Hudson Valley Philharmonic’s Made in America: “Two World Concerto” with R. Carlos Nakai

HVP_Randall Fleischer_R Carlos Nakai8:00 pm • Saturday, October 14th 2017
Bardavon • Poughkeepsie NY

As the temperatures begin to dip a little and the autumnal colors begin to show, it probably should not come as a surprise that the various orchestras are getting their seasons underway. On Friday, the Berkshire Symphony begins with a program featuring the Taiwanese violist Hsin-Yun Huang in Bartók’s viola concerto at Williams College’s Chapin Hall. On Saturday, the Albany Symphony features the brilliant, young Simone Porter for Korngold’s colorful Violin Concerto at the Palace Theatre. Rounding out our symphony weekend further south down the Hudson, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic (HVP) open its 58th season with a program entitled “Made in America” and conducted by long time HVP Music Director Randall Craig Fleischer.

This Hudson Valley Philharmonic’s concert at the Bardavon is presented in collaboration with Poughkeepsie Library’s Big Read: Native American poet Joy Harjo’s book of poems, How We Became Human and features works by two distinctly American composers, plus the great Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, and a climactic Tchaikovsky masterpiece.

The program is to include:

  • Joan TowerMade in America
  • James DeMarsTwo World Concerto
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

Especially with the controversy of Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day earlier in the week, it is the DeMars work that catches my attention. The Two World Concerto was written for Native American flute and orchestra and for R. Carlos Nakai, a Flagstaff native who traces his ancestry to the Ute, Navajo and Zuri people. It was commissioned by the Arizona-based Flinn Foundation as part of a cooperative project between the Heard Museum in Phoenix and the Phoenix Symphony. The work, which was premiered by the Phoenix Symphony in March 1993, is classically structured, with three-movements along with an original song written by soloist Nakai:

1. Spirit Call: “paint for us the times to come…”
2. Lake that Speaks: “this trembling of beings and things”
3. Crow Smoke: “shaping worlds as fire burns…”
Far From the Water (aria for Native American flute and orchestra)

In a LA Times article about the work, composer DeMars comments that “the American Indian flute, or cedar flute, ‘is very close to a recorder,’ with two important differences: There are fewer finger holes, and they are not placed in the exact spots that would allow the flute to replicate a standard European scale.

Each tone hole was placed where the fingers (of the original craftsman) fell,” DeMars said. “So there wasn’t a specific tuning. There are only two notes on the instrument that match the standard, tempered tuning.”

Needless to say, the resultant inability to tune the instrument with the orchestra posed significant problems to the composer. ‘This piece won’t work for any other Native American flute in the world, except for the two we’re using.’ According to Nakai, the two flutes are exact replicas of 19th-Century Navajo instruments according to Nakai. Click here to read the LA Times article by Tom Jacobs (21 March 1993).

The work sounds fascinating. I hope, despite the choices to be made, you may be able to go and take a listen. Regardless, happy musicking this weekend!

Upcoming Events

  • New Russia Cultural Center: Alash Ensemble | Tuvan Throat Singing and more
  • New Russia Cultural Center, Rensselaer NY
    Tuesday, October 17th 2017 at 7:00 pm

  • Close Encounters with Music: “The Titans” | Brahms, Schumann
  • Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
    Saturday, October 21st 2017 at 6:00 pm

  • Saint Rose Camerata: “Vox Balaenae” | Larsen, McKenna Lee, Crumb
  • Massry Center for the Arts at The College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY
    Saturday, October 21st 2017 at 7:30 pm

  • New Russia Cultural Center: ‘cellist Mark Prihodko and pianist Anna Keiserman | Ornstein, Prokofiev, Shchedrin and more
  • New Russia Cultural Center, Rensselaer NY
    Sunday, October 22nd 2017 at 5:00 pm

  • Crescendo Vocal Ensemble: “”Through Truth We Triumph — From Martin Luther to J.S. Bach” | Bach, Luther, Schutz, Praetorius, and more
  • Saint James Place, Great Barrington, MA
    Saturday, October 28th 2017 at 6:00 pm

  • Albany Pro Musica Artist Series: APM with American String Quartet and Ola Gjeilo, piano | Gjeilo, Beethoven
  • Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY
    Sunday, October 29th 2017 at 3:00 pm