Reflection

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Reflection


From Erie Philharmonic Long Term Residency Director Sarah Lee


“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child,

and one teacher can change the world.”

- Malala Yousafzai

 

It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to sit down and try to describe what the past 6 months have been like for all of us involved in the Erie Philharmonic’s Long-Term Residency. Starting at the end of August last fall, 60 days seemed to stretch on for such a long time; and yet here we find ourselves wrapping up the final day of the program. What I do know is this: when I read the quote spoken by Malala Yousafzai, above, I am reminded of just how great the impact of education is, how it is a vehicle for change in a community. I believe strongly that music has been this vehicle for education throughout the entire residency for these preschool students. Let me explain!

I will never forget the first day we (my co-teacher James Reinarz and I) walked into the preschool to begin the first day of our residency: it was the third day of preschool for almost all of the 50-60 children we would work with. What we now understand is that it wasn’t just the first day of preschool for many of these kids; it was a first American experience for the many refugee children attending this school. Many of the kids had not been in the country longer than a few months, weeks, or even days. We met children that first day of the residency from all over the world:  the middle east, Africa, eastern Europe, Mexico, and of course the many refugee children from Nepal. We didn’t know that day that these children had probably never been in a building like this before, that they had possibly never been alone in an English-speaking setting before. That many of them were absolutely terrified and confused about what was going on, so much so that a few couldn’t even make it to the bathroom in time (it was an event-filled first day!). Sincemany refugee families don’t sign up early enough for us to get this information before the year begins (as they don’t understand how the system works), we didn’t know any of this important information ahead of time; we only realized as the morning went on, with much surprise and no preparation for it, that many (many!) of these children did not speak English, and that they were scared. What a surprise it is to walk into a classroom of 18 children where 16 of them don’t speak English!

But let me tell you something you probably already know: music is a universal language. Of course everyone knows this! But I wish I could explain to you how real this was for us on a weekly basis, how we were able to watch kids transform from quiet, fearful children that didn’t understand a word of English to dancing, expressive, creative, singing, children that soaked up English like sponges and loved to laugh. How some children (right here in Erie) have such disruptive home lives that the only way they know how to react is aggressively or loudly or with tears, but that “music class” was something that excited them, so they chose to make good (and difficult) behavior choices so that they could participate. The incredible break-though moments when a child, who hasn’t said a word in English (or any other language!) for the entire four months we’ve known him all of a sudden starts singing. Such joy! The moment when a child who we thought wasn’t able to understand anything we’ve taught so far is suddenly able to name all four instrumental families of the orchestra. Or a child who is so tired from whatever is going on at home that he can barely make it a minute (every class) without falling asleep is able to echo a melody, matching pitch perfectly with his beautiful voice and a big smile.

I can of course inundate you with the data that shows how successful the program was - yes the children grew in the many core standards taughtin the curriculum according to our assessments, and yes they all expanded their musical knowledge and appreciation; they may even be able to name more musical instruments than you! But since you weren’t able to be there with us every day to know and love these kids, I hope this is a small picture of just how big this program was, just how important it is for the future of our city, and just how special it was for all of us with the Erie Philharmonic. The work we were able to do hand in hand with the amazing staff and teachers at St. Benedict’s will give these kids many advantages as they move forward in their education to be successful, advantages that weren’t even a possibility before they came to the school or to this country.

Thanks so much to all of you who supported, both financially and with encouragement! I hope you will consider supporting us for the first time or again as we move to impact new preschool this upcoming fall!



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A week not to be missed

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A week not to be missed


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Emanuel Ax is without a doubt one of the finest musicians to be currently living on our planet.  He plays the piano with an unparalleled technical excellence, forms musical phrases that are simply astounding, and turns dots and dashes on a page into the most delightful music-making you can imagine.  He has collaborated with all of this century’s great musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the Cleveland Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic.  He has made recordings that have been celebrated and most highly prized the world-over.

But of course this all doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  There must be a human being of the highest order behind those notes to make a truly great artist: a human who feels deeply, thinks deeply, and cares about the musicians and audience members around him.

Emanuel Ax is that and much more.  He brightens any room he enters with his own special sense of humor, his own positive way, his discreet but passionate care for details, be they musical or related to a collaborator or a student.  Having had the distinct pleasure of collaborating with Mr. Ax once before, I know what an amazing and transformative experience this will be for our musicians.  The chance to share the stage with him, to learn from him, to glean suggestions about phasing, to play Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with him…. That will be the chance of a lifetime, and I only hope that we open our arms to him as much as he has opened his heart to us in choosing to make Erie a stop in his rich and varied musical life.  

Mr. Ax, thanks in advance for all that you will bring to Erie in your four-day residency with us.  I, for one, cannot wait!



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Emanuel Ax Program Notes

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Emanuel Ax Program Notes

The legendary Emanuel Ax


Prepared by Ken Meltzer


Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Opus 73 (“Emperor”) (1809)

Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827.  The first performance of the “Emperor” Piano Concerto took place in Leipzig, Germany, on November 28, 1811, with Friedrich Schneider as soloist, and Johann Philipp Christian Schulz conducting. 

Approximate performance time is thirty-eight minutes.

Perhaps the “Emperor” Piano Concerto is the work that most eloquently testifies to Ludwig van Beethoven’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles through the sheer force of will and genius.  Beethoven, a fiery virtuoso, had previously stunned Vienna with brilliant performances of his keyboard compositions, including four Concertos for Piano and Orchestra.  By the time Beethoven began work on his E-flat Concerto in 1808, however, increasing deafness had made public appearances all but impossible.  The “Emperor” is, in fact, the only Beethoven Piano Concerto not premiered by the composer himself.

Beethoven completed his Fifth Piano Concerto in 1809, the year Napoleon invaded Vienna.  In May, Napoleon’s forces bombarded the city.  Beethoven’s lodgings stood directly in the line of fire, and so he took refuge in a basement of another home.  During the massive shelling, Beethoven tried to protect the last remnants of his hearing by covering his ears with pillows.

The succeeding French occupation brought physical and economic chaos.  On July 26, 1809, Beethoven wrote to his publisher: “Normally I should now be having a change of scene and air—The levies are beginning this very day—What a destructive, disorderly life I see and hear around me, nothing but drums, cannons and human misery in every form....”

Through all of this turmoil and despair, Beethoven never lost his fierce sense of independence and rebellious spirit.  Once, during the occupation, a friend spied Beethoven in a café.  There the composer stood behind a French officer, shaking his fist and proclaiming: “If I were a general and knew as much about strategy as I do counterpoint, I’d give you fellows something to think about.”  And there is an undeniable pride and heroism in the E-flat Concerto, music that refuses to capitulate to the misery Beethoven suffered during its composition.

The Concerto’s nickname, “Emperor,” was first used after Beethoven’s death.  It relates not to any specific political figure, but to the work’s majestic character.  Beethoven would compose no more piano concertos during the remaining 18 years of his life.  Nevertheless, the “Emperor” is as fitting a summation of the composer’s achievements in the realm of the piano concerto as is the immortal Ninth in the symphonic repertoire.

The grand opening movement (Allegro) begins in dramatic fashion, as the orchestra’s massive chords are answered by the elaborate flourishes of the soloist.  The beautiful slow-tempo second movement (Adagio un poco mosso) features a lovely melody, introduced by the muted violins.  Toward the conclusion of the movement, one of several masterstrokes in this work creates a moment of incomparable magic.  After a sudden and unexpected shift from B to B-flat, the soloist quietly entices the listener with fragments of the principal theme of the spirited finale, which follows without pause.  The concluding movement (Rondo. Allegro) is based upon a jaunty theme, first played by the soloist, and immediately repeated by the orchestra.  Beethoven adds a touch of mystery just before the closing measures, featuring the pianist accompanied only by the timpani.  Suddenly a series of ascending flourishes by the soloist leads to an athletic restatement of the principal theme, and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto reaches its triumphant conclusion.

Piano soloist Emanuel Ax


Symphony No. 4 in G Major (1900)

Gustav Mahler was born in Kaliště, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860, and died in Vienna, Austria, on May 18, 1911.  The first performance of the Symphony No. 4 took place in Munich, Germany, on November 25, 1901, with Margarethe Michalek, soprano, and the composer conducting the Kaim Orchestra. 

Approximate performance time is fifty-four minutes.

Gustav Mahler completed his Fourth Symphony in the summer of 1900.  The premiere took place in Munich on November 25, 1901, with the composer leading the Kaim Orchestra.  Before the opening performance, several members of the orchestra approached Mahler and confessed “they hadn’t been able to make head or tail of the work but would do their best to change their minds the following day.”

The audience and critics demonstrated a like sense of confusion.  Everyone seemed to anticipate that Mahler’s Fourth would, in the spirit of his Second and Third Symphonies, be an epic, dramatic piece.  They were decidedly taken aback by the apparent naïveté and simplicity of Mahler’s new score.  Boos mingled with—and sometimes overwhelmed—demonstrations of support for Mahler’s latest Symphony.  At the conclusion of the performance, Mahler took his bows “in a manner more furious than friendly.”

Nevertheless, the Fourth Symphony, with its abundant lyricism and relative brevity, quickly proved to be among the most accessible and popular of Mahler’s Symphonies.  Today, each of Mahler’s Symphonies has received its due, both in concert performances and recordings.  Still, the genial lyricism and grace of the Fourth, sometimes called Mahler’s “Pastorale” Symphony, continue to accord the work a favored status.  Further, close analysis reveals that beneath the seemingly naïve exterior of the Fourth Symphony is an extraordinarily intricate, sophisticated, and unified work.

The following are some of Mahler’s comments regarding the nature and meaning of his Fourth Symphony:

Portrait of Arnold Böcklin - the inspiration behind the second movement.

What I had in mind here was unbelievably difficult to do.  Imagine the uniform blue of the skies, which is more difficult to paint than all changing and contrasting shades.  This is the fundamental mood of the whole.  Only sometimes it darkens and becomes ghostly, gruesome.  But heaven itself is not so darkened, it shines on in an eternal blue.  Only to us it suddenly seems gruesome, just as on the most beautiful day in the woods, flooded with light, we are often gripped by panic and fear.  The Scherzo (second movement) is mystical, confused and eerie so that your hair will stand on end.  But in the following Adagio you will soon see that things were not so bad—everything is resolved.

In the final movement (“The Heavenly Life”), although already belonging to this higher world, the child explains how everything is meant to be.

The Symphony is in four movements.  The first (Bedächtig. Nicht eilen) opens with a “sleigh bell” motif, followed by a grazioso dotted-rhythm figure, introduced by the first violins.  Both play crucial roles in the finale.  Bruno Walter, the great German conductor and Mahler disciple, described the second movement scherzo (In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast) as “Freund Hein spielt zum Tanz auf (‘Friend Death is striking up the Dance’).  Death fiddles rather strangely; his playing sends us up to heaven.” According to Mahler’s friend, Natalie Bauer-Lechner, the composer referred to the third movement (Ruhevoll) as: “‘The Smiling of St. Ursula’ and said that at the time he had a childhood image of his mother’s face in mind, recalling how she had laughed through grieving and had smiled through tears, for she had suffered unendingly yet had always lovingly resolved and forgiven everything.”  In the finale (Sehr behaglich), a soprano sings Mahler’s setting of the poem Das himmlische Leben (The Heavenly Life).

Soprano soloist Sari Gruber



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History Repeated

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History Repeated


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


When I step onto the Warner Theater stage, I sometimes think of a wonderful photograph from the 1940’s, taken in the Warner from the vantage point of the stage looking back out onto the house.  It’s a packed house of patrons awaiting a night of first-run films.  Everyone is dressed to the nines – the men in hats and the ladies in dresses, and I think of what it must have felt like to enter into this opulent space, have the lights dim, and settle in for an evening of cinema.  

We’re bringing that sensation back this Saturday, February 7, with a full-length screening of Casablanca.  But this time it’s with a twist.  The Erie Philharmonic, under the baton of my good friend James Fellenbaum, will be performing the full orchestral soundtrack live, while the film is projected in high definition on a huge screen suspended above the stage.  

You simply cannot experience this iconic film anywhere else, quite like this.  While I wish I could be there with you on this special night, know that I will be imagining you as you settle into your seat, following a grand tradition of Erie moviegoers who enjoy classics on the big screen, but in the Erie Philharmonic’s own unique presentation.



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Live from Studio Q - Soyeon Kate Lee

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Live from Studio Q - Soyeon Kate Lee

Live in the studio with pianist Soyeon Kate Lee and host Brian Hannah.



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Music, nature and Sibelius

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Music, nature and Sibelius


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


The Moldau

Some of my favorite music evokes landscapes or nature.  January’s concert is inspired by my fascination with how a composer can create an aural landscape inspired by his favorite environment.  I tend to look for the connections between what we see and what we hear, as well, and when it comes to creating a concert program for the Philharmonic, sometimes a visual cue can provide just the right inspiration for how seemingly disparate elements may fit together into an elegant program.  Take Smetana’s The Moldau, for instance.  The music has this wonderful, perpetual undulation designed to simulate the flow of the Danube River as it flows through the Bohemian countryside.  It’s one of Smetana’s most famous and most popular musical creations, but what makes it interesting are all of the stops or discursions Smetana allows us to take as listeners.  Indeed, if all we hear were the undulation of the river, we may get quickly bored or succumb to an invitation to fall asleep!  But among other musical ‘happenings,’ one of my favorite is a country party that emerges, complete with heavy-footed steps in a peasant polka.  It’s unexpected, delightful, and to me a musical scene not unlike the wonderful peasant scenes Peter Breughel is able to capture in his paintings.  

The visual riches certainly to not end with Smetana.  Bartok was a conscientious chronicler of the sound world around him, whether it was folk song and dance of the Hungarian countryside, or whether it was the birdsong he heard outside his window while convalescing in Asheville, North Carolina.  Listen closely to the second movement of his brilliant Third Piano Concerto to hear how he masterfully incorporates these birdsongs into a dialogue with the solo pianist, Soyeon Kate Lee.  

Iso-Syöte, Finland

Jean Sibelius was a composer who, in many ways, felt compelled to incorporate the expansive vistas of his native, frozen, Finnish landscape into his own music.  For me, much of what makes his music unusual, and a departure from the Continental traditions of Brahms and Tchaikovsky, is how he can simulate the undulation of a top-frozen but very active river, or the bubbling of a geyser, or the eruption of a storm swirling with some of the most turbulent winds you can imagine.  These evocations of nature become one with his compositional technique – the gestures become motives, the motives become phrases, the phrases intersect, overlap, and collide to create the most stunning musical effects.  In his Second Symphony, you will experience this and more.  Human meets nature, and both exist in a constantly shifting sound world that will simply sweep you away with its force.



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Happy Holidays

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Happy Holidays


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


While we are not even halfway into our 2016-17 concert season, there are so many memorable musical moments that I will cherish.  From the brilliance of Beethoven’s Eighth, Ken Johnston’s sumptuous Glazunov Concerto, how fun it was to be a rock star for a night with Jeans n’ Classics in a Police tribute, or to play the delightfully ghoulish scores from Tim Burton’s iconic films – the musical memories are rich and I am eager to come back for more.  Our Philharmonic is stronger than ever, and our musicians are coming to each new project with so much enthusiasm and a desire to attain new artistic heights.    

As we finish 2016 and embark with hope into 2017, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your passion for the Erie Philharmonic.  It is an honor to serve this community as Music Director, and I hope you and your family will continue to enjoy how our musicians bring their best to the Warner Theatre stage.  As much as we treasure the Warner as our musical home base, you know that we spend many hours in schools, the Art Museum, community resource centers, and countless other locales throughout northwestern Pennsylvania.  It is a distinct pleasure to hear how the classical music can brighten someone’s life, and we will keep dedicating ourselves to Erie in the best way we know how: through great music.

I wish you and your family the very best for a Happy New Year, and I cannot wait to get back to the stage to bring you more with our superb musicians of the Erie Philharmonic.

Cheers!

Daniel Meyer, Music Director


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Sibelius Program Notes

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Sibelius Program Notes

Sibelius' Finland


Prepared by Ken Meltzer


Vltava (The Moldau) from Má vlast (My Fatherland) (1874-1879)

Bedřich Smetana was born in Leitomischl, Bohemia (now, Litomyšl, the Czech Republic) on March 2, 1824, and died in Prague on May 12, 1884.  The first complete performance of Má Vlast took place at the National Theater in Prague on November 5, 1882, with Adolf Čech conducting. 

Approximate performance time is twelve minutes.

In the autumn of 1874, Bedřich Smetana suddenly found himself totally deaf.  Smetana was forced to resign all of his public appointments, and it appeared that the career of the first great Czech nationalist composer was at an end.  But Smetana’s passion to express unbounded love for his Czech homeland was too powerful.  This devastating period witnessed the triumphant birth of Smetana’s orchestral masterpiece, Má vlast (My Fatherland).  Smetana composed this collection of six orchestral tone poems during the period from 1874-1879.

Smetana dedicated Má vlast to the city of Prague.  The first integral performance of the work occurred on November 5, 1882, with Adolf Čech conducting.  In his biography of Smetana, Václav Zelený described the event: “Everyone rose to his feet and the same unending storm of applause was repeated after each of the six parts…At the end of (the concert) the audience was beside itself and the people could not bring themselves to take leave of the composer.”

The following is Smetana’s description of The Moldau:

Vltava (The Moldau)—

Two springs gush forth in the shade of the Bohemian forest, the one warm and swift flowing, the other cool and tranquil.  Their waters join and rush joyously down the rocky bed, glistening in the light of the morning sun.  The hurrying forest brook becomes the River Moldau (Vltava), which flows across the land of Bohemia, widening as it goes.  Passing through dark forests, the sounds of the hunter’s horn are heard ever nearer.  Through meadowlands it passes where a wedding feast is being celebrated by peasants with song and dance.  At night, water nymphs play in its gleaming depths in which are reflected fortresses and castles from the glorious past.  At the Rapids of St. John, the stream becomes a roaring cataract, beating its way through rocky chasms, widening at last into the majestic river that flows through Prague, greeted by the mighty old fortress, Vyšehrad, where it vanishes over the horizon lost to the poet’s sight.


Concerto No. 3 for Piano and Orchestra (1945)

Béla Bartók was born in Sînnicolau Mare, Hungary, on March 25, 1881, and died in New York on September 26, 1945.  The first performance of the Third Piano Concerto took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 8, 1946, with György Sándor as soloist, and Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. 

Approximate performance time is twenty-three minutes.

On October 8, 1940, one month before Hungary joined the Axis alliance, Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and his wife, pianist Ditta Pásztory, gave a farewell concert at the Academy of Music in Budapest.  The Bartóks then departed their native land for the United States, arriving in New York harbor on October 29, 1940.  During the journey to the United States, the composer wrote: “this voyage is...like plunging into the unknown from what is known but unbearable...God only knows how and for how long I’ll be able to work over there.”

Bartók’s fortunes continued to decline when he settled in New York.  His health deteriorating from the onset of leukemia, Bartók was often unable to fulfill the few commissions he received.  Still, there were some brighter moments for Bartók in the United States.  A 1943 commission from conductor Serge Koussevitsky supported the composition of one of the masterpieces of the 20th century, Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.  Koussevitsky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra presented the world premiere of Bartók's miraculous composition at Symphony Hall on December 1, 1944.  Bartók reported: “The performance was excellent.  Koussevitsky is very enthusiastic about the piece, and says it is ‘the best orchestral piece of the last 25 years.’”

Tibor Serly

Nevertheless, Bartók realized that his life was drawing to a close.  During the summer of 1945, Bartók attempted to complete his Third Piano Concerto, a work he hoped would serve as a concert piece for his wife.  On September 21, Bartók’s friend and pupil Tibor Serly visited the composer at his apartment.  There he found Bartók in bed, desperately working on the final movement of his Piano Concerto.  The next day, Bartók was taken to West Side Hospital.  He died four days later.

Prior to his death, Bartók had, for the most part, finished the Third Piano Concerto, save the orchestration of the final seventeen bars, which Serly completed.  Despite the undeniably tragic circumstances under which Bartók composed his Third Piano Concerto, the work displays a profound strength, optimism and joy of life.  It is in that sense a triumph, albeit posthumous, for one of the 20th century’s greatest composers.

The Concerto is in three movements.  The first (Allegretto), opening with the soloist’s introduction of the expansive principal melody, features virtuoso writing throughout.  The slow-tempo second movement, in A—B—A form, juxtaposes a hushed chorale (Adagio religioso) with a central middle section (poco più mosso) suggesting the sounds of bird calls.   A reprise of the opening section leads to the finale (Allegro vivace), which follows without pause. A brief upward flourish by the soloist precedes the introduction of a syncopated figure, the recurring principal theme of this rondo finale. The work concludes with brilliant writing for the soloist, capped by a bold ascending passage.


Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 43 (1902)

Jean Sibelius was born in Tavastehus, Finland, on December 8, 1865, and died in Järvenpää, Finland, on September 20, 1957.  The first performance of the Second Symphony took place in Helsinki, Finland, on March 8, 1902, with the composer conducting. 

Approximate performance time is forty-three minutes.

In the fall of 1900, Jean Sibelius and his family departed their native Finland for Italy, stopping first in Berlin.  In February 1901, they finally reached their destination—the village of Rapallo, located just south of Venice.  There, Sibelius began work on his Symphony No. 2.

In May, Sibelius and his family returned to Finland.  There, Sibelius continued to work on his Second Symphony.  In November of 1901, Sibelius informed his friend, Baron Axel Carpelan that he had almost completed the Symphony.  However, Sibelius continued to revise it, necessitating the postponement until March of the planned January 1902 premiere.

Sibelius conducted the premiere of his Second Symphony in Helsinki on March 8, 1902. It was a rousing success, and Sibelius repeated the program on March 10, 14 and 16, each time to a capacity audience.  This was a particularly tumultuous period, a time when Finland was under the grip of Russian domination.  Patriotic emotions were at a fever pitch.  Sibelius had previously composed overtly nationalistic pieces, such as Finlandia (1899), and the Finnish people were anxious to find a similar message in the new Symphony.

In an article that appeared the day after the premiere of the Symphony No. 2, Finnish conductor Robert Kajanus ascribed the following program to the last three movements of the Second Symphony:

The Andante strikes one as the most broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and our flowers of their scent...The scherzo gives a picture of frenetic preparation.  Everyone piles his straw on the haystack, all fibres are strained and every second seems to last an hour.  One senses in the contrasting trio section with its oboe motive in G flat major what is at stake.  The finale develops toward a triumphant conclusion intended to rouse in the listener a picture of lighter and confident prospects for the future.

Years later, conductor Georg Schnéevoigt, a close friend of Sibelius, wrote that the opening movement depicts the untroubled pastoral life of the Finnish people before the onslaught of foreign oppression.

Throughout his life, Sibelius was consistent in his emphatic denial that the Second Symphony was based upon any such programs.  Still, it is not at all surprising that the Finnish people continued to find a personal message of hope in this fiercely dramatic (and in the end, triumphant) work by their greatest composer.  More than a century after its premiere, the Symphony No. 2 remains a source of inspiration and pride for the Finnish people, as well as a mainstay of the international symphonic repertoire.

The Second Symphony is in four movements.  The first (Allegretto) opens with a repeated ascending figure in the strings, based upon a three-pitch motif that will form the nucleus for several themes throughout the Symphony.  The slow-tempo second movement (Tempo, Andante, ma rubato) incorporates music Sibelius first associated with an encounter between Don Juan and Death.  The third movement is a quicksilver scherzo (Vivacissimo), contrasting with a pastoral episode.  The concluding movement (Finale. Allegro moderato) follows without pause.   The Symphony’s opening three-note motif is now presented in an heroic transformation.  In the stunning climax, the motif undergoes its final and most eloquent transformation.



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Deconstructing Christmas

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Deconstructing Christmas


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Thought I would unpack each element of our coming ‘Home for the Holidays’ concert for you, piece by piece, deconstructing every morsel and delight until all that’s left are a few crumbs on the cookie plate….
 
Okay, not really.
 
In fact, the best part of the show is the element of surprise.  What lovely moods can we bring with the mellifluous voices of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus?  What razamuhtazz can we reveal through the voice of Erie’s own Playhouse star Kate Neubert Lechner?  What joys abound when Penn State Behrend’s Young People’s Chorus take the stage and sing as one?  And what of our own Erie Philharmonic, in symphonic holiday splendor?

 You’ll just have to come to the Warner Theatre to find out!  The Saturday matinee concert is one act, designed for families to enjoy together in a concise but colorful format.  The evening concert is our full, two-act performance with all of the bells and whistles.  In either case, we want you to be there, because our most important mission is to get you and your family into the joyous mood of the season.  We want to celebrate all that make this 'Most Wonderful Time of the Year' with you and yours, and thank you for your support as we continue to strive to bring the best music possible to Erie.
 
May you and your family have a beautiful holiday, and we’ll see you on Saturday.
 

Yours,
 
Daniel Meyer



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Christmas Memories

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Christmas Memories


From guest soloist Kate Neubert Lechner


I’ve always found that music has been the cornerstone in my life, so it’s no surprise that I connect much of the Holiday season to music.  Some of my fondest memories from my childhood and beyond all have a soundtrack.  Nat King Cole’s Christmas albums underscore decorating tree and most of the holiday season when I was a kid.  I know my mom didn’t really have Nat on repeat all December, but his recordings are just immediately evoke the holidays for me. 

Christmas morning is Arthur Fieldler and the Boston Pops “A Christmas Festival”, with that fantastic brass pealing “Joy to the World.”  And, one of the most special memories, Christmas Eve is Silent Night, sung sitting next to my grandmother during the candlelit service with the room being lit only by candles.  I can still remember exactly what she looked like and the warmth, love, and peace that radiated.  

I am so honored and happy to be able to kick off the Holiday season with the Erie Philharmonic and add a few new musical memories to my holiday vault and hope that audiences will be able to take some special memories away with them as well.



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Live from Studio Q - Demarre McGill

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Live from Studio Q - Demarre McGill

Live in the studio with Principal Flute of the MET Opera Demarre McGill and host Brian Hannah


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Classical Rivalries

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Classical Rivalries


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


We often think about the incredible competition that exists between performers.  Classical music has its share of high-profile events where the top singers, pianists, and violinists all vie for the title of best in the world.  Careers are launched by winning one such coveted prize, and although triumph in a major international competition like the Queen Elizabeth, the Tchaikovsky, or the Van Cliburn can act as a springboard, it is certainly no guarantee of fame and fortune.

When it comes to composers, we tend to think of each living in her own world.  We imagine composers living in isolated spheres, laboring late by candlelight, spinning master creations by dipping a quill into ink and transcribing passion into tiny notes and rests.  But in reality, composers live in the very same competitive atmosphere as performers.  There are a finite number of orchestras, and the opportunities for composer to have a work premiered by an orchestra of the caliber of the Erie Philharmonic is actually quite rare.  And let's face it, with amazing works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Strauss, and Beethoven, the field of works from which we can select our concert programs is already crowded.  It can be hard to find a contemporary voice who can stand alongside those great composers and have something valid to say and be of a similar quality.

But we can and we must be a part of that natural process.  We must continue to support the composers of our time and encourage them to write music that resonates today, using the instruments of yesterday.  Our concert culture today is quite different than that of Mozart or Beethoven's day.  Concertgoers then expected that the music they would hear would be new to them.  They wanted to experience the latest creations.  They craved the adventure of being a part of that creative process.  That is why it is so fun to think of what kinds of rivalries and competitions existed between Mozart and Salieri, between Beethoven and Rossini.  We can imagine the sheer jealousies that sprang from each composer hearing a great performance or hearing another audience leap to its feet or demand an encore.  We can think of how composers took their cues from their rivals, either through imitation or through forging a consciously distinct path from that of their competitors.  

We will look into those competitive composers in our concert on Saturday, when we pit two 'rival pairs' against each other.   Three of the four composers emerged victorious.  Their music is safely considered to be within the 'canon.'  Their music has stood the test of time and now continue to be performed with a frequency that leads us to call them 'masters.'  Mr. Salieri, very popular and highly-regarded in his day, remains on the periphery (and would be forgotten were it not for Peter Shaffer's famous play and film 'Amadeus'.)  We will feature one of his charming scores to give you a chance to assess whether or not he's has been unjustly neglected.  



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Classical Rivalries Program Notes

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Classical Rivalries Program Notes

The first 2016-17 concert from our Beethoven 4/4 Festival

The first 2016-17 concert from our Beethoven 4/4 Festival


Prepared by Ken Meltzer


Sinfonia Veneziana (ca. 1786)

Antonio Salieri was born in Legnano, Italy, on August 18, 1750, and died in Vienna, Austria, on May 7, 1825. 

Approximate performance time is ten minutes.

The name Antonio Salieri inevitably conjures images of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play, Amadeus, and its 1984 cinematic adaptation by Miloš Forman.  Both the play and movie use the rumor that a jealous Salieri plotted the demise of his rival, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as the basis for immensely entertaining theater.  Shaffer’s drama makes the Salieri-Mozart rivalry the foundation for an allegory—the chasm between workmanlike competence, and divine inspiration.

To the extent Amadeus is accepted as historically accurate, however, it does both Salieri and Mozart a great disservice.  Modern scholarship is unanimous that Salieri had nothing to do with Mozart’s tragic, untimely death.  We also know that on several occasions, Salieri was happy to conduct Mozart’s works.  Further, if Salieri was not Mozart’s equal as a composer (who was?), he was highly talented, accomplished, and respected, holding numerous important positions in Vienna (Beethoven was among his pupils).  It should also be mentioned that while Mozart did have a very playful side (and an impish love for ribaldry and scatology), he was far from the clownish figure suggested in Amadeus.

The Sinfonia Veneziana combines two works by Salieri to create the three-movement (fast—slow—fast) structure popular at the time.  The first movement (Allegro assai) is the Overture to Salieri’s opera, La scuola de’ gelosi (The School for Jealousy).  The final two movements, played without pause (Andantino grazioso—Presto), originated as the Overture to the intermezzo, La partenza inaspettata (The Unexpected Departure).


Concerto for Flute and Orchestra No. 1 in G Major, K. 313 (285c) (1778)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, and died in Vienna, Austria, on December 5, 1791. 

Approximate performance time is twenty-five minutes.

In September of 1777, Mozart left his home in Salzburg to begin an 18-month journey throughout Europe.  Mozart, who felt his talents were not appreciated in his native city, hoped to find steady employment elsewhere.  Mozart’s journey took him to Munich, Augsburg, Mannheim, and finally, to Paris.

While in Mannheim, Mozart made the acquaintance of a Dutch visitor to the German city, a surgeon and amateur flutist by the name of Ferdinand Dejean.  Dejean commissioned Mozart to compose “three short easy concertos and a pair of flute quartets.”

Mozart did not have great affection for the flute, at least as a solo instrument.  In his memoirs, Viennese physician Joseph Frank recalled: “Once when we were speaking about instruments Mozart said that he loathed the flute and the harp.”  That opinion is reflected in a letter of February 14, 1778 Mozart wrote to his father, Leopold.  In the letter, Mozart commented on his slow progress in completing Dejean’s commission: “you know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”

In light of Mozart’s opinions expressed, above, this quote from a letter he wrote to Leopold in December of the same year bears repeating: “Ah, if only we had clarinets too!  You cannot imagine the glorious effect of a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets.”

Mozart ultimately fulfilled Dejean’s commission, which included the composer’s two Flute Concertos— in G Major, K. 313, and in D Major, K. 314 (the latter, an adaptation of the composer’s Oboe Concerto in C Major).  Despite Mozart’s protestations, the Concertos are beautiful, eloquent works, beloved by flutists and their audiences.

The Concerto is in three movements.  In the first (Allegro maestoso), the orchestra introduces the principal themes, before the soloist enters with a more elaborate restatement.  The traditional development and recapitulation of the themes are capped bythe flute’s solo cadenza and the emphatic closing bars.  A heartfelt slow movement (Adagio ma non troppo) leads to the finale (Rondo. Tempo di Menuetto).  A minuet, an elegant court dance in triple meter, serves as the recurring principal theme.


Overture to Guillaume Tell (1829)

Gioachino Rossini was born in Pesaro, Italy, on February 29, 1792, and died in Passy, France, on November 13, 1868.  T

he first performance of Guillaume Tell took place at the Opéra in Paris, France, on August 3, 1829.

Approximate performance time is twelve minutes.

Gioachino Rossini’s final opera, Guillaume Tell, is based upon Friedrich Schiller’s play, Wilhelm TellGuillaume Tell takes place in 14th-century Switzerland, and relates the story of the Swiss victory over their Habsburg oppressors.  With its epic length, spectacle, and ballet, Guillaume Tell is in the tradition of French Grand Opera.  Rossini provided music of extraordinary power and eloquence, departing from the early 19th-century bel canto practices that had often featured vocal display at the expense of drama.

In fact, Guillaume Tell earned the praise of such demanding and revolutionary musical dramatists as Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner.  Berlioz deemed Guillaume Tell “seriously thought out, considered at leisure, and conscientiously executed from beginning to end.”  Wagner particularly admired the title character’s eloquent third-act aria, “Sois immobile.”  During an 1860 meeting, Wagner told Rossini the aria “reached the highest summits of lyric expression.”  Rossini replied: “So I made music of the future without knowing it.”  To which Wagner responded: “There, Maestro, you made music for all times, and that is the best.”

Guillaume Tell premiered at the Paris Opéra on August 3, 1829.  Rossini was thirty-seven and would live another thirty-nine years.  Yet, he composed no operas after Guillaume Tell.  Between 1812 and 1829, Rossini composed thirty-nine operas, and the years of hard labor had taken a tremendous toll on his physical and emotional health.  Rossini spent the remainder of his life enjoying the company of friends, and composing many salon pieces he affectionately referred to as “Sins of My Old Age.”  In an 1866 letter to composer Giovanni Pacini, Rossini expressed no regrets about his abrupt retirement from opera: “such a presentiment is not given to everyone; God granted it to me and I bless him for it every hour.”

The Overture to Guillaume Tell begins with an extended slow introduction (Andante) that features a magical combination of five solo cellos.  The rustlings of the strings and winds (Allegro) are prelude to a storm sequence of tremendous power.  After the storm abates, the English horn, in tandem with the flute, offers a ranz des vaches, the traditional call of the Swiss herdsman to his cattle (Andante).  Trumpet fanfares launch the triumphant final section (Allegro vivace).  The music, known (perhaps all too well) for its association with the 1950s television series The Lone Ranger, still generates tremendous excitement on its own terms.


Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Opus 93 (1812)

Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827. 

The first performance of the Eighth Symphony took place at the Redoutensaal in Vienna on February 27, 1814. 

Approximate performance time is twenty-six minutes.

Beethoven began work on both his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies in 1811.  After finishing the Seventh Symphony in June of 1812, Beethoven turned his full attention to the Eighth, completing that score on October 12.  The premiere of the Eighth Symphony took place as part of a February 27, 1814 concert at the Redoutensaal in Vienna.  The program also contained the Seventh Symphony—which had received its premiere the previous December 13—and the (then) wildly popular Wellington’s Victory.

Beethoven’s Eighth is the Symphony that most emphatically reflects the composer’s humorous side.  The Eighth also bears a kinship with another comic jewel—Giuseppe Verdi’s final opera, Falstaff (1893).  In both works, the composers—at the height of their maturity and powers—employ techniques previously used for the composition of “serious” music to fashion masterpieces overflowing with playful humor.  And, if the Eighth Symphony presages the future, it also pays tribute to the past. The work’s high spirits and economy of expression recall the greatest symphonic humorist of them all—Beethoven’s teacher, Franz Joseph Haydn.

The Symphony No. 8 is in four movements.  The first (Allegro vivace e con brio) immediately establishes the energy and high spirits that predominate throughout.  In place of the traditional slow-tempo second movement, Beethoven substitutes a playful Allegretto scherzando.  The third movement is a minuet (Tempo di Menuetto) a court dance in triple meter.  The horns (to playful triplet cello accompaniment) introduce a lovely interlude that serves as minuet’s trio section.  The third movement closes with a reprise of the minuet.  The finale (Allegro vivace) begins with a device found in many Haydn symphonies.  The strings play a scurrying, pianissimo figure that suddenly—and without warning—explodes with tremendous force.  The finale, a beehive of activity from start to finish, concludes with an extended, and decidedly emphatic, series of chords.



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Live from Studio Q - Ken Johnston

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Live from Studio Q - Ken Johnston

Live in the studio with concertmaster Ken Johnston, pianist Nathan Hess and host Brian Hannah for a fun and entertaining concert preview! 



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From donuts to the Phil

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From donuts to the Phil

Mat Anderson, first on left


From Patron Services Manager Mat Anderson


As I grew up, I was constantly told that something about the way I interact with customers would leave them feeling welcomed, at home and comfortable.

It could be as simple as a smile, or even knowing just what to say if I could tell somebody's day had been particularly rough.

At 5 years old, I started working (well, as much as I could) in the family businesses. I started out at the donut shop, glazing, sprinkling and filling boxes with whatever our customers wanted. I often stood on a step ladder to each the top of counter and make change, or my grandma would lift me up, bag of donuts in-hand, to give to our customer. It was never work - it was fun... something I learned to enjoy. If empathy is genetic, it certainly runs in my family. It's one thing, aside from freckles, that we all share.

By the time I was 18, I managed our summer ice cream shop full time. I often worked alone throughout the day and then switched to more of a management role once more of our employees got there. 10 and 12 hour days happened, though not frequently, enough that it's something I simply got used to. I loved it and it loved me back by enabling me to save up money enough to attend Mercyhurst University.

Fast forward a to the spring of 2015. The Erie Philharmonic box office position was opening up. The Phil was always something I held on a pedestal as a music student in the area. I was sure, 100% positive that I wouldn't have a chance, but I sent my résumé regardless. Now, because you're reading this, you know what happened next... and I still feel so incredibly fortunate to go into my job every day, and not think of it as 'work.'

Sure, like everything, it has its share of challenges, however, the pros greatly outweigh the cons.
I feel fortunate to call my co-workers friends, I feel fortunate to work in the arts at a time when the Phil is skyrocketing in both caliber and capability, but I also feel fortunate to be able to help plan what may be a very important night for a person coming to see our performance.

Just the other day, I spoke on the phone with an older gentleman who was buying tickets to our Casablanca show on February 4, 2017. During the ticket order, he shared that he's taking his wife as a surprise, because their first date was to see Casablanca at the movie theatre. "Both tickets cost me $.50!" He chuckled. I couldn't keep from smiling. That's what makes coming to the Philharmonic every day and running our box office worth it. Knowing that, in some way, I'm helping to create what may be an important or special evening for people. It continues to give me hope. It continues to remind me of the important things in life. So, check out our season and give me a call! I'd be glad to help you get great seats for any of our concerts.

We have something for everybody!


Mat's Greatest Hits


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