Winter Concert Series Program Notes

 

 

Friday, February 15, 2019, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 17, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

Guest Performers

Marvin Moon – viola

 A native of Philadelphia, violist Marvin Moon came to The Philadelphia Orchestra in 2007 from the Boston Symphony, which he joined at the start of the 2005-06 season. Mr. Moon previously performed for several years as a substitute player with The Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. From 2000 to 2003 he was principal viola of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. He was also previously a member of the Haddonfield Symphony (now Symphony in C), the New York String Seminar Chamber Orchestra, and the Curtis Symphony, serving as principal viola in 2000. As a chamber musician Mr. Moon has been a member of the Koryo String Quartet since 2001. He has participated in such festivals as Music from Angel Fire (NM), Summerfest at La Jolla (CA), the Fourth International Chamber Music Encounters in Jerusalem, the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival (ME), and the Sarasota Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Moon attended the Temple University Music Preparatory Division and the Curtis Institute of Music. He studied with Joseph dePasquale, former principal viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and with Choong-Jin Chang, currently principal viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra.

Hai-Ye Ni – cello

 An exceptional musician renowned for her fluid technique, gorgeous tone and brilliant, expressive performances, cellist Hai-Ye Ni enjoys a distinguished, multi-faceted career as principal cellist of the acclaimed Philadelphia Orchestra, and as a sought-after soloist and chamber musician. Ms. Ni has performed on classical stages around the world, appearing as soloist with such symphony orchestras as Chicago, New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de Paris. Her recital credits include the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Wallace Collection in London. She has collaborated with some of today’s foremost artists, including pianist Yefim Bronfman, Lang Lang and violinists Joshua Bell, Gil Shaham, and festivals such as Ravinia, Marlboro, and Aspen.  Highlights from her performances include The Philadelphia Orchestra performance featuring Ms. Ni as soloist in Tan Dun’s The Map, Concerto for Cello, Video and Orchestra, Baroque concerti with the Philadelphia Chamber orchestra in October.  Ms.Ni has given masterclasses at Curtis, Manhattan and Mannes School of Music. As a recording artist, Ms.Ni’s recent CD, “Spirit of Chimes”, is a collaboration with violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Helen Huang. She has a solo CD on the Naxos label.  Ms. Ni first came to national attention in 1990 when she won the first prize of the prestigious Naumburg International Cello Competition, and made her New York debut in 1991. She is a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant.  Hai-Ye Ni was born in Shanghai, China. She studied at the Shanghai conservatory and has a Master degree from the Juilliard School.

 Jennifer Montone – horn

Grammy Award winner Jennifer Montone has been hailed by the New York Times for her “flawless horn solos…and warm and noble sound.” As principal horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a world acclaimed soloist, chamber musician and teacher, she has been on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Julliard School since joining the Orchestra in 2006. She was formerly the principal horn of the Saint Louis Symphony, associate principal horn of the Dallas Symphony, third horn of the New Jersey Symphony. and performer/faculty at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Named the Paxman Young Horn Player of the Year in London in 1996, she has since won many solo competitions and awards, including an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2006 and a 2013 Grammy Award for her recording of Penderecki’s Horn Concerto entitled Winterreise. She has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.  She performs regularly at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, La Jolla SummerFest, Strings Festival, and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and is a coach at the New World Symphony.  A native of northern Virginia, Ms. Montone was in the National Symphony Fellowship Program, where she studied with Edwin Thayer, was a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, and attended the Marlboro Music Festival. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School as a student of Julie Landsman.Grammy

Elizabeth Hainen – harp

Elizabeth Hainen, Solo Harpist with The Philadelphia Orchestra since 1994, has earned an international reputation as one of classical music’s great harp ambassadors. Hailed by the Washington Post for her “unusual presence with silky transparency” and by the New York Times for her “earthy solidarity,” Hainen has thrilled audiences throughout the world with programs showcasing the diversity—and virtuosity—of her modern-day instrument. She has been praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer for “her ability to blend and color the musical line,” and “to find transparency in an almost timeless atmosphere.  In high demand as a guest artist, Hainen has collaborated with such eminent conductors and musicians as Charles Dutoit, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Juilliard String Quartet. In addition to The Philadelphia Orchestra, she has appeared as a featured soloist with the City of London Sinfonia, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Kennedy Center Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia, the Bulgaria National Radio Orchestra, Camerata Ducale in Italy, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Mexico State Symphony, and appears regularly with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society. During the 2017-2018 Season, Hainen released Home, her third recording with Avie, and appeared in Lyon & Healy Harp Manufacturer’s inaugural Harptacular concert series. A champion of new music, Ms. Hainen gave the US, China, European and Australian Premieres of the Nu Shu: Secret Songs of Women, written especially for her by Tan Dun.  Hainen joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2005 and also teaches at Boyer School of Music at Temple University. As founding director of the Lyra Society, an organization to promote new works for the harp and educate young harpists, she has provided educational outreach to hundreds of school children in urban Philadelphia.

Program

Ernő von Dohnányi

Serenade in C major

Dohnányi and his colleagues Bartók and Kodály were the leading creative figures in Hungarian musical life in the decades before World War II. After the war, he emigrated to the United States, where he joined the faculty of Florida State University.(His grandson Christoph made his career as a conductor in this country, with a distinguished tenure as musical director of the Cleveland Orchestra.)  Simultaneous careers as a pianist, a conductor, and an administrator kept the elder Dohnányi’s catalog of compositions to moderate size, and his conservative, Romantic orientation caused his work to be overlooked for much of the twentieth century, though performances of his music are increasingly common now.

Dohnányi was a musical prodigy whose Piano Quintet, op. 1, written at the age of eighteen, drew the praise of Brahms, who was a major influence on the young composer’s style. This Serenade, dating from 1905, is still in the Brahmsian vein. It also, however, looks back to Beethoven’s Serenade, op. 8, which was written for the same three instruments and which also begins with a little march. As one might expect from the model, none of the four following movements is terribly long or involved, though all are high in quality: a lyrical Romanza, an energetic Scherzo, a set of variations, and a cheerful rondo finale.

André Caplet

The Masque of the Red Death

André Caplet is now remembered more for his connections with his contemporaries than for his own work. In 1901 he won the coveted Prix de Rome in preference to Ravel, and he later became a close friend and collaborator of Debussy.  His career as a violinist and conductor was cut short by wounds received in World War I, and from then until his death at 46 he was primarily active as a composer and orchestrator. The Masque of the Red Death, inspired by the story by Edgar Allan Poe, was first composed in 1908 for chromatic harp and string orchestra. In 1923 Caplet prepared the version for standard harp (or piano) and string quartet that we are hearing.

In Poe’s story, the prince of a land that is being ravaged by a terrible epidemic shuts himself and some friends up in his palace. Thinking that they are keeping the disease at bay, they hold a masked ball. A stranger knocks on the door at midnight and enters uninvited. At first he appears to be a victim of the Red Death; in reality, he proves to be the Red Death itself and the prince and the revelers die.

The music is remarkable for the range of sound effects Caplet obtains from the harp and string quartet, many of them soft and subtle. The first big section of the piece, in fact, is primarily about atmospheric effects. Then comes a frenetic waltz. The revelers become more and more anxious, and then comes the knock on the door and the clock striking midnight. The end comes swiftly and quietly until the final chord that is neither major nor minor, simply hollow and empty.

Louis Spohr

Octet in E major

A virtuoso violinist, one of the creators of the modern art of conducting, and a renowned composer, Louis (or Ludwig) Spohr was one of the most prominent German musicians of the early nineteenth century. His ten symphonies and his numerous oratorios, operas, and songs dropped out of the repertory in the decades following his death, and only the eighth of his eighteen violin concertos received much notice in the twentieth century, but his four clarinet concertos and some of his enormous output of chamber music have continued to be performed. In recent years there has been a revival of interest in his work and nearly all Spohr’s instrumental music is now available on recordings.

Spohr spent the years 1812 to 1815 in Vienna as musical director of the Theater an der Wien. He was a central figure in the musical life of the city and had frequent contact with Beethoven, conducting the premiere of the final and definitive version of the latter’s opera Fidelio in 1814. Spohr composed a group of chamber works in these years on commission from the businessman Johann Tost, who had once played violin in Haydn’s orchestra at Esterháza. Tost used his exclusive rights to the works to ensure that he was invited to social events at which they would be performed and at which business might also be transacted. Tost’s finances collapsed before he had paid for all the compositions, but Spohr was able to reclaim his manuscripts and sell their publication rights for a good sum.

The Octet was intended to show off four virtuoso performers from Spohr’s theater orchestra: the principal clarinet, the principal horns, and, of course, Spohr himself as violinist. It also provides a good sample of Spohr’s style: he represents the conservative side of Beethoven’s generation, writing elegant music of beautiful craftsmanship that looks back to Mozart and Haydn for inspiration.

The brief Adagio introduction of the Octet begins with a chord in the strings answered with a minor-mode phrase in the clarinet. Other instruments respond, and the first four notes of the clarinet’s phrase assume greater importance. The Allegro begins with the motif again, now clearly marked as the principal idea of the movement; Haydn will sometimes introduce an important musical idea in a slow introduction in just this offhand way.

The lively second movement is also reminiscent of Haydn, in particular the quick minuet second movement in Haydn’s last completed string quartet, op. 77, no. 2, which has similar cross-rhythms. The slower, major-key middle section, a Ländler (a folk dance related to the waltz) featuring the winds, contrasts with the nervous, minor-key main section of the movement.

Tost requested that Spohr employ the theme known as “The Harmonious Blacksmith” in the third movement of the Octet. Handel had written variations on this theme as the final movement of his fifth harpsichord suite, HWV 430. Legend has that he heard a blacksmith pounding it out, or perhaps singing it at work; a theme this clear-cut  could well be a folk song. Spohr’s version of the theme is already somewhat altered from the original, and his variations have nothing to do with Handel’s. In the theme itself, Spohr alternates phrases between the winds and the strings, and several of the variations feature the violin.

Like many of Spohr’s finales, the last movement of this Octet is a piece in moderate tempo intended to provide a relaxed conclusion rather than a climax for the work. The cheerful tune in the first horn that opens the movement is worked out in much the same graceful way as the main idea of the first movement, passing through various instruments so that everyone in the ensemble has something to say.