CONCeRtO 2000 was composed for flutist Pascale Margely with funding from the Canada Council. It was first performed in the year 2000 in Gatineau, Quebec with Margely as soloist, accompanied by the Hull [now Gatineau] Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Yves Léveillé. It is divided into the classic fast-slow-fast three movement format. The first movement has plenty of lively Hispanic-style flavor, mostly derived from flamenco influences. For example, an elementary version of the repetitive rhythm compas bulerías is used for hand clapping. The second movement is influenced by Arabic styles of singing, which I was exposed to when playing in the Al-Arz Lebanese Orchestra in Ottawa. Mysterious incantations take place over a drone punctuated from time to time by a claves click. The third movement was influenced by lively Finnish folk music, the first album by Värttinä in particular. It almost feels like one is at a rowdy wedding reception. In this concerto I decided to “take the temperature” of the artistic world around me at the threshold of the third millennium. I found a multiplicity of styles at play all at once and a lack of a unified mainstream compositional style.
Pierrot Solaire began life as a quintet for flute, violin, bass, percussion, and piano. Seeing that it has become my most popular chamber music piece, I decided to orchestrate it so that it could reach a wider audience. I make no attempt to hide the overt pop music influences such as parallel motion, power chords with no thirds, and off beat hits. Orchestration has permitted me to use brash, colourful blocks of sound for maximum contrast. In the middle is a lively polka-like section which bears a resemblance to the well-known Finnish folk tune Säkkijärven Polkka, albeit on steroids. Basically I have tried to do the opposite of what Arnold Schoenberg did in his famous Pierrot Lunaire by permitting American pop music influence as well as folk music elements. Even fun is allowed!
Brass Dance was originally the second movement of my Symphony for Brass and Percussion. I orchestrated it in order to reach a wider audience. True to its roots, there are many solos for trumpets and French horns. It starts off innocently enough with a melodic fragment reminiscent of a 1950s pop song. But then unpredictable things start to happen, such as the off-kilter feeling induced by the frequent use of 5/8 time signatures.
Like Brass Dance, Street Music was also derived from my Symphony for Brass and Percussion. Imagine that you are walking down the street on a sunny summer day and you come across a couple of guys drumming on metal cans. Improvising on top of that are trumpets and trombones. Here you have it written out for full symphony orchestra. The percussion players propel the piece ahead in the same manner that an outboard motor drives a boat forward.
In Memoriam is quite different from the other works on this disc, having been composed in the palliative care ward of Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, Ontario. My brother Harry was slowly dying of liver cancer, and after many long days of visiting him I pulled out a piece of manuscript paper and started jotting down ideas. I sat right beside him when he could no longer talk. After he had passed away, I entered the notation into my computer and out popped an expressive piece of romantic string music. I can honestly say that this is the most sincere piece that I have ever written. It is my memorial to him.
Camerata Music started out as an octet for the eight music teachers of Camerata Music, a classical music teaching studio which continues to operate in Ottawa’s west end to this very day. Since it was a music school, there were four keyboard teachers, one flute teacher, one guitar teacher, and one cello teacher (me). This resulted in every possible keyboard being used (four hands piano, accordion, harpsichord). The singing teacher got roped into playing the synthesizer. As with Pierrot Solaire, I make no effort to hide the pop music influences contained within. — Jan Järvlepp
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