Matthew Russo, trombonist & educator

Instructor of Trombone, University of Connecticut

program notes for sure on this shining night

Below are the program notes for tonight’s recital.

About the Performers


Described as a “poet with titanium fingers” by the Vancouver Sun, pianist Melody Quah has performed on the stages of Malaysia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Japan, China, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, England, Poland, India, Lithuania and the USA. Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she is a prizewinner at the 7th International Paderewski Competition held in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Melody was invited to give masterclasses and lectures to students and teachers at the Canadian Yamaha Summer Camps in 2008 and 2010 and has performed at the Malaysian Philharmonic Hall for the Gala Opening of the 4th ASEAN International Chopin Competition.

Melody received a top prize at the 11th Pacific Piano Competition and gave recitals in venues such as Gateway Theatre, Canada and Brechemin Auditorium at the University of Washington, Seattle. She also made appearances with the Ku-Ring-Gai Symphony and Central Coast Symphony Orchestras in Australia, the Pomeranian Philharmonic in Poland, and the Richmond Philharmonic, Academy Philharmonic, Vancouver Philharmonic, West Coast Symphony and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras in Canada. She has performed at the Vilnius Cultural Center in Vilnius, Lithuania, at the Malaysian and European Union Embassies in Washington, DC, and at the Russian Center of Science and Culture in Kuala Lumpur.

Melody won the Kay Meek scholarship, an award presented to the most outstanding performer of the Vancouver Academy of Music. There, she completed her Bachelor of Music in 2008 under Lee Kum Sing and in 2010 received her Master’s degree from The Juilliard School under Matti Raekallio. Melody is currently in the Artist Diploma Program at Yale School of Music under the tutelage of Peter Frankl.

In collaboration with the Prokofiev Society of America and Yale School of Music, Melody most recently performed at Weill Hall, Carnegie Hall, after which the New York Times reviewed, “she had admirable refinement and achieved power through crisp attack and clarity”. This summer, Melody will be performing and giving masterclasses in Medan, Indonesia, and will be touring China as part of a piano quintet.

About the Program


In crafting this program I centered on two pieces that would serve as the main focus for each segment, separated by an intermission. With that I designed two “mini-recitals” that, when combined, would form a full and varied program. The Tomasi Concerto, and the Castérède Sonatine have more in common than their French roots. Composed within a year of one another, each displays a distinct take on the modern solo instrument, alike in some ways, though wholly original in design.

I thought it appropriate to pair these hallmarks of the trombone repertoire with some repertoire that isn’t as “trombone-y.” Nessun Dorma has been a long favorite of mine since the days of my childhood when my father would be singing it at the top of his lungs. It was deafening. He nearly always got the B though. This performance is a homage to those days when you could hear Dad singing it clear as a bell, as if he were sitting next to you, even though he was outside working in the yard. My mother has always asked me to play Schubert’s Ave Maria, but in looking for a good recording of it, I stumbled upon Barber’s Four Songs. Immediately I was struck by their humility and beauty. Mom, I know it’s not Schubert, but hopefully you can see these songs as a worthy substitute. I found the alto trombone’s timbre to fit the female voice used for these songs more appropriately than the tenor trombone, especially when the female voice sings in the lower register. While all four songs are very striking and I enjoy their variety, I must confess that the third song, sure on this shining night, is far and above my favorite of the set.

The bookends for the concert were chosen as vocal pieces that made the transition to brass. Paul Rudoi, a friend and colleague from Hartt, approached me with questions about writing for trombone quartet. I knew Paul as a tenor, but knew that he had dabbled with composing on the side while on tour with Cantus. He entered tonight’s piece, Play in Variants, into the British Trombone Society’s composition contest and when he announced that he had won second prize, I immediately contacted him for the music. The piece was born from another piece of his for mens voices, and after reading through the version for trombones, I couldn’t stop humming the melody. I had to perform it. Tonight’s performance is the US premiere. The finale of the program, Arthur Pryor’s Annie Laurie is just so much fun. After hearing it on Ron Borror’s solo album I knew that this was going to be a blast. Ron’s recording is untouchable in its grace and virtuosity, but I figured I should take a stab at it and I’ve really enjoyed myself. Annie Laurie is not only the oldest composition on the program (Pryor wrote it while on tour with the Sousa band, likely in 1897) but the text itself is thought to be centuries old.

I hope that this program is musically fulfilling and interesting. I must thank Melody Quah for her countless hours of preparation, the members of the Yale Trombone Quartet, my family for their support and love, my fiancée Katie for her patience and care, my fellow studio mates whose excellence has encouraged me to succeed, and Scott Hartman for his incredible guidance over the last two years.

-Matthew Russo

Program Notes


Paul Rudoi’s Play in Variants is based on another work for men’s voices titled Cantate Domino. Play in Variants won second prize in the British Trombone Society Composers Competition.  Paul J. Rudoi, tenor vocalist and composer, has performed and recorded a wide range of music as a soloist and in various ensembles around the country, most recently in the male vocal ensemble Cantus. Early on in his career he sang with the Blanche Moyse Chorale, the Sons of Orpheus, and the American Boychoir, and performed various roles including Monastatos in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, Orpheus in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, and the title role in Carissimi’s oratorio Jonas. Since joining Cantus in the fall of 2008, he has worked with such respected artists as Bobby McFerrin, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and The James Sewell Ballet, and has premiered new works by several composers, including Maura Bosch, Mary Ellen Childs, and most recently Nico Muhly.


Henri Tomasi (1901-1971) wrote one of the first Trombone Concertos in the 20th century to gain a permanent place in the repertoire. Tomasi, a classically trained composer born in Marseilles, France, worked in many genres, yet he is best remembered for his contributions to the brass literature. The trombone’s coming of age as a solo instrument had a lot to do with jazz, where the instrument had been used soloistically at least since the 1920s. Therefore it is not surprising that Tomasi’s concerto opens with a solo cadenza containing what seems a direct reference to “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (by George Bassman and Ned Washington). After all, it is the song jazz trombonist Tommy Dorsey (1905-1956) had chosen as the theme song for the radio broadcasts of his band, which was one of the greatest of the “swing” era. In the concerto for trombone, the near-quote of the opening sets the tone for a work that freely mixes jazz-derived motifs with typically French harmonies. The concerto follows the usual three-movement form, but the movements have characteristic subtitles. The first movement merges a lyrical Andante with a zesty Scherzo in waltz time, with a hint of the languid Andante returning at the end. The second movement begins as a long, drawn-out trombone melody over an unchanging ostinato accompaniment. The melody accelerates, intensifies, and finally melts into a blues section, where we again recognize the pitches of the opening jazz song allusion, although the rhythm is different. The movement, in whose various sections the soloist alternates between playing with and without mute, ends with a recollection of its opening melody. In the last movement, marked “Tambourin,” the rhythmic element predominates, even though a singing legato melody is consistently opposed to the rhythmic ostinatos. The first entrance of the soloist once again elaborates on the five-note motif that is at the core of the opening cadenza, although the melodic identity is becoming a little more disguised. Yet in one way or another, the motif continues to predominate proceedings until the end of the work.

-Peter Laki


Nessun Dorma is the famous tenor aria from Puccini’s opera Turandot. In his sixties, Giacomo Puccini decided to “strike out on new paths.” The result was Turandot, a fantastic tale from the eighteenth century set in a mythical China. But Puccini never felt at ease with the plot: “My life is a torture because I fail to see in this opera all the throbbing life and power which are necessary in a work for the theater if it is to endure,” he wrote in desperation. He agonized over the opera for four years, finally dying of throat cancer before he finished the last scene.

To avenge the rape and death of a distant ancestress, the Chinese princess Turandot challenges her suitors with three riddles and, if they fail to answer them correctly, has them beheaded. Prince Calaf has just seen Turandot on the ramparts of the palace and is instantly bewitched by her beauty. He beats Turandot at her own game.

Act Three opens with heralds announcing Turandot’s decree, ‘Nessun Dorma’ (no one shall sleep) and in the opening of the aria, the suitor repeats the words. The suitor’s name is Calaf but the riddle is not to name him Calaf, rather to name him ‘love’, meaning that Turandot’s test is to discover love. Calaf’s confidence is apparent in the final words of the aria “vincerò” – I will win!

Samuel Barber wrote these Four Songs(1937-1940)over a period when he also created his seminal work Adagio for Strings (1937), and the powerful Violin Concerto (1939). While not as popular as many of his other song cycles, such as Knoxville: Summer of 1915, or the Hermit Songs, the four songs have transitioned into the choral library as arrangements. Particularly the third song, sure on this shining night, has enjoyed a new life and popularity in an arrangement for voice and orchestra. Although there is no program to speak of, and Barber did not title these songs as he did his other cycles, there is a clear commonality among the set.


Jacques Castérède wrote this note about his Sonatine for Trombone and Piano. “The Sonatine for trombone and piano is part of a series of sonatas for wind instruments and piano that I wrote between 1955 and 1958. The title Sonatine is indicative of the fact that it is not only a trombone solo with piano accompaniment, but a dialogue in which the two instrumentalists are equals-the piano part being just as difficult and important as the trombone part. Each movement brings to the fore a particular aspect of the trombone: The brilliance of sound of the first movement projecting a gay, robust music with a vigor that is sometimes rugged. The softness and melodic continuity show that the trombone can sing with just as much sensitivity as a stringed instrument. Finally, in the third movement, one hears the influence of jazz. Syncopated rhythms are superimposed over a chorale, tying together through the episodes two very different aspects of this magnificent instrument”


The poem known as Annie Laurie is thought to have been written by William Douglas (1672-1748), although the authenticity of this is unknown. First recorded in 1823, it may have been written by Allan Cunningham, who contributed to the “ballad book” in which the original poem was found. However, Annie Laurie is a real historical figure. Known as Anna Laurie, she was the daughter of the baronet of Maxwelton. Douglas and Annie Laurie are thought to have wanted to be married, but the Baronet did not approve. The earliest known version, and one that may be closer to what Douglas had written, is quite a bit randier than the version that is known today.

Maxwelton braes are bonnie, where early fa’s the dew
Where me and Annie Laurie made up the promise true
Made up the promise true, and ne’er forget will I
And for bonnie Annie Laurie I’d lay doun my head and die
She’s backit like the peacock, she’s breistit like the swan
She’s jimp aboot the middle, her waist ye weel may span
Her waist ye weel may span, and she has a rolling eye
And for bonnie Annie Laurie I’d lay doun my head and die.

      • Note:
      • braes (a brae is a sloping bank of a river or sea-shore; a hill-slope)
      • bonnie means pretty
      • fa’s means falls
      • gi’ed means gave
      • dee means die
      • snaw means snow
      • e’e means eyes
      • gowans are daisies
      • o is of
      • simmer means summer
      • a is all
      • She’s backit means “She’s endowed with a back(side)”
      • She’s breistit means “She’s endowed with a breast”
      • jimp means elegant or slender
      • ye weel may span means that you could encompass her waist with the span of two hands
      • a rolling eye is a ‘come hither’ look

Quite the lady apparently. The tune was added in the early 1800s, and a bit of lore along with it. In Scotland the myth goes that as soon as you finish singing the song it will begin to rain.

Texts and Translations


Nessun Dorma
Text: Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni

Nessun dorma!
Nessun dorma!
Tu pure, o, Principessa,
nella tua fredda stanza,
guardi le stelle
che tremano d’amore
e di speranza.

Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
il nome mio nessun saprà!
No, no, sulla tua bocca lo dirò
quando la luce splenderà!
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
che ti fa mia!

(Il nome suo nessun saprà!…
e noi dovrem, ahime, morir!)
Dilegua, o notte!
Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle!
All’alba vincerò!
vincerò, vincerò!

No one shall sleep!…
No one shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watching the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.

But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…
No!…No!…On your mouth (lips),
I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!…

(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.) {The people shutter and moan}
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars!
Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win!
I will win! I will win!


A Nun Takes the Veil (Heaven-Haven)
Text: Gerard Manley Hopkins

I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

The Secrets of the Old
Text: William Butler Yeats

I have old women’s secrets now
That had those of the young;
Madge tells me what I dared not think
When my blood was strong,
And what had drowned a lover once
Sounds like an old song.

Though Marg’ry is stricken dumb
If thrown in Madge’s way,
We three make up a solitude;
For none alive today
Can know the stories that we know
Or say the things we say:

How such a man pleased women most
Of all that are gone,
How such a pair loved many years
And such a pair but one,
Stories of the bed of straw
Or the bed of down.

Sure on this Shining Night
Text: James Agee

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far
Of shadows on the stars.


Text: Frederic Prokosch

Close my darling both your eyes,
Let your arms lie still at last.
Calm the lake of falsehood lies
And the wind of lust has passed,
Waves across these hopeless sands
Fill my heart and end my day,
Underneath your moving hands
All my aching flows away.

Even the human pyramids
Blaze with such a longing now:
Close, my love, your trembling lids,
Let the midnight heal your brow,
Northward flames Orion’s horn,
Westward th’ Egyptian light.
None to watch us, none to warn
But the blind eternal night.


Annie Laurie

Text: William Douglas

Maxwelton’s braes are bonnie,
Where early fa’s the dew,
‘Twas there that Annie Laurie
Gi’ed me her promise true.
Gi’ed me her promise true –
Which ne’er forgot will be,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me down and dee.

Her brow is like the snaw-drift,
Her neck is like the swan,
Her face it is the fairest,
That ‘er the sun shone on.
That ‘er the sun shone on –
And dark blue is her e’e,
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me down and dee.

Like dew on gowans lying,
Is the fa’ o’ her fairy feet,
And like winds, in simmer sighing,
Her voice is low and sweet.
Her voice is low and sweet –
And she’s a’ the world to me;
And for bonnie Annie Laurie
I’d lay me down and dee.







One response to “program notes for sure on this shining night”

  1. Brittanylasch Avatar

    awesome. looking forward.