Past Performances

Beyond Beethoven

Louis Spohr Born April 5, 1784, Brunswick, Germany Died October 22, 1859, Kassel, Germany   Symphony No. 6, “Historical Symphony” Composed in 1839 Performance Time: Approximately 26 minutes   After Beethoven’s death in 1827, European critics and audiences generally agreed that Louis (née Ludwig) Spohr was the greatest German composer. Until the rise of Mendelssohn, Spohr was considered Beethoven’s heir. Their opinion might have surprised Beethoven himself, who was sharply…

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Celebrating Beethoven

Our habit of marking anniversaries in our culture of concert programming has to inspire some ambivalence. Mathematical symmetries in chronology are superstitions. If we want to exploit them to attract the attention of the audience, we ought to celebrate composers who need remembering, those whom we have forgotten but should not have, or those in the process of being forgotten unfairly. We certainly need no reminding about Beethoven. One can…

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A Miraculous Family

There are probably enough members of tonight’s audience who will readily recognize—with a smile–the name P.D.Q. Bach—whose music does not appear on the program. P.D.Q.’s creator, the American composer Peter Schickele (whose aptitude for musical jokes was unparalleled) described him as “the last and unquestionably the least of the great Johann Sebastian Bach’s many children.” Schickele’s invention of a son whose dates were “(1807-1742)?” was a resounding success for decades,…

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The Sons of Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (1785–1750) wrote more than a thousand musical works, and had twenty children. Four of his six sons became respected composers in their own right. Though they had the same father, the two eldest—Wilhelm Friedemann (1710–1784) and Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–1788) had a different mother, Maria Barbara (1684–1720), than the two younger sons—Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732–1795) and Johann Christian (1735–1782), who were born to Anna Magdalena (1701–1760). Indeed,…

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The Kingdom

Edward Elgar Born June 2, 1857, Broadheath, United Kingdom Died February 23, 1934, Worcester, United Kingdom The Kingdom, Op. 51 Composed in 1906 Premiered on October 3, 1906 in Birmingham, England at Birmingham Music Festival conducted by Elgar with soloists Agnes Nicholls, Muriel Foster, John Coates and William Higley Performance Time: Approximately 95 minutes Due to the popularity of Elgar’s first major oratorio, The Dream of Gerontius, the directors of…

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Elgar’s The Kingdom

During the Bard Music Festival in 2007, which had Edward Elgar as its focus, the American Symphony Orchestra planned to present in the New York area the composer’s three great oratorios. The festival, at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, closed with a performance of The Dream of Gerontius. The title role was brilliantly sung by Vinson Cole. The performance took on a special…

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Martinů and Julietta

The career of Bohuslav Martinů mirrors the decisive and tragic character of the century in which he lived. Martinů was born in 1890 and came of age as a citizen of a multinational dynastic empire, only to find himself, in his twenties, a patriot of a newly minted national unit: Czechoslovakia. The triumphant nationalism of post-World War I Europe coexisted, however, with a profound sense of cultural discontinuity, a resistance…

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Julietta, or Symphonic Music is a Sometime Thing

Born December 8, 1890, in Polička, Czechoslovakia Died August 28, 1959, in Liestal, Switzerland Composed in 1936–37 Premiered on March 16, 1938, in Prague, at the National Theatre, conducted by Václav Talich Performance Time: Approximately 3 hours including intermission Introductions and Possible Bright Futures On March 16, 1938, inside the hallowed walls of Prague’s National Theatre, Czechoslovak composer Bohuslav Martinů’s three-act lyric opera Julietta (Snář) [Juliette, or the Key of…

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Composers, Teachers, and New York

This concert is exemplary of the original and ongoing mission of the ASO. The four composers on the program are all American, and they represent a thirty-year period, from Pearl Harbor to the Vietnam War, that witnessed unprecedented growth in the concert and classical music world of this country. These composers enjoyed enormous recognition and success in their lifetimes. With the passage of time, however, memories fade and tastes change….

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Robert Mann, Fantasy for Orchestra

Born July 19, 1920, in Portland, Oregon Died January 1, 2018, in New York City Composed in 1957 Premiered on February 23, 1957 at Carnegie Hall, with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos Performance Time: Approximately 13 minutes A celebrated violinist who died last year at 97, Robert Mann was an outsize figure in the world of chamber music performance. He spent more than 50 years, from 1946…

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Vivian Fine, Concertante for Piano and Orchestra

Vivian Fine’s multifaceted output as a composer included vocal, chamber, orchestral, and theater works. Fine was also a highly regarded pianist, and her Concertante reflects her deep attachment to the keyboard. The work is readily connected to neoclassicism—a term that suggests a strong interest in forms and styles of the baroque and classical periods. A number of significant twentieth-century musical figures were associated with neoclassicism, including Igor Stravinsky and Aaron…

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Jacob Druckman, Prism

Born June 26, 1928, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Died May 24, 1996, in New Haven, Connecticut Composed in 1979–80 Premiered on May 21, 1980 in Baltimore, with the Baltimore Symphony, conducted by Sergiu Comissiona Performance Time: Approximately 22 minutes Jacob Druckman’s Prism is perhaps best understood, at first, through the lens of a work Druckman admired: the Italian composer Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1968), which Druckman called “a masterful example of the…

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William Schuman, Symphony No. 3

Born August 4, 1910, in New York City Died February 15, 1992, in New York City Composed in 1941 Premiered on October 17, 1941, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Serge Koussevitzky Performance Time: Approximately 31 minutes When William Schuman completed his Symphony No. 3 in 1941, he had an illustrious advocate: Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky, an active supporter of American music. It was Koussevitzky who led…

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Whitman and Democracy

Among the most arguably difficult of literary enterprises is the art of translation. Vladimir Nabokov was obsessed about the matter; his complicated and controversial views on the processes of transferring the sensibilities evoked by one language to another have themselves inspired volumes of commentary. The challenge resides in an irresolvable paradox: if the translator aims for laser-like accuracy of meaning, the intangible qualities of linguistic usage that allow us to…

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Othmar Schoeck, Trommelschläge

Born September 1, 1886, in Brunnen, Switzerland Died March 8, 1957, in Zürich, Switzerland Composed in 1915 Premiered on March 5, 1916 at Tonhalle, Zürich, with the Tonhalle-Orchester Performance Time: Approximately 5 minutes The horrors of the First World War intruded upon the Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck personally: the only manuscript copy of one of his songs was destroyed when a German U-boat torpedoed the Lusitania on May 7, 1915….

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Kurt Weill, Four Walt Whitman Songs

Born March 2, 1900, in Dessau, Germany Died April 3, 1950, in New York City Composed in 1942–47 Premiered in 1947 for Concert Hall Records, with tenor William Horne and pianist Adam Garner Performance Time: Approximately 18 minutes Unlike some émigrés who fled Europe ahead of the Nazi menace, Kurt Weill never indulged in backward glances or nostalgia. Even before he became an American citizen on August 27, 1943, Weill…

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Franz Schreker, Vom ewigen Leben (From Eternal Life)

Born March 23, 1878, in Monaco Died March 21, 1934, in Berlin, Germany Composed in 1923 Premiered in 1929 Performance Time: Approximately 20 minutes Franz Schreker was celebrated principally as a dramatic composer during his lifetime: his first success came in 1908 with a pantomime, Der Geburtstag der Infantin, based on The Birthday of the Infanta by Oscar Wilde. In 1910, Schreker completed his masterpiece, the opera Der ferne Klang,…

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Ralph Vaughan Williams, A Sea Symphony

Born October 10, 1872, in Down Ampney, England Died August 26, 1958, in London Composed in 1903–09 Premiered on October 12, 1910 at the Leeds Festival, England Performance Time: Approximately 70 minutes In 1892, Bertrand Russell recommended Walt Whitman’s poetry to a fellow undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge: the aspiring young composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. Whitman’s poetry was well known in Britain by that time. William Michael Rossetti, brother of…

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Intolerance

It would be hard to imagine a work more pertinent to our times than Luigi Nono’s Intolleranza 1960. It is a work of musical theater that tells the story of an emigrant worker who encounters prejudice, injustice, incarceration, and violence. It assumes a political context in Europe of the threat of a return to fascism. Intolleranza 1960 suggests that none of us can afford to assume that we are immune to…

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Luigi Nono, Intolleranza 1960

Born January 29, 1924, in Venice Died May 8, 1990, in Venice Composed in 1960–61 Premiered on April 13, 1961, at Teatro della Fenice in Venice with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bruno Maderna Performance Time: Approximately 75 minutes Fifteen years after the end of World War II, the wounds of Europe were far from being healed. Italy in particular had barely begun to come to terms with the…

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