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Stéphane Denève, conductor Eric Le Sage, piano St. Louis Symphony Chorus Amy Kaiser, director SCHUMANN / orch. Ravel
Selections from Carnaval, op. 9 (1834-35/1914)
Préambule Valse allemande; Intermezzo: Paganini Marche des “Davidsbündler” contre les Philistins
Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54 (1845)
Allegro affettuoso Intermezzo: Andantino grazioso— Allegro vivace Eric Le Sage, piano Intermission
Daphnis et Chloé (1909-12)
Part I Introduction and Danse religieuse— Danse générale— Danse grotesque de Dorcon— Danse légère et gracieuse de Daphnis— Danse de Lycéion— Danse lente et mystérieuse des Nymphes— Part II Introduction— Danse guerrière— Danse suppliante de Chloé— Part III Lever du jour— Pantomime (Les Amours de Pan et Syrinx)— Danse générale (Bacchanale)
Mark Sparks, flute St. Louis Symphony Chorus Amy Kaiser, director
Stéphane Denève is the Ann and Lee Liberman Guest Artist. Eric Le Sage is the Mr. and Mrs. Whitney R. Harris Guest Artist. Amy Kaiser is the AT&T Foundation Chair. The concert of Friday, November 4, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Dr. Mabel L. Purkerson. The concert of Saturday, November 5, is underwritten in part by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Norman L. Eaker. Pre-Concert Conversations are presented by Washington University Physicians. These concerts are part of the Wells Fargo Advisors Series.
Stéphane Denève Ann and Lee Liberman Guest Artist Stéphane Denève is the newly-appointed Chief Conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR) and, since 2005, Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Recognized internationally as a conductor of the highest caliber, Denève has won praise from audiences and critics alike for his performances and programming. With the Royal Scottish National Orchestra he has performed at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Présences, and at celebrated venues throughout Europe including the Vienna Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. A graduate and prize-winner of the Paris Conservatoire, Denève began his career as Sir Georg Solti’s assistant with the Orchestre de Paris and Opéra national de Paris, also assisting Georges Prêtre and Seiji Ozawa during that time. At home in a broad range of repertoire and a champion of new music, Denève has a particular affinity with the music of his native France, and in recent years he has also premiered a number of works by the contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson. Recent engagements have included debuts with the Boston Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, NDR Symphony Hamburg, and Maggio Musicale Florence; and returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin among others. Upcoming highlights include debuts with the Chicago Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra Sinfonica dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and his Carnegie Hall debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra; and returns to the San Francisco Symphony, New World Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, and Swedish Radio Symphony. Denève enjoys close relationships with many of the world’s leading solo artists, and has performed with, among others, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Leif Ove Andsnes, Piotr Anderszewski, Emanuel Ax, Lars Vogt, Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, Leonidas Kavakos, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin, Gil Shaham, and Natalie Dessay. In the field of opera, Denève has conducted productions at the Royal Opera House (Così fan tutte), Glyndebourne Festival (Carmen), La Scala (Faust), Gran Teatro de Liceu (Ariane et Barbe-bleue ), Netherlands Opera (L’ Amour des trois oranges), La Monnaie (La traviata, La Voix humaine), Opéra national de Paris (Don Quichotte, La bohème, Le nozze di Figaro), the Teatro Comunale Bologna (Béatrice et Bénédict), and Cincinnati Opera (Erwartung, Carmen, Bluebeard’s Castle). Stéphane Denève most recently conducted the St. Louis Symphony in January 2010.
Eric Le Sage Mr. and Mrs. Whitney R. Harris Guest Artist Eric Le Sage is established as one of the leading pianists of his generation and a famed representative of the French piano school, regularly praised for his very subtle sound and his real sense of structure and poetic phrasing. Already when he was 20, the Financial Times had described him as “an extremely cultivated disciple of the great French tradition of Schumann piano.” In 2010, die Zeit praised his “ideal French piano aesthetics and clarity.” In 2010 Le Sage came to a very successful end of a project that he had cherished and prepared for a long time: recording Schumann’s complete works for piano. He was invited to perform in this context in various venues around the world including the Louisiana Museum of Arts in Denmark for a 10-concert series, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Salle Pleyel for a carte blanche in 2008, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées for a recital in 2010, the Schumann Festival in Düsseldorf, and the Warsaw Beethoven Festival for the Schumann year, among other venues throughout the world. These recordings, for the independent French label Alpha, were awarded in the summer of 2010 with the prestigious Jahrespreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Reviewers from the world over have written ecstatic comments about what is already cited as a reference in the history of Schumann recordings. Many of Le Sage’s recordings for RCA-BMG, Naïve, EMI, and now Alpha were highly acclaimed and awarded the most sought-after rewards in France. Le Sage has been invited to perform as a soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Gothenburg Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse, Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the Munich Chamber Orchestra, with conductors such as Armin Jordan, Edo de Waart, Stéphane Denève, Louis Langrée, Michel Plasson, Michael Stern, and Sir Simon Rattle. Born in Aix-en-Provence, Le Sage was the winner of major international competitions such as Porto, in 1985, and the Robert Schumann competition in Zwickau, in 1989. He was also a prize-winner at Leeds International competition the same year, which allowed him to perform under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. Eric Le Sage debuts with the St. Louis Symphony this week.
Amy Kaiser AT&T Foundation Chair One of the country’s leading choral directors, Amy Kaiser has conducted the St. Louis Symphony in Handel’s Messiah, Schubert’s Mass in E flat, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and sacred works by Haydn and Mozart as well as Young People’s Concerts. She has made eight appearances as guest conductor for the Berkshire Choral Festival in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Santa Fe, and at Canterbury Cathedral. As Music Director of the Dessoff Choirs in New York for 12 seasons, she conducted many performances of major works at Lincoln Center. Other conducting engagements include concerts at Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival and more than fifty performances with the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Principal Conductor of the New York Chamber Symphony’s School Concert Series for seven seasons, Kaiser also led many programs for the 92nd Street Y’s acclaimed Schubertiade. She has conducted over twentyfive operas, including eight contemporary premieres. A frequent collaborator with Professor Peter Schickele on his annual PDQ Bach concerts at Carnegie Hall, Kaiser made her Carnegie Hall debut conducting PDQ’s Consort of Choral Christmas Carols. She also led the Professor in PDQ Bach’s Canine Cantata “Wachet Arf” with the New Jersey Symphony. Kaiser recently led master classes in choral conducting at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, served as faculty for a conducting workshop with Chorus America and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. An active guest speaker, Kaiser teaches monthly classes for adults in symphonic and operatic repertoire and presents PreConcert Conversations at Powell Hall. Kaiser has prepared choruses for the New York Philharmonic, the Ravinia Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival, and Opera Orchestra of New York. She also served as faculty conductor and vocal coach at the Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes College of Music. An alumna of Smith College, she was awarded the Smith College Medal for outstanding professional achievement.
St. Louis Symphony Chorus 2011-2012
Amy Kaiser Director Leon Burke, III Assistant Director Gail Hintz Accompanist Susan Patterson Manager Amy Telford Garcés Lara Gerassi Susan Goris Susan H. Hagen Nancy Helmich Ellen Henschen Jeffrey Heyl Matthew S. Holt Allison Hoppe David Albro Heather Humphrey Nancy Davenport Allison Kerry Jenkins Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian Paul V. Kunnath Nick Beary Alexander J. Laurie Rudi J. Bertrand Kendra Lee Annemarie Bethel-Pelton Debby Lennon Paula N. Bittle Sharon Lightfoot Michael Bouman Gregory C. Lundberg Richard F. Boyd Gina Malone Pamela A. Branson Kellen Markovich Bonnie Brayshaw Jan Marra Marella Briones Lee Martin Daniel Brodsky Alicia Matkovich Leon Burke, III Matthew Mayfield Buron F. Buffkin, Jr. Dan Mayo Leslie Caplan Rachael McCreery Alissa Carlson Andrew McDermott Maureen A. Carlson Elizabeth Casey McKinney Victoria Carmichael Scott Meidroth Christopher Catlin Lolita K. Nero Mark P. Cereghino Elsa Toby Newburger Jay Lucas Chacon Duane L. Olson Timothy A. Cole Nicole Orr Dan Cook Matt Pentecost Drew L. Cowell Heather McKenzie Derek Dahlke Patterson Laurel Ellison Dantas Susan Patterson Mary C. Donald Shelly Ragan Pickard Stephanie Engelmeyer Sarah Price Ladd Faszold Robert Reed Jasmine Fazzari Valerie Christy Reichert Heather Fehl Kate Reimann Angelica Feliciano Samuel Reinhardt Robin Fish, Jr. David Ressler Alan Freed Gregory J. Riddle Mark Freiman Patti Ruff Riggle John Michael M. Rotello Terree Rowbottom Marushka Royse Jennifer Ryrie Susan Sampson Patricia A. Scanlon Mark V. Scharff Samantha Schmid Paula K. Schweitzer Lisa Sienkiewicz Janice Simmons-Johnson John William Simon Steven S. Slusher Charles G. Smith Shirley Bynum Smith Joshua J. Stanton J. David Stephens Greg Storkan Maureen Taylor Natanja Tomich Pamela Triplett David R. Truman Greg Upchurch Caetlyn Van Buren Samantha Wagner Nancy Maxwell Walther Keith Wehmeier Nicole Weiss Donna Westervelt Paul A. Williams Christopher Wise Mary Wissinger Young Ok Woo Young Ran Woo Lucy Wortham Pamela Wright Susan Donahue Yates Elena Zaring Carl S. Zimmerman
Schumann and Ravel
BY MATT ERIKSON
Ideas at Play
“Everything in the world has an effect on me,” wrote Robert Schumann to his soon-to-be wife Clara on April 13, 1838. “Politics, literature, people. I think about it all in my fashion and my feelings find their expression in music.” Contrary to what Friedrich Nietzsche said about Schumann’s taste being “basically a small taste,” Schumann was in fact a creative type of wide-ranging talent and sophistication. He penned and edited influential essays on music. (During most of his lifetime, Schumann was recognized more as a music critic than composer.) And he shaped, no less, an artistic movement—German romanticism. Furthermore, Schumann explored as many musical genres as possible for a composer of his day, including opera and oratorio. Tonight’s program includes one of Schumann’s most adored works, the Piano Concerto in A minor, alongside Maurice Ravel’s rarely-heard orchestration of Schumann’s trademark piece for solo piano, Carnaval. The 20th-century French composer had long admired the “marked individuality” of Schumann’s music. Although Ravel’s symphonic arrangement of Schumann’s Carnaval is not nearly as famous as Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, it, too, demonstrates a dazzling gift for color. Nijinsky had commissioned Ravel to write the Carnaval orchestration in the months after the 1912 premiere of Daphnis et Chloé. So Ravel’s vivid and lush music for that ballet neatly completes a program that juxtaposes two distinctive composers not typically heard together. Different nationalities, different eras, unlike temperaments— Schumann and Ravel were nonetheless artists of “wide taste.”
Robert Schumann/ orch. Ravel Selections from Carnaval, op. 9
Born: Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810 Died: Endenich, near Bonn, July 29, 1856 First performance: Schumann’s works for solo piano were rarely performed in public during his lifetime, although Franz Liszt performed selections of Carnaval in Leipzig in 1840 STL Symphony premiere: This week Scoring: Two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and other percussion, harp, and strings Performance time: Approximately 10 minutes
In Context 1834-35 Charles Darwin arrives at the Galapagos Islands aboard the HMS Beagle; Donizetti’s great tragic opera Lucia di Lammermoor premieres in Naples; first Continental European railway connects the Belgian cities of Mechelen and Brussels
Of the 150 works Robert Schumann composed over a span of more than 20 years, it’s his piano pieces and songs that we know best. Among the most famous and influential of these is Carnaval, which the German composer wrote while in his mid-twenties. This sprawling work of 21 piano miniatures was intended as a reflection of the carnival season. Many of the movements take on the personae of an elaborate masked ball, with such titles as Schumann in 1839 “Pierrot,” “Arlequin,” and (Schumann’s musical alter-egos) the dreamy “Eusebius” and extroverted “Florestan.” Almost seven decades after its creation, Maurice Ravel orchestrated Carnaval for a ballet commissioned by Vaslav Nijinsky. The charismatic star of the groundbreaking Ballets Russes, Nijinsky was no doubt inspired by Schumann’s immense imagination. And so too was Ravel, who arranged for orchestra the work’s “Préamble,” “Valse Allemande,” “Paganini” and the concluding “Marche des ‘Davidsbündler’ contre les Philistins.” For Ravel, orchestration was a kind of homage. A master orchestator, he re-arranged the music of only a few select composers during his lifetime, including that of Claude Debussy, Emmanuel Chabrier and, most famously, Modest Mussorgsky. Ravel had revered Schumann from a young age. One of Ravel’s first compositions dating from his teenage years was the Variations on a Chorale by Schumann for the piano. Curiously, Ravel wrote little music for ballet after completing the Carnaval. One of the most notable exceptions is Bolero, which premiered in 1928, nine years before Ravel’s death. The Music As a lover of games and ciphers, Schumann introduced in Carnaval a musical code of personal significance. Many of the movements— including the ones that Ravel orchestrated—are based on the pitch equivalents of the letters “ASCH.” (In the German musical nomenclature, “ASCH” translates into the notes A, E-flat, C, B.) Asch, it turns out, is the name of the village from which Schumann’s girlfriend at the time, Ernestine von Fricken, hailed. Yet it isn’t the only code in Schumann’s music—nor the only romantic allusion. Prior to Carnaval’s creation, Schumann studied piano in Leipzig with Friedrich Wieck. Wieck’s teenage daughter Clara was a gifted pianist and composer whom Schumann eventually courted and married. One of Carnaval’s movements is named after Clara. And the work’s “Valse Allemande” is likely a secret reference to one of Clara’s own waltzes. Another kind of dance finishes both Schumann’s original Carnaval and Ravel’s orchestration: a march of bracing syncopated rhythms.
Robert Schumann Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 54
First performance: January 1, 1846, in Leipzig, under the direction of Ferdinand Hiller; Clara Schumann played the solo part STL Symphony premiere: January 24, 1913, Marion Bauer was soloist, with Max Zach conducting Most recent STL Symphony performance: January 21, 2007, Radu Lupu was soloist, with David Robertson conducting Scoring: Solo piano with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, and trumpets; timpani, and strings Performance time: Approximately 31 minutes
In Context 1845 Ireland experiences the start of a devastating potato famine; Henry David Thoreau begins a two-year experiment in simple living at Walden Pond; Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto premieres in Leipzig Although Schumann had composed the bulk of his piano works during the 1830s, the completion of a piano concerto remained an elusive task. From age 17 through his early 30s, Schumann had begun and left unfinished three piano concertos. That changed in the years following his 1840 marriage to Clara. Overall, Schumann’s fortunes had improved. A protracted and bitter legal battle with Clara’s father, Friedrich Wieck, who had vehemently opposed wedding plans, had ended. In addition, Schumann’s compositional powers had grown considerably with a year’s worth of song-writing (the so-called “Liederjahr” of 1840) and the completion of his first symphony (“Spring”) in January 1841. In March of that year, Schumann wrote his Phantasie for piano and orchestra, which eventually evolved into the first movement of the Concerto in A minor. For Clara Schumann, one of Europe’s premiere piano virtuosos, the Phantasie became a staple on her concert tours. (She premiered it just two-and-a-half weeks before giving birth to her first child.) Yet in the years following its composition, Robert Schumann couldn’t secure a publisher. As a composer attuned to the pragmatics of the music business (Schumann was no simple dreamy-eyed Romantic), the Phantasie’s creator realized that this music could have a more sustainable future as part of a standard three-movement concerto. Four years had transpired between the beginning of the Phantasie’s creation and the concerto’s completion in 1845. In those intervening years, the Schumanns had moved from the relative cosmopolitanism of Leipzig to the staid court city of Dresden. Robert Schumann had also experienced a bout of incapacitating illness, one of three major nervous breakdowns he suffered during his lifetime. Part of Schumann’s therapy was months of contrapuntal study (including Bach fugues), which arguably influenced the concerto’s final stage of creation. Schumann began with the thirdmovement finale, followed by the slow movement or Intermezzo. On January 1, 1846, Clara Schumann premiered the concerto in Leipzig with Ferdinand Hiller, the concerto’s dedicatee, conducting.
The Music To the casual listener, much of Schumann’s solo piano work can sound improvisational, even fragmentary. What is remarkable about Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor (the first piano concerto since Beethoven’s “Emperor” to secure a permanent place in the piano concerto repertoire) is how the feeling of improvisation is rooted in a continuous structural plan. In short, the concerto is less “fantastical” and more classical. Dashing chords, in both the piano and orchestra, begin the A-minor Concerto, followed by its primary theme introduced by the oboe. Sonata form—with its operative design of introduction, development and return—is at play in the first movement, with individual sections made more pronounced with changes in tempo and key (including a short trip through the distant key of A flat). On a few notable occasions, the clarinet serves as strong foil to the piano. The oboe returns to close the movement, finished by a flurry of chords that mirror the concerto’s beginning. In the subsequent music, hints of the first movement’s main theme provide cohesion. The slow Intermezzo smoothly transitions to the finale within a span of six stupendous measures. Now in the radiant key of A major and a majestic 3/4 time signature, the concerto ends in a blaze of glory.
Maurice Ravel Daphnis et Chloé
Born: Ciboure, in the Basque region of France, March 7, 1875 Died: Paris, December 28, 1937 First performance: June 8, 1912, in Paris, Pierre Monteux conducted the orchestra of the Ballets Russes STL Symphony premiere: February 1, 1964, Eleazar De Carvalho conducting, with the Sumner High School A Cappella Choir and Sumner Alumni Choir, Kenneth Billups, director Most recent STL Symphony performance: January 24, 1999, David Robertson conducting, with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, Amy Kaiser, director Scoring: A mixed chorus and an orchestra of three flutes, two piccolos, and alto flute, two oboes and English horn, two clarinets, E-flat clarinet, and bass clarinet, three bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, four trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and other percussion, two harps, celesta, and strings Performance time: Approximately 55 minutes
In Context 1912 British ocean liner RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg and sinks in the north Atlantic; Woodrow Wilson defeats Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Eugene Debs to become the 28th U.S. President; Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire debuts in Vienna In the years preceding World War I, the Ballets Russes, led by impresario Sergey Diaghilev, had a huge impact on Parisian cultural life. Debussy, Stravinsky, Satie, Falla, and other contemporary composers were commissioned to Ravel in 1912 write music for the groundbreaking Russian troupe. Also in that distinguished company is Maurice Ravel, who was in his early 30s when the Ballets Russes hit it big in the French capital.
For Ravel, who loved exoticism, fairy tales, and archaic forms draped in musical sensuality, there was something naturally attractive in the ancient Greek story of Daphnis and Chloe as a ballet. The pastoral romance of a goatherd and a shepherdess also accorded with Diaghilev’s vision of finding the radical within the primitive and folkloric. In 1909, Diaghilev commissioned Ravel to write the music to Daphnis et Chloé, in a collaboration that included Michel Fokine, Diaghilev’s choreographer at the time, who supplied the ballet’s narrative. The project’s gestation, however, was long, exhausting, and fraught with difficulty, particularly since Ravel and Fokine seemed to have different ideas for how the ballet should proceed. In a letter to a friend dated June 1909, Ravel wrote, “I must tell you that I’ve just had an insane week: preparation of a ballet libretto for the next Russian season. Almost every night, work until 3 a.m. What complicates things is that Fokine doesn’t know a word of French and I only know how to swear in Russian. In spite of the interpreters, you can imagine the savor of these meetings.” At one point, Diaghilev even considered cancelling the project out of frustration. By the middle of 1910, Ravel was still formulating musical ideas for the ballet. The following year, he labored over its orchestration, while making substantial revisions to the ballet’s finale. There was ample reason for the work’s delay. Daphnis et Chloé turned out to be the longest composition that Ravel wrote, as well as one of the largest contingents of instrumentalists and chorus ever employed by the French composer. Daphnis et Chloé received its premiere on June 8, 1912, in a production that included stylized sets and costumes by Leon Bakst, with Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina dancing the title roles. Pierre Monteux conducted. The first performance of the work (part of an enormous program that included Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and RimskyKorsakov’s Scheherazade) wasn’t successful. The performance was underrehearsed, and many of its dancers found the complicated beat of the work’s finale too challenging. Still, the music caught on with listeners. Igor Stravinsky, one of Ravel’s colleagues and friends, later wrote that the score was “one of the most beautiful products of all of French music.” The Music It was the bold choreography of Diaghilev’s ballet company that captured Ravel’s interest. Appropriately, Ravel’s music for Daphnis et Chloé exudes rhythm and love of the dance. In fact, the French composer referred to this score as a “symphonie choréographique.” The ballet is in three parts or “tableaux” with at least one dance concluding each section. Many of the dances come in the first section, set in a meadow at the edge of a sacred wood. This rustic scene featuring the romantic couple and friends is interrupted by the approach of a pirate ship; Chloé is kidnapped by the intruders. Daphnis curses the nymphs who were unable to protect the girl. But the god Pan hears the goatherd’s supplication. In the second part, set at a rugged seacoast where the pirate ship is anchored, Chloé is ordered by the pirates to dance. She at first refuses,
then tries to escape. Her attempts are unsuccessful. The pirate leader Bryaxis tries to carry his prized prisoner away. But then satyrs come to the rescue. The shadow of Pan alone is enough to disperse the marauders. In the third part, Daphnis and Chloé rejoice in their reunion, starting with blissful “Daybreak” music. Twittering violins and piccolo imitate birdsong in this section, one of several evocations of nature. The woodwind writing alone is intricate and richly textured. “Daybreak” is followed by a “Pantomime” in which the two characters reenact the legend of Pan and Syrinx. Naturally, the flute figures prominently in this music, which is sensuous in its orchestration. The ballet concludes in a riot of rhythm and orchestral color with the ecstatic “Danse générale.” Occasionally reminiscent of Borodin’s “Polovtsian Dances,” the “Danse générale” (“Bacchanale”) features an infectious 5/4 time signature. Ravel later wrote that Daphnis et Chloé is “less concerned with archaism than with fidelity to the Greece of my dreams.” That same sentiment surfaced years later when Ravel was bestowed an honorary degree by Oxford University. At the ceremony, it was declared that “[Ravel] is a charming artist who persuades all cultivated people that Pan is not dead, and that even now Mt. Helicon [the Greek mountain of the muses] is green.”
Program notes © 2011 by Matt Erikson
The St. Louis Symphony invited four writers to produce program notes this season. Matthew Erikson is a freelance journalist and musician. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Fort Worth StarTelegram, and Hartford Courant. He has also worked as a classical music radio announcer and producer for WRR Classical 101.1 in Dallas, Texas, and Aspen Public Radio (Colorado). Erikson currently lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona.
Donor Spotlight Washington University Physicians
About the Pre-Concert Conversations The Pre-Concert Conversations are offered one hour prior to the start of every subscription concert. The conversations are designed to give audiences the opportunity to learn about the evening’s musical repertoire from a variety of informed guest speakers, including St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson. Attending Pre-Concert Conversations enriches the experience of our patrons through the sharing of perspectives on the music. The St. Louis Symphony has been offering Pre-Concert Conversations for more than three decades. Hugh Macdonald, former Avis H. Blewett Professor of Music in Arts and Sciences at Washington University, has been a longtime presenter. When David Robertson became the Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony in 2005, he began offering his perspectives on the concerts he conducts. These thoughtful presentations bring audiences closer to the music through stimulating and illuminating discussion, helping listeners realize the power of that music, and thus be enriched more significantly. About the Sponsor Washington University Physicians are pleased to sponsor the Pre-Concert Conversations because we, like you, value learning. Education is a part of the three-fold mission of the Washington University School of Medicine: education, research—to bring discovery from the laboratory to the bedside—and clinical medicine. Washington University Physicians are the 1250 doctors and surgeons of the School of Medicine, who treat children and adults at the Center for Advanced Medicine, Barnes-Jewish and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospitals, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and 35 other locations in St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, and Phelps County, Missouri. For more information, visit WUPhysicians.wustl.edu.
St. Louis Symphony Principal Horn Roger Kaza, guest pianist Jeremy Denk, and guest conductor Nicholas McGegan at a Pre-Concert Conversation.
Concert Program for November 6, 2011
Live at Powell Hall St. Louis Symphony
Ben Folds with the St. Louis Symphony Ben Folds, piano and vocals Jayce Ogren, conductor
Selections will be announced from the stage. There will be one 20-minute intermission.
Media support provided by the Riverfront Times.
Ben Folds As a solo artist and leader of Ben Folds Five, Folds has sold more than 3 million records over the course of his 17-year recording career. His new recording, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective, includes Fold’s demos, iconoclastic 1990s indie rock recordings and live shows with Ben Folds Five, 21st-century solo work and collaborations, topping off with three new Ben Folds Five recordings, the group’s first in nearly 12 years. The collection, Folds says, “is my best shot at an honest assessment of where I was in each period of my career.” In autumn 2011, Ben Folds returned to his role as celebrity judge on The Sing-Off, the a cappella singing competition series returning for its third season on NBC. Jayce Ogren Jayce Ogren is rapidly developing a reputation as one of the finest young conductors to emerge from the United States. In recent seasons he has conducted the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, and the Grand Rapids Symphony. Ogren also made his New York debut in two programs with the International Contemporary Ensemble under the auspices of the Miller Theater, resulting in an immediate re-invitation. In addition, he stepped into a last-minute cancellation for James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a challenging program that included the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s song-cycle Songs of Love and Sorrow (with Gerald Finley). This season, Ogren will make his debut throughout Europe and the States with the Copenhagen Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Napa Valley Symphony, Berkeley Symphony, and following a highly successful debut with the Asturias Symphony he will return to this orchestra for two separate periods (with pianist Joaquin Achúcarro and baritone Gerald Finley). Ogren’s critically acclaimed performances with New York City Opera have led to a re-invitation and he will return there to conduct performances of Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna.
Orchestrally Speaking: An Interview with Ben Folds
BY TERRY PERKINS
Combining rock musicians with symphony orchestras in live performance may seem like a winning combination. Seemingly incongruous pairings such as Metallica playing with the San Francisco Symphony, Kiss performing with Australia’s Melbourne Orchestra, or Deep Purple sharing the stage with the London Symphony have actually taken place and done well at the box office. And everyone involved apparently survived the experience. But making these very different musical genres work in tandem to create a memorable and artistically successful concert experience can be quite a challenge for both rock and classical artists. Ben Folds, who makes his debut with the St.Louis Symphony tonight, has been performing with symphony orchestras for the past five years. Although Folds is best known for his recordings with the high-energy alt-rock trio, Ben Folds Five, in the 1990s, and his solo work over the past decade, he actually began playing music in orchestral settings in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “I used to play percussion in orchestras when I was a kid,” explains Folds. “The North Carolina School for the Arts was near my house. I really liked the way that percussion fit into classical music. That’s what I thought I was going to do—be a percussionist in an orchestra.” But Folds gravitated from playing drums as a session musician in Nashville to playing the bass and eventually the piano. And after spending time in New York, he moved back home and started Ben Folds Five, which released its self-titled debut album in 1995. Although Folds and the band were playing stripped-down music with piano, bass, and drums, the songs he was writing for the band were actually sounding much different to him—and much more orchestral—in the creative process. “I always heard my songs in an orchestral context rather than a rockband context,” explains Folds. “There were songs we did for our first album that were recorded as a trio. But I had string parts in my head. I would bring that up to the band and they disciplined me not to do it. It was their thought to keep it simple and just get the point across.” Eventually, Folds decided to perform his music in orchestral settings, making his debut in that format in a concert with the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth in 2005. It was not Folds’ idea, and he was actually against the concept at first. “A guy in Perth, Australia convinced me that it was a good idea,” recalls Folds. “I really didn’t think it was a good idea at first, because I’d seen a couple rock bands play with orchestras and thought it was a weird
exercise. It’s a situation that has a lot of problems. If you’re in the band, drums and guitars just spill over into the orchestra, which is relegated to playing whole notes.” But the concert was a great success, and was released as a DVD, Live in Perth, later that year. The experience prompted Folds to continue working with orchestras on a regular basis, and since then he’s performed with the Boston Pops and with symphony orchestras in Dallas, Washington, D.C., Colorado, Pittsburgh, and now St. Louis to sold-out audiences and critical acclaim.
“Orchestras have grooved for hundreds of years.”
For Folds, performing with orchestras has become more than just an occasional break from his usual concert appearances as a rock musician. He’s taken the time to really make his music work in orchestral settings. “What’s exciting to me about this is that we work to arrange my music in a way that makes the orchestra the rock band,” says Folds. “Orchestras have grooved for hundreds of years. So why does the orchestra have to sit up there and go ‘eeehhh’ while the band beats the song up? So it ends up that the orchestra is really taking care of a lot of the percussive elements of the songs.” But pulling all this together takes considerable effort on Folds’ part to bridge the gap between rock and classical and make his music work as effectively as possible in orchestral settings. “I work with about five or six different arrangers on making the songs work,” he says. “I could do it myself, but if I did, I would literally not have time to do anything else except that. For the structure of the songs, there’s the voice leading them, and then the potential arrangement inside the song can be carried by an orchestra, or it could be carried by a choir. The songs are built so that they can stand up to a lot of different treatments.” But Folds realizes that finding the correct balance for his music in orchestral settings is not always easy. He looks at it as a commitment and project that he is committed to for some time to come. “When I first started playing with orchestras, I thought of it as a longterm work in progress,” explains Folds. “Sometimes the arrangements of the songs don’t work after months and months of scoring and then playing them with orchestras. Maybe one out of three don’t work. And when I play with orchestras, I will find things almost every night and think, that needs to be changed or we can do it better. But, hearing them with an orchestra, in a funny kind of way, it’s like coming back home for those songs.” Terry Perkins has written about music for DownBeat, Jazz Times, the St. Louis Beacon, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also writes for RollingStone.com, oxfordamerican.org, and AllAboutJazz.com.
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