David Robertson to Conduct RIPO Season Opener

Friends,

With sincere regret, Bramwell has had to withdraw from  leading our RIPO season opener this week. He has been advised not to travel at present due to the quarantine requirements in Canada. American conductor David Robertson will take over.  Robertson transformed the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra during his 13-year tenure as music director into one of the nation’s most innovative arts organizations. An inspiring conductor, artist and thinker, ingenious programmer and masterful communicator, Robertson is a musical visionary.

Bramwell has worked tirelessly with us to re-program the first half of the 2020-21 season so that performances could resume safely for artists and audience. He is deeply disappointed to miss the orchestra’s first live concert in over six months and looks forward to being back in Rhode Island as soon as possible. We are all likewise disappointed not to be able to share this return to the stage with him. Nevertheless, I look forward to being back at The VETS with some of you in person, and others via livestream as we safely bring live music back to our audience and community.

Thank you,

David Beauchesne
Executive Director, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School

THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings”

On September 26, violinist Benjamin Beilman will join Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for the Opening Night concert of the 2020-2021 season. 

THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings

Title: Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op.48

Composer: Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Premiere

Orchestration: Strings

The Story: 

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky | Famous composers, Classical music composers,  Classical musicians

Peter I. Tchaikovsky reached great depths in his last symphonies. He achieved dramatic and programmatic concentration in his ballets, overtures, and opera. But for pure attractiveness, he may well have arrived at the pinnacle in his Serenade for Strings. Although normally unwilling to praise himself, Tchaikovsky immediately recognized the worth and sincerity of this music, as he wrote to his patroness, Mme. von Meck, “I composed the serenade . . . from inner conviction. It is a heartfelt piece and so, I dare to think, it is not lacking in real qualities.”

The premiere was a surprise private performance given for the composer at the Moscow Conservatory in 1880. The Serenade for Strings aroused general enthusiasm there and at the public premiere in 1882, when the Waltz movement had to be encored. Even Anton Rubinstein, who had consistently criticized Tchaikovsky’s music, finally found a piece he could endorse wholeheartedly.

Tchaikovsky’s four-movement serenade is one of his tributes to the 18th century, though not as obvious as the Rococo Variations or Mozartiana. In fact, we have hardly a hint of neo-Classicism in the stately slow introduction, which becomes something of a motto during the serenade. Yet the composer avowed that the first movement was his “homage to Mozart . . . intended to be in imitation of his style.” Cast as a sonatina form (without development), the movement features two themes that do display some 18th-century character. The first is presented in canon, and the second is a perpetual motion idea reminiscent of Italian opera buffa. The introduction returns at the end of the movement as a coda.

The second movement is one of Tchaikovsky’s most ingratiating waltzes. Occasional retards and held notes toy coquettishly with the listener. The trio section is more heroic in character, perhaps the masculine counterpart of the feminine main theme.

Four hymn-like phrases begin the Elegy. Each begins with the same upward scale, but all end differently. The captivating melody of the middle section is chiefly an interchange between the first violins and the cellos. In the return of the main section, ascending phrases are answered by descending ones, setting in motion an extended coda. There is a final upward thrust in all parts.

The “Russian Theme” of the finale is the Andante introduction. In its last phrases, the composer introduces the same descending four-note motive that began the serenade. This, in turn, generates the first motive of the witty main Allegro theme. A charming second theme offers contrast, but the main theme is the subject of development, including a fugato. As a coda or postlude, the serenade’s motto opening section returns but eventually gives way to the finale theme for a playful finish.

 

 

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

 

THE STORY BEHIND: Bach’s Violin Concerto No.2

On September 26, violinist Benjamin Beilman will join Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for the Opening Night concert of the 2020-2021 season. 

THE STORY BEHIND: Bach’s Violin Concerto No.2

Title: Violin Concerto No.2 in E Major

Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: March 18, 1989 with Andrew Massey conducting and soloist Charles Sherba.

Orchestration: This piece is scored for strings.

The Story: 

Johann Sebastian Bach

Most of Bach’s orchestral works in concerto form originated in his period working for the Duke of Anhalt-Cöthen (1717 1723) or earlier. During the Cöthen period, J.S. Bach wrote little or no church music, concentrating instead on keyboard, chamber, and orchestral music for the court. Only a few concertos have come down to us, although Bach experts speculate that there must have been many more now lost.

Three concertos involving violins have survived. Two of them (in A minor and E major) are for solo violin, and one in D minor is for two violins. Vivaldi was the deepest influence on Bach wherever Italian forms (such as the concerto) were concerned, and all three works bear some external similarities to Vivaldi’s music. However, the spirit and compositional technique is pure Bach.

The very striking theme of the E Major Concerto’s first movement is a case in point. Its incisive initial rhythms followed by a spun-out line are Vivaldi-inspired, while the violin soloist’s part — with lines diving in and out of the texture — could be by none other than Bach. This movement is in ritornello form, where the theme returns several times, often with the subtle shading of a new key. In between, the soloist’s episodes fit as perfectly as tiles in a mosaic.

In the second movement, Bach introduces the Adagio‘s repetitive theme in the lower strings. Although the movement begins in C-sharp minor, the composer spends much time in other keys, lending tenderness to the music. The solo violin part is inspired by Vivaldi’s slow movements, which in turn take their cue from operatic aria style (with the violin substituting for a solo voice).

In the folk-dance style of the final movement, the soloist acts both contentiously and in concert with the other strings, creating moments of tension as well as joyous release. Like the first movement, the finale is a ritornello in which several keys — with their unique colors — are explored. We hear one thing Bach’s and Vivaldi’s finales share: pure, joyous excitement.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

THE STORY BEHIND: Walker’s “Lyric for Strings”

On September 26, violinist Benjamin Beilman will join Bramwell Tovey and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for the Opening Night concert of the 2020-2021 season. 

THE STORY BEHIND: Walker’s Lyric for Strings

Title: Lyric for Strings

Composer: George Walker (1922-2018)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: This is a RI Philharmonic Premiere

Orchestration: Strings

The Story: 

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George Walker is one of America’s most distinguished Black composers. Educated at Oberlin and Curtis conservatories, the Eastman School of Music, and Fontainbleau, Walker studied composition with such notables as Gian Carlo Menotti and Nadia Boulanger, and piano with Rudolph Serkin and Robert Casadesus. Having taught in several major schools of music, Walker held chairs in composition at Rutgers University, the University of Delaware and the Peabody Institute. He has also won two Rockefeller fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1982, Walker was made a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1996, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his symphonic work, Lilacs, based on poetry by Walt Whitman. Walker was the first African-American to be honored with that award. Walker’s orchestral music has been commissioned and performed by leading orchestras in New York, Boston, Washington (DC), Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, Minnesota and London. Among his best known works is his Trombone Concerto.

Concerning his Lyric for Strings, Walker has written that:

“It was composed in 1946 and was originally the second movement of my first string quartet. After a brief introduction, the principal theme that permeates the entire work is introduced by the first violins. A static interlude is followed by successive imitations of the theme that leads to an intense climax. The final section of the work presents a somewhat more animated statement of the same thematic material. The coda recalls the quiet interlude that appeared earlier. The Lyric for Strings is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother.”

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

MEET THE SOLOIST: Benjamin Beilman, violin: Bramwell Tovey Conducts Tchaikovsky, September 26, 2020

Benjamin Beilman 3889_credit Stefan Ruiz

Benjamin Beilman, violin

Performs Bach’s Violin Concerto No.2 in E Major

TACO Classical Concert Series: September 26, 2020 at 8 p.m.

Background: Benjamin studied with Almita and Roland Vamos at the Music Institute of Chicago, Ida Kavafian and Pamela Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music, and Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy.

Highlights:

  • Has received many prestigious accolades including a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a London Music Masters Award.
  • Has an exclusive recording contract with Warner Classics and released his first disc Spectrum for the label in 2016, featuring works by Stravinsky, Janáček and Schubert.
  • Plays the “Engleman” Stradivarius from 1709 generously on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.
  • In early 2018, he premiered a new work dedicated to the political activist Angela Davis, written by Frederic Rzewski and commissioned by Music Accord, which he has performed extensively across the US.

Critical Praise:

  • “Mr. Beilman’s handsome technique, burnished sound and quiet confidence…showed why he has come so far so fast.” – The New York Times
  • “Poised and monstrously talented.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • “Beilman is a rare and wonderful violinist.” – The Buffalo News

Benjamin Beilman 3005_credit Stefan Ruiz

MEET THE STAFF: Beth Splaine, RI Philharmonic Music School Faculty Member

Where did you grow up? Wilmington, Delaware.

Favorite meal or restaurant? Anything my husband prepares. He’s a fantastic chef!

Coffee or Tea? Coffee.

What instrument do you teach at the RI Philharmonic Music School? Voice.

What inspired you to take up that instrument and how old were you when you started? Like most singers, I’ve known since I was little what I wanted to do when I grew up. It just took me a while and a roundabout road to get here!

Who was your best teacher and why? I’ve had five or six voice instructors in my life, and each has gifted me invaluable information. Some on what and how to teach and some on how NOT to teach. I try to take all of that information and apply it to my teaching. However, my last teacher in Holland, MI was the most informative and the technique he taught me is what I used on the operatic stage performing and what I teach now.

What inspired you to start teaching? My piano teacher/choir director in Hershey, PA. She referred someone to me and I told the young lady that I wasn’t a teacher, but she came for a lesson anyway. That was 16 years ago.

How long have you been teaching at the RI Philharmonic Music School? Almost two years.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Connecting with my students, aged 6 to 92 (throughout my teaching career.) I LOVE seeing the students surprise themselves by improving. I LOVE seeing them perform and become a character who presents a performance the student didn’t think was possible. And, very importantly, because singers’ instruments are their bodies, when their voices improve, so does their confidence. I cannot express how wonderful it is to see a student’s general confidence increase!

What do you want people to know about the RI Philharmonic Music School? I feel great pride when I walk through the RIPHIL doors. Listening to all of the instruments/voices rehearsing gives me great peace, a sense of accomplishment. We are all working for something that is greater than each one of us. It is a good lesson for life. I want people to know that the school offers top notch instruction from teachers who genuinely care about the students and their colleagues.

How are you keeping yourself occupied while being at home all day? Teaching on line, of course. And writing. My next book, Devil’s Grace, will be released on 11/11/20. You can visit elizabethsplaineauthor.com to learn more.

You’re stuck on a desert island… what book, music/album/artist and movie do you want with you? Book: Crime and Punishment. I re-read it recently and loved it as much as I did when I read it thirty years ago. Again, so many lessons to be learned. Music: This is a tough one, but I’m going to have to go with Les Misérables. I love all of the music. Movie: No question on this one…The Bird Cage.

MEET THE STAFF: Ron Sanfilippo, RI Philharmonic Music School Faculty Member

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Where did you grow up? Middletown, RI.

Favorite meal or restaurant? Home. Whatever I cook.

Coffee or Tea? Coffee. Tea occasionally.

What instrument do you teach at the RI Philharmonic Music School? Jazz piano, jazz ensembles.

What inspired you to take up that instrument and how old were you when you started?My mom made me take lessons when I was very young.Made me practice too much. I hated it and quit. Played trumpet in high school and college. Tried classical piano in college but failed. After 4 years of college (no Degree) I transferred to Berklee. Started to study jazz piano.

Who was your best teacher and why? Harvey Diamond. When I first went to Berklee I was in a beginner piano class with drummers, horn players, etc.Harvey was the teacher. Tragedy forced me to leave Berklee after 1 1/2 years. When I left I began studying privately with Harvey. He was a true Artist. For the first time I realized what the art of jazz and improvisation was all about. I wanted to be like Harvey.

What inspired you to start teaching? Financial necessity. As I began to teach I found I was good at it and learned the music better myself.

How long have you been teaching at the RI Philharmonic Music School? 22 years.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? The challenge of getting all students to learn. We all have different learning challenges and curves. Often I have to be very creative to get students to master different skills. By doing this it not only makes me a better teacher, but I also learn what I have come to know even better. I become a better musician through teaching. As I get better, so do my students. It is a win win situation.

What do you want people to know about the RI Philharmonic Music School? From my perspective and what I do, the Music School is a great place for young students who are considering music a major in college or as a profession, it is THE school to enroll in. The atmosphere is relaxed, the teachers great, all the students are truly supported, and there are many different opportunities and courses to explore.

How are you keeping yourself occupied while being at home all day? Up until recently nearly ALL of my time was taken up teaching my classes at Brown University
online, as well as my Music School students. Lately I have been practicing and doing a lot of garden work in my yard.

You’re stuck on a desert island… what book, music/album/artist and movie do you want with you? It would be a good time to start reading the Bible. Music is tough for
just one album. Maybe John Coltrane’s album Ballads or one of the Bill Evans/Tony Bennett albums, or maybe the Band’s first album, The Band. Not sure about a movie. Possibly Avatar.

MEET THE STAFF: Nancy Kidd, RI Philharmonic Orchestra Musician

Kidd, Nancy - Family Concert Photo

Where did you grow up? Delmar, NY (Outside of Albany).

Favorite meal or restaurant? Anything with seafood.

Coffee or Tea? Neither.

What instrument do you play in the RI Philharmonic? Double Bass.

What inspired you to take up that instrument and how old were you when you started? I was ten years old and my elementary school had an instrument program. I was going to randomly choose flute or violin, but my mom steered me toward the cello (long story). I had to have a second choice, and I remembered there was some “big instrument” they told us about. Luckily for me, my mom knew it was the bass. The orchestra teacher put me on bass since I was the only one with it as either a first or second choice, and I was tall for a ten-year-old. So, I guess it was chance that brought me to the bass, but it was a lucky thing.

What’s your favorite composition for that instrument? Bottesini’s “Introduction and Gavotte”.

How long have you been playing in the RI Philharmonic? I have been a tenured member for nearly 15 years and subbed for about 5 years before that.

What is the best performance you’ve ever heard? Dvorak’s Cello Concerto performed at the Chautauqua Institute.

What do you want people to know about the RI Philharmonic Orchestra? We really enjoy playing together and I think this shows in our performances.

How are you keeping yourself occupied while being at home all day? I am still teaching remotely and taking a lot of walks.

You’re stuck on a desert island… what book, music/album/artist and movie do you want with you? Book: Harry Potter. Music: Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite. Movie: Star Wars.

MEET THE STAFF: Gabriel Langfur Rice, RI Philharmonic Orchestra Musician

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Where did you grow up? I was born in Berkeley CA, moved to Lawrence NY on Long Island before grade school.

Favorite meal or restaurant? Surprise me.

Coffee or Tea? Hot coffee, iced tea.

What instrument do you play in the RI Philharmonic? Bass Trombone.

What inspired you to take up that instrument and how old were you when you started? I started on piano, then trumpet for elementary school band in 4th grade. I switched to trombone for the next year, dabbled in bass guitar (dabbling again after 30 years), and then switched to bass trombone when I got to college.

What’s your favorite composition for that instrument? The best thing about the bass trombone is its function in ensembles, so my favorite things to play don’t necessarily feature the bass trombone. One of my favorite pieces to play is Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale – which can also be played on tenor trombone, but I think sounds better on bass.

How long have you been playing in the RI Philharmonic? 25 years.

What is the best performance you’ve ever heard? Hard to say, but I was deeply inspired when I was in high school by going to an open rehearsal of the NY Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein conducting Mahler’s Second Symphony.

What do you want people to know about the RI Philharmonic Orchestra? I have had the opportunity to travel around the country subbing with other orchestras, many of which pay salaries to their musicians. The RI Philharmonic is better than any other orchestra I’ve played with except the Boston Symphony.

How are you keeping yourself occupied while being at home all day? I’ve been doing some teaching online. I’m practicing, but honestly not a lot. I’m doing the bass guitar dabbling I mentioned above. I’m a full-blown Facebook addict. I read the news as much as I can stand. I’m trying to become a better citizen and ally to people of color and others who need courage and support.

You’re stuck on a desert island… what book, music/album/artist and movie do you want with you? I can’t say I have a favorite book. One I’ve read several times is Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. Likewise music – can’t pick just one. It’s a tough call between Led Zeppelin and Bach. I do have a favorite movie that I recommend everybody look up; it’s called Crazy People.