Need a soundtrack for your time on the water with family and friends this summer? Enjoy our performance of Handel‘s Water Music Suite No. 1, which premiered 304 years ago this week on the River Thames in a concert for King George I. In his notes on the piece, TŌN oboist Shawn Hutchison tells us that the suite “Opens with a stylized and energetic French overture,” and “features an assortment of Baroque dance forms (such as the minuet, bourrée, and hornpipe) transmuted from their original functions into lively concert music. These forms were a key element in the compositional language of the late Baroque, and were employed broadly and with great success by composers such as J.S. Bach, G.P. Telemann, and G. F. Handel.” You can read Shawn’s full concert notes on this work by clicking here.
Composer Arnold Schoenberg passed away 70 years ago today in Los Angeles at age 76. This past February we performed his work Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) with conductor Leon Botstein in a livestreamed, physically distanced concert from the Fisher Center at Bard. In her notes on the piece, TŌN cellist Jordan Gunn tells the story of the Richard Dehmel poem on with the work is based. “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.” You can read Jordan’s full concert notes on Verklärte Nacht by clicking here.
Today we are sharing our April 2021 performance of Felix Mendelssohn‘s Symphony No. 3, Scottish, conducted by Leon Botstein in a livestreamed, physically distanced concert from the Fisher Center at Bard. In her concert notes on the symphony, TŌN flutist Rebecca Tutunick describes how at age 20, “Mendelssohn started his Grand Tour with a three-week walking tour of Scotland, beginning in Edinburgh. . . . Over the next 13 years, Mendelssohn set aside and returned to his work on the Scottish Symphony several times, until eventually completing the symphony while in Berlin, in 1842.” You can read Rebecca’s full notes on the piece by clicking here.
Arvo Pärt‘s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten premiered 44 years ago this week in Estonia. We performed the work with conductor Zachary Schwartzman this past March in a livestreamed, physically distanced concert from the Fisher Center at Bard. In her notes on the piece, TŌN violinist Sabrina Parry quotes Pärt upon his learning of the English composer’s death: “Why should the date of Benjamin Britten’s death [December 4, 1976] touch such a chord in me? Evidently it was only in that moment that I matured enough to realize the magnitude of such a loss. Inexplicable feelings of duty, or even more than that, arose in me—I had just discovered Britten for myself. Not a very long time before his death, I recalled my impression of his music’s rare purity.” You can read Sabrina’s full concert notes by clicking here.
Today we’re sharing our March performance of Swedish composer Ingvar Lidholm‘s Music for Strings. We played the piece with conductor Andrés Rivas in a livestreamed, physically distanced concert from the Fisher Center at Bard. In her concert notes on this work, TŌN violinist Yinglin Zhou says the music sounds “tragic and intense. When I listened to the piece for the first time, the repetitive accented eighth-note patterns at the end of the last movement reminded me a lot of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.” You can read Yinglin’s full notes by clicking here.
Today we’re sharing our performance of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by Johann Sebastian Bach, who passed away 271 years ago this week. We played this piece with conductor Leon Botstein in a livestreamed, physically distanced concert from the Fisher Center at Bard on February 7, 2021. In her notes on the concerto, TŌN violist Celia Daggy says that she enjoys “the blending of tradition with innovation” in classical music, and that Bach “is indeed a master at combining the two,” especially in this piece. “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. 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.” You can read Celia’s full concert notes by clicking here.
Revisit our performance of the Concerto for String Orchestra and Percussion by composer M. Camargo Guarnieri, who is sometimes known as “the Brazilian Mozart.” We performed the piece in October of 2020 with conductor Zachary Schwartzman in a physically distanced, livestreamed concert from the Fisher Center at Bard. In his notes on the concerto, former TŌN percussionist Charles Gillette observes that the work is “scored for strings, timpani, and two snare drums, . . . an unusual pairing of two sections in the orchestra that rarely play together.” He said that he was “struck by the way Guarnieri pairs rhythm with lyricism in this piece. He dedicated his 1942 piece Abertura Concertante to Aaron Copland, and I can definitely hear Copland’s influence in Concerto for Strings and Percussion.” You can read Charley’s full concert notes by clicking here.
Composer Igor Stravinsky was born 139 years ago this month in Oranienbaum, Russia. Today we share our April performance of his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, with conductor Leon Botstein and pianist Blair McMillen, which Stravinsky wrote in the early 1920s while living in France. In his notes on the piece, TŌN bass trombonist Jack E. Noble looks at why the composer chose the combination of piano and wind instruments for this concerto. “In an interview following the opening concerts Stravinsky expressed that ‘Strings and piano, a sound scraped and a sound struck, do not sound well together; piano and wind, sounds struck and blown, do.’ This is a noteworthy deviation from the norm which Stravinsky uses to highlight certain characteristics of sound. In particular, the percussive articulation of the piano stands out against the sustain of the winds.” You can read Jack’s full concert notes on the concerto by clicking here.
Grażyna Bacewicz‘s Concerto for String Orchestra premiered in Warsaw 71 years ago this week. We performed the piece with conductor Zachary Schwartzman in a physically-distanced, livestreamed concert from the Fisher Center at Bard on October 17, 2020. In his notes on the piece, TŌN violist Sean Flynn says the Concerto “is considered to be the composer’s finest work” and that it is “accessible to even a first-time listener while still holding many surprises and ear-catching moments.” Noting that the composer’s background as an accomplished violinist allowed her to write very technical string parts, he says “Bacewicz asks a lot of the players of this piece . . . mak[ing] for an intense but endlessly exciting playing experience, but I am sure that this intensity and excitement will be felt by listeners as well.” You can read his full concert notes on the work by clicking here.
In honor of her recent Pulitzer Prize win for the piece “Stride,” we are pleased to present this encore presentation of our April 8, 2021 Zoom discussion with composer, conductor, and educator Tania León. She chatted with composer and musicologist Sebastian Danila and musicians from The Orchestra Now (TŌN) about her career and her Pulitzer Prize-nominated work “Ácana,” which TŌN performed on April 10, 2021.