From Music Director Daniel Meyer
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.
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.