PERFORMANCES & TICKETS


Britt Orchestra / Opening Night / Ray Chen

Friday, August 5, 8 p.m.

PROGRAM

LEV ZHURBIN: Current (world premiere commission)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto No. 1
STRAVINSKY: Petrushka
TCHAIKOVSKY: 1812 Overture

TICKETS ON SALE 2-12-16 at 9 a.m.: Reserved $47 | Lawn $32 | Child/Student Lawn $10 
GATES OPEN: @ 5:45 Early Entry | 6:00 General Public

Opening Night 2016

Music Director Teddy Abrams opens the 2016 Britt Orchestra season with a new commission by celebrated Russian-American composer Lev Zhurbin, whom The New York Times has called, “strikingly original and soulful.”

The Russian program continues with Shostakovich’s complex and powerful First Violin Concerto, featuring Ray Chen.
Stravinsky’s Petrushka was written as a ballet that revolves around a deadly love triangle among puppets who suddenly come to life — Petrushka, a ballerina and a Moor.

The concert ends with one of the most popular pieces of orchestral music: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Written to celebrate Napoleon’s retreat from Russian, the piece finishes with a climax of brass fanfare, ringing chimes and the sounds of cannon fire.

Be sure to start off your evening with the Opening Night Gala Dinner and a "Russian Feast." Seats are limited!

Unless otherwise noted, program notes are written by Mark Knippel.

Lev 'Ljova' Zhurbin
Current
(world premiere; Britt co-commissioned this work with the Louisville Orchestra)

Composer: born August 18, 1978
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, harp, piano, percussion (snare drum, bass drum, tenor drum, triangle, suspended cymbal, tam-tam, toms, claves, glockenspiel, xylophone) and strings

NOTES
The following notes were provided by the composer himself, who will be in attendance for this world premiere:

Current was inspired by the landscape of currents, and by taking a look at the orchestra as a group of individuals coming together to interpret a piece not as a singular unit but in a more personalized way. The score consists of musical ideas which are not aligned to a unified sense of pulse; there are very few measures with a time signature. For the majority of the piece, the conductor cues musicians only at the start of a bar — how the music is shaped between one downbeat and the next is largely up to the performers. At the beginning of the piece, this effect (sometimes called “aleatoric music”) is used to create sweeping waves; later on it’s used to create intricate rhythmic textures, uniquely different at each reading.

I realized that by leaving rhythmic precision on the sidelines I would be inviting chaos to reign over the score. To regain some amount of control, I felt compelled to employ simplified notation (most long notes are “whole” and most short notes are “sixteenths”) and to leave musical ideas in their germinal form rather than fully developed. Having an entire section of musicians interpret the same rhythmic figure individually can lead to a beautiful and unpredictable sea of counterpoint and harmony.

My hope with Current is to give the musicians more latitude to interpret their parts, invite them to put more of a personal stamp on the performance, and, through listening to each other, come together in a new way.

I’m deeply indebted to Teddy Abrams, the musicians and staff of The Britt Festival and The Louisville Orchestra for their courage and trust in commissioning Current, my first commissioned work for full orchestra.

Dmitri Shostakovich
Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 99
(composed in 1947-48 as Op. 77; revised in 1955)

Composer: born September 25, 1906; died August 9, 1975

I.     Nocturne: Moderato
II.    Scherzo: Allegro
III.   Passacaglia: Andante
IV.   Burlesque: Allegro con brio–Presto

Instrumentation: 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd doubling English horn), 3 clarinets (3rd doubling bass clarinet), 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, tambourine, xylophone, celesta, harp, and strings.

NOTES
One of the few 20th century Russian composers to produce the bulk of their oeuvre within the restrictive social construct that was the Soviet Union, Shostakovich’s music frequently reflects a tumultuous inner and outer life. Living under the thumb of the Soviet intelligentsia meant conforming to their rules, however vague or arbitrary those rules may have been. As a result, Shostakovich’s forward-thinking aesthetic position was frequently denounced by the Soviet demagogues. It occurred once in the form of harsh criticism of his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District (1932), but more severely in 1948, when the Soviet regime condemned Shostakovich and other artists (such as Sergei Prokofiev) for “formalistic distortions and anti-democratic tendencies alien to the Soviet people.” This condemnation forced Shostakovich to hide some of his more forward-thinking compositions, and focus more on accessible musical materials, such as his extensive work in incidental music for theater and film. Among the works he hid from the public view at this time was his first Violin Concerto.

The Concerto was first composed between 1947 and 1948, but did not receive its premiere until 1955, two years after the death of Stalin and the loosening of restrictions placed on Soviet artists. It is a unique entry into the concerto genre, as it defies the traditional three-movement concerto form. It begins with a moderato Nocturne in something of a song form, while a more “normal” concerto would begin with an Allegro movement, most likely in sonata form. The Nocturne can be thought of as a sort of meditation on several themes that the soloist picks up from the low strings in the beginning. The mood of the movement is decidedly dreary, with brief interjections by the winds and strings between explorations of the themes by the soloist. The movement slowly winds down from its climax with wonderful colors in the accompanying strings, harp and celeste.

The second movement, a raucous Scherzo, begins with the soloist accompanying a flute and bass clarinet playing the same line in octaves (again, not your traditional concerto!), but the violin quickly begins to display fiery virtuosity. Shostakovich’s proclivity toward frantic writing is on full display in this movement, and many of the themes suggest a folk or peasant origin.

The best known part of the concerto is likely the third movement, a Passacaglia, which is a standard musical form in triple meter (3 beats per measure) that is based on a repeating bass line. The melody from the first movement makes its return, and the character of the music finds its way back to a more somber mood. The movement ends with an extensive and impressive violin cadenza, one of the most difficult cadenzas in the literature (due to its length, depth of expression, and technical demands), which gradually builds in intensity to launch the final movement.

The finale, a “Burlesque,” lends itself to a more sarcastic character than the rest of the work. The tone becomes mocking, but in an almost self-deprecating way. We also hear the same kind of virtuosity found in the first movement, but it feels more frantic and driven toward the final climactic moments.

The work as whole is an important contribution to the violin concerto genre, with its experiments in form and Shostakovich’s seamless ability to transition between moments of joy and anguish, making it stand out from other concerti from the same period. This concerto can be seen as a microcosm of Shostakovich’s overall style as a composer, with cosmopolitan influences integrated into Russian aesthetics, and a skillful blend of experimentation and traditional elements that together show the intelligence and charm of one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

Igor Stravinsky
Petrushka
(composed in 1910-11, revised in 1947)

Composer: born June 17, 1882; died April 6 1971
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, harp, celesta, piano, bass drum with attached cymbal, bass drum, cymbals, suspended cymbal, snare drum, tambourine, tam-tam, triangle, xylophone, and strings

NOTES
In stark contrast to Shostakovich, Stravinsky’s musical career played out in a much different and more cosmopolitan manner. In 1909, Stravinsky had two of his works (Scherzo Fantastique and Fireworks) performed at a concert in St. Petersburg. Among the audience members was the impresario Sergey Dyagilev, who had been planning performances of Russian art in Paris through the famed Ballet Russes. He had his choreographers and librettists ready to create new operas and ballets, and now Dyagilev needed his composer. Stravinsky first did some arrangements of other works for Dyagliev, and then was commissioned to write a new ballet for the 1910 season, which became Stravinsky’s first major success in The Firebird (performed at Britt in 2014). The artistic relationship between Stravinsky and Dyagilev forever altered the course of music in the 20th century, as their collaborations included The Firebird, The Rite of Spring (performed at Britt in 2015), and tonight’s work, Petrushka.

The genesis of Petrushka is very much bound to the genesis of The Rite of Spring, as they were conceived at the same time. Even before the successful premiere of The Firebird, Stravinsky had a dream that inspired the pagan scenes in The Rite of Spring. He mentioned his dream to Dyagilev, who very much liked the idea and hoped to create a ballet based on the work. Following the premiere of The Firebird, Stravinsky retreated to Lausanne, Switzerland to begin work on the new ballet, but when Dyagliev paid him a visit, he found Stravinsky working on an entirely different work. This work was a concert piece for piano and orchestra, inspired by a “picture of a puppet, suddenly endowed with life, exasperating the patience of the orchestra with diabolical cascades of arpeggios.” Stravinsky had a working title for the piece as well: Petrushka. Dyagliev promptly convinced Stravinsky to alter the work and turn it into a ballet score, and to put off completing The Rite of Spring until the next season.

Petrushka was first performed in June 1911 in Paris, and was later rescored for a smaller orchestra in 1947. We will hear the 1947 version tonight. The plot and structure of Petrushka was invented by Stravinsky and Ballet Russes designer Alexandre Benois. The “burlesque in four scenes” revolves around a tragic love triangle between three puppets – Petrushka, the Ballerina, and the Moor – brought to life by a Magician’s flute at the 1830 St. Petersburg Shrovetide Fair (which is essentially Carnival/Mardi Gras). The work opens with a market scene, with vendors shouting their offers (flutes and celli) over the din of the fair (clarinets, horns, and soon enough, the violins). As the Shrovetide party seems to enter its peak, the listener then encounters a fair stall with the Magician, who promptly casts the spell to bring our three puppets to life. Stravinsky handles the changing of scenes with the skill of a modern filmmaker, as drumrolls drive the transitions between scenes (or tableaus, as they are dubbed in the score). The second scene focuses on Petrushka and his dreams of freedom and unrequited love for the Ballerina. The third tableau depicts a love scene between the Moor and the Ballerina, which is interrupted by Petrushka. The Moor then chases Petrushka from the scene, which leads to the fourth tableau back at the fair. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Shrovetide, the Moor continues his pursuit of Petrushka, where he finally strikes Petrushka down with his sabre, much to the dismay of the gathered crowds. The Magician appears to show everyone that Petrushka is merely a puppet, and no actual murder has taken place. However, after the square is empty, the Magician sees Petrushka’s ghost on the roof of the set, startling the Magician to no end!

Compositionally, Stravinsky borrows heavily from folk music in this work, in particular “urban” folk tunes he heard from the cities he had lived in. What makes the use of folk music in Petrushka unique has more to do with the treatment of the melodies than the use of the melodies themselves, since composers have been borrowing from folk traditions for hundreds of years prior to Stravinsky’s time. The entire work can be thought of as a patchwork of different folk song quotations, ranging from songs found in collections compiled by the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov and other prominent Russian composers, to half-remembered tunes Stravinsky heard in passing.

Pyotr (Peter) Ilyich Tchaikovsky
1812 Overture, Op. 49
(composed in 1880; premiered in 1882)

Composer: born May 7, 1840; died November 6, 1893
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (one doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tambourine, triangle, tubular bells, cannons and strings

NOTES
*written by Hope Erickson
St. Petersburg Conservatory has had many innovative and prominent musicians, composers, conductors, and teachers walk through its doors; Peter Tchaikovsky is no exception, as one of its first graduates in 1865. His technique impressed his principal teacher Anton Rubinstein, as well as his classmates, especially Herman Laroche. Because of Tchaikovsky’s immense gift, Laroche prophesied, “You are the greatest musical talent in present-day Russia…I see in you the greatest, or better said, the sole hope of our musical future.”

In 1880, Nikolay Rubinstein, Tchaikovsky’s mentor and friend, sent him a request to write a piece for chorus and orchestra to be produced at the Moscow Exhibition. Upon receiving this request, Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck, “Nothing is more unpleasant to me than manufacturing of music for such occasions.” He wrote her two weeks later, bragging that he wrote a Festival Overture for the Exhibition and a Serenade in four movements for string orchestra. He was planning on putting off this unpleasant duty as long as he could: “The overture will be very noisy. I wrote it without much warmth of enthusiasm; therefore it has no great artistic value.”

The 1812 Overture is a play-by-play of the Battle of Borodino, the conflict between French and Russian forces. Before the Russian troops retreated, allowing the French to occupy Moscow, they torched the city. They were left to face the harsh winter with famine and disease. The army eventually abandoned their post after a month and marched back across the frozen landscape to France.

Tchaikovsky begins with the plaintive Russian melody of “O Lord, Save Thy People”; he uses other hymns and folksongs to depict the Russian people, and the persistence of the French is suggested by the national anthem “La Marseillaise.” The themes recur as the battle continues. Just as the French seem victorious, the cannons fire, accentuating the jubilant reprises of “O Lord, Save Thy People” and “God Save the Czar.”

Ray Chen

Winner of the Queen Elisabeth and Yehudi Menuhin Competitions, Ray Chen is among the most compelling young violinists today.

Chen has released three critically acclaimed albums on Sony: a recital program titled “Virtuoso” including works by Bach, Tartini, Franck, and Wieniawski, which was distinguished with the prestigious ECHO Klassik award; a recording of the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos with the Swedish Radio Orchestra and Daniel Harding; and his latest recording, an all-Mozart album with Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra.

He continues to win the admiration of fans and fellow musicians worldwide. On Bastille Day in 2015, Chen joined Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France for a televised concert on the Champs-de-Mars in Paris in front of an audience of over 800,000.

He recently completed a five-city tour of China with the Gothenburg Symphony and Kent Nagano, as well as a European tour with the London Philharmonic and Christoph Eschenbach. Other highlights of the past season include his debuts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, a recital at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and a second engagement with Gatti and the Orchestre National de France.

Expanding the appeal of classical music to young audiences is a commitment that encompasses Chen’s work both onstage and off. His use of social media, in particular his series of quirky, self- made online videos, has proven an effective tool in broadening the reach of classical music through humor and education.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Australia, Ray was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music at age 15, where he studied with Aaron Rosand and was supported by Young Concert Artists. He plays the 1715 “Joachim” Stradivarius violin on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation. This instrument is one of the five 1715 violins once owned by the famed Hungarian violinist, Joseph Joachim (1831-1907).

 

Guest Artist: Ray Chen

Ray Chen

Winner of the Queen Elisabeth (2009) and Yehudi Menuhin Competitions (2008), Ray Chen is among the most compelling young violinists today. “Ray has proven himself to be a very pure musician with great qualities such as a beautiful youthful tone, vitality and lightness. He has all the skills of a truly musical interpreter,” said the great Maxim Vengerov.
Ray has released three critically acclaimed albums on Sony: a recital program “Virtuoso” of works by Bach, Tartini, Franck, and Wieniawski, and the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos with Swedish Radio Orchestra and Daniel Harding. Following the success of these recordings, Ray was profiled by The Strad and Gramophone magazines as “the one to watch”. “Virtuoso” was distinguished with the prestigious ECHO Klassik award. His third recording, an all-Mozart album with Christoph Eschenbach and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, was released in January 2014.

Ray continues to win the admiration of fans and fellow musicians worldwide. In 2012, he became the youngest soloist ever to perform in the televised Nobel Prize Concert for the Nobel Laureates and the Swedish Royal Family. His Carnegie Hall debut with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Sakari Oramo, as well as his sold-out Musikverein concert with the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Riccardo Chailly were met with standing ovations.

Ray Chen recently completed a 16-concert national recital tour of Australia and made his debut with the Orchestre National de France. He looks forward to an upcoming tour of China with the Gothenburg Symphony and Kent Nagano, and a European tour with the London Philharmonic and Christoph Eschenbach. Other highlights of the season include debuts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and a recital at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.

Followed by over 1 million people on SoundCloud, Ray Chen looks to expand the classical music audience by increasing its appeal to the young generation via all available social media platforms. He is the first ever classical musician to be invited to write a regular blog about his life as a touring soloist for the largest Italian publishing house, RCS Rizzoli (Corriere della Sera, Gazzetta dello Sport, Max). In his unstinting efforts to break down barriers between classical music, fashion and pop culture, he is supported by Giorgio Armani and was recently featured in Vogue magazine.

Born in Taiwan and raised in Australia, Ray was accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music at age 15, where he studied with Aaron Rosand and was supported by Young Concert Artists. He plays the 1715 “Joachim” Stradivarius violin on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation. This instrument is one of the five 1715 violins once owned by the famed Hungarian violinist, Joseph Joachim (1831-1907).

Visit these sites for more information on Ray Chen:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Soundcloud
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Pre-concert music: Joseph Yungen & Ian Greenberg

Begins in the Britt Performance Garden at 6:00 p.m.

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