Myths & Mystics Presented by the Symphonic Wind Ensemble


November 16, 7:00 PM

Rialto Center for the Arts

Tarot (2021)

Lindsay Bronnenkant (b. 1988)

I. The Fool

II.The King of Cups

III. The Tower

About the Piece

Gustav Holst was incredibly interested in Indian culture, going so far as to teach himself Sanskrit. Some evidence suggests that he tried to incorporate Indian rāgas into his works, and after investigating Holst’s resources and analyzing his Planets, I believe that Holst tried to reference rāgas that evoked similar characters to those of the planets in his suite. Holst’s access to the authentic performance of Indian music was limited, however, and like many composers -- especially as a British composer entrenched in modal composition during the English folk song revival of the early twentieth century -- he took what he understood of rāgas and filled in the gaps with Western theoretical knowledge, resulting in the treatment of what were once rāgas as scales or modes.

I decided to compose a suite that traces Holst’s footsteps but applies his musical experimentation to a new topic: Tarot. Like astrology, Tarot cards have been used for divination, and as each planet in modern astrology represents specific characteristics and personality traits, so too does each Tarot card. Some elements of the Hindustani thāts, Karnātak mēlakarta rāgas, and pitch sets Holst references in his Planets are referenced in Tarot using a similarly Western approach to portray Tarot card analogs.

In Tarot, the Fool represents someone who dives head-first through open doors with enthusiasm (and sometimes with a blissful ignorance of any looming danger). The card represents new beginnings, playfulness, naïveté, and optimism. The first movement, The Fool, contains several intentionally comedic moments as the Fool, unaware of the luck manifesting from his will, manages to skip through a minefield unharmed. The movement references the pitches of the Kalyān that are found in Jupiter, a benefic planet of good fortune, to represent the Fool’s beginner’s luck. The movement also uses the whole-tone scale hinted at in some of Holst’s themes for Uranus, a chaotic and unpredictable planet, to depict the unintentional mayhem that inevitably follows each of the Fool’s steps.

In Tarot, the suit of cups corresponds with emotional energy and the element of water. A deeply empathic soul, the King of Cups tempers his emotions by balancing his heart with his head. The King leads diplomatically through compassion. The second movement, The King of Cups, references the pitches of mēlakarta rāga Dhavalāmbari from Neptune as a nod to a fellow intuitive and ruler of the sea, and additionally employs the pitches of the Bhairavī that are found in Venus to allude to the King’s kind and gentle countenance.

The Tower represents surprise, upheaval, and destruction. It represents the collapse of structure, the crumbling of façades based on faulty foundations. The final movement references Mars, the Bringer of War with two similar pitch sets: the one Holst uses in Mars, as well as a theme that Holst may have meant to draw from, Bhairav.

- Program Note by the composer

October (2000)

Eric Whitacre (b. 1970)

Douglas Tiller, graduate assistant conductor

About the Piece

October is my favorite month. Something about the crisp autumn air and the subtle change in light always make me a little sentimental, and as I started to sketch I felt that same quiet beauty in the writing. The simple, pastoral melodies and subsequent harmonies are inspired by the great English romantics (Vaughan Williams and Elgar) as I felt that this style was also perfectly suited to capture the natural and pastoral soul of the season. I'm quite happy with the end result, especially because I feel there just isn't enough lush, beautiful music written for winds.

October was commissioned by the Nebraska Wind Consortium, Brian Anderson, Consortium Chairman. October was premiered on May 14th, 2000, and is dedicated to Brian Anderson, the man who brought it all together.

- Program Note by the composer

Duende (2009)

Luis Serrano Alarcón (b. 1972)

I. Allegro giusto

II. Animato

III. Cadenza a piacere - Lento evocativo

IV. Tempo de Bulería

About the Piece

The term “Duende” is used in flamenco to refer to this state of inspiration and supreme perceptiveness, almost magic, which is only reached by the performer on a few occasions. It's also used, in extension, to define a person when someone has a special grace, something difficult to define but that makes him different from the rest. The use of the word Duende as the title of this collection of symphonic preludes, independently of its poetic significance, is mainly based on the fact that I found my principal inspiration for this composition in the Spanish popular music: listening to the piece, the listener can hear, among other features, the symphonic energy of de Falla's scores, the intimacy of Iberia by Albeniz, the magic of the guitar played by Tomatito or Paco de Lucia, the festive happiness of Granadian Sacromonte (a popular flamenco neighborhood in Granada), but especially, and I insist in this one, the obvious presence of winks to other music styles, such as jazz or Latin music. With this style fusion, I want to reflect in a symbolic way what our Spanish society stands for nowadays: a society with many traditions, but at the same time a cosmopolitan and modern community, which cannot be different in these modern times we are living.

Duende has a duration of 16 minutes, and a difficulty level of grade 5. The piece is commissioned by The University of St. Thomas Symphonic Wind Ensemble de St. Paul, Minnesota (USA), conducted by Dr. Matthew J. George, to whom I'm extremely grateful because of placing his trust in me to bring this project alive.

-Program Note by the composer

“Danza Final” from Estancia (1941/1965)

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Arr. by David John

About the Piece

Alberto Ginastera’s ballet, Estancia, tells the story of an urban boy working to win the love of a rancher’s daughter on a rural “estancia,” or “ranch” as it is known in the United States. The story sees the boy striving to overcome the community’s perceptions of his metropolitan background; by the end of the ballet, the boy outdances all of the other young ranchers to win the heart of the girl.

The ballet’s premiere was derailed when the company disbanded after having first opted to perform Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid instead of honoring Ginastera’s commission. Even with this, Copland’s interaction with Ginastera would form a lasting friendship and enduring musical influence on the Argentinian composer. After realizing the work as an orchestral suite for several years, the ballet was finally given its premiere by the Colon Theatre Ballet in 1952.

“Danza Final” translates to “Final Dance” and is the concluding movement of the ballet.

-Program Note by Douglas Tiller


Robert J. Ambrose

Conductor Robert J. Ambrose enjoys a highly successful and diverse career as a dynamic and engaging musician. His musical interests cross many genres and can be seen in the wide range of professional activities he pursues. Dr. Ambrose studied formally at Boston College, Boston University and Northwestern University, where he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting.

Dr. Ambrose has conducted professionally across the United States as well as in Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. His interpretations have earned the enthusiastic praise of many leading composers including Pulitzer Prize winners Leslie Bassett, Michael Colgrass and John Harbison. Dr. Ambrose is considered an authority on Arnold Schoenberg’s landmark piece Pierrot Lunaire, having conducted it several times in three different countries. He has conducted over two dozen premiere performances including works by Michael Colgrass, Jonathan Newman, Joel Puckett, Christopher Theofanidis and Joseph Turrin. In addition, a recent performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms under his direction has been given repeated airings on Georgia Public Radio.

Dr. Ambrose is founder and music director of the Atlanta Chamber Winds a professional dectet specializing in the promotion of music by emerging composers as well as lesser-known works of established composers. Their premiere compact disc, Music from Paris, was released in 2009 on the Albany Records label and has received outstanding reviews in both Fanfare and Gramophone magazines.

As a guitarist, Robert Ambrose has performed in dozens of jazz ensembles, combos, rock bands and pit orchestras. His rock band “Hoochie Suit,” formed with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, received rave reviews throughout the Chicago area and performed for such distinguished guests as Yo-Yo Ma and Daniel Barenboim.

Dr. Ambrose currently serves as director of bands, associate professor of music and associate director of the School of Music at Georgia State University, a Research I institution of 32,000 students located in Atlanta, GA. As director of bands he conducts the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, maintains a highly selective studio of graduate students in the Master of Music in wind band conducting degree program, and oversees a large, comprehensive band program comprised of four concert ensembles and three athletic bands. He lives in Peachtree City, GA with his wife Sarah Kruser Ambrose, a professional flute player, and daughters Isabelle and Hannah.

Douglas Tiller

Graduate Assistant Conductor

Douglas Tiller is an avid conductor, educator, and instrumentalist active throughout Georgia. Most recently, he served as the Academy Band Director at Strong Rock Christian School where he oversaw a vibrant concert band program in grades fifth through eighth, in addition to serving as the Assistant Director for the award-winning Marching Patriots. Douglas also overhauled the jazz program to include a full jazz band and several combos.

Douglas received his Bachelor of Music from Georgia State University, experiencing success as a competitive chamber musician in the Augmented Triad Mixed Woodwind Trio and the Centennial Saxophone quartet, both groups placing in University and MTNA competitions in addition to presenting at conferences nationwide. Currently, Douglas has returned to Georgia State University to pursue his Master of Music in Wind Band Conducting under Dr. Robert Ambrose.