The MET Orchestra
The MET Orchestra
Michael Tilson Thomas, Conductor
Pretty Yende, Soprano
MOZART Exsultate, jubilate
MAHLER Symphony No. 4
At a Glance
CARL RUGGLES Evocations
American composer Carl Ruggles’s music is notable for its fiercely independent, personal idiom, which shows little sense of connection to past tradition. Despite his generous lifespan of 95 years, Ruggles left behind a body of just 12 works, destroying early ones (including an opera he left incomplete) and taking many years to wrestle such compositions as Evocations onto paper. Initially written for solo piano and finished by 1943, the Evocations feature rigorous shaping of line, rhythm, and climax that recalls a meticulous sculptor at work.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Exsultate, jubilate
Mozart began work on the motet Exsultate, jubilate in January 1773, inspired by the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini’s singing in the premiere of his opera Lucio Silla. The work demands much of its soloist: a full soprano range (including exposed, sustained notes at both extreme ends), wide leaps of pitch, intricate coloratura, and long-breathed legato passages. With its three movements in fast-slow-fast arrangement, beautiful melody, virtuosic display, formal ingenuity, and cheerful enthusiasm, Exsultate also points the way toward the instrumental concerto—a genre that Mozart would revolutionize and in which he would write much of his finest music.
GUSTAV MAHLER Symphony No. 4 in G Major
In his first three symphonies, Mahler had retraced the darkness-to-light pattern established by Beethoven—the symphony as a metaphysical journey and record of existential struggle. But while the Fourth does end in “paradise,” it follows a dramatically different path, beginning with an air of ironic nostalgia and ending with a sweet lullaby that evokes puzzling images of childhood. The symphony’s thematic material is subjected to an almost manic level of invention as the composer continually pokes, prods, and tweaks his thrifty fund of basic ideas. The overall effect suggests an ambivalent mix of reverence for and parody of classical tradition. And following one of his most romantically glowing slow movements, Mahler caps the Fourth with what could be taken as a send-up of Romanticism’s propensity for rhetorically grandiose conclusions.
The MET Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is regarded as one of the world’s finest orchestras. From the time of the company’s inception in 1883, the ensemble has worked with leading conductors in both opera and concert performances, and has developed into an orchestra of enormous technical polish and style. The MET Orchestra (as the ensemble is referred to when appearing in concert outside the opera house) maintains a demanding schedule of performances and rehearsals during its 33-week New York season, when the company performs as many as seven times a week in repertory that this season encompasses 25 operas.
In addition to its opera schedule, the orchestra has a distinguished history of concert performances. Arturo Toscanini made his American debut as a symphonic conductor with the MET Orchestra in 1913, and the impressive list of instrumental soloists who appeared with the orchestra includes Leopold Godowsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Pablo Casals, Josef Hofmann, Ferruccio Busoni, Jascha Heifetz, Moriz Rosenthal, and Fritz Kreisler. The orchestra’s appearances at Carnegie Hall began in 1991, when then–Artistic Director James Levine instituted the annual series. Since then, instrumental soloists have included Itzhak Perlman, Maxim Vengerov, Alfred Brendel, and Evgeny Kissin, and the group has performed six world premieres: Milton Babbitt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (1998), William Bolcom’s Symphony No. 7 (2002), Hsueh-Yung Shen’s Legend (2002), Charles Wuorinen’s Theologoumenon (2007) and Time Regained (2009), and John Harbison’s Closer to My Own Life (2011).
Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas is music director of the San Francisco Symphony, founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony, and conductor laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. Born in Los Angeles, he is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career.
Mr. Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California. At the age of 19, he was named music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra, and worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles’s Monday Evening Concerts. In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That year, he also made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg mid-concert. He was later appointed principal guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he remained until 1974. He was music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1971 to 1979, principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985, and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 1995.
His guest-conducting engagements include appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States. His recorded repertoire encompasses more than 120 discs, championing works by, among others, Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin, and Elvis Costello. Mr. Tilson Thomas’s television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for the BBC, television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977, and numerous productions on PBS’s Great Performances.
In February 1988, he inaugurated the New World Symphony, an orchestral academy for graduates of prestigious music programs. New World Symphony graduates have gone on to major positions in orchestras worldwide.
Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France and has won 11 Grammy Awards. In 2010, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States government.
With her magnetic charm, critically and popularly acclaimed operatic and solo performances worldwide, and two wildly successful albums, South African soprano Pretty Yende has quickly become one of the brightest stars of the classical music world. Since making her professional operatic debut at the Latvian National Theatre in Riga as Micaëla in Carmen, she has been seen at nearly all of the major opera houses of the world, including the Opéra National de Paris, Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Staatsoper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper, Opernhaus Zürich, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
This season, Ms. Yende starred at the Metropolitan Opera as Adina in L’elisir d’amore—which was broadcast to movie theaters around the world as part of the Met’s Live in HD series—and in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. In the 2016–2017 season, she had the rare honor of appearing in three starring roles at the Met: Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette, and Elvira in I puritani. That season also saw the release of her debut album, A Journey, which she followed up in fall 2017 with her second recording, Dreams. She has also appeared as the musical guest on such television shows as The Late Show with Steven Colbert, The Wendy Williams Show, and Good Morning America.
Ms. Yende made her critically and popularly acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut in January 2013, stepping in on short notice as the Countess Adèle in Le comte Ory opposite Juan Diego Flórez.
A 2011 graduate of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala, Ms. Yende made her debut with the company in 2010 as Berenice in Rossini’s L’occasione fa il ladro. In 2010, she became the first artist in the history of the Belvedere Competition to win first prize in every category, and she went on to win first prize in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Competition in 2011.