School of Music Fellowship Ensemble: Ignis Woodwind Quintet: "The Dead Are Sad Enough" – Maurice Ravel

School of Music Fellowship Ensemble: Ignis Woodwind Quintet

"The Dead Are Sad Enough" – Maurice Ravel
Saturday, March 12, 2022 . 5PM
Photo by Patrick Lill
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French composer Joseph Maurice Ravel is known for saying "the dead are sad enough" when criticized that his piece Le Tombeau de Couperin was too light-hearted. The School of Music's graduate fellowship woodwind quintet Ignis performs works by Lalo Schifrin, Ruth Crawford Seeger, John Steinmetz and Peteris Vasks that all ponder the different ways that the living process death.

John Steinmetz: Quintet
Lalo Schifrin: La Nouvelle Orleans (New Orleans)
Ruth Crawford Seeger: Suite for Woodwind Quintet
Peteris Vasks: Music for a Deceased Friend
Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin (a piece written as a memorial to Couperin)

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Le Tombeau de Couperin
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
Transcribed for woodwind quintet by Mason Jones
III. Menuet
Music for a Deceased Friend (Wind Quintet No. 2)
Pēteris Vasks (b. 1946)
Suite for Wind Quintet
Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)
  1. Allegretto
  2. Lento rubato
  3. Allegro possibile
John Steinmetz (b. 1954)
  1. Andante-Vivace-Andante
  2. Chanted-Grazioso-Presto
  3. Intermezzo
  4. Adagio
  5. Canon
  6. Poco Adagio
Woodwind Quintet “La Nouvelle Orleans”
Lalo Schifrin (b. 1932)
When asked in an interview why all the pieces that he wrote about his dead friends sound so happy, Maurice Ravel responded with “the dead are sad enough, in their eternal silence.” Life is fleeting and often filled with turmoil. In light of the current political climate and increasing tragedies around the world, it's nice to take a step back to reflect on the importance of life and celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us.
Le Tombeau de Couperin
Born March 7, 1875, Ciboure, France
Died December 28, 1937, Paris, France
Maurice Ravel composed the piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin in 1917. The title “Tombeau” refers to a 17th-century genre of music written as a memorial. In the case of Le Tombeau de Couperin, Ravel intended to memorialize the style and affect of baroque keyboard music, as represented by composer Francois Couperin. Although Ravel began writing music for the suite in 1914, once published, World War I had completely reconfigured the meaning of the piece. Ravel dedicated each movement of the suite to a friend who died in the war. While he wrote Le Tombeau from a place of sadness, the music still channels the elegance, restraint and light-hearted character of the French baroque keyboard style. In response to criticism that Le Tombeau was not serious or sad enough for a work about war and death Ravel responded “the dead are sad enough in their eternal silence.”
Whereas movements of Le Tombeau de Couperin like the “Prelude” and the “Rigaudon” are active and effervescent, the “Menuet” is perhaps the most melancholy and reflective movement of the suite and thus serves as the opening selection for this recital. A solo oboe introduces an elegant, courtly melody, establishing a calm, plaintive character. The movement’s secondary theme is a musette, inspired by a 17th-century French bagpipe. A creeping, lugubrious melody over dark drones later signal a shift in character, perhaps revealing Ravel’s grief.
Program Note by Nathaniel Wolff
Music for a Deceased Friend (Wind Quintet No. 2)
Born April 16, 1946, Aizpute, Latvia
Pēteris Vasks’ “Music for a Deceased Friend” (1982) is dedicated to Jānis Barinskis (1947–1980), a bassoon player with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quintet who perished tragically in a fire. It seems that this work marks a turning point in Vasks’ creative career towards the sonorically rich and internally dramatic style that we associate with him today. In fact, this work can be called a small requiem of sorts—a dramatic and tragic beginning with a chorale in the middle.
As the piece begins, some of the musicians play, while others participate with their voices, which is a direct imitation of a Latvian funeral song. Dynamic contrast is heavily demanded in this piece as the markings range from ppp to fff. Next, the solo oboe cantilena takes over the texture but is quickly interrupted by the theme of dramatic, tragic fate. And then, out of context, the dolcissimo chorale represents the light of love. Another dramatic episode—like a second wave of the tragic fire—until it abates once again and the dear alto flute holds a monologue. The flute expresses great loneliness and sorrow. But then Vasks lets everything burst into flames once again, the other instruments join the flute, and they all slide lower, lower. In the reprise, the horn plays in the lower octave while the others sing with their voices, and the composition ends with a downward sigh.
Program Note by Kyle Glasgow
Suite for Wind Quintet
Born July 3, 1901, East Liverpool, OH
Died November 18, 1953, Chevy Chase, MD
Composed near the end of her life, the Suite for Wind Quintet was finished in 1952, with Seeger passing away in 1953 from cancer. Known for her unique modern style, Seeger has developed a unique compositional style showcasing atonality with irregular rhythms set throughout her works.
The suite starts with a repeating ostinato line in the bassoon. Slowly, more instruments enter, only starting on notes used in the repeating bassoon line. As more instruments join, dissonant tonalities create colorful scenes before all playing in unison as the repeated line starts to change and become more frantic.
Much more mysterious is the second movement. Starting slower than the first, the main melodic line is passed through the ensemble as layers of accompaniment join and exit the conversation. The movement comes to a climax as the ensemble is in rhythmic unison before slowly sinking back to the mysterious colors it started with.
The third movement starts with an alarmingly severe line in octaves between the flute and bassoon. This theme passes through the ensemble before reaching a much slower interlude offering a point of rest for both the musicians and the listeners. This slow section sounds somewhat related to a Bach chorale, but with unique dissonances that often present themselves in Seeger’s works. This movement being in rondo form brings back the starting string of 16th notes in the flute and bassoon, passing the theme around until the piece seems to come to a sudden and complete halt.
Program Note by Kyle Glasgow


Born 1951, Oakland, CA
Bassoonist, composer and educational researcher, John Steinmetz was born in California and educated at Cal Arts. As a bassoonist, he has performed with many ensembles, including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Mladi Wind Quintet. He is currently an active freelance and studio musician in Los Angeles and serves on the faculty at UCLA. As a composer he is primarily self taught.
Referring to his quintet, Steinmetz said "I wrote the Quintet with two goals in mind: to find some wonderful ways of blending the sounds of these five wildly different instruments, and to connect these sounds somehow with human feelings. Because I like many different kinds of music, each section is in a different style, but I tried to make all the sections easy to enjoy without specialized knowledge. No experience necessary."
This work is dedicated to John Steinmetz’s father, Robert Jack Steinmetz. To the listener, the most immediately apparent sound is the consistent concert A drone that passes throughout the ensemble. The prelude begins from the ensemble tuning A and the final movement closes in the same way. It is easy to imagine each movement of the piece as a somewhat reminiscent look at the different personality traits of Steinmetz’s father, and the memories associated with him.
Program Note by Kyle Glasgow
Woodwind QuintetLa Nouvelle Orleans”
Born June 21, 1932, Buenos Aires, Argentina
​​La Nouvelle Orleans is among several compositions by Lalo Schifrin in which European derived compositional techniques are employed to juxtapose a sort of elaborated primitivism with what he called "universal thoughts." The work ruminates on the principle of renewal, as verbally expressed by the Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism, Lao-Tsu (Be worn and you will remain new), by the prominent astronomer Carl Sagan (Death is the secret of evolution) and in an old New Orleans saying (Eleven macks a-riding to the graveyard but only ten a-coming back). The title symbolizes the advent of the new emerging from the old.
This piece is somewhat reminiscent of a New Orleans funeral march. Like a typical funeral, the procession of a New Orleans funeral march is somber. The recession, however, contains what is known as a second line band. The second line band plays joyful and upbeat music the entire time. It effectively turns the recession into a party, a celebration of the life of the deceased.
–Program Note by Nathaniel Wolff


Graduate Fellowship Ensemble: Ignis

Ignis is the newest premier fellowship woodwind quintet of the University of Maryland School of Music. They are dedicated to creating electrifying performances to amplify the voices of underrepresented composers in the western music world. Through collaborative efforts in community engagement and outreach, recording, premiering new works and utilizing modern technology in tandem with traditional performance principles, Ignis aims to push the boundaries of chamber music beyond the standard classical canon. Its members hold degrees from top universities and conservatories in America such as the University of Maryland, University of Michigan, New England Conservatory and Shenandoah Conservatory. Ignis’ members are devoted to bringing the highest standards of musical excellence to the DC metropolitan area and beyond. Learn more about Ignis in their announcement on the School of Music website.


Danielle Kim is a flutist from Virginia who began her flute studies while she was living in India. She has primarily studied with Jihoon Shin of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and Leah Arsenault of the National Symphony Orchestra. Kim earned her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from the University of Michigan under the tutelage of the distinguished Amy Porter, where she graduated with high honors. Kim has participated in the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and the National Youth Orchestra of the USA. She has placed in various competitions including the Flute Society of Washington, the Central Ohio Flute Association, the National YoungArts Foundation and the Glenn Miller Foundation. Currently, Kim is pursuing her Master of Music degree in flute performance with Associate Professor Sarah Frisof at the University of Maryland.


Nathaniel Wolff is a versatile oboist and educator based in College Park, Maryland. He is pursuing a master’s degree in oboe performance with Professor Mark Hill at the University of Maryland. Prior to attending Maryland, Wolff earned a bachelor’s degree in oboe performance studying with Nancy Ambrose King at the University of Michigan, where he graduated summa cum laude. He has received additional instruction from Eric Ohlssohn, Emily Brebach, Jamie Roberts, Robert Stephenson, Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and Kim Lorch. In masterclass settings, he has performed for Andrew Parker, Katherine Needleman, Anna Hendrickson, Aaron Hill and Christian Schmitt. As an advocate for new music, Wolff has participated in several world premieres at venues like the Brevard Music Center and the Midwest Composer’s Symposium. As an educator, he has experience teaching privately and as a tutor in the MStars music tutoring program sponsored by the University of Michigan to provide music education to underserved middle school students. In past summers, Wolff has studied at the Brevard Music Center, the National Symphony’s Summer Music Institute and Sewanee Summer Music Festival.


Christian Whitacre is a DC-based musician and the bassoonist of Ignis. Starting his chamber career in high school, he performed with the Paramount Wind Quintet, a professional nonprofit group touring venues in Northern Virginia. As an orchestral player, Whitacre has performed at Chicago Symphony Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Blossom Music Center. Whitacre has appeared with the Atlantic Symphony and Philharmonia Boston, and has also toured the Dominican Republic with the MIT Wind Ensemble. In a masterclass setting, Whitacre has performed for Frank Morelli, George Sakakeeny, Christopher Weait and Ryan Romine. In the past, he has attended the Miami Music Festival, where he was an opera fellow. He has also been a young artist at the Kent Blossom Music Festival, where he performed side-by-side with the Cleveland Orchestra. Passionate about modern music and pushing the boundaries of the classical music world, Whitacre has attended the inaugural year of the Mostly Modern Festival, playing principal with the American Modern Orchestra where he was a soloist in the North American continental premiere of Mirror II by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. He has also performed the world premiere of Ready Five for bassoon and electronics. Whitacre currently is a student at the University of Maryland under the tutelage of Lecturer Joseph Grimmer. Holding a degree from the New England Conservatory, Whitacre studied under principal bassoonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Richard Svoboda. Additionally, his teachers include William Winstead, Barrick Stees and Charles McCracken.


Zachary Miller earned his bachelor's degree in horn performance while studying under Geoffrey Pilkington. During his time at Shenandoah, Miller performed with several student led chamber ensembles. As an orchestral horn player, he has performed with groups such as the NOVA Annandale Symphony, Shenandoah Symphony, Shenandoah Wind Ensemble, Fairfax Wind Symphony and the New Orchestra of Washington DC as a part of their NOWthis apprenticeship program. He has also had the opportunity to work with and collaborate with other notable horn players such as Amy Horn, Rodger Whitworth and James Nickel. Music has always been a fundamental aspect of Miller’s life. One of his main aspirations is to make music available to more people by participating in community outreach programs for the arts. Coming from a family of educators, Miller is a strong advocate for music and arts programs in education. At the University of Maryland, he is studying under Professor Gregory Miller (no relation) while pursuing his master’s in horn performance.

Kyle Glasgow is back at the University of Maryland for a master's degree in clarinet performance, having just earned his bachelor's from the same institution. Along with serving as the clarinetist of Ignis, Glasgow aims to continue premiering new music with the goal of amplifying the voices of underrepresented composers in the western classical music world. He has a particular interest in modern recording and audio engineering/production as well as deep-dive studies into musical interpretation. Through collaborative efforts in community engagement and outreach, recording and utilizing modern technology in tandem with traditional performance principles, Glasgow aims to push both the boundaries of chamber music and classical clarinet beyond the standard classical canon. He has a multifaceted musical skill set with additional skills in clarinet repair, reed making, conducting and aural skills. Specializing in the E-flat clarinet, he is an experienced auxiliary clarinetist and can be heard on several reference recordings for the Naxos musical database. Glasgow has performed in clinics and masterclasses around the world including the Princess of Asturias program in Spain, ClarinetFest in Ostend Belgium and the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He teaches a private studio of clarinetists of all ages in the DMV area, and he serves as the co-conductor of the New Horizons Clarinet Choir and as a clarinetist for the Polka Terps. He continues to study with Professor Robert DiLutis at the University of Maryland as well as with several other clarinetists in the region.