R. Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life)

Notes by TŌN violinist Sophia Bernitz

The Inspiration
Written in the summer of 1898 while staying in a Bavarian mountain resort, Ein Heldenleben depicts a hero conquering his enemies. Strauss was convinced that Beethoven’s great “Eroica” (Heroic) Symphony was underperformed, and that it was his job to eradicate this injustice with his own homage to “Eroica.” “Thus to fulfill a pressing need I am composing a largish tone poem entitled Ein Heldenleben, admittedly without a funeral march, but nonetheless in E-flat major, with lots of horns—which is always a measure of heroism,” he wrote.

The Music
The work is made up of six movements played without interruption. In “The Hero” the E-flat major theme ranges upwards of five octaves. “The Hero’s Adversaries” are signaled by a very sarcastic flute melody. “The Hero’s Companion” is a substantial portrait between solo violin and the orchestra. I will be playing the solo violin part, which is a portrayal of Strauss’ wife, Pauline Maria de Ahna. She is a complex woman with many sides to her—“never twice the same,” as Strauss said. “The Hero’s Deeds of War” is the climax of the work. It uses eight horns, three offstage trumpets, and a significant amount of percussion. “The Hero’s Works of Peace” is where the hero shows off his “accomplishments” by presenting themes from eight of his other great works, most famously Don Juan, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Till Eulenspeigel’s Merry Pranks, Don Quixote, and Death and Transfiguration. If you are familiar with any of these works, it is fun to try to find them! And finally, in “The Hero’s Retirement,” the motive from the second section returns with a ferocious episode, followed by a calming theme in the English Horn. This leads into the peaceful ending, where the violin solo and the home key of E-flat major return, signifying the Hero’s completion and fulfillment.

The Reception
After its premiere, some called Ein Heldenleben “revolutionary in every sense of the word,” while others thought it was far too egotistical. In later years, Strauss denied that he was the hero depicted in this work. However, it is fairly obvious that that is a falsehood. Nonetheless, it is one of the most challenging and fulfilling pieces in the orchestral repertoire to this day. This is my first time playing it, and I am so fortunate to be able to portray Pauline’s wild personality for all of you, along with the rest of this great work with my colleagues.

TŌN on the Radio: Performance Today

Today you can hear our performance of Galina Ustvolskaya‘s Symphonic Poem No. 1 on Performance Today, broadcast on public radio nationwide. Stream online for 30 days at bit.ly/PT5292020, or listen on WMHT Public Media 89.1/88.7 tonight at 8 PM. Read the program notes by TŌN bassoonist Matthew Gregoire at theorchestranow.org/galina-ustvolskayas-symphonic-poem-no-1/.




Presentations Include Live-Streamed House Concerts, Music & Interviews from TŌN Musicians at Home, and Audio & Video of Past Performances, Some Never Before Released

Fisher Center at Bard’s UPSTREAMING Series Features TŌN in
Korngold‘s A Passover Psalm, Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Overture to May Night, and More

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, May 26, 2020 —The Orchestra Now (TŌN) keeps the music coming through its new digital initiative STAY TŌNED, a free weekly series of audio and video streams, respectively available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as other musical options that can be enjoyed on multiple platforms from home mask-free. The latest streaming event is an audio performance of Ives’ Decoration Day on Tuesday, May 26. Online content is accessible at theorchestranow.org/stay-toned/ and on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @theorchnow. A detailed schedule follows below.

STAY TŌNED will include more than past performances. TŌN IN will offer new videos being released for the very first time, as well as live-streamed house concerts and interviews with the musicians at home. The new series TŌNality will feature interviews with many of the Orchestra’s graduating musicians. In addition, the Fisher Center at Bard releases new content on its UPSTREAMING virtual stage each Wednesday, often featuring TŌN recordings.

Highlights of STAY TŌNED Streaming Initiatives
Video Flashbacks – Audiences can revisit past TŌN performances by streaming videos online. Recent programs include the April 2019 concert De Profundis: Out of the Depths, with violinist Vadim Repin in the U.S. premiere of Lera Auerbach’s Violin Concerto No. 3, and the 2018 Sight & Sound event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring baritone Tyler Duncan in Shostakovich’s Suite on Verses of Michelangelo.

Audio FlashbacksArchived high-quality audio recording performances by TŌN and scheduled for online streaming include Korngold‘s Cello Concerto in C with soloist Nicholas Canellakis at the 2019 Bard Music Festival, and Reinhold Glière’s Symphony No. 3, Ilya Muromets.

TŌN IN—New Video Releases – New video releases each Thursday will offer a variety of content, including live-streamed house concerts featuring chamber works and solo performances by the musicians, many of whom are roommates in quarantine together; the new series TŌNality, featuring interviews with several of the orchestra’s graduating musicians; and other special performances from home. The Thursday, May 28 release will feature conductor James Bagwell with organist Renée Anne Louprette and TŌN musicians performing two Bach chorales—from St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion—and answering your questions in a live Q&A. It will be accessible on Zoom by registering for the event.

Music From Home – Current and former TŌN musicians share videos from their homes, practicing and playing unique arrangements of popular songs, such as TŌN violinist Gergő Krisztián Tóth playing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” from Havana, Cuba with his wife, singer Yulaysi Tóth Miranda Ferrer.

UPSTREAMING – The Fisher Center at Bard is releasing new content on its UPSTREAMING virtual stage each Wednesday that often feature TŌN recordings. These include Bard Music Festival performances of Korngold‘s A Passover Psalm with soprano Marjorie Owens and the Bard Festival Chorale, performed on August 9, 2019; and Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Overture to May Night and Dubinushka, performed on August 10, 2018.

TŌN on the Radio – The Orchestra’s regular broadcasts on Classical WMHT-FM and WWFM–The Classical Network are continuing, as well as appearances on Performance Today, airing on public radio nationwide. Recent broadcasts include Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 and Joachim’s Hamlet Overture on Performance Today and Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony on WMHT. The final concert this season will be Rimsky-Korsakov’s Symphony No. 1 and Glière’s Symphony No. 3, Ilya Muromets, on WMHT on June 28 at 6:00 pm ET.

STAY TŌNED also showcases social media and website posts including Meet the Musicians of TŌN, where the Orchestra spotlights various musicians through interviews and personal performances; and Concert Notes & Music, offering program notes from previously scheduled concerts that were written by TŌN’s talented musicians.

Academic Studies Continue
TŌN musicians continued their master’s degree coursework online throughout April and May, and also attended virtual coaching and classes with guest artists from The Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and others. Members took part in weekly webinars led by Leon Botstein and such eminent leaders of the classical music community as conductors Leonard Slatkin, composer Joan Tower, and musicologist Christopher Gibbs. To fulfill Teaching Artist requirements, first- and second-year students served as virtual practice buddies for local middle-school youth in the Red Hook School District, while third-year string students provided virtual coaching to NYC students in the Opportunity Music Project’s Honors Orchestra. TŌN’s 14 third-year masters’ candidates completed Capstone Projects, which are equivalent to a master’s thesis.

Bard Music ConnectsTo stay in contact with their musical community, TŌN musicians take part in Bard Music Connects, a home for online initiatives and content created by all musicians at Bard College, including the Conservatory, the Music Program, and The Orchestra Now. Bard Music Connects can be found on Facebook/Instagram: @BardMusicConnects; Twitter: @BardMusConnects; YouTube; and on the Bard website.

All audio streams will be uploaded on Tuesdays, and videos on Thursdays. They will be available starting at 11:00 am ET for archived performances, and evenings for live-stream events. Unless otherwise indicated, all programs below are accessible on YouTube.

Tuesday May 26 (audio)
Ives: Decoration Day
Program details available here

Thursday, May 28 at 7 PM on Zoom (Live-Steam video)
Bach: Virtual Universality
Conductor James Bagwell, organist Renée Anne Louprette, and musicians from The Orchestra Now perform two Bach chorales—one from St. John Passion and the other from St. Matthew Passion—and answer your questions in a live Q&A. Register here.

Tuesday, June 2 (audio)
Strauss: Ein Heldenleben & Wagner: Siegfried’s Rhine Journey
Program details available here

Thursday, June 4 (video)
Beethoven: Eroica from home
The musicians of The Orchestra Now pay tribute to their heroes, the front-line workers keeping our communities safe and healthy, with a special at-home performance of Beethoven’s “Heroic” 3rd Symphony, the Eroica.
Program details available here

Tuesday, June 9 (audio)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Symphony No. 1
Program details available here

Thursday, June 11 (video)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Program details available here

Tuesday June 16 (audio)
Still: Afro-American Symphony
Ustvolskaya: Symphonic Poem No. 1
Program details available here for the Still piece, and here for the Ustvolskaya piece

Tuesday, June 30 (audio)
Copland: Symphony No. 3
Program details available here

Tuesday, July 7 (audio)
Mahler: Symphony No. 7
Program details available here

Tuesday, July 14 (audio)
Gershwin: An American in Paris
Program details available here

Tuesday, July 21 (audio)
Schubert:  Symphony No. 9
Program details available here

The Orchestra Now
The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is a group of 65 vibrant young musicians from 12 different countries across the globe: Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Peru, Taiwan, Ukraine, the U.K., and the U.S. All share a mission to make orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences by sharing their unique personal insights in a welcoming environment. Hand-picked from the world’s leading conservatories—including The Juilliard School, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal Conservatory of Brussels, and the Curtis Institute of Music—the members of TŌN are enlightening curious minds by giving on-stage introductions and demonstrations, writing concert notes from the musicians’ perspective, and having one-on-one discussions with patrons during intermissions.

Conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein, whom The New York Times said “draws rich, expressive playing from the orchestra,” founded TŌN in 2015 as a graduate program at Bard College, where he is also president. TŌN offers both a three-year master’s degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies and a two-year advanced certificate in Orchestra Studies. The orchestra’s home base is the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center at Bard, where they perform multiple concerts each season and take part in the annual Bard Music Festival. They also perform regularly at the finest venues in New York, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others across NYC and beyond. HuffPost, who has called TŌN’s performances “dramatic and intense,” praises these concerts as “an opportunity to see talented musicians early in their careers.”

The Orchestra has performed with many distinguished guest conductors and soloists, including Hans Graf, Neeme Järvi, Vadim Repin, Fabio Luisi, Peter Serkin, Gerard Schwarz, Tan Dun, Zuill Bailey, and JoAnn Falletta. Recordings featuring The Orchestra Now include Ferdinand Ries piano concertos with Piers Lane on Hyperion Records, and a Sorel Classics concert recording of pianist Anna Shelest performing works by Anton Rubinstein with TŌN and conductor Neeme Järvi. Upcoming albums include a second release with Piers Lane on Hyperion Records in the summer of 2020. Recordings of TŌN’s live concerts from the Fisher Center can be heard on Classical WMHT-FM and WWFM The Classical Network, and are featured regularly on Performance Today, broadcast nationwide. In 2019, the orchestra’s performance with Vadim Repin was live-streamed on The Violin Channel.

For upcoming activities and more detailed information about the musicians, visit theorchestranow.org.

Leon Botstein
Leon Botstein brings a renowned career as both a conductor and educator to his role as music director of The Orchestra Now. He has been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra since 1992, artistic co-director of Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival since their creation, and president of Bard College since 1975. He was the music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 2003–11 and is now conductor laureate. In 2018, he assumed artistic directorship of Campus Grafenegg and Grafenegg Academy in Austria. Mr. Botstein is also a frequent guest conductor with orchestras around the globe, has made numerous recordings, and is a prolific author and music historian. He is editor of the prestigious The Musical Quarterly and has received many honors for his contributions to music. More info online at LeonBotstein.com.

Press Contacts
Pascal Nadon
Pascal Nadon Communications
Phone: 646.234.7088
Email: pascal@pascalnadon.com

Mark Primoff
Associate Vice President of Communications
Bard College
Phone: 845.758.7412
Email: primoff@bard.edu

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Audio Flashback: Ives’ Decoration Day

We’re releasing a live concert recording every Tuesday, and today we offer Charles IvesDecoration Day, based on the composer’s childhood memories of the Memorial Day celebrations in his hometown. Listen below and read the concert notes, written by former TŌN percussionist William Kaufman, by clicking here.

May 28—Bach: Virtual Universality

Join us on Zoom next Thursday, May 28, at 7 PM for BACH: VIRTUAL UNIVERSALITY. Conductor James Bagwell, organist Renée Anne Louprette, and musicians from The Orchestra Now perform two Bach chorales—one from St. John Passion and the other from St. Matthew Passion—and answer your questions in a live Q&A. Register to join at tinyurl.com/bach528.

Watch Party: De Profundis

On Thursday, May 21, we hosted a watch party of our 2019 concert De Profundis on our Facebook page. This concert featured violinist Vadim Repin, soprano Elizabeth de Trejo, and the Bard Festival Chorale, conducted by Leon Botstein and James Bagwell. Viewers were able to chat live with TŌN musicians while they watched. You can re-watch the concert at https://www.facebook.com/watchparty/565302334423131/.

The Graduates of 2020!

Congratulations to our 2020 graduates, who are receiving a Master of Music Degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies.

Kyle Anderson cello

Regina Brady oboe

Joshua DePoint bass

Carl Gardner bassoon

Shannon Hagan horn

James Jihyun Kim oboe

Emily Melendes harp

Yurie Mitsuhashi violin

Federico Ramos bass trombone

Adam Romey bassoon

Matthew Ross flute

Denis Savelyev flute

Luke Stence bass

Zhenyuan Yao bass

Audio Flashback: Lera Auerbach’s Violin Concerto No. 3, De Profundis

Starting today, we are thrilled to release a live concert recording from our archives every Tuesday! Today we offer the U.S. premiere of Lera Auerbach‘s Violin Concerto No. 3, De Profundis, performed with soloist Vadim Repin.

Join us on Facebook Thursday at 7 PM to watch the video of the concert featuring this performance, with a live chat with some TŌN musicians!

Music From Home: Anita Tóth

. . . and one for Mahler! The great composer passed away on this day in 1911. TŌN musician Anita Tóth plays an excerpt from his third symphony along the banks of the Hudson River.


Posted by Tóth Anita on Monday, May 18, 2020

Facebook Watch Party 5/21

THURSDAY at 7: Join us on Facebook to watch our 2018 concert De Profundis, featuring violinist Vadim Repin, soprano Elizabeth de Trejo, and the Bard Festival Chorale, conducted by Leon Botstein and James Bagwell. Live chat with TŌN musicians while you watch! facebook.com/TheOrchNow