TŌN: In the Mood for Love!

We asked our musicians to share their favorite concert music to set the mood for Valentine’s Day. Here’s what they told us! We hope you hear something new to make your heart beat faster, or rediscover an ‘old love’ on this list to share with someone special.

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  • Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht
    TŌN violinists Dillon Robb ’21 and Weiqiao Wu ’22


    “What immediately comes to mind is Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. It is a special piece to us because early in our relationship during a vacation on the Cape, one particularly clear evening, we laid out on a hammock and listened to a recording of the sextet while we watched stars fill the night sky. It was an experience that I will always remember, and performing the piece last week with TŌN reminded us of this beautiful moment that we share.” —Dillon

  • Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht
    TŌN bassists Mariya Andoniya-Henderson ’21 and Kaden Henderson ’22


    “The poem behind Verklärte Nacht is one that portrays the most noble and beautiful kind of love. Love that is accepting and transforming. Schoenberg does a pretty good job at capturing the drama and resolution of the text.” —Mariya

  • David Lang Just (After Song of Songs)
    TŌN cellist Lucas Button ’21 and TŌN horn player Emily Buehler ’21


    “I have heard it performed live just once before and it immediately affected me deeply. David Lang uses single words and small groupings of words from the Song of Songs, the text of intensely passionate love from the Old Testament—so in that sense the connection to Valentine’s Day is obvious! But for me, beyond this, the song is also about how we as humans experience love and how we practice love. The three voices begin alone with a simple and transfixing delivery of simple lines of text. The rhythm always has a feeling of a cradle rocking back and forth, or of two people in an embrace swaying gently. As the song goes on, lines of text are repeated and become familiar. The story is perhaps changing as the strings and percussion become increasingly involved throughout the song, but the lovers are staying just as close or growing closer. This reminds me of the way we notice the qualities we love about our partners over and over again. And the act of uttering aloud to one another what we love about them is the practice of building upon a love connection.” —Lucas

  • Wagner Siegfried Idyll
    TŌN trumpet player Guillermo Garcia Cuesta ’21 and Estefany Carrillo


    “Wagner wrote it as a birthday present for his wife, and performed it on her birthday as she woke up.” —Guillermo

  • R. Strauss Der Rosenkavalier
    TŌN violist Katelyn Hoag ’22 and TŌN violinist Bram Margoles ’22


    “We love Strauss’ opera Der Rosenkavalier (or the orchestral suite version) as a piece for Valentine’s Day. It’s an amazing rom-com with a happy ending, which is rare for opera. The music is so lushly romantic—perfect for that Valentine’s Day feeling!” —Katelyn

  • Fritz Kreisler Liebesleid
    TŌN violist Sean Flynn ’22 and Nico


    “Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesleid for violin and piano is maybe a bit of an ironic choice for a Valentine’s Day playlist in that the English title is Love’s Sorrow. Despite that, this piece evokes to me the full gamut of emotions one can feel while in love: nostalgia, warmth, bittersweet-ness, tenderness. It’s certainly sentimental, but not overly sappy and that’s why I enjoy it so much. When I hear the piece, I can’t help but picture my wife and me just sitting in a French café and sharing a simple moment together, and I think it’s these sorts of simple moments that will always be most memorable to me.” —Sean

  • Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
    TŌN bassoonist Cheryl Fries ’22 and Rajan Panchal


    “My perfect Valentine’s Day concert music would definitely be music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet. My last Valentine’s Day pre-pandemic was spent going to Swan Lake at the New York City Ballet with my boyfriend Rajan, who is also a musician. Not only is it a special memory for us, but the romantic story line and beautifully enchanting music would make anyone’s Valentine’s Day more magical. Make an evening out of watching the ballet from the comfort of your home with whomever you hold special to you!” —Cheryl

  • Ravel Daphnis et Chloé
    TŌN violist Celia Daggy ’22 and TŌN trombonist David Kidd ’22


    “To me, Daphnis et Chloé is one of the best musical love stories out there. Even without watching dancers, you can hear the passion the characters feel in the music. Ravel is one of the best text-painters out there, and the epic fantasy tale of Daphnis fighting his way to rescue his love Chloe is so clear through the music, I’ll never get tired of reliving this love story.” —Celia

  • Brahms C-minor Piano Quartet, third movement
    TŌN cellists Sara Page ’22 and Cameron (CJ) Collins ’22


    “CJ and I listened to many recordings of this piece early on when we started dating, and it is a shared favorite of ours. It has a beautiful cello melody at the opening and hearing it takes us back to when we first started spending time together as more than just studio mates at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.” —Sara

  • Franz Liszt Un sospiro
    TŌN cellist Eva Roebuck ’22


    Un sospiro translates to A Sigh. What starts out as a fairly simple melody quickly expands into a lush, rhapsodic, and sweeping display of virtuosity, all the while evoking a dreamy atmosphere. True to its title, the ending of the piece never fails to leave me sighing. It reminds me of that feeling of contentedness when you’ve just shared a blissful moment of closeness with a loved one. “

  • R. Strauss Morgen!
    TŌN cellist Eva Roebuck ’22


    “This is a relatively short piece, but has some of the most tender and romantic lyrics of any piece I’ve heard. This piece, to me, is an embodiment of profound love, peace, optimism, and beautiful times yet to come. The text translation is simply as follows:

    “And tomorrow the sun will shine again
    And on the path that I shall take,
    It will unite us, happy ones, again,
    Amid this same sun-breathing earth …
    And to the shore, broad, blue-waved,
    We shall quietly and slowly descend,
    Speechless we shall gaze into each other’s eyes,
    And the speechless silence of bliss shall fall on us . . .”

  • Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe Chant d’hiver (Wintersong)
    TŌN violinist Nicole Oswald ’22


  • Aram Khachaturian Adagio from Spartacus
    TŌN violist Batmyagmar Erdenebat ’21


TŌN IN: Schoenberg & Bach

On February 7, TŌN’s music director Leon Botstein led the orchestra in a streaming concert from the Fisher Center at Bard that featured Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto and Schoenberg’s romantic tone poem Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Also on the program were works for string orchestra by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski and Venezuelan composer, pianist, and singer Teresa Carreño, who played for Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1863. Scroll down below the video for basic program info and timings, or click here to read the full concert program.

1:00 Introductory remarks by TŌN cellist Cameron Collins
5:44 Witold Lutosławski Funeral Music
Read concert notes by TŌN violinist Adam Jeffreys by clicking here.

22:03 Introductory remarks by TŌN violinist Esther Goldy Roestan
24:40 Teresa Carreño Serenade for Strings
Read concert notes by TŌN violinist Yada Lee by clicking here.

47:03 Introductory remarks by TŌN violinist Tin Yan Lee
49:00 Remarks from TŌN Music Director Leon Botstein
52:14 Johann Sebastian Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Read concert notes by TŌN violist Celia Daggy by clicking here.

1:06:58 Introductory remarks by TŌN violist Sean Flynn
1:10:10 Arnold Schoenberg Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)
Read concert notes by TŌN cellist Jordan Gunn by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady

This Tuesday’s Audio Flashback is Sophisticated Lady by the brilliant Duke Ellington. Ellington was recognized as the greatest jazz musician in America, giving voice to the Black experience in his works. He was an indefatigable innovator who was always open to new forms of expression, eventually crossing boundaries of genre and writing longer compositions for symphony orchestra. We performed Morton Gould’s arrangement of this piece with conductor Leon Botstein on September 26, 2020 as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival and the Fisher Center at Bard.


Release Date: March 19, 2021

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, February 8, 2021 – The Orchestra Now (TŌN) has announced the March 19 release of Piano Protagonists: Music for Piano and Orchestra, a new CD on Bridge Records. The new recording features three works for piano and orchestra first performed in concerts at the Bard Music Festival with the “powerful technique and exceptional insight” (The Washington Post) of award-winning American pianist Orion Weiss. The works were conducted by Leon Botstein and subsequently recorded in January 2020 at the Fisher Center at Bard.

The works call for virtuosic pianistic skills and span almost a century of musical Romanticism in which each composer responds to a specific source of inspiration. Korngold was moved by a concert pianist and family friend who suffered a terrible tragedy; Rimsky-Korsakov, inspired by the one-movement concerto form of Liszt, dedicated his concerto to the venerated old master; and Chopin’s variation on a duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni—his first work for piano and orchestra—became a stepping stone in the young composer’s rise.

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. TŌN’s most recent Bridge recording, Buried Alive, was released in August 2020 and features works by Schoeck, Honegger, and Mitropoulos with baritone Michael Nagy. Full discography and additional details on TŌN’s recordings can be found here.

Piano Protagonists: Music for Piano & Orchestra (on Bridge Records)
The Orchestra Now
Leon Botstein, conductor
Orion Weiss, pianist
Korngold: Piano Concerto in C-sharp for one hand, Op. 17
Rimsky-Korsakov: Piano Concerto in C-sharp minor, Op. 30
Chopin: Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” for piano and orchestra, Op. 2

Additional Notes on the Works
Korngold’s Piano Concerto in C-sharp was a 1923 commission from Paul Wittgenstein, who lost an arm in WWI. Wittgenstein premiered the work in Vienna in 1924 with Korngold conducting and held exclusive performing rights until his death in 1961. One of the most notable aspects of Rimsky-Korsakov’s seldom-heard C-sharp minor piano concerto is that the composer was not a pianist. Clearly inspired by and dedicated to Liszt, the short work displays Liszt’s dazzling pianism and also presents folk song melodies that place it in the Russian nationalist camp. Chopin’s variations on Mozart’s beloved duet from Don Giovanni was the composer’s first work for piano and orchestra, written when he was only 17. Chopin’s 1829 Vienna premiere of the work won great acclaim with a performance that moved him into the public spotlight. After hearing the piece in 1831, Robert Schumann—a contemporary and lifelong fan—was famously quoted as saying, “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius.”

Digital files of the recording are available on request for press use.

Orion Weiss
One of the most sought-after soloists in his generation of young American musicians, pianist Orion Weiss has performed to worldwide acclaim with all the major American orchestras, including the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras, and the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics. Also known for his enthusiasm for chamber music, Weiss performs regularly with such artists as violinists James Ehnes, Augustin Hadelich, and William Hagen; the pianist Shai Wosner; the Ariel, Parker, and Pacifica Quartets and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. As a recitalist and chamber musician, Weiss has appeared across the U.S. and world at venues and festivals including Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, St. Petersburg White Nights Festival, the Bard Music Festival, Hong Kong Performances, and the Kennedy Center. He has released 15 commercial CDs, among them 5 solo albums. Among his impressive list of honors is a Gilmore Young Artist Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the Gina Bachauer Scholarship at the Juilliard School, and a Recording Foundation Young Artist of the Year Award.

The Orchestra Now
The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is a group of 72 vibrant young musicians from 14 different countries across the globe: Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Peru, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, 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 Yale School of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal Academy of Music, and the Eastman School 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 it performs multiple concerts each season and takes part in the annual Bard Music Festival. It also performs 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 two albums of 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. Buried Alive with baritone Michael Nagy, released on Bridge Records in August 2020, includes the first recording in almost 60 years—and only the second recording ever—of Othmar Schoeck’s song-cycle Lebendig begraben.

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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Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night)

Notes by TŌN cellist Jordan Gunn

The Story
Arnold Schoenberg based his famous Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) after a poem by Richard Dehmel. The poem depicts an evening stroll in the moonlit forest, where a woman admits to her partner that she is carrying a child belonging to another. Desperate to find happiness through motherhood, she had been with a man she did not love. Now, being with a man she does truly love, she feels incredible guilt and anxiety. As they walk on, the man reveals to her that he cares for her deeply and will treat her child as his own, that their love will transfigure this child into one that is theirs. They embrace and continue their walk with a new transfigured perspective on life. It is true that Verklärte Nacht depicts many variations of the night, which drove Schoenberg to create a dark and moody quality of sound, but it also more importantly depicts the transfiguration of people during their darkest times. The woman came into this walk embarrassed and afraid, and left as a comforted and confident mother-to-be.

The Music
The piece starts in D minor with slow and dark footsteps by the lower instruments, creating a certain heaviness with a still, uncertain quality. The piece rises and falls dramatically in the first three movements as the woman tells her story, but most excitingly, the fourth movement blossoms into D major. A wave of warmth and confidence is brought out with a singing cello melody that dances through the instruments. In my interpretation, this is the point of transfiguration, when she feels the warmth and confidence and love from her partner. The work ends with a sense of peace and exuberance produced through harmonics, creating the fresh feeling of the early morning, just before the sun rises.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

Notes by TŌN violist Celia Daggy

The Composer
One thing I love about classical music is the blending of tradition with innovation. Johann Sebastian Bach, considered “The Master of Masters” by Beethoven, is indeed a master at combining the two. Born in Eisenach, Germany in 1685, Bach was mostly known throughout his career as an organist and Kapellmeister (music director) working in Leipzig, and much of his fame as a composer came posthumously. While many of his compositions are sacred, the Brandenburg Concertos are among his most popular secular works.

The Music
There are six Brandenburg Concertos total, each written for a different set of instruments. Today, we will perform Number 3, for strings in G major. Here, we find the tradition/innovation blend. A concerto is typically a soloist “versus” orchestra, but in Brandenburg 3, there is no individual soloist. Instead, each instrument is a soloist AND part of the orchestra. Another twist on convention is the instrumentation itself. While a typical string orchestra is made of 1st/2nd violins, violas, cellos, and basses, Brandenburg 3 features a first, second, and third part each of violins, violas, and cellos, accompanied by bass and harpsichord for a total of 11 unique parts. When listening to this piece I picture a machine in a factory; each part functions individually, yet seamlessly cooperates with the rest. Specific voices pop out of the texture like a concerto soloist, then happily fall back into the conglomerate while the next voice has their moment.

A Personal History
Personally, I have a lengthy history with and deep affection for Bach, and Brandenburg 3 in particular. My father is also an organist and Kapellmeister, so Bach was as much a part of my life growing up as my favorite snacks or cartoons. Having previously played violin before switching to viola, I have performed Brandenburg 3 a number of times, yet never played the same part twice! I guess in that way it feels like I get to blend my own tradition of knowing the piece with the innovation of learning new parts. That is the beauty of this work: no matter how many times I perform it there is always something new to be discovered, and I treasure that journey each and every time. I hope you enjoy one of my all-time favorites.

Teresa Carreño’s Serenade for Strings

Notes by TŌN violinist Yada Lee

The Composer
Teresa Carreño was born in 1853 in Caracas, Venezuela. She began her piano studies with her father, who was also a politician. They emigrated from Caracas in 1862 due to the revolution, and moved to New York City in order to get young Teresa the best musical training. She had her début in the same year after the big move.

I did not know of Carreño before she was programmed on this concert. She had a fascinating career as a piano virtuoso who toured extensively around the world. She was also an accomplished opera singer, a devoted teacher, a wife, and a mother.

The Music
As a composer, Carreño wrote her first piece at the age of six. She completed the Serenade for Strings in 1895 in a small village on a lake in Austria. The music opens with a lush melody and texture that you would find in the opening credits of a Jane Austen period drama. You can see and hear green pastures and pizzicato raindrops throughout the movement. The second movement is a scherzo. It reminds me of a dramatic tempest. The chromaticism certainly paints the picture of rippled and moody water, and we as listeners are in the middle of this storm. The third movement is my favorite. It opens with a recitative by a solo cello. It is extremely operatic and full of character and emotion. We are then transported back to the same pasture and raindrops we heard in the beginning. The last movement is a march, but a playful one you could dance to, maybe if you were a witch. All is well at the end, it seems. E-flat major is confirmed confidently. We are back home at last.

Witold Lutosławski’s Funeral Music

Notes by TŌN violinist Adam Jeffreys

A Turning Point
Witold Lutosławski’s Funeral Music was commissioned to honor the late Bela Bartók, a monumental 20th-century composer and the father of modern ethnomusicology. The work is regarded as a turning point in Lutosławski’s style, which moved toward the avant-garde after several decades of music with its underpinnings in folk music. The piece can be conceptualized in four distinct sections. The first and final sections present a slow-moving, monolithic theme constructed out of tri-tones and half steps. The second section develops by interweaving contradicting styles that culminate in a climatic third section: a series of cacophonous chords which gradually decay into singular pitches.

Personal Tragedies
The composition took an unexpected four years to compose, and its prophetic tone has sparked debates about the true meaning of what the piece mourns. While it was commissioned to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Bartók’s death, one historian, Nicholas Reyald, argued that Lutosławski intended to honor Bartók by creating a work which mourned the sorrows of the 20th-century Polish experience, and which drew from his own personal tragedies and experiences. Given the context of the tragedies which he faced, I am inclined to agree. Early in his life, Lutosławski’s father was executed by the Bolsheviks when the family sought refuge from WWI Poland in a Tsarist Russia on the brink of the 1917 revolution. And in 1939, following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Lutosławski escaped from Nazi forces before he was deported to a POW camp. His brother was not so lucky. He died in a Soviet labor camp after his capture. Lutosławski walked nearly 250 miles to the city of Warsaw.

Polish Music Suppressed
>Before the invasion, the 26-year-old had graduated from the Warsaw Conservatory with piano and composition degrees. His career had just begun with the premiere of his Symphonic Variations, and despite being mobilized as a military radio operator, he hoped to study in Paris. The occupation ended these ambitions, and transformed the musical life of Warsaw and Poland. The occupiers endeavored to suppress or eliminate Poland’s cultural identity. The invasion of Warsaw destroyed cherished cornerstones of Polish musical life. Cultural institutions which survived the invasion were seized and used to exclude Polish musicians. And the occupiers banned performances of composers who were a part of Poland’s cultural heritage, like Chopin. Because of this, Lutosławski performed at a series of cafes, which served as a semi-underground venue to arrange and compose music with select musical partners. His most recognizable piece from this period was his Variations on a Theme by Paganini for piano duo.

A Mourning
After WWII, Poland was incorporated into the Warsaw Pact, and its musical life was dictated by Stalinist ideology. Another author, Katarzyna Naliwajek-Mazurek, described the unique pressures that Stalinist ideology placed on Lutosławski due to his family in that he could never publicly mourn his brother or father because they were killed by the Soviet state. Funeral Music was composed following the death of Stalin, during “the Thaw” that brought positive liberal change to the Soviet Union and its satellite states. I think that in addition to mourning the tragedy of a war-torn 20th-century Poland, Lutosławski was in some way publicly mourning the death of his brother and father.

VIDEO FLASHBACK: Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin Suite

TŌN is pleased to continue to share new videos with our audiences every Thursday. Today we’re bringing you Bartók‘s vivacious The Miraculous Mandarin Suite. We performed the piece in December 2019 with conductor Tan Dun at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. You can read the concert notes, written by former TŌN horn player William Loveless VI, by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 8

This week’s audio flashback is our performance of the 8th String Symphony of composer Felix Mendelssohn, who was born 212 years ago this week. Believe it or not, Mendelssohn wrote this string symphony when he was just 13 years old! He seems to have particularly valued this symphony because he immediately made a slightly different version for full orchestra. We performed the piece with conductor Leon Botstein this past September in an outdoor tent (hence the background sounds!) as part of the Out of the Silence festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival and the Fisher Center at Bard. You can read the concert notes by clicking here.