Adrian Rosas, bass-baritone

Adrian Rosas
Photo by Vanessa Rosas Photography

Appearing in the concert The Apostles, which will be performed on May 12, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Adrian Rosas has performed with opera companies such as the Seattle Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Saratoga, Houston’s Opera in the Heights, and the Detroit Opera House. He has most recently appeared as Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress with the Pacific Opera Project. Previously, he has appeared as Collantinus in Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and as Basilio in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with LoftOpera; as Rocco in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Grand Harmonie; as Sir Richard Cholmondeley in Andrew Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard and as the title role in Don Giovanni with Winter Opera Saint Louis; as Diego in Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida and as Cascada in Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow with Michigan Opera Theatre; and as Sergeant in Il barbiere di Siviglia and as Procolo in Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma with Seattle Opera.

As a champion of new and modern music, Mr. Rosas has worked on a variety of newly written works, including Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket, Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida, Petr Kotik’s Master-Pieces, Matt Aucoin’s Whitman, newly written operas with the American Lyric Theater in New York and with the Ostrava Center for New Music in the Czech Republic. He has also been featured in performances at Carnegie Hall in various concerts, oratorios, and as the Angel Gabriel in the premiere of Marcos Galvany’s Oh My Son, and has performed at the New York Festival of Song as well as in various performances at Merkin Concert Hall and Alice Tully Hall.

Mr. Rosas holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Western Michigan University and a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School.

Spring 2017

Paul McNamara, tenor

Paul McNamara
Photo by Frances Marshall Photography

Appearing in the concert The Apostles, which will be performed on May 12, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Originally from Ireland and based in Berlin, Paul McNamara has sung in theaters throughout Europe, where his many notable successes have included his recent debut at La Fenice (Venice) as Wagner’s Tannhäuser and his critically-acclaimed performances at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Braunfels’ Szenen aus dem Leben der Heiligen Johanna. Operatic engagements elsewhere include the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw; Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels; NI Opera; Cape Town Opera; the Opera Lesna in Sopot (Poland); Opera Ireland; the Janáček Festival in Brno; the National Opera in Almaty, Kazakhstan; the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro; and with the Salzburg Easter Festival in a coproduction with the Beijing Music Festival. Concert appearances have taken him to many of the world’s leading venues including the Berlin Philharmonie, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and Carnegie Hall.

In addition to Wagner’s Erik, Loge, Tannhäuser, Tristan, and Parsifal, Mr. McNamara’s extensive repertoire encompasses roles by Monteverdi, Cavalli, Mozart, Weber, Meyerbeer, Tchaikovsky, Leoncavallo, Dvořák, Strauss, Janáček, Zemlinsky, Berg, Britten, and André Previn.

Recent appearances include debuts with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, at the opera in Bonn in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer, and at the Leipzig Opera in Richard Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot and Richard Strauss’ Arabella. Elsewhere, Mr. McNamara reprised his much lauded interpretation of Herodes at the opera in Linz and appeared as Tannhäuser at the Wartburg zu Eisenach, as well as in new productions of this opera in Aachen, Innsbruck, and Venice.

Spring 2017

Alfred Walker, bass-baritone

Alfred Walker
Photo by Walter Hill

Appearing in the concert The Apostles, which will be performed on May 12, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

In the 2016–17 season, Alfred Walker has appeared as Wotan in Das Rheingold with North Carolina Opera, Méphistophélès in Berlioz’s La damnation du Faust at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Josh Gibson in the world premiere of Sonenberg’s The Summer King with Pittsburgh Opera, Porgy in Porgy and Bess with the Sydney Symphony and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Phoenix Symphony. Last season, he joined Oper Köln and Seattle Opera for the title role in Der fliegende Holländer, the Komische Oper Berlin as the Four Villains in Les contes d’Hoffmann, and Utah Opera for Amonasro in Aida. He also joined the New Japan Philharmonic for Bluebeard in Bluebeard’s Castle and the Caramoor International Music Festival as Pizarro in Fidelio, and sang Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Verdi’s Requiem with the Boston Philharmonic.

Mr. Walker’s other recent operatic engagements include Der fliegende Holländer, Amfortas in Parsifal, and Amonasro in Aida at Theater Basel; Parsi Rustomji in Satyagraha at the Metropolitan Opera; Orest in Elektra at Teatro alla Scala, Deutsche Opera Berlin, Seattle Opera, and the San Sebastián Festival; Four Villains in Kosky’s new production of Les contes d’Hoffmann at Den Norske Opera; Allazim in Zaide at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Wiener Festwochen, Barbican Center, and the Mostly Mozart Festival; Der fliegende Holländer at the Geneva Wagner Festival, Théâtre de Caen, and Grand Théâtre de Luxembourg; Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde at Angers Nantes Opera and Opéra de Dijon; Creonte in Medea at Opéra national de Lorraine; Telramund in Lohengrin at Ópera de Oviedo; Porgy in Porgy and Bess with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Philharmonic, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra; and Achilla in Giulio Cesare and Colline in La bohème with San Diego Opera. On the concert stage, he has joined the Boston, Atlanta, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, Stuttgarter Philharmoniker, Utah Symphony, Grand Park Music Festival, and Houston Symphony.

Spring 2017

Jennifer Check, soprano

Jennifer Check
Photo by Kristin Hoebermann

Appearing in the concert The Apostles, which will be performed on May 12, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Jennifer Check has most recently appeared in Verdi’s Requiem with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Previously, she performed in Verdi’s Requiem as a part of the hallmark Defiant Requiem presentation with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Philharmonic. This season, she returned to the Metropolitan Opera roster as the High Priestess in Aida and in its production of Saariaho’s L’amour de loin, as well as joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago roster for Norma. Last season, she returned to Utah Opera for the title role of Aida, her first performances of Desdemona in Otello with Berks Opera, and returned to the Metropolitan Opera for Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda. On the concert stage she joined the Aspen Music Festival for Saariaho’s Cinq reflets.

She recently debuted three other Verdi titles: Macbeth with Palm Beach Opera, Il trovatore with Utah Opera, and Don Carlos at Caramoor, and sang her first Ariadne auf Naxos with Toulon Opera. Other recent performances include Don Giovanni with Metropolitan Opera; Muhly’s Dark Sisters with Gotham Chamber Opera and Opera Philadelphia; Norma with Palm Beach Opera and Opera Philadelphia; Elektra in London, Tokyo, and Detroit; Iphigénie en Tauride in Valencia, Dialogues des Carmélites at Caramoor and with Austin Opera, and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh in Amsterdam. At the Metropolitan Opera, she has sung in previous productions that include Die Frau ohne Schatten, Turandot, Don Carlo, Gianni Schicchi, and Stiffelio.

Concert performances include engagements of Verdi, Strauss, Beethoven, and Mahler with the symphony orchestras of Shanghai, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Boston, Verbier Festival, Spoleto Festival U.S.A., Charlotte, Utah, and Memphis, among others.

Spring 2017

Sara Murphy, mezzo-soprano

Sara Murphy

Appearing in the concert The Apostles, which will be performed on May 12, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Sara Murphy recently made her European debut at Opera Theater of Rome as Ulrica in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Her current season continues with the role of The Wife in the world premiere of Gisle Kverndokk’s sacred opera Upon this handful of earth. Opera News named the recent release of the Hindemith’s The Long Christmas Dinner with the American Symphony Orchestra, in which she portrays Mother Bayard and Ermengarde, one of the “Top Ten Opera Recordings of 2015.”

Past season highlights include Ligeti’s Requiem and Schnittke’s Nagasaki with the American Symphony Orchestra, and Verdi’s Otello, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and Tchaikovsky’s Ode to Joy at the Cincinnati May Festival. Ms. Murphy’s portrayal of Britten’s Phaedra, Barber’s Dover Beach, and High Priestess in Aida at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra won acclaim from the Chicago Tribune. She enjoys frequent performances of Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, Mahler’s Rückert Lieder, and Elgar’s Sea Pictures.

Ms. Murphy holds degrees from Oberlin College and Catholic University. She is a first-prize winner of the Oratorio Society of New York Solo Vocal Competition, and a grant recipient of Inter-Cities Performing Arts and the Wagner Society of New York.

Spring 2017

After Dvořák and Smetana: Czech Music in the 20th Century

by Leon Botstein

Written for the concert Prague Central, which will be performed on February 10, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

The four composers on this ASO program were major twentieth-century figures in the musical tradition of a region in Central Europe: the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia, famed for contributions to European culture, particularly in music. The historic capital of Bohemia, Prague is now the capital of the Czech Republic. Before this, it was the capital of a nation spliced together after the end of World War I—Czechoslovakia—which existed from 1918 until the fall of the Soviet Empire just over a quarter of a century ago, when it was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Prior to 1918, both major regions of today’s Czech Republic—Bohemia and Moravia—had been part of the Habsburg Empire. The historic center of gravity in that dynastic and much maligned multi-national Empire was Vienna. Already in the 18th century these regions were centers of German (not Czech) high culture. Mozart’s Don Giovanni was premiered in Prague. Franz Kafka is perhaps the best-known figure from the vital German-speaking Jewish community of Prague into which Erwin Schulhoff was born.

Indeed, from the Baroque era on, music was a distinctive component of Bohemian and Moravian life. In the mid-19th century, two Czech composers rose to international fame: Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. Dvořák’s career was assisted by support from Vienna through the advocacy of Brahms. Smetana—who wrote both the first famous Czech national opera, The Bartered Bride, and the best-known national cycle of tone poems, Má Vlast—was ironically far more comfortable in German than in the Czech language, and he spent an important part of his career in Sweden.

But despite their affiliation with German culture, both composers became associated with a burgeoning Czech nationalism that blossomed after the Habsburg defeat at the hand of the Prussians in 1866. Once the Habsburg Empire began to crumble, a Prussian-dominated German nation was configured which excluded the Habsburg lands, in which German was spoken, particularly Austria and the lands where these composers were born. Although they were citizens of the same empire as the Germans and Austrians, Dvořák and Smetana came to be seen as Czech nationalists.

It is ironic in the context of the current revival of extreme nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe and the fragility of the European Union that, in retrospect, the multi-national Habsburg Empire may have been a far more promising framework than once thought for the expression of disparate linguistic and cultural autonomy within a tolerant, pluralist governing political structure. But in the late 19th century the Empire, which was centered in Vienna (and after 1867 in Budapest), was seen as archaic and oppressive.

In turn-of-the-century and early twentieth-century Czech musical life, opposing camps emerged: one centered around Smetana (viewed to be the more radical nationalist voice) and one around Dvořák (a figure seen as more loyal, politically, to the Habsburg model). Two of the composers on this program were students of Dvořák: Josef Suk (his son-in-law) and Vítězslav Novák. Like Dvořák, on whose music both Brahms and Wagner exerted influence, Suk and Novák were acutely aware of their leading German-speaking contemporaries, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler (who was born in Moravia). In the cross currents of political ferment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Prague became more than a place in which national sentiment flourished; it became a major center of modernist innovation in literature, art, and music.

Bohuslav Martinů (who spent a great deal of his career in Paris and the United States) was a Czech patriot who felt the trials of exile keenly. He was brilliant and prolific and more of his music deserves to be heard. Schulhoff, who began as an experimental modernist in the Kafka mold, eventually turned to communism. His achievements can be rightly compared to those of his Czech-Jewish German-speaking contemporaries in other fields: Kafka and the writers Egon Erwin Kisch and Max Brod (who played a decisive role in bringing the great original Moravian-Czech composer of the previous generation, Leos Janáček, to international attention during the interwar years). But Schulhoff is now mostly remembered as a victim of the Nazis, and not the major European composer he was.

This concert offers the public an opportunity to sample the achievements of the music that emerged from a tumultuous era of political change. The post-Habsburg development of nationalism, democracy, fascism, anti-Semitism, and socialism all collided in the twenty years of Czechoslovakia after 1918. In 1938, democratic Czechoslovakia was dismembered by the Nazis; after 1945 it fell within the Soviet Empire.

However, the composers on this program all represented a sense of nationalism compatible with a vital cosmopolitan culture, both Czech and German. Their remarkable output is a welcome reminder of the urgent need for an alternative to the narrow xenophobic and provincial nationalisms that have, in recent years, reasserted their allure and power—nationalisms that are unlikely to offer the multi-faceted sources of inspiration that Suk, Novák, Martinů, and Schulhoff drew upon.

On a personal note, I would like to dedicate this concert to the memory of Rudolf Firkušný (1912–94), the consummate musician and phenomenal pianist, student of Janáček’s, and ardent partisan of the democratic Czechoslovakia in which he grew up. It was through Firkušný, a close friend of Martinů’s, that I first became acquainted with the music of the composers on this program, particularly the works of Suk and Novák.

VÍTĚZSLAV NOVÁK, IN THE TATRAS

by Michael Beckerman

Written for the concert Prague Central, which will be performed on February 10, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Born December 5, 1870, in Kamenice nad Lipou, Southern Bohemia
Died July 18, 1949, in Skuteč, Czech Republic
Composed in 1902
Premiered on November 25, 1902 in Prague by the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Oskar Nedbal
Performance Time: Approximately 25 minutes

Vítězslav Novák was a gifted and prolific composer who was at the core of Czech musical life in the first decades of the 20th century. Composing in virtually every genre, he has been claimed by both modernists and neo-romantics as a founding figure. He was also at the very center of an ongoing series of artistic feuds about the direction of Czech music, which were a feature of musical life at the time.

In a forthcoming article about the composer, Lenka Krupková refers to his “South Moravian” Suite as a kind of “ethnotourism,” noting that unlike Janáček, Novák had little primary experience with folk culture. Thus according to her, his lovely work is a classic example of a composition by an outsider. Not so with In the Tatras! Novák was deeply familiar with the mountains and had scaled them as a kind of expert climber (he carped that Strauss’ Alpine Symphony was composed from an armchair, and, in fact, three years after composing In the Tatras he was almost killed in a dangerous fall while climbing them).

Mountain music, whether by Strauss or Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Sinfonia Antartica, combines several prototypes or “topics.” First, the music conjures up images of the sublime: a vast, jagged, and open space which dwarfs a human scale and produces wonder and terror. This is readily apparent in Novák’s opening theme with its unison ascent followed by a leap. Second, it involves music of struggle, since such works not only seek to suggest the appearance and nature of mountains, but also engage the relationship of human beings to them. Finally, climbing mountains is not only a matter of engaging the physical challenges of the peak itself, but the kind of weather often encountered by mountaineers reaching toward high summits. So we also have a range of sounds throughout conjuring the music of cold, a kind of vocabulary developed over the centuries, from Purcell through Vivaldi and from Janáček’s “Voice of the Steppe” in House of the Dead to a broad range of cinematic effects associated with icy weather, such as high harmonics, tremolos, and the use of flutes and piccolos.

Michael Beckerman is the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Music at New York University.

BOHUSLAV MARTINU, SYMPHONY NO. 3

by Jon Meadow

Written for the concert Prague Central, which will be performed on February 10, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Born December 8, 1890, in Polička, Czechoslovakia
Died August 28, 1959, in Liestal, Switzerland
Composed in 1944
Premiered on October 12, 1945 in Boston by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitsky
Performance Time: Approximately 30 minutes

Before coming to New York City in 1941 as a political refugee, Czechoslovak composer Bohuslav Martinů obtained recognition internationally in a variety of musical genres and styles. Until his American residency, however, Josef Suk’s former student avoided the conventional symphony. When he composed for the orchestra, he preferred to work in the neobaroque concerto grosso genre, which relies upon the alternations between groups of solo instruments and full orchestra. Martinů, ever the consummate professional, attuned himself to the moods and tastes of his new wartime American market. He composed the first five symphonies between 1942 and 1946. The sixth came a little over a decade later. The Third Symphony, which Martinů composed without a commission in Ridgefield, Connecticut, premiered in Boston on 12 October 1945. It unfolds in three movements instead of the more conventional four.

In each movement, Martinů mobilizes what he called “germs,” or endlessly generative, particle-like melodic cells. Similar to Suk’s offering, the charm of Martinů’s Third Symphony is equally attendant upon the composer’s treatment of rhythm, meter, orchestral color (especially percussion), and dynamics as it is on harmonic and melodic planning. The contrasts of the Allegro poco moderato’s opening are representative of how such treatment cuts across the symphony.

Following an arresting fortissimo sonority and a subsequent brief, dramatic pause, Martinů commences an addition of melodic germs in the violins and woodwinds. Serving in a percussive capacity, the hushed piano and harp, sounding at low and high extremes of register, respectively, provide a steady pulse and sense of meter. However, Martinů’s stacking of syncopated melodic germs fog such efforts at metric legibility. But the tables turn. The impulses of the charismatic woodwinds and strings become clear pulses, and the piano and harp hammer out descending, fortissimo impulses, obfuscating the meter once again.

From one perspective, Suk’s scherzo being programmed beside Martinů’s symphony provides Martinů’s work with the jocular dance movement that it was missing. From another, Martinů’s symphony is dressed up in the clothes of a fantastic scherzo. Therefore, the programing possibly offers two fantastic scherzi where once there was one.

Jon Meadow is a Ph.D. student in Historical Musicology at New York University. His work is focused on the roles of humor and comedy in Bohuslav Martinů’s Great Depression theatre reforms.

JOSEF SUK, SCHERZO FANTASTIQUE

by Jon Meadow

Written for the concert Prague Central, which will be performed on February 10, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Born January 4, 1874, in Křečovice, Czechoslovakia
Died May 29, 1935, in Benešov, Czechoslovakia
Composed in 1903
Premiered on April 18, 1905 in the Rudolfinum, Prague
Performance Time: Approximately 15 minutes

Canonic figures like Felix Mendelssohn (Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture from 1826), Hector Berlioz (Queen Mab from the 1839 choral symphony Roméo et Juliette), and Paul Dukas (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from 1897) assisted in bringing the concert hall genre known as the fantastic scherzo into its own throughout the 19th century. The fantastic scherzi of such luminaries grew in popularity because of how they showcased their composers’ innovative use of sonic and formal parameters like orchestral color, rhythm, meter, dynamics, and phrasing. That less ink has been spilled in Josef Suk’s (1874-1935) name than, say, a Mendelssohn or Berlioz, and that he is currently known more for intimate, expressive piano cycles and the funereal Asrael Symphony (1905-1906), does not detract from how the Bohemian composer, violinist, and educator, forcefully drew the fantastic scherzo genre into the 20th century with his Scherzo fantastique. Suk’s Scherzo fantastique received its premiere on 18th April 1905 in the prestigious Rudolfinum auditorium in Prague. Suk’s contribution serves as a powerful introduction to both an underrated composer and to the soundworld of an orchestral genre more broadly.

Scherzo is the Italianization of Scherz, a German word for joke. And within the context of the concert hall, the fantastique refers to the composer’s production of a sort of wavering or hesitation in both the audience and the music’s unfolding. For example, Suk cleverly toggles between the jocular and incongruous phraseology of the scherzo’s first, woodwind-dominated theme and the well-defined triple meter of the balanced, waltz-like second theme, whose lyrical melody is divided between the cellos and violins. So, while contrapuntal as well as modal and chromatic harmonic innovations of the turn-of-the-century are present and accounted for, the Scherzo fantastique reveals its genre credentials less through harmonic and contrapuntal planning and symphonic thematic development and more through subtle shifts in orchestral color, dynamics, metric, and rhythmic conflicts at different temporal levels.

Jon Meadow is a Ph.D. student in Historical Musicology at New York University. His work is focused on the roles of humor and comedy in Bohuslav Martinů’s Great Depression theatre reforms.

ERWIN SCHULHOFF, SYMPHONY NO. 5

by Michael Beckerman

Written for the concert Prague Central, which will be performed on February 10, 2017 at Carnegie Hall.

Born June 8, 1894, in Prague
Died August 18, 1942, in Würzburg, Germany
Composed in 1938–9
Premiered on March 5th, 1965 in Weimar by the Weimar State Orchestra conducted by Gerhardt Pfluger
Performance Time: Approximately 36 minutes

There is no style shift more dramatic than that undergone by Erwin Schulhoff after his “conversion” to Communism in the early 1930s. Beginning his career as an apostle of the avant-garde, mixing jazz, surrealism, nihilism, and a dazzling panoply of national styles, he had established himself as a brilliant pianist and somewhat of an enfant terrible. He wrote a Sinfonia Germanica which is nothing more than a series of mutterings, shouts, and then a distorted version of the German national anthem; a Sonata Erotica which consists only of a woman coming to a climax; and a piece called The Bass Nightingale for solo contrabassoon. Nothing is more surprising, then, after listening to such pieces and some of his extraordinary and edgy chamber music from the 1920s, to confront works like his Second Symphony (written in 1932 at the same time as his setting of the Communist Manifesto), marking an almost complete turn away from the individuality of his earlier works, perhaps comparable only to the kind of break between Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and his Pulcinella.

The Fifth Symphony, though, is something different. Although it has a far more cinematic sound than the works of the 1910s and 20s, it was written in 1938–9 and captures some of the flavor of those years, with dramatic clashes, a full palette of musical passages suggesting tension and forebodings, and, in keeping with the aesthetic of socialist realism, an overriding sense of hope for the future. This is found most notably in the triumphant conclusion to the final movement, but also in the sublime second movement Adagio. Thus Schulhoff’s Symphony No. 5 keeps company with such works as Martinů’s Double Concerto, which for that composer marked a turn to the dramatic and even tragic, and Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony as epic and profound wartime musical canvases.

Although Schulhoff is often grouped with the “Terezin” composer who perished in Auschwitz, his fate was rather different. He was arrested not on account of his Jewish identity but for his Soviet sympathies and died of tuberculosis in a camp in Würzburg near Bavaria.

Michael Beckerman is the Carroll and Milton Petrie Professor of Music at New York University.