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Grammy Award-winning and internationally-lauded violinist Gil Shaham joins NWS for an exclusive evening at the Adrienne Arsht Center. Deemed “unplayable” before its premiere, Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Concerto demands virtuosic fireworks with its unwavering passion, flowing lyricism and folkloric dance rhythms, especially in its flamboyant finale. Beethoven’s serene Sixth Symphony calms the storm with blissful-sounding winds and soaring strings—setting the scene for a picturesque stroll through the Vienna countryside with bird calls, yodeling, hymns and more. Both styles are masterful in the hands of Cristian Măcelaru, a University of Miami Frost School of Music graduate who is now Conductor-in-Residence of The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Approx. Duration: 34 minutes
Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 35
Finale: Allegro vivacissimo
Ludwig van Beethoven
Approx. Duration: 40 minutes
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral"
Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country: Allegro ma non troppo
Scene by the Brook: Andante molto mosso
Merry Gathering of Country Folk: Allegro
Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm: Allegretto
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 35
Approximate duration: 34 minutes
After Tchaikovsky’s disastrous marriage and subsequent mental breakdown in 1877, a visit to Switzerland in November did wonders for his health and spirit. He returned the following March for another retreat, this time joined by Iosef Kotek, a violinist and former composition student for whom Tchaikovsky had developed a strong (and not entirely platonic) affection. Together they played through major works of violin repertoire, a process that sparked in Tchaikovsky a “burning inspiration” to compose a violin concerto, as he explained in a letter to his patron, Nadezhda von Meck.
It took Tchaikovsky only 25 days to compose the Concerto, including the orchestration. Kotek proved an indispensable assistant, trying out the solo parts and allowing Tchaikovsky to hear and reshape passages as needed. Tchaikovsky considered having Kotek perform the premiere and also thought of dedicating the work to him, but instead he chose to offer the debut to Leopold Auer, a Hungarian virtuoso based in Saint Petersburg. Auer, however, found aspects of the work unplayable (or at least too technically awkward to sound good), and Tchaikovsky was forced to cancel the scheduled premiere and look for another soloist. The work did not reach the public until an 1881 performance in Vienna by Adolph Brodsky, to whom Tchaikovsky rededicated the score. In time, violinists—even Auer, eventually—warmed to the work’s passionate lyricism and fiery virtuosity, and it has become essential repertoire for all serious soloists.
As impressive as the rapid passagework may be, it is the luscious melodies that make Tchaikovsky’s Concerto a perennial favorite.
The opening movement frames the violin’s seductive themes in a grand and spacious form. Borrowing a device from the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, the cadenza arrives early and flows seamlessly into a sweet recapitulation.
The second movement is a nostalgic Canzonetta, or “little song.”
Tchaikovsky wrote this movement to replace a discarded version of the slow movement, which he recycled a few months later in a work for violin and piano, Souvenir d’un lieu cher (Memory of a Dear Place).
The finale commences without a pause, launching right into a suspenseful solo cadenza.
In the Allegro vivacissimo body of the movement, the violin blazes through thrilling pyrotechnics and several contrasting themes en route to a breathless conclusion.
Article in The New York Times on controversial statements about sexuality by the Russian director of a Tchaikovsky biopic
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, "Pastoral"
Approximate duration: 40 minutes
Beethoven composed his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies concurrently in 1808, and introduced them together (with their numbers switched) as part of a four-hour extravaganza in Vienna. The following year, they were published in the familiar order, with adjacent opus numbers. Beethoven’s Sixth stands as one of the first programmatic symphonies, using descriptive movement headings to evoke specific ideas and images. The “Pastoral” nickname came from Beethoven himself, when he marked the parts for the initial performance with the heading “Pastoral Symphony, or Recollections of Country Life: More an Expression of Feeling than Painting.”
Beethoven’s journals and letters reveal his love of nature, as when he wrote in 1810, “How delighted I will be to ramble for awhile through the bushes, woods, under trees, through grass and around rocks. No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees and rocks produce the echo that man desires to hear.” Recognizing and appreciating the natural world was a cornerstone of the Romantic ethos, and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony joined a common thread in music, art and literature of the early 19th century that rhapsodized on the beauty and grandeur of the natural world, with a reverence that was in no small part spiritual.
Just as the first four notes of the Fifth Symphony influence every measure of the opening movement, the Sixth Symphony builds an expansive essay out of a seemingly naïve theme. The first movement, characterized as the “Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country,” enters bashfully, with four quiet measures that trail off.
Fragments of this figure build slowly, basking in long stretches of unmoving harmony.
The development section, often an opportunity for increased turbulence and activity, instead sinks deeper into a country calm, savoring each radiant chord change.
The second movement, “Scene by the Brook,” establishes a lapping triplet pulse under another mere wisp of melody.
The idyllic scene ends with a trio of birdcalls from the woodwinds, representing a nightingale, quail and cuckoo.
From here, the Symphony diverges from a typical four-movement pattern. There is a scherzo-like third movement, “Merry Gathering of Country Folk.”
The rollicking dance music halts unresolved and is supplanted by the first staccato raindrops of the “Thunderstorm.”
Fearful dissonances and thunderous timpani strikes make for a convincing tempest, until it trails off in one last upward patter from the flute.
A clarinet takes over to establish the sing-song contours of the “Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm.”
This tune, at once humble and heroic, returns the Symphony to its pastoral calm. Near the end, a hymn-like variant lends a deeper resonance to this sunny conclusion.
Guide to the Sixth Symphony from The Guardian
-- Copyright © 2016 Aaron Grad
Aaron Grad is a composer, guitarist and writer based in Seattle. Besides providing program notes for the New World Symphony, he has been the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s program annotator since 2005 and also contributes notes to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
Audio clips provided by Naxos of America, Inc.
Winner of the 2014 Solti Conducting Award, Cristian Măcelaru has established himself as one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. With every concert he displays an exciting and highly regarded presence, thoughtful interpretations and energetic conviction on the podium. Mr. Măcelaru came to public attention in February 2012 when he conducted the Chicago Symphony as a replacement for Pierre Boulez in performances met with critical acclaim. Since his Chicago debut, he has conducted that orchestra on subscription in three consecutive seasons. The Chicago Sun-Times exclaimed: “Măcelaru is the real thing, displaying confidence without arrogance and offering expressiveness without excess demonstration.”
Conductor-in-Residence of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Măcelaru made an unexpected subscription debut with the orchestra in April 2013. Since then, he has conducted it on four subscription programs and will lead a subscription program in its 2015-16 season. Of his May 2015 concerts, The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote: “His Beethoven showed the best summation of his talent and why Măcelaru is such an up-and-coming figure in his field.”
The 2015-16 season includes Mr. Măcelaru’s Lincoln Center debut at the Mostly Mozart Festival in August and his New York Philharmonic debut on an all-Rachmaninoff subscription program in November. He returns on subscription concerts to the Chicago Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra. Internationally he makes debuts with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Dublin and Tokyo Metropolitain Symphony Orchestra. In North America his debut appearances include Atlanta Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, New World Symphony and San Diego Symphony.
Guest conducting highlights of the 2014-15 season included Mr. Măcelaru’s Carnegie Hall debut on a program with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter, and subscription concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Seattle. Abroad he made debuts with the U.K.’s Hallé Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony, the Hague's Residentie Orkest in the Netherlands and on a four-city tour of Germany with Ms. Mutter and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Măcelaru made his first conducting appearance at Carnegie Hall in 2012, leading a work on a program alongside Valery Gergiev in a Georg Solti Centennial Celebration. In June 2015 he made his Cincinnati Opera debut in highly acclaimed performances of Il Trovatore. In 2010 he made his operatic debut with the Houston Grand Opera in Madame Butterfly and led the U.S. premiere of Colin Matthews’ Turning Point with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as part of the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival.
In addition to being appointed the 2014 Solti Fellow, Mr. Măcelaru previously received the Sir Georg Solti Emerging Conductor Award in 2012, a prestigious honor only awarded once before in the Foundation’s history. He has participated in the conducting programs of the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival, studying under David Zinman, Murry Sidlin, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Robert Spano, Oliver Knussen and Stefan Asbury. His main studies were with Larry Rachleff at Rice University, where he received master’s degrees in conducting and violin performance. He completed undergraduate studies in violin performance at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music.
An accomplished violinist from an early age, Mr. Măcelaru was the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and made his Carnegie Hall debut with that orchestra at the age of 19. He also played in the first violin section of the Houston Symphony for two seasons.
Mr. Măcelaru formerly held the position of Resident Conductor at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he was Music Director of the Campanile Orchestra, Assistant Conductor to Larry Rachleff and Conductor for the Opera Department. A proponent of music education, he has served as a conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony, where he also conceptualized and created a successful chamber music program. As Founder and Artistic Director of the Crisalis Music Project, Mr. Măcelaru spearheaded a program in which young musicians perform in a variety of settings, side-by-side with established artists. Their groundbreaking inaugural season produced and presented concerts featuring chamber ensembles, a chamber orchestra, a tango operetta, and collaborations with dancer Susana Collins, which resulted in a choreographed performance of Vivaldi/Piazzolla’s Eight Seasons.
Cristian Măcelaru resides in Philadelphia with his wife Cheryl and children Beniamin and Maria.
Gil Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time. His flawless technique combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit has solidified his renown as an American master. The Grammy Award winner, also named Musical America’s “Instrumentalist of the Year,” is sought after throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, and regularly gives recitals and appears with ensembles on the world’s great concert stages and at the most prestigious festivals.
Long recognized as one of its finest exponents, it was with Korngold’s Concerto that Mr. Shaham launched the 2015-16 season at the Berlin Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. Besides reprising John Williams’ Concerto with Stéphane Denève and the Boston Symphony, where he previously recorded the Concerto under the composer’s direction, he performs Bach with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel; Brahms with the Orchestre de Paris; Tchaikovsky with the Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo and the New World, Sioux City and Nashville symphonies; and Mendelssohn during a Montreal Symphony residency and on a European tour with the Singapore Symphony. Mr. Shaham’s long-term exploration of “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” enters an eighth season with performances of Bartók’s Second with the Chicago Symphony and The Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the Kimmel Center, Barber with the Orchestre National de Lyon and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Prokofiev’s Second on an extensive North American tour with The Knights to celebrate the release of Violin Concertos of the 1930s, Vol. 2. Issued on the violinist’s own Canary Classics label, this marks the project’s second title and pairs his recordings of Prokofiev with The Knights and of Bartók with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony. As well as undertaking a tour of European capitals with Sejong and a residency at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mr. Shaham continues touring to London’s Wigmore Hall and key North American venues with accounts of Bach’s complete unaccompanied sonatas and partitas in a special multimedia collaboration with photographer and video artist David Michalek.
Last season Mr. Shaham headlined the Seattle Symphony’s opening night gala, before joining the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas for Prokofiev’s Second Concerto at Carnegie Hall and other stops on the orchestra’s 20th anniversary tour. The Prokofiev was one of the works showcased in the “Violin Concertos of the 1930s” project, which also took him to The Philadelphia Orchestra for Berg and to the Berlin Radio Symphony and London Symphony Orchestra for Britten. Besides premiering David Bruce’s new Concerto with the San Diego Symphony, his orchestral highlights included Bach with the Sydney and Dallas symphonies and Mendelssohn in Tokyo, Canada, Luxembourg and with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. After Canary Classics released his interpretation of Bach’s complete solo sonatas and partitas on disc, Mr. Shaham gave unaccompanied Bach recitals at Chicago’s Symphony Center, Los Angeles’ Disney Hall and other U.S. venues in company with David Michalek.
Mr. Shaham already has more than two dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, including bestsellers that have ascended the record charts in the U.S. and abroad. These recordings have earned prestigious awards, including multiple Grammys, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d’Or and Gramophone Editor’s Choice. His recent recordings are issued on the Canary Classics label, which he founded in 2004. They comprise 1930s Violin Concertos (Vol. 1), recorded live with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, BBC Symphony, Staatskapelle Dresden and Sejong; Haydn Violin Concertos and Mendelssohn’s Octet with the Sejong Soloists; Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works with Adele Anthony, Akira Eguchi and Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León; Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony and David Zinman; The Butterfly Lovers and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Singapore Symphony; Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A with Yefim Bronfman and cellist Truls Mørk; The Prokofiev Album and Mozart in Paris, both with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham; The Fauré Album with Akira Eguchi and cellist Brinton Smith; and Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies, also recorded with Orli Shaham, which features the world premiere recording of a sonata written for the violinist by Avner Dorman. Dorman’s Sonata is one of several new works commissioned for Mr. Shaham, who has also premiered and championed pieces by composers including William Bolcom, David Bruce, Julian Milone and Bright Sheng.
Mr. Shaham was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in 1971. He moved with his parents to Israel, where he began violin studies with Samuel Bernstein of the Rubin Academy of Music at the age of seven, receiving annual scholarships from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. In 1981, while studying with Haim Taub in Jerusalem, he made debuts with the Jerusalem Symphony and the Israel Philharmonic. That same year he began his studies with Dorothy DeLay and Jens Ellermann at Aspen. In 1982, after taking first prize in Israel’s Claremont Competition, he became a scholarship student at The Juilliard School, where he worked with DeLay and Hyo Kang. He also studied at Columbia University.
Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008 he received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. In 2012 he was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, which cited the “special kind of humanism” with which his performances are imbued. He plays the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.