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Masterworks

2017-2018 Season / Masterworks / From the New World
All performances at 8:00pm at Crouse Hinds Concert Theater
1718MW1Home

JOSHUA GERSEN | conductor
ANNE AKIKO MEYERS | violin

 

PROGRAM:

BARBER: School for Scandal: Overture   
BATES: Concerto for Violin
DVORAK: Symphony No.9, op.95, B.178, E minor (From the New World)

 

Anne Akiko Meyers performs Mason Bates energetic new violin concerto, which was commissioned for and premiered by her in 2012. Dvorak’s folk-inspired New World Symphony concludes the program, as well as Symphoria’s summertime celebration of the Erie Canal.

 

NOTE: This performance was originally scheduled on September 23rd at 7:30 p.m., but has been moved to 8 p.m. on Friday September 22nd to accommodate patrons who plan to attend the Paul McCartney performance on the 23rd and also those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah.   Buses from Shoppingtown Mall will run 1/2 hour later than normal, beginning at 6:45 and 7PM.

 

 

Special thanks to our concert sponsors!

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From the New World
09.22.17

8:00pm | Crouse Hinds Concert Theater
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We open Symphoria’s fifth full season with music from three centuries, all of it in one way or another “American.” The concert begins with a short, upbeat overture by Samuel Barber (1910-1981)—the 1931 School for Scandal. Barber has been one of the most-performed composers on Symphoria concerts; and this piece, his first orchestral work, reminds us of why he’s been so popular. Nominally inspired by Sheridan’s Restoration comedy, it has the infectious fizz necessary for a curtain-raiser—but it also has its share of heart-rending lyricism. Furthermore (and this is something else that endears Barber to Syracuse audiences), the lyricism takes the form of a poignant melody which, like the bittersweet moments in so many Barber works, gives first oboist Jillian Honn a chance to shine.

Barber didn’t aim at developing a particularly “nationalist” style in the way that Copland did in many of his works; he nonetheless became one of the icons of our national music. His spirit, in fact, indirectly influences tonight’s centerpiece, the 2012 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Mason Bates (b. 1977). Bates’s concerto, commissioned by our soloist Anne Akiko Meyers, might well be considered the last in a trilogy of great American violin concertos that began with Barber’s concerto and continued with the Corigliano “Red Violin” Concerto, both featured by Symphoria last season. Not only is there a teacher-student continuity among the three composers (Barber was Corigliano’s mentor, Corigliano in turn taught Bates), but all three works have at least two qualities in common: an immediacy that draws the audience in from the beginning, and a melodic beauty (heard especially in the big tune that appears throughout the Bates) that leaves you breathless.

That said, Bates’s Violin Concerto is hardly a knock-off. But it is a knock-out, with a character entirely its own. In three interconnected movements, the concerto is inspired by a dinosaur, the Archaeopteryx. Don’t expect anything slow and ponderous, however. Yes, the first movement, “Archaeopteryx,” starts, as our soloist puts it, “with a feeling as if Godzilla is coming through the water. There’s an ominous, heavy tread in the orchestra.” The Archaeopteryx, however, is a flying dinosaur that served, evolutionarily, as the transition between dinosaurs and birds. And for the most part, especially in the two outer movements, propulsion is key. “This is a very rhythmic, forward-moving concerto with lots of energy,” Anne points out. “Notes are flying all over the place. It’s like a non-stop marathon.

“There is pretty much no pause in the first movement,” she continues, “no break of any kind where you can inhale. You’re just running to the finish line for most of it.” And if she has, say, a contact lens issue? “I’m toast.” If you know the Stravinsky Violin Concerto, you might hear some points of contact—there are also traces of the American minimalists. Still, you’d never confuse Bates’s work with theirs.

In contrast, the second movement, centers on beauty. Titled “Lakebed Memories,” it describes the swampland where the fossil was discovered (and perhaps thoughts of earth-bound ancestors?). “It’s so funny,” says Anne, “because there are many musical markings in the score, like ‘play sensually.’ And I asked myself, how is a dinosaur dragging through the mud sexy? But I try to make that as sensual as I can! And then the third movement comes in, and it sounds like computer-code spewing, yet in a very fluid expressive way. It’s incredibly challenging for the orchestra and me—and just when you think that you can’t take any more energy and forward motion, it screeches to a halt and I have a monster cadenza to perform.” At least the orchestra gets a break. “Yes, the orchestra gets a rest and gets to watch me sweat some more. And then we all leap off into space and fly.”

After intermission comes the Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”) by Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904). Dvořák, of course, was Czech, not American, but “American” music has always had an international flavor. We are, after all, a nation of immigrants, and our musical life has been enriched by the presence of composers like Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Bartók, Schoenberg, and Korngold. Beyond that, many of our best U.S.-born composers had European training (especially in 20th century Paris); and even the first composer to gain an international reputation as “American,” Louis Moreau Gottschalk, took his inspiration as much from Latin America as from the United States.

In any case, the Czech Dvořák had a profound influence on American music during his years in the United States, 1892–95, as head of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. In fact, it was Dvořák, during his time here, who was most vociferous about the need for American composers to look to the folk music of their own country, rather than to Europe, for inspiration. In part because of that, in part due to early encouragement from Dvořák himself, critics have sought out the American sources for the Symphony No. 9, especially themes from the African-American and Native American traditions—and they’ve found evidence in apparent references, say, to “Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Turkey in the Straw,” and other tunes.

But how much Americana really haunts the score? It’s certainly true that the gorgeous theme of the slow movement maps onto the spiritual “Goin’ Home”—but that’s because the spiritual was written by Dvořák’s student William Arms Fisher after the symphony, and was specifically based on it. There’s no doubt, too, that Dvořák was partly inspired by Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha (in fact, some of the music in the symphony was drawn from unfinished ideas for an opera based on that poem). Even so, there’s no authentic Native music in the score. In any case, later in his life, Dvořák insisted that he borrowed the spirit of American music rather than its substance—and in retrospect, the symphony sounds increasingly Czech. Indeed, especially given its quiet ending, it seems as nostalgic for the Old World as it is enthusiastic about the New. However you interpret it, though, it has remained one of the most beloved symphonies in the repertoire since its premiere. And rightly so.

 

Peter J. Rabinowitz

Have any comments or questions? Please write to me at prabinowitz@ExperienceSymphoria.org

 

Artist Information:

Anne Akiko Meyers

Anne Akiko Meyers, one of the world’s most celebrated violinists, is known for her passionate performances, purity of sound, deeply poetic interpretations, innovative programming and commitment to commissioning new works. Anne possesses a rare ability to connect with audiences from the concert stage, online, and on television and radio broadcasts. She has actively maintained an extensive touring schedule for three decades and regularly performs in recital, as guest soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras, and is a best-selling recording artist who has released 34 albums. In 2014, Meyers was the top-selling traditional classical instrumental soloist on Billboard charts.

This year, Anne returns to the Cartagena Music Festival to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra , the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico to perform the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, the Beethoven Festival in Warsaw, Poland, performing the Szymanowski Concerto No.1 and headlines the “Last Night of the Proms” in Krakow, Poland. Other performances include the Mason Bates Violin Concerto with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center and a tour with the New Zealand Symphony.

In 2017, Anne will perform the world premiere of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s “Fantasia”, a piece written for her, with the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern. She will perform a recital at the 92nd Street Y in New York and return to the Nashville Symphony performing the Bernstein Serenade with Giancarlo Guerrero, among many other performances. Anne’s 35th album entitled, “Fantasia: The Fantasy Album”, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Kristjan Järvi, will be released in the spring on the eOne Music label.

In 2015-16, Anne appears in a nationwide PBS broadcast special and on a Naxos DVD featuring the world premiere of with the All-Star Orchestra led by Gerard Schwarz and the French premiere of Mason Bates Violin Concerto with Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre de Lyon. Two new recordings and a box set were released – Naïve Classics celebrates Arvo Pärt’s 80th birthday with “Passacaglia: Arvo Pärt”, works for violin and orchestra whom she collaborated closely with the composer, led by Kristjan Järvi and the MDR Leipzig Orchestra and “Serenade: The Love Album”, an album featuring Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade and ten newly arranged pieces from the American Songbook and classic movies, with the London Symphony Orchestra, Keith Lockhart conducting. Anne’s complete RCA Red Sealrecordings are now available on Sony Music.

Recently, Meyers stepped in on 24 hours notice to perform and lead the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in Carnegie Hall and Pennsylvania to rave reviews. In 2014, eOne Music released “The American Masters” featuring the world premiere recordings of the Mason Bates Violin Concerto and John Corigliano’s ‘Lullaby for Natalie’ (written for the birth of Ms.Meyers’s first born daughter) and the Samuel Barber Violin Concerto, with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. This recording made Google Play’s, Best of 2014 and was heralded by critics and audiences alike. Anne’s prior release the Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album, debuted at #1 on the classical Billboard charts and was the recording debut of the ‘Ex-Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri del Gesu violin, dated 1741, which was awarded to Meyers for her lifetime use. This instrument is considered by many to be the finest sounding violin in existence. Watch the story here.

Meyers’s recent performances have included recital and concerto appearances in North and South America, Europe and Asia, with the Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, National and Richmond Symphony Orchestras of the Mason Bates Violin Concerto, a work she co-commissioned and premiered with the Pittsburgh Symphony in December 2012. A champion of living composers, Meyers has actively added new works to the violin repertoire by commissioning and premiering works by composers such as Mason Bates, Jakub Ciupinski, John Corigliano, Brad Dechter, Jennifer Higdon, Samuel Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Akira Miyoshi, Arvo Pärt, Gene Pritsker, Einojuhani Rautavaara, J.A.C. Redford, Huang Ruo, Somei Satoh, Adam Schoenberg and Joseph Schwantner.

Anne Akiko Meyers has collaborated with a diverse array of artists outside of traditional classical, including jazz icons, Chris Botti and Wynton Marsalis, avant-garde musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto, electronic music pioneer, Isao Tomita, Il Divo and singer, Michael Bolton. She performed the National Anthem in front of 42,000 fans at Safeco Field in Seattle, appeared twice on The Tonight Show and was featured in a segment on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann that became the third most popular story of the year.

Recently, she was featured on CBS Sunday Morning, CBS’ “The Good Wife”, NPR’s Morning Edition with Linda Wertheimer and All Things Considered with Robert Siegel and the popular NickJr. show, Take Me To Your Mother, with Andrea Rosen. Best-selling novelist, J.Courtney Sullivan, consulted with Ms. Meyers for The Engagements, and based one of the main characters loosely on Ms. Meyers’s career. Anne also collaborated with children’s book author and illustrator, Kristine Papillon, on Crumpet the Trumpet. where the character Violetta, the violinist, is played by Ms.Meyers.

Anne Akiko Meyers was born in San Diego, California and grew up in Southern California. Her teachers include Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Josef Gingold at Indiana University, and Felix Galimir, Masao Kawasaki and Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School. She received the Avery Fisher Career Grant and serves on the advisory board of Composers Concordance and Young Concert Artists. She was recently awarded ‘The Luminary Award’ for her support of the Pasadena Symphony. Ms. Meyers lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Angeles, California.

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