Brahms Symphony No. 2
Saturday, January 8 at 7:30 pm
Sunday, January 9 at 3:00 pm
Hemmens Cultural Center, Elgin, IL
Sorry, tickets to this experience are no longer available.
Lidiya Yankovskaya, conductor
Schaghajegh Nosrati, piano
Wagner: Overture to Flying Dutchman WWV 63
Clara Schumann: Piano Concerto, op.7, A minor
Brahms: Symphony No 2, op.73, D major
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Health and Safety
The ESO is thrilled to return to the stage for an exciting 2021-2022 season! We look forward to welcoming you back to enjoy live performances with your Elgin Symphony Orchestra.
The health and safety of our musicians, staff, and you are paramount as we resume live concert experiences. As such, we have established the following policies in accordance with CDC and State of Illinois guidelines to best protect everyone who enters the concert hall:
- All audience members must provide proof of complete vaccination for COVID-19 prior to entering the concert venue, regardless if these were previously shown or submitted.
- Please bring your COVID-19 vaccination record to the performance (photos of both sides of the record are also accepted), as well as photo Identification.
- As currently mandated by the State of Illinois, concert attendees will be required to wear masks at all times within concert venues.
- Tickets will be on sale at the Hemmens Cultural Center one-hour prior to each performance. However, to be mindful of the safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, we encourage our patrons to purchase tickets in advance to prevent crowding within the venue.
- Pre-purchased tickets may be collected at Will Call on the day of the concert. Tickets purchased online the day of the concert will require proof of purchase.
We look forward to welcoming you back for a wonderful season of great music. If you have any questions, please contact our Box Office at 847-888-4000.
Russian-American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya is a fiercely committed advocate for Russian masterpieces, operatic rarities, and contemporary works on the leading edge of classical music. She has conducted more than 40 world premieres, including 16 operas, and her strength as an innovative and multi-faceted collaborator has brought together the worlds of puppetry, robotics, circus arts, symphonic repertoire, and opera onstage. As Music Director of Chicago Opera Theater, Ms. Yankovskaya has led the Chicago premieres of Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick, Rachmaninov’s Aleko, Joby Talbot’s Everest, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta, and the world premiere of Dan Shore’s Freedom Ride.
Elsewhere, she has recently conducted Don Giovanni at Seattle Opera, Pia de’ Tolomei at Spoleto Festival USA, Il barbiere di Siviglia at Wolf Trap Opera, Ellen West at New York’s Prototype Festival, and the world premiere of Taking Up Serpents at Washington National Opera. On the concert stage, she has been recently engaged with Chicago Philharmonic, Rhode Island Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of Mobile and Oviedo, Spain. Upcoming debuts include Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Glimmerglass Festival, Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, and Opera Seville.
Ms. Yankovskaya is Founder and Artistic Director of the Refugee Orchestra Project, which proclaims the cultural and societal relevance of refugees through music, and has brought that message to hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world. In addition to a National Sawdust residency in Brooklyn, ROP has performed in London, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the United Nations. She has also served as Artistic Director of the Boston New Music Festival and Juventas New Music Ensemble, which was the recipient of multiple NEA grants and National Opera Association Awards under her leadership.
As Music Director of Harvard’s Lowell House Opera, Ms. Yankovskaya conducted sold-out performances of repertoire rarely heard in Boston, including Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the U.S. Russian-language premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden. Her commitment to exploring the breadth of symphonic and operatic repertoire has also been demonstrated in performances of Rachmaninoff’s Aleko and the American premieres of Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei, Rubinshteyn’s The Demon, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Kashchej The Immortal and Symphony No. 1.
An alumna of the Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors and the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, Ms. Yankovskaya has also served as assistant conductor to Lorin Maazel, chorus master of Boston Symphony Orchestra, and conductor of Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. She has been featured in the League of American Orchestras Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview and Cabrillo Festival for Contemporary Music, and assisted Vladimir Jurowski via a London Philharmonic fellowship.
Ms. Yankovskaya holds a B.A. in Music and Philosophy from Vassar College, with a focus on piano, voice, and conducting, and earned an M.M. in Conducting from Boston University. Her conducting teachers and mentors have included Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, Kenneth Kiesler, and Ann Howard Jones.
Ms. Yankovskaya’s belief in the importance of mentorship has fueled the establishment of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative, an investment in new opera that includes a two-year residency for emerging opera composers. Committed to developing the next generation of artistic leaders, she also volunteers with Turn The Spotlight, a foundation dedicated to identifying, nurturing, and empowering leaders – and in turn, to illuminating the path to a more equitable future in the arts.
Recipient of Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards in 2018 and 2021, Ms. Yankovskaya has been a featured speaker at the League of American Orchestras and Opera America conferences, and served as U.S. Representative to the 2018 World Opera Forum in Madrid.
For more information: https://lidiyayankovskaya.com
Schaghajegh Nosrati was born in Bochum in 1989. She has become known as an extremely versatile musician; that she could establish herself as a concert pianist in early years is due to her excellent reputation as an interpreter of Bach´s music. Her International breakthrough came in 2014 as an award winner at the International Bach Competition in Leipzig and particularly through her increasing musical collaboration with Sir András Schiff who praised the “astonishing clarity, purity and maturity” as well as the musical comprehension associated with it when she plays Bach.
After many years of working with Rainer M. Klaas, Schaghajegh Nosrati was admitted to the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media as a young student of Einar Steen-Nökleberg. She completed her master´s degree under Christopher Oakden in 2015 and her artist diploma under Ewa Kupiec in 2017. She completed another artist diploma degree in 2020 as a student of Sir András Schiff at the Barenboim-Said-Academy in Berlin. Robert Levin, Murray Perahia and Daniel Barenboim gave her further artistic inspiration.
Between 1998 and 2018, she performed as a guest at international music festivals such as the Festival International Echternach, the Schumannfest Düsseldorf and the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad. Further performances followed at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, the NDR Kleine Sendesaal in Hannover, the Gewandhaus Leipzig, the Anneliese Brost Musikforum Ruhr in Bochum, the Beethovenhaus Bonn, the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, Tonhalle Zurich, 92nd Street Y in New York, Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona as well as at the Berliner Philharmonie (with the Mitteldeutsches Kammerorchester, the Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin and the Bochumer Symphoniker).
In 2017, she had her first concert tour in China including debut performances in Shanghai and Beijing. Furthermore she was invited to play a concert tour with Sir András Schiff and Capella Andrea Barca in 2018 with performances in Dortmund (Konzerthaus), Düsseldorf (Tonhalle), Luxembourg (Philharmonie), Brussels (Palais des Beaux Arts), Vienna (Musikverein), Baden-Baden (Festspielhaus), Salzburg (Stiftung Mozarteum), Bratislawa (Philharmonic Concert Hall), Lucerne (KKL) and Hamburg (Elbphilharmonie).
In 2019 she took the Pierre Boulez stage in Berlin in place of Radu Lupu who had to withdraw from his recital due to illness.
The German label Genuin Classics has released two highly acclaimed CD´s with Schaghajegh Nosrati. In 2015 she recorded her debut album with J.S. Bach´s ” Art of Fugue”. Her second album (released in autumn 2017) is a recording of Bach´s piano concertos BWV 1052-1054 played with Deutsches Kammerorchester Berlin.
In October 2019 the German label CAvi Music has released the pianist´s third CD with a selection of piano solo works (amongst others the “Concerto pour piano Seul”) by Charles Valentin Alkan.
After having taught as a lecturer in Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media from 2015 to 2019, she became a faculty member of the Barenboim-Said-Academy in Berlin in 2020 as the teaching assistant of Sir András Schiff.
For more information: https://www.nosrati-pianist.com/english
Program Notes by Daniel Maki
Overture to Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)
by Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)
Richard Wagner’s mastery of theatrical drama may have been the wonder of his age, but it might be added that his private life contained its own share of drama as well. One of his more picaresque adventures occurred in the summer of 1839 when, having lost his job as music director of the theater in Riga, today the capital of Latvia, he decided to leave to try his luck in Paris. Complicating the matter was the fact that the 26 year old composer had already adopted the extravagant life style that would be one of his trademarks and creditors were nipping at his heels (as indeed they would continue to do for decades to come). His passport had been seized in deference to his pursuers, leaving him no choice but to escape under cover of night, crossing illegally with his pregnant wife into Prussia where the couple would board a ship whose captain did not require a passport. Frau Wagner’s miscarriage was only the beginning of their troubles as the ship that was to carry them across the North Sea to London encountered violent storms, causing what was normally an eight day trip to last three weeks.
In a curious way, real life adventure would meet theatrical adventure on this trip. As they battled the dangerous sea, the sailors on the boat regaled Wagner with stories of the Flying Dutchman, a legend which had long been part of European folk lore and which the composer had very likely heard in childhood. According to legend, the Dutchman was cursed to roam the stormy seas in his phantom ship for all eternity as punishment for blasphemy. Having experienced the real dangers of sea travel, Wagner was particularly impressed by the legend and it was not long before he began to imagine a musical rendering of it. As Wagner himself put it, the legend “took on a distinctive, strange coloring that only my sea adventures could have given it.”
As it happened, Wagner’s nearly three year stay in Paris was a disappointment, as he struggled to make a living and had his hopes dashed for a staging of one of his operas. The time was not wasted however, as he managed to finish his third opera Rienzi, begun earlier, but also to turn his recent sea adventure into what would be his fourth opera, The Flying Dutchman. In 1842 he returned to his German homeland, settling in Dresden, where he would live for the next six years. There he would finally have premieres of Rienzi in 1842, and The Flying Dutchman in 1843. (Incidentally, in 1849 when a warrant for his arrest was issued for his involvement in left-wing revolutionary activities, Wagner would leave Germany for many years. But thereby hangs another melodramatic tale.)
There were a number of available literary versions of the legend but, despite his infamous anti-Semitism, Wagner turned to the Jewish poet Heinrich Heine for the version that he would use for his libretto, which, as usual, was written by himself. Heine’s version included an element which would become one of the most important themes throughout Wagner’s entire output, the redemptive power of love. In Wagner’s final version, an angel has offered the Dutchman the possibility of redemption: every seven years he would be washed up to shore and the curse would be lifted if he could find a wife who would be faithful to him. The Dutchman meets another sailor named Daland, who has an unmarried daughter named Senta. When the Dutchman asks for her hand in marriage, also offering gold, Daland readily accepts the offer. After they meet, Senta, who had already been fascinated by stories of the Dutchman, swears that she will be truthful to him until death. The Dutchman believes at first that he has been saved but when he hears Erik, Senta’s boyfriend and suitor, begging her to remain with him, he feels betrayed and begins to leave in his ship. Senta dives into the ocean to her death but suddenly the ship disappears, and the couple are united as they rise to heaven.
The Flying Dutchman was a turning point in Wagner’s career and today is generally considered to be his first genuine and original masterpiece. The dramatic overture became a popular number by itself on orchestra programs already in Wagner’s lifetime and has been heard by many symphony goers who may never have seen the opera itself. As has frequently been the case in opera, the overture was the last part of the opera to be finished, a perfectly logical development here for the overture serves as an introduction to the main characters and gives a kind of synopsis of the plot in purely instrumental terms.
The overture quickly introduces us to the Dutchman’s theme, a majestic fanfare-like figure in a dark minor key played by the horns and bassoons, accompanied by storm music. Not long afterwards the mood changes dramatically as the woodwinds, beginning with the English horn, give us the serene and prayerful melody that represents Senta. Having presented the main themes, like a typical movement in sonata form the music then proceeds to a development section in which thematic fragments are combined and developed and given extra dramatic power by storm music. A bit of comic relief is given by a jolly sailors’ dance and then we move to the closing section. Here the Dutchman’s theme is eventually heard in a more optimistic major key intertwined by fragments of Senta’s theme which seem to act like a symbolic musical version of a loving embrace. In his usual purple prose Wagner says that this music represents the Dutchman as he “rises from the waves, redeemed and whole, led by his redemptress’s hand to the dawn of an exalted love.”
Piano Concerto, op.7, A minor
by Clara Schumann (1819-96)
Although Robert Schumann was not destined to fulfill his early ambition to become a great pianist, he had the good sense to marry one. Clara Wieck Schumann was one of the most important pianists of the nineteenth century and an accomplished composer in her own right as well as a devoted wife and the mother of eight children.
After her husband’s tragic mental illness and premature death she would outlive him by forty years, becoming something of a musical dowager empress, serving as the muse of the conservative wing of the Romantic movement, doing battle against the radical Liszt-Wagner faction and spreading the gospel of her beloved Robert’s music and high artistic ideals. For the rest of her life, so the story goes, she performed dressed in black in his memory with head bowed almost to the keys.
The many injustices forced upon the fair sex over the centuries include, alas, discrimination in matters musical. The playing of keyboard instruments has traditionally been considered “ladylike”, but for some reason composition was long deemed to be in the masculine domain. Thus it is that gifted musicians like Mozart’s sister Maria Anna and Felix Mendelssohn’s sister Fanny were denied the opportunity to develop their skills as fully as their siblings. (Some of Fanny’s music was published under her famous brother’s name.) Sadly, there is no real nineteenth century musical equivalent to writers such as Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters, whose work rather quickly entered the canon of literary masterpieces.
Clara Schumann actually fared well against such odds. Over the course of her long career she produced a substantial amount of music in various genres. After her husband’s death, her output declined and she largely devoted herself to proselytizing on behalf of Robert’s work. Her music was largely forgotten until the last few decades of the twentieth century, a time when many contemporary women composers were making important contributions to our musical life, and there was great interest in discovering unfairly neglected women composers.
Clara Schumann was a child prodigy pianist, making her debut at the age of nine, but also a prodigy composer. She began work on her piano concerto in 1833 at the age of thirteen, finishing a substantial one movement work, which she performed several times. That movement would become the finale of her concerto and over the next several years she would add the first and second movements. She premiered the full work in 1835 at the age of sixteen with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Felix Mendelssohn.
The concerto opens with a brief orchestral introduction in dramatically somber style in the key of A minor, the same key incidentally, as that of her husband’s much beloved piano concerto. The soloist then enters with one of the Romantic period’s favorite flamboyant piano techniques, thundering octaves. (These are played with the first and fifth fingers of each hand – they are sometime known jocularly in the trade as “air hammer octaves”.) The piano then takes control of the musical argument in a style that those familiar with Chopin’s music will recognize: poetic lyricism and elegant filigree passage work. Young Clara Wieck was well acquainted with Chopin’s style.
An orchestral postlude ends the movement and leads directly without pause into the second movement, called a Romanze, a term that had long been used for tenderly lyrical and personal music. Here the orchestra drops out as the piano plays all alone in lyrical, dreamy style until joined by a solo cello, which then takes over the melody while the piano serves as accompaniment. This movement again leads without pause into the stormy finale, a movement which has something of the character of a Chopin polonaise, a Polish dance in stately triple time. After journeying through various keys, the music returns to the key of A minor with a spectacular virtuosic ending.
This long-neglected work would be a substantial achievement for a composer of any age let alone a teenager. The mind boggles at what this remarkable person might have achieved at a different time.
Symphony No 2, op.73, D major
by Johannes Brahms (1833 -1897)
Johannes Brahms labored mightily at his first symphony, taking some twenty odd years and much self-doubt to finish it. As the story famously goes, he was all too aware of working in Beethoven’s shadow, writing once to a friend “you have no idea what it feels like to have him marching behind you.” When the symphony finally saw the light of day in 1876, one wag called it “Beethoven’s Tenth”, and its grandiose, rugged, meat-and-potatoes style placed its forty-three year old composer firmly in the great Austro-German tradition of symphonic writing.
Brahms must have gained considerable confidence from the experience, for it was not long before he again plunged into symphonic writing. This time, most of the Second Symphony was dashed off in the summer of 1877 while the composer was sting in the little Austrian resort village of Portsach. The work was completed in the fall and received its premiere with the Vienna Philharmonic in December of the same year.
It was not long before the new symphony began to be called Brahms’ “pastoral” symphony, a designation used by many commentators since. Compared to the stormy minor key quality of the First Symphony his new work did seem relatively sunny and lyrical. That said, however, it should be said that the Second Symphony is a work of considerable grandeur and complexity in its own right, and that Brahms, even at his sunniest, often reveals the melancholy side of his nature.
The first movement begins with a three note figure that, as has often been pointed out, is used for the construction of many of the themes of the entire work. Also noteworthy is the triple meter of the movement, a time signature unusual for the opening movement of a symphony of large proportions. Many commentators have mentioned that the dance-like character of some of the themes is reminiscent of Schubert. Less often noted is the fact that Brahms was a great admirer of Johann Strauss, and that he was possibly evoking in his own way the spirit of the Viennese waltz. (This observation was made by none other than Brahms’ archrival, Richard Wagner himself, who gleefully blasted Brahms for the indiscretion.)
The deeply contemplative slow movement forms the center of gravity of the symphony and contains its most somber emotions. The mood changes abruptly in the third movement, however, which is easily the most pastoral of the symphony. In the classical symphonic scheme, the third movement is the dance movement and Brahms evokes that tradition here both with references to the minuet of the days of Haydn and Mozart as well as the faster Beethovenian scherzo.
The finale begins coyly, with a busy whispering figure somewhat reminiscent of the bucolic humor of Haydn. The music soon erupts, however, into one of the most joyous and skillful movements in all of Brahms or, for that matter, in all of symphonic music.Adding to the fun are some of Brahms’ well known rhythmic complexities, including syncopation and cross rhythms which propel the music to its conclusion in a blaze of D major glory in the entire brass section.