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The music has a Stravinsky-like neoclassical mood and sound and is scored for the standard woodwind quintet plus piano and timpani.  A review of the piece by Walter Simmons when it was first performed in 1949 says, “Probably his most serious work from this period, [King Lear] is quite demanding for the listener, but, as is usually the case with Persichetti, repays repeated focused attention.”

Mládí (Youth) (1924) by Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)

Born in a Hulvady, a remote village of Moravia (now the Czech Republic), Janáček was trained as a musician and teacher and spent his first 60 years of life in the provincial capital of Brno, in relative obscurity.  Then in 1915 the Prague Opera performed his opera Jenufa, which was a major success and vaulted him into international renown.  His later years were some of his most productive, with four more operas, two string quartets, a mass and various other choral and chamber music, including Mládí, which means “Youth”.  Scored for wind sextet (the standard woodwind quintet plus a bass clarinet), the music reflects his life as a schoolboy at the Augustinian monastery of Brno, where he had received both musical and basic academic education. 

The opening Allegro movement features a main theme which is derived from the speech patterns of the words “youth, golden youth” in the Moravian tongue.  The Andante sostenuto movement has four variations, and is rather glum in mood perhaps depicting a schoolboy’s reaction to the monastic discipline imposed on him.  The third movement is marked by the piccolo tune, “March of the Blue-Boys.”  And the final Allegro animato recalls the opening theme of “youth, golden youth” as it whirls to a faster and faster finale. 

The first performance of this work was in Brno, but it was not very successful.  The oboist finally managed to repair a defect of his instrument, but the clarinetist, because of a broken key spring only pretended to be playing.  Janáček was very angry.  The work was later performed in Prague on November 25, 1924, this time with members of the Czech Philharmonic, and the performance was received with great enthusiasm.

Recordings of the The Mousai and Friends:  2015 - latest performance

These are high memory, full length recordings - they will take about 30 seconds to download and require Quicktime [*Windows, only]

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CD covers of the Alder Street Woodwind Sextet:  2003 - 2009; and The Mousai: 2012

Performance of April 19, 2015 at the First Presbyterian Church, Portland, OR

Mexican Fantasies

Mike Curtis

Fantasy of the Red-Eyed Creature

Haskell Small

King Lear

Vincent Persichetti

Mladi (Youth)

Leos Janacek

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Program notes


Mexican Fantasies (2014), by Mike Curtis (b. 1952)

During a 2 month-long solo trip to Mexico in 2014, Mike Curtis sketched the melodies that became the basis for Mexican Fantasies.  He was inspired by thoughts of old and present love (Amores), the appeal of a Moorish design (The Blue Cupola), new friends he acquired (Amistades), and by an old Mexican film (La reina del trópico).  This version for flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon was commissioned by The Mousai. 

Fantasy of the Red-Eyed Creature (2001, chamber version 2014), by Haskell Small (b. 1948)

Fantasy of the Red-eyed Creature was originally created by a third grade classroom collaborating with Washington DC-based composer Haskell Small and was premiered by the Mount Vernon Orchestra in 2001 as part of an American Composers’ Forum grant.  The piece was later transcribed for piano solo by the composer, who performed the piece in school settings with his wife as narrator in an expanded version of the original story. 

The Mousai and Friends performed the chamber ensemble version, arranged in 2014 and commissioned by The Mousai, which reverts to the original story.  The Mousai and Haskell Small developed this collaboration after the performance last season of Small’s Short Story by The Mousai, who solicited the audience’s input about the “story” and then sent the results to the composer. 

King Lear, Op. 35 (1948) by Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987)

Vincent Persichetti was one of America’s most illustrious composers, teachers and performers who left a legacy of outstanding works for wind band, as well as works for piano, organ, orchestra, chamber ensembles and choir.  King Lear was written for the Martha Graham Dance Company’s production of “The Eye of Anguish”, a piece of choreography that is no longer part of the Graham repertoire.  (The “eye of anguish” is a phrase that occurs in Act 4, Scene 4 of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

by Ann van Bever

King Learhttp://www.themousai.net/Music/Story/King_Lear.m4a
Mexican Fantasieshttp://www.themousai.net/Music/Story/Mexican_Fantasies.m4a
Fantasy of the Red-Eyed Creaturehttp://www.themousai.net/Music/Story/Red_Eyed_Creature.m4a
Mladi (Youth)http://www.themousai.net/Music/Story/Mladi.m4a

How to Listen?

Click on Quicktime players to the left or the direct links below