BOTANICAMusic for Oboe, English Horn and Piano
Hugo Godron, Pavel Haas, Glen Roven, Vladimír Soukup, Asha Srinivasan
SARA FRAKER, oboe & English horn
CASEY ROBARDS, piano
"an excellent program of new, recent and rediscovered music for oboe/English horn and piano. All are beautifully characterized works by some composers who are well worth getting to know."
Atlanta Audio Club [Summer 2021]
"An oboe signals the beginning of a performance inspired by [the] book Braiding Sweetgrass. As I write “an oboe signals,” I catch myself: what does it signal, and why specifically a signal? Instead, what might it mean for an oboe to speak? This questioning is influenced by Kimmerer’s notion of the 'grammar of animacy,' the idea that what we perceive as animate versus inanimate comes directly from the learning of language. In Kimmerer’s Potawatomi language, 'grammatical differences charge even inanimate beings with an essential animacy.' In the performance, Sara Fraker’s oboe guides the listener through a narrative of sounds such as air traveling vast distances, harsh textures of wood being sawed and trees felled, and heightened spaces of wind, water, birds, and insects. Throughout, Fraker’s oboe is a presence that not only links each sound space, but ties directly to its hardwood materiality and place of origin – the trees of the Dalbergia Nation – to whom Fraker and composer Asha Srinivasan have offered this work in gratitude."
Kim Neudorf, Akimbo [Spring 2021]
"Four Songs on Works of Chinese Poetry (1944) was written in Terezin, for bass voice and piano. Fraker has cleverly arranged the vocal part for English horn, an instrument that does a good job of communicating the underlying (although unheard) words, especially in the third and fourth songs..."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [October 2019]
"the two Haas works open and close this disc in a way that shows the composer’s considerable skill at wind-and-piano writing... [In Four Songs on Works of Chinese Poetry] Fraker has cleverly arranged the vocal part for English horn, an instrument that does a good job of communicating the underlying (unheard) words."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [October 2019]
“Fraker offers a pleasant timbre and nice phrasing; and she projects her sound well through thick textures. Her setting of the Haas songs for the English horn is natural and idiomatic, as if the composer, only months away from his tragic death, had the mournful instrument in mind all along. Robards sports excellent touch and technique and renders complex harmonies with sparkling transparency.”
Hanudel, American Record Guide [January/February 2020]
PROGRAM NOTESExploring intersections between the human and botanical worlds, BOTANICA is a musical entry point into current conversations around environmental and social justice. The six pieces on the album are interrelated, in varying degrees, by threads of common themes and origins: spiritual ecology, poetic text, and resistance to injustice. All are highly expressive in their compositional language. All works are world premiere recordings, with the exception of the Pavel Haas Suite, a masterpiece of the oboe repertoire just beginning to gain full recognition.
Asha Srinivasan’s Braiding is a ten-minute piece for oboe, electronics and natural sounds, inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants. Elegy for Oboe and Piano, also commissioned for this album, is one of Glen Roven’s final compositions before his sudden passing in the summer of 2018. It ends poignantly with an original chorale in the style of Bach, haunted by fleeting oboe embellishments. This chorale finds echoes in Pavel Haas’ persistent treatment of the “Wenceslas chorale,” the most enduring musical symbol of Czech nationalism. It is likely that Haas originally composed the Oboe Suite for tenor voice, with an anti-fascist text so dangerously political that he ultimately decided to give the vocal line to the oboe instead. The oboe melody is often recitative-like, tones shaped around the ghostly forms of secret, vanished syllables. In the Four Songs, composed in the Terezín concentration camp, the original bass voice is reimagined as a solo English horn line. Musically, the Suite and the Songs are inextricably linked, making this new transcription for English horn and piano a natural fit. The Oboe Sonata by Soukup, though from a later era, retains the intensity of Czech post-tonal language. Godron’s whimsical Suite Bucolique finds its home here among music rich with allusions to woodland trees and bamboo forests.
Sara Fraker is principal oboist of True Concord Voices & Orchestra and second oboist of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. As assistant professor of oboe at the University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music, she devotes her energies equally to teaching a full oboe studio and maintaining an extensive performance schedule. Fraker is oboist of the Arizona Wind Quintet, the premiere faculty ensemble-in-residence at UA. In the summer months, she is engaged as a faculty artist at the Bay View Music Festival in northern Michigan, where she teaches chamber music and performs with the Bay View Wind Quintet. Fraker has presented recitals and master classes across the United States and in Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and the Tohono O’odham Nation. As a chamber and orchestral musician, she has recorded for Naxos, Toccata Classics, Summit Records, Reference Recordings, Analekta and Interlochen Public Radio. In 2017, she was awarded an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts for her Braiding commissioning project. She has appeared with the TSO as solo English horn in Copland’s Quiet City, Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela and Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust. A featured soloist on True Concord’s 2015 CD release, Far In The Heavens, she has also appeared as a concerto soloist with the Sierra Vista Symphony and UA Wind Ensemble. Fraker held the Gillet Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center and was a participant in the Tanglewood Bach Seminar. She has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, Chautauqua School of Music, Spoleto Festival USA, Shenandoah Bach Festival and the Schleswig-Holstein Orchester Akademie. Fraker holds degrees from Swarthmore College (BA), New England Conservatory (MM) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (DMA). Her doctoral thesis, The Oboe Works of Isang Yun, explores twenty solo and chamber pieces, with a focus on tonal language and relationships to East Asian philosophy. [ www.sarafraker.com ]
Casey Robards is a pianist and vocal coach known for her artistry, versatility and sensitivity. She has given recitals with singers and instrumentalists throughout the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia and Central and South America. Robards made her Carnegie Hall debut with baritone Christiaan Smith performing an original program of Top-40 pop songs sung in art song arrangements. She is entering her 12th season as a faculty artist at the Bay View Music Festival where she is the MainStage Opera Conductor, Head of the Collaborative Piano program, co-creator of a two-week vocal and collaborative piano intensive and coach/pianist for the American Spiritual Intensive program. Currently on the faculty of the University of Illinois, Robards previously held faculty positions with Indiana University, Oberlin Conservatory and Central Michigan University. In 2017, she served as the Associate Music Director of the University of Kentucky’s world premiere performance of Bounce: The Basketball Opera, co-produced with Ardea Arts. She is particularly interested in the intersection of music and social justice and has led benefit recitals for Musicambia, a non-profit organization that creates music conservatories in prisons. Her research interest in spirituals and music by under-represented composers may be seen in several recording projects with singers Ollie Watts Davis, Angelique Clay, Henry Pleas, and violinist Fangye Sun. She is a contributing author to the book, So You Want to Sing Spirituals, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2019. Robards received the Henri Kohn Memorial Award for outstanding achievement at the Tanglewood Music Festival. She has degrees in piano performance, piano pedagogy and vocal coaching and accompanying from the University of Illinois, where she served as principal musician and asstant conductor of the University of Illinois Black Chorus under Dr. Ollie Watts Davis. Her doctoral dissertation was on the life and music of John Daniels Carter (1932-1981), famous for his Cantata, a setting of five Negro spirituals. Her professional memberships include NATS and the National Opera Association, where she works with the Sacred in Opera Initiative. [ www.caseyrobards.com ]
PROGRAMPAVEL HAAS (1899-1944)
FOUR SONGS ON WORDS OF CHINESE POETRY (1944)
Transcribed for English horn and piano by Sara Fraker
I. I Heard the Cry of the Wild Geese
II. In the Bamboo Gove
III. Far Is My Home, O Moon
IV. A Sleepless Night
GLEN ROVEN (1957-2018)
ELEGY for Oboe and Piano (2018)
I. Blight-Killed Eucalypts
II. Pale Pink, Dark Pink
ASHA SRINIVASAN (b.1980)
BRAIDING: Lessons from Braiding Sweetgrass
for Oboe and Electronics (2017)
VLADIMÍR SOUKUP (1930-2012)
SONATA for Oboe and Piano (1970)
HUGO GODRON (1900-1971)
SUITE BUCOLIQUE for Oboe and Piano (1939)
III. Adagio recitando
SUITE for Oboe and Piano (1939)
II. Con fuoco