Performance Sunday, March 25, 2012 | 7:30 PM

Ensemble ACJW

Featuring musicians of The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education

Zankel Hall
Sometimes it seems as if these intrepid musicians, all alumni or fellows of The Academy postgraduate program, can do anything. Performers, teachers, and advocates for their art form, they show their versatility on this program of music that ranges from Haydn and Wagner to John Adams and Ligeti. They’re joined by St. Louis Symphony Music Director David Robertson and a soloist from the ranks of the ensemble, clarinetist Moran Katz.
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The Program

Siegfried Idyll

About the Composer

Richard Wagner was a composer, dramatist, librettist, philosopher, political theorist, and cultural icon. Though his name rarely elicits a lukewarm reaction—you either love him or hate him—the legacy he left on Western culture is indelible and indisputable.

Wagner and Cosima Liszt (daughter of famed composer-pianist Franz Liszt) developed a strong friendship even after she married conductor Hans von Bülow, a champion and devotee of Wagner’s music. Despite that they were both married to other people, Cosima and Richard became lovers in 1864, precipitating a great scandal in the artistic scene. Before long, Cosima bore Richard two daughters, and in June 1869, a son named Siegfried. That same year, Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger successfully premiered, and Wagner resumed work on the Ring cycle, which he had abandoned 13 years prior.

By 1870, Cosima’s divorce was final (Wagner was released from his own marriage by his first wife’s death in 1866), and the pair were married. For Cosima’s next birthday, Richard surprised her with a musical gift: Siegfried Idyll (originally named Tribschen Idyll, after their home).

About the Work

From a composer known for his large, powerful operas and lofty philosophical ideas, Siegfried
reveals a more intimate side of Wagner, and remains the most popular and personal of his purely instrumental compositions. It was presented to Cosima on Christmas Day of 1870 in a live performance in their home on Lake Lucerne.

Part lullaby and part love song, Siegfried Idyll draws extensively on themes from Act III of Siegfried, the third opera in the Ring cycle. The opening melody is borrowed from Brünnhilde’s aria “Ewig war ich” (she sings, “I always was, I always am, always in sweet, yearning bliss”); the second theme, introduced by the oboe, is a lullaby Wagner notated on New Year’s Eve 1868.

Uncharacteristically restrained and tender, the work reveals a gentleness and calm of Wagner’s personality rarely witnessed in his operas, perhaps because it celebrates the private joys in his life:
the birth of his son, the end of a scandalous love triangle, his wedded bliss to Cosima, and the anticipated completion of the Ring. More than any other work, it unites the private and public sectors of the 19th century’s most visible composer.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Chamber Concerto for 13 Instruments

About the Composer

Hungarian composer Györgi Ligeti’s creative life was greatly shaped by world events. Born a Jew in Transylvania just as Hungary was losing the region to Romania, he survived World War II in a labor camp (his brother and father both died in Auschwitz). Following the war, he studied and taught at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, but fled in 1956 after the Hungarian Revolution was crushed by the Soviet Army. In the 1960s, he emerged as a leading member of the international avant-garde; from then on, he lived mostly in Hamburg and Vienna as an Austrian citizen.

Ligeti’s music displays a penchant for the surreal and grotesque, but also the absurdly humorous, such as the 20-minute Poème symphonique for 100 metronomes and the larger-than-life opera Le grand macabre. He rejected the serial complexities favored by Stockhausen and Boulez, and instead focused on the slow creation and gradual transformation of massive, textural sound. His style is unique, often referencing traditional Classical forms and sonorities, while infusing them with Eastern-European flavor. He often writes rhythmically complex works that use conflicting layers of tempo to drive the music forward.

About the Work

As is the case with many composers, Ligeti’s musical style evolved over his long life. The Chamber Concerto, nearly centered within his career, serves as a link between his saturated textural music of the 1960s and the more harmonically clear, polyrhythmic style of the 1980s. Each movement of the Chamber Concerto focuses on a specific mode of expression rather than a melodic or motivic idea. A master of maintaining and manipulating textures over extremely long periods of time, Ligeti combines countless, complexly layered micro-events to create striking effects on the surface. The focus of the work is not melody and harmony, but textural density and timbre.

The first movement Corrente is founded in repeated, rapid figuration. Its texture slowly evolves by way of gradually expanding pitch clusters that blur any specific musical events. By contrast, the melodic lines of the oboe d’amore, horn, and trombone are featured in the second movement, Calmo, sostenuto. These melodies function like a magnifying glass, slowly highlighting the intricately woven chromatic patterns of the accompanying instruments.

The third movement reflects one of Ligeti’s obsessions: mechanical objects, generally, and clocks, specifically. Here, layers of polyrhythmic and polymetric activities combine: Each layer includes an instrument or group of instruments that play a pitch repeated at a different, precisely prescribed periodic rate. The Chamber Concerto concludes with the final Presto, showcasing all 13 players in a fiendishly difficult display of virtuosity.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Gnarly Buttons

About the Composer

Pulitzer Prize–winning composer John Adams is one of the most frequently performed living composers; his works are staples for orchestras and opera houses around the world. He is known particularly for his operas based on contemporary subjects, such as Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, and Doctor Atomic. His music is distinctly original—categorized as minimalism, but firmly anchored in the Western tonal tradition. His works are often characterized by their wittiness, humor, and driving pulse, but they also feature dense counterpoint, rhythmic complexity, and virtuosic instrumental parts.

In addition to his compositional activities, Adams maintains an active conducting schedule, often appearing with major orchestras to conduct his own works. Born and raised in New England, Adams is an alumnus of Harvard University and now makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

About the Work

The clarinet was the composer’s first instrument; he was taught by his father who played it in swing bands during the Depression era. Father and son also played together in a local marching band and community orchestra during the composer’s teen years. Given the significance of the clarinet for their relationship, Adams was inspired to write Gnarly Buttons when his father passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. The connection between his father and the instrument, he wrote, stretched “from Benny Goodman through Mozart, the marching band, the state hospital to my father’s final illness” and “became deeply embedded in the piece.” His choice of orchestration—especially the banjo—emphasizes the folk and vernacular roots of the music. The piece also features a keyboard with pre-recorded sound samples, including an accordion, clarinet, and mooing cow.

The three-movement concerto contains “The Perilous Shore,” a variation on a Protestant hymn; a dance-like and rustic “Hoedown (Mad Cow)”; and “Put Your Loving Arms Around Me,” a simple song that begins tenderly and becomes, in the composer’s words, increasing “gnarled and crabbed.”

Several levels of meaning are embedded into the title of the work. Not only does “gnarly” mean knotty, twisted, or covered with gnarls, but in slang it implies something awesome or beyond extreme. The “buttons” are not only a reference to Gertrude Stein’s groundbreaking experiment Tender Buttons, but also an acknowledgement of the age of technology and the role that pressing buttons play in our daily lives.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Symphony No. 8 in G Major, “Le soir”

About the Composer

Joseph Haydn was one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. As a lifelong resident of Austria, he began his career under the patronage system of the late-Baroque era, and ended as a “free artist” in the fledgling Romanticism of the early 1800s. Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Esterházy family on their estate, a post that allowed for compositional experimentation and growth. He excelled in every musical genre and by the end of his life, was a celebrated cultural hero throughout much of Europe.

Although Haydn’s title as the “father of the symphony” may not be literally true, as James Webster writes, “there is no other genre in Western music for which the output of a single composer is at once so vast in extent (106 works), so historically important, and of such high artistic quality.” This body of works exhibits a great variety of style, subject matter, and instrumental treatment, as well as virtuoso brilliance. The Esterházy’s orchestra was comprised of many superb musicians, and Haydn’s works incorporated important solo passages to show off their skills.

About the Work

In 1761, Haydn had just been appointed vice-Kapellmeister to Prince Esterházy; the trilogy of the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies (“Le matin,” “Le midi,” and “Le soir,” respectively) were among the first pieces he wrote in this position. With names suggested by his patron, Haydn’s “morning,” “noon,” and “night” symphonies pay homage to the Baroque era while looking forward towards the Classical in structure. The instrumentation of “Le soir” is similar to the Baroque concerto grosso style in which a small group of solo instruments—specifically two violins and a cello—is set against a larger ensemble.

The opening gigue begins with a simple melody—a quote from Gluck’s opera Le diable à quatre—that provides the melodic substance for the entire movement. The Andante is a tender and lyrical movement for strings and solo bassoon only; the solo concertino group alternates with the rest of the ensemble. The Menuetto is in traditional form, and the trio that follows again features strings and bassoon alone. Unlike the symphony’s nickname, Haydn himself named the fourth and final movement “La tempesta”—the storm. To evoke the sensation of a thunderstorm, descending figurations in the strings suggest falling rain, and octave leaps in the solo violin build tension. More than four decades later, Haydn returned to these same musical ideas in the storm scene of his final oratorio, The Seasons.

—ToniMarie Marchioni

© 2012 The Carnegie Hall Corporation

Goldman Sachs Gives 48x37
Lead Support of The Academy is provided by Goldman Sachs Gives.

Major funding for The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education—has been provided by Susan and Edward C. Forst and Goldman Sachs Gives, The Diller–von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, The Irving Harris Foundation, The Kovner Foundation, Martha and Bob Lipp, Judith and Burton Resnick, and the Susan and Elihu Rose Foundation.

Additional support has been provided by The Arnow Family Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Nicola Bulgari, The Edwin Caplin Foundation, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Mrs. Nancy A. Marks, Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse Jr., the Edward John Noble Foundation, The Joe Plumeri Foundation, and Suki Sandler.

Additional funding provided by Breguet, in partnership with Henry and Elizabeth Segerstrom.

The Academy is made possible, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State.
This performance is part of Chamber Sessions III.

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