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MONDRIAN AND THE MUSIC OF HIS TIME

1.Percy Grainger (1882 - 1961) - In Dahomey (1903/09) 6'

2.Alexandre Tansman (1896- 1987) - Sonatine transatlantique 10'
    1.Fox-Trot
    2.Blues and Spiritual
    3.Charleston
3.Theo Loevendie (1930) - P.M. (1995) 1'30'' (for Marcel Worms)

4.George Antheil (1900-1959) - Jazz Sonata (1922) 2'30''

5.Sumire Nukina (1948) - From: Boomserie (Tree Series) (1994) 10'
    -Tree # 1
    -The red Tree
    -The gray Tree
    -The Blossoming Appletree

6.Anton Webern (1883-1945) - Variationen op.27 6'

7.Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) - Suite Dansante en Jazz (1931) 10'
    -Stomp
    -Strait
    -Waltz
    -Tango
    -Slow
    -Fox-Trot

8.Igor Strawinsky (1882-1971) - Tango (1940) 3'30''

9.Jimmy Yancy (1898 - 1951) - State Street Special (1939) 3'

10.Made Lux Lewis (1905 - 1964) - Bear Cat Crawl (1941) 2'

11.Morton Gould (1913) - Boogie-Woogie Etude (1943) 3'

12.Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) - 2 Poèmes op.69 (1913) 4'

13.Willem Breuker (1944) - Underberg (1994) (for Marcel Worms) 6'
    -Het is alles één grote eenheid, Bert
    -Het is zoals het is
    -Piet (1872-1944)

14.George Gershwin (1898-1937) - An American in Paris (1928) 17'
(Transscription for piano solo by William Daly)

NOTES ON THE PROGRAM 'MONDRIAN AND THE MUSIC OF HIS TIME'

This program is dedicated to the relation between Mondriaan and the music of his day. It is generally known that Mondriaan was a great lover of jazz and dancing. In jazz he saw elements that matched his utopian view of the future. Abandoning classical melody is an example of this. Mondriaan advocated a synthesis of jazz and a new classical style. Because of this several pieces on this program are borderline illustrations of jazz and the modern-classical idiom. Several well-known Dutch composers were commissioned by Marcel Worms to write a short work in which they could express their view on Mondrian.

THE WORKS

Percy Grainger - In Dahomey

One of the earliest forms of jazz is Ragtime, one with a characteristic rhythm (short-long-short) in the melody played against a regular stride-nass in the accompaniment. Mondriaan had heard Ragtimes in Holland and again during his stay in Paris.
The most special thing about this Concert Rag by the Australian composer Percy Grainger (who became an American citizen later on) is the fact that it is probably the oldest example of a modern-classical piece being influenced by jazz. The inspirational sources are a jazz fox-trot by Arthur Pryor from 1899 and the Negro Musical Comedy In Dahomey from 1903. The subtitle of the piece sais Cakewalk Smasher: the cakewalk was danced by black slaves in the 19th century and the best dancers got a cake as a premium.
Also from the pianistic point of view this is a very innovative piece - listen for example to the virtuoso glissandi!

Alexandre Tansman - Sonatine Transatlantique

Tansman studied in his native Poland before leaving for Paris in 1919. Just like Mondriaan, who started lining in the French capital in the same year, he became fascinated by jazz.
Perhaps Tansman's Fox-Trot and Charleston (two of Mondriaan's favourite dances) do not resonate with today's jazz listener. In the 1920s however, jazz was used as a synonym for dance music.
As a elucidating footnote the composer added the following by the score: This piece does not pretend te be a piece of American music but, quite simply, the elucidation of one European musician's reaction when introduced to the dance rythms from the other side of the ocean.
A striking parallel between the two artists is the fact that both of them moved to New York later on, Mondriaan in 1940 and Tansman in 1941.

Theo Loevendie - Red, Yellow and Blue

In this short piece Theo Loevendie, who is one of the outstanding living Dutch composers, expresses his view on the abstract works of Mondrian. With minimal musical means he tries to express as much as possible just like Mondrian did in his abstract paintings.
This work was commissioned by Marcel Worms.

Georges Antheil - Jazzsonata

The music of George Antheil is related to the music of the Italian futurists, music which greatly interested Mondrian after he heard it in 1921 in Paris. Antheil - an acquaintance of Mondrian- was a member of de Stijl, a movement in which Mondrian once played a leading role. The short Jazz Sonata - whose opening performance caused a big scandal- provides a good example of the machinist style of the composer.

Sumire Nukina - Tree Series Mondrian (1994)

The composer Sumire Nukina, who had a Dutch mother and a Japanese father, worked as an improvisational musician. She studied composition at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam. During the recent Mondrian exhibition in the Hague, an entire evening was devoted to her work.
In her Tree Series on finds the gradual abstraction in Mondrian's work expressed musically. From Tree 1, a hastily composed sketch of a leafless tree bending in the wind, we move to the dramatic Red Tree. The last two cubistically-painted trees exude an elated mood: the trees as such are no longer recognizable, but momement and color show flowering trees and spring.

Anton Webern - Variaties op.27

Characteristic in this work is the importance of the tension grade and the expressive qualities of the single tones, which could be compared to the importance of a single line, surface or color in Mondrian's compositions. Webern started as late-romantic composer, and his evolution towards an austere, atonal style could be compared to Mondrian's movement from figurative to abstract.

Erwin Schulhoff - Suite dansante en Jazz

The Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff was influenced in an early stage by jazz music. Besides his activities as a teacher, composer and classical pianist he workes as a jazz musician. This Suite of dances contains some of Mondrian's favourite dances like the Tango and the Fox-Trot.
It is worth mentioning that both Schulhoff and Mondriaan were involved in Bauhaus.

Strawinsky - Tango (1940)

Stravinsky's Tango is not just a tango, but the Tango. Stravinsky's tendency to stress the gemeral point of a musical form and to exclude the banal or coincidental equates to Mondrian's search for abstraction. As Stravinsky tries to compose the tango - still a favourite dance of Mondrian- Mondrian searches for a reproduction of the tree.

Jimmy Yancey - State Street Special

Meade Lux Lewis - Bear Cat Crawl

The later-developed Boogie-Woogie style also influenced modern classical music, although to a lesser degree than Ragtime. Boogie-Woogie is a form of the Blues with a characteristic ostinato rythm, a repeated rythmic pattern played with the pianist's left hand.
Mondriaan loved Boogie-Woogie and in paintings like Broadway Boogie-Woogie something of the Boogie-Woogie-rhythm can be obeserved.
The pianist Jimmy Yancey played at parties and holidays in his younger years, circa 1915. Because of the low and irregular earnings, he took a job as a groundsman with a baseball team in Chicago. In the 1930s, when the Boogie-Woogie rage began and pianists such as Meade "Lux" Lewis made their mark, Yancey's work was also discovered.
Yancey has a sober, even style and thus differs from the more virtuoso and selective style of many of his fellow Boogie-Woogie colleagues from a later generation like Meade Lux Lewis.

Morton Gould - Boogie-Woogie-Etude

Composer, pianist and conductor Morton Gould is in the USA above all famous for his musicals and for his arrangements for Glenn Miller's Band.
An ostinato rythm is characteristic for the Boogie Woogie Etude. Gould wants to emphasize the motoric, machine-like element in this kind of jazz, as shown in his direction to the player: steely and hard throughout.
Morton Gould's Boogie-Woogie Etude dates from 1943 - hence two years after Mondriaan had painted his Broadway Boogie-Woogie.

Scriabin - 2 Poèmes op.69

Though Mondrian and Alexander Scriabin might not have known one another a relation between the works of the two men is evident: both were convinced adherents of theosophy. In this context they were both looking for new forms to express an utopian ideal, that can not be realized... In the works of both theosophical symbols are recognizable. Scriabin was, like Mondrian very much interested in colours, he assigned a particular colour to particular chords.
Scriabin's works start in a romantic idiom but from 1907 on it takes a more mystical turn. The 2 Poèmes op.69 are examples of this, being very intense and seemingly without gravitational force. They predict allready the innovations which would be developed further by composers like Schönberg and Messiaen.

Willem Breuker - Underberg (1994)

The central theme in Willem Breuker's Underberg - composed at Marcel Worms' request- is being direct, being obsessed with an idea, a theme also characteristic of Mondrian. An obsessed toccata is followed by a bluesy middle interlude, expressing Mondrian's angular dance movements. The final part expresses the undeviating personality of the painter. During a telephone conversation with Marcel Worms, the composer glances at the label of a small bottle of Underberg liquor upon which he saw a black dance couple dancing what appears to be the Charleston - the dance Mondrian loved so much - hence the title of this piece.

George Gershwin - An American in Paris

Mondriaan's Parisian spells and his fascination for busy New York traffic (his American paintings show it) are the reason to include Gershwin's An American in Paris in the program. This work reflects the composer's impressions of Paris and its traffic (including cab-horns).
Though Gershwin has stated that he has not endeavored to present any definite scenes in this work, he probably had a 'plot' in mind. In the first part he pictures the impressions of an American visitor in Paris, strolling about the city. This is followed by a Blues, that could be an expression of homesickness. In the third part it seems that the tourist has recovered and once more is enjoying the gay, Parisian life. This is followed by a fast Charleston and the piece concludes with the repeat of several themes.


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