Don’t miss the Farewell Performance of Elizabeth Schulze!
For her triumphant final concert, Elizabeth Schulze begins with blue cathedral by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon. Following is Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, one of the most popular violin concertos of all time. Pines of Rome, by Italian composer Respighi, depicts pine trees in different locations in Rome at different times of the day.
Pre-concert conversation with the conductor is at 6:30 PM. Concert begins at 7:30 pm.
Student tickets begin at $8. Regular pricing starts at $20. Senior, Military, and Educator discounts are also available, please see our website for details about discounts here.
Tickets are available from the NAU Central Ticket Office at 928.523.5661 and online.
About this Concert:
The three pieces of our April 21st concert are as follows:
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)
Ms. Higdon is one of the most acclaimed contemporary American classical composers, with commissions in a range of genres, including orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and wind ensemble. She is currently the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Higdon taught herself to play flute at the age of 15 and played in her high school’s concert band, but had heard little classical music before her college years, when she earned a B.M. in Flute Performance from Bowling Green State University. Subsequently, Higdon earned a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania, and an Artist Diploma in Music Composition from Curtis.
One of America’s most frequently performed contemporary orchestral works, blue cathedral has had more than 600 performances worldwide since its premiere in 2000. It was commissioned by the Curtis Institute in 1999 to commemorate the conservatory’s 75th anniversary. The piece was written in memory of Higdon’s younger brother, Andrew Blue Higdon, a clarinetist who died of cancer in June, 1998.
The work was immediately popular, and The Baltimore Sun lauded, “The music seems to emit and reflect light as it moves from stillness to exuberance and back again, tapering off ethereally. If you didn’t know the personal story behind it, the music could still touch your heart; when you do know that story, it can touch your soul.”
Felix Mendelssohn (1809 –1847)
A German composer, pianist, organist and conductor, Mendelssohn is one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era. Like Mozart, he was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor, is one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era. Like Mozart, he was a musical prodigy with parents who promoted his talents. He began taking piano lessons from his mother when he was six, and made his first public concert appearance at age 9, participating in a chamber music concert. He was also a prolific composer from an early age. As an adolescent, his works were often performed at home with a private orchestra for his wealthy parents and the intellectual elite of Berlin.
Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote 12 string symphonies influenced by Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Beethoven heard him play in 1821 and wrote a note: “Mendelssohn – 12 years old – promises much.”
Besides his musical talent, Felix excelled as a painter, poet, athlete, and linguist. Queen Victoria described Mendelssohn as “‘the greatest musical genius since Mozart’ and ‘the most amiable man. He was quite worshipped by those who knew him intimately, & we have so much appreciated & admired his wonderfully beautiful compositions.’”
The Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) was his last large orchestral work. Mendelssohn originally proposed the idea of the violin concerto to Ferdinand David, a close friend and concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mendelssohn consulted with David for technical and compositional advice, and their regular correspondence lasted six years before the work was complete. Premiered in Leipzig in 1845, with David as soloist, the concerto was well received and soon became regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos of all time. To this day it is an essential concerto for all aspiring concert violinists. Many professional violinists have recorded it and the work is regularly performed in concerts and classical music competitions.
An unusual feature of the concerto is that Mendelssohn wrote it deliberately to prevent applause between the movements, which was common practice in his day. A bassoon note is held between the first and second movement, with no break. Later, the passage between the last two movements begins almost immediately after the slow movement. Clearly, Mendelssohn did not want his composition or musicians to be interrupted!
Ottorino Respighi (1879 –1936)
Respighi was an Italian violinist, composer and musicologist. Born into a musical family in Bologna, he was taught at an early age to play piano and violin by his father. When he was about thirteen, Respighi began studying composition, and in 1900 composed his first major work.
That same year, Respighi studied composition for five months with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg, while he was employed as first violinist in the orchestra of the Russian Imperial Theatre. Later he played first violin in the Mugellini Quintet, before turning his attention entirely to composing. In 1913, he was appointed as professor of composition at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, holding the post for the rest of his life.
Pines of Rome (1924) is a symphonic poem influenced by the sensual delights of his adopted city, using nature as a catalyst to recall memories and visions. It is the second orchestral work in his “Roman Trilogy,” preceded by Fountains of Rome (1917) and followed by Roman Festivals (1928), and is Respighi’s most frequently performed work. It is a colorful tribute to the Italian capital, with some contemporary themes and some recalling the glory of the Roman Empire.
Respighi maintained an uneasy relationship with Mussolini’s Fascist Party, and sections of his trilogy can be seen as a response to the regime’s demands to glorify Italy under the Fascists. His Russian influences may have introduced ambiguity and satire to his compositions, much as Dmitri Shostakovich worked under Stalin.
Each of the four movements of Pines of Rome represents pine trees in different locations at different times of the day. Respighi wrote, “The century-old trees which dominate so characteristically the Roman landscape become testimony for the principal events in Roman life.”
The first movement, The Pines of the Villa Borghese, depicts children playing in the sunshine in the Villa Borghese gardens. This is followed by Pines Near a Catacomb, a somber dirge-like movement, portraying the entrance to an underground tomb shadowed by trees. Chants and hymns can be heard rising from the depths, suggested by lower-toned instruments.
The third segment is The Pines of the Janiculum, a nocturne with the full moon shining on the pines that grow on the hill at the temple of Janus. Listen for the nightingale. Respighi’s technological innovation was to have the sound of a nightingale recorded onto a phonograph and played at the movement’s ending, which caused quite a sensation.
The final movement, “The Pines of the Appian Way,” closes the piece with a depiction of the ancient Roman army marching at dawn on the great military road leading into Rome. Respighi wanted the ground to tremble under the advance of the army, and orchestrated the march with pounding drums and trumpet fanfares.
Popular film composer John Williams cites Respighi as a great influence, and his music for the Planet Krypton, heard in the movie Superman, was strongly modeled after the fourth movement of Pines of Rome.
About the Soloist, Elena Urioste
Performing the Mendelssohn violin concerto with the FSO is Elena Urioste, described by The Washington Post as “a drop-dead beauty who plays with equal parts passion, sensuality, brains and humor.” She has given acclaimed performances with major orchestras throughout the United States, including the Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland Orchestras. In 2012, she was named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, a prestigious two-year appointment.
A native of Hartford, Conn., she moved to a Philadelphia suburb with her family when she was 5 years old and lived there until after high school, when she moved into the city to enroll at the Curtis Institute of Music. As a 2-year-old, she had become intrigued with the violin when Itzhak Perlman performed on “Sesame Street” and chatted with Elmo. In kindergarten she enrolled in a Suzuki violin program, and soon graduated to private lessons.
At the age of 16, Urioste competed in the annual Sphinx Organization competition, which encourages the development of young African-American and Latino musicians. Of Mexican, Italian, Russian and Hungarian descent (her Basque last name is from the Latino side of her family), Urioste won both the Junior and Senior divisions. In 2004 she made her debut at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium, where she returns annually as a soloist.
Her honors include a London Music Masters Award, a Salon de Virtuosi career grant, and first prize in the prestigious Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Sion, Switzerland.