MEET THE Conductor: Tania Miller: Romeo & Juliet, February 14 & 15, 2020

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Amica Rush Hour Concert Series: February 14, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

TACO Classical Concert Series: February 15, 2020 at 8 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

Background:  Canadian Conductor Tania Miller has distinguished herself as a dynamic interpreter, musician and innovator on the podium and off. She was the driving force behind new growth, innovation and quality for the Victoria Symphony, and gained a national reputation as a highly effective advocate and communicator for the arts. As curator, she distinguished herself as a visionary leader and innovator. Acknowledged for the impact and success of her tenure, she was recently bestowed with the title Music Director Emerita of the Victoria Symphony.

Highlights:

  • Recipient of the 2017 Friends of Canadian Music award from the Canadian League of Composers
  • Received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Royal Roads University in recognition of her exemplary work as a leader and for her extraordinary artistic achievements in the community.
  • Recipient of the 2016 Paul Harris Award from the Rotary Foundation for distinguished musical excellence and leadership.
  • Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music bestowed her with an Honorary Diploma in 2015 for her impact on music in Canada.

Critical Praise:

Review of Tania Miller’s last appearance with the RI Philharmonic, November 16, 2019

Review: Tania Miller commands R.I. Philharmonic with Shostakovich

by: Channing Gray, Special to The Journal

PROVIDENCE — Bramwell Tovey, the Rhode Island Philharmonic’s new conductor, had to skip Saturday night’s concert at Veterans Memorial Auditorium to undergo cancer treatment. But the orchestra ended up getting the next best thing: Tania Miller, a young Canadian conductor whose recent visits here have proved her to be an exciting musician and a perfect fit for the Philharmonic.

Her take on Shostakovich’s brooding Tenth Symphony, which closed out an evening of lesser-known selections, never failed to keep the big picture in view. The loneliness, the darkness of the vast opening movement, and the searing portrait of Soviet strongman Josef Stalin in the second were an emotional tsunami.

Shostakovich, who faced constant Soviet censorship, had not written a symphony since the end of World War II. But in 1953, just months after the death of Stalin, he sat down to pen the Tenth.

Miller, who stepped in for Tovey on two weeks’ notice, seemed so petite on the podium, but she took hold of the epic score and led the audience on a journey they won’t soon forget.

But the breaking news of the night was the appearance of pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, an audience favorite at the Newport Music Festival years ago. She brought with her Tchaikovsky’s rambling, episodic Second Piano Concerto, which I’ve never heard live.

Tchaikovsky actually wrote three piano concertos, but the last two have been overshadowed by the popular, and overplayed, B-Flat Minor.

There were some tender moments in the lyrical middle movement, where McDermott teamed up with concertmaster Charles Dimmick, and she brought more than a bit of glitter to the concluding section.

But try as they might, McDermott and Miller just couldn’t pull the opening movement together. It’s music in fits and starts, where every few pages the orchestra would stop and McDermott would plow through unimpressive solos cobbled together from scales and a few alternating chords.

Not inventive, imaginative music, in other words. And McDermott was unable to do much to change that with what amounted to a dutiful interpretation.

As for the obligatory encore, she tore into the Prelude from Bach’s Second English Suite, sounding quite frantic at first, but eventually relaxing and making the intricate music sing.

Miller opened the evening with another unfamiliar offering, the African American composer William Grant Still’s “In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy.’” The score, chosen as a Veterans Day tribute, is laced with harmonies that sound like spirituals and made a nice change of pace from tired Italian opera overtures.

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Copland’s Appalachian Spring

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Copland’s Appalachian Spring

Title: Appalachian Spring: Orchestral Suite

Composer: Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: February 25, 2012

Orchestration: The piece is scored for piccolo, two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets and trombones, harp, piano, timpani, percussion and strings.

The Story: 

By 1943, Aaron Copland had attained a considerable reputation as a ballet composer with Billy the Kid and Rodeo to his credit. Those works had also helped to establish him as an accessible composer of what many people considered to be the sound of American music, which evokes the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit. It was natural, then, that choreographer Martha Graham should come to Copland that year with a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation and a scenario set in rural Pennsylvania of the early 19th century. Copland accepted the commission and completed the ballet the following spring.

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Aaron Copland (with Benny Goodman in background) CREDIT GEORGE BRICH / AP PHOTO

The original version of Appalachian Spring (title from a poem by Hart Crane) was scored for only 13 instruments and premiered in Washington, D.C., alongside works by Hindemith and Milhaud in October 1944. Copland’s music was an immediate success, and the following May, Graham’s company danced it in New York. In 1945, Appalachian Spring won for Copland not only the New York Music Critics Circle Award for dramatic music that season, but also the Pulitzer Prize in music.

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Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins and the Martha Graham Dance Company in Graham’s “Appalachian Spring.” Courtesy the Library of Congress.

 

Copland arranged the ballet as a continuous suite for full orchestra, which the New York Philharmonic premiered in October 1945. That version, which preserves most of the music of the original ballet, is the form in which we usually hear Appalachian Spring today. According to notes by Copland himself, there are eight distinct sections:

1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.

2. Fast. Sudden burst of unison strings . . . starts the action.

3. Moderate. Duo for the Bride and her Intended—scene of tenderness and passion.

4. Quite fast. The revivalist and his flock. Folksy feelings—suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.

5. Still faster. Solo dance of the Bride—presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.

6. Very slowly (as at first). Transition scenes reminiscent of the introduction.

7. Calm and flowing. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer- husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by a solo clarinet, is called “Simple Gifts.”

8. Moderate. Coda. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. . . . Muted strings intone a hushed, prayer-like passage. . . . The close is reminiscent of the opening music.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No.1

Title: Cello Concerto No.1 in A Minor, Op.33

Composer: Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: April 11, 2015 with soloist Alban Gerhardt

Orchestration: In addition to a solo cello, the work is scored for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

At age 37, Camille Saint-Saëns was a productive, crusading composer. He was determined to resuscitate the true spirit of French music, which he viewed as having become stagnant and sterile under the heavy influence of Wagner. Not that Saint-Saëns was entirely anti-German. In fact, that year (1872) under the pen name of Phémius, he began writing music criticism favoring Germanic composers Handel and Liszt alongside his particular French favorites, Rameau and Gounod. His own music also showed strong traces of the German symphonic school, since there was no real French symphonic tradition at the time.

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One of Saint-Saëns’s most concise yet most important contributions to the symphonic idiom is his Cello Concerto in A Minor, written the same year he took up the pen as Phémius. It is a work that makes effective, occasionally showy, use of the solo cello without ever degrading the part with empty virtuosity. It is a tightly knit work as well, written in three compact movements that connect without pause. The music has a thematic economy: The first movement’s main theme returns prominently in the finale and then is transformed into a new theme. Continuous form, thematic recursion and transformation—these are Lisztian techniques that Saint-Saëns adapts expertly.

The first movement immediately introduces the main theme, a melody of flaring arabesques that shows off the cello well. A second, sustained theme contrasts sharply, and both themes play important roles in the movement’s working-out.

The middle movement is an Allegretto in minuet rhythms. Scored chiefly for muted strings, the movement allows the solo cello to outline the dance in delicate gestures. In place of a Trio section, the composer gives the cello a short, restrained solo cadenza (the only one in the concerto). A reprise of the minuet follows, but more vividly colored and more romantic.

Creeping in quietly, the original main theme announces the opening of the finale. A gradual dynamic build leads to the cello’s entrance on the theme, which is rhapsodically spun out, leading soon to a second theme. This, however, is a subtle transformation of elements from the minuet theme and the main theme. The rise and fall shape of the minuet theme joins the twisting motion and triplet rhythms of the main theme to generate a new idea. Later in the movement, just before the restatement, the cello plays a particularly effective high scale. A full, quick-tempo coda in a major key gives the cello some brilliant scale passages and rounds out the work. Musicologist/conductor Donald Tovey summed up this concerto with the remark that it is “pure and brilliant without putting on chastity as a garment, and without calling attention to its jewelry at a banquet of poor relations.”

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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MEET THE SOLOIST: Johannes Moser, cello: Romeo & Juliet, February 14 & 15, 2020

Johannes Moser Violoncello

Johannes Moser, cello

Performs Saint-Saens’s Concerto for Violincello, No.1

Amica Rush Hour Concert Series: February 14, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

TACO Classical Concert Series: February 15, 2020 at 8 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

Background: Johannes began studying the cello at the age of eight and became a student of Professor David Geringas in 1997. A voracious reader of everything from Kafka to Collins, and an avid outdoorsman, Johannes is a keen hiker and mountain biker in what little spare time he has.

Highlights:

  • He was the top prize winner at the 2002 Tchaikovsky Competition, in addition to being awarded the Special Prize for his interpretation of the Rococo Variations.
  • In 2014 he was awarded with the prestigious Brahms prize.
  • Plays on an Andrea Guarneri Cello from 1694 from a private collection.
  • In the 2019/20 season, performed two world premieres of Cello Concertos by Andrew Norman with the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel and Bernd Richard Deutsch’s with the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich conducted by Yutaka Sado

Critical Praise:

  • “One of the finest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists” – Gramophone Magazine
  • “His tone was big and warm where needed, and he proved himself capable of some Rostropovich-like wild abandon…he was consistently eloquent.” – The Telegraph
  • “Johannes Moser gave a superb recital Friday night…It helps that he has a brilliant ­technique, a darkly rich tone, and a deeply felt musicianship. But Moser adds an expressive face and body language that adds flavor to his visual appeal. He’s fun to watch.” –  The Daily Gazette

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde: Prelude & Libestod

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde: Prelude & Libestod

 

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Tristan and Isolde. Mural in the bedroom, August Spiess, 1881

 

Title: Tristan and Isolde: Prelude & Liebestod

Composer: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: October 18, 2008

Orchestration: This piece is scored for piccolo, three flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, harp, timpani and strings.

The Story: 

The eternal story of lovers who can never be united—except in death. That is the theme of the two greatest love tragedies of the Western world: Romeo and Juliet, and Tristan and Isolde. Richard Wagner conceived the idea of an operatic Tristan and Isolde in 1854 under the influence of readings from Arthur Schopenhauer and his own love for a woman, Mathilde Wesendonk. Wagner had completed Die Walküre for The Ring cycle in 1856, and by the end of that year he was working on the libretto to Tristan. The following August, the composer broke off work on The Ring entirely to devote himself to composing Tristan. Exactly three years later, work was completed on what may be the most consummate realization of Wagner’s ideal “music drama” and possibly the greatest of his operas.

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Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

The famous opening of the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde interlocks two of the opera’s most important melodies. This leads to a long build in the music that drives relentlessly to the Prelude’s sensuous climactic moment.

In a program note written in 1860, Wagner writes of the: “. . . longing, longing, insatiable longing, forever springing up anew, pining and thirsting. . . . In one extended succession of linked phrases . . . that insatiable longing swells from the first, timid avowal . . . through anxious sighs, hopes and fears, bliss and torment . . . into the seas of lovers’ endless delight. But in vain!

In the final scene of the opera, Tristan dies in Isolde’s arms. Now in a shocked trance, she sings her final soliloquy. Though filled with emotion, the orchestral music in this scene projects a strange, consoling sweetness rather than dark tragedy. At last, Isolde joins Tristan in the only way possible, as Wagner wrote:

Death, which means passing away, perishing, never awakening, their only deliverance. . . . Shall we call this realm Death? Or is it not rather the wonder- world of Night, from which, as legend tells, the ivy and the vine grew from the graves of Tristan and Isolde to entwine in inseparable embrace?

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet

On February 14 & 15, cellist Johannes Moser will join Tania Miller, the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra for a romantic Valentine’s Weekend program.

THE STORY BEHIND: Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juliet

Title: Romeo and Juliet: Overture-Fantasy

Composer: Peter I. Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Last time performed by the Rhode Island Philharmonic: December 7, 1991, with Marin Alsop conducting

Orchestration: The piece is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, four bassoons, two horns, three trumpets, tuba, harp, timpani, percussion and strings.

The Story: 

Tchaikovsky

Peter I. Tchaikovsky

 

During the Romantic era, Shakespearean plays captured the imagination of several major composers. This tendency was felt not only in the opera house, but also in the concert hall. In the late 1830s, Berlioz had composed a “dramatic symphony” based on Romeo and Juliet, and in 1869, Peter I. Tchaikovsky turned his hand masterfully to a programmatic orchestral piece based on that famous tragedy.

The subject was suggested to Tchaikovsky by his friend and sometime mentor, Mily

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Mily Balakirev

Balakirev, who had composed an overture to King Lear some years earlier. After the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture in March 1870, the composer revised the work, incorporating some further advice from Balakirev. He replaced the original rather dull “Friar Lawrence” theme with a hymn-like passage “having an ancient Catholic character.” In 1880, the composer again made some revisions, notably a complete replacement of the ending.

Tchaikovsky’s music does not depict the events of the play. Rather, the main themes represent the principal characters and ideas. In order of appearance, these are Friar Lawrence, the feud of the Capulets and the Montagues, and the love of Romeo and Juliet.

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Friar Lawrence at Capulet by James Northcote

After a lengthy introduction based on the Friar Lawrence theme, the main Allegro giusto introduces the fiery, rhythmic thematic complex symbolizing the feud. Ultimately, this gives way to the long-breathed love theme, sensuously presented by English horn and muted violas. A second love theme, carved out of even notes, is then heard in the strings. Out of this theme derives a steady, panting motive with which the horn accompanies the second presentation of the main love theme.

An extensive development section, dominated by the feud motives, incorporates also snippets of the Lawrence and love themes. In the recapitulation, the main love theme receives an extensive treatment, finally reaching heights of exaltation, only to be broken off by the feud theme. Fragments of the Lawrence theme and the panting motive struggle against this intrusion until at last they are overpowered.

The quiet coda is an elegiac cortège. A transformed fragment of the lovers’ theme is sounded above the timpani’s dirge rhythm. Just before the full orchestra’s final somber fanfare, an upward-reaching motive from the love theme plays repeatedly, perhaps implying that though Romeo and Juliet are gone, theirs was a love that transcends death.

Program Notes by Dr. Michael Fink © 2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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MEET THE SOLOIST: Karen Gomyo, violin: All Mozart, January 25, 2020

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Karen Gomyo, violin

Performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.3

January 25, 2020 at 8 p.m. at The VETS, Providence

 

Background:  Born in Tokyo, Ms. Gomyo studied in Montreal and in New York at The Juilliard School with famed violin pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. She currently resides in Berlin.

 

Highlights:

  • In May 2018, performed the world premiere of Samuel Adams’ new Chamber Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a piece written specifically for Ms. Gomyo
  • Participated as violinist, host, and narrator in a documentary film produced by NHK Japan about Antonio Stradivarius called The Mysteries of the Supreme Violin, which was broadcast worldwide on NHK WORLD.
  • Deeply interested in the Nuevo Tango music of Astor Piazzolla, and collaborates with Piazzolla’s longtime pianist and tango legend Pablo Ziegler.
  • Collaborated with guitarist Ismo Eskelinen on the release of Carnival, a recording of works by Paganini, Corelli, Vivaldi, and Locatelli on BIS Records.
  • Karen plays on the “Aurora” Stradivarius violin of 1703 that was bought for her exclusive use by a private sponsor.

Critical Praise:

  • “A first-rate artist of real musical command, vitality, brilliance and intensity”Chicago Tribune
  • “Her cadenza was especially stunning, with supernaturally clear high harmonics and passionate intensity” – 88.1 KDHX St Louis, MO
  • “Superhuman technical abilities and a dramatic flair that captivates audiences worldwide” – TheatreJones.com, North Texas.

To purchase tickets visit tickets.riphil.org or call 401.248.7000

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