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Masterworks

2018-2019 Season / Masterworks / The Inextinguishable
All performances at 7:30pm at Crouse-Hinds Concert Theater
1819MW3HAGEN2

LAWRENCE LOH | conductor
WILLIAM HAGEN | violin

 

PROGRAM:
BUTTERWORTH: A Shropshire Lad; Rhapsody for Orchestra
PROKOFIEV: Violin Concerto, No. 1, Op. 19, D major
NIELSEN: Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 (The Inextinguishable)

 

This program commemorates the end of World War I with three works written in the second decade of the 20th century. They’re all profoundly linked, in radically different ways, to violence of the times. The regretful opener, Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad, almost seems to presage the composer’s death on the battlefield a few years later. In contrast, our spectacular closer, Nielsen’s Fourth Symphony, celebrates human resilience in the face of apparently insurmountable odds—expressed most dramatically in the last-movement battle between two sets of timpani. In between, we have Prokofiev’s lyrical Violin Concerto No. 1, described by our brilliant soloist William Hagen as the composer’s attempt to escape his troubled times through his fairy-tale imagination. Together, they give us a wide-ranging sense of spiritual impact of the war.

 

For this concert we welcome and celebrate those in our community who serve or have served in our Armed Forces as well as those who serve or have served as First Responders. For more information please call the box office at (315) 299-5598 ext. 201.

 

PRE-CONCERT EVENT

The Bond, Schoeneck & King Pre-Concert Talk will be held in the Banner Room on the lower level of the Civic Center, beginning at 6:30p.m.

 

SHUTTLE

Symphoria has arranged a concert shuttle, which departs from the move theater entrance at Shoppingtown Mall at 6:15pm and 6:30pm.   The shuttle drops patrons off at the entrance to Crouse Hinds Theater, and departs promptly after the concert ends.  The shuttle is free of charge.

 

We are excited to be collaborating with Village Cleaners in the 20th Coats for Kids drive at this concert. Please bring your gently used kids coats to be cleaned and donated to Syracuse children in need. Let's all make a difference!

CoatsForKids-300x170

 

This performance is presented with generous support from Peter and Nancy Rabinowitz

The Inextinguishable
11.03.18

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

One week from tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War—and tonight’s trio of works from the second decade of the 20th century serves as a commemoration of (or perhaps more accurately, a reflection on) that event. Last Sunday’s Casual opened with Le Tombeau de Couperin, a suite in which Maurice Ravel honored friends who died in combat; this evening’s concert opens with a tone poem by George Butterworth (1885–1916), who himself fell in battle. A Shropshire Lad (1912), Butterworth’s orchestral magnum opus, is not itself directly connected to the war. Inspired, like much English music of the time, by the poetry of A. E. Housman, it’s a pastoral rhapsody with an overlay of both nostalgia and regret, perhaps stemming in part from what some commentators have claimed was Butterworth’s closeted homosexuality. Whatever its psychological sources, though, this is one of the most poignant quarter-hours of British music you’ll hear, with a muted kinship to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and a timbral refinement that, via Butterworth’s friend Vaughan Williams, echoes the finesse of the French impressionists. And although A Shropshire Lad was composed before the war, it’s hard not to hear it as a premonition of the composer’s impending death, especially since the work ends with a forlorn flute, quasi lontano (as if from a distance), calling out a fragment of Butterworth’s song-setting of Housman’s “With rue my heart is laden // For golden friends I had.”

Our closing work, the Symphony No. 4 (The Inextinguishable) (1914­–16) by Carl Nielsen (1865–1931), could not be more different—rugged where Butterworth’s is supple, defiant where Butterworth’s is yielding, extreme where Butterworth’s is modest. Like A Shropshire Lad, the Nielsen Fourth may well have some personal history behind it—it was written at a difficult time in his marriage. But it’s more clearly reflective of the state of the world and of Nielsen’s belief—more stubborn than simply optimistic—in the ability of the human spirit to prevail. As he puts it in a preface to the score, the title “The Inextinguishable” reflects “in one word what the music alone is capable of expressing to the full: The elemental Will of Life.” And he expresses that elemental will with a harmonic language that, as conductor Larry Loh points out, is completely individual.

In four continuous and thematically linked movements, the Fourth does not take long to announce its fundamental spirit—and to announce two of its key structural underpinnings. It opens with a furious series of cries in the woodwinds, echoed by fortissimo timpani thwacks. A minute and a half later, though, the orchestra announces a contrasting theme, which begins with downward-moving thirds on the clarinets, marked espressivo. The timpani, as we come to discover, do not serve simply as a punctuation mark. They are a crucial part of the musical argument. After a deceptively simple pastoral intermezzo (almost Brahmsian in spirit, and largely scored for winds) and an intense “Poco Adagio” (dotted with what some hear as bird-calls), the finale is marked by an epic battle between two sets of timpani, placed on opposite sides of the stage. They compete, largely in canon, for dominance with what Nielsen calls a “menacing character,” which they are asked to maintain to the very end. And that theme that first shows up in the clarinets turns reappears in many guises throughout the symphony, and caps the triumphant, if hard-won, E major conclusion.

Between these works, we offer the Violin Concerto No. 1 (1917) by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). You might at first expect the Prokofiev to share the vehemence of the Nielsen, especially if you remember the violent Piano Concerto No. 2, written just a few years earlier, which Natasha Paremski performed with Symphoria last year. But Prokofiev is anything but a predictable composer, and in fact, as you’ll realize from the heart-stoppingly gorgeous opening, the First Violin Concerto represents yet a third response to the temper of the times—what our soloist Will Hagen describes as “an escape.” As a youngster, Will wasn’t particularly fond of Prokofiev’s music. It was only after playing Cinderella— “the most gorgeous thing I’d ever heard”—in a student orchestra at Aspen that he came to understand what he calls Prokofiev’s “fairy-tale” aspect. “When I listen to Brahms or Mozart, I hear real life, things that could have happened to you today or yesterday. Prokofiev takes you to a new place, a fairy-tale magical world. I sense that Prokofiev is always ‘escaping.’ I use the word escaping on purpose—he did not live in a good time.”

Will is especially taken with the way this piece ends: “I love the bookends feature of the concerto. How many concertos end like that, such a beautiful ending, coming back to the very opening?” Yet the music is hardly non-stop beauty: In the second movement, there is some “rough stuff sul ponticello, right near the bridge, so if I don’t make some ugly sounds, then I will have let everybody down.” For the violinist, that is technically the most challenging part of the concerto. For the orchestra, the composer himself suggested that major problems are balance and character: he points, for instance, to the last movement where the tuba needs to “emerge…like an endearing bumpkin.” But as a whole—and Will insists that it “feels like a one-movement piece, even more than other pieces”—it’s hard not to agree that the work has the aura of escape. Certainly, it provides a respite between the pieces around it, which are more explicitly attuned to the horrors of the times.

Peter J. Rabinowitz

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

Artist Information:

William Hagen

25-year-old violinist William Hagen is the third-prize winner of the 2015 Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition, making him the highest-ranking American since 1985. Already a seasoned international performer, William has been hailed as a “brilliant virtuoso…a standout” (The Dallas Morning News) with “an innate command of line and score, and just the right amount of power” (violinist.com).

His 2017-18 season features debuts with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (HR Sinfonieorchester) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach and the Seattle Symphony directed by Pablo Rus Broseta, and return engagements with the Utah Symphony under the direction of Matthias Pintscher and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Gourlay. He performs recitals with pianist Albert Cano Smit in Chicago, Aspen, Darmstadt, and at the University of Florida.

Since his debut with the Utah Symphony at age nine, William has performed with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Christian Arming, Placido Domingo, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michel Tabachnik and Hugh Wolff, and with the symphony orchestras of Albany, Buffalo, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Oregon, Utah, and others. Abroad, he has performed with the Brussels Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Belgium, the ORF Radio-Sinfonieorchester in Vienna, the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and in Japan with the Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Sendai Philharmonic.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William first heard the violin when he was 3 and began taking lessons at age 4 with Natalie Reed, followed by Deborah Moench. At age 10, he began studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studied until the age of 17. After studying at the Juilliard School for two years with Itzhak Perlman, William returned to Los Angeles to continue studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory. He is currently enrolled at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, where he is a student of Christian Tetzlaff. William is an alumnus of the Verbier Academy in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program, and the Aspen Music Festival, where he spent many summers.

William performs on the 1735 “Sennhauser” Guarneri del Gesù, on generous loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago.

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