Events & Tickets
GIL SHAHAM PLAYS BRAHMS
Adrienne Arsht Center
6:00 - 7:00 PM: Complimentary beer tasting from Concrete Beach Brewery, and happy hour specials in the atrium
7:00 - 7:30 PM: Students of the Miami Music Project perform on the stage of the Knight Concert Hall
8:00 PM: New World Symphony concert
MTT opens NWS’s Arsht Center series with an exclusive evening featuring works by music’s defining Romantics. Hailed by Time magazine as “the outstanding American violinist of his generation,” Gil Shaham brings captivating lyricism and gypsy flair to Johannes Brahms’ only Violin Concerto with a “transfixing array of finesse and grit” (Orange County Register). Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra—what he called a “fictitious symphony”—is a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and textures, and contains nods to Gustav Mahler throughout. Robert Schumann’s tumultuous Overture forms the dramatic start to this unforgettable evening.
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Approx. Duration: 8 minutes
Overture to The Bride of Messina, Op. 100
Approx. Duration: 19 minutes
Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
(1913-15; revised 1929)
Approx. Duration: 38 minutes
Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 77
Allegro non troppo
Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace
Overture to The Bride of Messina, Op. 100
Approximate duration: 8 minutes
When Schumann became the municipal music director for the German city of Düsseldorf in 1850, it seemed that he had finally found the stable, respected post he had long dreamed of. Early in his tenure, he won over fans with the orchestral concerts he conducted, and his setup allowed him to flourish as a composer, leading to landmark works like the Cello Concerto and Third Symphony. It wasn’t long, though, before his wife Clara noted her husband’s “highly nervous, irritable, excited mood,” which only grew worse under the strain of his demanding job. In 1853 the orchestra forced Schumann to resign, and in 1854 he threw himself into the Rhine River in a suicide attempt. He lived out his remaining two years in an insane asylum.
During his first Düsseldorf season, Schumann considered writing an opera based on a play he had admired since he was a teenager, Friedrich Schiller’s The Bride of Messina. He ended up writing a concert overture instead, distilling the play’s Greek-inspired tragedy into a tense and dramatic sonata form. Rising arpeggios ripple through the slow introduction, building expectation, and then the fast body of the Overture juggles terse motives in the key of C minor, recalling Beethoven’s fateful orchestral music in that same key, including the Fifth Symphony and the Coriolan Overture. The contrasting lyrical music, starting with a clarinet solo that is marked “very expressive,” amplifies the play’s ill-fated romance, in which two brothers are in love with the same woman, only to discover that she is their long-lost sister.
Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6
(1913-15; revised 1929)
Approximate duration: 19 minutes
Until the age of 19, Alban Berg’s only formal training in music consisted of childhood piano lessons from the family’s governess. His early, self-guided attempts at composing focused on lieder, and he wrote about 80 songs in a Romantic style indebted to Schumann and Brahms.
Berg entered a new phase in 1904, when he began seven years of private study with Arnold Schoenberg. Even though Schoenberg was only 11 years older than his pupil and still in the process of finding his own way toward an intuitive form of atonality, Berg revered his teacher as an unquestionable father figure, and he remained a committed disciple throughout his life. Together with another student who joined the fold in 1904, Anton Webern, they made up the nucleus of what has been dubbed the “Second Viennese School,” stacking them up against that first great flowering of Viennese music from Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Berg’s formal lessons ended when Schoenberg moved from Vienna to Berlin in 1911, and his first published works from around that time show his own personal sound coming into focus, but the insecure young composer remained eager as ever for his teacher’s stingy praise. When they met up in Berlin in 1913, Schoenberg was brutal in his criticism of Berg’s recent efforts, especially the brevity of the works’ movements. In response, Berg began the Three Pieces for Orchestra, his first work for orchestra alone, which he planned to offer to Schoenberg as a 40th birthday present in 1914. He only finished the outer movements in time, with the middle movement following in 1915. Webern conducted two movements in 1923, and Berg revised the entire score in 1929 as he prepared for its publication and first full performance.
To find his way back to longer, more developed movements, Berg took inspiration from one of his other musical heroes, Mahler, whose Ninth Symphony had just received its posthumous premiere in 1912, with Berg in the audience. The first of Berg’s Three Pieces, a Prelude, approximates the start of Mahler’s Ninth in its slow bloom. The extremes of orchestral color, from remote solos to overpowering smears of brass, likewise borrow from Mahler’s all-encompassing vocabulary of symphonic sounds.
Berg likened his Three Pieces to a symphony, with the multi-faceted second movement serving as both the scherzo (complete with Mahler-like dance strains) and the slow movement. The concluding March veers from deadly serious to ridiculously grotesque, a dichotomy that replays to astounding effect in Wozzeck, the operatic masterpiece that Berg began while he was finishing the Three Pieces for Orchestra.
Concerto in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 77
Approximate duration: 38 minutes
Brahms was at the impressionable age of 15 when a revolution in Hungary sent refugees fleeing to the United States, many of them embarking from Brahms’ native Hamburg. Brahms fell in love with the Hungarian music that flooded his city, brought by the likes of violinist Ede Reményi, and so it was both a tremendous honor and a lucky career break when that same musician returned five years later and hired the 20-year-old Brahms to accompany him on the piano during a tour through Germany. During that tour, Brahms met another Hungarian violinist, Joseph Joachim, who at 22 was already at the start of an impressive career. Joachim’s first great kindness to Brahms was to introduce him to Robert Schumann, sparking the brief mentorship that helped Brahms foster his passion for the formal models perfected by Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
Brahms and Joachim remained friends for most of their lives (apart from a falling out surrounding Joachim’s divorce), and the one and only Violin Concerto that Brahms composed in 1878 stands as a testament to their strong working relationship. Brahms mailed drafts to Joachim to consult on the solo part, and the violinist ended up supplying the enormous cadenza for the first movement that many performers still use. They debuted the work together in Leipzig on January 1, 1879, with Brahms conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra.
On that same program, Joachim also performed the Violin Concerto by Beethoven, about whom Brahms once wrote, “You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!” Once Brahms hit his stride with orchestral music in his 40s, he did not shy away from writing works that paralleled those of his idol, and he even seemed to embrace the implicit comparison at times, like when the solo violin enters his Concerto over an exposed timpani roll, recalling the prominent timpani strikes that begin Beethoven’s Concerto. Brahms also followed Beethoven’s lead in how the first movement’s solo cadenza releases into music of great delicacy and beauty, instead of a loud and blustery conclusion.
The central Adagio movement presents one of Brahms’ loveliest melodies, which ironically comes from a solo oboe, not the violin soloist. (This shared spotlight prompted the violinist Pablo de Sarasate to quip, “Would I stand there, violin in hand, while the oboe plays the only melody in the whole work?”) The violin does take up a version of the theme, but it migrates from F major to the stormier key of F-sharp minor. By the time it returns for a closing passage in F major, only wisps of the original melody remain.
The Concerto concludes with a rowdy finale built from a theme with a Hungarian flavor. That motive, voiced in thirds and following a rising and following contour, sounds quite similar to the main theme from the finale of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, composed 10 years earlier, and also edited and premiered by Joachim.
-- © 2019 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.
Welcome to Keynotes, NWS's new program-based podcast! NWS audiences can now soak up musical clips and commentary for an upcoming performance while on the road, in the kitchen or at work -- wherever life takes you! Keynotes will be available for select concerts throughout the season. Let us set the stage for your concert experience by sharing noteworthy moments guided by NWS’s program note annotator Aaron Grad. Audio clips provided by Naxos of America, Inc.
Michael Tilson Thomas is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy; Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony; and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these posts, he maintains an active presence guest conducting with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Tilson Thomas is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America. His father, Ted Thomas, was a producer in the Mercury Theater Company in New York before moving to Los Angeles where he worked in films and television. His mother, Roberta Thomas, was the head of research for Columbia Pictures.
Mr. Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California, where he studied piano with John Crown, and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At age 19 he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. During this same period, he was the pianist and conductor in master classes of Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz and worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles’ 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 and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg in 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 from 1971 to 1979 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His guest conducting includes appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
Mr. Tilson Thomas is a two-time Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist, curating and conducting series at the hall from 2003 to 2005 and from 2018 to 2019. In the most recent series, he led Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America both at the hall and on tour in Asia, opened the Carnegie Hall season over two evenings with the San Francisco Symphony, conducted two programs with the Vienna Philharmonic and finished with a pair of concerts leading the New World Symphony.
A winner of eleven Grammy Awards, Mr. Tilson Thomas appears on more than 120 recordings. His discography includes The Mahler Project, a collection of the composer’s complete symphonies and works for voice and orchestra performed with the San Francisco Symphony, in addition to pioneering recordings of music by Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin and Elvis Costello. His recordings span repertoire from Bach and Beethoven to Debussy and Stravinsky, and from Sarah Vaughan to Metallica.
His television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for BBC Television, broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977 and numerous productions on PBS’s Great Performances. With the San Francisco Symphony, he created a multi-tiered media project, Keeping Score, which includes a television series, web sites, and radio programs. He received a Peabody Award for his SFS Media radio series The MTT Files.
Mr. Tilson Thomas’s compositions are published by G. Schirmer. In 1991, he and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the United States, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of his work From the Diary of Anne Frank, which was commissioned by UNICEF. This piece has since been translated and performed in many languages worldwide. In August 1995, he led the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in the premiere of his composition Shówa/Shoáh, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. His vocal music includes settings of poetry by Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, which were premiered by Thomas Hampson and Renée Fleming, respectively. In 2016, Yuja Wang premiered his piano piece You Come Here Often?.
Mr. Tilson Thomas' song cycle Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, a setting of Carl Sandburg’s poem, was premiered in 2016 by the New World Symphony, with Measha Brueggergosman as soloist. In 2019 the piece was recorded for Medici.tv at the New World Center and given its New York premiere as part of Mr. Tilson Thomas’s second Carnegie Hall Perspectives series. His first Perspectives series also featured performances of his own compositions, including Island Music for four marimbas and percussion; Notturno for solo flute and strings, featuring soloist Paula Robison; and new settings of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. In 2020, he led the San Francisco Symphony in the world premiere of his six-part song cycle Meditations on Rilke, and he subsequently conducted the work at the Cleveland Orchestra. Additional compositions include Street Song for brass instruments; Agnegram, an overture for orchestra; and Urban Legend, a concerto for contrabassoon that was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony. In June 2020, SFS Media released an album of works composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas, featuring live concert recordings of From the Diary of Anne Frank, narrated by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, and Meditations on Rilke, sung by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny.
Mr. Tilson Thomas is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was Musical America’s Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, was Gramophone magazine’s Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. He has been awarded the National Medal of Arts, has been inducted into the California Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was a 2019 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.
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 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.
Mr. Shaham’s recent highlights include the acclaimed recording and performances of J.S. Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin. In the coming seasons, in addition to championing these solo works, he will join his long-time duo partner pianist, Akira Eguchi in recitals throughout North America, Europe and Asia.
Mr. Shaham’s appearances with orchestra regularly include the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and San Francisco Symphony as well as multi-year residencies with the Orchestras of Montreal, Stuttgart and Singapore. Mr. Shaham continues his exploration of violin concertos from the 1930s, including the works of Samuel Barber, Béla Bartók, Alban Berg, Erich Korngold, Sergei Prokofiev, among many others.
Mr. Shaham has more than two dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, earning multiple Grammys, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d’Or and Gramophone Editor’s Choice. Many of these recordings appear on Canary Classics, the label he founded in 2004. His CDs include 1930s Violin Concertos, Virtuoso Violin Works, Elgar’s Violin Concerto, Hebrew Melodies, The Butterfly Lovers and many more. His most recent recording in the series 1930s Violin Concertos Vol. 2, including Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto and Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2, was nominated for a Grammy Award.
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 he made debuts with the Jerusalem Symphony and Israel Philharmonic, and the following year, took the first prize in Israel’s Claremont Competition. He then became a scholarship student at The Juilliard School, and also studied at Columbia University.
Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008 received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. In 2012 he was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America. He plays the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius, and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.
Chad Goodman serves as the Conducting Fellow of the New World Symphony and as an Assistant Conductor to the San Francisco Symphony. With a flair for inventive programming and a bold presence on stage and in the community, he has been praised for "bringing innovation to classical music" (Forbes).
Mr. Goodman designs and presents programs which reimagine how orchestras connect with their audiences. His 2019 education program, “SPARK: How Composers Find Inspiration,” blended captivating light design and videography with engaging audience participation to explore how a composition is created and brought to life by an orchestra. In his first season as Conducting Fellow at NWS, he conducted on nearly a dozen programs and worked closely with Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, sharing the podium with him on three programs.
Since 2018, Mr. Goodman has served as an Assistant Conductor to the San Francisco Symphony, assisting Esa-Pekka Salonen, Manfred Honeck, Daniel Harding, Pablo Heras-Casado, Simone Young and James Gaffigan, among others.
As Founder and Artistic Director of Elevate Ensemble, Mr. Goodman’s ambitious vision for concert programming resulted in the pairing of music from Bay Area composers with underappreciated gems of the 20th and 21st centuries. Under his leadership, Elevate Ensemble established a Composer-in-Residence program and commissioned 15 works from Bay Area composers.
Elevate collaborated with photographers, videographers, poets and culinary artists, bringing new music and vibrant multi-genre experiences to unique venues such as yoga studios, historic Victorian homes and art studio warehouses.
Mr. Goodman has previously served as Music Director of the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra and Assistant Conductor of the Peninsula Symphony. He has been a conducting fellow for the Atlantic Music Festival, a rehearsal and cover conductor for the San Francisco Ballet, and has collaborated with composer Mason Bates on his electronica-classical music project, Mercury Soul.
In addition to his performing career, Mr. Goodman has discussed the future of live performance as a panelist at Meyer Sound Laboratories and taught young musicians the business and entrepreneurial skills needed to successfully navigate the world as a working musician in his workshop “You Just Earned a Music Degree. Now What?”
Mr. Goodman holds a bachelor of music degree from the Eastman School of Music and a master of music degree from San Francisco State University. His mentors include Michael Tilson Thomas, Alasdair Neale, Cyrus Ginwala and Martin Seggelke.