WORLD PREMIERE

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WORLD PREMIERE


From George Daugherty, conductor of BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY


George in LA working on the WORLD PREMIERE show!

George in LA working on the WORLD PREMIERE show!

For all of us on the BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY team, it is very exciting to be performing the world premiere of our new concert edition with The Erie Philharmonic at The Warner Theatre. For starters, the orchestra is simply wonderful -- a truly extraordinary jewel in the American music scene. Our last performances of this concert with the Erie Philharmonic were incredibly rewarding for all of us. And of course, performing IN the spectacular Warner Theatre -- one of the last remaining theaters built by The Warner "Bros." themselves -- Jack, Harry, Sam, and Albert -- is so fantastically appropriate for this concert especially. It is one of the most palatial "movie palaces" we have ever seen, and its transition into a performing arts center for Erie has been fantastic and inspiring to watch.

On a personal level as a conductor, both the Erie Philharmonic and The Warner Theatre are also very sentimentally special to me. When I was a young conductor, starting out my career in the early 1980's, one of my very first professional guest engagements was with the Erie Philharmonic at The Warner Theatre.

The Warner Theatre, home of the Erie Philharmonic

The Warner Theatre, home of the Erie Philharmonic

It was a glittering ballet gala with dancers from American Ballet Theatre, headlined by the legendary ballerina Gelsey Kirkland. And the Erie Philharmonic in the orchestra pit. It was a pivotal moment in my conducting career, and it all happened in Erie, at The Warner. So coming back to Erie always feels like coming home again!

Our new version of BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY has many fantastic new additions since we last appeared in Erie, and I know the audiences will love it.

Our "roll-out" for this new concert includes The Boston Pops, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Pittsburgh Symphony, and many other world-class major international orchestras. We just sold out an entire run of our previous concert -- and for the second time -- a few months ago with The New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. So the Erie Philharmonic is in some very good company . . . right where it should be!!

- George Daugherty, Guest Conductor of BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY



Bugs Bunny in action


George Daugherty guest conductor
Created by George Daugherty & David Ka Lik Wong 

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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Photos by Chris Lee, courtesy of New York Philharmonic


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Live from Studio Q - String Quartet

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Live from Studio Q - String Quartet

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A quartet of musicians from the Erie Philharmonic performed Beethoven’s ‘Serioso’ Quartet live in the WQLN Studios in preparation for our season finale concert on April 13, a concert that features Mahler’s arrangement of this same work for full orchestra.

Click link above to listen to the entire broadcast!


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Keeping Score

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Keeping Score


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


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This weekend, our vocal soloists and chorus will not be lugging big, heavy full scores of Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem onstage.  You can imagine how it would feel to hoist a chunky book above your waist and hold it there for over 65 minutes, and that is one reason why choristers do not do it.  Instead, our singers will perform from piano-vocal scores.  Piano-vocal scores are vital tools to understand and ultimately perform a grand choral work with the complexity and breadth of Brahms’ masterpiece.  Rather than having to sift through over twenty independent orchestral lines, vocalists can focus on where his or her line lies and how it fits into the texture of the orchestral contribution.  A piano-vocal score can distill an enormous and complex orchestral score into only the parts that the vocalists will need.  This includes a piano reduction of the orchestral part, tucked just beneath the voice parts for chorus and solo singers.  This alone can get complex, and during rehearsals, many choristers take a pencil or highlighter to their music to deconstruct the piece further and make it more digestible, particularly knowing that the emotion and pace of a live performance will require quick and precise access to the right notes at the right time.

I keep every score from which I have ever performed.  Full scores, piano-vocal scores, even old, marked-up pages from my early violin studies; they are all there on my shelf should I ever need to reference something from my musical past.  It's a rare occasion when I open a score I have not seen in a while and something drops out of it that surprises me.  In fact, I rarely ever tuck something into a score for safe-keeping or to savor as a memento.  Truth be told, I would likely forget that I had even stashed it there, and more practically, I want to insure that my scores stay in relatively good shape in hopes that I will have the honor of conducting or performing that piece again.  In the case of my piano-vocal score for the Brahms Requiem, however, I was delighted to find that I had indeed stashed an old concert program between its pages.  It was the first time I had ever come into contact with this incredible piece of music, and it reflected a seminal moment in my development as a musician.

Conductor Robert Shaw

Conductor Robert Shaw

In my old piano-vocal score of the Brahms Requiem, I discovered a concert program documenting the first time I had ever sung the piece.  It was indeed a fond memory.  It was a performance conducted by the late, great American conductor Robert Shaw, prepared by Gareth Morrell, and introducing a then-unknown American soprano by the name of Dawn Upshaw.  The Cleveland Orchestra was performing at their summer home - the Blossom Music Center, and sure enough, scanning down the names in the chorus roster, there was my name listed in the bass section.  So much of that performance made a deep impression on me.  I was in high school at the time, and to have had contact with such challenging and inspiring music-making was as invigorating as it was humbling. Morrell had us drilled with such conviction and passion.  I remember his ability to model German diction, and was never satisfied to let us gloss over a mispronounced umlaut.  He insured that the chorus was in precise, top shape before we were ‘handed over’ to Shaw.

When Robert Shaw came to work with us before the orchestra rehearsals, it was a transformative experience. He, too, was driven to detail, but he also had an ability to make magic and approach the Brahms with an awe and wonder that put us all into the right framework for a spiritual experience as much as a musical one.  His work with choruses has been well-chronicled, and while his musical techniques were unorthodox, he got results that were in alignment with how he believed choruses could sound and ultimately communicate with an audience.  I loved every minute of it.  I was in the same room with an electrifying speaker, leader, preacher, and artist.  I believe I will always be influenced by what I learned from Mr. Shaw that week.

Working under those two musical leaders would have been enough to make it an unforgettable experience for me, but then at the orchestra rehearsals, I heard the soloists for the first time.  A young woman strode onto stage in a most unassuming and un-divalike fashion.  And then this soprano’s voice rang into the rafters of the reverberant pavilion at Blossom.  I was stunned by her voice’s purity and ability to drive straight to the center of my core.  I was not alone.  We in the chorus were amazed by what a remarkable talent she had and how perfectly-suited she was to this particular role in the Brahms.  The way Dawn Upshaw sang that weekend was perfection to me. Not the kind of perfection that you want to polish and leave on a mantle, but rather a perfection of expression and sincerity.  It was a perfection that composers like Brahms can come close to touching, and I can’t help but think he was smiling behind that big beard of his when he heard the performance that was assembled to perform his music that fateful weekend.

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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Broadway Street Cred

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Broadway Street Cred

Lisa Vroman, the Cathedral of St. Paul Choristers and the Erie Philharmonic from September 2017

Lisa Vroman, the Cathedral of St. Paul Choristers and the Erie Philharmonic from September 2017


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Lisa Vroman, Soprano

Lisa Vroman, Soprano

Lisa Vroman fascinates me. She’s such a special artist, and one I always look forward to collaborating with, as she is forever looking for ways to connect her stellar musical choices with audiences who appreciate a smart program.  Whenever she takes the stage, her presence commands in a way that invites you into her space.  She welcomes you and lets you know that she is going to bring her A-game, and that is due in large part to the fact that she is more than just a pretty voice.  There is a fierce intellectual and spiritual power behind everything she does.  Her energy radiates, her curiosity astounds, and her ability to put together a great show is one of the most fun aspects of working with her. 

I should back up a bit and say that she could easily rest on her laurels.  Her Broadway credentials are staggering, and her place in the annals of American Musical history is secure.  She is one if the finest vocalists and artists working on the stage today, and it’s due in large part to her enormous sense of curiosity.  Lisa knows repertoire like no other vocalist from Broadway (or any ‘way’ for that matter).  When we have arranged concerts in the past, just listening to her rattle off tunes and reference shows (especially the off-the-beaten-path shows from pre-Golden Era Broadway!) is an education in American Musical Theatre history.  She genuinely loves rediscovering a great tune, whether it’s Cole Porter, a modern composer in whom she believes, or a work by a composer who deserves more notoriety than he or she has garnered to this date. The challenge when programming with Lisa Vroman is what NOT to include in the set list! 

Lisa in  Phantom of the Opera

Lisa in Phantom of the Opera

And all of this curiosity and creativity is to say nothing of her God-given talent.  Indeed, her classical training means that she has preserved a beautifully healthy and powerful voice that can do just about anything – she is not and cannot be constrained by one genre or one style of singing.  She can chose music that best flexes her versatility, her style, her panache, her ability to totally inhabit a character, and her absolutely gorgeous singing voice.

If you can tell by now, I’m a bit of a fan.  I am honored to bring back Lisa Vroman to the Warner Theatre stage for you, and I hope you enjoy this return visit that includes some recognizable favorites with some of our more ‘modern’ masters like Stephen Sondheim and Marvin Hamlisch.  I am really looking forward to seeing you this Saturday for another Lisa Vroman masterclass in what makes our American Musical Theatre history so rich and seemingly inexhaustible.

   

Musically yours,

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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TWO TUBAS

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TWO TUBAS


From Erie Philharmonic Principal Tuba Ken Heinlein


Hello everyone! It’s my great privilege to contribute to the Erie Philharmonic blog writing a quick post about Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, which is featured on our upcoming Symphonic Series concert on March 9th and 10th!

Symphonie Fantastique is novel for many reasons; it’s composition marked a complete departure from anything that had come before, and “turned up” the ideals of the Romantic revolution in music . The program behind the symphony is absolutely bonkers, and I’ll leave it to all of you to read your program booklets to find out all of the juiciest details – there are a few.

What I wanted to write about was more about Berlioz as he promoted performances of this, his first symphony. Unlike with modern orchestras, where pieces are published and then purchased by any number of groups, Berlioz himself kept the piece with him and traveled around to rehearse and perform with the orchestra (in whatever form it existed) in each town he traveled to. As such, he carried multiple orchestrations of the same piece in order to accommodate the instruments and players that were and were not present in each different town as he traveled. The version of Symphonie Fantastique that survives today is some amalgamation of these different versions.

In one of these arrangements, Berlioz called for two ophicleides. An ophicleide is an instrument made out of metal, like a modern brass instrument; it also has a mouthpiece that you buzz into. Rather than valves, however, it had keys, and it was wrapped something like a bassoon. It was part of a family of instruments known as keyed bugles. Today, these instruments are no longer played outside of historical performance groups.

Soon after Berlioz wrote this piece, the valve was patented in Vienna (by Wieprecht in 1835, actually) and modern brass instruments began to take shape. One of these brand new, modern instruments was the tuba, which is still the most modern instrument in the orchestra.

So why this whole story? Because Berlioz himself, when he first heard the tuba, said that all of his ophicleide parts should be played on tuba going forward. Even if that (possibly apocryphal) story isn’t true, tubas were already starting to phase out and replace the ophicleide anyway (we still play all of the ophicleide parts in Mendelssohn, for example, to this very day). Why is this important? Because the surviving score for Symphonie Fantastique includes parts for two ophicleides: one in C, and one in Bb, so that each might compensate for the tuning deficiencies of the other. The result of all of this?

There are two tuba parts in Symphonie Fantastique. TWO. TUBAS. (click video to see both instruments in action!)

Young tuba players like myself often grow up playing in bands, and we get used to playing in an entire section of tubas. When we move to orchestras, however, we sit principal and solo – there is just very little need for more than one tuba, and many pieces have no tuba parts at all. Every so often, however, a piece like this comes along, and I have the great honor of asking another tuba player to come join me on stage.

Along this week with me is Dr. Chris Blaha, my good friend and the Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of Akron. It’s amazing to get to play on stage with him, and you’re all in for a treat.

A LOUD treat. Berlioz is scary. Symphonie Fantastique is doubly scary. And Dr. Blaha and I together on stage is downright terrifying. TWO TUBAS.

This is going to be great.

I can’t wait to see you there.




Ken Heinlein
Principal Tuba, Erie Philharmonic


See it live!

March 9 · Warner Theatre · 8pm


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Unbridled Passion

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Unbridled Passion

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From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Berlioz’s music has always held a particular fascination for me, none more so than the music that makes up his Symphonie fantastique.  At only 26 years old, Berlioz was already a supreme master of the orchestra.  On the surface, the sheer variety of colors he draws from the instruments is a wonder. Each solo wind and brass instrument is valued for its potential to stand out as much as it is a color to be mixed with others.  The luxurious treatment of the strings in moment of bliss is just as remarkable as the jarring, stabbing motives that convulse in the throws of an opium-induced nightmare.

But as I dig deeper into this wondrous symphony in preparation for our performances, one of the elements of Berlioz’s genius that strikes me most is the capacity for this music to stretch and pull – to tug on each specific moment in service to Berlioz’s wild flights of imagination.  To illustrate this whimsy, Berlioz had to develop a sensibility in his music that is truly capable of turning on each phrase.  The music surges, heaves, sighs, trembles, stabs, shakes, twirls, and crawls. In some instances, these disparate moments follow each other so suddenly and with such shocking intensity, that it is a wonder how this symphony’s first audiences were even able to stand up after the final diabolical dance! 

Today, with jump-cut edits and shaky, real-time camerawork with uncomfortably close angles and juxtapositions, we are somehow used to dramatic flow presented without carefully-manipulated transitions.  Before Berlioz, composers certainly were capable of introducing elements of shock, moments of unbridled passion, and thundering special effects.  But as music is an art form that must unfold in time, real or imagined, establishing a norm from which a shocking moment can emerge was critical to the element of surprise.  Somehow, Berlioz is able to represent the breathlessness and heightened awareness of a dream state, incorporating this unpredictable pacing into the very fabric of how the music flows.  Racing ahead, pulling back, twirling in one place, jumping into the abyss is all brilliantly incorporated into Berlioz’s language, so much so that it seems jarring when we hear eight measures of a consistent pulse! 

I encourage you at some points during our performance to close your eyes and let the sweep of the music work its special effect on you.  You will most certainly expect some anchors to satisfy a desire for pulse predictability and rhythmic stability.   Berlioz was savvy enough to provide those moments.  But I think you just might be excited to hear how brilliantly he creates a disturbance in the flow of musical time.  His artful management of the pacing in this symphony is, for me, one of the most crucial aspects to creating a sonic world just enchanting enough to desire and just horrific enough to revile…

   

Musically yours,

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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Symphonie Fantastique Program Notes

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Symphonie Fantastique Program Notes


Written by Ken Meltzer


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Javelin (1994)

Michael Torke was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on September 22, 1961. 

The first performance of Javelin took place at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 8, 1994.  Yoel Levi conducted the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. 

Approximate performance time is nine minutes.

American composer Michael Torke’s brief and exhilarating orchestral work, Javelin, was commissioned by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.  The commission was a dual celebration of the Atlanta Symphony’s 50th anniversary, and the upcoming 1996 Olympic Games.

The composer provided the following commentary on Javelin:

I had three goals for this Atlanta Symphony’s anniversary piece: I wanted to use the orchestra as a virtuosic instrument, I wanted to use triads (three-note tonal chords), and I wanted the music to be thematic. I knew I would welcome swifter changes of mood than what is found in my earlier music.  What came out (somewhat unexpectedly) was a sense of valor among short flashes and sweeps that reminded me of something in flight: a light spear thrown, perhaps, but not in the sense of a weapon, more in the spirit of a competition.  When the word javelin suddenly suggested itself, I couldn’t help but recall the 1970s model of sports car my Dad owned, identified by that name, but I concluded, why not?  Even that association isn't so far off from the general feeling of the piece.  Its fast tempo calls for 591 measures to evoke the generally uplifting, sometimes courageous, yet playful spirit.

—Michael Torke


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Violin Concerto No. 1 (1917)

Sergei Prokofiev was born in Sontsovka, Russia, on April 23, 1891, and died in Moscow, Russia, on March 5, 1953. 

The first performance of the Violin Concerto No. 1 took place at the Opéra in Paris, France, on October 18, 1923.  Marcel Darrieux was the soloist, with Serge Koussevitsky conducting. 

Approximate performance time is twenty-two minutes.

Prokofiev composed his First Violin Concerto in 1917, while Russia was in the grips of the Revolution.  In 1918, Prokofiev left his native land for the United States.  He later relocated to Paris, where on October 18, 1923, the First Violin Concerto premiered as part of the Concerts Koussevitsky.  Serge Koussevitsky led the performance, with his concertmaster, Marcel Darrieux, appearing as violin soloist. 

The Concerto is in three movements.  The first (Andantino) opens with divided violas offering a quiet tremolo figure.  This serves as the accompaniment for the soloist’s introduction of the lovely principal theme, which the composer directs be played sognando (in a “dream-like” fashion).  A vibrant episode leads to the soloist’s presentation of the more angular second theme.  The second-movement Scherzo (Vivacissimo) is based upon a scurrying theme, first stated by the soloist after a brief introduction by the flute, harp, and strings.  The theme alternates with contrasting episodes.  The final movement (Moderato) opens with a repeated staccato “tick-tock” rhythm in the clarinet and strings that serves as the basis for a series of varied episodes by the soloist.  The hushed final section (Più tranquillo) offers ethereal trills by the soloist and a pianissimo resolution.


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Tzigane (1924)

Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra (1924)

Maurice Ravel was born in Ciboure, Basses-Pyrénées, France, on March 7, 1875 and died in Paris, France, on December 28,  1937. 

The first performance of Tzigane took place in London, England, on April 26, 1924, with Jelly d’Arányi as violin soloist. 

Approximate performance time is ten minutes.

Maurice Ravel wrote his showpiece, Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra, for the Hungarian-born violinist Jelly d’Arányi (1895-1966).  The grandniece of the legendary Austro-Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim, d’Arányi was a famous virtuoso in her own right who inspired works by such composers as Béla Bartók and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Ravel completed Tzigane only two days before the work’s premiere.  Despite the almost impossibly brief preparation time for a work violinist Hélène Jourdan-Morhange called “that violinists’ minefield,” d’Arányi gave the first performance in London as scheduled, on April 26, 1924.

Ravel created three versions of Tzigane.  Each features a solo violin, accompanied by (1) piano, (2) luthéal, a keyboard attachment that makes the piano sound like a cimbalom, or (3) orchestra (performed at this concert).

Tzigane is a single-movement work in two principal sections.  The first (Lento, quasi cadenza) is an extended, slow-tempo violin solo.  A mysterious passage for the soloist, harp, cymbals, and muted horns and strings, leads to the second principal section (Moderato), and the soloist’s introduction of a plaintive, dance-like melody.   The spirit of the dance continues throughout the remainder of the work, as Tzigane rushes headlong to its breathless conclusion.


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Symphonie Fantastique, Opus 14 (1830)

Hector Berlioz was born in La Côte-Saint-André, Isère, France, on December 11, 1803, and died in Paris, France, on March 8, 1869. 

The first performance of the Symphonie fantastique took place at the Paris Conservatoire on December 5, 1830, with François-Antoine Habeneck conducting the Orchestra of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. 

Approximate performance time is forty-nine minutes.

Hector Berlioz composed his pathbreaking Fantastic Symphony while in the grips of an unrequited love for the beautiful Irish actress, Harriet Smithson (the two finally wed in 1833).  The premiere of the Symphonie Fantastique took place at the Paris Conservatory on December 5, 1830, with François-Antoine Habeneck conducting the Orchestra of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire.

The drama, innovation, and sheer audacity of the young composer’s vision stunned the audience.  Composed just three years after Beethoven’s death, the Symphonie Fantastique suggested entirely new paths for aspiring composers.  The work’s five (rather than the traditional four) movements are unified by a central and repeated motif, known as the idée fixe.  Whereas symphonies of the 18th and early 19th centuries are, in the main, abstract works, the Symphonie Fantastique attempts to relate a specific (and patently autobiographical) tale.  Berlioz portrays that tale on a canvas that radiates the most daring and brilliant orchestral colors.  To this day, the Fantastic Symphony remains one of the most compelling works in the orchestral repertoire.

Berlioz, a gifted and prolific writer, provided the following program notes for his Symphonie Fantastique.

A young musician of morbidly sensitive temperament and lively imagination poisons himself with opium in an attack of lovesick despair.  The dose of the narcotic, too weak to kill him, plunges him into a deep slumber accompanied by the strangest visions, during which his feelings, his emotions, his memories are transformed in his sick mind into musical images.  The Beloved herself becomes for him a melody, a cyclical theme (idée fixe) that he encounters and hears everywhere.

(Annotator’s note: The idée fixe is introduced approximately five minutes into the opening movement by the flute and first violins.)

I. Reveries, Passions (Largo; Allegro agitato e appassionato assai)—At first he recalls that sickness of the soul, those intimations of passion, the apparently groundless depression and intoxication he experienced before he met the woman he adores; then the volcanic love that she inspired in him, his delirious anguish, his furious jealousy, his return to tenderness, his religious consolation.

II. A Ball (Valse. Allegro non troppo)—He meets his beloved again in the midst of the tumult of a glittering fête.

III. Scene in the Country (Adagio)—On a summer evening in the country, he hears two shepherds piping back and forth a ranz des vaches (the traditional melody of Swiss shepherds for summoning their flocks); this pastoral duet, the peaceful landscape, the rustling of the trees gently rocked by the wind, some prospects of hope he recently found—all combine to soothe his heart with unusual tranquility and brighten his thoughts.  But she reappears, he feels his heart tighten, he is smitten with sad foreboding: what if she were to prove false?…One of the shepherds resumes his simple tune; the other no longer responds.  The sun sets…distant roll of thunder…solitude…silence.

IV. March to the Execution (Allegretto non troppo)—He dreams he has murdered his Beloved, that he has been condemned to death and is being led to the scaffold.  The procession advances to the sound of a march that is now somber and agitated, now brilliant and solemn, in which the muffled sound of heavy steps is suddenly juxtaposed with the noisiest clamor.  At the end, the idée fixe returns for a moment like a final thought of love, suddenly interrupted by the death blow.

V. Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath (Larghetto; Allegro)—He imagines himself at a Witches’ Sabbath, among a hideous throng of ghouls, sorcerers and monsters of every kind, assembled for his funeral.  Ominous sounds, groans, bursts of laughter, distant cries that other cries seem to answer.  The Beloved’s melody reappears, but it has lost its noble and timid character; it has become a vulgar dance tune, unworthy, trite and grotesque: there she is, coming to join the Sabbath…A roar of joy greets her arrival…She takes part in the infernal orgy…The funeral knell, a burlesque parody of the Dies irae…the witches’ round…the dance and the Dies irae are heard together.


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Live from Studio Q - Yulianna Avdeeva

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Live from Studio Q - Yulianna Avdeeva

World-renowned pianist Yulianna Avdeeva wowed our studio and listening audiences with a program of music featuring works from Bach, Tchaikovsky and Chopin.

Join Yulianna as she performs Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with the Erie Philharmonic on Saturday, January 26 at 8pm!



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Copland's Great American Symphony

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Copland's Great American Symphony

Composer and conductor Aaron Copland

Composer and conductor Aaron Copland


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Happy New Year!  I feel as if it has been such a long time since we have been together at the Warner Theatre, and I have been itching to get back into the hall.  The music on this program contains collaborations with familiar friends (Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine) and new ones (Copland’s Third Symphony.) 

John Adams is a composer I have always admired, from when I first discovered his opera Nixon in China, choruses from the opera The Death of Klinghoffer, and his searing symphony Harmonielehre.  Adams’ voice is distinct, powerful, and always impressive.  Whether thumping at one hundred twenty beats per minute in an infectious, repetitive rhythmic motive or gently gliding with a ghostly choir of strings in his touching The Wound Dresser, Adams’ music is genuine and marked by the technique of a master craftsman.  I admire how he writes his music nearly as much as I admire the content.  His output, in my opinion, is deeply satisfying, and he is just as adept at musical giddiness (Lollapalooza) as he is in exploring the depths of dreams and the human psyche (Harmonielehre).  I’ve chosen a brief but technically-demanding curtain raiser in Short Ride in a Fast Machine to begin our concert.  It is a nice way to enjoy the brash and unrelenting side of Adams’ musical personality, and the thrilling rush of sonic energy that projects into the hall flies about as fast as the musicians can produce the sound!

Yulianna Avdeeva

Yulianna Avdeeva

As far as pianist Yulianna Avdeeva is concerned, she’s a familiar friend with whom I have yet to have the pleasure of collaborating; we have tried for several years now to make sure that the stars aligned in a way we could introduce her to Erie.  She is a terrific talent with a specific and impressive command at the piano keyboard.  Her insight into the music is sharp, and she plays with an unwavering spirit of confidence and power.  I cannot wait to hear her play the Beethoven.

Aaron Copland is a composer that I have unfortunately kept at arms-length for far too long.  My introduction to his music, as perhaps with many of my generation, was unfortunately through the ‘back door.’  I ‘knew’ his music through commercials and movies that usurped his style and gestures in a way that made it seem banal and hackneyed (remember ‘Eat More Beef’ or virtually any film that featured vistas of the Old West?)  The problem for me was that the music sounded one-dimensional and lacked significant contrast, both musically an emotionally.  I mistakenly believed that some of Copland’s music was a manufacture designed to tug at a particular chord within the fabric of every American’s soul. It was music to back up images of the Lincoln Memorial or Jefferson Monument – not music to transport you to another world. 

Boy was I wrong!  The music of the Third Symphony is monumental, sprawling, and epic.  But it is also searching, anguishing, questioning, brash, confident, consoling, and written with a beautiful sense of proportion and inevitability.  In short, it’s music by a master composer in full control of the technical and emotional aspects of his music. Much of the same elements that I admire in Shostakovich and Mahler’s large symphonies are in full display here with Copland. Whether he was attempting to write the ‘Great American Symphony’ seems to be a mere footnote in face of a work that is so beautifully complete in transmitting emotional depth, spiritual awareness, and craft.  Copland’s influence on American music was indeed mighty, and it’s easy to hear why in this amazing work which I am very excited to conduct with the Erie Philharmonic.     

So glad to have you back at the Warner!  We’ll see each other very soon.

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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Happy Holidays from the Maestro

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Happy Holidays from the Maestro

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From Music Director Daniel Meyer


I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all a most wonderful holiday.  We have had such a successful 18-19 concert season so far, with so many memorable moments that I find it hard to single out just a few.   I won’t soon forget the 1812 Overture we performed with indoor (!) fireworks, our own Principal Clarinet Ami Vardi playing an amazing Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Marc Andre Hamelin bringing his unique take on Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, Byron Stripling’s fearless jazz trumpet playing, and our own Erie Philharmonic’s sumptuous and virtuosic reading of Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Waltzes.  I also won’t easily forget how wonderful the voices of our Erie Philharmonic Chorus sounded at the Holiday Pops and how much I look forward to getting back on the stage with this ensemble.  I also fondly remember the children I met at the St. Benedict Center and how delighted they were to learn from bassoonist Sarah Lee and teacher Melany Myers.  The work we are doing in the community to promote learning and the love of music gives me great hope for the future. 

I am so grateful for your enthusiasm, passion, and support.  Every time we take the stage, we consider it a privilege to perform for you, and we know that we couldn’t do it without you.  Through your support and attendance of the many activities and concerts we mount throughout the year, you are a member of the Erie Philharmonic family.  As such, may I wish you and yours a most wonderful holiday as we look forward to seeing you again very soon.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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Copland's Third Program Notes

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Copland's Third Program Notes


Written by Ken Meltzer


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Short Ride in a Fast Machine (1986)

John Adams was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on February 15, 1947. 

The first performance of Short Ride in a Fast Machine took place in Mansfield, Massachusetts, June 13, 1986, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. 

Approximate performance time is four minutes.

The Great Woods Festival commissioned American composer John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, in celebration of the inaugural concert at Great Woods, Mansfield, Massachusetts.  The premiere took place on June 13, 1986, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Short Ride in a Fast Machine is precisely what its name suggests—a fleeting, hectic, and breathless journey that keeps its passengers on the edges of their seats from start to finish.  Since its premiere, Short Ride in a Fast Machine has proven to be immensely popular, and remains one of the most performed of all contemporary orchestral works.


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Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Opus 37 (1803)

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 Piano Concerto No. 3 took place at the Theater-an-der-Wien in Vienna on April 5, 1803, with the composer as soloist. 

It was as a pianist that the young Ludwig van Beethoven first ascended to prominence in Viennese musical circles.  Audiences accustomed to the elegant and refined approach of such virtuosos as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Muzio Clementi were stunned by the elemental force of Beethoven’s violent attacks upon the delicate fortepianos of the day.  But pianist and composer Carl Czerny also noted that audiences were moved to tears by Beethoven’s keyboard performances, “for apart from the beauty and originality of his ideas, and his ingenious manner of expressing them, there was something magical about his playing.”

Beethoven was the soloist in the world premiere of his Third Piano Concerto.  The concert, which took place at the Vienna Theater-an-der-Wien on April 5, 1803, also included a performance of Beethoven’s First Symphony, as well as the first performances of his Second Symphony and the oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives.  The concert was far from a total success, the product of limited rehearsal time, especially for a program featuring such a generous amount of new material.

Beethoven’s pupil Ignaz von Seyfried offered this eyewitness account of the Concerto’s premiere:

In the playing of the concerto movements he asked me to turn the pages for him; but—heaven help me!—that was easier said than done.  I saw almost nothing but empty leaves; at the most on one page or the other a few Egyptian hieroglyphs wholly unintelligible to me scribbled down to serve as clues for him; for he played nearly all the solo part from memory, since, as was so often the case, he had not had time to put it all down on paper.  He gave me a secret glance whenever he was at the end of one of the invisible pages and my scarcely concealable anxiety not to miss the decisive moment amused him greatly and he laughed heartily at the jovial supper that we ate afterwards.

Over time of course, the Third Concerto has become one of the mainstays of the repertoire for solo piano and orchestra.

There is no question that Beethoven intended the Third Piano Concerto to display his unique talents as a concert pianist.  The stormy opening movement (Allegro con brio) looks forward to another work in the key of C minor, the immortal Fifth Symphony, Opus 67 (1808).  The second movement (Largo) evokes first-hand accounts describing Beethoven’s ability to move audiences to tears through the sheer beauty of his playing.  The finale (Rondo. Allegro), on the other hand, reveals a lighter, even more humorous side of Beethoven that is too often overlooked.


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Symphony No. 3 (1946)

Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 14, 1900, and died in North Tarrytown, New York, on December 2, 1990. 

The first performance of the Symphony No. 3 took place in Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 18, 1946, with Serge Koussevitsky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. 

Approximate performance time is forty-three minutes.

Aaron Copland remains America’s foremost composer of concert music.  Copland’s masterful and heartfelt incorporation of American folklore and melodies into such works as the ballets Billy the Kid (1940), Rodeo (1942), and Appalachian Spring (1944), the Lincoln Portrait (1942) for speaker and orchestra, and his arrangements of Old American Songs (1950 and 1952), have long inspired the affection and admiration of performers and concert audiences.

Despite the immense popularity of such works (or perhaps, because of it), Aaron Copland also sought to compose pieces that built upon the traditions of European concert music.  The Clarinet Concerto (1948), written for Benny Goodman, represents one such venture, although the stylistic influence of American jazz is also quite prominent.  Copland’s Third Symphony, commissioned by the Koussevitsky Foundation, represents perhaps the composer's most ambitious work in this traditional vein.  Copland’s Third followed two relatively brief Symphonies, completed in 1925 and 1933.

The composition of the Third Symphony took place between 1944 and 1946.  Copland finished the orchestration of the final movement on September 29, 1946, just a few weeks before the Symphony’s premiere on October 18, with Serge Koussevitsky conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  The New York Music Critics Circle selected Aaron Copland’s Third Symphony as the best work by an American composer played during the 1946-7 season.

Aaron Copland Discusses his Third Symphony

In Copland’s program notes for the premiere of his Third Symphony, he cautioned:

One aspect of the symphony ought to be pointed out: it contains no folk or popular material.  During the late twenties it was customary to pigeonhole me as a composer of symphonic jazz, with emphasis on the jazz.  More recently I have been catalogued as a purveyor of Americana.  Any reference to jazz or folk-material in this work was purely unconscious.

While it is true that all of the melodies are Copland’s own, the spirit of such works as Appalachian Spring and Lincoln Portrait may be found in the Symphony’s transparent orchestration and beautiful, arching themes.

In addition, Copland acknowledged the presence in the Third Symphony of one of the most familiar and beloved American concert works:

I do borrow from myself by using Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) in an extended and reshaped form in the final movement.  I used this opportunity to carry my Fanfare material further and to satisfy my desire to give the Third Symphony an affirmative tone.  After all, it was a wartime piece—or more accurately, an end-of-war piece—intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time.

The Third Symphony is in four movements.  Copland describes the first (Molto moderato) as “broad and expansive in character”.  The second movement (Allegro molto) serves the function of the Symphony’s lively scherzo.  Copland describes the slow-tempo third movement (Andantino quasi allegretto) as “the freest of all in formal structure.  Although it is built up sectionally, the various sections are intended to emerge one from another in continuous flow, somewhat in the manner of a closely knit series of variations.”  Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (Molto deliberato) serves as the introduction to the main portion of the Symphony’s finale (Allegro risoluto) that propels to a majestic close.

 



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Home for the Holidays

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Home for the Holidays

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From Music Director Daniel Meyer


I love that we call our annual Holiday Pops concert ‘Come Home for the Holidays.’  I suppose I am always looking for ways to recreate the magical feeling I remember from my childhood Christmases, and to ‘Come Home for the Holidays’ means exploring the looks, smells, and most importantly sounds of Christmas that I cherish so dearly.  One of the best ways to create a musical menu for the holidays is to remember the treasure trove of music we want to hear each and every Christmas.  There will always be clever and interesting arrangements of those classics to try anew, but at the heart of my programming is an homage to the composers and arrangers who make this music come alive on the big stage. I love the colorful, sprawling arrangements that make use of as many of the musicians of the Erie Philharmonic as possible, as much as a I love a soft, glowing, intimate arrangement that reminds you of a single candle in the window.

I try to make sure that the classics form the staple of any holiday concert we play for you at the Warner. I also want to celebrate with our own musical family, and that’s why the Erie Philharmonic Chorus under Tom Brooks will always be there to help us usher in the season.  It will also be a treat for us to collaborate with the Collegiate Academy Vocal Jazz ensemble – Susan Huster and her young musicians are thrilled to perform for you, and it’s a particular point of pride that we have so much local talent to feature on this concert. 

Our guest soloist, soprano Joan Ellison, whom you may remember from her appearances several years ago, has spent so much of her career tracking down those classic arrangements of hits you likely remember from your favorite holiday album, movie, or television show.  

I remember voraciously sifting through my parents’ holiday album collection and spinning as many Christmas hits as I could get my hands on.  Joan has done the very same herself for our benefit, with an emphasis of course on the great American female singers from the twentieth century whose voices and stylings are synonymous with Christmas.  

I am expecting her return to be one filled with the joy of making music with these memorable and artful arrangements.

I really hope that you enjoy this musical moment to get into the spirit of the season, and I wish you and your family a most wonderful season as you prepare for the holidays.  See you at the Warner!

Musically Yours,

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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A Brief Intermission

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A Brief Intermission


From Concertmaster, Ken Johnston


Ken Johnston, Erie Philharmonic Concertmaster

Ken Johnston, Erie Philharmonic Concertmaster

Dear friends,

I have been honored by an invitation to play with the Pittsburgh Symphony on a full time basis for this year’s orchestral season. As it goes with many such opportunities in life, good news is often accompanied by a disappointment; in this case, I will have to say goodbye, temporarily, to you and my many friends in the Erie Philharmonic.

For each of us, there are times when it’s healthy to leave home now and again, and this is one of those times for me. When I return next year however, I will bring with me a few more honed skills...and many stories!

Underneath the surface of an orchestra are a great many moving parts. Just as in the gliding swan analogy, wherein the swan appears to move effortlessly because you don’t see the churning legs under the water, good ensemble playing requires lots of connections to happen across the stage between various players, and the concertmaster chair is an important “hub” for these connections to take place. The concertmasters I’ve admired seem rarely to look at their own parts; their eyes and ears are at all times elsewhere. They must interpret what a conductor wants, and with their playing and demeanor, somehow feed this into the mix of what’s happening around the stage. The violinists who sit in that chair must bring with them much more than just good playing. They bring a sense of situational awareness, knowledge of repertoire far beyond simply the violin parts, and a deft touch in the many musical interactions that take place onstage. In my place this year will be some very strong guest concertmasters! Their contributions will become part of the story of the Erie Philharmonic as it grows and evolves.

I will miss the many familiar faces I see from onstage! Stay well, continue to enjoy what has truly become a world class orchestra, and I will look forward to seeing you next year.

-Ken Johnston


Ken Johnston will appear as part of the Bruce Morton Wright Chamber Series on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 7:30pm. The concert will feature 6 principal players from the Erie Philharmonic at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul.

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Vienna, the City of Music

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Vienna, the City of Music

Statue of Mozart, Vienna, Austria

Statue of Mozart, Vienna, Austria


From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Amitai Vardi,  Erie Philharmonic Principal Clarinet

Amitai Vardi,
Erie Philharmonic Principal Clarinet

Our second symphonic concert this season centers around one single city – Vienna.  It’s an inescapable destination for any European tourist even remotely interested in classical music.  At one point in their lives, Vienna served as the home base for the likes of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Strauss (Richard, Johann and dynasty!)  An incredible music-making culture from the Hapsburg Dynasty through the Classical and Romantic periods, Twentieth Century and beyond, Vienna was a locus for the creation and performance of new works.  Whether writing music for church, the salon, the café, the ballroom, or any of the gleaming, gold-gilt concert halls that make Vienna so attractive, composers also had a wealth of musical talent at their disposal.  The finest musicians in Europe made their home in Vienna because, well, there was enough of an appetite for music in the city to keep them active.  And to say nothing of the many visiting artists from across the continent who continue to this day to make a stop in Vienna.  Vienna is still a locus for art and music fascinated by its own past, it’s vibrant present, and an assured future of musical exploration.

I had the great fortune as a student to make Vienna my home twice.  My first residency was as an exchange student through DePauw University.  DePauw at the time was in a consortium with my own undergraduate school, Denison University, and it sponsored a junior year semester abroad in Vienna with other music students interested in soaking up this incredible culture.  During the day we took courses taught by professors at the Academy of Music, and by night we stood in line together to buy standing room tickets to one of the many amazing performances at the Musikverein, Konzerthaus, or even more frequently, at the State Opera.  We spent many evenings coaching each other on the finer points of plot and characters in a Mozart or Strauss opera while also engaging in conversation with dozens of other like-minded travelers and students who were also willing to stand or sit in line for up to two hours before a production.  After that long wait, we cued up to buy a very affordable ticket which secured a spot, standing, along a railing throughout an entire performance!  I had my first opportunity to see the major operas of Mozart, Strauss, Puccini, Rossini, and even stood through and entire Ring Cycle of Wagner.  It was a glorious semester that included excursions to Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia.  I made friends and had experiences that set me on my life’s path in music, and I continue to draw on those experiences in my work today.

My second residency was as a Rotary Scholar, when I studied for an entire academic year at the Vienna Academy of Music, and had many of the same experiences attending concerts and operas, but with the rigors of being a full-time student in the conducting class of Uros Lajovic.  It was another glorious year filled with indelible memories, and in this year I really felt deeply integrated into the culture of this grand and historic city.    

While it is impossible to encapsulate this entire city in one concert, I thought it might be interesting to center an entire concert’s offerings around Vienna.  There is such an enormous breadth and diversity of musical thought that has emerged over Vienna’s past, so our concert might be considered a collage of sorts.  I’ve chosen to start with one of the most bold and dramatic utterances of Beethoven in his Overture to Coriolan.  The music, to my mind, perfectly encapsulates what makes Beethoven’s music so fascinating.  The juxtaposition of bold, revolutionary spirit against beautiful, singing melodic lines is nowhere more stark than in this densely-packed overture.   It is perfectly balanced in proportion yet so tense and terse in its ability to pack musical discourse into a short time span. 

We will then traverse back in time to Mozart, who near the end of his life was honoring one of his many musical friendships with an entire concerto written for the clarinet.  At the time, the clarinet was a new instrument that had already found an exponent in celebrated virtuoso in Anton Stadler.  Mozart wanted to honor his friendship with Stadler and spared no creativity or depth of human feeling in this composition.  The music is the height of classical balance and expression, with a gorgeous second movement that affirm for me what makes Mozart a most humane and loving composer (even as he stands so far above all others in his own Pantheon of creative genius!)  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to shine the spotlight on one of our own musical friends in Amitai Vardi.  A superb musician who happens to play the clarinet, we can count ourselves lucky to have an artist of Ami’s virtuosity and musicality within the ranks of the Philharmonic, and I wanted to showcase his musicianship downstage by offering him an opportunity to solo with us on this special concerto.

The second half of our concert is designed to show that there was a time in Vienna’s cultural history when artists stared the anxiety of pre-World War Europe in the face and felt compelled to highlight those fears in their art.  Arnold Schoenberg was one such artist.  Undisputed in his expertise with the orchestra, Schoenberg boldly came to grips with his own fears and uncertainties about the world around him by embedding those emotional states nakedly into his music.  A rather innocuous title, Five Pieces for Orchestra is really a living, breathing, shuddering utterance of what it must have felt to watch a decadent culture fade before your very eyes.  I am personally excited to hear our orchestra take to take on this very challenging piece, but I am even more interested in your reaction to it.  This is not your typical piece of music.  It is uncompromising in its belief that music should express, even when the expression in some cases is not pretty or downright frightening.

Richard Strauss stared the same Vienna down in his expressionist operas Salome and Elektra.  The music could be harsh and uncompromising in its dissonance.  The stories were so shockingly portrayed that the censors battled to suppress performances.  Commentators later wrote about Strauss taking his music to the very edge of listenability, comprehension, and social acceptability.  This was deeply controversial music and musical drama, and Strauss was unflinching in choosing plots that revealed the more ugly aspects of human nature and heightening them to a degree that could make you shiver. 

And then he decided to turn back.  I can think of no more poignant turning back than in the music to Der Rosenkavalier.   Strauss himself admitted that he was taking a big u-turn in musical styling by writing his own ‘Mozart opera.’  The music, while certainly not ersatz-Mozart, does indeed revel in the opulence of Romantic harmony and long, soaring melodic lines.  It is as glittering as it is sumptuous.  In this orchestral suite from the opera, we can hear some of the most glorious musical moments from the over three-hour opera in condensed form, minus that singers.  But in this case, the singers are replaced by the instruments in the orchestral that can beautifully sing, including violins, oboes, trumpets, clarinets and cellos. 

I hope that in this juxtaposition of Schoenberg and Strauss, you might think about what music is capable of expressing.  How can music transport us emotionally?  How is it that composers writing in the beginning of the twentieth century in Vienna were as capable of creating the most escapist, luscious, fantastical music while also trying to come to grips with their own anxieties and fears for the future in outbursts of highly concentrated expressionist music?  I find it fascinating to think about, and I hope you will, too.    

Daniel Meyer



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Steeped in Jazz

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Steeped in Jazz

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From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Byron Stripling

Byron Stripling

I’ve never been to New Orleans.  There, I said it.  I have to admit that it is a gaping hole in my personal travelogue.  A city with its own swagger, sultriness, and astonishingly deep musical heritage steeped in jazz, I just haven’t managed to make it there just yet.  But the great thing about music is that the very soul of a city can travel through its music.  The musicians, the Dixieland style, the foot stomping and the piano comping can conspire to transport us all to another time and place. 

 That’s precisely what we plan to do with the great trumpeter Byron Stripling when he comes to perform with the Erie Philharmonic.  A virtuoso of many talents, the one for which Byron is most well-known is through his ability to play the trumpet like a king.  Byron has crafted a program for us that will transport us to the golden age of New Orleans jazz, most notably the stylings and musical genius of the legendary Louis Armstrong.

 I personally look forward to this Pops concert in particular because at the end of the day, even without additional bells or whistles, it’s the music that will carry the day.  The textures, the melodies, and the rhythms of New Orleans style jazz are instantly recognizable.  When you hear that combination of piano, drums, and brass, you just know that you are going to have a good time and that your toes are going to be a-tappin’.   Jazz artists like Byron continue to perform this music because it is so essential in connecting to our musical heritage as Americans.  And we can take that trip down to the Mississippi Delta together without ever stepping onto a riverboat (though that might be a lot of fun!)

Don’t miss this wonderful music and this very American musical heritage as we welcome Byron Stripling to the Warner Theatre stage.  We plan to have a very good time together, and I am anxious to hear Byron take on a legend while he leads us though this wonderful period in jazz. 

See you at the Pops!

Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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Marc-André Hamelin Program Notes

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Marc-André Hamelin Program Notes


Written by Ken Meltzer


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Capriccio espagnol, Opus 34 (1887)

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin, Russia, on March 18, 1844, and died in Lyubensk, Russia, on June 21, 1908. 

The first performance of the Capriccio espagnol took place at the Small Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, on October 31, 1887, with the composer conducting the Orchestra of the Imperial Russian Opera House.

Approximate performance time is fifteen minutes.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composed his brilliant Capriccio espagnol in the summer of 1887.  For some time, the Russian composer had been occupied with the orchestration of his opera, Prince Igor.  However, according to Rimsky-Korsakov: “In the middle of the summer this work was interrupted: I composed the Spanish Capriccio from the sketches of my projected virtuoso violin fantasy on Spanish themes.  According to my plans the Capriccio was to glitter with dazzling color, and manifestly, I had not been wrong.”

It was Rimsky-Korsakov who led the October 31, 1887 premiere of his Capriccio espagnol.  The concert took place at the Small Theater in St. Petersburg, as part of the Russian Musical Society’s concert series.  Rimsky-Korsakov conducted the Orchestra of the Imperial Russian Opera House.  The concert, according to Rimsky-Korsakov, “was played with a perfection and enthusiasm the like of which it never possessed subsequently...Despite its length, the composition called forth an insistent encore.”

Rimsky-Korsakov has long been hailed as one of the masters of orchestration.  The composer himself acknowledged that the Capriccio espagnol, along with Scheherazade (1888) and the Russian Easter Overture (1888), marked the culmination of a period in “which my orchestration had reached a considerable degree of virtuosity and bright sonority…”

The five movements are played without pause.


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Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Opus 18 (1901)

Sergei Rachmaninoff was born in Semyonovo, Russia, on April 1, 1873, and died in Beverly Hills, California, on March 28, 1943. 

The first performance of the Second Piano Concerto took place in Moscow, Russia, on November 9, 1901, with the composer as soloist, and Alexander Siloti conducting the Moscow Philharmonic. Society.

Approximate performance time is thirty-three minutes.

When Sergei Rachmaninoff completed his First Symphony in August of 1895, he was 22, and brimming with all the confidence of youth.  “I imagined that there was nothing I could not do and had great hopes for the future,” he later recalled.  Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony received its premiere in St. Petersburg on March 15, 1897, with composer Alexander Glazunov conducting.  The performance was a disaster, and immediately after the final notes sounded, Rachmaninoff “fled, horrified, into the street.”

While Rachmaninoff was able to escape the confines of the theater, he still had to face the wrath of the critics.  Russian composer César Cui wrote in the St. Petersburg News:

If there were a conservatory in Hell, if one of its many talented students were instructed to write a programme symphony on the “Seven Plagues of Egypt,” and if he were to compose a symphony like Mr. Rachmaninoff’s, then he would have fulfilled his task brilliantly and would delight the inhabitants of Hell.

Rachmaninoff, devastated by this turn of events, lapsed into a profound depression.  Rachmaninoff’s friends were alarmed by his state, and tried all forms of cures to buoy his spirits.  Finally, they convinced Rachmaninoff to consult Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a doctor who had gained some prominence for his employment of hypnosis.  Between January and April of 1900, Rachmaninoff visited Dr. Dahl on a daily basis. 

Rachmaninoff told Dahl that he had promised to compose a Piano Concerto.  Dr. Dahl set about treating his patient:

I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day while I lay half asleep in the armchair in Dr. Dahl’s study.  “You will begin to write your Concerto...You will work with great facility...The Concerto will be of an excellent quality...”  It was always the same, without interruption.  Although it may sound incredible, this cure really helped me.  Already at the beginning of the summer I began again to compose.  The material grew in bulk, and new musical ideas began to stir within me—far more than I needed for my Concerto.

Rachmaninoff completed the final two movements of his Second Piano Concerto in the autumn of 1900 and performed them at a Moscow charity concert on October 14.  Rachmaninoff added the opening movement in the spring of the following year and appeared as soloist in the October 14, 1901 premiere of the entire Second Concerto.  The composer readily acknowledged Dr. Dahl’s role in the creation of one of the most popular works of the 20th century, and dedicated the Concerto to him.

The Concerto is in three movements.  The first (Moderato) opens with a series of tolling chords by the soloist, leading to the surging first principal melody, marked con passione.  The Concerto’s slow-tempo movement (Adagio sostenuto) is a fantasia on a lovely theme, related to a melody in the Concerto’s opening Moderato.  The finale (Allegro scherzando) is based upon two themes, the second, one of Rachmaninoff’s most beloved creations.  That theme makes a glorious return in the Concerto’s closing measures.


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Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two) (1928)

Dmitri Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 25, 1906, and died in Moscow, Russia, on August 9, 1975. 

The first performance of Tahiti Trot took place in Leningrad, Russia, in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Conservatory on November 25, 1928, with Nikolai Malko conducting the Soviet Philharmonic Orchestra.

Approximate performance time is four minutes.

While on a tour of the Ukraine, Shostakovich heard a recording of Vincent Youman’s song “Tea for Two” (known in Soviet Russia as Tahiti Trot), from the musical comedy No, No, Nanette.  Conductor Nikolai Malko challenged Shostakovich to orchestrate the song in the span of just one hour.  Shostakovich returned in forty-five minutes with the completed orchestration.  Later, Shostakovich included the delightful, jazzy work in his ballet, The Age of Gold (1930).


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Francesca da Rimini, Fantasy after Dante, Opus 32 (1876)

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, on May 7, 1840, and died in St. Petersburg, Russia, on November 6, 1893. 

The first performance of Francesca da Rimini took place at the Russian Musical Society in Moscow on March 9, 1877, with Nikolay Rubinstein conducting. 

Approximate performance time is twenty-two minutes.

On August 7, 1876, while on a train ride to Paris, Tchaikovsky read the fifth canto of Dante’s Inferno, and its narration of the tragic story of Francesca da Rimini.  Tchaikovsky immediately “was inflamed with a wish to write a symphonic poem on Francesca.”  On October 7 after his return to Russia, Tchaikovsky began work on Francesca da Rimini, completing the score November 17.  For inspiration, Tchaikovsky turned not only to Dante’s immortal poetry, but to Gustave Doré’s magnificent illustration portraying Francesca and her lover Paolo facing an eternal tempest.  In an October 26 letter, Tchaikovsky informed Modest:

I have written it with love and the love (the central andante cantabile non troppo) seems to have come out respectably.  As far as the whirlwinds are concerned, it would have been possible to make something corresponding more with Doré’s illustration, but it didn't come out as I wanted.  On the other hand, a reliable judgment on this piece is inconceivable while it remains unscored and unperformed.

The March 9, 1877, premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini took place under the direction of Nikolay Rubinstein at the Russian Musical Society in Moscow.  The work proved to be a great success, earning the praise of critics and fellow composers. Francesca da Rimini’s melodic inspiration, colorful orchestration, and surging passion are all characteristic of Tchaikovsky’s finest creations.

A slow-tempo introduction depicts the descent of Dante and the shade of Virgil into the second circle of  hell, described by Tchaikovsky as “filled with groans, wails, and cries of despair.”  Dante discovers the shades of Francesca and Paolo “spinning in each other’s embrace.”  Francesca narrates her tragic story.  Although Francesca loved Paolo, she was forced to marry the cruel Rimini.  Still, Francesca’s love for Paolo burned brightly.  While the two read the story of Lancelot, Paolo passionately kissed Francesca.  At that very moment, Paolo entered the room and mortally stabbed both Francesca and Paolo.  Her narration concluded, “Francesca was again borne away in the embrace of her Paolo by the furiously and wildly raging whirlwind.”



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Russian Brilliance

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Russian Brilliance

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From Music Director Daniel Meyer


Marc-André Hamelin

Marc-André Hamelin

I don’t often build an entire program around a single artist, but when that artist is the amazing pianist Marc-André Hamelin, I make an exception.  I had the great fortune of collaborating with Marc last season as he stepped-in at the last minute to replace an ailing Yefim Bronfman for our Opening Night concert with the Asheville Symphony.  He performed Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, and he played it like, well, an emperor.  With complete control and mastery of the concerto’s technical challenges, Marc was able to project a sovereign control over the piece’s many opportunities to project power, strength, and poetry. 

I knew instantly that if we had the chance to bring him back to Erie, I wanted to collaborate with him again. This time, he is bringing the music of Rachmaninoff. The Second Concerto is arguably the most-loved by audiences, and it probably has to do with the near perfect combination of lush, romantic harmonies woven into an emotional language that speaks directly to us. I am thrilled at this opportunity to collaborate with such a special artist again on such a special piece, and he certainly merits top-billing in this opening concert. Marc has also generously agreed to share his talent and passion for great music with our community in several unique ways in the week leading up to the concert.  Please join us for one of those free community events and let Marc know how happy you are to have him back in Erie with the Philharmonic.

But I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t admit how excited I am to get back to making music with my friends at the Erie Philharmonic. I am so proud of how we have grown together over the past few years and are making music in a way that shows off the virtuosity of our musicians.  This virtuosity then enables us to cut to the very core of what each composer is trying to say in his music.  I chose an all-Russian program to feature this combination of technique and emotion, and I hope you agree that this combination shows off what the Philharmonic can do in many facets. Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, Shostakovich’s Tahiti Trot, and especially Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol all delight in vivid colors and serve as perfect vehicles for our wonderful musicians of the Philharmonic. 

I look forward to seeing you on this special Opening Night with the Erie Philharmonic and Marc-André Hamelin.  Thank you for your passion for great music and great performances!

See you at the Philharmonic,

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Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic



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My Perfect Subscription

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My Perfect Subscription


From Erie Philharmonic French Horn, Emily Shelley


Ever wonder what concerts one of our musicians would pick to put in their own subscription? Check out what Emily Shelley, one of our French Horns, would pick for her very own Compose Your Own subscription!

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1812 Overture and Pops Favorites

September 22

This concert will be really fun and is bound to bring back a lot of memories from my childhood. These classic pop tunes were featured everywhere!

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Marc-André Hamelin

October 6

I can never resist the rich, lush piano music of Rachmaninoff, and I can't wait to hear Marc-André Hamlin play it (not just because he's Canadian!)

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Copland’s Third

January 26

Classic Americana concert (except for Beethoven haha)! Both the Copland (pictured) and Adams are great pieces, and if you like fast, loud music, then A Short Ride in a Fast Machine is right up your alley. More wood block, anyone?

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Wizard of Oz

February 9 & 10

Who could say no to this?

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Symphonie Fantastique

March 9

Symphonie Fantastique. Who can resist that haunting chord progression in the 5th movement? Horror movies have used this piece of music because it is so scary, I wouldn't want to miss this hair-raising moment!


There’s still time to create a Compose Your Own Subscription! Enjoy the following benefits:

  • Choose any combination of Pops Series and Symphonic Series concerts

  • Free exchanges - if you can’t attend a concert, we can move your tickets to a future performance!

  • Secure your seats for one of our amazing 2018-19 season concerts


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