Category Archives: FSO News

Part Four: The Concerto


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!



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


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.

Search Opens for FSO Music Director

The Flagstaff Symphony Association welcomes nominations and applications for the position of Music Director, available beginning in the 2017–2018 season.

The Position

The Music Director reports directly to the board and is responsible for the fulfillment of the orchestra’s artistic potential and its image in the community. In collaboration with the board and staff, s/he is responsible for the repertoire, programming, and artistic production, and has primary authority for the selection, development, and replacement of musicians, in accordance with the orchestra policy. As the orchestra’s artistic leader, s/he must build and sustain the orchestra’s visibility and involvement in the community. The Music Director is expected to work closely with the Executive Director, board president, board committees, and staff in carrying out these responsibilities and to participate actively in the orchestra’s fundraising activities.

Candidate Profile

Candidates must possess exceptional musicianship and conducting skills; significant professional conducting experience, including work with professional musicians and knowledge of a broad range of repertoire. Ideal candidates will also demonstrate strong interpersonal, leadership, and communication skills; enthusiasm for and experience with music education and community engagement; vision, passion, and ability to make symphonic music relevant and exciting for existing and new audiences. Candidates should be prepared to commit to engaging with the Flagstaff community. Previous or current music directorship or comparable experience preferred.

The Orchestra

The mission of the Flagstaff Symphony Association is to enrich, engage, and inspire our community through the performance of orchestral music.

The Flagstaff Symphony resides within Coconino County and serves as the professional orchestra for northern Arizona. Now celebrating its 66th season, the Flagstaff Symphony is the largest and most active nonprofit performing arts organization in the region. What began in 1950 as a small community ensemble has developed into a regional orchestra of 65 musicians that reaches an audience of more than 14,000 each year. The orchestra’s season includes six symphonic subscription concerts, a holiday production of The Nutcracker, an outdoor summer pops concert, and three concerts for elementary school students offered through partnership with the Link Up program of the Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute. Subscription concerts are performed in the 1,330 seat Ardrey Memorial Auditorium on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

The Flagstaff Symphony is governed by a 21-member board of directors and is supported by a professional administrative staff. The Flagstaff Symphony Guild comprises more than 100 volunteer members who support the orchestra through fundraising projects and special events while increasing visibility throughout the community. The Flagstaff Symphony has operated debt-free with a balanced budget for the past two seasons. The current operating budget is $650,000 and the orchestra has an endowment of $360,000. Former music directors include Harold Weller, Randall Craig Fleischer, and Elizabeth Schulze (who concludes her nine-year tenure in the 2016-2017 season).

Flagstaff and northern Arizona offer an inspirational combination of natural wonders, cultural traditions, and rich artistic life. This four-season community of 65,000 residents is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet on the Colorado Plateau, near the base of the majestic San Francisco Peaks and Mt. Elden, and within the largest contiguous Ponderosa pine forest in North America. Flagstaff is the home of Northern Arizona University, the Museum of Northern Arizona, and Lowell Observatory. Nearby attractions include the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Sedona, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, and Arizona Snowbowl. Flagstaff is also the closest major city in Arizona to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Native American Reservation.


Competitive salary commensurate with experience and qualifications

Application Procedure

This position will commence with the 2017-2018 season. As part of the search process, FSO plans to invite candidates as guest conductors for the 2016-2017 season.

Applications should be submitted by email to no later than September 30, 2015.

The subject header of the email should read “Music Director Search” followed by the candidate’s name in parentheses. Example: Music Director Search (Jane Doe)

The application must include a personal letter of interest and statement of artistic vision, a CV (including a current repertoire list and names and contact information for three references), and links to video recordings (which must include at least one rehearsal). Please do not include materials that are not specifically requested.

The Flagstaff Symphony Association is dedicated to recruiting, hiring, developing, compensating, and promoting the best qualified individuals for positions within the organization. The Association provides equal employment opportunity to all employees and applicants.


FSO Musician Auditions: September 1st, 2nd, & 3rd

The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra announces auditions for the 2015-16 season.


Tuesday, September 1 (winds, percussion, and brass)
Wednesday, September 2 (violin, viola)
Thursday, September 3 (cello, double bass)

Northern Arizona University School of Music

Second Oboe
Section Horn
Section Percussion
Section Strings

Audition Material:
Excerpts are available online.

Call: 928-774-5107 x102

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


Guild Presents Annual Home Tour August 8th

The Annual Home Tour is a major fundraising initiative of the Flagstaff Symphony Guild. Tickets are $35 and provide individuals access to five distinctive Flagstaff homes.

Saturday, August 8th, 2015 | 10am – 4pm

The 2015 Home Tour features the historic Colton House, the original home of Museum of Northern Arizona founders Dr. Harold S. Colton and wife Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton. Built in 1929, it is a 6,000 square-foot Spanish colonial revival-style rock lodge constructed by Hopi craftsmen using local materials, malpais rock, Ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir. The Colton House is included in the National Register of Historic Places as an outstanding example of regional architecture featuring clay tiles, incised beams, beehive fireplaces, and wrought iron detailing and, most recently, was named as one of the Flagstaff’s Iconic 50.

Colton House

For information about the Home Tour and to purchase tickets, contact any of the following Flagstaff Symphony Guild members:

Mary Hostetler – 928-522-0549 or 928-699-7478
Gwen Randolph – 928.526-6058
Marilyn Stratton – 928-522-8288

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!

Elizabeth Schulze will pass the baton in 2017 after nine seasons

Maestra Elizabeth Schulze, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, has announced that she will conclude her tenure with the FSO at the end of her current contract in the 2016-2017 season. At the time she passes the baton to her successor, Maestra Schulze will have been at the helm of the FSO for nine seasons.

“I am so grateful for and proud of the time I have spent with this wonderful orchestra and its supportive community” Schulze said. “Together, we have expanded and diversified our repertoire and created new audiences for the great music that we play. I am looking forward to returning to an active guest conducting schedule along with my ongoing duties as Music Director of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra.”

During her tenure, Schulze has led the orchestra through a period of artistic growth, increased community engagement, and national acclaim. In 2013 she was honored for her work with the FSO with the Medallion in Conducting awarded by the Sorel Charitable Organization, a non-profit that advances the role of women in music. A champion of music in education, Schulze is also responsible for bringing educational concerts back to the annual offering of the FSO through an ongoing partnership with the Carnegie Hall “Link Up” program.

“It has been my honor and pleasure to work with Elizabeth for the past two seasons,” said FSO Executive Director Christopher Barton. “She is a remarkable artist who brings unmatched passion and generosity to her work. Though I will truly miss our partnership, I know I can look forward to celebrating her future accomplishments.”

“Maestra Schulze has a fantastic upcoming season planned for our audience,” said FSO Board President Carl Taylor. “We are grateful for the tremendous growth of our organization under her leadership over the past seven years and for the continuity her presence through the 2016-2017 season provides.” The Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra 2015-2016 season, its 66th, opens on September 25th with guest soloist Rachel Barton Pine performing the Brahms Violin Concerto.

The FSO Board of Directors is moving forward immediately to form a committee to search for Schulze’s successor.