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Program II:
Musique Fantastique

Saturday, August 10, 2024 | 7:30 PM

Hannaford Hall, USM | Portland 

This sumptuous program celebrates the French musical voice, with its distinctively dazzling variety of tonal effects. First up, a sextet for winds, strings, and piano by Guillaume Connesson—one of today’s most widely performed French composers—whose music has been called “a celebration of life, filled with joyous melodies, rhythmic vitality, and a sense of wonder" (American Record Guide). An elegiac oboe sonata by Poulenc, dedicated to the memory of his close friend (and bridge partner) Prokofiev, is followed by an original arrangement of Debussy's dreamy sunset in song. Finally, the gorgeous opulence and exuberance of Fauré’s first Piano Quartet. C’est magnifique!

Guillaume Connesson Sextet (1998)

I. Dynamique

II. Nocturne

III. Festif

Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violin; Melissa Reardon, viola; Nathan Farrington, bass; Todd Palmer, clarinet; 

James Austin Smith, oboe; Henry Kramer, piano


Francis Poulenc Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1962)

I. Elégie (Paisiblement, sans presser)

II. Scherzo (Très animé)

III. Déploration (Très calme)

James Austin Smith, oboe; Henry Kramer, piano

Claude Debussy (arr. Nathan Farrington) Beau Soir (1880)

Kathleen O’Mara, soprano; Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violin; Todd Palmer, clarinet; Brant Taylor, cello; 

Nathan Farrington, bass

Gabriel Fauré Piano Quartet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 15 (1876-1879)

I. Allegro molto moderato

II. Scherzo, Allegro vivo

III. Adagio

IV. Allegro molto

David McCarroll, violin; Melissa Reardon, viola; Angela Park, cello; Henry Kramer, piano

* Programs and artists subject to change

Concert run time is approximately 90 minutes including a brief intermission. The concert will be live-streamed for free on our YouTube channel. The archived stream will be available to view for 24 hours.

Meet The Artists

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Nathan Farrington

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Henry Kramer

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David McCarroll

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Kathleen O'Mara

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Todd Palmer

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Angela Park

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Melissa Reardon

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James Austin Smith

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Brant Taylor

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Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu

Meet The Composers

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Guillaume Connesson
b. 1970

Guillaume Connesson is a French composer from Boulogne-Billancourt who currently teaches orchestration at the Conservatoire National de Région d'Aubervilliers in addition to serving as composer in association with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. His compositional influences range from Debussy and Stravinsky to Steve Reich and John Adams to movie composers such as Bernard Herrmann and John Williams, as well as the funk stylings of James Brown.

Connesson's Sextet was written with festivities and entertainment in mind. The composer says, "The first movement, 'Dynamic,' is a series of variations, which multiply the rhythmic processes inherited from minimalist American music. The central 'Nocturnal' section is a soft and painful confidence sung by the clarinet amid a harmonic backdrop of strings and piano. Finally, 'Festivities' creates a sense of joy and excitement (with an allusion to Schubertʼs 'Trout'). The score ends with a 'cadential' joke."

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Claude Debussy

French composer Claude Debussy is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. A child prodigy, he entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of ten where he studied composition, piano, and organ. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a unique compositional voice that drew upon modality, whole-tone, pentatonic and octatonic scales, parallel chords, and unprepared modulations.

Beau soir (‘Beautiful evening’) was originally composed as a mélodie, with poetry by Paul Bourget, in 1877 when Debussy was still a teenager. The poem paints the picture of a beautiful evening where the rivers are turned rose-colored by the sunset and the wheat fields are moved by a warm breeze. Although an early work, in typical Debussy fashion it is harmonically adventurous. While the piece has been recorded by many singers accompanied by piano, it is also often arranged for other combinations of instruments, such as this new arrangement by PCMF Artist Nate Farrington for soprano, clarinet, violin, cello, and bass.

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Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré was a French composer, organist, pianist and teacher. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers, linking the end of Romanticism with the modernism of the second quarter of the 20th century. Fauré's music took decades to become widely accepted outside France, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime.

Despite being in a minor key, Fauré's first piano quartet is predominantly positive in tone, though with some hints in the slow movement of the emotional turmoil of Fauré's life at the time of composition (after a five-year courtship, the composer's fiancé broke off their engagement after just several months). The work is considered one of the three masterpieces of Fauré's youth, along with the first violin sonata and the Ballade in F-sharp Major. It was favorably received at its premiere in 1880, and was among the chamber works for which he was awarded the Prix Chartier by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1885.

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Francis Poulenc

Francis Poulenc was a French composer and pianist, whose compositions include songs, solo piano works, chamber music, choral pieces, operas, ballets, and orchestral concert music. As the only son of a prosperous manufacturer, Poulenc was expected to follow his father into the family firm and was not allowed to enroll at a music college. He studied with the pianist Ricardo Viñes, and also made the acquaintance of Erik Satie, under whose tutelage he became part of a group of young composers known collectively as Les Six. In his early works, Poulenc became known for his high spirits and irreverence; during the 1930s a much more serious side to his nature emerged.


During the final years of his life, Poulenc worked on a series of sonatas, one for each wind instrument. He lived to complete only three: flute, clarinet, and oboe. Composed in 1962, the Oboe Sonata was Poulenc's final work, and is dedicated to the memory of his close friend (and bridge partner) Sergei Prokofiev. Described as a "paradoxical mix of the elegiac, the suave and the clever," the movements are in the order slow-fast-slow, as opposed to the traditional fast-slow-fast sequence. 

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