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October 5-6, 2013
David Robertson, conductor Timothy McAllister, alto saxophone Jon Kimura Parker, piano
GERSHWIN Cuban Overture (1932) (1898-1937) JOHN ADAMS Saxophone Concerto (2013)
(b. 1947) Animato; Moderato; Tranquillo, suave Molto vivo (a hard driving pulse) Timothy McAllister, alto saxophone INTERMISSION
JOHN ADAMS The Chairman Dances, Foxtrot for Orchestra (1985)
GERSHWIN Concerto in F (1925) ed. Campbell-Watson
Allegro Andante con moto Allegro con brio
Jon Kimura Parker, piano
These performances of John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto are being recorded live for a future release on Nonesuch Records. To ensure a quality recording, please keep audience noise–other than applause– to a minimum.
David Robertson is the Beofor Music Director and Conductor. Timothy McAllister is the Jean L. and Charles V. Rainwater Guest Artist. Jon Kimura Parker is the Sarah E. Rainwater Ward and Charles S. Rainwater Guest Artist. The concert of Saturday, October 5, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Mrs. Ernest A. Eddy, Jr. The concert of Sunday, October 6, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Marjorie M. Ivey. Pre-Concert Conversations are sponsored by Washington University Physicians. These concerts are part of the Wells Fargo Advisors Series. Large print program notes are available through the generosity of Delmar Gardens and are located at the Customer Service table in the foyer.
FROM THE STAGE
Christian Woehr, Assistant Principal Viola, on George Gershwin: “I’ve been going to the Chautauqua Music Festival in upstate New York since I was a little kid. My parents played in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra so I spent my whole childhood there. When I was a kid there were still people playing in the orchestra who had been there during Gershwin’s days at Chautauqua. “It’s a little town, with these practice shacks that have been given composer names. I took French horn lessons in the Brahms-Schumann shack, and it is in this double shack where the Concerto in F was born. Gershwin wrote a twopiano version of the piece, and then went back to New York and orchestrated it for Walter Damrosch, who had commissioned it and first conducted it with the New York Symphony. “Chautauqua is an idyllic place, but I imagine that writing in the practice shacks, surrounded by fifty other practice shacks—Gershwin must have had amazing powers of concentration. But he could compose in a party.”
Jon Kimura Parker performs Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the St. Louis Symphony this weekend.
HIGH ART, POP ROOTS
BY PA U L SC H I AVO
1925 GERSHWIN Concerto in F The Great Gatsby published 1932 GERSHWIN Cuban Overture Anne and Charles Lindbergh’s infant son kidnapped 1985 JOHN ADAMS The Chairman Dances, Foxtrot for Orchestra “We Are the World” recorded in Hollywood 2013 JOHN ADAMS Saxophone Concerto President Barack Obama delivers second inaugural address
“Whenever serious art loses track of its roots in the vernacular, then it begins to atrophy.” That statement was made by composer John Adams, who has qualified the observation by noting that there remain experiences that lie beyond the capacities of vernacular idioms to capture, that only “serious art” can adequately convey. Adams, the most prominent American composer of our time, has found his own way of combining the strengths of our country’s popular music—the rhythms of jazz and popular dances, the driving pulse of rock, harmonic inflections derived from the blues—with the kind of large-scale musical architecture that requires a trained composer. Two instances of this fertile blend, his Saxophone Concerto and The Chairman Dances, form the central part of our concert. In drawing on the traditions of our nation’s vernacular music, Adams follows in the footsteps of other important American composers, notably Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and George Gershwin. The latter, of course, is best known for appropriating the sound of jazz in such works as Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris and his Concerto in F, which closes our program. But Gershwin’s musical perspective was broader and more eclectic than is often realized. In the first piece we hear, he brings the percussive sound and powerful rhythms of Cuba to a colorful orchestral piece. GEORGE GERSHWIN Cuban Overture AN AMERICAN IN HAVANA With cultural and economic channels between the United States and Cuba opening ever so slightly in recent years, the sounds of Cuban popular music are beginning to be heard again in our country. The occasional performances and recordings by Cuba’s jazz and salsa stars that find their way to these shores (think Buena Vista Social Club) remind us that the island nation has long been home to a vibrant musical tradition, one that blends
Spanish, African, and indigenous elements. The resulting hybrid is a style of palpable energy. Cuban popular music has always been closely tied to dance, and for that reason rhythm and percussion instruments have been its most conspicuous features. Although few Americans get to hear Cuban music in live performance these days, the situation was once quite different. Prior to Castro’s rise to power, Havana was a popular vacation spot for well-to-do Americans. There, most visitors found themselves entranced by the pulsating rhythms of the mambo, the rhumba, the conga, and other Cuban dances, which had evolved from folkloric origins into sophisticated urban pastimes. One tourist who fell under their spell was George Gershwin, who visited Havana in 1932. The composer, already famous for his Broadway musicals and the exceptionally successful concert piece Rhapsody in Blue, was particularly impressed by the percussion instruments he encountered, and he brought several of these with him back to New York. Gershwin immediately resolved to use these instruments and some of the characteristic Cuban rhythms in a symphonic setting. The result was called Rhumba when it was first performed at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium in August, 1932, but Gershwin later changed the title to Cuban Overture. The form of this piece bears little relation to that of the classical overture. Instead, it presents a succession of tunes in three broad sections. The first portion of the work is lively, its restless themes unfolding over a rhythmic accompaniment colored by the distinctive sounds of Latin percussion instruments. A brief cadenza-like solo for clarinet ushers in a slower central episode that contemplates a blues-tinged melody traded back and forth between the woodwinds and strings. In its development, this theme swells to an unexpected fullness. Suddenly, however, Gershwin breaks off, quickly recapturing the energy of the opening section and returning to its thematic material, which he now views from a new perspective.
Carl Van Vechtan
Born September 26, 1898, Brooklyn Died July 11, 1937, Hollywood First Performance August 16, 1932, in New York, Albert Coates conducted the New York Philharmonic Orchestra STL Symphony Premiere February 2, 1946, Vladimir Golschmann conducting Most Recent STL Symphony Performance July 5, 2002, David Amado conducting Scoring 3 flutes piccolo 2 oboes English horn 2 clarinets bass clarinet 2 bassoons contrabassoon 4 horns 3 trumpets 3 trombones tuba timpani percussion strings Performance Time approximately 10 minutes
JOHN ADAMS Saxophone Concerto ADAMS AND THE STL SYMPHONY The music of John Adams is a familiar presence at St. Louis Symphony concerts. Over the last two decades, and especially during David Robertson’s tenure as Music Director, the St. Louis Symphony has performed many of this American composer’s works. It also has recorded four of them for commercial release. The orchestra’s 2009 recording of the Dr. Atomic Symphony, on the Nonesuch label, was named “Classical Album of the Decade” by the Times of London. The Symphony’s commitment to Adams and his music is entirely understandable, for his is one of the most distinctive voices among today’s composers. Early in his career, Adams broke with academic compositional orthodoxy, rejecting the arcane music associated with high modernism in the 1950s and ’60s. Instead, he adopted the techniques and manner of a group of American outsiders whose style became known, by analogy with trends in painting and sculpture, as “minimalism.” Adams combined the minimalist devices of repetitive motifs, rhythmic pulsation, and static or slow-moving harmonies with colorful orchestration, a wide range of expressive nuance and a rich harmonic vocabulary. The result was what some commentators have described as a “post-minimalist” style. Adams has used that style, which now is indelibly associated with him, to create an impressive body of music that includes four operas, two large oratorios, and nearly twenty orchestral pieces. These and other works have brought the composer both the Pulitzer Prize, the prestigious Grawemeyer Award, and the distinction of being the most frequently performed living American composer. CLASSICAL AND JAZZ IDIOMS Adams composed his Saxophone Concerto this year for our soloist, Timothy McAllister. The composer calls McAllister “quite likely the reigning master of the classical saxophone, an artist who while rigorously trained is also aware of the jazz tradition.” That awareness is crucial to Adams, who notes that his concerto “has as its source my lifelong
Born February 15, 1947, Worcester, Massachusetts Now resides Berkeley, California First Performance August 22, 2013, in Sydney, Australia, Timothy McAllister played the solo saxophone part, and the composer conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra STL Symphony Premiere These concerts Scoring solo alto saxophone 2 flutes piccolo 3 oboes English horn 2 clarinets bass clarinet 2 bassoons 3 horns 2 trumpets piano celeste harp strings Performance Time approximately 30 minutes
exposure to the great jazz saxophonists, from the swing era through the likes of Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, and Wayne Shorter.” Adams observes further that “having grown up hearing the sound of the saxophone virtually every day—my father had played alto in swing bands during the 1930s and our family record collection was well stocked with albums by the great jazz masters—I never considered the saxophone an alien instrument.” Accordingly, he has used saxophones in several of his compositions, including the orchestral piece City Noir, which the St. Louis Symphony performed last February. Nonesuch recorded the performances of City Noir, and will be recording the Saxophone Concerto this weekend, for a future release. Adams describes City Noir as “a jazz-inflected symphony that featured a fiendishly difficult solo part for alto sax, a trope indebted to the wild and skittish styles of the great bebop and post-bop artists such as Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Eric Dolphy. Finding a sax soloist who could play in this style, but who was sufficiently trained to be able to sit in the middle of a modern symphony orchestra was a difficult assignment.” Adams found just such a player in Timothy McAllister. McAllister’s personality, no less than his virtuosity, prompted Adams to create a piece especially for him. “When one evening,” the composer recalled, “during a dinner conversation Tim mentioned that during high school he had been a champion stunt bicycle rider, I knew that I must compose a concerto for this fearless musician and risk-taker. His exceptional musical personality had been the key ingredient in performances and recordings of City Noir, and I felt that I’d only begun to scratch the surface of his capacities with that work.” In composing a new piece for McAllister, Adams found little of interest in the few prominent concertos for saxophone. Instead, he looked to the jazz literature. Among other sources, the 1950 recording Charlie Parker and Strings suggested, in Adams’ words, a “way the alto sax could float and soar above an orchestra. Another album that I’d known since I was a teenager, New Bottle Old Wine, with Cannonball Adderley and that greatest of all jazz arrangers, Gil Evans, remained in mind throughout the composing of the new concerto as a model to aspire to.” Adams continues: “While the concerto is not meant to sound jazzy per se, its jazz influences lie only slightly below the surface. I make constant use of the instrument’s vaunted agility as well as its capacity for a lyrical utterance that is only a short step away from the human voice. The form of the concerto is a familiar one for those who know my orchestral pieces, as I’ve used it in my Violin Concerto, in City Noir, and in my piano concerto Century Rolls. It begins with one long first part combining a fast movement with a slow, lyrical one. This is followed by a shorter second part, a species of funk-rondo with a fast, driving pulse.”
JOHN ADAMS The Chairman Dances, Foxtrot for Orchestra DANCING WITH MAO John Adams’ “breakthrough” composition, the one that brought him international attention, was his opera Nixon in China. Completed in 1987 after two years of work, Nixon in China imagines in fantastical, sometimes surreal, terms the historic 1972 visit of the 37th President to the People’s Republic of China and his meeting with Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong. At the time he had begun working on the opera, Adams also was obligated to fulfill a commission from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for a new orchestral piece. Engrossed in the sound-world and mise en scène of Nixon in China, he wrote a “Foxtrot for Orchestra” that he originally planned to include in the opera’s third act. This music, The Chairman Dances, ended up being, in the composer’s words, “an out-take” from Nixon in China, but it has acquired a life of its own as a concert piece. The scene for which The Chairman Dances was conceived centers, Adams explains, “on Chairman Mao and his bride, Chiang Ch’ing, the fabled “Madame Mao,” firebrand, revolutionary, executioner, architect of China’s calamitous Cultural Revolution and (a fact not universally realized) a former Shanghai movie actress. In the surreal final scene of the opera, she interrupts the tired formalities of a state banquet, disrupts the slow-moving protocol and invites the Chairman, who is present only as a gigantic forty-foot portrait on the wall, to “come down, old man, and dance.” The music takes full cognizance of her past as a movie actress. Themes, sometimes slinky and sentimental, at other times bravura and bounding, ride above a bustling fabric of energized motives. GEORGE GERSHWIN Concerto in F JAZZ RHYTHMS, CLASSICAL FORM Gershwin wrote his Concerto in F in 1925 at the request of Walter Damrosch, the music director of the New York Symphony. Though not yet 30, Gershwin
First Performance January 31, 1986, in Milwaukee, Lukas Foss conducted the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra STL Symphony Premiere March 3, 1989, Murry Sidlin conducting Most Recent STL Symphony Performance December 31, 2004, David Robertson conducting Scoring 2 flutes 2 piccolos 2 oboes 2 clarinets bass clarinet 2 bassoons 4 horns 2 trumpets 2 trombones tuba timpani percussion piano harp strings Performance Time approximately 12 minutes
was already a phenomenally successful composer of Broadway musicals, and the tremendous acclaim his Rhapsody in Blue had garnered the preceding year confirmed that he was capable of writing “serious” music as well. With characteristic self-confidence, Gershwin immediately accepted Damrosch’s invitation, even though he had never attempted so ambitious a composition. He then promptly acquired, he said in a newspaper interview, “four or five books on musical structure to find out exactly what the concerto form really was!” The composer probably made this comment with tongue in cheek. He was always sensitive to the charge that he was a talented but unschooled musician, a gifted melodist who lacked the training and discipline to master larger forms. In fact, Gershwin worked hard to create fullscale compositions using the idioms of American popular music. The Concerto in F is one of his most successful attempts, a satisfying fusion of jazz rhythms and blues harmonies with classical form. Anything it may lack in sophistication of design is more than compensated by its freshness and vitality. IN HIS OWN WORDS Gershwin provided the following description of his concerto:
The first movement employs the Charleston rhythm. It is quick and pulsating, representing the young enthusiastic spirit of American life. It begins with a rhythmic motif given out by the kettle drums…. The principal theme is announced by the bassoon. Later, a second theme is introduced by the piano. The second movement has a poetic, nocturnal atmosphere which has come to be referred to as the American blues, but in a purer form than that in which they are usually treated. The final movement reverts to the style of the first. It is an orgy of rhythms, starting violently and keeping to the same pace throughout.
First Performance December 3, 1925, in Carnegie Hall, the composer was the piano soloist, and Walter Damrosch conducted the New York Symphony STL Symphony Premiere March 1, 1936, with Gerswin at the keyboard, Vladimir Golschmann conducting Most Recent STL Symphony Performance May 21, 2010, Terrence Wilson was soloist, with Ward Stare conducting Scoring solo piano 2 flutes piccolo 2 oboes English horn 2 clarinets bass clarinet 2 bassoons 4 horns 3 trumpets 3 trombones tuba timpani percussion strings Performance Time approximately 31 minutes
Program notes © 2013 by Paul Schiavo 31
BEOFOR MUSIC DIRECTOR AND CONDUCTOR
David Robertson returns to Powell Hall to conduct Peter Grimes on November 16.
A consummate musician, masterful programmer, and dynamic presence, David Robertson has established himself as one of today’s most sought-after American conductors. A passionate and compelling communicator with an extensive orchestral and operatic repertoire, he has forged close relationships with major orchestras around the world through his exhilarating music-making and stimulating ideas. In fall 2013, Robertson launches his ninth season as Music Director of the 134-year-old St. Louis Symphony. While continuing as St. Louis’s music director, in January 2014 Robertson assumes the post of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Australia. In 2012-13, Robertson led the St. Louis Symphony on two major tours: his first European tour with the orchestra—its first European engagements since 1998—in fall 2012, which included critically-acclaimed appearances at London’s BBC Proms, at the Berlin and Lucerne Festivals, and at Paris’s Salle Pleyel; and a spring 2013 California tour which included a three-day residency at the University of California-Davis and performances at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and venues in Costa Mesa, Palm Desert, and Santa Barbara. Highlights of his 2013-14 season with St. Louis include a return to Carnegie Hall on the centennial of Benjamin Britten’s birth for a concert performance of the opera Peter Grimes, and the recording this weekend of a St. Louis Symphony co-commission, John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto. Nonesuch Records will release the disc featuring the concerto, along with the orchestra’s performance of Adams’ City Noir, in 2014. Born in Santa Monica, California, Robertson was educated at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied horn and composition before turning to orchestral conducting. David Robertson is the recipient of numerous awards and honors.
JEAN L. AND CHARLES V. RAINWATER GUEST ARTIST
Timothy McAllister is one of today’s leading concert saxophone performers and a champion of contemporary music. Credited with over 150 premieres of new works by eminent and emerging composers, his work is highlighted in the recent Deutsche Grammophon DVD release of John Adams’ City Noir, filmed as part of Gustavo Dudamel’s inaugural concert as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In August 2013 he gave the world premiere of John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the composer in the Sydney Opera House, followed by U.S. and international premieres with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo. McAllister has been a recent soloist with the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Reno Philharmonic, Texas Festival Orchestra at Round Top, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Royal Band of the Belgian Air Force, United States Navy Band, Dallas Wind Symphony, Hong Kong Wind Philharmonia, Nashville Symphony, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project among others. An in-demand orchestral saxophonist, he has performed in the wind sections of top orchestras around the globe. He appears regularly as soprano saxophonist of the acclaimed PRISM Saxophone Quartet, performing with orchestras, on major chamber music series and festivals, and in residencies each year at the nation’s elite music institutions, including the Curtis Institute, Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, and Oberlin Conservatory among others. A dedicated teacher, he serves as Professor of Saxophone and co-director of the Institute for New Music at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. Additionally, he spends his summers as distinguished Valade Fellow at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He holds the Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan, where he studied saxophone with Donald Sinta and received the School of Music’s most distinguished performance award—the Albert A. Stanley Medal.
Timothy McAllister makes his solo debut with the St. Louis Symphony this week.
JON KIMURA PARKER
SARAH E. RAINWATER WARD AND CHARLES S. RAINWATER GUEST ARTIST
Jon Kimura Parker most recently performed with the St. Louis Symphony in April 2002.
A veteran of the international concert stage, Jon Kimura Parker has performed as guest soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Wolfgang Sawallisch in Carnegie Hall, toured Europe with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and André Previn, and shared the stage with Jessye Norman at Berlin’s Philharmonie. A true Canadian ambassador of music, Parker has given command performances for Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor. An active media personality, Parker hosted the television series Whole Notes on Bravo! and CBC Radio’s Up and Coming. His YouTube channel features the Concerto Chat video series, with illuminating discussions of the piano concerto repertoire. Last season, Parker appeared as soloist with the major orchestras of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, and toured the U.S. with Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. He also had the honor of being the last guest pianist to work with the Tokyo String Quartet in its final season. Highlights of this season include solo appearances with the San Diego Symphony with Jahja Ling, Seattle Symphony with Ludovic Morlot, Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra with Larry Rachleff, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra with Hannu Lintu. He appears at the Hong Kong Festival with Gary Hoffman, Vadim Repin, and Joyce Yang, and begins two major chamber music collaborations, with the Miró Quartet, and in a trio with violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Clive Greensmith. A committed educator, Jon Kimura Parker is Professor of Piano at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. Parker is also Artistic Advisor of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where he has given world premieres of new works by Peter Schickele and Jake Heggie.
A BRIEF EXPLANATION
You don’t need to know what “andante” means or what a glockenspiel is to enjoy a St. Louis Symphony concert, but it’s always fun to know stuff. For example, Why aren’t there saxophones in orchestras? Which came first, the symphony orchestra or the saxophone? This one’s easier than the chicken or the egg. The sax wasn’t invented until the 1840s, and composers had been writing for orchestras a lot longer than that, so the saxophone is not part of the standard repertoire. However, Ravel makes great use of the saxophone in both Bolero and for his orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Jazz Age composer George Gershwin writes a saxophone part for An American in Paris and Prokofiev adds sax to the Russian sounds of his Lt. Kijé Suite. Guest artist Timothy McAllister has called John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto “the most important work for saxophone in this young century.”
CHRISTIAN WOEHR, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL VIOLA
Chris Woehr is not only a violist, but he is also a composer and arranger. He is a member of an ensemble of Symphony musicians known as the Strings of Arda, which will play some of his original compositions for the Landmarks Series event at the James S. McDonnell Planetarium on Monday, November 4 at 7 p.m. Woehr has transcribed Gershwin’s Cuban Overture for Strings of Arda, a task that gave him insight into Gershwin’s “grasp of counterpoint.” He says that Gershwin Christian Woehr follows Woehr’s composing rules, of which there are only two: “It’s got to have a groove that carries you physically and emotionally. And there needs to be a story line that makes sense—a story line with a real climax.”
YOU TAKE IT FROM HERE
If these concerts have inspired you to learn more, here are suggested source materials with which to continue your explorations. Edward Jablonski, Gershwin Northeastern University Press A biography by the foremost Gershwin scholar gershwin.com A website devoted to the composer and his brother and collaborator, Ira, with history, timeline, references, sound clips, etc. John Adams, Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life Picador Press The composer’s chronicle of his life and work earbox.com The composer’s website
Read the program notes online at stlsymphony.org/planyourvisit/programnotes Keep up with the backstage life of the St. Louis Symphony, as chronicled by Symphony staffer Eddie Silva, via stlsymphony.org/blog The St. Louis Symphony is on
BOX OFFICE HOURS
Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm; Weekday and Saturday concert evenings through intermission; Sunday concert days 12:30pm through intermission.
You may store your personal belongings in lockers located on the Orchestra and Grand Tier Levels at a cost of 25 cents. Infrared listening headsets are available at Customer Service. Cameras and recording devices are distracting for the performers and audience members. Audio and video recording and photography are strictly prohibited during the concert. Patrons are welcome to take photos before the concert, during intermission, and after the concert. Please turn off all watch alarms, cell phones, pagers, and other electronic devices before the start of the concert. All those arriving after the start of the concert will be seated at the discretion of the House Manager. Age for admission to STL Symphony and Live at Powell Hall concerts vary, however, for most events the recommended age is five or older. All patrons, regardless of age, must have their own tickets and be seated for all concerts. All children must be seated with an adult. Admission to concerts is at the discretion of the House Manager. Outside food and drink are not permitted in Powell Hall. No food or drink is allowed inside the auditorium, except for select concerts.
TO PURCHASE TICKETS
Box Office: 314-534-1700 Toll Free: 1-800-232-1880 Online: stlsymphony.org Fax: 314-286-4111 A service charge is added to all telephone and online orders.
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If you can’t use your season tickets, simply exchange them for another Wells Fargo Advisors subscription concert up to one hour prior to your concert date. To exchange your tickets, please call the Box Office at 314-5341700 and be sure to have your tickets with you when calling.
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314-286-4155 or 1-800-232-1880 Any group of 20 is eligible for a discount on tickets for select Orchestral, Holiday, or Live at Powell Hall concerts. Call for pricing. Special discount ticket programs are available for students, seniors, and police and public-safety employees. Visit stlsymphony.org for more information.
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