September 16, 2007, 2:30 p.m.

  Krzysztof Biernacki baritone
  Gary Smart piano
  Love Songs & Cycles
  • LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98
  • MAURICE RAVEL: Don Quichotte à Dulcinée
  • GERALD FINZI: Let Us Garlands Bring, Op. 18
  • SERGEI RACHMANINOFF: Three Russian Romances

PROGRAM NOTES by Ed Lein (c2007) 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Transcendent German composer whose music is the culmination of the “Classical” style and the foundation of the “Romantic.” Only lately rivaled by Mozart, Beethoven has remained the best known Western classical composer for two centuries. Ever the revolutionary, with An die ferne Geliebte (1816) Beethoven invented the song cycle by composing six interconnected songs, to poems by Aloys Jeitteles (1794–1858). By 1819 Beethoven was completely deaf (possibly the result of lead poisoning), but he continued to produce masterworks of the highest order.

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937): Great French composer and master orchestrator. Although often identified with Debussy as a chief proponent of musical Impressionism, Ravel melded exotic harmonies with classical formal structures to create a personal, refined style that transcends a single label. Ravel had hoped to enter his song cycle, Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1932–1933), in a competition for Georg Wilhelm Pabst's film, Adventures of Don Quixote, but ill health and a car accident prevented him from completing the songs in time. Written on poems by novelist Paul Morand (1888-1976), the cycle ranges from tender to humorous, and, in addition to reflecting the world of Don Quixote it reflects Ravel’s own Spanish heritage. These songs form Ravel’s last completed composition, and he prepared versions with accompaniment for either orchestra or piano.

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956): British composer in the tradition of Elgar, via Vaughan Williams. Although its lack of modernity made Finzi’s music respected but unfashionable during his lifetime, his works have enjoyed a surge of popularity in the last couple of decades. Finzi was particularly gifted in setting poetry, and his Let Us Garlands Bring (1929-1942), on poems from various plays by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), is one of his most popular works.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943): Russian composer and conductor, and one of the greatest pianists of all time. Although of the 20th Century, Rachmaninoff’s music remained firmly rooted in 19th Century Russian Romanticism. Temporarily (and foolishly) eschewed by critics for his lack of “modernism,” Rachmaninoff’s sweeping melodies and lush harmonies have kept him a favorite of audiences and musicians alike, and assure his music a permanent place in the concert hall. Even though the miscellaneous songs of Rachmaninoff’s Opp. 4 & 14 are among his early works, by Opus 14 elements of his mature style can already be heard.

Established as a powerful and versatile artist and as a talented teacher, Dr. Krzysztof Biernacki trained in North America and Europe, and his professional credits include opera, oratorio, concert, and recital performances on both continents. Highlights of his operatic engagements include The Barber of Seville, La Fanciulla del West, Un Ballo in Maschera, and Der Freischutz with the Vancouver Opera; Carmen and Rigoletto with the Manitoba Opera; and, Madama Butterfly and La Boheme with Orchestra London Canada. Engagements with various other companies have included The Merry Widow, Don Pasquale, Dido and Aeneas, The Crucible, Cunning Little Vixen, Amahl and the Night Visitors, Die Fledermaus, and Gianni Schicchi. Recently Professor Biernacki appeared in the Czech Republic singing the title role of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, in both the City Theatre of Jablonec nad Nisou and The North Bohemian Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Ústí nad Labem.

Krzysztof Biernacki's commitment to contemporary music is highlighted by world premieres heard on CBC Radio and CBC Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, including a highly acclaimed production of John Estacio's Filumena, co-produced by the Calgary Opera and Banff Centre for Performing Arts, and Naomi's Road by Ramona Luengen to a libretto by Ann Hodges, newly commissioned by the Vancouver Opera.

Respected as a solo recitalist, Dr. Biernacki frequently performs art song repertoire ranging from Haydn to Szymanowski, Rihm, and Britten. In concert and oratorio appearances he has appeared with the Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Okanagan Symphony Orchestras, and with the Vancouver Bach Choir.

Professor Biernacki holds degrees from the University of Manitoba (B. Mus.), the University of Western Ontario (M. Mus.), and the University of British Columbia (D.M.A). This is Professor Biernacki's first year with the University of North Florida Department of Music, where he heads the Vocal Department and directs the UNF Opera Ensemble.

A unique and distinguished musician, Gary Smart is a composer and pianist with an abiding interest in Americana, world music and jazz, as well as with the Western classical music tradition. His career has encompassed a wide range of activities in all these areas, and he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar/keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

Dr. Smart received his education at Indiana University, the Hochschule fur Musik Köln (Germany) and Yale University, and has performed in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Asia and the United States as soloist, accompanist and chamber music player.

A recipient of composition awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Music Educators National Conference, and other prestigious organizations, his music has been recorded on Mastersound Records and is published by Margun Music. The Major’s Letter, a CD featuring five of his song cycles sung by four singers with the composer at the piano, was recently released by Albany Records. Dr. Smart's The Songs I Sang, for mixed chorus and trumpet, was selected by the Orange Park Chorale for inclusion in their November 19, 2006, Intermezzo Sunday Concert of music by local composers, and the State of Florida's Division of Cultural Affairs includes excerpts of several of Dr. Smart's compositions on their website, available for online listening.

Also an award-winning teacher, Dr. Smart has taught at several institutions in Japan and as a Distinguished Fulbright Professor in Indonesia. Before coming to Jacksonville he was chair of the Music Department at the University of Wyoming, where he received the "President's Award" for outstanding faculty. From 1999-2003, he was the Chairman of the University of North Florida Department of Music, and is currently the Terry Professor of Music at UNF.

In February 2006, Dr. Gary Smart joined UNF music professor Dr. SImon Shiao as the first artists to perform an Intermezzo concert, presenting The Kreutzer Project, featuring Beethoven's legendary Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano. Other Intermezzo appearances include Dr. Smart's March 18th, 2007, Solo recital, and a special performance of Ravel's Piano Trio on April 22, 2007, with Dr. Shiao and Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Principal Cellist Alexei Romanenko. .

Intermezzo Sunday Concerts are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.
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