Pianist Spencer Myer performs Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety Symphony
The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes guest conductor Victor Yampolsky to The VETS stage for Barber’s Essay No.2, Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, and Bernstein’s Symphony No.2 (The Age of Anxiety), featuring soloist Spencer Myer on piano. The TACO Classical Concert is Saturday, March 17, 8:00pm; the Amica Rush Hour Concert is on Friday, March 16, 6:30pm.
“We’re looking forward to the upcoming program with Victor Yampolsky on the podium, and Spencer Myer on the piano. Victor came to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1973 to study conducting at Tanglewood at the invitation of Leonard Bernstein. He and Spencer will team up on Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety for piano and orchestra. Paired with works by Barber and Beethoven, it is a wonderful night of music.”
Executive Director, RI Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School
TACO Classical Concert
Saturday, March 17, 8:00pm
Victor Yampolsky, guest conductor
Spencer Myer, piano
BARBER: Essay No.2
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No.2 (The Age of Anxiety) for Piano and Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No.7
Amica Rush Hour concert
Friday, March 16, 6:30pm
Victor Yampolsky, guest conductor
BARBER: Essay No.2
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No.7
Tickets start at $15 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at tickets.riphil.org, in person from the RI Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office in East Providence, or by phone 401.248.7000 (M-F 9:00am-4:30pm). On day of concerts, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30pm–showtime; Saturday, 4:00pm-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
About Victor Yampolsky, guest conductor
Yampolsky studied conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory and violin performance at the Moscow Conservatory. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Nebraska and Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. Born in the Soviet Union, he is the son of the legendary pianist Vladimir Yampolsky, and he studied violin at the Moscow Conservatory and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory. He was a member of the Moscow Philharmonic as both a violinist and assistant conductor.
Yampolsky serves as the Carol F. and Arthur L. Rice Jr. University Professor in Music Performance at Northwestern University, Music Director of the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wis., Music Director Emeritus of the Omaha Symphony, and Honorary Director of the Scotia Festival of Music, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1977, Yampolsky became music director of the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the conductor of the Young Artists Orchestra at Tanglewood. Two years later he was appointed Adjunct Professor of Violin and Director of Orchestras at the Boston University School of Music. He has been principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Johannesburg and music director of the Omaha Symphony. In 2002, he led the Omaha Symphony in its debut recording, Take Flight, and the following year in the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Second Piano Concerto, which received an award from the Nebraska Arts Council. A dedicated educator, he has taught at the State Conservatory of St. Petersburg, Stellenbosch Conservatory, the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in Cape Town, Emory University, and the universities of Akron, Victoria and Nevada.
About Spencer Myer, pianist
Myer’s current season debuts include the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Arizona’s Flagstaff Symphony, and Colorado’s Grand Junction and Longmont Symphony orchestras. He had return engagements with the Duluth Superior and Southeast Iowa symphony orchestras. He is half of the Daurov/Myer Duo, having teamed up with the award-winning cellist Adrian Daurov in 2012. Myer’s orchestral, recital and chamber music performances have been heard throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia.
He has been a soloist with the Boise, Dayton, Evansville and Louisiana philharmonic orchestras, Boston’s Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, the Altoona, Baton Rouge, Bozeman, Canton, Chattanooga, Duluth Superior, Indianapolis, Juneau, Knoxville, Macon, Missoula, New Haven, Phoenix, Ridgefield, San Juan, Santa Fe, Springfield (MA, MO, OH), Traverse, Tucson, Wyoming and Beijing’s China National symphony orchestras, and Cleveland, Indianapolis and Ohio’s ProMusica chamber orchestras, New York City’s Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, Mexico’s Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, South Africa’s Cape Town and Johannesburg philharmonic orchestras. His 2005 recital/orchestral tour of South Africa included a performance of the five piano concerti of Beethoven with the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa, followed by return orchestra and recital tours in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015. Myer is a Steinway Artist. “Superb playing” and “poised, alert musicianship”—The Boston Globe
“Definitely a man to watch”—The Independent
About the concert: stories behind the music
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Important American composer: In 1942, at the age of 32, Barber had become established as a significant U.S. composer. As a highly regarded graduate of the Curtis Institute, he had garnered key commissions and premieres from conductors such as Arturo Toscanini, and he had traveled and worked extensively throughout Europe. In 1939, Barber returned to Curtis to teach but left three years later, and never taught again. It was during his years at Curtis that he completed Essay No.2.
An elongated sequel: As a sequel to Barber’s First Essay, the second is longer, more complex, less based in one key and less focused on its main theme. It was a commission from conductor Bruno Walter, who premiered the work with the New York Philharmonic in April 1942.
Listen for this: The slow concluding section begins as an intense hymn for strings. Then, in the full orchestra, it evolves into a grand, tragic statement crowned by tense high pitches until the final major chord.
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
Symphony No.2 (The Age of Anxiety) for Piano and Orchestra
Inspired by a dark poem: Not five years after the resounding 1942 success of his First Symphony, Bernstein was at work on his second. This was based on W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue, which Bernstein had read during the summer of 1947. In the words of analyst Peter Gradenwitz, “The poem paints a terrifyingly depressing picture of post-World War II youth, the loneliness and despair of contemporary life….” Bernstein’s use of the piano in the symphony stemmed from his personal identification with the poem, the “essential line” of which he summarized as “our difficult and problematical search for faith.” The work is heavily programmatic and, at times, theatrical.
In his own words: For the 1949 premiere (in which he played the piano part himself), Bernstein provided extensive program notes. For the Prologue, musically, it is, he wrote, “a very short section consisting of a lonely improvisation by two clarinets, echo-tone, and followed by a long descending scale which acts as a bridge into the realm of the unconscious….”
Listen for this: The Epilogue’s formal beginning, representing “something pure,” presents trumpet and strings in what leads to a solemn chorale (hymn). The agitated piano cadenza interrupts, but the orchestra returns with impassioned phrases, leading to a climax in which the “piano-protagonist…seizes upon it with one eager chord of confirmation,” Bernstein wrote.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Symphony No.7 in A Major, Op.92
A victory: The expression “from the sublime to the ridiculous” could have applied to the 1813 concert program in which Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony was premiered. It began with the new symphony that the master had touted as “one of my best” (an opinion he later maintained). It concluded with the orchestral version of Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory (the “battle symphony”). Contemporary reports confirm that the event was a great triumph for Beethoven, and that the second movement of the Seventh Symphony even had to be encored.
Several unique features: Unlike the Fifth, each movement of the Seventh finds its own unique rhythm to generate themes. From the “Pastoral” Symphony, the Seventh inherits a celebration of Nature. In the Sixth, this often took the form of reflection and quiet reverence, but in the Seventh, it is a vibrant, life-affirming paean.
Listen for this: The sunny and exhilarating Scherzo movement comes at the right time, with a main section that features a bouncy quality and broad wit. However, a recurring contrast section stops that dance motion for a time, giving the music a magical, time-suspended quality. Beethoven’s rhythmic impulse returns in the dance-like finale.