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.


Daniel Meyer
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic