AUDIO FLASHBACK: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings

This week’s Audio Flashback is the Serenade for Strings by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who was born 181 years ago this week. TŌN performed the work with conductor Leon Botstein on September 19, 2020 as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival (BMF) and the Fisher Center at Bard. In his concert notes on the Serenade, BMF Artistic Codirector Christopher H. Gibbs notes that Tchaikovsky was writing this piece at the same time as his famous 1812 Overture, and wrote in a letter to his patron, “The overture will be very noisy. I wrote it without much warmth or enthusiasm; therefore it has no great artistic value. The Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from an inward impulse; I felt it, and venture to hope that this work is not without artistic qualities.” You can read the full notes on the Serenade by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Duke Ellington’s Solitude

This Tuesday’s Audio Flashback is Solitude by the brilliant Duke Ellington, who was born 122 years ago this week. 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.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings

This week’s Audio Flashback is Antonín Dvořák‘s Serenade for Strings, which TŌN performed outdoors with conductor Leon Botstein on September 12, 2020 as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival (BMF) and the Fisher Center at Bard. In his concert notes on the piece, BMF Artistic Codirector Christopher H. Gibbs says that the work was composed in just 12 days in 1875, after Dvořák had won a grant from the Austrian government. “The carefree mood of the piece shows that the composer was freed ‘from anxiety in his creative work’ (the stipulated goal of the prize); he was also newly married and had recently become a father.” You can read Gibbs’ full notes on the Serenade by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Adolphus Hailstork’s Sonata da Chiesa

This week’s Audio Flashback is Sonata da Chiesa by Rochester, New York-born composer Adolphus Hailstork, who celebrates his 80th birthday this week. In his concert notes, Bard music professor Kyle Gann says, “The 17th-century term ‘sonata da chiesa’ denoted instrumental chamber music suitable for religious meditation; Hailstork has expanded on the concept to give us an orchestral analogue to a choral Mass. The piece’s seven sections, played without pause, have titles taken from liturgical music: Exultate, O Magnum Mysterium, Adoro, Jubilate, Agnus Dei, Dona Nobis Pacem, Exultate (reprise).”

TŌN performed this work outdoors with conductor Zachary Schwartzman on September 12, 2020 as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival and the Fisher Center at Bard. You can read Kyle Gann’s full concert notes by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Hindemith’s Concert Music for Piano, Brass, and Harps

This week’s Audio Flashback is Paul Hindemith‘s Concert Music for Piano, Brass, and Harps. TŌN tuba player Jarrod Briley calls this piece “one of the hidden gems of Hindemith’s repertoire” and says, “of the many fantastic composers throughout classical music history, I can think of few who wrote as expressively and effectively for brass instruments as Paul Hindemith.” We performed this work with pianist Blair McMillen and conductor Leon Botstein in a physically distanced concert that was livestreamed from the Fisher Center at Bard in November 2020. You can read Jarrod Briley’s full concert notes on the music by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Alvin Singleton’s After Choice

This week’s Audio Flashback is After Choice by Brooklyn-born composer Alvin Singleton. In his concert notes, Bard music professor Kyle Gann says, “After Choice is Singleton’s tribute to a fellow important African American composer, Leroy Jenkins. Jenkins was a consummate improvising violinist in the free jazz world. Singleton has appropriated “licks” from Jenkins’ nimble playing style and juxtaposed them among the strings with pizzicato against bowed lines, in quite tricky rhythmic assemblages of unison septuplets and quintuplets. No more than two lines are heard at once, often doubled in octaves, and the recurring pitch sets aptly convey the contours of Jenkins’ frenetic fiddling. When a second violin solo cadenza appears just before the end (against the first violins), it’s as though Jenkins’s spirit makes a momentary appearance.”

TŌN performed this work with conductor James Bagwell on September 12, 2020 as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival and the Fisher Center at Bard. You can read Kyle Gann’s full concert notes by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta

This week’s Audio Flashback is Béla Bartók‘s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta, which we performed on September 26, 2020 with conductor Leon Botstein as part of the “Out of the Silence” festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival (BMF) and the Fisher Center at Bard. In his concert notes, BMF Artistic Codirector Christopher H. Gibbs says the work “integrates Bartók’s profound knowledge of Western musical tradition, immediately evident in the fugue that opens the piece, with his pathbreaking research of folk music, not limited to the region of his native Hungary but extending farther afield to North Africa.” You can read the full concert notes by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: William Grant Still’s Serenade

This week’s Audio Flashback is William Grant Still‘s Serenade. Still, often called the “Dean of African-American composers,” wrote this piece in 1957 on a commission by the Great Falls High School in Great Falls, Montana. The piece reflects his interest in American folk idioms, with conventional melodies and harmonies that nonetheless express a fresh and individual compositional voice. The Orchestra Now performed the work outdoors (hence the crickets you will hear in the background!) with conductor James Bagwell last September as part of the Out of the Silence festival, presented with the Bard Music Festival and the Fisher Center at Bard. 

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ Symphonie concertante in G Major, Op. 13

This week’s Audio Flashback is the Symphonie concertante in G Major, Op. 13 of 18th-Century composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. TŌN performed the piece with violinists Cyrus Beroukhim and Philip Payton and 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. The son of an enslaved woman and a plantation owner in the South Caribbean, Bologne led a fascinating life, excelling in both athletics and music. He was praised by future American president John Adams, and once lived in the same house as Mozart. You can read the concert notes, written by Christopher H. Gibbs, Artistic Codirector of the Bard Music Festival, by clicking here.

AUDIO FLASHBACK: Edgard Varèse’s Hyperprism

This week’s Audio Flashback is the piece Hyperprism from French composer Edgard Varèse, which premiered in New York City 98 years ago this week, and which The Orchestra Now performed with conductor Leon Botstein in a streaming concert from the Fisher Center at Bard this past November. In his concert notes, TŌN horn player Steven Harmon says, “Hyperprism is one of a handful of Varèse’s most influential works, all written in a period between 1921 and 1925, all of which contributed to a notoriety comparable to that of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. In just a handful of scores, most of them lasting only a few minutes, Varèse elevated rhythm to a new prominence, granted percussion instruments a role of unforeseen importance (and complexity), and developed a new sound world, dependent not on melody and harmony, but on timbre, texture, and dynamics.” You can read his full notes on the piece by clicking here.