Concerts & Tickets
The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra’s commitment to world-class performances of the greatest music ever written is our history and our future! Mozart, Ravel, Rimsky-Korsakov, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and more will be played in wonderful live performances by the talented musicians of the RSO during our 2017-18 Season. Concerts are held in the Anne S. Richardson Auditorium at Ridgefield High School, 700 North Salem Road, Ridgefield CT 06877 and at the Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge Road in Ridgefield, CT 06877. Concerts begin at 8:00pm.
Purchasing tickets is convenient! View the seating chart below to see section areas and pricing. Order online, call the RSO Box Office at 203-438-3889 or buy tickets in person at the RSO Office. We are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm and are located at 77 Danbury Road in Ridgefield.
Paul Frucht – Dawn
Elgar – Concerto for Cello
Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade
About Yuga Cohler
28-year-old Yuga Cohler is an internationally renowned orchestral conductor and cultural innovator. Appointed music director of the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Chamber Orchestra in 2015, he came to national attention with his creation of The Great Music Series, a concert series that explores the elements common to massively popular music and works from the classical canon. The first installation of the series, a comparison of the works of Kanye West and Beethoven entitled Yeethoven, was hailed as a work of “musical genius,” and received widespread attention from such media outlets as the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and the Huffington Post.
Mr. Cohler also enjoys a close relationship with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he has appeared in concert on Japanese national television. He recently completed a sold-out international tour with them featuring the international rockstar Yoshiki, which concluded with two performances in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Cohler has additionally appeared as a guest conductor with the Juilliard and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestras, and served as cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
As a recipient of the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship, Mr. Cohler studied with New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert at the Juilliard School. He is currently among the top four candidates of the Toscanini International Conducting Competition, and will return to Italy in the fall to conduct the Filharmonica Toscanini in concert for the final rounds. Among the other accolades granted to Mr. Cohler are the Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., the Ansbacher Fellowship from the American Austrian Foundation, the Charles Schiff Conducting Award from the Juilliard School, and the David McCord Prize for Artistic Excellence from Harvard University. He has been awarded fellowships to some of the most prestigious musical institutions in the country, including the Aspen Music Festival and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and has additionally studied at the Tanglewood Music Center.
A skilled interpreter of modern music, Mr. Cohler was selected by composer John Adams to perform a program of modern American orchestral music at Carnegie Hall, where the New York Times lauded his “strong rendition” of Elliott Carter’s Double Concerto. Currently a Director of the Asia / America New Music Institute, Mr. Cohler has performed world premieres at the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Asian Composer’s League in Seoul, the Okinawa University for the Arts, and the Peabody Essex Museum.
Mr. Cohler is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College, where he studied computer science. His senior thesis, Optimal Envy-Free Cake-Cutting, has been cited by over 50 articles in the academic literature. As an advocate for the integration of art music into mainstream culture, Mr. Cohler runs State of Art, a blog about American music without preconceptions of genre or quality.
About Julian Schwarz
Julian Schwarz was born to a multigenerational musical family in 1991. Heralded from a young age as a cellist destined to rank among the greatest of the 21st century, Julian’s powerful tone, effortless virtuosity, and extraordinarily large color palette are hallmarks of his style.
In 2013 Mr Schwarz won 1st prize in the professional cello division of the Schoenfeld International String Competition in Hong Kong, and in 2016 won 1st prize at the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition’s “The Art of Duo” with Canadian pianist Marika Bournaki.
After making his concerto debut at the age of 11 with the Seattle Symphony and his father, Gerard Schwarz on the podium, he has led an active career as soloist. Recent and upcoming debuts include the Buffalo and Rochester Philharmonics, Camerata Chicago, Symphony Silicon Valley, and the Toledo, Jacksonville, Charleston, Tuscon, Amarillo, San Antonio, Des Moines, Charlotte, and West Virginia Symphonies. Return engagements include the Hartford and Springfield (MA) Symphonies, Northwest Sinfonietta, Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Symphoria (Syracuse NY), and the Boca Symphonia. Internationally, he made his Australian debut with the Queensland Symphony, his Mexican debuts with the Boca del Rio Symphony in Veracruz and the Mexico City Philharmonic with frequent collaborator Jorge Mester, and his Hong Kong debut at the Intimacy of Creativity Festival. He has also appeared at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and the Verbier festival in Switzerland.
As a recitalist, he has performed at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, the Rosenegg Castle in Steyr Austria, on the Embassy Series in Washington DC, at the National Arts Club, and in Palm Springs, CA. Mr. Schwarz will embark on an extensive 10-recital tour of China in March 2017, and will make debuts for the Musical Club of Hartford and the University Club. An avid chamber musician, he is a member of the New York based Frisson Ensemble, the New York Classical Players, the Solisti Ensemble, and the Mile-End Trio with violinist Jeff Multer and pianist Marika Bournaki. He performs frequently at Bargemusic in Brooklyn, and has been the featured young artist at both the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival and the Seattle Chamber Music Festival.
Julian Schwarz is an avid supporter of new music, and often commissions new, exciting works to enhance the cello repertoire. He has premiered concertos by Richard Danielpour, Samuel Jones (recorded with the All Star Orchestra for public television in 2012, subsequently released as a DVD on Naxos), and will give the world premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s first Cello Concerto with a consortium of five orchestras in the 17-18 season. Other premieres include the US Premiere of Dobrinka Tabakova’s Cello Concerto with the Urban Playground Chamber Orchestra, and recital works by Paul Frucht, Gavin Fraser, Ren Damin, and Gerard Schwarz. On record, the Schwarz-Bournaki duo has recorded Bright Sheng’s “Northern Lights” for Naxos, the complete cello/piano works by Ernest Bloch for the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, and will release a debut recital album in summer 2017.
A devoted teacher, Mr. Schwarz serves as Asst. Professor of Cello at Shenandoah Conservatory of Shenandoah University (Winchester, VA). Other faculty appointments include the Eastern Music Festival (Greensboro, NC), Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (Nova Scotia, Canada), and faculty teaching assistant to Joel Krosnick at The Juilliard School.
Mr. Schwarz studied at the Academy of Music Northwest, the Colburn School with Ronald Leonard, and received both BM and MM degrees from The Juilliard School where he studied with mentor Joel Krosnick. Other influential teachers include David Tonkonogui, Toby Saks, Lynn Harrell, Neal Cary, and chamber music studies with Andre Roy, Arnold Steinhardt, Jonathan Feldman, Toby Appel and Paul Coletti. Julian plays on a Neapolitan cello made by Gennaro Gagliano in 1743, is an active contributor to Strings Magazine’s Artist Blog, and sits on the music committee of the National Arts Club.
Dawn Paul Frucht (1989 – )
(Dawn Hochsprung was the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School who gave her life trying to protect her students and teachers when she confronted the armed shooter who had barged into the school.)
Dawn Hochsprung was an incredible person I had the fortune of meeting when I was a student at Roger’s Park Middle School from 2000-2003 where she was an assistant principal. I worked with both her and her husband, George, as a member of National Junior Honor Society. When the tragic events occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14th, 2012, I, like everyone else in the Danbury area, was shocked and deeply saddened. The Hochsprungs had always stuck out in my mind as not just outstanding teachers, but some of the most caring, genuine, and positive people that I had come across during my time growing up in Danbury. I felt immediately compelled to write something for Dawn’s family and also for the other families who lost loved ones.
I titled the piece Dawn not simply because it is dedicated to her, but because the nature of Dawn’s actions on the day of shooting are the inspiration for the character of this piece. When she became aware that her school was in danger, her immediate response was to protect the children of the school. She put herself in harm’s way in an entirely selfless act in an effort to save the lives of her students. Her legacy is one of selflessness, positivity, and extraordinary courage. This piece celebrates that legacy.
Program Notes by Paul Frucht
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
The Elgar Cello Concerto is a glorious work that suffered the misfortune of a catastrophic first performance in 1919, when the poorly rehearsed orchestra gave it such a wretched showing that critics gave it mercilessly negative reviews. Fortunately, subsequent performances and judgments have righted the wrong. Unlike most of Elgar’s other works, which are generally cheerful or noble in style, the Cello Concerto is introspective in its mood, reflecting the despair and disillusionment that Elgar felt at the end of World War I, the so-called “War to End All Wars,” with all its death and destruction.
The first movement (Adagio -Moderoto) begins with a dramatic recitative and a brief cadenza for the solo instrument. The violas then sing the first theme, which is repeated and broadened into a more moving statement by the solo cello. The orchestra then restates the theme once more before moving to a more gently lyrical second theme before returning to the main theme, this time presented as a sort of remote, distant echo of its original nature.
Without a break, the first movement moves into the lively and more lighthearted second movement (Lento -Allegro mo/to), which is very much like a scherzo in effect, though not in meter.
The third movement (Adagio) both begins and ends with a quietly lyrical melody -a theme that dominates the entire movement, imbuing it with a sweetly nostalgic mood.
Then, with a sudden shift from major to minor tonality, there is a telling mood change as the Finale begins, once again without a pause between movements. Undergoing frequent changes in tonality, the main theme of the fourth movement seems restless, with somber undertones that lend it a nearly menacing quality. As the movement nears its conclusion, new themes are introduced at a slower tempo that becomes even slower until the musical flow stops entirely on a held chord. Then, as the concerto moves towards its closing measures, the beginning of the first movement is revisited with subtle alterations before the fourth movement’s main theme returns, moving with mounting tension to three final chords.
Scheherazade, Op. 35 Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Although inspired by Arabian stories, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is entirely Russian in its “oriental” overtones. Held together by the lovely Scheherazade theme played by a solo violin that introduces each segment, the work’s semi-programmatic structure is based on the story of Scheherazade herself.
According to the well-known story, the Sultan Shariyar, who had been betrayed by his first wife, had had her executed and had vowed to marry a new wife every day thereafter and then execute her after their wedding night. After hundreds of hapless young girls had consequently lost their heads during the ensuing three years, the clever girl Scheherazade, the Sultan’s Grand Vizier’s daughter, armed with a clever survival plan, persuaded her father to propose her as the Sultan’s next wife.
Her plan, which she immediately put into action, was to have her sister spend the wedding night in the apartment with the royal couple and in the morning ask Scheherazade to tell her a story. Scheherazade, with the Sultan also listening, was to do so, stopping before the end of the story and promising to reveal the ending the next night.
Rimsky-Korsakov commented that he did not intend to follow direct depictions of Scheherazade’s stories, but only “to slightly lead a listener’s imagination along the path that [his] fancy travelled”.
The first segment, The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, introduces two contrasting themes. The first, a rather severe one heavily colored by brass instrumentation, suggests the uncompromising Sultan, and the second, a gracefully flowing violin song introduced by woodwinds, calls to mind the innocent Scheherazade. Rimsky himself described the two themes, pointing out that they are “purely musical material” and that they recur repeatedly throughout the entire work, each time under different moods and “corresponding each time to different images, actions, and pictures.” In the first movement the two themes weave along over a rocking third melody that suggests the ocean’s waves.
The main theme of The Tale of the Kalendar Prince (a prince who pretends to be a member of a tribe of wandering dervishes called Kalendars) is an oriental-sounding melody played sequentially by the full orchestra and a variety of solo instruments. Brass instruments introduce a second theme – a brisk march -that is interrupted by a lovely clarinet solo that calls to mind the whirling movements of the dervishes.
Lyrically romantic tunes colored by the sound of woodwinds, harp, and higher against lower strings weave contrapuntally through The Young Prince and the Young Princess, with the segment ending in quick figurations that seemingly dance away into the distance.
The lovely violin melody that represents Scheherazade introduces the final movement, which begins with an energetic dance theme enlivened by the sound of tambourine and cymbals that suggests The Festival at Baghdad. The dance becomes even more animated, with added punctuation from snare and bass drums before a brass fanfare leads into a reprise of some of the work’s earlier themes. The sound of the rise and fall of sea waves in the first movement is recalled until, with a crashing chord, The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock Surmounted by a Bronze Warrior. Then a sweeping return of the Sultan’s theme, also from the first movement, quietens, suggesting Shariyar’s mollified intentions, and the beautiful violin theme that represents the lovely Scheherazade returns to end her tale with a sequence of quiet harmonics over a broadly sustained chord.
Program Notes by Courtenay Caublé
Maestro Mahl’s Winter Suite: Prokofiev – “Troika” from Lieutenant Kije / Glazunov – “Winter” from the Seasons / Rimsky-Korsakov – “Dance of the Tumblers”
Rachmaninoff – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 5
About Eric Mahl
As the assistant conductor of the Greenwich Village Orchestra in New York, New York, Music Director of the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra (WCYO), Artistic Director of the New Jersey Young Artists Ensemble and Artistic Director of the Harmony Program North Orchestra (HPYO) Eric Mahl is a musician who believes in the transformative powers of music above all else. His hope is to provide meaningful, enriching and educational musical experiences to as many people as possible. Under the belief that the study of music is essentially an exploration of the human condition, he strives to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of music played with the highest possible level of artistry.
Mr. Mahls’ past positions include assistant conductor to the contemporary music ensemble Orchestre 21, in Montreal QC, assistant at the Urban Playground Chamber orchestra in New York, New York, Conductor of the Fredonia Symphonia, cover conductor for the Orchard Park Symphony in Buffalo, NY, and assistant to all orchestral and operatic activities at SUNY Fredonia, in Fredonia, NY. He has had guest conducting experiences with the Grammy winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Chelsea Symphony, Greenwich Village Orchestra, Urban Playground orchestra, and the University Orchestras of the College Conservatory of Music (CCM), Orchestra de l’Universite de Montreal, and SUNY Fredonia.
Mr. Mahl’s dedication to contemporary music is evident in his many collaborations, residencies, and commissions with professional and student composers including the world premieres of fully staged operas, experimental ballet, and countless small and large ensemble pieces of all genres. He has premiered works by Paul Frucht, Scott Miller, Michael Lanci, Tim Kiah, Gatinet Brice and others throughout the Northeast United States and in Montreal . He was also selected from over 100 applicants to participate in the Cabrillo Festival of contemporary music Conducting Workshop, where he worked closely with Marin Alsop and James Ross. By the end of his third year with the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, he will have commissioned four new pieces for Symphony Orchestra, String Orchestra, and Wind Ensemble.
His passion for music education has led Mr. Mahl to work extensively with Students of all ages, including underserved and underrepresented students in all five boroughs of New York city. He has taught in public and private schools as well as in University settings, and has conducted various local festival youth orchestras, as well as judging student competitions. His Harmony Program Youth Orchestra was selected to participate in multiple tapings and recordings of the hit Amazon TV series, Mozart in the Jungle.
As a trumpet player, Mr. Mahl has played with the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, The Chelsea Symphony, and Greenwich Village Orchestra, and plays in a number of chamber and outreach concert series throughout year. He has also active as a studio musician, playing for musicians in New York City and Long Island, as well as for Mozart in the Jungle. As part of his outreach efforts through the Harmony Program, he has also Collaborated closely with the acclaimed Canadian Brass.
Mr. Mahl received his Bachelors of Music in Education from Ithaca College and continued his studies both at Universite de Montreal and the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he received his master’s degree. He has studied with some of the foremost conducting pedagogues in the United States including Marin Alsop, James Ross, Harold Farberman, Neil Varon, Marc Gibson, Larry Rachleff, Don Schleicher, Jean-Francois Rivest, Paolo Bellomia, and Joeseph Gifford. He has participated in workshops and competitions in the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, and at the Eastman School of Music, College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, and Bard College.
About Dmitri Novgorodsky
Hailed by the press as a “breathtaking” and “stunning” pianist, Dmitri Novgorodsky was born to a musical family in Odessa, Ukraine. He began to play the piano at age five and was admitted into a special music school for gifted children a year later. By the age of 16, he had won the First Prize at the Kazakhstan National Piano Competition, and later the Gold Medal of the National Festival of the Arts. After graduating from the studio of Professor Victor Merzhanov at Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory with high honors, Novgorodsky immigrated to Israel in 1991.
In 1992, Mr. Novgorodsky was offered a full scholarship for advanced studies at Yale University School of Music in the United States. Under the tutelage of Professor Boris Berman, he earned the Master of Music, the Master of Musical Arts, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degrees. Currently, Mr. Novgorodsky is the first and the only Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory graduate in Piano Performance to have earned the Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance degree from Yale. In 1999, he was granted the “Extraordinary Abilities in the Arts” permanent U.S. residence, “as one of a small percentage of those who have risen to the top in their field of endeavor.”
Novgorodsky has performed in Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Kazakhstan, Israel, France, Austria, Spain, Canada, Turkey and Taiwan. In the United States, he has performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall (New York City); the Kennedy Center and the Residence of Russian Ambassador to the Unites States (Washington, DC); the WLFN Talent Showcase (Philadelphia); the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, WI (in live broadcast solo recitals). Among highlights in the last several years have been performances at the Center for Advanced Musical Research in Istanbul; a concert tour in Kazakhstan with a solo recital and master classes at the National Conservatory of Music; a chamber music concert at the St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory; recitals with Patrice Michaels at the International Voice Symposium in Salzburg, Austria; solo recital at the Eden-Tamir Music Center (Jerusalem); engagements as concerto soloist with Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Fox Valley Symphony, Temple Symphony, Lawrence Symphony, Fredonia College Symphony, Western New York Chamber Orchestra. In August 2014, he performed collaborative recitals at the Deià International Music Festival and at the Palau March Summer Concert series in Palma de Mallorca with violinist David Colwell. In May 2015, he appeared both as a concerto soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra and as a chamber musician at the International Music Festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
One of four chamber compositions by contemporary authors Mr. Novgorodsky has premiered – “The Prophecy from 47 Ursae Majoris” for clarinet and piano by Andrew Paul MacDonald – won the 2001 Third International Web Concert Hall Competition, was performed at Carnegie Hall with Yamaha performing artist, Arthur Campbell, and became a part of the CD Premieres, released on the Gasparo label. A CD of pieces for oboe and piano by the 20th century Russian-Soviet composers, recorded in collaboration with Professor Mark Fink, was released by the University of Wisconsin Madison Press in the fall of 2007 and has been commercially available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, China, India, South Africa, and Japan. A CD of cello sonatas by Mendelssohn and Richard Strauss in transcription for double bass, recorded with Michael Klinghoffer at the Eden-Tamir Music Center in Jerusalem, is due to be released in Japan later this year.
Dr. Novgorodsky’s pedagogical experience comprises more than 14 years of university teaching. His former students have continued their graduate studies at Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, University of Colorado Boulder and University of Texas at Austin. He has been a piano faculty at Grand Valley State University, University of Wisconsin, Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, Jerusalem Academy of Music, and State University of New York at Fredonia School of Music.
He joined the Ithaca College School of Music as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2015
Maestro’s Winter Suite
The background music Prokofiev wrote for the film Lieutenant Kije in 1933 and the five-movement symphonic suite that he subsequently derived from it were especially important to him because it was his first opportunity to compose for a film and, even more importantly, because it was the first music that he wrote after returning to Russia after a ten-year residency in Paris.
In Troika, the accompaniment to a typical Russian folk tune suggests the sound made by a troika, a Russian horse-drawn carriage, as it passes by.
Winter, the first movement of Glazunov’s ballet The Seasons, musically depicts a chilly scene replete with frost, snow, ice, and hail.
The Dance of the Tumblers (or Dance of the Buffoons) from the four-movement suite Rimsky-Korsakov derived from his fairy-tale-like opera The Snow Maiden is an energetic and exciting orchestral showpiece that (in the opera) serves as the accompaniment for an equally energetic and exciting dance by a group of street entertainers.
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) was a super virtuoso violinist whose technical innovations and mastery were so astonishing that a legend arose that he had sold his soul to the Devil in payment for an otherwise unattainable mastery. On hearing Paganini play the violin, the great pianist Franz Liszt was so impressed that he set about working to achieve similarly dazzling performance effects at the piano. But Liszt and other contemporary composers (including Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms) who heard Paganini play his own compositions were enthralled not just by his spectacular technical virtuosity, but also by the obvious amalgamation of virtuosity and soulful lyricism in his music and playing that came across to him as a unified expression of his musical imagination.
Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini immediately positively impressed even musical snobs who had until then dismissed Rachmaninoff’s music as both too heavily Romantic and too dependent for effect on virtuosic showmanship, providing evidence instead of the same sort of motivating spirit in Rachmaninoff that earlier audiences and contemporary composers had found in the music and performances of the great nineteenth century violinist whose caprice theme Rachmaninoff had borrowed.
Using the theme of the final caprice in Paganini’s Opus 1 collection of twenty-four caprices as its theme, the Rhapsody (in theme-and-variations form) begins with an eight-measure introduction followed by a cleverly skeletonized anticipation of the Paganini theme before the theme itself is introduced by the violins, with the solo piano providing accenting notes on the strong beats of the theme’s characteristic rhythmic pattern of four rapid sixteenth notes followed by an eighth note. Many of the variations that follow make repeated use of that rhythmic pattern, with Rachmaninoff inserting (effectively but for reasons that he never revealed) a mediaeval Dies irae (wrath of God) chant motif from the Mass for the Dead in the seventh, tenth, and twenty-fourth variations.
At variation sixteen the excitement of the earlier variations gives way to a slower tempo (Andante) with an inventive inversion of the theme, changing the mood from lively and frolicsome to lyrically melancholy in what is probably the best-known segment of the Rhapsody.
After that, the animated earlier tempo returns, with increasingly brilliant variations, towards a conclusion in which the mediaeval Dies irae chant once again intermingles with bits of the Paganini theme.
Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1844-1908)
Ten years had passed since he had composed his fourth symphony, when, in the summer of 1888, a distressed Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, telling her that he was afraid that he had lost his inspirational muse. He even quipped to her that, if he had to give up composing, he might just devote his time to raising flowers.
Desperately hopeful of overcoming his inspirational lapse, however, he forged ahead and began work on his fifth symphony. Composing the first movement proved to be difficult for him, but by the time he had finished the final movement, he was happily able to let Madame von Meck know that he seemed to have recovered and that things had turned out well.
Tchaikovsky himself conducted the first performance of his Symphony No. 5 in Saint Petersburg in November of 1888 and subsequently introduced it elsewhere in a European tour during which Brahms heard the work, pronouncing it excellent, “except for the finale”.
In the first movement (Andante – Allegro con anima), a clarinet darkly begins the long and slow introduction with a foreboding motto theme that will serve as a unifying element in the symphony. The first main theme then enters softly, building in intensity before the strings usher in a multi-element second theme that rises to lush lyricism in the violins. A brief development section is followed by a recapitulation, introduced by bassoons, and a dark coda that sets the mood for the second movement.
In the second movement (Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza), after the lower strings intone a brief introduction, a solo horn sings a nostalgic main theme that soars in intensity as a second horn joins the first in a duet and a solo oboe and then a solo clarinet enter with additional melancholy lyricism to further enrich the emotionally warm mood.
The lyrically melancholy mood is suddenly shattered, however, by a fortissimo reappearance of the symphony’s opening motto theme. Then there is a pause, after which the movement’s earlier lyrical mood returns, as if in defensive protest, only to be challenged again by another fortissimo motto outcry. The battle between the two elements continues, with the movement ending in shattered phrases, the nostalgic mood defeated.
The third movement (Valse – Allegro moderato), a lilting waltz with a sort of chatty middle section, seems like a gentle reprieve until, in the coda, the Motto theme re-emerges like a distressing memory.
In the final movement (Andante maestoso – Allegro vivace – Molto vivace – Moderato assai e molto maestoso – Presto) the gloomy and even threatening motto theme, now in a major rather than a minor key, is wondrously transformed into a joyous song of triumph that dominates the rest of the symphony, happily intruding into the march-like second theme and leading it into a boisterous development section. Then, after a brief pause, the music rushes into a recapitulation in which the now happy motto theme merrily cavorts in a polyphonic environment before rushing the instrumental procession into a happily frolicsome coda in which Tchaikovsky has trumpets and horns toss the first movement’s first main theme about as a final unifying reminder.
Program Notes by Courtenay Caublé
Mozart: A Magnificent Evening
Overture to Don Giovanni – Concerto for Violin No. 4 – Divertimento No. 1 – Symphony No. 41
About John Cuk
John Cuk has a varied background as a musician and educator. As a conductor, he’s conducted orchestral and choral ensembles in Europe, South America and the United States. His groups have performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Kennedy Library, Boston, Música Sin Edad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and The International Youth Orchestra Festival in Lucca, Italy. Active as a musical theater and opera conductor Cuk has had positions with Opera Estate in Rome Italy, Dell’ Arte Opera in New York, New York, Buck Hill/Skytop Festival in Pennsylvania, Westchester Conservatory’s Summer Vocal Music Academy in White Plains, New York, as well as Musical Director for countless musical theater productions. Guest conducting includes festivals for Western Connecticut, Suffolk, Dutchess and Westchester Counties in New York, the Orchestra Sinfonica di Bacau, Romania in Italy and the National Chorale’s Annual Messiah-Sing-In at Avery Fisher Hall. Active as a coach, accompanist and pianist, he performs frequently with singers and chamber musicians.
Teaching music in the public schools for over 30 years and college teaching for over 15 is his other great love. He is currently employed at Scarsdale High School in New York where he conducts the choirs, teaches a piano class, coaches and prepares singers, assists with the orchestra and music directs the school musical. Cuk’s college position is as the Director of Choirs at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY where he also teaches choral conducting and co-directs the opera scenes program. Mr. Cuk is also active as a guest conductor, pianist and clinician.
He is a native of New York and has degrees from Manhattanville College and The Manhattan School of Music as well as post graduate work at Westminster Choir College.
About Angelo Xiang Yu
Winner of the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition in 2010, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu‘s astonishing technique, exquisite tone, and exceptional musical maturity have won him consistent critical acclaim and enthusiastic audience response worldwide.
In addition to winning First Prize as well as the Bach and Audience Prizes at the Menuhin Competition, Mr. Yu was awarded the 2nd prize at the Lipinski Wieniawski International Violin Competition, and the 3rd prize at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
In March 2017, he was chosen to participate in the prestigious Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two program, beginning with the 18/19 season.
In North America, Angelo Xiang Yu’s recent and upcoming orchestral engagements include appearances with the orchestras in Pittsburgh, Toronto, Vancouver and Houston, as well as with the North Carolina, Alabama, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, Grand Rapids, Toledo, Modesto, Tucson, Elgin, Binghamton and Lake Forest symphonies. In the summer of 2016, he participated for the second season in a row in Portland, Oregon’s Chamber Music Northwest festival and made his debut at the Green Music Center Chamberfest in Sonoma, California. Internationally, he has appeared with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, Munich Chamber Orchestra and Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Highlights of his 17/18 season include debuts with the Ridgefield, Colorado and Pasadena symphonies, the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, the Grant Park Music Festival in downtown Chicago and his recital debut at the Ravinia Festival; re-engagements with the North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Lake Forest symphonies; a return to Jordan Hall in Boston; and a debut appearance with the New Zealand Symphony with performances throughout the country.
An active recitalist and chamber musician, Mr. Yu has performed in a number of world renowned venues such as Konzerthaus Berlin, Louvre Auditorium in Paris, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Victoria Theater in Singapore, Shanghai Concert Hall, Oslo Opera House, Auckland Town Hall, Bennett Gordon Hall in Chicago, Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston. He has also appeared in several of the world’s leading summer music festivals including the Verbier Festival, Ravinia Festival, Bergen Festival and the Perlman Music Program. During the 12/13 season, Mr. Yu was invited to tour with Miriam Fried and chamber musicians from the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Institute and performed concerts in New York, Chicago, Florida and throughout New England.
Born in Inner Mongolia China, Angelo Xiang Yu moved to Shanghai at the age of 11 and received his early training from violinist Qing Zheng at the Shanghai Conservatory. Mr. Yu earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he was the recipient of the Irene M. Stare Presidential Scholarship in Violin and was a student of Donald Weilerstein, Miriam Fried, Kim Kashkashian, and served as the teaching assistant of Donald Weilerstein. He was the only instrumentalist invited to be a candidate for NEC’s most prestigious Artist Diploma, which he was awarded in May 2014.
Mr. Yu currently resides in Boston and performs on a 1729 Stradivarius violin generously on loan from an anonymous donor.
Works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Overture to Don Giovanni, K 527
Unlike Brahms and other composers who often labored for months or even years over the composition of a single work, Mozart composed with lightning speed, conceiving a work entirely in his head before committing it to a score.
Mozart’s wife Constanze provided us with the best evidence we have of Mozart’s astonishing composing technique in an anecdote she told her second husband, Georg von Nissen, who was writing a biography of Mozart’s life and career. According to Constanze, on October 28, 1787, the day before Don Giovanni was to receive its premiere performance in Prague, Mozart still hadn’t composed an overture for the opera. So, kept alert by having Constanze tell him funny stories, Mozart set to work. Well into the night he dozed off in exhaustion; but after Constanze was able to rouse him after a couple of hours, he miraculously finished the score before the copyists arrived on schedule in the morning at seven.
The opera’s storyline involves the dissolutely amorous (but amusing) adventures of Don Giovanni, who is eventually confronted and threatened by the ominous graveside statue of the father of one of his victims. His response is to laugh at the statue and invite it to dinner. The opera’s climax occurs when the statue, as promised, appears at the dinner and drags the unrepentant scoundrel down to Hell.
Although the overture contains no recognizable thematic bits from the opera, the music expressively reflects the story’s essential elements of joviality, conflict, and imposing doom and suggests the underlying presence of the supernatural.
A slow and rather threatening introduction in the key of D minor, a key that Mozart and his contemporaries associated with dramatic conflict and doom, musically foreshadows Don Giovanni’s retributive fate, with crashing D minor chords that could suggest the threatening statue and rather spooky scale passages perhaps suggestive of the presence of the supernatural.
Then, with a tonality shift from D minor to the cheerier key of D Major and a tempo shift to allegro, the remainder of the overture is playful and full of life, evocative of Don Giovanni’s impetuous self-consciousness and his amusing exchanges with his servant Leporello.
Unlike the overture’s original version, which had no ending but just moved quietly into the opera’s first scene, the concert version ends the overture in a splash of enthusiastic orchestral color.
Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K 218
Although Mozart regarded the piano as his primary instrument, he was also an accomplished violinist. During one of his child-prodigy tours with his father, someone in Vienna gave him a half-sized violin; and by the time little Wolfgang was seven years old his father was astonished to have to admit that the boy had taught himself how to play it. Later, in 1775, when only nineteen but already serving as concertmaster of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s orchestra, Mozart wrote his five violin concertos (all in one year), most likely for his own use.
Violin concertos 3, 4 and 5 are generally acknowledged as the earliest examples of Mozart’s mature musical style. Of all of them, No. 5 is the most interesting structurally and the richest in emotional expressiveness. No. 4 in D Major, K 218, however, has consistently been the favorite among both violinists and audiences.
A long orchestral introduction provides the basic thematic material for the first movement (Allegro). A fanfare-like figure leads into a playfully graceful main theme followed by a similarly playful but more lyrical second one. The thematic material itself is borrowed rather than original; but when the solo violin takes it over, providing additional thematic touches, Mozart demonstrates his genius for both managing conventional material and effectively moving beyond it.
The second movement (Andante cantabile) is more serious than the playful opening movement, but not heavily so. The orchestra’s first violins introduce the movement’s warmly lyrical theme; but once the solo violin takes over, its voice dominates the rest of the movement.
The third movement (Rondeau: Andante grazioso) is a gracefully playful, dance-like rondo with a double refrain introduced right away by the solo violin. The tripping opening phrase quickly dissolves into a pensive, uncertain one which is suddenly interrupted by a jig-like outburst of exuberance. The rest of the movement proceeds in the spirit of playful improvisation, with returns of the refrain separated by episodes that are alternately playful and serious.
Divertimento No. 1 in E-flat Major, K 113
A Divertimento is an instrumental composition with several movements and a combination of instruments, with each part played by a single performer rather than with several players on a part, as in the first and second violin sections of a symphony.
Mozart composed Divertimento No. 1 in 1771, when he was only fifteen, during his second childhood trip to Italy with his father Leopold; and Leopold’s handwriting at the top of the score suggests that he may have taken a hand in composing the piece, as he often did for his gifted son’s early compositions.
With concertante parts for pairs of clarinets and horns, it was the first work in which Mozart used the clarinet, which quickly became one of his favorite instruments. Three years later, though, he had to revise the score to include a pair of oboes, to be used in place of the clarinets for performances in places like Salzburg, where players of the relatively new clarinet were unavailable.
The first movement (Allegro), in compact sonata-allegro form, moves along cheerfully, with playful conversational exchanges between winds and strings. Mozart’s fondness for myriad attention shifts from one instrument to another, not quite yet honed to perfection, sometimes overly fragments thematic flow, but the overall effect is pleasantly entertaining.
The second movement (Andante) begins with a tranquil theme played by the clarinets with echoing responses from the horns over a low string accompaniment. A brief bridge passage then leads to a repeat of the thematic material with developmental embellishments.
The Menuetto (Allegretto) is jauntily dancelike, with a contrastingly lyrical Trio segment in a minor key.
A sprightly three-note “motto” initiates a rondo in the final movement (Allegro) in which the motto periodically returns to punctuate the lively lyrical flow.
Symphony No. 41 in C Major (Jupiter), K 551
Mozart composed his three final symphonies – Nos. 39, 40, and 41 – in nine weeks during the summer of 1788, an astonishing achievement even for Mozart. His final symphony, No. 41 in C Major, is universally regarded as his greatest. The nickname Jupiter, after the Roman god, provided by someone other than Mozart, has always seemed appropriate for music with such a noble character, however, especially in the first and final movements. Sadly, since there is no record of any contemporary performance of the work, Mozart probably never heard his masterpiece played by an orchestra.
The alternating moods of the entire symphony – heroic emotion and serene reflection – are suggested in the first three measures of the first movement (Allegro vivace) by a powerful repeated motto theme proclaimed by the full orchestra followed by a soft, questioning phrase offered by violins. For the expressively rich exposition’s second theme Mozart borrowed (from one of his own earlier works) a trippingly light comic aria lyric – a bit of operatic fluff that becomes a major element in the movement’s development.
The second movement (Andante cantabile) opens rather conventionally with a quiet, warmly lyrical theme with fortissimo punctuation now and again. Mozart quickly transforms it into something quite unconventional, however, with the intimate sound of muted strings and an undercurrent of suppressed agitation beneath the quiet lyricism above.
The third movement (Menuetto: Allegretto) hearkens back to the quietly playful elements of the opening movement.
The finale (Molto allegro) begins with a theme consisting of four sustained notes of equal length that Mozart quickly hands over to each of five string sections in succession, as if he is beginning a fugato; but he quickly abandons a fugal treatment in favor of a richly symphonic one. At the climax of the movement’s development, however, he returns to counterpoint with a brief but remarkable five-voice fugue that effectively melds five thematic elements in a way that seems more like an orchestral version of an operatic quintet than the sort of imitative fugue that Bach would have written.
As impressive as this famous passage is, though, far more impressive is Mozart’s ability to make art conceal art in order to focus our attention on the music itself, allowing us to feel and follow the emotional impact of a work like this one from its impressive beginning to its powerful conclusion.
Program notes by Courtenay Caublé
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Saturday April 21, 2018 – Ridgefield Playhouse
Tickets: Adults $60, Students $30
Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin
Prokofiev – Violin Concerto No. 1
Franck – Symphony in D minor
This concert will be conducted by the newly appointed RSO Music Director to be named in January 2018.
About Jorge Avila
Jorge Ávila has won attention as an outstanding violinist through numerous appearances as a soloist, recitalist, concertmaster, and chamber musician. A recipient of numerous awards and honors, Jorge received his resident status in the United States under the “Extraordinary Talent” category. He was also awarded first prize at the 2001 Mu Phi Epsilon International Music Competition.
Hailed as “a strong violinist” by the NY Times after his performance as a soloist and concertmaster in The Sacred Music in a Sacred Space concert of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Haydn Symphonia concertante; Jorge has also performed as a soloist with orchestras in Europe, the U.S., Central and South America. In the New York City area, he has appeared as a soloist with the Ridgefield Symphony, Colonial Symphony, Riverside Orchestra, Hofstra Symphony, New Amsterdam Symphony, City Island Chamber Orchestra, and The Bronx Arts Ensemble.
Jorge has appeared as concertmaster with numerous groups in the tri-state area, including the Stamford Symphony, Greenwich Symphony, Colonial Symphony Orchestra, Westfield Symphony, Oratorio Society, Musica Sacra, Philharmonia Virtuosi, St., Grace Church Orchestra, Gotham Opera, National Chorale, Verismo Opera, José Limón Dance Company, Sonos Chamber Orchestra, Bachanalia, the New Amsterdam Symphony, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Mannes College of Music Orchestra.
He is also the Concertmaster of The Ridgefield Symphony, in CT, Long Island Masterworks, Distinguished Concerts International New York, and The Patrick’s Cathedral Orchestra among many other choral groups in New York City. Jorge is a founding member of the Chalfonte Quartet. In addition, he performs as a chamber musician with the Bronx Arts Ensemble, Simon String Quartet, Abaca String Band, Willow Ensemble, Prism Ensemble and Musicians’ Accord. Jorge has also also performed with the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. On Broadway, He has performed with numerous orchestras, including most recently the shows: South Pacific, West Side Story and Wicked.
Born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Jorge began his violin studies at age 14. During his studies in Honduras, he received first prize in the “La Botonia” competition. In 1987, Jorge moved to the U.S. to study at the University of Georgia as a full scholarship student, where he served as concertmaster of the orchestra and member of the Pre-College faculty. In 1988, Jorge won the Atlanta Music Club Concerto Competition. That same year, Jorge moved to New York City where he began his studies as a scholarship student at the Mannes College of Music; from Mannes he received both his Bachelor of Music and Professional Studies diplomas. Jorge’s major teachers include Jorge Corpus, David Nadien, Charles Castleman, and Jose Chaín-Barbot.
While attending the Tanglewood Music Center as recipient of the “Omar del Carlo” Fellowship, Jorge studied chamber music with members of the Juilliard Quartet and the Galimir Quartet, as well as with Leon Fleisher, Gilbert Kalish and Timothy Eddy.
Jorge has recorded for the Naxos, Nonesuch Records, Centaur and other labels. He has also performed live on both television and radio. Previous season’s highlights include recitals in NYC, Minneapolis, and Costa Rica; performances of the Brahms Violin Concerto and Mozart’s 3rd Concerto; and a memorable performance of The Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with David Finckel, Wu Han and the Salem Chamber Orchestra. On April 20th of 2008, Jorge appeared as Concertmaster for His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, at a televised Mass held at Yankee Stadium. Jorge made his Carnegie Hall Concerto debut with the DCINY orchestra on January 16, 2012.
October 7, 2017 – Yuga Cohler, Conductor
RIDGEFIELD SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Saturday, October 7, 2017
Reviewed by Courtenay Caublé
The Ridgefield Symphony’s season opener last Saturday evening at the Anne S. Richardson Auditorium, with Yuga Cohler on the podium as the third of four guest conductors competing for the position of the orchestra’s next Music Director, was so enjoyable and generally excellent that one wonders how it could be outdone. Maestro Cohler’s program included Dawn, a recent composition by Paul Frucht, who was on hand and spoke about the piece, Sir Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with cellist Julian Schwarz as soloist, and Rimski-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
Paul Frucht explained that “Dawn” was inspired by and is dedicated to Dawn Hochsprung, the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, where she gave her life trying to protect her students from the armed gunman who attacked them. Mr. Frucht had personally known and worked with her when he was a student at Rogers Park Middle School, where she was assistant principal. The music’s excellent orchestration is alternately effectively somber and impassioned, and Maestro Cohler’s direction beautifully defined its shifting nuances. Paul Frucht is obviously a composer with a career to follow.
If a program featuring three such excellent works could have a highlight, it would have to be the Elgar Cello Concerto this time. As with the Frucht piece, the music is also introspective in color, in Elgar’s case reflecting the composer’s downcast mood at the end of the First World War. Along with and in in spite of that, however, it is lyrically beautiful and replete with both subtle shifts in nuances and ample opportunity for a soloist’s technical display. Both individually and collaboratively, cellist Julian Schwarz and Maestro and his orchestra provided a near-flawless performance. Playing a remarkably resonant cello and equipped with both a relaxed virtuosity and a telling musical sensitivity, Julian Schwarz left nothing unsaid about the music’s texture and expressive potential. I’ve heard the Elgar concerto many times, but never better played.
After the intermission, Maestro Cohler introduced Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade with the comment that after the program’s somewhat somber first half, now was the time for a bit of fun. Scheherazade is certainly that. Rimsky was one of the greatest orchestrators of all time, and Scheherazade, with its musical characterization of several of the beautiful Scheherazade’s stories, is a kaleidoscope of melodies and rhythms and varied instrumental solos. In spite of limited rehearsal time, Maestro Cohler and the orchestra managed it nicely. Individual woodwind and brass solos were well done, with particular kudos due for principal cellist Nicholas Hardie for lovely thematic and ancillary solos and great praise indeed for concertmaster Jorge Avila, who provided beautifully played unifying “voice of Scheherazade” solos throughout the work.
It was a concert well worthy of the several standing ovations it received.
Heroic Masterpieces May 13, 2017 – Michael Lankester, Conductor
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Celebrate! December 3, 2016 – Kevin Fitzgerald, Conductor
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A World of Possibilities October 1, 2016 – Barbara Yahr, Conductor
Read concert review here: