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Meet and hear the Erie Philharmonic via one of its first chair violinists, Maura Pelinsky, of Erie. Pelinsky has been playing the violin since she was in second grade and has been playing with the Erie Philharmonic since 1985.
Meet and hear the Erie Philharmonic via one of its first chair violinists, Maura Pelinsky, of Erie. Pelinsky has been playing the violin since she was in second grade and has been playing with the Erie Philharmonic since 1985.
I’ve finally recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday (and that recovery involves very happy memories of shared stories and wonderful meals with my family!) only to turn around a realize that we have just entered one of the busiest months in any musician’s life. December is filled with holiday music, and it should be. It’s a chance to relive special traditions, hear music that can put a smile on your face, and rekindle the special feeling you had when you were little. I have the distinct pleasure of reliving those feelings now with my three-year-old son, and I am particularly happy that he loves and already recognizes the music I will conduct this month. In fact, number 18 on the Nutcracker compact disc player we keep in the kitchen has been nearly burned with too many repeat plays! He simply loves to sing and dance along to the music, and I cannot wait for him to hear and see the Erie Philharmonic and Lake Erie Ballet perform the complete score live in a couple of weeks.
The more I get in to the spirit of this season, the more I am grateful that music constitutes such a huge role in my life. The music we play this time of the year triggers memories of some very happy experiences for me. Even more than the gifts I give or receive, it tends to be the musical moments that resonate so clearly with me, and our December performances remind me that we have such a wonderful opportunity to touch so many lives at this time of year. Even if you are not a ‘regular’ Philharmonic goer during the rest of the year, December becomes a time to establish lasting and fun traditions with your family. You can join other happy families, turn off your mobile phones, forget about the crowded malls and the perpetually clogged Upper Peach Street, and just live in the moment. That means a lot to me, and I know our musicians are also thrilled when you join us for these concerts.
Whether you plan to join us at the Warner for our Home for the Holidays concerts this Saturday, a special performance in Meadville at the Academy Theatre on Sunday, Handel’s Messiah, or the timeless score and colorful dancers of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, I want you to know how much we value your passion for the Erie Philharmonic. We also want you to continue to make us a part of your December traditions, and we will continue to do our best to delight you with beautiful music. Thank you for spending time with our performers who dedicate their lives to bringing you memorable moments each December. We hope to inspire you to savor and truly enjoy this ‘most wonderful time of the year.’
With warmest holiday greetings and cheer!
~ Daniel Meyer
An unforgettable performance from cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, soloist on our November 4 concert. Tickets are still available to hear Narek perform Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 - don't miss this concert!
The Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt has described his method of composition as “tintinnabulation.” As Pärt explains:
Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers—in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises—and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. Here, I am alone with silence. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements—with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials—with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.
Pärt first composed Fratres (Brothers) in 1977, for performance by an early music ensemble with which he was associated, Hortus Musicus. In that original version, Fratres was scored for string quintet and wind quintet. Over the years, Arvo Pärt has created varied arrangements of Fratres for numerous different kinds of ensembles. This concert features Pärt’s arrangement of Fratres for string orchestra and percussion.
Fratres opens with a drone bass figure of an open fifth, punctuated by statements from the percussion. The central hymn-like melody is played over the drone bass, capped by the percussion statement. The pattern repeats, with the melody transposed downward upon each return. Ever-darkening instrumental sonorities and elevated dynamics lead to the apex of this musical arch. From there, Fratres journeys to hushed silence.
Shostakovich finished the score of his First Cello Concerto on July 20, 1959. The composer notified the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) of the work’s completion. Rostropovich and his accompanist, Alexander Dedyukhin, then journeyed from Moscow to Leningrad. There, on August 2, 1959, Rostropovich received the score of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1. Four days later, Rostropovich and Dedyukhin performed the Concerto for the composer, who was amazed by the fact that the cellist had already memorized the entire work. Shortly thereafter, Shostakovich dedicated his First Cello Concerto to Rostropovich.
Mstislav Rostropovich was the soloist in the triumphant world premiere of the Concerto, which took place in Leningrad on October 4, 1959. The composer’s longtime friend and champion, Evgeny Mravinsky, conducted the Leningrad Philharmonic. Five days later, Rostropovich again performed the work, this time in Moscow. Alexander Gauk conducted the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.
On November 6, 1959, Rostropovich was the soloist in the Concerto’s American premiere, with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Shostakovich, who was in the United States as part of Soviet-American cultural exchange program, was in attendance.
Two days later, the performers gathered in Philadelphia’s Broadwood Hotel for the first commercial recording of the Shostakovich First Cello Concerto. According to the liner notes for the recording, Shostakovich “was the first Soviet composer to attend an American recording session of his own work and to supervise its progress in close cooperation with conductor and instrumentalists.” That historic recording was reissued as part of the Sony Classical “Masterworks Heritage” series (MHK 63327).
The Concerto is in four movements. The first (Allegretto) is, according to the composer “in the style of a jocular march.” The concluding three movements are played without pause. The second (Moderato) opens in somber, introspective fashion, but later becomes increasingly agitated. The third movement, an extended unaccompanied Cadenza for the soloist, features echoes from the preceding movements. A series of ascending and descending flourishes leads directly to the final movement. The acerbic tone of the opening movement returns in this whirlwind finale (Allegro con moto), the most overtly virtuoso of the Concerto. Toward the close, the opening movement’s march theme makes a prominent return, as the Concerto proceeds to an emphatic resolution.
During the years 1895-97, Richard Strauss composed three orchestral tone poems based upon famous literary characters. The first, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (1895), is a rollicking tour-de-force depicting the exploits of the medieval jokester. The last, Don Quixote (1897), is a witty and often affecting musical portrayal of the misadventures of Cervantes’s beloved “Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.” Strauss’s inspiration for the middle work in this trilogy was of a far different nature—Friedrich Nietzsche’s epic philosophic poem Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra) (1883-5).
The protagonist in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra is based upon the ancient Persian prophet, also known as Zoroaster. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, the prophet leaves the solitude of his mountain refuge to share his wisdom with mankind. During the course of the poem, Nietzsche, in the person of Zarathustra, denounces the very foundations of society—organized religion, democracy and civilization—that he believes inhibit man's ability to reach his greatest potential.
Strauss was first drawn to Nietzsche’s masterwork during the composer’s preparations for his opera Guntrum (1894). He began composition of the score on February 4, 1896, and completed the work on August 24 of that year. The composer led the Museums-0rchester of Frankfurt-am-Main in the November 27, 1896 premiere. Prior to the first performance, Strauss provided this brief program:
First movement: Sunrise, Man feels the power of God. Andante religioso. But man still longs. He plunges into passion (second movement) and finds no peace. He turns toward science, and tries in vain to solve life’s problem in a fugue (third movement). Then agreeable dance tunes sound and he becomes an individual, and his soul soars upward while the world sinks far below him.
Nietzsche, an ardent music-lover and amateur composer, once remarked to his friend, Peter Gast, of his Also sprach Zarathustra: “I almost believe it belongs among the symphonies.” Gustav Mahler quoted a portion of Zarathustra's text in his Third Symphony (1896), as did Frederick Delius in A Mass of Life (1905).
By contrast, Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra is a purely orchestral representation of Nietzsche’s work. From the time of the premiere, commentators have attempted to find a direct relationship between the music of Also sprach Zarathustra and Nietzsche’s text. Strauss understood the difficulty, perhaps even the futility, of attempting a musical depiction of Nietzsche’s philosophy. At the time of the tone poem’s December, 1896, Berlin premiere, Strauss confessed:
"I did not intend to write philosophical music or portray Nietzsche’s great work musically. I meant rather to convey in music an idea of the evolution of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of development, religious as well as scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman. The whole symphonic poem is intended as my homage to the genius of Nietzsche, which found its greatest exemplification in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra."
Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra opens with the famous “Sunrise” Introduction, followed by eight sections, performed without pause. Each has a title taken from a chapter in Nietzsche’s book.
I. Sunrise (Sonnenaufgang)
II. Of the Backworldsman (Von den Hinterweltlern)
III. Of the Great Longing (Von der grossen Sehnsucht)
IV. Of Joys and Passions (Von den Freuden und Leidenschaften0
V. Song of the Grave (Das Grablied)
VI. Of Science (Von der Wissenschaft)
VII. The Convalescent (Der Genesende)
VIII. The Dance Song (Das Tanzlied)
IX. Night Wanderer’s Song (Das Nachwandlerlied)
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, or so the saying goes. But what about writing music about philosophy? How does a worldview creep in between the notes of a symphonic work? Well, you could certainly argue that over history artists and composers have tried to bring a distinctive philosophy to light based on the content or intended effect of their creations. Richard Strauss, deeply steeped in the Romantic notion of the artist as hero, had a special take on how philosophy may or may not be revealed in his music.
He named his stunning tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra directly after the famous work by Nietzsche, yet disavowed the source to say "I did not intend to write philosophical music or to portray Nietzsche's great work in musical terms." Rather, Strauss wrote that he strove to musically portray “the evolution of the human race from its origins, through its various phases of development, right up to Nietzsche's idea of the superhuman." Pretty heady stuff for a 35-minute musical composition, but Strauss didn’t shy away from such grandiose ideas. More important to us today as listeners of this densely-packed work is to know that Strauss crafted his musical sections based on chapter titles from Nietzsche's original. He reshuffled the chapter titles in order to fashion a unified work. Today we may or may not subscribe to Nietzsche’s self-reliant attitudes, but it certainly makes for wonderfully over-the-top symphonic music that leaps off the stage in colors and bold gestures that made Strauss famous.
Dmitri Shostakovich must have known deep down that he was an artist of ‘superhuman’ power and creativity, faced with the often dangerous task of producing music that didn’t offend the rather ‘less-than-superhuman’ Soviet leaders who stood in judgement of his life’s work. This stifling and critical atmosphere, while personally miserable for Shostakovich, certainly fired his creativity in ways that forced him to explore the role of a hero in the face of insurmountable obstacles. You can hear some of this desperation and strife in the Cello Concerto No. 1. It’s a strikingly personal work (hear Shostakovich’s own initials encoded in the first few bars!) in which the interplay between soloist and orchestra becomes a model for the individual versus society. But even more than that, with its angry outbursts and searing, heartbreaking moments, the concerto contains the full range of human expression. I am so pleased that Narek Hakhnazaryan has agreed to make his Erie Philharmonic debut with such a rich and dramatic piece, and I am confident you will appreciate what makes him such a special young artist.
We will begin our November concert with a piece that is strikingly anti ‘superhuman.’ In fact, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres is distinguished by its humble, simple gestures and hauntingly slow chord progressions. This music strikes me as about an ego-free piece as one could imagine. The music sets you in a contemplative space. Imagine a room lit by one simple candle, and you will already have an appreciation for the slowly-unfolding process by which the composer reveals this music. The instrumentation is also sparing, making use of only the strings of the Philharmonic plus one bass drum and claves. The percussion instruments mark the passage of time much like an old, reliable grandfather clock. This music has always haunted me (in a good way!) and I have admired how, with such simple materials, Pärt constructs an atmosphere that transcends its place in time and space. It should, if we get it just right, provide the perfect foil to the turbulence, passion, and decadence of the ‘superhuman’ music of Shostakovich and Strauss.
People often ask me what it is like to play jazz while being accompanied by a symphony orchestra. When the Brubeck Brothers Quartet (Dan Brubeck, Chris Brubeck, Mike DeMicco and Chuck Lamb) comes to Erie later this month to play with the Erie Philharmonic with Daniel Meyer conducting, we will all experience this exciting fusion of two musical genres. As a jazz musician who also wears the hat of an orchestral composer and arranger, I can report that this kind of performance can be an incredibly thrilling experience! I am very lucky because I grew up hearing my father's pioneering work in bringing together the classical and jazz worlds. He was fortunate to collaborate with one of the most amazing musical geniuses America ever produced: Leonard Bernstein.
As a young man Bernstein played jazz piano and therefore appreciated the skills required to be a fine jazz musician. If you doubt this, think of the brilliant West Side Story score which sparkles with incredible rhythmic and harmonic energy. Of course, Bernstein also loved Mahler, and had an impressive command and understanding of classical music. He totally embraced the idea of improvising jazz combos integrating with the symphonic world. The music that Dave Brubeck, Lenny Bernstein and my uncle Howard Brubeck produced together was somewhat controversial and revolutionary in a sense during the early 60s. My father first depended on his older brother Howard to compose and arrange while Dad learned the art of writing for orchestra. He achieved this a few years down the road. My father and I would talk about how improvisation used to be an important element in classical music. Bach, Mozart and many others were great composers who also attained fame in their time by dazzling audiences with their compositions AND their improvisatory excursions during expanded cadenzas. Both Bernstein and Brubeck thought the legitimate heritage of improvisation in a symphonic context was arbitrarily abandoned. From an audience point of view, witnessing the performer create music spontaneously right before your eyes was an extremely engaging musical practice that deserved a resurrection. Brubeck & Bernstein were trailblazers whose combined talents opened paths for other musicians to follow.
I grew up hearing their efforts and went on to perform with orchestras and various jazz groups for about 40 years. Quite a few things have changed over the decades. The biggest difference is the attitude of orchestral musicians. When I first started playing with my father and orchestras, about 20% of the symphony players thought it was a "cool" thing to be integrating classical and jazz music. About 50% of the orchestral musicians didn't like the idea at all. The remaining players were tolerant. It basically boiled down to classical players not understanding and respecting what jazz players did. There has been a big attitude adjustment throughout the 1970s to this day as many music conservatories such as Julliard (which produces superb classical players) now also feature jazz performance major programs. The classical students have roommates or friends that they hear honing their jazz skills and excelling at music theory and composition courses. The orchestra majors now comprehend that the jazz players' skills take serious study, practice, intuitive chops and something the classical musicians don't have -- the amazing ability and courage to instantly compose solos on the fly; in other words, improvising.
Then there are the orchestral arrangements themselves. The arranger who creates these orchestral "charts" is always looking for ways to allow the orchestra to sound great at what they do best, and to make sure the jazz combo gets to shine as well. There are certain things one learns to not write because the odds of a "train wreck" accelerate. It can be like walking a tightrope to get the two worlds to swing together on uptempo tunes. An additional factor that the audience doesn't think about is that often there is only a two-hour rehearsal to put a performance together. It costs a lot to get 70 musicians on stage, rent a hall, employ stage hands etc. Financial support from the government for the arts is constantly being cut, which adds to the real challenge orchestras face to pull everything together musically, financially and technically. It is a true testament to Erie's love of the arts and The Erie Philharmonic that your community supports its orchestra and exciting programs such as this one.
The Brubeck Brothers Quartet are looking forward to playing with the Erie Philharmonic October 28th. We have had many great experiences working with classical musicians in America and around the world. We played several unforgettable concerts with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra a few years ago. Another highlight was performing with the Russian National Symphony Orchestra at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. That event was completely sold out and was televised across Russia. The highly educated audience loved our combination of classical and jazz. We even played some movements of a chamber piece I had written for woodwind quintet and jazz quartet titled "Vignettes for Nonet." We also performed my new arrangement of "Take Five", my brother Darius' arrangement of "Blue Rondo a la Turk" and several other charts I had been asked by my father to write for him when he appeared with orchestras over the last few decades. The Russian orchestral musicians were very enthusiastic to be playing this music and it was a beautiful thing to experience. Obviously, America's relationship with a certain strata of Russians has deteriorated precipitously, but not with the musicians we played with. We shared something special with each other on stage and that was embraced by the audience. There was a level of joy and wonderful communication in our concerts. Remember that underneath the nasty rhetoric of competitive governments there are common people like you and me who get along great and can remain friends despite the stormy political seas at the surface.
This is the importance of cultural exchange and one of the reasons that collaborating with symphony orchestras is such a beautiful endeavor. Whether in a foreign land or right here in America seeing two different genres come together to create something exciting on stage is a rewarding experience. We jazz musicians love to hear the rich colors of the orchestra integrate with the essence of the composition we are playing. Most of the time we have to be content with imagining these sounds in our minds. When I play with an orchestra, my musical fantasies become real for everyone in the concert hall.
Welcome back! The summer is drawing to a close, a tinge of fall has crept into the air, and the Warner Theatre will soon be humming again with the sound of the Philharmonic musicians tuning their instruments, rehearsing, and performing great music as we embark on our 17-18 season. I certainly relish hearing our musicians as they perform in chamber music groups on the patio of the Erie Art Museum over the summer, but I am particularly excited to get back to work with the entire orchestra. We haven’t assembled as a full group since last spring, and as August started to fade I felt that itch to get back into rehearsals and experience the thrill of working out the details of an impending performance.
In the span of two weeks, we will flex both our Pops and Symphonic muscles to launch the 17-18 season, and I am particularly excited to welcome one of the most brilliant stars of the modern Broadway stage on September 23rd in Lisa Vroman, and to introduce one of the finest young trios of the American classical music scene on October 7th with Elena Urioste, Nick Canellakis, and Michael Brown.
Our Pops opener (September 23) is the result of a friendship and collaborative partnership that I have had the good fortune to develop with Lisa Vroman. Lisa sang Christine in the Phantom of the Opera over 2,500 times on Broadway, and she certainly had developed an impressive group of admirers based on that run alone. But I have to say that over the concerts in which I have collaborated with her, she continues to astound me with her keen ear for combining the obvious greatest hits of the American musical theatre catalogue with the wonderful music that falls just off the beaten path. She also has such a knack for pacing and how to hold an audience’s attention, that I consider it a joy and privilege to assemble program with her. As a performer, Lisa gets right to the heart of a song, and lays bare all the emotion and beauty that each new turn-of-phrase has to give. I know you will love how she has created an opening night concert that celebrates all that we love about classic Broadway. Lisa will also arrive early to Erie to lead masterclasses and work with young performers, so don’t miss a chance to see her at work off the Warner stage.
For our Symphonic opener (October 7), I wanted to have the chance to bring a very popular artist in Elena Urioste back to the Philharmonic as soon as possible. You might remember that Elena played a searing and beautifully-shaped Elgar Violin Concerto with us two years ago, and it was at that time that she told me about two of her talented collaborative partners. Cellist Nick Canellakis and pianist Michael Brown have made significant names for themselves in the past few seasons, and to have the chance to bring them all together for one evening performing the Beethoven Triple Concerto was frankly too good an opportunity to pass. Nick and Michael joined us at the Erie Art Museum last June to perform at our ‘Coda’ celebration and give us a taste of the chemistry they have as collaborative partners. Beethoven’s ‘Triple’ features a brilliant interplay of virtuoso gestures for all three to shine, and it makes a perfect complement to the works of Brahms and Barber that the Philharmonic musicians will perform for you to welcome you back to another season of music-making at the Warner. Additionally, the trio is offering a free preview of their amazing talents on Friday, October 6, at noon at WQLN as part of their collaborative Live from Studio Q series.
So whether you plan to join us for the Pops Opener, the Symphonic Opener, or both, I hope you will get a sense for how excited I am to get back to making music with the musicians of the Philharmonic and to welcome some important musical friends to take the stage as soloists for our Broadway tribute and our performance of Barber, Beethoven, and Brahms. Let me be the first to say ‘welcome home’ – your musical home is right here with us at the Warner Theatre as we launch our 17-18 concert season together!
~ Daniel Meyer
I am still thankful I had the job for such a long time, it bought me a house, and I have developed handyman skills! I missed Michael Crawford!!
I still have quite a Phantom family, as well as close friends from the years with Les Mis! Someone said once that this career is a series of heartbreaking goodbyes and joyous reunions! It is quite a big group! The best thing is that each engagement still brings new friends into your life.
Not to mention how proud of me my family was for all of those 10 years!
My Mom was my Jr./ Sr. High Music Teacher in Upstate, NY (just south of Watertown) and believe me, we had no choice but to be in the chorus!! I went to undergrad school for Music Education (Crane School of Music @ SUNY Potsdam), then to grad school for an MFA in voice performance Carnegie Mellon University) I am a crossover singer, which has meant having a very atypical career path! I am so lucky to have had so many varied musical experiences with wonderful comrades.
Standing next to my Dad @ 3 yrs. (too young to be in the church choir) as he sang the bass part of every Hymn with an amazing full voice! He was an Undertaker and a huge music lover!
Singing a medley from Mary Poppins with Dick Van Dyke at the Hollywood Bowl! And of course he and & I did the dance break in 'Jolly Holiday'
One was a one time fundraiser, the other three months of rehearsing then making my New York City Opera debut in 'The Most Happy Fella!' Both were memorable for different reasons. Paul is a great actor and made me laugh every day.
I drove the country from CA to NY 7 times with my first dog, Romeo. He was almost 15!
My husband and I knew we so wanted another dog in our lives, so looked for a rescue. Barber is 3 yrs (and 70 lbs!) as of Sept 12th.
I don't have a favorite....but I do love the Movie Musicals!
Knowing we had the Children's Chorus available was the key and set the theme. I had done a similar program two seasons ago with the fantastic Daniel Meyer conducting, so we found a program for Erie that we are excited about!
He was a guest conductor Southwest Florida Symphony, and this season he joined me with the Detroit Symphony.
Samuel Barber was a 21-year-old student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia when he composed his Overture to The School for Scandal. The title refers to English author Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1777 comic play. Barber noted that the Overture was not intended as a curtain raiser for performances of Sheridan’s work. Rather, Barber composed the piece “as a musical reflection of the play’s spirit.”
In April of 1933, Barber’s The School for Scandal, Overture won Columbia University’s Joseph H. Bearns Prize. That August 30, the work premiered as part of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s final 1933 summer concert at the Robin Hood Dell, conducted by Alexander Smallens. The work was well received by an audience of almost eight thousand.
In the spring of 1938, both the New York Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestra included Barber’s The School for Scandal, Overture as part of New York concerts. On November 5 in New York, Arturo Toscanini conducted the N.B.C. Symphony Orchestra in the world premieres of Barber’s Adagio for Strings and First Essay for Orchestra. That concert, broadcast nationwide, solidified Barber’s reputation as one of America’s most gifted young composers.
Although composed at the very outset of Samuel Barber’s career, The School for Scandal, Overture features the melodic inspiration, colorful orchestration, and unerring momentum that remained hallmarks of the American composer’s work. These qualities have assured The School for Scandal, Overture’s continued presence in the concert repertoire.
The School for Scandal, Overture (Allegro molto e vivace) opens with a bracing introduction. The first violins’ presentation of the tripping, initial theme soon follows. The music’s irrepressible energy finally abates, as the oboe introduces the work’s lovely second principal theme. A brief development section leads to the strings’ fortissimo recapitulation of the opening theme. The English horn now sings the oboe melody. The playful atmosphere pauses for a moment. An orchestral fanfare heralds the Overture’s brilliant conclusion.
By the turn of the 18th century, Ludwig van Beethoven had firmly established himself as one of Vienna’s most prominent musicians—a virtuoso pianist and composer of the first rank. It appeared as if nothing could stand in the way of Beethoven’s continued rise to greatness. But then, tragedy struck. In 1800, Beethoven, not yet thirty, began to realize that his hearing was deteriorating. Beethoven sensed that the onset of deafness was only a matter of time.
The irony was not lost on Beethoven—soon, he would be a composer unable to hear his own musical creations. Quite naturally, this turn of events engendered a supreme crisis in Beethoven’s life. On October 6, 1802, Beethoven penned the immortal letter to his brothers that is known as the Heiligenstadt Testament. There, Beethoven confessed that the onset of his deafness:
almost made me despair, and I was on the point of putting an end to my life—The only thing that held me back was my art. For indeed it seemed to me impossible to leave this world before I had produced all the works I felt the urge to compose; and thus I have dragged on this miserable existence—a truly miserable existence.
And, indeed, Beethoven responded to his adversity by composing at a furious pace. Beethoven masterpieces from the first decade of the 19th century include the Symphonies, Nos. 2-6, the “Razumovsky” String Quartets, the “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” Piano Sonatas, and the composer’s only opera, Fidelio.
Beethoven began composition of his Concerto for Piano, Violin, Cello and Orchestra in late 1803, completing the work in the summer of 1804. Beethoven composed the piano part of the “Triple” Concerto for Archduke Rudolph (1788-1831), the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II. Rudolph, a longtime pupil, friend and patron of Beethoven, was the dedicatee of such pieces as the Fourth and “Emperor” Piano Concerto, the “Archduke” Piano Trio, the Piano Sonatas Opus 90 (“Les Adieux”), 106 (“Hammerklavier”), and 111, the great choral work, the Missa solemnis, and the Grosse Fugue for string quartet.
The fact that Beethoven composed the keyboard parts of both the Triple Concerto and the “Archduke” Trio for Rudolph is testament to his considerable talents as a pianist. Beethoven dedicated the “Triple” Concerto to another of his patrons, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. The first performance of the “Triple” Concerto took place in Vienna, in May of 1808.
The Triple Concerto is scored for a trio of soloists (violin, cello, and piano) and orchestra. Beethoven composed the Triple Concerto around the same time as his path-breaking “Eroica” Symphony. However, the Concerto’s three movements (Allegro, Largo, and Rondo alla Polacca) present a far more genial and lyrical side of Beethoven’s craft. The opening Allegro is the most expansive of the work’s three movements. A hushed Largo leads without pause to the finale, a Rondo based upon a polonaise, a sparkling Polish dance.
As early as 1853, prominent musicians, Robert Schumann included, urged the young Johannes Brahms to try his hand at symphonic composition. Brahms, however, resisted the call. In 1870, Brahms wrote to conductor Hermann Levi: “I shall never write a symphony. You have no idea the likes of us feel when we hear the tramp of a giant like him beside us.” Here, Brahms referred to the great shadow cast by Ludwig van Beethoven and his epochal Nine Symphonies. And it was not until 1876, when Brahms was forty-three years old, that he completed his First Symphony. The November 4, 1876, premiere took place in Karlsruhe, under the direction of Otto Dessoff.
Although Beethoven had been dead nearly half a century when the C-minor Symphony premiered, comparisons with the man Brahms called a “giant” were inevitable. The Brahms First presents a dramatic journey from C minor to C Major, as does Beethoven’s Fifth. A four-note motif, also reminiscent of the famous opening theme of the Beethoven Fifth, plays a prominent role the first movement. A friend of Brahms noted the similarity of the finale’s principal theme to the Ode “To Joy” in Beethoven’s Ninth. To this observation, Brahms responded, “any ass can see that!” The eminent conductor, Hans von Bülow, dubbed the work “Beethoven’s Tenth.” Although Bülow certainly meant that as a compliment, it provided Brahms no great satisfaction.
For Brahms’s part, it seems that the completion of his First Symphony liberated him from the paralyzing specter of Beethoven’s imposing legacy. Three more Brahms Symphonies followed over the ensuing decade—each, like the first, a monument of the late 19th-century orchestral repertoire. In time, it became abundantly clear that in his Four Symphonies, Brahms, a musical descendent of Beethoven, spoke very much in his own voice—a voice of Romantic lyricism, passion, and grandeur.
The Symphony’s opening movement begins with a dramatic, slow-tempo introduction (Un poco sostenuto), featuring the timpani’s relentless hammer-blows and hints of the ensuing Allegro’s thematic material. Another brusque chord launches the Allegro proper and the strings’ forte presentation of the ascending and descending theme that forms the nucleus for the movement’s thematic material. Two relatively brief movements follow. The beautiful second movement (Andante sostenuto) concludes with a shimmering violin solo. The third movement (Un poco Allegretto e grazioso) is a graceful intermezzo. As with the opening movement, the finale begins with an extended, broad introduction (Adagio). The principal section of the finale (Allegro non troppo, ma con brio) opens with a majestic theme that bears a kinship to Beethoven’s Ode “To Joy.” Storm and stress finally resolve to the triumphant closing measures.
We've got a thorough look into Stephen King's The Dark Tower adaptation from four-time podcast guest, Steve Weiser! Consider this your one-stop-shop for learning all you need before going to see the movie. All questions will be answered...
Steve also joins us to discuss the exciting 2017-2018 season for the Erie Philharmonic, where he serves as executive director (and, oddly enough, resident Skyrim player). We also discuss the upcoming Beat Beethoven 5K, which includes a free concert this year along with a street fair full of food trucks, local vendors and more!
We'll also discuss a patent for oatmeal cereal, Cursed Child Broadway casting, Henry Cavill's Mustachegate, and Patrick's real plot for The Dark Tower.
With summertime comes the chance to reflect on what has happened over the course of the past year and take some extra time to plan for the future. I usually use the summer months to read new scores, look into artists I might like to bring to the Philharmonic, plan for future seasons and set my goals for the coming year. I also program the holiday concerts, which is particularly hard to do when the weather is so warm, but with the extra few moments I have to look into a new arrangement or think about how the program might take shape, it's easier to create and imagine the experience away from the hustle-and-bustle of the concert season.
Another great part of the summer is to take stock of how far we’ve come together as an orchestra. To think back on this past season is truly energizing. I felt the Erie Philharmonic has hit its stride in so many facets, from assembling a super team in the office, to developing a wonderful new educational outreach program, to performing memorable works on the Warner stage that have inspired our musicians to reach a new level of excellence and depth of music-making. My particular favorites include one week with one of the world’s most celebrated pianists in Emanuel Ax, bold and committed performances of Sibelius’ Second and Mahler’s Fourth Symphonies, a brilliant Glazunov Concerto with our own Ken Johnston, a sold-out family-friendly pops concert with Jenny Oaks Baker, and a searing Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem with the voices of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus and soloists from the Pittsburgh Opera. And of course that’s just to name a few highlights in a season loaded with special memories!
Speaking of special memories, would you please join me in celebrating the season and launching our next by attending our special season-ending CODA event at the Erie Art Museum? Formerly known as UNPLUGGED, CODA is our chance to celebrate great music and great music-making. We have invited two of the young stars who will be gracing our stage for the first time this fall in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. They are cellist Nick Canellakis and pianist Michael Brown, and you will get the chance to meet them and hear them in an intimate setting on Friday, June 30 at the Erie Art Museum. They will perform together in the acoustically-friendly recital space at the museum while we mix, mingle, and toast the end of a grand 2016-17 season and the beginning of what should prove to be an even grander 2017-18 concert season with the Erie Philharmonic.
I hope to see you there, and I hope you will share a special memory of the season with me.
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic
Erie, located at the far northwest tip of Pennsylvania on the southern shore of Lake Erie, is the fourth-largest city in the state with a population of roughly 100,000. In its heyday, Erie was home to large manufacturing companies and robust steel and coal factories, which have since relocated, and served as a hub for the westward expansion of rail and maritime commerce. The population has declined in recent years, and Erie’s economy now includes a diverse mix of mid-size industries and a service sector that comprises health, insurance, and tourism-based businesses.
Despite the downward shifts in population and economic output, there is something special going on in the cultural sector that’s breathing new life into the town of Erie. This is happening through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and Erie Arts & Culture, which is a member of PCA’s network of more than 30 regional partners around the states, as well as with support from the NEA.
“The arts and culture sector is an important asset in the changing economy of Erie,” said Amanda Sissem, executive director of Erie Arts & Culture, the oldest arts council in Pennsylvania. “We’ve been losing population, and our gains are in new immigrants and refugee communities, which bring great treasures to this community that are sometimes overlooked. Our cultural organizations are helping people find hope and inspiration. We’re a big part of the future of this place, and we’re also a part of making sure that we honor our past and our people.”
Since 1960, Erie Arts & Culture has operated as a backbone organization for the region, helping to support the arts and culture sector and helping the area achieve community-wide goals by embracing arts and culture strategies. As one of the PCA’s regional partners, they do this in part by administering grant programs designed by the PCA. Beyond grantmaking, Erie Arts & Culture works with the community and its six major arts organizational partners to determine the high-priority goals for which arts and culture can help move the needle. Sissem explained, “We develop a shared agenda to enhance the community and bolster the cultural sector. Our six arts and culture partnering organizations sign a three-year agreement to help focus on the big needs in Erie and, in turn, we support their achievements by providing operating funds.” Cultural institutions are currently addressing community needs such as growing the tourism economy, increasing programming in schools, and increasing access and participation in the arts.
The Erie Philharmonic is one of the six partner organizations operating on all cylinders and achieving results, according to Sissem. Performing in the historic Warner Theatre that serves as an anchor to downtown Erie, the philharmonic has the popularity and capacity to sell out its 2,200-seat venue for consecutive performances, “even on hockey nights,” exclaimed Philip Horn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
“We’re poised to be a critical element in Erie’s turnaround and in generating hometown pride. We’ve been a member of the community for over 100 years,” said Steve Weiser, executive director of the Erie Philharmonic. While free outdoor summer concerts and the high-quality performances that attract audiences from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh are helping address the regional tourism goal, the philharmonic also focuses deep within its community to expand and strengthen arts programming in schools and neighborhoods.
The Erie Philharmonic’s capacity to reach students, teachers, schools, and neighborhoods is amplified by a PCA grant for a long-term residency program, which enables musicians to engage with one pre-school annually for 60 days of instruction over the course of several months. In the fall of 2016, instruction took place in a neighborhood community center where the majority of students were refugees from Nepal for whom English is a second language.
“There are community centers throughout Erie that are critical in helping to resettle the large refugee population that has migrated to Erie, and the centers are key to connecting us to students and their families,” said Lisa Herring, director of community impact at the Erie Philharmonic. “Whenever we have a visiting artist, or available seats in our theater, we’ll offer free ticket vouchers to the community centers.”
Sissem added that classroom teachers have gone so far as to meet parents on a Saturday at their early-learning site and walk to a cultural activity together, so that students and parents felt comfortable. “We learned a lot from that experience,” Sissem said. “Offering free tickets doesn’t guarantee participation. We needed to be sure that community members felt comfortable entering the space.”
The Erie Philharmonic also has cultivated strong relationships with elementary school teachers and students. “The elementary schools have a music class that may meet once every six to eight days,” said Weiser. “We’ll bring a guest artist into different schools, typically every other week or once a month, to give students a chance to interact directly with an artist.”
For the middle grades, the Erie Philharmonic offers youth concerts, which it has been holding since the 1950s, making it one of the first orchestras in the U.S. to offer them. The philharmonic’s staff designs an extensive curriculum, geared to Pennsylvania’s arts curriculum and common core standards, and sends it to teachers three to six months in advance of the concert. It includes pre- and post-concert tests; lesson plans in geography, science, and history that incorporate the concert material; and a listening CD with accompanying guide notes to the music.
Everything in the concert is based on what the students have learned through the curriculum. The opening section of the curriculum explains the families of the orchestra, a second section deals with specific musical terms, and a third section is based upon the concert theme for that particular season. “The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funding goes a long way in making sure we offer these concerts, that they are free of charge for all students, and that we cover busing expenses for all students from the city of Erie so they can get to the concerts,” said Weiser.
Beyond the funding from PCA and Erie Arts & Culture, the Erie Philharmonic also has received direct NEA funding. Weiser noted, “We seek funding from the NEA for projects that have special meaning for our community. Beyond presenting a guest artist, we seek to reach places in our community that don’t have ready access to classical music.”
For example, the philharmonic received an NEA grant for an upcoming six-day festival in the 2018 season featuring classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein performing a world premiere piano concerto composed by Philip Glass. Outreach activities by both Dinnerstein and Glass will include master classes, in-school concerts, live radio performances, and high school lectures that will also feature music director Daniel Meyer and various philharmonic musicians. “Many of the schools we’ll be reaching are in communities facing extreme poverty with close to 100 percent of the students on free or reduced lunch plans,” said Weiser.
The collaborative support and resources of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Erie Arts & Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts have helped the Erie Philharmonic yield great success in the Erie region, benefiting the health of the community and helping to realize important community priorities. As Horn described PCA’s partnership with the NEA and with regional partners like Erie Arts & Culture, “We’re really here to support an infrastructure that creates opportunities for Pennsylvanians to participate in the arts.”
Laura Scanlan is the director of the State and Regional program at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Broadway star Lisa Vroman takes the stage in a special Richard Rodgers tribute for the Philharmonic’s opening night of the 17-18 Pops series. With over 2000 performances as Christine in Phantom of the Opera under her belt, Lisa brings her incredible craftsmanship and loving admiration for the Golden Age of Broadway to the Warner stage. With music from King and I, Sound of Music, Carousel, Oklahoma, and other greats, our opening Pops concert will delight with some of the most memorable and beloved music from the the Broadway stage. Look for local favorites to make surprise cameos in this concert, as well.
There are few names in the jazz world that instantly evoke a special sound or even a tune in your ear, and Brubeck is one such name. With a musical heritage unmatched, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet draw on their famous father’s songbook in hits such as Take Five and Rondo Alla Turka, while also traversing a rich history of jazz in this special concert co-presented by Jazz Erie. Just imagine your favorite jazz standards from the past century tailored for the unique stylings of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, and you’ll have a good idea of the delights in store on this special night.
Home for the Holidays. It’s a concert that has become a treasured Erie tradition, drawing on our own fantastic local talent and of course featuring the tunes and arrangements you love to hear at this time of year from the Erie Philharmonic. We will again perform a one-act Saturday matinee, designed for families (and featuring a jolly old elf clad in red!), and a longer two-act version for Saturday evening, featuring the voices of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus. This December, you will not want to miss the triumphant return of local star Daniel Cabanillas, as he sings the season’s treasures and lends his warm, sparkling tenor voice to the Philharmonic’s most popular annual tradition. Bring your whole family to celebrate the sounds of the season, as we take you Home for the Holidays at the Warner Theatre.
It’s no secret where most of us heard our first taste of classic symphonic music. It was through the inventive, madcap adventures of Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes! In February, we bring an amazing presentation of live film, coordinating the Erie Philharmonic playing in real-time to the original, beloved cartoons that brought us our first cinematic and musical adventures. Who can forget the classic chase scenes, the surprise scares, the hilarious misadventures of Bugs and his friends? We expect these concerts sell-out quickly, so get your tickets early for either of two performances, Saturday evening or a Sunday matinee. It’s a perfect way to introduce your family to the joy of great music, in a fun, exciting way that everyone can enjoy.
TM & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Through video games, role-playing games, and the recent success of series such as Highlander, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings, music from the world of fantasy has entered the public arena in a way like never before. With scores from Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Spamalot, and Excalibur, our tribute concert to the genre’s most popular hits will be a dramatic evening of symphonic music that can bring the full color and power of the Erie Philharmonic to the very edge of the stage. Reserve your spot today for this Pops finale concert which will surely transport you to another time and place, filled with heraldry, bravery, wizardry, and romance!
We open our season with three brilliant B’s. Samuel Barber’s Overture to the School for Scandal is the brash utterance of a young American composer looking to make his mark. Inspired by the witty banter and chatter of Sheridan’s play, Scandal soars with remarkable melodies and fanciful flights of musical whimsy. We then dive back into our four-year celebration of the music of Beethoven, inviting Erie favorite violinist Elena Urioste with two of her favorite collaborative partners, pianist Michael Brown and cellist Nick Canellakis. Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is a compositional tour-de-force, deftly integrating the sound of these three solo instruments into a concerto perfectly suited to an opening night celebration. Brahms waited until his 34th year to reveal his staggering First Symphony; he labored long to bring the work into life. Intimidated by the enormous mountain Beethoven had already scaled with his nine symphonies, Brahms admitted that he felt the pressure before making his own contribution to the form. Consequently, we have a brilliant combination of technical mastery coupled with depth of thought and emotion in one towering, triumphant symphony.
This evening of musical drama opens with an evocation of ancient brotherhood in Estonian Arvo Pärt’s Fratres. Set for strings, claves, and a single bass drum, Fratres emerges as a striking example of how rich and spiritual music can evolve out of humble ingredients. Young Armenian and former Tchaikovsky Competition-wining cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan makes his Erie Philharmonic debut with Shostakovich’s searing Cello Concerto No. 1. We finish with Also Sprach Zarathustra; from those famous first few bars, a rumble of an organ leads to a triumphant blast of the brass. Strauss’ infamous tone poem has appeared in numerous commercials and movie soundtracks, perhaps most notably featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This music will erupt in sonic splendor as the Erie Philharmonic performs this score laden with orchestral majesty and invention.
Inspired by tales and impressions of the sea, we’ll begin with Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, which churls and sprays notes with tempestuous force. Following, world-renowned guitarist Sharon Isbin will make her Erie Philharmonic debut performing Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un gentilhombre. Steeped in rich Spanish musical tradition, the Fantasia is an imaginative and richly-woven musical tale. To finish the program, the Philharmonic will bring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to life. Our own concertmaster Ken Johnston will take the virtuosic solo violin role, featuring moments inspired by the Arabian Nights.
Beethoven 4/4. We are now well into our four-season exploration of what makes Beethoven such a musical giant, and we look forward to a major celebration of his life and works in honor of his birthday in 2020. Along our journey, this March performance takes us through two brilliant contributions to the piano literature: his Concerto No. 4 and the Choral Fantasy. Beloved northwest Pennsylvania piano virtuoso Alec Chien takes the solo spotlight in both works. The Fourth Concerto marks a significant point in Beethoven’s creative life, where the heroic nature of his style is perfectly matched with an introspective and expressive voice. The Choral Fantasy serves as a preamble of sorts: using a full chorus, soloists, and a solo piano, this work points towards how Beethoven would amass similar forces to change the symphony forever in his ‘Ode to Joy.’ Between these two works, we celebrate the birthday of the great American composer Leonard Bernstein. Commissioned in 1965, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms is quintessentially Bernstein: richly melodic and striking in its catchy rhythms, all in the service of the evocative prayer-poetry of Kind David from the Book of Psalms.
We will open our season finale concert with Sergei Prokofiev’s witty and spirited romp through the 18th century (refracted through decidedly 20th Century lenses) in his Classical Symphony. Then Erie favorite Simone Dinnerstein returns to perform one of her specialties – the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Simone will pair one of his lively keyboard concertos with a brand new work, co-commissioned by the Erie Philharmonic, by American icon Philip Glass. Designed for the same orchestral forces as the Bach, Glass’ new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is destined to become an important contribution to the genre. Our evening and 17-18 season comes to a stunning close with Ravel’s music from his ballet Daphnis et Chloé. In two suites extracted from the full ballet, Ravel chose the most sumptuous and sensuous music from his iconic ballet to feature the sheer power and sweep of an orchestra in full bloom.