The Orchestra Sings
About the Composers
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) was born in Bonn, Germany. After beginning his piano studies at an early age with his father, Beethoven quickly became a famous pianist and composer in Germany. By the age of 12, he was earning a living for his family as an organist, violist, pianist, and composer. Although Beethoven began to suffer from hearing loss as early as his 20s, he continued to compose, creating some of his most famous musical works after he had become deaf. Beethoven’s originality and innovation inspired others to change the way they composed. He amplified the power of orchestral music, and his music acted as a transition into the Romantic era of music. Fun fact: One of Beethoven’s favorite foods was a special kind of macaroni and cheese!
Concert Repertoire: “Ode to Joy”
Joseph Brackett (1797–1882) was an elder, or minister, in the Shaker community, a religious group that considers music to be an essential part of worship. Born in Cumberland, Maine, Brackett and his family were actively involved in the local Shaker community. As a religious leader, he did not write much music; he is best known as the composer of the Shaker dancing song, “Simple Gifts.” The song, written in 1848, was largely unknown outside of Shaker communities until Aaron Copland used the melody in his 1944 composition Appalachian Spring.
Concert Repertoire: “Simple Gifts”
Thomas Cabaniss (b. 1962) is a composer and educator born in Charleston, South Carolina. Residing in New York City, Cabaniss teaches at The Juilliard School and leads arts education programs throughout the city. His music ranges from chamber music to operas and film scores. He is a creative adviser for Carnegie Hall’s Link Up program, and helped launch Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project, which helps pregnant women, new mothers, and their families write songs for their children. Cabaniss uses his music to encourage collaboration and help institutions support partnerships between artists and communities.
Aaron Copland (1900–1990) has been called “the dean of American composers.” He led the way in creating a new, distinctly American style of classical music. Copland was born in Brooklyn, where he attended public school and lived with his family above his parents’ store. The youngest of five children, Copland began writing songs at the age of eight, and started studying piano with his older sister Laurine when he was 11. When Copland was 21, he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, a famous teacher who had a profound influence on him. He went on to write all kinds of music, including orchestral works, ballets, and movie scores. Copland’s most famous works, including Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, and Rodeo, incorporate elements of American folk and popular music. Copland was also a teacher, writer, conductor, and champion of American classical music. He received many honors during his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an Academy Award.
Concert Repertoire: “Variations on a Shaker Melody” from Appalachian Spring
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) was born in a small village in Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic. Hailing from a musical family, Dvořák began studying the violin at the age of six, and was soon performing with his father and the village band at the family inn. His musical talent led him to study in Prague, where he graduated as an accomplished violinist and violist before the age of 20. Dvořák is known for integrating elements of Bohemian and other Slavic folk music into many of his works, including his Slavonic Dances. He moved to New York City to accept a position as head of the National Conservatory of Music in 1892. A year later, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” was premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Concert Repertoire: “New World” Symphony
Jim Papoulis (b. 1961) lives in New York City and composes, orchestrates, and conducts music for dance, film, ensembles, and choirs. His compositions are known for exploring new modes of musical communication by honoring and connecting classical and traditional forms with non-Western sounds. Through the Foundation for Small Voices, he has conducted songwriting workshops around the world; he composed “Oye” while working with young children in Mexico. Papoulis has worked with a wide range of artists, including Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Boys Choir, Beijing Children’s Choir, Faith Hill, Natalie Cole, Snoop Dogg, Slash, and Beyoncé.
Concert Repertoire: “Oye”
Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was a Russian composer who began taking piano lessons at the age of nine. Though his father was a famous opera singer, Stravinsky’s own musical talent developed slowly. While studying law and philosophy at St. Petersburg University, he began taking composition lessons from famous Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who greatly advanced Stravinsky’s interests and skill in composition. Stravinsky’s music for the ballet The Firebird quickly earned him fame and recognition. He went on to write music for other ballets, including The Rite of Spring, which is about a pagan ritual. The opening night audience found the music and choreography so shocking that there was a riot in the theater! Stravinsky was forced to flee Russia during World War I, which led him to Switzerland, France, and eventually the United States. Stravinsky had a strong ability to compose with diverse influences, and his composition style evolved greatly throughout his life. Stravinsky conducted at Carnegie Hall 41 times, and the Hall has premiered 43 of his works.
Concert Repertoire: Finale from The Firebird Suite