BUTTERWORTH: A Shropshire Lad; Rhapsody for Orchestra (1912)
Performed on November 5, 2018 at Crouse Hinds Concert Theater
Lawrence Loh conducting
ELGAR: Concerto for Violoncello, op.85, E minor
Performed on February 15, 2020 at Crouse Hinds Concert Theater
Lawrence Loh, conducting; Julian Schwarz, violin
NIELSEN: Symphony No.4, op.29 (The Inextinguishable)
Performed on November 5, 2018 at Crouse Hinds Concert Theater
Lawrence Loh conducting
This evening’s concert opens with a tone poem by George Butterworth (1885–1916). 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 psycho- logical 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 ...
This evening’s concert opens with a tone poem by George Butterworth (1885–1916). 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 psycho- logical 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.”
ELGAR: Cello Concerto
The Concerto for Cello and Orchestra composed in 1918-19 by Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934). The regret is easy to understand. First, it was nourished by Elgar’s recognition of personal mortality: he had just gotten out of the hospital when he began it, and his beloved wife Alice was dying of lung cancer as he wrote it. Second, there was his growing realization that, having briefly been the standard-bearer for modern English music, his renown was fleeting—that in the wake of the radical works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and others, his Edwardian idiom was increasingly scorned as old-fashioned. Most important, the First World War had destroyed the Europe— indeed, the world—that he knew. Whether it was a conscious intention or not, the Cello Concerto turned out to be his farewell to composing; although he wrote a few snippets afterwards, this was his last substantial work.
Elgar was right that the Europe he knew was gone, but he was wrong about his own place in the musical pantheon. Fame operates in pendulum swings, and Elgar’s world-wide reputation is now, perhaps, even greater than at any point during his life. And in the century since its premiere (a disaster, like the first performances of so many masterpieces), the Cello Concerto has become a staple of the repertoire. It’s written in four movements (two sections of two movements each). And from the very opening—a plaintive recitative by the soloist with barely any orchestral support, followed by a theme introduced by the darkly tinted orchestral violas—it’s got, in conductor Larry Loh’s words, “what we love about Elgar, his ability to write heart-wrenchingly beautiful melodies.” As it follows its course, the concerto goes through a wide gamut of emotions (most profound in the third-movement Adagio); and it gives the soloist, especially in the rapid-fire second movement, plenty of room for virtuoso display. But even in the heroic affirmation of the final pages, ushered in by a return of that opening recitative, the nostalgia lingers in the air. In the aftermath, it’s easy to understand why it has come to be seen as perhaps the great 20th-century cello concerto.
NIELSEN: Symphony No. 4
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.
Mr. Schwarz made his orchestral debut at the age of 11 playing the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 1 with the Seattle Symphony with his ...
Mr. Schwarz made his orchestral debut at the age of 11 playing the Saint-Saens Concerto No. 1 with the Seattle Symphony with his father, Gerard Schwarz, on the podium. Since then, he has appeared with the Seattle, San Diego, Puerto Rico, Hartford, Charlotte, Columbus (OH), Sarasota, Grand Rapids and Wichita symphonies, as well as with the Louisville Orchestra, Chicago Camerata and the Symphony Silicon Valley among others.
Internationally, he made his Australian debut with the Queensland Symphony in Brisbane as well as his debut in Hong Kong at the Intimacy of Creativity Festival. He has also made two appearances with the Boca del Rio Orchestra in Veracruz, Mexico and made his debut with the Mexico City Philharmonic in May 2016. In August 2013, Mr. Schwarz was awarded first prize in the professional cello division of the inaugural Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition in Hong Kong.
Equally active as a recitalist and chamber musician, Mr. Schwarz has performed recitals at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, Palm Springs, Washington DC and Halifax, Nova Scotia. He also appears regularly on the stage of Bargemusic in New York City playing chamber music and recitals with his regular collaborative partner, pianist Marika Bournaki, and on chamber music series such as Frankly Music in Milwaukee. He is a member of the ensemble Frisson, a nonet for strings and winds, and has his own piano trio, Mile-End Trio, with violinist Jeff Multer and Ms. Bournaki. In November 2016, he and Ms. Bournaki were awarded First Prize in the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition’s “The Art of the Duo” and in March 2017, the duo traveled to China for a ten concert recital tour.
During the 17/18 season, Julian Schwarz gave the world premiere of a new cello concerto written for him by Lowell Liebermann, which was premiered with the Toledo Symphony and had subsequent performances with four other orchestras. Additional recent and upcoming performance highlights include his debuts with the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Jacksonville, Winston-Salem, Galveston, Springfield, OH, Springfield MA and Tucson symphonies; re-engagements with the Virginia and Des Moines symphonies, Symphoria in Syracuse and the Boca Symphoria in Boca Raton; and recitals in Hartford, Boulder and New York City.
No stranger to summer music festivals, Julian Schwarz has attended and performed at the Aspen, Cape Cod and Eastern festivals and was chosen to study and perform at the prestigious Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Now a member of the cello faculty at the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina, he has performed the Brahms Double, the Dvorak Cello Concerto and the premiere of a concerto by Richard Danielpour, “A Prayer For Our Time,” with the festival orchestra.
Mr. Schwarz’s recordings for Naxos include the Saint-Saens No. 1 and Haydn C Major cello concertos with the Seattle Symphony, “In Memoriam” for the Music of Remembrance series, and the Samuel Jones Cello Concerto with the All Star Orchestra, founded by Gerard Schwarz. His most recent recording is the six Rossini String Quartets, which was recording in Nova Scotia in November 2017.
Julian Schwarz started piano lessons at the age of five and began his cello studies the following year with the late David Tonkonogui; subsequent teachers include Toby Saks, Lynn Harrell, Neal Cary and Ronald Leonard. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in New York City in May 2014 where he studied with Joel Krosnick, and his Master of Music degree, also at Juilliard, in May 2016. During the 16/17 season, he served as Mr. Krosnick’s teaching assistant. He also served as Artist-In-Residence at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance and since September 2017 has been an Assistant Professor of Cello at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University in Virginia.
Julian Schwarz currently performs on a cello made in Naples by Gennaro Gagliano in 1743. He is a Pirastro artist and uses the “Perpetual mittel” set of cello strings exclusively.
Mr. Loh’s previous positions include: Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Syracuse Opera; Resident Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra; Associate Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Associate Conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.
Having a particular affinity for pops programming, Mr. Loh has been engaged for repeat performances with Chris Botti, Idina Menzel, Ann Hampton Callaway, the Texas Tenors and more. He has assisted John Williams on multiple occasions and conducted numerous sold-out John Williams tribute concerts. He is particularly adept at conducting concerts synchronizing live orchestral music with film, and he is has lead Star Wars, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Pixar in Concert, Disney in Concert, The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain, among other concert productions.
Mr. Loh is active as a guest conductor, both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to annual concerts in Pittsburgh and Dallas, his recent engagements include the Boston Pops (Tanglewood); Detroit Symphony; San Diego Symphony; Seattle Symphony; Buffalo Philharmonic; and the Cathedral Choral Society at the Washington National Cathedral. Past engagements include the National (Washington D.C.), Indianapolis, Tacoma, Utah, Naples, Knoxville, Florida, El Paso, San Luis Obispo, Edmonton, Colorado, Charleston (SC), Malaysia, Daejeon (South Korea) and Greater Bridgeport Orchestras. His summer appearances include the festivals of Sun Valley, Bravo Vail Valley, Aspen (CO), Mann Center in Philadelphia, Breckenridge, Las Vegas, Hot Springs (AR), the Kinhaven Music School (VT) and the Performing Arts Institute (PA). In the summer of 2016, he made his debut at Tanglewood, conducting Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony with the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra and returned in 2017 to conduct the Boston Pops.
Mr. Loh received his Artist Diploma in Orchestral Conducting from Yale, his Masters in Choral Conducting from Indiana University and his BA, and Certificate of Management Studies, from the University of Rochester. Lawrence Loh was born in southern California of Korean parentage and raised in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Jennifer have a son, Charlie, and a daughter, Hilary. Follow him on instagram @conductorlarryloh or twitter @lawrenceloh or visit his website, www.lawrenceloh.com.