Abiquiu Sketches

Morristown New Jersey, January 31, 1998, Colonial Symphony, Yehuda Gilad, conductor

Classical New Jersey, February 4, 1998, Paul Somers

… It was, therefore no surprise that in celebration of his tenth season, Gilad conducted the world premiere of the evocative Abiquiu Sketches by Frederick Lesemann, his colleague at the University of Southern California. The other pieces on the program, each with their own challenges, to be sure, were nevertheless known quantities. So the great pleasure of the evening was hearing Gilad bring a new work to life.

Lesemann, who was of course present, was interviewed by Martin Bookspan during the pre-concert talk. Lesemann spoke with great fondness of the Lower Chama Valley in northern New Mexico, about half way between Santa Fe and the Colorado border. It is the land of buttes, high desert, layers of ancient civilizations, the land of saints brought by conquistadors and priests, and the land of artist Georgia O'Keeffe.

The first of the four painterly "sketches" was a festive dance interrupted by sudden stasis in  the strings as if some ghost of millennia past were making its presence felt. The astonishing metallic percussion strokes recalled the hardness of the land and the sharp strikes of stone on stone to make the flint tools which flowed for centuries from the nearby Cerro Pedrenal (sic).

Even with opportunities for solo moments in the winds, the second movement "Bulto: The Man of Sorrows" was more a somber mood than a sorrowing melody. "The Alleluias of Santa Rosa and Santo Thomas (sic)" used the Gregorian chants for the name days of the two saints, juxtaposing and blending them. The movement was not, however, always filled with chanting, but also had moments of a modern fiesta.

"The Smile of Georgia O'Keeffe," the finale, was inspired by photographer Ansel Adams' picture of the artist with her reserve down. Perhaps because of the general proximity of the Santa Fe Opera, which has been working its way through the entire Richard Strauss operatic cycle over the years, Lesemann  conceived of O'Keeffe as a Straussian female. …