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"The President's Own"

United States Marine Band

Colonel Jason K. Fettig, Director
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Chamber Music Series Features Mozart, Shostakovich, and Copland

By Master Sgt. Kristin duBois | | March 7, 2014


This week’s Chamber Music Series concert will take place at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 9 in the John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C., and feature the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Aaron Copland. The program’s coordinator, clarinetist Gunnery Sgt. William Bernier, asked himself several questions while formulating the program, such as how to narrow down thousands of possible works to just a few or what combination of ensembles would work best.

“Think of the first time you heard the 1812 Overture or when you arrived at the Great Gate of Kiev at the end of Pictures at an Exhibition,” Gunnery Sgt. Bernier said. “These or other listening experiences cemented a love of music for me. … The pieces I’ve selected for the chamber music series concert on March 9 illustrate that same kind of deep inner connection to music.” Those three pieces are Mozart’s Trio in E-flat, Kegelstatt, K. 498; Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 12 in D-flat, Opus 133; and Copland’s Suite from Appalachian Spring.

Mozart’s Trio in E-flat is one of the three pieces he wrote with his friend and clarinetist Anton Stadler in mind. In 1786, he was living in Vienna and teaching piano to Franziska Jacquin. Upon request from the Jacquin family, he composed a trio which Franziska could perform with Stadler and Mozart on the viola, his favorite instrument to play. The trio’s nickname, “kegelstatt,” means “skittles” or “bowling alley,” and comes from Mozart’s claim that he composed the piece during such a game. “When I hear the piano at the beginning, it immediately reminds me of everything I love about Mozart,” Bernier said. “He had the ability to write great melodies that are simple enough to make you feel like you already knew them.”

Shostakovich’s string quartet was adapted for a brass quintet by Verne Reynolds, professor of horn at the Eastman School of Music from 1959-95 and founder of the Eastman Brass quintet. Bernier had heard stories about the legendary Reynolds as a student at Eastman. “When I heard this arrangement I was instantly transported to a new musical landscape,” Bernier said. “The quintet reminds me of the small chamber sections of Shostakovich’s symphonies; it tells an intimate story told by a few instruments that is unique to large works; at the same time, the big picture, earth shattering drama is also impossible to ignore.”

The program concludes with Copland’s Pulitzer Prize winning score to Martha Graham’s ballet, Appalachian Spring. According to the score, the ballet is about “a pioneer celebration in spring around a newly-built farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills in the early part of the [nineteenth] century. The bride-to-be and the young farmer-husband enact the emotions, joyful and apprehensive, their new domestic partnership invites.”

While the most performed version of this work is the suite derived from the ballet for symphony orchestra, the version patrons will hear this Sunday features the original chamber ensemble scoring for 13 instruments. “Choosing this work was effortless because everything makes sense when you hear the opening motive to Simple Gifts,” Bernier said. “It’s a reset button that takes us all back to what connects us together.”

The concert is free; no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the parking lot under the overpass. The first half of the concert will also stream live on the Marine Band website beginning at 2 p.m.

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