Two titans of the Romantic repertoire close out our 2017 summer season. Liszt’s tone poem Les préludes opens the program followed by French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s characteristic “fiery account” (The Washington Post) of the composer’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Robert Schumann’s Second Symphony tells the story of his personal triumph over adversity. Set in the bright key of C Major, this uplifting symphony brings the Caramoor summer season to a properly sunny close.
“[Jean-Yves Thibaudet]’s a master colorist and a great communicator, able to reduce a large concert hall to an intimate chamber of intent listeners.” – The Seattle Times
Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
Pablo Heras-Casado, Principal Conductor
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Liszt Les préludes Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major Schumann Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61
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Symphony Court Dining
Enjoy a relaxed dining experience seated under a tented pavilion adjacent to the Italian Pavilion. Each buffet menu, designed and prepared by Great Performances, includes unlimited wine, beer, and sodas, or you are welcome to bring your own. You may choose to dine at a private table or communally with other concert-goers. Menus vary for each date; check the menu for below for the compete offerings.
Already purchased your tickets? You can still reserve your spot at Symphony Court by ordering online (be sure to select July 30) or by calling the Box Office at 914.232.1252.
Order by Tuesday at 5:00pm for the upcoming week's performance.
Let us pack your picnic for you! For heartier options, no lines, and the ease of ordering a picnic in advance this summer, consider choosing from our special picnic boxes offered by our caterer, Great Performances. View the menu and order by noting how many of each option you would like after selecting your seats for Summer Season Finale. Confirm by selecting "Add to Cart."Already purchased your tickets? You can still pre-order your picnic by ordering online (be sure to select July 30) or by calling the Box Office at 914.232.1252.
Order by Tuesday at 5:00pm for the upcoming week's performance.
For more than three decades, Jean-Yves Thibaudet has performed world-wide, recorded over 50 albums, and built a reputation as one of today’s finest pianists. He plays a range of solo, chamber, and orchestral repertoire – from Beethoven through Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, and Saint-Saëns; to Ravel, Khachaturian and Gershwin; and to contemporary composers Qigang Chen and James MacMillan.
In 2016/17 Thibaudet is Artist-in-Residence with Orchestre National de France, Wiener Symphoniker and the Colburn School in Los Angeles. As part of his residency in Paris, he performs Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 5 with Stéphane Denève and Khachaturian’s Concerto for Piano with Semyon Bychkov; he also curates a special performance with selected students for Radio France. The Vienna residency sees a chamber music programme with principals from the orchestra, performances of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy under Music Director Philippe Jordan, as well as concerts featuring the Grieg and Gershwin concertos – the latter televised by Austrian broadcaster ORF. At Colburn he enters the third year of a residency – the first of its kind – where his passion for education and fostering young musical talent is invested through individual lessons, masterclasses and performances with students.
At the young age of fifteen, Thibaudet won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire and, three years later, the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York City.
Thibaudet’s recording catalogue of more than 50 albums has received two Grammy nominations, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the Diapason d’Or, the Choc du Monde de la Musique, the Edison Prize, as well as Gramophone and Echo awards. This season he releases Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop, with whom he previously recorded Gershwin (2010), which featured big jazz band orchestrations of Rhapsody in Blue, variations on “I Got Rhythm” and the Concerto in F. In 2016, on the 150th anniversary of Erik Satie’s birth, Decca released a box set of Satie’s complete solo piano music performed by Thibaudet – one of the foremost interpreters and champions of the composer’s works. On his Grammy-nominated recording Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerti Nos. 2&5, released in 2007, he is joined by long-standing collaborator Charles Dutoit and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Thibaudet’s Aria – Opera Without Words, which was released the same year, features aria transcriptions, some of which are Thibaudet’s own. His other recordings include the jazz albums Reflections on Duke: Jean-Yves Thibaudet Plays the Music of Duke Ellington and Conversations With Bill Evans.
Thibaudet has also had an impact on the world of fashion, film, and philanthropy. This season he features Aaron Zigman’s soundtrack for Wakefield, a drama by Robin Swicord released in September 2016. He was soloist in Dario Marianelli’s award-winning scores for the films Atonement (which won an Oscar for Best Original Music Score) and Pride and Prejudice, and recorded Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack for the 2012 film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. He had a cameo in Bruce Beresford’s film on Alma Mahler, Bride of the Wind, and his playing is showcased throughout. In 2004 he served as president of the prestigious charity auction Hospices de Beaune. His concert wardrobe is designed by Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Jean-Yves Thibaudet was born in Lyon, France, where he began his piano studies at age five and made his first public appearance at age seven. At twelve, he entered the Paris Conservatory to study with Aldo Ciccolini and Lucette Descaves, a friend and collaborator of Ravel. At age fifteen, he won the Premier Prix du Conservatoire and, three years later, the Young Concert Artists Auditions in New York City. Among his numerous commendations is the Victoire d’Honneur, a lifetime career achievement award and the highest honour given by France’s Victoires de la Musique. In 2010 the Hollywood Bowl honored Thibaudet for his musical achievements by inducting him into its Hall of Fame. Previously a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Thibaudet was awarded the title Officier by the French Ministry of Culture in 2012.
Pablo Heras-Casado has been described by the New York Times as “the thinking person’s idea of a hotshot young conductor,” although his character is better reflected in the quality of the long-term relationships he has developed with orchestras ranging from the San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Philharmonia Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra; from Staatskapelle Berlin and the Mariinsky Orchestra to Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and Freiburg Baroque Orchestra; and as Principal Conductor of Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New York, and Principal Guest Conductor of Teatro Real, Madrid. That character also underlies his commitment as an ambassador for the Spanish charity Ayuda en Acción, supporting and promoting its work to eradicate poverty and injustice internationally.
Pablo Heras-Casado was named Musical America’s 2014 Conductor of the Year, has led orchestras around the world, and is currently serving as the Principal Conductor of Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Heras-Casado enjoys an unusually varied career encompassing the great symphonic and operatic repertoire, historically informed performance and cutting-edge contemporary scores. In 2016/17 he returns to the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, San Francisco Symphony, and the Philharmonia Orchestra. He is re-invited to the Münchner Philharmoniker, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Salzburg’s Mozartwoche. He continues his touring and recording partnerships with the Balthasar Neumann Chor & Ensemble in Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale, and Freiburger Barockorchester, focusing on the works of Mendelssohn, including his violin concerto with Isabelle Faust. Opera projects include Le Nozze di Figaro at Staatsoper Berlin, Carmen with Orchestre de Paris at Festival d’Aix en Provence, and Der Fliegende Holländer at Teatro Real.
Heras-Casado records for harmonia mundi, as well as Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv Produktion. He has received numerous prizes for his recordings, including three ECHO Klassik awards, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, two Diapason d’Or and a Latin Grammy. Recent releases on harmonia mundi include Mendelssohn’s Symphonies Nos.3 & 4, and Schumann’s violin, piano and cello concertos with Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov and Jean-Guihen Queyras. For Deutsche Grammophon, he has recorded albums featuring the legendary castrato singer and maestro Farinelli, as well as the works by Jacob, Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius, and a DVD of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. He also appears on a Sony release of Verdi’s baritone arias with Plácido Domingo and a new DVD of La traviata from Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, and directed Decca’s recent recording of Shostakovich’s cello concertos with Alisa Weilerstein and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
Musical America’s 2014 Conductor of the Year, Pablo Heras-Casado holds the Medalla de Honor of the Rodriguez Acosta Foundation and the Ambassador Award of the Regional Government of Andalusia. In February 2012 he was awarded the Golden Medal of Merit by the Council of Granada, his hometown, of which he is also an Honorary Ambassador. He is an Honorary Citizen of the Province of Granada.
Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) is one of America’s most versatile and distinguished orchestras, collaborating with the world’s greatest artists and performing approximately 80 concerts each year—including its Carnegie Hall Orchestra Series, Chamber Music Series at The Morgan Library & Museum and Brooklyn Museum, and the Caramoor Summer Season. In its 41-year history, OSL has commissioned more than 50 new works, has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres; and has appeared on more than 100 recordings, including four Grammy Award winners and seven releases on its own label, St. Luke’s Collection. Pablo Heras-Casado is OSL’s principal conductor and the orchestra’s fourth titled conductor; previous music directors and principal conductors are Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Charles Mackerras, and Donald Runnicles. Bernard Labadie’s currently serves as Principal Conductor Designate.
OSL grew out of a chamber ensemble that began giving concerts at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village in 1974. Today, the 21 virtuoso artists of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble make up OSL’s artistic core.
In its 41-year history, OSL has commissioned more than 50 new works, has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres; and has appeared on more than 100 recordings
OSL owns and operates The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Midtown Manhattan, where it shares a building with the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The DiMenna Center is New York City’s premier venue for rehearsal, recording, and learning, having quickly gained a reputation for its superb acoustics, state-of-the-art facilities, and affordability. Since opening in 2011, The DiMenna Center has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors, including more than 400 ensembles and artists such as Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Valery Gergiev, James Levine, James Taylor, and Sting. OSL hosts hundreds of neighbors, families, and school children at its home each year for free community events.
Through its Education & Community programs, OSL has introduced audiences across New York City to live classical music. OSL brings free chamber concerts to the five boroughs; offers free interactive music programs at The DiMenna Center; provides chamber music coaching for adult amateurs; and engages 10,000 public school students each year through its Free School Concerts. In 2013, OSL launched Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s (YOSL), an intensive in- and after-school instrumental instruction program emphasizing musical excellence and social development, in partnership with community organizations and public schools in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
About the Composer
After Beethoven, the most influential composer of the 19th century was almost surely Paganini, whose extraordinary ability as a violinist created an entirely new level of virtuosity—one that affected performers and composers, especially those who wrote for their own purposes. Franz Liszt, perhaps uniquely, acknowledged the direct influence of both men—Beethoven not so much in musical style, but rather in having met the aging master, played for him as a young genius at the keyboard, and received a kiss on his brow, which he always thought of as a consecration.
Paganini influenced Liszt and many others for an astonishing virtuosity that seemed so impossible that he was rumored to have made a pact with the devil. (Like any good showman, Paganini knew that such stories brought in paying audiences.) The first response of many artists—Liszt very much among them—was to recreate Paganini’s music and its spectacular effects on their own instruments and then to surpass it if possible.
In the period when he was most active as a virtuoso, Liszt traveled widely, especially between 1835 and 1839, when he was living with his mistress, the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had left her husband for him and who bore him three children (one of them, Cosima, was to become the wife of Richard Wagner). He composed extraordinary series of solo works and the first versions of his later piano concertos.
In the late 1840s Liszt settled in Weimar and gave up the vagabond life of the international concert star to devote himself to composition and conducting. Although he had written a great deal of music already (mostly brilliant display pieces for piano solo), he now worked hard to improve his skills. As he did so, he often reworked pieces several times before deciding on just the way he wanted it. Older studies of Liszt often claim that he hired the young Joachim Raff (1822-1882) to orchestrate some of these works in their earliest forms, but it has now been shown that Raff was little more than a copyist; the tales of his more creative work on Liszt’s scores was invented by his widow many decades later, after both Raff and Liszt were dead. Liszt already had more experience as an orchestrator who had actually heard the results in performance than Raff did while he was working for Liszt.
About the Work
In 1844, while in Marseilles, Liszt composed a piece for male chorus with piano to a text by the Provençal poet Joseph Autran, called Les Aquilons (“The Northern Gales”). The following year, while he was in Spain and Portugal, Liszt set three more texts of Autran for the same forces, La Terre (“The Earth”), Les Flots (“The Sea”), and Les Astres (“The Stars”). These three works were never performed, but Liszt assembled them together with the piece composed the preceding year (which he placed second) under the title Les Quatre Elémens (“The Four Elements”). At some undetermined time in the next four years, he sketched out an overture for the set of choral works, drawing its themes from the three choruses composed in 1845. Although it underwent further refinement and elaboration, this overture is, in essence, the work we know as Les Préludes.
Liszt completed the work in 1849. Raff copied the performing parts. Liszt then put the work aside for three years. About 1853 or 1854 he decided to use the “overture” as a separate work, one of his growing series of “symphonic poems.” At the time he brought the work almost to its present form—and only then did he seek a poetic text to serve as the “program” to the music.
One of Liszt’s notebooks reveals that by 1846 or 1847 he had already read Lamartine’s Méditations poétiques. It was probably the fact that Lamartine’s text links both the pastoral and the military— elements figuring in the music of the overture—that led Liszt to connect that particular selection to this work. The poem mentions death and love, disillusionment and rural beauty, and finally a call to combat. But it is vain to search for these items ticked off one by one in Liszt’s score; the poem is suggestive at best. It does not prescribe the way to “understand” this music.
A Deeper Listen
From the beginning Les Préludes has been the most often performed of Liszt’s symphonic poems. Listeners of a certain age may have difficulty forgetting Flash Gordon or the Lone Ranger radio programs, both of which made use of material from this score as background music, but it is distinctly worth the effort to approach Liszt on his own terms.
The work begins very quietly, with two pizzicato C’s followed by a theme in C major derived from Les Astres. It builds gradually to a climax (with sustained wind chords over it) and appears at the first orchestral fortissimo as the bass (in trombones and cellos) to a heroic outcry in the trumpets and woodwinds. Almost immediately it reappears in a lyrical, romantic guise in the cellos (later the solo horn), with little echoes (in bassoons and double basses) at the end of each phrase likewise derived from the theme. This eventually leads to the bright key of E major for a new theme in horns and violas. Liszt drew this from La Terre; it is, for obvious reasons, customarily identified as “Love.” This becomes harmonically unstable and dies away in the upper regions of the orchestra. After a pause, the strings reintroduce the opening theme, now the basis of a stormy section of chromatic tremolos with the brass instruments holding out heroically against the onslaught. As the storm dies away in A minor, the opening theme reappears in a bright lyric guise introducing a pastoral section of woodwinds disporting in 6/8 time and the key of A major. Before long the “love” theme reappears in the strings, to be developed in counterpoint to the pastoral music. After a time it returns to the home key of C major for a restatement of the “Love” theme in the tonic key. A transitional passage leads then to the “military” music that will conclude the work, a triumphant Allegro marziale in C major using martial transformations of both the opening theme on trumpets and horns: and of the love theme in the full orchestra. The first orchestral fortissimo in the piece returns with climactic effect for a heroic peroration.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A Major
About the Work
While still primarily a touring piano virtuoso of extraordinary attainments Liszt sketched both of his piano concertos, almost simultaneously, in 1839. At that point they were surely conceived as showpieces for his own talents, and if he had actually finished and performed them then, they would no doubt have been very different in character than they finally turned out. As it was, the put both works aside for a decade until he had settled in Weimar and given up the vagabond life.
He claimed that the work was “finished” in 1849, but he clearly was in no rush to present it to the public. In May 1853 he announced to Hans von Bülow that he had just finished reworking the concertos and that Raff was making the definitive copies. By the time of the premiere, Liszt himself had given up appearing as a virtuoso, and most of his performances at the keyboard were private affairs. He preferred to appear in public as a conductor and composer.
A Deeper Listen
Like so much of Liszt’s work, the Second Concerto is entirely unique. Though it is by no means lacking in opportunities for virtuoso display, it gives the impression of being quieter, more introspective than the First Concerto, partly because of the ravishingly beautiful opening for woodwinds, in which the sweet song of the clarinet turns out to generate many of the musical ideas that follow. Among the diverse musical ideas to come, we shall hear a good bit of a march theme in a sharply marked rhythm and also of a galloping figure first heard in an orchestral tutti.
These last two ideas generally return together, with the galloping figure serving as a bass to the march.
Many nineteenth-century composers sought to create organic relationships throughout a single composition. Liszt fused the usual three movements of a concerto into a single long movement that could be construed as a kind of sonata form. His inventive reworking of the motivic material produces melodies of strikingly diverse psychological tone. The range of moods is breathtaking, from delicate and dreamy to the brassy marchlike “recapitulation” in the home key of A Major.
Considering how unsure of himself he often was, Liszt’s sense of appropriateness never fails. No musical idea could seem less suited to the piano than the languishing, dreamy, sustained opening theme. Liszt obviously recognized this fact, because he never once gives that material to the piano in its original form. Instead the soloist weaves gentle arabesques around sustained chords in the woodwinds alternating with strings (shortly after the opening) or else converts it into something altogether more assertive.
Though there are brilliant passages galore throughout this concerto, Liszt is admirably restrained in his virtuoso display. Almost without exception the sparkling, cadenzalike passages are built on still new developments of the basic thematic material—especially on some of the characteristic little turns in the opening theme. Thus, rather than intruding, as virtuosic elements so often do in romantic piano compositions, they contribute further to the unity of this remarkable score.
Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op. 61
About the Composer
After a challenging decade in which Schumann wrote piano music considered ultra-modern for the time, he finally managed to marry his beloved Clara, who urged him to make his name in a wider range of compositions. The first years of their marriage were exceptionally happy as he devoted his attention by turns to song, to chamber music, and to symphonic music.
He suffered a physical breakdown attributed to overwork in 1842 and a much more serious one in August 1844. The second time his condition was ominous: constant trembling, various phobias (especially the fear of heights and of sharp metallic objects), and worst of all, tinnitus, a constant noise or ringing in the ears, which made almost any musical activity impossible. It was not the first time Schumann had been prey to depression so severe that he was unable to work, but this time the depression was accompanied unmistakably by serious medical indications.
The 1844 breakdown was the worst year yet; this time, even with his Clara always at hand to help, he could not overcome his depression. Writing music was out of the question; it took weeks even to write a letter. His recuperation took over a year, during which he composed virtually nothing. Then in 1845 he directed his energies toward a thorough study of Bach and composed some fugal essays. But the first completely new large composition after his breakdown was the Symphony in C, published as Opus 61 and labeled second in the series.
About the Work
During the fall he had written to Mendelssohn reporting “much trumpeting and drumming within me (trumpet in C)” for the previous several days—evidently a hint that the new symphony was beginning to shape itself, if only so far in inchoate sounds. On December 6 and 9 he attended a rehearsal of Schubert’s great C major symphony, which may have confirmed the key for his new piece. By mid-month he was evidently sketching, and on December 28 he could describe it as “almost finished.” But this meant only the detailed composition sketch, not a performable score. Though he drafted the symphony in roughly two weeks, it took nearly another ten months, interrupted by dizziness, weakness and an alarming “distortion of the auditory organ.” Finally completed on October 19, 1846, the symphony was premiered under the direction of Mendelssohn on November 5. On that occasion the new symphony, placed, unwisely, at the end of a long program on which the conductor had already offered an encore of Rossini’s overture to William Tell before intermission, did not make its proper effect. Schumann quickly tightened a few passages in the first and last movements, and when Mendelssohn programmed it again on November 16, the reception was considerably more favorable.
A Deeper Listen
Much of Schumann’s music is intensely personal in ways more specific than simply reflecting the composer’s emotional state. It has been traditional to read into the Second Symphony a progression of mental states reflecting the composer’s own life, on the strength of a letter he wrote three years later. “I wrote my symphony in December 1845, and I sometimes fear my semiinvalid state can be divined from the music. I began to feel more myself when I wrote the last movement, and was certainly much better when I finished the whole work. All the same it reminds me of dark days.”
Yet in spite of this remark, the symphony is Schumann’s most successful homage to the great classical tradition, with evident references to Haydn’s London Symphony, No. 104, in the opening fanfare, which plays a continuing role throughout the work, and to Schubert’s C-major symphony in the three-key harmonic plan of the first movement’s exposition. The triumphant conclusion of the symphony, bringing back the opening fanfare in a blaze of glory, suggests homage to Beethoven, particularly the triumphant endings of the Fifth and Ninth symphonies. Moreover Schumann had been engaged in an intense study of the music of Bach just before and during the period of composition of the Second, and his interest in contrapuntal statements and development of ideas are evident from the very opening, where the brilliance of the trumpet fanfare is moderated by a more sober countermelody that contains the seed of much of the development. Throughout the symphony, too, Schumann occasionally turned to melodies in the style of the chorales used so imaginatively by Bach.
One further act of homage to Beethoven, though not to a symphony, is the allusion in the finale to Beethoven’s song cycle An die ferne Geliebte. Here, for perhaps the first time in this symphony, we may be intruding on one of Schumann’s private messages, of a type that he had earlier encoded in much of his piano music: an elaborate coda-development of a theme to which Beethoven had set the words Nimm sie hin denn diese Lieder (Take, then, these songs of mine). Certainly this message was partly intended for Clara (as it was most explicitly when Schumann used it earlier in his piano Fantasie, Opus 17); but at the end of a large symphony filled with allusions to the great symphonic tradition, Schumann is clearly also offering this work to the musical public at large with a new confidence that he has done his work well. There would be more illness and more dark days ahead, but for the time being Schumann was back in form.