By Robert A. Margo
The classical mandolin has its origins
in the eighteenth century but it was around the turn
of the twentieth century that the instrument reached
its zenith of popularity in the Old and New Worlds.
By World War I interest in the mandolin had largely
died out in America but the instrument retained a passionate
following in other parts of the world. In recent decades
there has been a rebirth of interest in classical mandolin
in the United States and the internet has greatly facilitated
interaction between American mandolin aficionados and
those elsewhere in the world. This evening's concert
by the Providence Mandolin Orchestra (PMO) and the
two guest artists, Joseph Brent and Alon Sariel, reflects
this newfound interaction by showcasing original compositions
and arrangements for mandolin ensemble, as well as
chamber works for mandolin.
Robert Schulz, the conductor of the
West Australian Mandolin Orchestra, has written many
works for mandolin ensemble. His provocatively titled "Lament
for the Death of Polite Language" bemoans the
current (mis)-use of the English language in daily
life, "debased, shallow in content, full of clichés." The
musical language is burnished with nostalgic Scottish
melodies and harmonies, wistfully recalling a richer
and more colorful era of expression. Highly demanding
but rewarding to perform, "Stringing" by
Caroline Szeto is an outstanding example of a new style
of composition for mandolin ensemble that draws inspiration
from contemporary compositional practices such as rapid
changes of meter, oblique harmonies, and repetitive
texture. Based in Sydney, Caroline Szeto studied composition
with Eric Gross and Peter Sculthorpe, and her chamber
and large scale works have been performed by the Adelaide,
Sydney, and Melbourne symphony orchestras. The PMO
is fortunate indeed to have an accomplished composer,
Owen Hartford, as one of its long-time members. The
second of its kind, "Grooves #2" reflects
Hartford's long-standing interest in blending elements
of minimalism with soaring melodies.
The baroque period provides much
grist for the would-be arranger of mandolin ensemble
music. Handel, who actually wrote one original work
using the mandolin, composed a large number of orchestral
pieces that are well-suited to the sharp attack and
rapid decay of the instrument such as the "Gigue" from
his Concerto Grosso op. 6, no. 9, ably arranged by
Owen Hartford. The Vivaldi duo concerto is one of the
Red Priest's most famous works but it never fails to
delight with its beautiful melodies and sprightly rhythms.
Although one would not normally associate 1970s "glam
rock" with the mandolin, Queen's beloved "Bohemian
Rhapsody" is surprisingly faithful to the original – and
great fun for the performers to play!
The Providence Mandolin Orchestra was
founded by the late Hibbard Perry in 1971. Since then,
it has become one of the leading American mandolin
ensembles, with regular appearances throughout the
Eastern United States, Canada, and Western Europe.
The Providence Mandolin Orchestra is under the direction
of Mark Davis. Mr. Davis pursues an active career as
a solo and ensemble performer, educator, and conductor.
The Providence Mandolin Orchestra gratefully acknowledges
the support of the D’Addario Foundation.
Since graduating from the Berklee
College of Music in 1999, Joseph Brent has
quickly established a reputation as one of United States
leading performers on mandolin. A specialist in contemporary
music, Brent has premiered or performed works by Elliot
Carter, Pierre Boulez, Magnus Lindberg, Frank Zappa,
and many others. A member of the music faculty at Mannes
College of Music in New York City, he also regularly
performs with popular and jazz artists.
Winner of numerous international
prizes, Alon Sariel is one of the
world's leading performers on mandolin. Equally adept
at baroque and contemporary styles and all stops between,
Sariel has performed as soloist with the Jerusalem
Radio Symphonic Orchestra and the Israeli Chamber Orchestra,
among many others. His teachers include Ugo Orlandi,
Carlo Aonza, and the jazz musician Markus Stockhausen.
The Providence Mandolin
Director: Mark Davis
First Mandolin: Joshua Bell (concertmaster),
Michael Cappelli, Yvette Cote, Duane Golomb, Chang
Second Mandolin: Lynne Bell, Christine
Chito, Owen Hartford, Paul Wilde
Mandola: Gino Cicchetti, Mack Johnston,
Mandocello: Seth Gruenwald, Dan Moore,
Classical Guitar: Mark Armstrong,
Beverly Davis, John Dennewitz
Bass: Dave Parr
Copies of the PMO's recent CD Spectrum
will be available for purchase at today's concert.
Visit the website of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra
to purchase Spectrum on-line and to learn more about
the mandolin and its music: www.mandolin-orchestra.org.
Visit www.youtube.com/ProvidenceMandolin to
see videos of recent and vintage performances by the