People’s Music – Asia, Europe and America

Premiering Digitally

June 10th, 2021
7:30pm EST


Angel Wang
Corey Gemmell
Claudio Vena
Rachel Pomedli
George Gao




String Quartet in F Major, op. 96             Antonin Dvorak

“American Quartet”

Dvorak, born in what is now the Czech Republic, often used folk melodies of his homeland in his works. His “Moravian Duets” and “Slavonic Dances” have remained as staples of the classical canon since their composition in the 1870’s.His “String Quartet in F major, “Op. 96 is known as the “American Quartet”, was written in 1893 while he was the director of the National Conservatory in New York City.It is one of the most popular works in chamber music repertoire.

The pentatonic scale is the unifying thread found throughout this work. This scale is common in much of the simple folk music in many cultures and Dvorak had incorporated it in several compositions while still living in Bohemia. The opening theme of the Allegro ma non troppo movement is entirely pentatonic (played by the viola), as is the second theme which is more melismatic resembling Gypsy or Czech music.


Violin Sonatina in G Major, op. 100             Antonin Dvorak

This work was also written during Dvorak’s years in the United States where he often stated he was influenced by the simple music of the people:African-American, Indian, Irish etc.While it is difficult to identify which American melodies are to be found in this work Dvorak wrote that the quartet and the New World Symphony would not have been composed as they were had he not lived in America.

The sonatina was written for young students, and dedicated to his children, but Dvorak wrote (to his publisher Simrock) that adults could play as well.


Liebesleid (Love’s Sorrow)             Fritz Kreisler

From “Three Old Viennese Dances”

Kreisler, born in Vienna in 1875, immigrated to the USA (New York City) where he remained for the rest of his life.He is regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time.He was also an excellent pianist (his virtuosity is preserved in recordings), and regarded as an excellent composer, particularly known for his works for violin and piano.Of these, still frequently performed as encore pieces, are the 3 works from his collection of folk dances entitled “Three Old Viennese Dances” (Alt Wiener Tanzweisen):Liebesleid, Liebesfreude and Schöne Rosmarin.


Song Bie (“Farewell Song”)             Traditional Chinese

This work, while now considered a traditional Chinese work, actually had its musical roots in the United States.The melody is from a 19th century song entitled “Dreaming of Home and Mother” by American composer John P. Ordway.Chinese artist Hong Yi heard it in a Japanese text format in Japan where he was a student.On his return to China he wrote Song Bie with Chinese lyrics based on the original Ordway music.

It is a melancholy song of parting.“In life it is happy reunions that are rare; most often we bid farewell”.


“Sound of the Silk Road             George Gao

This work was written for an instrument George Gao designed himself:the shaoqin erhu.The concept is to preserve the timber and playing techniques of a traditional erhu and expand its range, sound volume and versatility to satisfy Gao’s curiosity about different music genres.Its effective range has been extended by an octave; its uniquely designed directional sound box can be adjusted instantly to change the timbre and volume acoustically; its vibrating membrane now uses synthetic materials instead of python skin, an endangered species.Gao has even added an electric component to enable it to be plugged into modern sound processors thereby unlocking an endless choice of sound to inspire creativity.

Gao composed “Sound of Silk Road” experimenting with shaoqin erhu ensembles, later adapting it for shaoqin erhu and string orchestra.The melody is in the style of the Middle East where it connects with China through the Silk Road.


Nessun Dorma, from “Turandot”             Giacomo Puccini

One of the most famous arias in the Italian operatic cannon, Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) was drawn heavily from Chinese folk tunes.It is a staple in the repertoire of every Puccini or Verdi tenor most notably in recent years, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.

In early 19th century Europe chinoiserie was tremendously popular and influenced the style of furniture, architecture, wallpaper, clothing and food. European businesses were just beginning to develop a Chinese market.The Swiss watchmaking company Bovet Co. produced watches for the Chinese market.Frederic Bovet, violinist and composer, collected Chinese folk songs which were later reproduced in that company’s music boxes.Giacomo Puccini heard one of the tunes, Jasmine Flower, on one such music boxes in Italy while composing the music to his opera “Turandot”. It became one of the central themes of the opera.


Rondo alla Turca (Turkish March)             Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

From Piano Sonata No. 11

A Turkish theme was very much in vogue in Europe in the late 1700’s.Mozart composed this piano sonata (arranged here for string quartet) during this period.Rondo alla Turca is the last movement also known as the “Turkish Rondo”, or “Turkish March”.It derives is “Turkish” flavour, rhythm and sound from the Turkish Janissary (military) bands. A piano constructed with a “Turkish Stop” provided percussion effects.Mozart’s opera “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”) was written in this same fashionable style.




Recorded inside the beautiful
Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts

Filmed on location by Slice Media on March 26, 2021.