A Hero’s Life cover

A Hero’s Life

By


Anne Akiko Meyers is one of today’s premier violinists and has been described by the Los Angeles Times as a performer of “vigorous mastery, unflinching technical skills and stylish elegance.” She joins the orchestra to perform Lauridsen's ethereal “O Magnum Mysterium” and Ravel's rhapsodic “Tzigane.” Then, Concertmaster-Designate Dennis Kim will be featured in “A Hero's Life” (Ein Heldenleben), Strauss' autobiographical tone poem depicting confidence, unrest, the battle of life, love and serenity. Enjoy image magnification on our big screens during the concert for a closer look at the artists!
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To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.
Preview Talk with Alan Chapman included!





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CARL ST.CLAIR • CONDUCTOR

ANNE AKIKO MEYERS • VIOLIN

DENNIS KIM • CONCERTMASTER-DESIGNATE

Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857)

Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla

Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943)

O Magnum Mysterium

Anne Akiko Meyers

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

Tzigane, rapsodie de concert, for Violin & Orchestra

Anne Akiko Meyers

Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990)

Anne Akiko Meyers

I N T E R M I S S I O N

Richard Strauss (1864–1949)

Ein Heldenleben, TrV 190, Op. 40

The Hero

The Hero’s Adversaries

The Hero’s Companion

The Hero’s Battlefield

The Hero’s Works of Peace

The Hero’s Retirement from this World and Consummation

Dennis Kim

Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla


Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla


MIKHAIL GLINKA ( 1804–1857)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon; 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones; timpani; strings

Performance time: 5 minutes

Background

Mikhail Glinka is a composer whose music is better known for its importance than its charms, of which there are many. Born in 1804, Glinka was chronologically first among a group of Russian composers known as “The Five,” and his influence upon these men was seminal even though he was not present at their first historic meeting in St. Petersburg in 1856. He died just a year later.

(The quaint designations “the mighty five” and “the mighty handful” for these composers, who also included Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky- Korsakov and Borodin, are rarely used these days.)

While Glinka is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music, his modern claim on the classical repertory rests almost exclusively on two superb operas: A Life for the Czar and Ruslan and Ludmilla. Of these two, Ruslan is generally cited by critics as musically superior, but even Ruslan is known mainly for its buoyant overture—a foolproof way to rouse the spirits of players and listeners alike.

When Glinka began composing Ruslan, he was in his late thirties and his career had some positive momentum going for it. He had acquired a position as instructor of the Imperial Chapel Choir and had gained favorable attention of Czar Nicholas, who gave him a valuable ring to mark the success of his first opera.

But at the premiere of Ruslan in December of 1842, it was received coolly, and though it gained popularity after that, the initial setback sent Glinka’s spirits into a tailspin for about a year. Subsequent travels in Europe not only improved his outlook, but also broadened exposure to his compositions.

We may never know exactly why Ruslan received such a slow start in the opera house, but the libretto may be one reason: based on a hugely expansive folk epic by Pushkin, it compresses selected episodes into a picaresque muddle. According to anecdote, the opera’s text was framed in 15 minutes by poet Konstantin Bakhturin, who was drunk at the time.

Antonina Nezhdanova as Lyudmila (1911); image by Karl Andreyevich Fischer (Карл Андреевич Фишер)

What to Listen For

This overture has long been a favorite with European and American audiences, which is one reason why its joyously exuberant melodies might sound familiar to you. While the music of the opera itself combines elements of European operatic style with Eastern European and Russian folk melodies, the overture is not a preview of arias and melodies. Instead, it captures the overall character of the drama with its rambunctious spirit and showy flourishes that seem to fling down the orchestral gauntlet.

This is music that wows listeners with playing that is loud, fast and virtuosic. From its thunderous opening chords underscored with booming timpani, the overture is off to the races with a signature run of 15 notes that seem to fly off the violin strings and leap into the air.

The question is not just whether the string players can articulate these fleet notes in unison, but whether our ears can hear that fast. Over successive decades, performance tradition has pushed the tempo far beyond Glinka’s original pace (judging from the metronome marking in early editions).

In the finale, with its chords that echo the opening bars, a traditional accelerando pushes the pace even faster. How fast is too fast?

---Russlan And Ludmilla (Overture) / Orchestra Of Mariinsky Theatre. Video: 4 minutes

After you’ve shown your appreciation for tonight’s hard-working players, you might try comparing your memory of their performance with some of those available on YouTube. They range from out-of-tune, slow-motion car wrecks to blazing interpretations that only dogs can hear.

Video

O Magnum Mysterium


Morten Johannes Lauridsen on Waldron Island, Source

O Magnum Mysterium


MORTEN LAURIDSEN ( B. 1943)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes, oboe, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba; timpani; percussion; strings

Performance time: 6 minutes

Background

American composer Morten Lauridsen is a National Medal of Arts recipient and the most frequently performed American choral composer in modern history. He was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994–2001) and has been a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than 50 years.

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens) and attended Whitman College before traveling south to study composition at the University of Southern California with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn and Harold Owen.

He began teaching at USC in 1967 and has been on their faculty ever since. In 2006, Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2007 he received the National Medal of Arts from the President in a White House ceremony, “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth that have thrilled audiences worldwide.”

For listeners throughout the world, Lauridsen’s works are a powerful musical expression of the divine presence in the beauty of nature.

'O Magnum Mysterium' Anne Akiko Meyers & Akira Eguchi at the Phillips Collection

Video: 6 minutes

Video

Tzigane, rapsodie de concert, for Violin and Orchestra


Tzigane, rapsodie de concert, for Violin and Orchestra


MAURICE RAVEL ( 1875–1937)

Instrumentation: 2 flutes (2nd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons; 2 horns, trumpet; percussion; harp; celeste; strings

Performance time: 10 minutes

Background

A wary fascination with Southern European and Gypsy culture was one of the few points of commonality between German and French arts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

German and Austrian composers had their formal rigor, discipline and precision; the French had their elegance, refinement and irony. But for both cultures, the Gypsy represented the dangerous “other”: heedless sensuality, overt passion, unchecked emotional expression. This was catnip for composers such as Edouard Lalo in his Symphonie espagnole, Georges Bizet in Carmen and Massenet in his rejoinder to Carmen, called La Navarraise.

The same Gypsy-Spanish elements crop up in many works by Ravel, whose mother was of Spanish ancestry. He grew up three miles from the French-Spanish border, and his lullabies were traditional Spanish songs. When he used Spanish forms such as the Bolero and the Pavane, he did so as a native, not a tourist.

The heat, the sun, the light, the overt sensuality—French composers conflated these elements of Spanish culture with Romani and Magyar musical traditions that fascinated composers from Haydn to Brahms. The “Gypsy violin” was the essence of this tradition, and its flamboyance was of special fascination to the great violinists and violin composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is where the Spanish and Hungarian musical folkways irresistibly combine.

Pablo de Sarasate, Niccolò Paganini and Fritz Kreisler were among the composers in whose virtuoso showpieces we can recognize Thomas Mann’s Zigeuner: Sarasate’s catalog includes Zigeunerweisen (“Gypsy Airs”), and Kreisler gave us his Zigeuner Capriccio. To this list we can add Ravel and his Tzigane. Mainstream composers did not use such terms lightly; Brahms and Haydn before him revered “Gypsy music,”and Brahms’ Hungarian Rhapsodies are among his most enduringly popular compositions.

Tzigane means Gypsy, as do the German Zigeuner and the Hungarian Cigány. But the vocabulary used for describing compositions such as Ravel’s spectacular violin showpiece Tzigane has been changing in recent years to reflect greater sensitivity to the Roma people that were formerly identified with the vague and pejorative term “Gypsy.”

Ion N. "Fani" Lăutaru of Rociu, a Romanian Roma folk musician (lăutar). Author unknown.

What to Listen For

Tzigane belongs to a popular genre of violin solo modeled on Romani traditions of violin playing characterized by passionate emotionalism, vigorous bowing, a willingness to let the strings growl and technical daring.

A sense of perilously freewheeling improvisation prevails—we can imagine the fiddler almost dancing, eyes closed, hair flying. When we listen to Romani music, we intuitively know that it is not based on a written musical score, but rather on generations of tradition and the feelings of the moment.

Yet Ravel creates this effect in a written score that is typically and dauntingly precise. This is the sound of unplanned, passionate expression we expect in a piece called Tzigane, but crafted to a level beyond our expectations. We should take special note of the neck-hand plucking. To quote one listener, it is “beyond anything!” If the technique is fiendish, the sound is devilish.

Ravel composed Tzigane on commission from the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi, the great-niece of legendary violinist Joseph Joachim. It is almost never performed as originally scored, for violin and piano with luthéal, a mechanical attachment for piano that has all but disappeared.

Developed in Belgium, the luthéal was available to Ravel on pianos by the French maker Pleyel, and he used it to add a tangy, zither-like texture to the piano accompaniment in Tzigane; a few months after completing this version early in 1924, he orchestrated the piano part, and in this scoring it has secured a place as one of the most brilliant and popular of violin showpieces.

This is no-holds-barred music, affectionate and idiomatically correct, yet with a hint of parody in its extreme virtuosity—as with Mozart’s arias for the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Richard Strauss’ stunner for the coquette Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, and Broadway songs like “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Whatever Lola Wants,” which are affectionate parodies of formal Argentinian tangos.

---The Isaac Stern Collection - The Early Concerto Recordings, Vol. I. Video: 9 minutes

More than one interpreter of Tzigane has expressed astonishment at Ravel’s understanding of just how far it was possible to push an instrument he did not himself play. Like the Mozart and Strauss examples, it seems like an ultimate statement of its genre.

Video

“Somewhere” from West Side Story

“Somewhere” from West Side Story

“Somewhere” from West Side Story

LEONARD BERNSTEIN ( 1918–1990 )

Instrumentation: timpani; 2 percussion; harp; strings

Performance time: 3 minutes

Background

In spite of all his musical accomplishments, Bernstein still has not found his rightful place as a composer in American classical music—perhaps because his genius spanned so many categories.

Critics continue to argue about longer compositions, such as his operas and symphonies. With his theater music, the argument is not over their merit, but their place in the catalog: all of Bernstein’s compositions for the Broadway stage blaze with an energy, melodic inspiration and sheer theatricality that lift them beyond the level of “show music” and into the concert hall.

As for West Side Story, its creation is the stuff of legend. It brought together three acknowledged geniuses in a daring venture at a time when the musical theater was changing and transcending its past. Bernstein—at age 37 still a young composer, but already an internationally famous conductor—was the perfect composer for this landmark musical.

Stephen Sondheim, now the living patriarch of American musical theater, was scarcely 25 when he joined the team. But in the light of history, it can be surprising to note that choreographer-director Jerome Robbins was the dominant force in the collaboration.

A year older than Bernstein, Robbins was almost as famous for his volatility as for his brilliance. Guided by his creative vision, West Side Story became a music-drama in which songs and dances became motivic forces for plot development. Its musical numbers had to incorporate elements of American popular music, Latin elements, and anything else that might sound right.

And it had to be supremely expressive of plot and character. It’s doubtful that anyone else could have done this like Bernstein, who, like George Gershwin before him, learned from every kind of ethnic music he ever heard.

What to Listen For

Even your intrepid annotator wouldn’t presume to tell you about the beauties of a song you know as well as “Somewhere.” But ask yourself: Is this a song, or an aria? Bernstein did write a brief opera, Trouble in Tahiti, which he later expanded into the longer opera A Quiet Place.

But for many of his admirers West Side Story is more fully and authentically operatic, and we hear the reasons in “Somewhere.” It is emotionally intense, expressing tragedy and romance in equal measure. It seems simple yet is filled with musical challenges, as anyone who has tried to sing it in the shower well knows.

---West Side Story, 1961. Video 3 minutes.

The violin’s singing, expressive qualities are so perfectly suited to “Somewhere” that we don’t need the words to appreciate this achingly poetic expression of love and yearning. Besides, we know the words already.

Video

Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)


Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)


RICHARD STRAUSS ( 1864–1949)

Instrumentation: 3 flutes, piccolo, 4 oboes (4th doubling English horn); 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, Eb clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon; 8 horns, 5 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, tenor tuba; timpani; 4 percussion; 2 harps; strings

Performance time: 42 minutes

Background

Richard Strauss was born while the American Civil War was still under way, yet outlasted World War II by four years. His series of ten dazzling tone poems came early in his long career, starting when he was 21. He composed Ein Heldenleben in 1898, when he was 34.

Dating from the decade before Salome, Strauss’s best-known tone poems are indispensable concert staples today—Don Quixote, Til Eulenspiegel, Don Juan and Ein Heldenleben, to name the most familiar. Also sprach Zarathustra is everywhere now, thanks to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Strauss was still pigeonholed as a “promising young composer” when he wrote these works, but was recognized as a pianist, conductor and technical wizard of harmony. Less than a decade later, he would become internationally famous—not to mention notorious—with the premiere of his opera Salome.

What to Listen For

Strauss was born more than 50 years after Richard Wagner, whose revolutionary operas seemed to signal that traditional harmonies were all but played out. But by adding iridescent new layers and unexpected modulations, Strauss expanded old chords to make them do things we never thought they could do. His glittering compositions matched the emotional immediacy of Expressionist painters, but not their abstraction; that was the realm of atonal composers such as Schoenberg and Berg.

Strauss was never shy about revealing himself in his music, and the picture was generally flattering.

The comical mix of courage, bluster and ridiculousness in Don Quixote is the mirror image of the ideal man delineated in Ein Heldenleben (“a hero’s life”); together they show us the hero that Strauss saw in himself. Add the Symphonia Domestica (an orchestral rendering of his home life) and Intermezzo (an opera about his marriage) and we have something like a musical memoir.

All of Strauss’ tone poems present themselves with extremely rich harmonies and orchestral effects. They are accessible to us today, but were revelatory to Strauss’ contemporaries. Of Ein Heldenleben’s six sections, the first two are especially suggestive.

---Richard Strauss: Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life) - Pittsburgh S. O., Manfred Honeck (HD 1080p). Video: 1:01:16

The first sketches an idealized self-portrait of the composer as a young hero, while the next depicts “The Hero’s Adversaries” in musical caricatures. Following the example set by Wagner in Die Meistersinger, critics get the worst of it.

Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in- chief for The Santa Fe Opera.

Video

Meet the Guest Artist

Meet the Guest Artist

“Meyers’ playing is what it always has been: a national treasure. She is a musical wizard, with astonishing access to every kind of expressive color. Whether within a phrase or on just a single note, she can change tone color in a micro-second from smooth grain to rough, from dark to radiant, from thoughtful to assertive. And she can, like magic, bring new work to vibrant life”

—San Diego Union-Tribune

Violin superstar Anne Akiko Meyers is one of the most in-demand violinists in the world. Regularly performing as guest soloist with the world’s top orchestras, she presents ground-breaking recitals and is a best-selling recording artist with 36 albums. Meyers is known for her passionate performances, purity of sound, deeply poetic interpretations, innovative programming and commitment to commissioning significant new works from living composers.

Anne’s recent recording of Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Fantasia was the only classical instrumental work to be selected on NPR’s 100 best songs of 2017. Fantasia, Anne’s 35th recording, includes works for violin and orchestra by Rautavaara, Ravel and the Szymanowski Concerto No. 1, recorded with Kristjan Järvi and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

In 2018, she will premiere a new violin concerto, written for her by Adam Schoenberg, with the Phoenix and San Diego Symphony Orchestras. Anne will also return to Leipzig, Germany to premiere Rautavaara’s Fantasia with the MDR Leipzig Orchestra and has been invited by legendary composer, Arvo Pärt, to perform at the opening celebration of the new Arvo Pärt Centre in Estonia.

Earlier this year, Anne performed the world premiere of Fantasia by Rautavaara, a work written for her, and considered to be the composer’s final masterpiece, with the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Michael Stern. She performed recitals in Florida, New York, Virginia, Washington D.C., and returned to the Nashville Symphony to perform the Bernstein Serenade with Giancarlo Guerrero.

In May, she headlined the Kanazawa Music Festival performing the Beethoven Concerto with cadenzas by Mason Bates with the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, toured New Zealand with the Mason Bates Violin Concerto and New Zealand Symphony, and returned to Krakow and Warsaw, Poland to perform the Szymanowski Concerto and Jakub Ciupinski’s newly orchestrated Wreck of the Umbria.

Other recent projects include a nationwide PBS broadcast special and a Naxos DVD featuring the world premiere of Samuel Jones’ Violin Concerto with the All-Star Orchestra led by Gerard Schwarz, the French premiere of Mason Bates’ Violin Concerto with Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre de Lyon, and two new recordings-Naïve Classics celebrating Arvo Pärt’s 80th birthday and a box set of Anne’s RCA Red Seal discography on Sony Classics. Anne’s prior releases the Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album, debuted at No. 1 on the classical Billboard charts, as did Air: The Bach Album, and the Vivaldi was the recording debut of the Ex-Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri del Gesu violin, dated 1741, which was awarded to Meyers for her lifetime use.

A champion of living composers, Meyers collaborates closely with many of today’s leading composers. She has expanded the violin repertoire by commissioning and premiering works by composers such as Mason Bates, Jakub Ciupinski, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, Samuel Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Akira Miyoshi, Arvo Pärt, Gene Pritsker, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Somei Satoh, Adam Schoenberg and Joseph Schwantner.

Anne has collaborated with a diverse array of artists outside of traditional classical, including jazz icons, Chris Botti and Wynton Marsalis, avant-garde musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, electronic music pioneer Isao Tomita, pop-era act Il Divo and singer Michael Bolton. She performed the National Anthem in front of 42,000 fans at Safeco Field in Seattle, appeared twice on The Tonight Show and was featured in a segment on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann that became that show’s third most popular story of the year.

Anne Akiko Meyers is represented by Colbert Artists Management, Inc., 307 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2006, New York NY 10001. Tel: (212) 757-0782. www.colbertartists.com.

Anne Akiko Meyers records exclusively for the eOne label. She may also be heard on Avie, Camerata, Hyperion, Naxos, RCA Victor Red Seal, RPO, Sony and Warner Classics family of labels.

Meet the Concertmaster-Designate

Meet the Concertmaster-Designate

Dennis Kim is the new concertmaster-designate of Pacific Symphony, performing his first concert in the position September 27, 2018. A citizen of the world, Kim was born in Korea, raised in Canada and educated in the United States. He has spent more than a decade leading orchestras in the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently, he was concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in New York.

He was first appointed concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra at the age of 22. He then served as the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, before going on to lead the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland.

As guest concertmaster, Kim has performed on four continents, leading the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, KBS Symphony Orchestra, Montpelier Symphony Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Western Australia Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra of Navarra. He served as guest concertmaster with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra on their 10-city tour of the United Kingdom and led the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in their BBC Proms debut in 2014.

After making his solo debut at the age of 14 with the Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Kim has gone on to perform as a soloist with many of the most important orchestras in China and Korea. Highlights include performing on 10 hours’ notice to replace an ailing William Preucil, performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons 20 times in one week and touring Japan with the Busan Philharmonic in 2008.

During his tenure as concertmaster with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, he was featured annually as a soloist. Over the last two seasons, he was a guest soloist with the Lebanon Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra NOW, with repertoire ranging from Mozart and Haydn, to Glass and Penderecki. Future engagements include those with the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba.

A dedicated teacher, Kim is currently on the faculty at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada’s PRISMA festival and the Interlochen Center for the Arts as Valade Concertmaster in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra summer program.

He has also been on the faculty of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, Korean National University of the Arts, Yonsei University, Tampere Conservatory and the Bowdoin International Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival and Suolahti International Music Festival. His students have been accepted to the Curtis Institute of Music, Colburn School, Juilliard School, Peabody Conservatory and the Queen Elizabeth College of Music and play in orchestras around the world.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and Yale School of Music, Kim’s teachers include Jaime Laredo, Aaron Rosand, Peter Oundjian, Paul Kantor, Victor Danchenko and Yumi Ninomiya Scott.

He plays the 1701 ex-Dushkin Stradivarius, on permanent loan from a generous donor.