sections to the entire piece.
All chords and melodies in my music are those which I find the most beautiful and exciting. As in my other works, the style of the Quartet is highly chromatic. Chords are composed to serve the expressive situation where they occur: more consonant at points of relaxation and more dissonant at points of tension and high intensity. Melodic shapes are more disjunct, fragmented, and agitated at the crests of expressive waves and more conjunct, continuous, and tranquil in the troughs of musical low points.
Contrasts was originally scored for piano and string quartet in the 1960s. The work was recently revised and reorchestrated for chamber strings to provide the strings with a more equal range and power in the dialogue with the piano. The contrasts in the piece grow naturally from the differences between the piano and strings: percussive attack versus the ability to sustain as well as the difference in timbres. While the piano and strings are capable of playing similar types of passages, the resulting sound is never the same.
The harmonic and melodic elements of the composition are constantly juxtaposing diatonic and chromatic properties. Part I begins with the strings repeating a dissonant chromatic chord as the piano plays a more diatonic melody; after a transitional cello melody the strings take up the diatonic melody while the piano repeats another dissonant chromatic chord. The rhythms and articulations of the chords are short with rests in between while longer legato notes predominate in the opening melodies. The various elements are combined to form a readily comprehensible expressive style that has a firm footing in late romantic music.
Part I of Contrasts begins with an introduction in moderate tempo and presents most of the melodic and harmonic material that is varied in the subsequent fast and lively section. Several episodes explore new textures, polyrhythms, and instrumental combinations before presenting the principal theme in its most intense and lyrical variation. A restatement of the opening of the fast section leads to a ferocious climactic close.
In the slower Part II, the melodies gradually become more chromatic as they start to supplement the perfect fourths and fifths of Part I with thirds, sixths, and minor seconds. Part II is made up of three sections, the second of which repeats the material of the first section with many melodic contours inverted. Part II Finale begins at track 12 on this disc with a new chromatic melody that grows out of triplet repeated chords from Part I. A string melody from earlier in Part II is played by the piano, and with the triplet repeated chords added to the mix, all the elements are traded back and forth in a driving rhythmic dialogue that continues to the last chord.
The title, Morphopoiesis, is a biological term whose definition is an appropriate metaphor for the expressive style of the composition: “The formation of an organic structure from a limited number of subunits.” Definitions of the components of the word make it seem an even more suitable title—morpho comes from the Greek morphe, meaning form; poiesis is defined in English as “creative production, especially of art.”
Through a technique similar to the creation of the sections of my String Quartet, the three parts of Morphopoiesis are organically formed from the simple rhythmic pattern of the opening horn melody: Part I–short,long; Part II–short, short, long; and Part III–short, short, short, long.
The dramatic five bar introduction of Part I corresponds to an augmentation of the “short” of Part I and drives the music forward to the tempo change in bar six which is the beginning of the “long” section of Part I. Parts II and III are formed with similar organically expressive repetitions and expansions of their respective rhythmic patterns.
Bruce Hobson, who lives in Manchester, Vermont, was born in 1943 in Hartford, Connecticut, where he studied piano and trumpet at the Hartt School of Music in the 1950s. During studies at Columbia University and the New England Conservatory of Music, his composition teachers included Jacuqes-Louis Monod, Otto Luening, Chou Wen Chung, and Malcolm Peyton.
Mr. Hobson’s compositions have been characterized by Fanfare Magazine as “expressive, superbly crafted…taut, powerful music.” The American Record Guide has described his music as “tightly structured and fine sounding. Hobson has a strong sense of the nature of chromatic harmony, and his ‘extensions’ of tonality really ‘sound’.”
Performances of his works have been given by the Capella Cracoviensis in Poland, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in the Czech Republic, the I.S.C.M., the Sage City Symphony in Bennington, Vermont, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the Guild of Composers in New York City.
Mr. Hobson has been a founding member and officer of the Guild of Composers, a performing organization in New York, and the Association for the Promotion of New Music, a music publisher. His recorded works and scores are available on line from www.equinoxmusic.com.
Equinox Music is a sole proprietorship that was established in 1987 by Mr. Hobson for the purpose of bringing together under one organization the publication, recording, performance, and promotion of his music. Equinox Music is affiliated with BMI under the name Bruce Hobson Music. It is a member of the RIAA; its recordings are registered with Sound Exchange.
Founded in 1970 by Stanislaw Galonski, Capella Cracoviensis consists of both distinguished singers and instrumentalists. The musicians are organized into four groups: a chamber orchestra, a madrigalist ensemble, a male vocal ensemble (the Rorantists) and an independent wind instrument ensemble. The groups perform separately or together as a vocal-instrumental oratorio ensemble.
The repertoire of the ensemble is wide and varied, drawing on music from the medieval to the contemporary periods. Polish music occupies an important position in this repertoire, including the early composers Mikolaj of Radom, K. Borek, M. Gomólka, G. G. Gorczycki as well as the contemporary composers Z. Bujarski, K. Meyer, K. Penderecki, W. Lutoslawski, and M. Stachowski. In 1992–93 Capella Cracoviensis produced its first opera performance: Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which was subsequently presented on tour in the United States.
The ensemble has appeared in many European countries and the Vatican, where it performed for Pope John Paul II and the Curia Romana; the group has performed internationally throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Capella has made many recordings of both early and contemporary music. In 1992 Capella Cracoviensis was awarded the prestigious Diapason d'Or and the Grand Prix du Disque de l'Academie Charles Cros for recordings of Darius Milhaud's Six Chamber Symphonies and Trois Operas Minutes. Capella organizes a yearly international festival, Music in Old Cracow, which presents outstanding soloists and ensembles from all over the world.
Gamavilla String Quartet
Vít Muzík, violin
Vladislav Kvapil, violin
Gabriel Pavlík, viola
Marián Pavlík, violoncello
Formed in 1998, the Gamavilla String Quartet has brought together four of the finest musicians from the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the foremost orchestras in the Czech Republic. Since its inception, the Quartet’s repertoire has consisted of a broad selection of classical music from the Renaissance through the romantic period and into the twenty-first century. The ensemble has had great success in presenting jazz compositions as well as classical works influenced by jazz. Arrangements for string quartet of Beatles favorites and well known pieces by George Gershwin have become and remain an important part of ensemble’s repertoire.
Participation in many concerts and major music festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad has established the group’s reputation as one of the important string quartets in Europe. The ensemble has made recordings for Czech Television and Broadcasting, including a live recording made for Czech Broadcasting in Prague and Slovak Broadcasting in Bratislava that was transmitted by the European Broadcasting Union in June of 2004 and received excellent reviews.
The Quartet has also participated in numerous concert tours of internationally recognized stars of pop music. In 1999 the ensemble performed with Vanesa-Mae in Germany and Switzerland; in 2005 the group toured with Rod Stewart throughout Europe.
The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra was established in 1945 and is one of the leading and oldest symphonic orchestras in the Czech Republic. Its home is the historic Moravian city of Olomouc, an ancient university town that continues to be an important center of education and culture for central Moravia.
Many major conductors and world renowned soloists have appeared with the Orchestra. From the outset the repertoire of the ensemble has been exceptionally broad and varied, encompassing Czech music as well as the classics of 19th and 20th century European orchestral music.
The Orchestra is strongly committed to presenting contemporary music and has premiered hundreds of outstanding new works by domestic and foreign composers. In recent years the organization has concentrated on recording contemporary music from throughout the world.
The Orchestra has performed to critical acclaim in most European countries and has participated in major international music festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad. It has played in many prestigious European venues such as the Alte Oper (Frankfurt), the Saal der Münchner Philharmonie, the Musikvereinsaal (Vienna), the Salle Pleyel (Paris), Tonhalle (Zurich), and the Palau de la Musica (Barcelona and Valencia).
Joseph Firszt began his musical training in violin with his uncle Stanislaw Gorzalkowski; he continued his studies with Edward Gugala, Joseph Knitzer, Alberto Casabona, and in master classes with Louis Persinger and Josef Gingold. Firszt earned his degrees in violin performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Western Reserve University, followed by graduate study at Boston University.
Since his conducting debut he has been Music Director of the Lexington (Kentucky) Symphony Orchestra, the Cumberland Chamber Orchestra, the Berea Civic Orchestra, the Lima Symphony Orchestra, the South Central Kentucky Orchestra, and the Little Orchestra Music Camp.
Mr. Firszt has served as the principal visiting conductor of Capella Cracoviensis in Cracow, Poland. He has conducted orchestras in Warsaw, Prague, Rome, Barcelona, Wroclaw, Poznan, Katowice, Torun, Gdansk, Mexico City, Veracruz, Rochester, Miami, Louisville, Vermont, and festivals in North Carolina.
As a chamber musician, he traveled throughout Poland and East Germany under the auspices of the Polish Music Artists Organization, and he participated in the State Department program "Americans Abroad."
Petr Sumník is a graduate of the Janácek Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. He studied conducting with Petr Vronsky, Jirí Pinkas, and Lubomír Mátl. He has been a conductor with the Moravian Philharmonic (1989-1993) and with the Silesian Theater in Opava, where he held the position of opera-house director (1995-2001). Since 2001 he has been a conductor of the Opera of the Moravian Theatre in Olomouc. He also teaches at the Janácek Conservatory in Ostrava.
He has been a guest conductor of most of the opera ensembles in the Czech Republic; he regularly collaborates with the Moravian Philharmonic in Olomouc and the Janácek Philharmonic in Ostrava. In 2006 he presented Giuseppe Verdi's opera Attila in the Moravian Theater with the stage manager Michael Tarant. This production received the award for the best production at the Opera 2007 Festival in Prague. The Prague Post has reported that Sumník "is considered one of the best young conductors in the country." He conducted the Czech Republic premiere of Francis Poulenc's opera Dialogues of the Carmelites as well as the world premiere of the opera Oldrich and Bozenka by Ilja Hurník.
The pianist Lucie Kaucká was born on March 31, 1978 in Kraslice near Karlovy Vary, where she began studying music at the age of seven. She continued her piano studies at the Conservatory of Teplice and the Conservatory of Pardubice with Martin Hröel. After graduation from Pardubice she concentrated on the study of musicology at the Palacky University in Olomouc and finished successfully there in 2003.
Ms. Kaucká is currently an instructor in the department of musicology at the Palacky University, where she teaches piano and music theory. She was active as a pianist under the direction of the late Professor Jirí Skovajsa and has performed in many international master classes. She is the director of the piano department at the international Czech Music Camp for Youth during the summer.
She has performed as a soloist, accompanist, and as a member of several chamber ensembles in the Czech Republic and abroad. She has participated in recordings with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and with the chamber orchestra Camerata Moravia since 2004.
Since his appointment in 1986 as Music Director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Toshiyuki Shimada has achieved international recognition as an important conductor of a large variety of symphonic and chamber music. Beginning in 1981 with a six year appointment as Associate Conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Shimada has also been Music Director of the Nassau Symphony Orchestra, and the Cambiata Soloists, a contemporary music ensemble in Houston.
He has been a frequent guest conductor of many major symphony orchestras in Europe and North America; he is the Principle Conductor for the Vienna Modern Masters recording label in Vienna, Austria. He has also recorded with Capstone Records, Querstand-VKJK in Germany, and Albany Records. In 2005 he began a series of recording projects with the Trinity Music Partners for the Vatican Library Collection.
– Notes by Bruce Hobson
Recorded on May 13, 2001 in Philharmonic Hall, Cracow, Poland
Producers: Stanislaw Galonski, Joseph Firszt
Music Director and Sound Engineer: Jerzy Dlugosz
Mastering and Editing: Bruce Hobson
Recorded on October 14 and 15, 2005 in the Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Producers: Vladislav Kvapil, Vít Muzík
Music Director: Richard Mlynar
Sound Engineer: Zdenek Slavotinek
Recording Studio: Czech Broadcasting, Olomouc
Mastering and Editing: Richard Mlynar and Bruce Hobson
Recorded on April 28, 2007 in the Reduta Hall, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Producers: Vladislav Kvapil, Vít Muzík
Music Director: Richard Mlynar
Sound Engineer: Zdenek Slavotínek
Recording Studio: Czech Broadcasting, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Mastering and Editing: Richard Mlynar and Bruce Hobson
Recorded June 19, 2003 in the Reduta Hall, Olomouc
Producer: Annegret Lange
Music Director: Frantisek Poul
Sound Engineer: Vaclav Frkal
Mastering and Editing: Frantisek Poul and Bruce Hobson