ClassicsOnline Home » JAGER, R.: I Dream of Peace / Like A White Daisy Looks / Kokopelli Dances (Winker, Lackey, St. Louis Children's Choir, Omsk Philharmonic, Dodson)
Robert Jager (b. 1939)
I Dream of Peace • Like A White Daisy Looks • Suite from Edvard Munch
Kokopelli Dances • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Born in Binghamton, New York in 1939, Robert Jager (ASCAP) graduated from the University of Michigan, served in the United State Navy as Staff Arranger/Composer at the Armed Forces School of Music, and then taught for thirty years at Tennessee Tech University. The first faculty member in the arts to receive the university’s highest faculty honor, the Caplenor Faculty Research Award, Jager is now a Professor Emeritus. He has conducted and lectured throughout North America, Europe, and Asia and received orchestral performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, among others. With over 120 published works he has received numerous awards, grants, and commissions from outstanding musical institutions around the world.
This recording features five of Jager’s works in remarkably different styles, written for orchestra between 1989 and 2001. From the poignant elegy to his teacher, Elizabeth Green, to the expressionist opening notes of the Suite from ‘Edvard Munch’, it is clear that Jager is deeply rooted in the work of the mainstream composers of the mid to late twentieth century. A listen to the introduction of Kokopelli Dances, however, reveals a surprising side of this composer. This is music connected to Ligeti and others who cut new trails in the post-war avant-garde movement, but written to evoke the vast, empty landscapes of the American southwest Jager’s harmonic language grows out of an outlook not dissimilar from that of Shostakovich. Tonality is present, but the tensions of the twentieth century demand a broader world. He is often inspired by extra-musical ideas, and this recording reflects that penchant. This is music that is always “about” something, and each subject demands a new, original approach. Consequently, it is no surprise that these five works reflect such a broad variety of stylistic responses to their subjects. Each is dramatic in an entirely singular way, and collectively they reveal a composer who has mastered the language of his time.
Jager is now in his seventh decade, and he continues to write new works in his deeply personal manner at his home in New Mexico. He was a great influence on me as a young musician, and when I had the opportunity to commission him, he created many of the works recorded here. This project involved an orchestra in Russia, a children’s chorus in Missouri, a soloist from Germany and an actor from the Broadway stage. It took over a decade to bring to full fruition, and, now that it is completed, I truly hope this release helps bring Robert Jager’s music to a much broader public.
Per aspera ad astra!
— John Thomas Dodson
Like a White Daisy Looks (2001)
Like a White Daisy Looks was composed for Elizabeth A. H. Green, professor emeritus (now deceased) at the University of Michigan, who was a beloved mentor, critic and friend of the composer. The work is based on a four-note motive derived from her initials—E, A H (= B natural), G. The title comes from a comment Elizabeth Green made about an earlier work of Jager’s, when she said, “The middle movement reminds me of my favorite flower, like a white daisy looks.”
Suite from “Edvard Munch” (1989)
Suite from “Edvard Munch” was originally written for a film documentary on the artist’s life and work. The suite was subsequently drawn from the film and arranged for full orchestra. The five movements of the suite not only describe Munch’s work, but his life as well. The following comments from the composer depict his response to the paintings represented in the work:
Introduction and Nature Tableau: Two loud, tense chords, describing the troubled soul of Munch, open the work. Quickly, however, it moves on to a more serene, yet melancholy mood that illustrates those works that depict the Norwegian countryside. Munch liked to group his paintings together so that one would “feed” off the other.
The Sick Child: Munch was deeply moved by the illness and death of his younger sister. All of that is captured in this powerful painting, a wonderful example of early expressionism.
The Scream: This is, without a doubt, the most famous of Munch’s paintings. The focal point, of course, is on the foreground figure in deep distress. The irony of the painting is that of the other figures in the background, seemingly oblivious to the terror going on, something that was true to Munch’s own life. The harbor scene is actually a locale in Oslo, Norway.
The Kiss: To say that Munch did not trust women is an understatement. This painting brings out all of that distrust in a cunning way. The face of the man has dissolved into the woman’s face, and the woman’s hair is coiled around the man’s neck like a snake. Through the window can be seen a figure that is probably Munch looking in as the woman in his life is kissing another man.
The Dance of Life and Conclusion: The Dance of Life mural is a scene of quiet desperation. While at first glance it appears to be people enjoying a dance on a moonlit beach, a closer inspection reveals faces that are distorted, perhaps in emotional pain. It is not at all what it first appears to be. After the music reaches a peak, it subsides to the Conclusion. This is a summing up of Munch’s life and work. It appears to end quietly, but there is one last reminder of his troubled soul before the music comes finally to rest
I Dream of Peace (1992)
During a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the composer came across a small volume of poems and drawings in the museum’s bookstore. The book, I Dream of Peace, was a collection put together by UNICEF from material by children of the former state of Yugoslavia. Jager was immediately drawn to the concept of setting the poems to music for children’s choir and chamber orchestra. This work has been widely performed throughout the United States, including at the Southeast Region Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, the national convention in Chicago of the ACDA, and the Oregon Bach Festival “Piccfest”.
Kokopelli Dances (1994)
The Kokopelli figure is a fertility deity who has been venerated by many Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Kokopelli is associated not only with fertility, human and animal, but also with agriculture. Further he is a trickster god and represents the spirit of music. Kokopelli’s image is one of the most recognizable figures found in the petroglyphs and pictographs of the Southwest—the earliest known petroglyph figure dating to about 1000 A.D. Jager became fascinated with Kokopelli during a visit to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, in the early 1990’s. After hearing a Native American lecturer talk on the subject he was drawn to compose Kokopelli Dances for flute strings and percussion. Although there are no specific descriptions or events in the music, the work does attempt to be evocative. The work was composed for Roger Martin, professor of flute at Tennessee Technological University, who performed the première with the Bryan Symphony Orchestra.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1990)
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is based upon the story by Robert Browning. It is a tone poem in the truest sense tracing as it does the “plague of rats”, the treachery of the mayor of Hamelin, and the Pied Piper’s revenge on the hamlet for failing to “pay the piper!” Written for full orchestra and narrator, the appearance of voices late in the work is normally performed falsetto by members of the orchestra. For this recording, the voices of the St Louis Children’s Choirs were used instead.
— Robert Jager
Like a White Daisy Looks, Publisher: E.B. Marks
Suite from “Edvard Munch”, Publisher: Piedmont, Rental: Theodore Presser
I Dream of Peace, Publisher: Piedmont, Rental: Theodore Presser. Text used by permission from the book of the same name published by UNICEF
Kokopelli Dances, Publisher: Piedmont, Rental: Theodore Presser
Pied Piper of Hamelin, Music by Robert Jager, Copyright © 1990 by Jenson Publications
International Copyright Secured, All Rights Reserved Text by Robert Browning, freely adapted by the composer