Category Archives: Upcoming Concerts

Part Four: The Concerto

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A favorite showpiece for virtuoso violinists, the Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 by Johannes Brahms was written in collaboration with a longtime friend, the great Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim. Both men participated in its premiere, Brahms as conductor, in Leipzig on January 1, 1879.

It is not known when Brahms began work on his only violin concerto, but we do know that he finished the first draft during the summer of 1878 in southern Austria, where he found inspiration in the sunny climate. Brahms, who was not a string player, turned to his friend Joachim for advice, writing, “You should correct it, not sparing the quality of the composition. . . I shall be satisfied if you will mark those parts which are difficult, awkward, or impossible to play.” The violinist complied, starting a lengthy correspondence concerning violin technique and virtuosic touches which continued until the concerto’s premiere.

Some listeners were skeptical of the new piece, believing its virtuosity would be beyond the abilities of most violinists. The symphonic scale of the concerto was difficult for audiences and critics to absorb readily. One observer, conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow, famously asserted that it was a concerto not for but “against the violin.” Decades later, the violinist Bronislaw Huberman would trump that line by saying that the Brahms concerto is not against the violin, but is instead a concerto for violin against orchestra — and the violin wins.

Brahms’s original orchestration was for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, and solo violin. The concerto has 3 movements and is beloved for its lyrical melodies and rich orchestration.

The first movement is on an epic scale. Brahms seems to emulate Beethoven somewhat, as that composer’s violin concerto also features a first movement lasting more than twenty minutes with a broad tempo. Also like Beethoven, he did not compose a solo cadenza for the first movement, leaving that task to Joachim, after the standard chord and pause in the orchestra. By calling upon the soloist to extemporize, Brahms made it the last great concerto in history requiring the soloist to do so. Since then a number of soloists have written their own cadenzas, among them Rachel Barton Pine, who will perform hers during the FSO concert on September 25.

Surprisingly, in the second movement Adagio, Brahms introduced the main theme in the voice of the oboe, which greatly annoyed some virtuoso violinists, who had to cede the spotlight  for an extended oboe solo.  One 19th-century violinist so objected to this that he refused to play the work. Joachim, however, recognized that the oboe passage provided an appropriate contrast with the violin and did not protest. The pastoral theme begins in a setting of woodwinds led by the oboe. The violin enters later, ornamenting the theme over a string accompaniment. The calm ambiance gives way to a stormy middle section which eventually returns to the pastoral setting.

The concerto ends with a vigorous Andante finale of great lyricism and rhythmic drive.  Its unmistakable “gypsy” flavor is a nod to Joachim’s Hungarian roots. This great concerto is a tribute to Joachim, to whom the concerto is fittingly dedicated.

Familiar photographs of Brahms in grand later life portray his enormous beard, broad waist, piercing gaze and ever-present cigar.  But Brahms first began to grow his famous whiskers in 1878, so we must imagine him as beardless with long swept-back hair while he composed the violin concerto.

Rachel Barton Pine performs the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on September 25th at the NAU Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by telephone at (928) 523-5661 or online at the NAU Central Ticketing Office.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s concert? Treat yourself to a ‘Best of Brahms‘ video. See you tomorrow night at Ardrey!

Part Three: JOHANNES BRAHMS

Johannes+Brahms

One of the most beloved composers of all time (among the “3 B’s” — Bach, Beethoven and Brahms), Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1833. His father, a humble double bass player, was aware of Johannes’s early musical talent and struggled to provide the child with superior training. By the time he was a teenager he was an accomplished pianist, and was hired by Ede Remenyi, a prominent Hungarian violinist, to accompany him on a concert tour. Louis C. Elson in 1898 wrote about their concert in Gottingen, “When they came to try the piano provided, they found it so low in pitch that Beethoven’s great ‘Kreutzer Sonata,’ which was on the programme, would have lost all its brilliancy had the violin tuned down to it.  Brahms, the youth of nineteen years, thereupon transposed the entire work from A to B flat, playing it from memory!  The herculean task had its immediate reward; the greatest living violinist, Joachim, was present, and at once gave the pianist a letter of introduction to Schumann.”

Robert and Clara Schumann took the young pianist into their home, recognizing in the shy composer a future leader of the camp dedicated to absolute music, the ideal that music be non-representational, with no associations such as story, scene or mood. When Schumann published a lavish tribute about Brahms’s talent, calling him “the young eagle,” Johannes became famous overnight.

At the time, the “Neo-German party” of composers, including Liszt and Wagner, were promoting the “music of the future” — program music, with its use of nationalistic, picturesque events and special effects.  These neo-Germans took it for granted that they spoke for all their contemporaries. Irritated by this, Brahms helped draw up a manifesto against the sort of “new music” that Wagner favored, and  circulated it for signatures. The petition, which was published prematurely, carried only four names,   causing him great embarrassment and provoking a vicious attack from Wagner.  After that Brahms withdrew into his shell, and became an avowed traditionalist, a defender of the structures and compositional techniques of Baroque and Classical music.

Robert Schumann was institutionalized for a severe mental collapse five months after Brahms joined the household.  Although Clara was 14 years older than Brahms and the mother of seven children, he became infatuated with her, and tended her lovingly during Robert’s illness. This created great conflict within Brahms’s heart, for he respected and revered his friend and benefactor.  The one-sided romance ended when Schumann died two years later, and Brahms took his leave.  He and Clara would remain lifelong friends.  Brahms had several other romances, but fearing what he called “the fetters of marriage,” he adopted a mask of gruffness in later years and kept his emotions under tight control, concealing a tender soul.

As a severe self-critic and aided by immense self-discipline, Brahms concentrated on composing.  He wrote and rewrote, destroyed and rewrote. He planned for twenty years before he started the First Symphony. Thirty-seven years after he had composed and discarded a trio, he was able to rewrite it note for note!

In 1878 he made Vienna his permanent home, and there his conducting, concert tours and compositions brought him lavish official and public recognition. He was the first composer to become comfortably well off from the sale of his music alone.  He concentrated fully on his music and let everything else go. Despite his fame, Brahms maintained a rather bohemian lifestyle and exterior, growing a massive white beard to disguise the fact that he refused to wear a necktie. Friends had to apologize for his appearance. He loved long walks in nature and was known for his rough humor.

Brahms’s four great symphonies (1876, 1877, 1883, 1885) are considered unsurpassed in the late Romantic period.  He also composed two concertos for piano and orchestra, and the one for violin (1878). Many chamber works, sonatas, and songs pursue his themes of love, nature and death. His popular choral work, A German Requiem, a rumination on mortality, is better loved today than after its premiere in 1869. Throughout his career, he was known for his keen intellect and imagination, breadth of musical insight, warm heart and noble character.

At age 64, he was still a vigorous walker, but without warning he became ill. His physicians and a few intimate friends knew that he was dying of liver cancer for some time, but they faithfully guarded this secret and Brahms knew nothing of it, working on calmly. “I have not even begun to express myself,” he complained on his deathbed. When Brahms died in 1897, he was buried in Vienna not far from Beethoven and Schubert.

Rachel Barton Pine performs the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on September 25th at the NAU Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by telephone at (928) 523-5661 or online at the NAU Central Ticketing Office.

Can’t wait for the September 25th concert? Pick up  a book on Brahms and be the envy of all your friends!

Read the final part of the series and attend the concert next week!

Part Two: The Soloist, Rachel Barton Pine

RBP

Some people are born prodigies. Rachel Barton Pine says she “nagged for a violin when I was 3, and by age 5 I was signing my kindergarten papers ‘Rachel, violinist.’ That was the core of my being.” As a child, she would set stuffed animals on the couch; step atop the coffee table, perform and bow. This prepared her for real performances, she said, and throughout an acclaimed solo career she has not suffered from stage fright.

Born Rachel Barton, by the age of seven she was performing with the Chicago String Ensemble. She was just ten when she debuted in a televised broadcast with the Chicago Symphony conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.  Eight hours of daily practicing necessitated home schooling. “I did all of my college/conservatory level work, orchestra, chamber music, music history and all of that during my teen years and finished my formal training at the age of 17,” she said.

Her working-class family in Chicago had a hard time making ends meet, so Rachel began playing professionally in her early teens, becoming the family breadwinner. With the tutelage of Roland and Almita Vamos of the Music Institute of Chicago, at 17 she became the first American—and youngest—winner of the Gold Medal in the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition held in Leipzig, Germany.

When she was 20, and on the brink of a major career, Rachel was severely injured when she was dragged by a commuter train and run over, severing one leg and mangling the other. A benefit concert for her was organized by Daniel Barenboim, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, demonstrating the esteem in which she was held by the classical music community. Eventually winning a jury verdict to compensate for her injuries, her recovery required years of surgeries and physical therapy.

Returned to health, Rachel Barton began an illustrious profession of worldwide performances with major orchestras, solo recitals, festivals, and recordings, dazzling audiences with her virtuosic technique, lustrous tone, and infectious joy in music-making.  Playing a prized 1742 Guarneri violin that is on permanent loan to her, she can express anything on the emotional spectrum, performing many kinds of music. But her primary voice has been described as an “excellent glass of red wine—full-bodied, rich, and complex.”

In 2004, she changed her name by marrying Greg Pine, a computer entrepreneur and former minor league baseball pitcher. They have one daughter and live in Chicago.

Recently Barton Pine completed live performances of Paganini’s ‘24 Caprices for Solo Violin’—a series of virtuosic pieces so technically challenging that very few violinists perform them in sequence. She has recorded 24 albums and travelled with the world’s most prestigious ensembles, earning many awards along the way. As part of its Masters Collection, Carl Fischer Music recently published a book of cadenzas and virtuosic encore pieces composed by Barton Pine, as well as her arrangements of other works for violin and piano, making her the first living composer and first woman to be so honored.

Since 2001 she has run a foundation bearing her maiden name (Rachel Elizabeth Barton) to promote the study and appreciation of classical music. The foundation prepares music curricula on black composers, loans high-quality instruments to deserving young musicians, and provides grants to students and young professional musicians.

In addition to her orchestral work, Barton Pine performs chamber music as part of Trio Settecento, an ensemble that uses period instruments, and with the Jupiter Chamber Players.

But classical music isn’t her only genre. Whenever she can, Barton Pine dons black leather to indulge her other passion:  heavy metal!  AnthraxBlack SabbathMegadethMetallica, and Van Halen are among her favorite bands; she has met and jammed with a number of them. As a member of the thrash/doom metal band Earthen Grave since 2009, she performs on a 6-string  Viper electric violin.  “I discovered that a lot of the heavy metal I’d been listening to was some of the most sophisticated, compositionally, of all rock music, and very inspired by classical music,” she says.

Barton Pine credits her experience playing in a rock band with building her emotional rapport with her audiences.  “Mixing classical into the [rock] performance persuades people to give classical a try,” she says.  She performs often at schools and on rock music radio stations to interest younger audiences in classical music. “It’s not just about making sure the concert halls are well-attended or about succeeding in my profession,” she says. “It’s about uplifting people’s spirits.”

Rachel Barton Pine performs the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on September 25th at the NAU Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by telephone at (928) 523-5661 or online at the NAU Central Ticketing Office.

Can’t wait for the September 25th concert? Get to know Rachel Barton Pine by visiting her website or by following her on Twitter!

Part Three comes next week!

*Image Copyright © 2015 courtesy of Rachel Barton Pine.

Part One: Introducing the Violin

Violin RBP website

The first chords of the 66th season of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra will resound in NAU’s Ardrey Auditorium on Friday, Sept. 25. When the star of the evening, acclaimed violin soloist Rachel Barton Pine, takes the stage to perform the Brahms Violin Concerto, she will have in hand a long-time partner – a 273-year-old violin with a remarkable history.

Her instrument, known today as the “ex-Bazzini ex-Soldat.”  was made in 1742 by Joseph Guarneri “del Gesù” (1698-1744), who is considered to be one of the two greatest violin makers of all time. Guarneri was called del Gesù (literally, “of Jesus”) because his labels after 1731 were imprinted with the sacred letters I.H.S., and a Roman cross. Today fewer than 200 of Guarneri’s violins survive. The quality and scarcity of his instruments have resulted in modern sale prices of almost $20 million. “Del Gesù” violins have been the preferred instruments of many famous violinists including Paganini, Kreisler, Heifetz, Stern, and Zukerman.

German composer Johannes Brahms was at the height of his career in 1879 when he was introduced to 15-year-old Marie Soldat, a gifted violinist. Taken by her virtuosity, Brahms welcomed her into his inner circle and she became a lifelong friend. In 1897, as he was writing his Violin Concerto, Brahms selected a particular Guarneri violin for Soldat to perform his new work. The violin, which had a full and rich tone, had belonged to Antonio Bazzini, an Italian violinist who had recently died. Brahms then persuaded a wealthy Viennese businessman to purchase the instrument and loan it to Soldat for her lifetime. The Brahms concerto became her signature piece.

After Soldat’s death, her violin was bought by a collector and disappeared for many years. In 2002, Rachel Barton Pine became the fortunate recipient of a lifetime loan of the instrument from an anonymous patron. The Guarneri has a one-piece back and is in remarkably good condition with much of its original varnish and no major repairs. Barton Pine says, “The ex-Bazzini, ex-Soldat is truly my voice. Since I started playing it, I’m not even curious to try other violins anymore!” She believes Brahms may have chosen this violin, in part, because its voice represents most closely what he envisioned for his concerto.

“With the ex-Bazzini, ex-Soldat in my hands,” she says, “I can never accept that sounding good is good enough. I’m always seeking more nuances and subtleties, because whatever I envision can be found in this instrument and I often stumble across colors I hadn’t even thought of yet. It’s truly a collaborative relationship.

“I love the fact that Brahms heard “my” violin in the hands of his protégée, Marie Soldat. It’s amazing to know something of an instrument’s history and realize that you’re the next chapter in its life. Hopefully, it will have lots more adventures long after I’m gone.”

Rachel Barton Pine performs the Brahms Violin Concerto with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on September 25th at the NAU Ardrey Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by telephone at (928) 523-5661 or online at the NAU Central Ticketing Office.

Can’t wait for the September 25th concert? Take a peek at this video of Rachel Barton Pine as she gives a short introduction to this famous Violin on YouTube.

Part Two comes next week!

*Image Copyright © 2015 courtesy of Rachel Barton Pine.

Summer Chamber Music Concerts August 23 & 30

The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra will present two free small ensemble concerts at distinctive locations in August.

The Ponderosa Players
Sunday, August 23 at 5pm
Lowell Observatory
1400 W Mars Hill Road, Flagstaff

Ponderosa Players

Enjoy an outdoor afternoon concert by the Ponderosa Players on serene Mars Hill in front of the Lowell Observatory Rotunda building.

Elden Brass Quintet
Sunday, August 30 at 5pm
Flagstaff Ranch Clubhouse
3850 Lariat Loop, Flagstaff

Elden Brass Quintet

Visit the beautiful and exclusive Flagstaff Ranch Golf Club for a performance by the Elden Brass Quintet and enjoy light appetizers and a cash bar.

Flagstaff Ranch will serve a limited seating prix fixe dinner after the concert for $32 per person.

View the Flagstaff Ranch dinner menu.

Call 928-226-3101 for information and to make dinner reservations for August 30.

Flagstaff Ranch logo

Summer Concerts Sponsors
Ted Bowell and Anne-Marie Malotki
Otto and Gallina Franz
Nat and Jean White

 

Season 66 Brochure: Subscribe Now!

Download the FSO 2015-16 season brochure and subscribe today for the best seats at the best discount! Subscribers save up 20% off single ticket prices!

Subscribe by phone at 928.523.5661 or by mail via the order form.
Online subscription ordering coming soon!

Flagstaff Symphony season brochure
FSO Season 66 brochure; original artwork by Linda Shearer-Whiting

The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra enters its 66th season with a renewed mission: to enrich, engage, and inspire our community through the performance of orchestral music. In her eighth season as Artistic Director and Conductor, Elizabeth Schulze leads the Orchestra in unforgettable concerts in 2015-2016.

Like the Mother Road that made Flagstaff famous, Season 66 offers audiences a journey full of adventure and ambition. Through this music we feel the significance of history and drive forward into an exciting future. Experience the thrill of live orchestral music in northern Arizona with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra!

Flagstaff Symphony performs Carmina Burana April 17

The awe-inspiring music of Carmina Burana comes to life with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, the Master Chorale of Flagstaff, NAU’s Shrine of the Ages Choir, Flagstaff Youth Chorale, and guest singers, 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, at NAU Ardrey Memorial Auditorium.

“Carmina Burana is a choral-orchestral masterpiece, one of the most iconic works of the 20th Century, and a powerful sensory experience beyond comparison,” FSO Executive Director Christopher Barton said. “A massive work like this, performed with our partner choruses from the community is an exciting way to conclude this 65th season.”

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Carmina Burana is the name given to more than 200 poems discovered from medieval times reflecting the human condition with themes of fate, love, lust, and the power of fortune. Composer Carl Orff also is remembered for his influence in the field of music education — a fitting season finale for FSO in a year that included the growing success of its Link Up music education program.

Link Up, in collaboration with the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute, brings music curriculum and a live concert experience to third through fifth graders in northern Arizona.

The first half of the program is a performance of The Accursed Hunstman by 19th Century composer Cesar Auguste Franck. Audiences will enjoy this adventure about a hunter who dares to go into the woods rather than worship on a Sunday morning. Deep among the trees, the hunter is cursed by a terrible voice condemning him to be pursued by demons for eternity.

In its 65th season, the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra is the largest and most active performing arts organization in northern Arizona. Artistic Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze, now in her seventh season, leads performances with superb musical sense and attention to excellence. The orchestra is comprised of musicians from diverse backgrounds who form an ensemble capable of performing a variety of musical styles and repertoire. The FSO mission is to enrich, engage, and inspire our community through the performance of orchestral music.

For tickets, go to flagstaffsymphony.org, or call 928.523.5661. Tickets range in price and include discounts for students, seniors, educators and the military.

ELIZABETH SCHULZE, CONDUCTOR

CHRISTINE GRAHAM, SOPRANO
RANDALL UMSTEAD, TENOR
CHAD SLOAN, BARITONE

MASTER CHORALE OF FLAGSTAFF
SHRINE OF THE AGES CHOIR
Edith Copley, director

FLAGSTAFF YOUTH CHORALE
Erica Kragness, director

FRANCK: THE ACCURSED HUNTSMAN

ORFF: CARMINA BURANA

Jeans ‘n Classics band to perform The Beatles music with Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra

The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra is guaranteed to raise a smile at its March 6 concert.

It’s a British Invasion: The Music of The Beatles, with Jeans ‘n Classics, a band specializing in arranging rock music to roll with symphonies. The eight-piece ensemble and FSO will perform the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in its entirety.

“Jeans ‘n Classics fun and engaging orchestral arrangements will heighten our audience’s experience of some of the greatest popular music ever written,” FSO Executive Director Christopher Barton said. “To borrow from a lyric: We hope you will enjoy the show.”

Jeans ‘n Classics is a group of musicians who understand both popular and classical music and are committed to developing diverse, loyal audiences for symphony orchestras across America. Peter Brennan, who founded the Canadian rock band Jeans ‘n Classics 20 years ago, is looking forward to share Fab Four music with Flagstaff. In 2014, Jeans ‘n Classics performed the music of Earth, Wind & Fire, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago with the FSO.

jeansnclassicsbandpic

Northern Arizona University’s Jazz Vocal Ensembles also will perform with Jeans ‘n Classics and the FSO. “Put it all together and it is pure musical magic,” Brennan said.

Performing The Beatles music is “an amazing rush on so many levels,” Brennan said. “In addition to the brilliance of the song writing, and the obvious heartfelt nostalgia, there is the unparalleled experience of realizing this material with a symphony orchestra.”

British Invasion: The Music of The Beatles featuring Jeans ‘n Classics is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 6, 2015, at Ardrey Memorial Auditorium on the NAU campus. For tickets, go to flagstaffsymphony.org, or call 928.523.5661. Tickets range in price and include discounts for students, seniors, educators and the military. For information, go to flagstaffsymphony.org, or call 928.774.5107.

 

“Breaking Boundaries” with a World Premiere

The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra will present its fourth concert of the 2014-2015 season with an appealing program featuring the world premiere of Bruce Reiprich’s Flowing Waters Caress Fallen Petal. Reiprich is a Flagstaff-based composer and professor of music theory and composition at Northern Arizona University.

Dr. Reiprich composed Flowing Waters Caress Fallen Petal for orchestra and piano on a request from Elizabeth Schulze, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Flagstaff Symphony. The piece is based on a piano solo of the same name composed for pianist Vicki Ray in 2010. Ray will also be the featured soloist with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. Reiprich states that his composition is written “with a 21st century language that is tonal, and sometimes atonal with lots of color, texture, and experimental sounds.”

“Premiering a new piece of music is the most exciting and vital work an orchestra can be involved with,” said Christopher Barton, Executive Director of the Flagstaff Symphony. “Our audience will be the first to hear Bruce’s music realized and the first people who can carry it with them into the future.” Speaking about his hopes for the concert experience, Reiprich said “I encourage the audience to listen in a creative way and to find worthwhile adventure in listening and being open to new sounds.”

The opening piece on program is William Grant Still’s Festive Overture, a patriotic and uplifting work composed in 1944. Still is considered “The Dean” of African-American composers and his library and archives are housed in Flagstaff.

Completing the program will be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the Pastorale Symphony.  Composed and premiered in tandem with his iconic Fifth Symphony, Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony has been described as “radical” and a work the pushed through the contemporary boundaries of symphonic form and performance. Beethoven wrote the Pastorale with explicit programmatic notes that describe a sentimental and joyful day in the Viennese countryside.

The concert, titled Breaking Boundaries, will take place at Ardrey Memorial Auditorium on Friday, January 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available online through the NAU Central Ticket Office or by calling 928-523-5661. This program is the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra’s annual Percival Lowell Concert and is sponsored by Michael and Karen Kitt.

Single Tickets on Sale

Single tickets to the 2014–15 Flagstaff Symphony concert season are now on sale through the NAU Central Ticket Office. Order online  or by phone: 928.523.5661

Subscription packages offer a savings of up to 20% off single ticket prices and are available through the first concert of the season, Symphonic Synthesis, on Friday, September 26th!

Pianists Rita Borden and Janice ChenJu Cheng
Pianists Rita Borden and Janice ChenJu Chiang will perform “Carnival of the Animals” on September 26th.  Photo by Betsey Bruner