Currently serving as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot makes his debut leading Caramoor’s orchestra in residence, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, in this program featuring the New York Premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Evidence, a musical adventure full of “color and character” (LA Times). Also on the program is Tchaikovsky’s romantic Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Orchestra, Smetana’s Dance of the Comedians, and we welcome back Evnin Rising Star alumnus, Benjamin Beilman for Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.
“Mr. Beilman’s handsome technique, burnished sound and quiet confidence showed why he has come so far so fast.” — The New York Times
Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Benjamin Beilman, violin
SmetanaDance of the Comedians Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35 — Intermission — Matthew AucoinEvidence (New York Premiere) Tchaikovsky Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture
7:00pm Pre-concert conversation with Ludovic Morlot and Benjamin Beilman
Watch Matthew Aucoin discuss his orchestral work, Evidence
Ludovic Morlot has been Music Director of the Seattle Symphony since 2011. During the 2017/18 season they will particularly focus on the music of Berlioz, Stravinsky, and Bernstein. In addition, they will be presenting some exciting new works by John Luther Adams, Alexandra Gardner, David Lang, and Andrew Norman. Their many successful recordings have resulted in two Grammy Awards.
This season, Ludovic will be conducting at Seattle Opera for the first time, make his debut with the Orchestra of St Luke’s, and will return to the Atlanta and Houston Symphony Orchestras. He has regular relationships with the Chicago Symphony, New York, and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. Ludovic also has a particularly strong connection with the Boston Symphony Orchestra having been Seiji Ozawa Fellowship Conductor at Tanglewood and subsequently appointed assistant conductor for the orchestra and their Music Director James Levine. Since then he has conducted the orchestra in subscription concerts in Boston, at Tanglewood and on a tour to the west coast of America.
Currently the Music Director of the Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot has conducted established orchestras around the world.
Outside North America, recent and future debuts include the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Symphony, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras. Other recent notable performances have included the Royal Concertgebouw, London Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, Tonhalle, Budapest Festival, Orchestre National de France, and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras. Ludovic served as conductor in residence with the Orchestre National de Lyon under David Robertson (2002-04) and was Chief Conductor of La Monnaie (2012-2014).
Ludovic is Chair of Orchestral Conducting Studies at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle.
Benjamin Beilman is recognized as one of the fastest rising stars of his generation, winning praise in both for his passionate performances and deep rich tone which the Washington Post called “mightily impressive,” and The New York Times described as “muscular with a glint of violence.” The Times also praised his “handsome technique, burnished sound, and quiet confidence which showed why he has come so far so fast.” Following his First Prize win at the Montreal Competition, the Strad described his performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto as “pure poetry.”
Highlights of Mr. Beilman’s 2017-18 season include performances with the Houston Symphony, Oregon Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and Orchestra St. Luke’s, as well as a multi-city tour of California play-directing the New Century Chamber Orchestra in a program including Bach, Stravinsky, and Andrew Norman. In recital, he will premiere a new work written for him by Frederic Rzewski and commissioned by Music Accord, presented by Boston Celebrity Series and Shriver Hall, and on tour throughout the US in the 17-18 and 18-19 seasons. Abroad, Mr. Beilman will make his Australian concerto debut with the Sydney Symphony where he will perform Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto, and debuts with Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Trondheim Symphony. He will also perform the European premiere of Frederic Rzewski’s new work at the Heidelberg Spring Festival, and return to the Wigmore Hall in recital.
Benjamin Beilman is an alumni of Caramoor’s Evnin Rising Stars mentoring program and has gone on to win numerous awards including an Avery Fisher Career Grant, London Music Masters Award. and First Prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.
In the 16-17 season, Mr. Beilman returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Yannick Nézet-Séguin in subscription, and on tour with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He also premiered a new work by Elizabeth Oganek as soloist on the Chicago Symphony’s new music series, and returned to the San Francisco Symphony with Juraj Valcuha. He performed with the Symphony orchestras of Detroit, San Diego, Atlanta, and Grand Rapids, as well as making recital debuts in San Francisco and Vancouver. In Europe, Mr. Beilman has performed with many of the major orchestras including the London Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and Zurich Tonhalle, and in 16-17 made his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Krzysztof Urbanski, the City of Birmingham Symphony and Vassily Sinaisky, and the Orchestre National de Capitole de Toulouse and Rafael Payare. He also appeared in recital on a ten-city tour of Australia – including debut appearances in Sydney and Melbourne.
In recent seasons, Mr. Beilman has appeared in subscription with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and returned to play with them at the Bravo! Vail Valley Festival, and Saratoga. He also made his recital debuts at the Berlin Philharmonie, and at Carnegie Hall, in a program that included the premiere of a new work by David Ludwig commissioned for him by Carnegie Hall. Further recital appearances include performances at the Verbier Festival, Heidelberg Spring Festival, Louvre, Tonhalle Zürich, Wigmore Hall, and Festpiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Mr. Beilman has also previously performed with Tonhalle Orchester Zürich and Sir Neville Marriner, l’Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the Malaysian Philharmonic and Hans Graf.
Mr. Beilman has received several prestigious awards including a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a London Music Masters Award. In 2010 he won the First Prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions, and as First Prize Winner of the 2010 Montréal International Musical Competition and winner of the People’s Choice Award, Beilman recorded Prokofiev’s complete sonatas for violin on the Analekta label in 2011. In 2016 he released his first disc for Warner Classics titled Spectrum, featuring works by Stravinsky, Janacek, and Schubert.
Mr. Beilman studied with Almita and Roland Vamos at the Music Institute of Chicago, Ida Kavafian and Pamela Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music, and Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy. Mr. Beilman plays the “Engleman” Stradivarius from 1709 generously on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.
Caramoor’s orchestra-in-residence began in 1974 as a group of virtuoso musicians performing chamber music concerts at Greenwich Village’s Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Now in its 43rd season, the Orchestra performs diverse musical genres at New York’s major concert venues, and has collaborated with artists ranging from Renée Fleming and Joshua Bell to Bono and Metallica. In the fall of 2018, internationally celebrated expert in 18th-Century music, Bernard Labadie, will join the Orchestra as Principal Conductor, continuing the Orchestra’s long tradition of working with proponents of historical performance practice.
OSL’s signature programming includes a subscription series presented by Carnegie Hall, now in its 31st season; an annual multi-week collaboration with Paul Taylor American Modern Dance at Lincoln Center; an annual summer residency at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts; and a chamber music festival featuring appearances at The Morgan Library & Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center. The Orchestra has participated in 118 recordings, four of which have won Grammy Awards, has commissioned more than 50 new works, and has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres.
Nearly half of OSL’s performances each year are presented free of charge through its education and community programs, reaching over 10,000 New York City public school students. Additionally, OSL provides free instrumental coaching and presents student performances through its Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s and its Mentorship Program for Pre-Professional Musicians.
OSL built and operates The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City’s only rehearsal, recording, education, and performance space expressly dedicated to classical music. The DiMenna Center serves more than 500 ensembles and more than 30,000 musicians each year.
About the Music
Program At a Glance
The works on this program explore a large range of style, emotion, and orchestral color from the 19th and 21st centuries. Smetana’s Dance of the Comedians and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto both demonstrate their composers’ immersion in their countries’ national folk culture and their ability to reinvent it as symphonic music. The concerto and Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture illustrate two kinds of Tchaikovsky orchestras: the Violin Concerto is delicate and transparent, whereas the fantasy overture is lush and spectacular, full of the heavy brass and percussion-timpani effects that the concerto eschews. Both offer some of Tchaikovsky’s most ravishing melodies, and the concerto dazzles as a virtuoso showpiece. Matthew Aucoin’s new work, Evidence, the most abstract work on the program, is mystical and otherworldly, a sonic adventure that exploits the ability of a modern orchestra to conjure distant worlds.
Dance of the Comedians
About the Composer
Bedřich Smetana was the first composer to put Czech folk music on the map of symphonic culture. Like Dvorak, he wrote original melodies in the shape and spirit of Bohemian folk music rather than quoting actual tunes. The furiants, polkas, and other zestful dances in his scores are his own, though they have a vernacular shape and feel. This piece illustrates Smetana’s ability to write snappy fast numbers, but he also composed some of the most soulful slow music in the repertory, most famously the big tune in The Moldau.
About the Music
Dance of the Comedians, from Act III of Smetana’s 1866 opera The Bartered Bride, is a swirl of energy and exuberance. Depicting acrobats, clowns, and dancers from a traveling circus in the 19th century, it has a timeless comic sensibility, enough to have been hijacked by the Road Runner and Wiley Coyote (much as Rossini’s William Tell Overture was pilfered by Porky Pig and The Lone Ranger.) It opens with an insistent three-note motif that reappears throughout the piece in varying patterns, some suave, others abrupt. Smetana’s glittering orchestration features whirring strings, steamy trumpets, and high woodwinds.
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35
About the Composer
Music is full of stories involving immensely popular works that suffered initial rejection, but few are as dramatic or painful as the saga of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Its composition came in the months following his traumatic encounter with Antonina Milyukova, a young fan whom he married as a desperate cover for his gayness. This disastrous two-month union drove them both to breakdowns and a suicide attempt by Tchaikovsky, but in a remarkable burst of inspiration during and following the event, he wrote the Fourth Symphony, Eugene Onegin (a perfect opera for a disastrous marriage) and the Violin Concerto. The concerto, which came after the union ended, took just 11 days to sketch.
The trouble began when the violinist for whom it was written, Leopold Auer, declared the piece, “impossible to play.” “Coming from such an authority,” Tchaikovsky said, Auer’s snub “had the effect of casting this unfortunate child of my imagination into the limbo of the hopelessly forgotten.” Two years later, when Tchaikovsky finally found someone willing to play it (Adolf Brodsky), the 1881 Vienna audience booed at its premiere, and the notorious critic Eduard Hanslick accused Tchaikovsky of writing music that “stinks in the ear,” a statement that haunted the morbidly self-conscious composer to his death. Even Nadia von Meck, Tchaikovsky’s normally admiring patron, disliked the concerto, prompting him to defend the first movement on the remarkable grounds that “the themes are not painfully evolved” and to express “the hope that in time the piece will give you greater pleasure.”
About the Music
In time, the piece gave everyone great pleasure, and it is easy to see why. The work fuses spectacularly exciting technical difficulties (at times it does indeed sound “impossible to play”) with a spontaneous outpouring of lyricism, always a happy combination in a Romantic concerto. The melodies have startling variety — mournful and hymnal in the slow movement, snappy and folkloric in the finale — sometimes building to acrobatic cadenzas. So much goes on that the piece isn’t easy to sort out. Critics grumble about how the opening theme vanishes after its initial statement, much as they fuss about the non-return of the famous opening in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, but in both cases it is Tchaikovsky’s spontaneity and melodic fecundity that attract listeners, not his adherence to 18th century sonata form. Adding to the charm of the piece is the orchestra, which has a transparency reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s ballets.
Tchaikovsky did not write another violin concerto, but this one has historical significance: as Irving Kolodin pointed out, its “national character” (especially the folk material in the sizzling finale) makes it the first of the great Russian violin concertos, the forerunner of works by Glazunov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Khachaturian.
About the Composer
Matthew Aucoin is a prominent composer, conductor pianist, and writer. He studied poetry at Harvard Caramoor Summer 2018 XXVII and composition at The Juilliard School, and in his operas such as Crossing and Second Nature, he writes his own libretti. While still at Harvard, Aucoin became the youngest Assistant Conductor in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, where he worked with Thomas Ad.s, James Levine, and Valery Gergiev. He is writing a new opera for the Met and is currently Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Opera, a position created for him, where he will conduct each season and compose a new opera. In 2016, Aucoin conducted the premiere of Evidence, commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
About the Music
Since the ancient Greeks imagined a harmony of the spheres, artists have depicted music as a transcendent force. In Poe’s “Israfel,” it is a god sounding from the heavens, whose “heart strings are a lute”; in John Williams’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it is the language of extraterrestrials. The work on this program imagines music, in its composer’s words, as “evidence of some other order, a consciousness, a presence. It speaks to us of some ‘elsewhere’ by manifesting burnt traces of that elsewhere.”
A Deeper Listen
These “traces” are evoked by everything from simple lyrical lines to complex, layered tapestries. Aucoin’s harmonies are as varied as the moods, free and ever-changing, moving from snarling dissonance to hymn-like consonance. As in works such as This Earth, Prologue, and The Orphic Moment, he conjures mysterious sounds in the highest and lowest registers of the orchestra, including ascending figures for strings, brass and winds; driving, repetitive chords; long pedals, both celestial, and sinister; blocks of sound swaying back and forth like a pendulum; scherzo-like flutterings, with virtuosic opportunities for the winds; and slow sections of striking stillness. One of the most memorable moments is a Copland-esque melody with open harmonies that gradually climbs upward. The piece is ruled by dramatic contrasts, including the final section, which appears to be more jagged and aggressive than what has gone before, with brass fanfares and thumping timpani, but which unexpectedly segues to quietly plucked strings and a final enigmatic chord.
Overall, Evidence evokes a constant sense of adventure, of movement from one sonic word to another, sometimes without transition, as implied by Aucoin’s commentary: “The image that kept returning to me as I worked on Evidence was that of a journey from shore to shore in some challenging element — maybe a sea journey, or a journey through space. Whatever the element is, I wanted to see if I could get from one shore to the other. I hope you enjoy the ride.”< /p>
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY
Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
About the Composer
As with Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet is an early work in its creator’s oevre, but by the time Tchaikovsky added the final touches, he was a seasoned composer. The composition process became tangled in the kind of endless self-doubt and revamping that bedeviled him throughout his career. Tchaikovsky met the Russian nationalist group The Mighty Five (Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Balakirev) in his late 20s, when he was first starting out as a composer. Not a joiner, he never allied himself officially with the Five; he was always an outsider, a proud Russian but also a refined cosmopolitan, confident in his larger vision but painfully insecure in his execution of it. In 1869, Mily Balakierev, the guru of the Five, suggested Tchaikovsky undertake a Romeo and Juliet overture and sent him a detailed, micromanaging outline.
The timing was more right than Balakirev could have known: Tchaikovsky, still unsure of his sexuality, was infatuated with the singer Desiree Artot, who ultimately (perhaps mercifully) rejected him, and he projected his yearning and anxiety into the Romeo and Juliet music. He tried to follow Balakirev’s requirements, but Balakirev (who was never as successful a composer as Tchaikovsky) panned everything except the main theme. Tchaikovsky kept trying to reshape the work, enduring at least four flops in the initial performances, and renaming the piece a “fantasy-overture” in the final 1880 revision.
About the Music
In the most famous Romeo and Juliet symphonic pieces, those by Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, and Prokofiev, all three composers created a love theme as inspired as anything in their careers. Tchaikovsky’s, by far the most quoted, is a sensuous paragraph that soars, falls back on itself, and swoons upward all over again. Shakespeare is clearly on the side of the young lovers and so is Tchaikovsky, as reflected in the rapture of this theme in contrast to the dark, swirling chaos of the Montague-Capulet music, where Tchaikovsky fully earned the “barbarous” title often hurled at him by critics.
A Deeper Listen
Though Tchaikovsky was a Romantic, he often followed classical structures. Here he uses his own loose variation on sonata form rather than depicting the Romeo and Juliet story chronologically. Bookended by a haunting, chorale-like prelude and postlude representing the Friar, the piece launches aggressively into the first theme representing the destructive tribalism of the lovers’ feuding families, with jagged motifs and rhythms powered by brass and percussion. When elegant woodwinds finally intone the second subject, the love theme, it comes as a huge relief. This melody surges back in the recapitulation, more passionately than ever, only to be crushed by the first subject, which is now more brutal, a heartbreaking sequence that demonstrates how music can enact drama without words. The lovers’ melody marches back at the end as a ghostly dirge, a moment not unlike the coda of the “Pathetique” Symphony, then floats back one more time as an angelic fragment before a fateful final chord, a hint of light in a dark landscape. This “fantasy-overture” runs just over twenty minutes, but the emotion, drama, and melodic invention Tchaikovsky packs into that time frame make us feel we have experienced a full-scale symphony.