"Modern Americana" best describes Bertolozzi's new album of orchestral music whose title track, commissioned for the Bicentennial of the US Military Academy at West Point, commemorates the spirit of those who knowingly perform their duty in the face of personal danger. This includes all who are in uniform, soldiers as well as police, firefighters, rescue workers, etc. "Suite Poughkeepsie" evokes characteristic local scenes from the composer's boyhood hometown; from the majesty of the chapel at Vassar College, to The Soldier's Memorial Fountain to the sweep of the Hudson River, the rich orchestrations depict the poetry of this city. "An Age Will Come..." commissioned for the 1992 Quincentennial of Columbus's landing in the New World is a colorful overture, by turns introspective and exuberant, sweet and powerful.
PROGRAM NOTES for SUITE POUGHKEEPSIE
When Poughkeepsie, NY marked the Bicentennial of its founding as a village in 1999, it was fitting that they celebrated by presenting a work written by Poughkeepsie native Joseph Bertolozzi, and performed by the local orchestra, The Hudson Valley Philharmonic under the direction of Randall Craig Fleischer. Commissioned by David E. and Margaret L. Engel, it is dedicated to Lillian Rauth Engel, Vassar College Class of 1910. In Suite Poughkeepsie, Bertolozzi felt "the best way to celebrate musically was to write a fun piece." He continues: "Suite Poughkeepsie is intended as an evocation of characteristic local scenes, impressions of my own experiences growing up there, things which will be familiar to its present inhabitants. It is not an overview of the municipality's rich history; perhaps someday that may be another work!
The opening movement, A Night at The Bardavon, began life as an overture I wrote for a production by Community Children's Theater of Dutchess County, but was scored only for flute, synthesizer, and piano four-hands. It is quintessential theater music and always cried out for orchestral treatment, so it was a gift to have the opportunity to transfer it to the big stage of the Bardavon where I spent many an occasion watching movies, concerts and live shows. The next movement, The Pioneers vs. The Warriors simply calls to mind the city's two hometown high schools, pitted against each other as rivals. The Soldier's Memorial Fountain is a brief elegy to the city's fallen. The site was a favorite place to go for walks when I was a child, and it is wonderful to see it restored again. The tarantella which constitutes A Feast at The Italian Center is a veritable perpetual motion in which the theme, simply stated by the solo violin, is tossed around the entire orchestra. Anyone who has attended the Italian Center's functions, either privately or in one of their public festivals, will recognize the good cheer that is always present. Next we find a bridal march in A Wedding from Vassar Chapel. I chose this piece to bring us into the Arlington section of the city, and also as a remembrance of the times I have played the organ there myself. Finally we come to Between the Bridges at Sunset. As well as being visible from the waterfront, the trestles of the Railroad Bridge cross over several neighborhoods on the northside of town. The Mid-Hudson Bridge, (as I probably will always call it) remains a popular symbol of the city and is graceful both in its design and setting. There are few things comparable to walking across the span in the fall, heading towards Highland on the southern walkway with the foliage in front of you, and then back on the other side seeing the City of Poughkeepsie rise up out of the Hudson. The image from Waryas Park of the sun going down between the bridges will always be a source of poetry to those who view it.
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PROGRAM NOTES FOR THE CONTEMPLATION OF BRAVERY
The Contemplation of Bravery was commissioned for the Bicentennial of the United States Military Academy at West Point and premiered March 18, 2001 in Eisenhower Hall by the USMA Concert Band under the direction of Major William Garlette, featuring Sgt. Harry F. Ditzel, french horn soloist.
"No marches! We have enough marches, and from the best! Do something different for us." That was the advice Bertolozzi received from the West Point Band before beginning work. "In any event it was my intention to write something beautiful, so I introduced an introspective, meditative point of view into the genre of military music. Surely there are times when soldiers must think hard on their responsibility to perform their duty in the face of personal danger. This to me is the essence of bravery: to knowingly put one's self at risk. I wanted to present my impression of someone meditating on the circumstances that requires them to relinquish their safety for a greater good."
Though not literally programmatic, the music expresses the essence of its title: the voice of the French Horn represents the personal, solitary thought with long, arching solo lines, while the rest of the ensemble surrounds it with an atmospherically textured landscape appropriate to evoking thoughtful reflections. The orchestration highlights the various colors, combinations and blends available only within the concert wind band. From filigreed figuration, and pungent mixtures, to roaring tuttis, gentle chamber combinations and solo voices, a coherent place was found for the entire sonic palette. There is even a section of "composed silence. "Wanting to include the whole range of sound to express the profundity of my subject matter, I placed, about two thirds of the way through the work, a blazing chord for low brass and percussion which then fades. Three piccolos reveal themselves and slowly ascend, drifting like wisps of vapor and hovering a bit before they dissipate. All the while three triangles have been gently shimmering in the background like stars and then they die away into what might be construed as a grand pause, but what is indeed a "moment of silence" which has been integrally added into the work."
On the archival recording from the premiere one can hear Bertolozzi delivering his remarks to the audience before the performance, He mentions that bravery is not only the province of soldiers, but also of police and firefighters, and that the piece is really for all of those people as well. Who knew that six months later on September 11, 2001 there would be a sadly practical need for music that honored such heroes?
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PROGRAM NOTES for "AN AGE WILL COME..."
"An Age Will Come..." was commissioned by Leon Botstein for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in 1991, and is dedicated to the composer's parents, Giuseppe, Catherine and Vincent.
The title derives from a quote by Seneca in his book Medea which reads: "An age will come after many years when the Ocean will loose the chain of things, and a huge land lie revealed; when Tethys will disclose new worlds, and Thule no more be the Ultimate." Columbus's son annotated this passage in his father's copy of the book with these words: This prophecy was fulfilled by my father the Admiral in the year 1492.
In spite of the richness and majesty of Seneca's quote, the music itself is not programmatic but indeed is tightly organized from an abstract of melodic and rhythmic textures and orchestral color. This material follows its own exploratory logic, veering off in surprising directions in search of music that would not exist in the usual frame of expectation. The sense of hearing music sounding as if it were being composed at that very moment is an attribute that Bertolozzi strives for in all his music.
Though it was indeed commissioned for the 1992 season in connection with the Columbian Quincentennial, it was precluded from being performed by the political nightmare that enveloped the observance of that event, coupled with the orchestra eliminating their Fall chamber series in the summer just prior to the work's scheduled premiere as they searched for a new music director.
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Joseph Bertolozzi is a composer with increasingly numerous performances across the US and Europe to his credit. Groups such as The Concert Band of the US Military Academy at West Point and the Grammy-winning Chestnut Brass Company have taken his music on tour, and he himself has played at such diverse venues as The Vatican and The US Tennis Open. His body of work comprises orchestral and choral music, chamber music and solo pieces, liturgical music for use in Christian and Jewish worship, and now the exploration of sound through The Bronze Collection, an assemblage of over fifty gongs, cymbals and drums from Asia, Europe and North America. He recently completed a ballet score for large orchestra entitled Bosko and Admira, based on the true story of two lovers who were killed while trying to flee Sarajevo in 1993. Also skilled as a concert organist, he's performed in the US as well as in Italy, Poland, Portugal (under the auspices of the American Embassy in Lisbon [USIS]) and Spain on some of the finest and oldest organs in the world, including St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. His music can be heard at www.JosephBertolozzi.com.
Check out the artist's website:
1. A Night at The Bardavon
2. The Pioneers Vs. The Warriors
3. The Soldier's Memorial Fountain
4. A Feast at The Italian Center
5. A Wedding from Vassar Chapel
6. Between The Bridges at Sunset
7. The Contemplation of Bravery
8. An Age Will Come...