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Masterworks

2016-2017 Season / Masterworks / Mahler’s Titan
All performances at 7:30pm at Crouse-Hinds Theater
mahler titan
Lawrence Loh | CONDUCTOR
Philippe Quint | VIOLIN

Mahler's Titan

Mahler's Titan Symphony is epic in all proportions, from its massive orchestration to sprawling form, and range of emotion. The full power of a symphony orchestra is on display for this heroic closing to the season.

Program

Barber: Violin Concerto
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 "Titan"

 

Spotlight Performance:

The Soule Road Middle School Band, under the direction of Anna Salem, will be perform as part of our Spotlight Series, beginning at 6:30pm in the theater.

 

Please join music director Lawrence Loh for the Bond Schoeneck & King
 Pre-concert Talk, beginning at 6:30pm, prior to each Masterworks
 series performance.   The pre-concert talk on May 10th will be held in the
Banner Room.

 

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Mahler’s Titan
05.13.17

7:30pm | Crouse-Hinds Theater
Listen on Spotify!

Symphoria 2016-17 Season: Booklet III: MASTERWORKS VIII

 

Program Notes

Mahler’s Titan

May 13, 2017

 

The Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) is widely known as “the Titan”—although against the composer’s wishes. The work was originally composed in 1888, but Mahler revised it several times, at one point adding the subtitle “Titan,” perhaps after a novel by the once-popular Jean Paul (1763-1825). He abandoned the nickname, but it stuck with audiences, not because of the literary link, but because the symphony, in so many ways, matches our conception of the titanic. Except for Bruckner, no canonical composer had written a longer symphony by that time—and not even Bruckner had asked for as large an orchestra as Mahler’s First does in its final version. (Indeed, tonight we’ll have more players on stage than at any time in Symphoria’s history.) And the climaxes are truly titanic. The first movement, for instance, ends with a blast of energy. More dramatic still is the high-intensity finale, which builds from a cry of anguish (modeled on the opening of the finale of the Beethoven Ninth) to one of the most stupendous conclusions in the repertoire. The sense of breathless excitement is heightened, as conductor Larry Loh points out, by Mahler’s use of of luftpausen (breath-marks), where “everything stops for a second and you’re just waiting for the resolution. And at the very end, the horns stand and play with their bells up—he actually asks the horns to drown out even the trumpets. How can you not have goosebumps?”

Yet while the nickname is apt, it’s also misleading, for much of this symphony is striking in a subtler way. It took half a century for Mahler to catch on, but since then, his music has become so familiar that it’s hard to recapture its disorienting effect on its early listeners. Still, if you remember that this symphony was written just a few years after the Brahms Fourth, you’ll appreciate its revolutionary spirit. The very opening sound—a gentle sustained A in shimmering string harmonics stretching seven octaves—is astonishing, and sets us up for a new kind of orchestral color. The symphony is radical in its scope, too. Mahler once told Sibelius that “a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.” And while he made that claim later in his life, the First already looks in that direction, calling up the sounds of nature, distant military fanfares, popular dance idioms, children’s songs, and even Mahler’s own earlier music.

The most innovative movement is the third. It was inspired by a popular satirical drawing, “The Hunter’s Funeral,” in which, to quote the composer, “the forest animals accompany the dead hunter’s coffin to the grave.” Beginning with a muted solo double bass intoning a minor-mode version of “Frère Jacques” (“Brüder Martin” in its German equivalent), with interjections of a funeral march, a klezmer band, and recollections of Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, it’s unlike anything in any symphony before that time.

The Mahler First makes such a tremendous impact that it’s not easy to come up with an appropriate opener for a concert that includes it. You can’t use something that competes with Mahler on his own terms (the audience would be too wrung out by the end)—but you don’t want something that will be forgotten in the aftermath. The aim is for something different enough in spirit to provide a real contrast, yet so striking that it will remain in your memory even after the concert. The 1939 Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber (1910-1981) is the ideal choice. It is, at least in its first two movements, as restrained as the Mahler is extreme; it’s also one of the most memorably beautiful and affecting pieces in the canon. That’s why, even though we performed it last season, many in our audience have been asking for a return.

More than most pieces, the Barber is tied to history. In fact, tonight’s soloist, Philippe Quint, points to two different historical dimensions. First, the music has a paradoxical tie to political events: it’s very much grounded in its own time, yet it speaks especially well to ours, too. “While it’s a full concerto, I feel that you have three very separate songs,” Philippe says—songs that are held together by the state of the world in the late 1930s. Barber started the piece in Switzerland, but wrote the last movement in the United States after Americans were encouraged to leave war-threatened Europe. Philippe sees the first movement as “the calm before the storm,” followed by a second of “incredible drama.” Then Barber “completely switches gears” for the finale, surprisingly short but “fiendishly difficult”—a “patriotic movement, with a hint of a simple country dance, like country fiddling.” It is, in Philippe’s words, “chaotic but optimistic. This is not your Shostakovich take on the world!” Written during turbulent times, it’s especially relevant, he says, to perform it now.

Second, the work has unusual ties to musical history, especially the history of the violin repertoire. Philippe sees, for instance, a reference to the opening of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in the “hard beats” of the percussion in the middle of the first movement; the spirit of the Bartók Second is evoked in the harmonies and rhythms as the movement ends. But most of all, he sees connections to Brahms. He reminds us that Barber began the Concerto in Switzerland, where Brahms composed much of his most important violin music—and he points to a parallel between the famous oboe solo that launches the second movement and the one that begins the middle movement of Brahms’s Violin Concerto.

Of course, musical connections are often subjective, and Philippe wonders: is this just a “crazy parallel” in his head? But first oboist Jillian Honn confirms his observation. The central movements of both concertos, she says, “open with an extensive solo by the oboe who passes the baton off to the violinist; a rhapsodic dialogue between orchestra and soloist ensues.” As Jillian mentioned last year, the Barber is one of the most rewarding pieces for an oboist—and it’s especially rewarding to play it with different violinists. “We spend hours sculpting our phrasing, vibrato, and tone colors to create the most engaging presentation of that melody that we can. Yet, when it comes to performing it in context, everything changes. Once I hear the violin soloist take over, all of my ideas become void—I am (gladly) at the mercy of their musicianship.” She experienced this process of “amending” her interpretation when she played with Sarah Crocker Vonsattel last March—and, she continues, “I am so excited to see what is in store when I have the opportunity to create a new experience with Philippe Quint.”

There’s a parallel joy in live concerts for the audience as well. As Philippe puts it, “the beautiful thing about music is that there is no right way. That’s why we go to concerts rather than just sit home and listen to our CDs. This is music-making in the moment, and it’s a priceless moment in history.”

Peter J. Rabinowitz

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

 

Artist Information:

Philippe Quint

Lauded by Daily Telegraph (UK) for his “searingly poetic lyricism” violinist Philippe Quint is carving an unconventional path with his impassioned musical desire for reimagining traditional works, rediscovering neglected repertoire to commissioning works by contemporary composers. His dedication to exploring different styles and genres with an award winning discography has solidified him as one of the foremost violinists of today.

Receiving several Grammy nominations for his two albums of Korngold and William Schuman Concertos, Mr. Quint is in constant demand worldwide appearing with major orchestras at venues ranging from the Gewandhaus in Leipzig to Carnegie Hall in New York.

Philippe Quint plays the magnificent 1708 "Ruby" Antonio Stradivari violin on loan to him through the generous efforts of The Stradivari Society®.

Highlights of the 2015/2016 season included performances with Colorado, Seattle & North Carolina Symphonies, Luzern’s Zaubersee Festival with pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, and a first visit to Verbier Festival performing with Joshua Bell and Tabea Zimmerman among others.

At the invitation of Maestro Vladimir Spivakov, Philippe opened the 28th edition of Colmar Festival dedicated to Jascha Heifetz with Tugan Sokhiev conducting the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in a performance of Korngold Violin Concerto. Earlier this year he was part of the opening of Mary B. Galvin’s new hall in Chicago hosted by Renee Fleming.

Winner of the “Ambassador of Arts” award in 2014, presented to Philippe by Brownstone and Gateway Organizations at the United Nations last March, his 2014-2015 season highlights included debuts with Seattle Symphony with Ludovic Morlot, Milwaukee Symphony with Edo de Waart, Kansas Symphony with Michael Stern, Vancouver Symphony with James Gaffigan, and returns to San Diego Symphony with Jahja Ling and Indianapolis Symphony with Krzysztof Urbanski.

Two new exciting recording releases took place in the 2015/16 season: original arrangements of Bach’s music by composer/pianist Matt Herskowitz titled “Bach XXI” which debuted at Lincoln Center in February of 2016 and a recording of both Glazunov & Khachaturian Violin Concertos with Bochumer Sinfoniker and Steven Sloane conducting for AvantiClassic label which received “Album of the Week” by Norman Lebrecht’s Slipped Disc.

Mr. Quint’s 2013-2014 season included debuts with the London Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Rochester Philharmonic, Phoenix Symphony, San Antonio Symphony among others. His recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Sofia Philharmonic led by conductor Martin Panteleev, paired with Anton Arensky’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 35 (for violin, viola, and two cellos) featuring cellists Claudio Bohorquez, Nicolas Altstaedt and violist Lily Francis was released in September 2014 on AvantiClassic which “Gramophone” described as “conspicuously persuasive, dazzlingly assured” performance.

In the summer 2015 he hosted the 2nd Annual Benefit “Philippe Quint & Friends” at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall presented by the Russian American Foundation. The first benefit concert took place at the New York Times Center in 2014 and featured John Corigliano, Joshua Bell, Michael Bacon, J.Ralph and Emily Bergl.

Along with Lou Diamond Phillips, Darren Criss and Lea Salonga, Philippe appeared at the Kennedy Center’s “After the Storm” Benefit Concert for Philippines and debuted at the Hollywood Bowl as a part of a special “Joshua Bell & Friends” concert.

Constantly in demand worldwide, Quint’s most recent appearances include performances with the orchestras of London, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Minnesota, Bournemouth, Houston, Weimar Staatskapelle, Royal Liverpool, China National, Orpheus, Berlin Komische Oper, Leipzig’s MDR at the Gewandhaus. He has performed under the batons of Marin Alsop, Carl St. Clair, Daniel Hege, Grant Llewellyn, Andrew Litton, Cristian Macelaru, Kurt Masur, Jorge Mester, Edo de Waart, Jahja Ling, Krzysztof Urbanski, Ludovic Morlot, Marco Parisotto, Martin Panteleev, Carlos Miguel Prieto, Tugan Sokhiev, Klauspeter Seibel, Christopher Seaman, Kenneth Schermerhorn, Steven Sloane, Michael Stern, Bramwell Tovey, and Martin Yates among many others.

Philippe Quint is the first classical artist to star in the lead role of a major independent film Downtown Express co-starring Nellie McKay from producer Michael Hausmann (Gangs of New York, Brokeback Mountain and Amadeus) and multi-Emmy winning director David Grubin. This 2012 film premiered in New York and Los Angeles as well as at a number of national and international film festivals including Woodstock, New York, Houston (Opening Night), Mons (Belguim), Cuba, Vermont, and Florida.

Philippe Quint’s formidable discography includes a large variety of rediscovered treasures along with popular works from standard repertoire. In November 2013, he released to critical acclaim Opera Breve CD with pianist Lily Maisky, a unique collection of opera transcriptions for violin and piano featuring both popular and rare songs, on Avanticlassic.

An active chamber musician Philippe frequently collaborates with cellists Alisa Weilerstein, Gary Hoffman, Carter Brey, Nicholas Altstaedt, Claudio Bohorquez, Zuill Bailey and Jan Vogler, pianists William Wolfram, Inon Barnatan, Alon Goldstein, Marc -Andre Hamelin, Simone Dinnerstein, Jeffrey Kahane, violists Nils Monkemeyer and Lily Francis as well as his esteemed violin colleagues Joshua Bell, Cho–Liang Lin & Vadim Gluzman. Philippe has appeared at the Mostly Mozart, Verbier, Luzern, Caramoor, Colmar, Ravinia, Aspen, Rome, Moritzburg, La Jolla, Lincoln Center and Chautauqua festivals and in recital and chamber performances at the Kravis Center, UC Davis Presents, National Gallery in Washington and most recently at San Francisco Performances with Composer/Pianist Lera Auerbach.

Quint’s live performances and interviews have been broadcast on television by CBS, CNN, ABC, BBC World News, NBC, Reuters, Bloomberg TV, as well as by radio stations nationwide including NPR, WNYC and WQXR. His recordings have received multiple “Editor’s Choice” selections in Gramophone, The Strad, Strings, and the Daily Telegraph. His remarkable degree of lyricism, poetry and impeccable virtuosity has gripped the eyes and ears of audiences in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and the U.S. with what The Times (London) describes as his “bravura technique, and unflagging energy.”

Quint’s first album for Avanticlassic, a recording of the Mendelssohn and Bruch Violin Concertos and Beethoven’s Romances with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería led by Carlos Miguel Prieto, was released in 2012. Gramophone described Quint’s performance as “pure sound and refined expression. An account “well worth hearing.” Other critically acclaimed albums include the world premiere recording of John Corigliano's Red Violin Caprices, Ned Rorem’s Concerto, Miklos Rozsa’s Complete Works for Violin and Piano with William Wolfram, Bernstein’s Serenade, and a unique compilation of works by Paganini arranged by Fritz Kreisler, which BBC Music Magazine called “truly phenomenal.”

Born in Leningrad, Soviet Union (now St. Petersburg, Russia), Philippe Quint studied at Moscow's Special Music School for the Gifted with the famed Russian violinist Andrei Korsakov, and made his orchestral debut at the age of nine, performing Wieniawski's Concerto No. 2. After moving to the United States, he earned both Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Juilliard. His distinguished pedagogues and mentors included Dorothy Delay, Cho-Liang Lin, Masao Kawasaki, Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt and Felix Galimir.

The Chicago Tribune proclaimed, “Here is a fiddle virtuoso whose many awards are fully justified by the brilliance of his playing.” Among his many honors, Quint was the winner of the Juilliard Competition and Career Grant Recipient of Salon de Virtuosi, Bagby and Clarisse Kampel Foundations.


For more information, visit:
www.philippequint.com

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