GREAT PERFORMERS PRESENTS THE PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, MANFRED HONECK, MUSIC DIRECTOR, WITH WORKS BY PROKOFIEV AND TCHAIKOVSKY AND THE N.Y. PREMIERE OF SILENT SPRING BY STEVEN STUCKY, FEBRUARY 26
Violinist Hilary Hahn to perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) and its music director, Manfred Honeck, come to New York for Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series, Sunday, February 26 at 3 PM. Maestro Honeck and the PSO bring a new, commissioned work and two favorites of the symphonic repertoire to this Avery Fisher Hall concert.
Brilliant American virtuoso Hilary Hahn joins the orchestra for Prokofiev’s soaring Violin Concerto No. 1. A highlight of the concert will be the New York premiere of Silent Spring, a one-movement orchestral tone poem in four sections, commissioned for the PSO’s Composer of the Year, Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky. It marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the groundbreaking work on environmental toxins, Silent Spring, which was written by Pittsburgh native Rachel Carson.
Rounding off the PSO’s program is a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, written when the composer’s health was increasingly problematic. Although he never indicated that the symphony had a programmatic basis (as he did for his Fourth Symphony), his personal notes in the score and the work’s progression from minor to major key seem to some scholars to represent the composers personal struggles to accept the state of his health and his homosexuality.
Tickets: Tickets priced at $35, 55, 62 and 77 are available online at LincolnCenter.org, by calling CenterCharge at 212-721-6500 or by visiting the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office on Broadway and 65th Street. Ticket prices are subject to change.
BNY Mellon is a Proud Sponsor of Great Performers
Notes on Silent Spring (2011), for orchestra by Steven Stucky:
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was serialized in The New Yorker beginning in June 1962, then published in book form that September. It was not the celebrated marine biologist’s first bestseller: that had been The Sea Around Us in 1951. But with Silent Spring she galvanized public opinion and earned a permanent place in twentieth-century American history. Those years around 1960 saw an intense intersection between scientific progress and public discourse: the incontrovertible link between smoking and lung cancer (first established in 1950, but widely known a few years later); the first manned space flights in 1961 by Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepherd; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed in 1963. The world view of my own generation, just coming of age in those years, was strongly shaped by these discourses, including of course the one about conservation and the environment, still ongoing, that Rachel Carson helped so forcefully to launch.
I was delighted, therefore, to be asked to create this musical tribute. But I was perplexed, too: how to make a connection between science and music, or more to the point between her science and my music? I reread Silent Spring and Carson’s other work, and I reveled again in the distinctive mixture of hard science and eloquent lyricism that defines her voice. But how to make music about that?
I didn’t try to. Instead, I gathered together four of Carson’s own titles: The Sea Around Us; The Lost Wood and Rivers of Death (both chapter titles in Silent Spring); and Silent Spring itself. With these phrases as cues, I could fashion a work that tries to create its own dramatic and emotional journey from beginning to end, without referring specifically to any scientific details.
The result is music at once “abstract” and “programmatic” (admittedly fuzzy terms). The Sea Around Us is murky water music: it rises from the depths of the orchestra until it reaches a grand but melancholy chorale evoking the vast expanses of the sea. The Lost Wood calls forth a desolate chaconne (i.e., a set of variations over a cyclic chord progression). The somber atmosphere grows more and more intense until it leads to a short, scathing scherzo, Rivers of Death. This diabolical “death scherzo,” too, escalates until it cannot go any further, instead bursting into the ecstatic mass singing that begins the final section, Silent Spring. But — like the insects and birds that Rachel Carson wrote about — one by one those ecstatic orchestral voices fall quiet. We are left with near-silence.
Rachel Carson’s trenchant writing gave us facts and figures, gave us marching orders, gave us the heart to change some of our habits. But, like all great writing, it also gave us the spiritual and psychological space in which to contemplate our own thoughts about the world around us, about our own place in that world, about our own hopes and fears. Music can aspire to do the same. It cannot — should not attempt to — explain, preach, proselytize, comment on external life. Its domain is emotional life, not “real” life. It is non-specific, non-semantic, non-representational. But music aspires to (and my Silent Spring aspires to) grant us access to our deepest emotional planes, to that region where — beyond words, beyond numbers, beyond theories and proofs — we live our fullest lives.
Manfred Honeck was born in Austria and studied music at the Academy of Music in Vienna. An accomplished violinist and violist, he spent more than ten years as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. It is this experience that has heavily influenced his conducting and has helped give it a distinctive stamp.
After several highly successful guest appearances leading the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, he was appointed its ninth Music Director and began his tenure at the start of the 2008/2009 season. Only two years later his contract was extended until 2016. Formerly principal conductor of the Zurich Opera and the MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, and Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Honeck has been garnering praise for the new vigor and vibrancy he’s brought to the PSO. Musical America recently commented, “A brilliant orchestra flourishes.” And The Washington Post said, “The PSO must be ranked among the very best orchestras in the country.”
After performances at Carnegie Hall and a much-celebrated tour of European musical capitals in 2010, Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra returned to Europe again in August and September 2011 for appearances at the major music festivals. Honeck’s successful work in Pittsburgh is captured on CD by the audiophile Japanese label Exton. So far, Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben have been released to critical acclaim.
In 2010, Honeck earned an honorary doctorate from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Apart from his numerous tasks as conductor, he has been Artistic Director of the “International Concerts Wolfegg” in Germany for more than 15 years.
For more than 115 years, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) has been an essential part of Pittsburgh’s cultural landscape. The PSO, known for its artistic excellence, is credited with a rich history of the world’s finest conductors and musicians, and a strong commitment to the Pittsburgh region and its citizens.
Heading the list of internationally recognized conductors to have led the PSO is Victor Herbert, Music Director between 1898 and 1904, who influenced the early development of the PSO. Preceding Herbert was Frederic Archer (1896-1899), the first Pittsburgh Orchestra Conductor. The Orchestra’s solidification as an American institution took place in the late 1930s under the direction of Maestro Otto Klemperer. Conductors prior to Klemperer were Emil Paur (1904-1910), Elias Breeskin (1926-1930) and Antonio Modarelli (1930-1937). From 1938 to 1948, under the dynamic directorship of Fritz Reiner, the Orchestra embarked on a new phase of its history, making its first international tour and its first commercial recording.
The PSO’s standard of excellence was maintained and enhanced through the inspired leadership of William Steinberg during his quarter-century as Music Director between 1952 and 1976. André Previn (1976-1984) led the Orchestra to new heights through tours, recordings and television, including the PBS series, Previn and the Pittsburgh. Lorin Maazel began his relationship with the PSO in 1984 as Music Consultant but later served as a highly regarded Music Director from 1988-1996. As Music Director from 1997-2004, Mariss Jansons furthered the artistic growth of the orchestra, and upon his departure, the PSO created an innovative leadership model with Artistic Advisor Sir Andrew Davis, Principal Guest Conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and Endowed Guest Conductor Chair Marek Janowski. These three conductors formed the primary artistic leadership for the Orchestra until January 2007, when the PSO selected Honeck to take the reins at the start of the 2008-2009 season.
With a long and distinguished history of touring both domestically and overseas since 1900, the PSO continues to be critically acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest orchestras. With more than 35 international tours, including 19 European tours, eight trips to the Far East, and two to South America, a Far East Tour in 2002 marked first-time concerts for the Orchestra in Kuala Lumpur and Australia. Reaching a global audience, the PSO was the first American orchestra to perform at the Vatican in January 2004 for the late Pope John Paul II, as part of the Pontiff’s Silver Jubilee celebration. In May 2009, the PSO embarked on a four concert tour of Asia, a trip which included debut performances in Shanghai, China and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in addition to the first stop in Beijing, China since 1987. Then in September 2009, the Orchestra toured Europe with stops in Essen and Bonn, Germany before closing the prestigious Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. International touring is made possible by the Hillman Endowment for International Performances. Major support also has been provided by BNY Mellon.
Since 2006, the PSO has partnered with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its marketing affiliate, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, to use international tours to open doors for economic development and foreign direct investment discussions. The partnership, unique among American orchestras, has resulted in numerous investments in the Pittsburgh region.
The Orchestra also enjoys an equally distinguished record of domestic tours, which over the years have showcased the orchestra in all of America’s major cities and music centers, including frequent performances at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The PSO has a long and illustrious history in the areas of recordings and radio concerts. As early as 1936, the PSO broadcast coast-to-coast, receiving increased national attention in 1982 through its series of network radio broadcasts by Public Radio International, produced by WQED-FM 89.3 in Pittsburgh.
Starting with the release of its first commercial recording in 1941, the PSO has made hundreds of critically acclaimed recordings. They are available on the PentaTone, EMI, Angel, CBS, Philips, MCA, New World, Nonesuch, Sony Classical and Telarc labels. The orchestra with Lorin Maazel conducting and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, won a 1992 Grammy Award for a Sony Classical disc featuring works by Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. Cinema Serenade, a CD with John Williams conducting and Itzhak Perlman performing celebrated film scores, reached No. 1 on the Billboard crossover chart. The PSO’s newest recordings include Mahler’s 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th symphonies, part of a projected complete cycle of Mahler symphonies with Music Director Manfred Honeck on the Exton label, as well as a complete Brahms cycle with Guest Conductor Marek Janowski for the Pentatone label.
This Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra tour performance is sponsored by the Alcoa Foundation.
At 31 years old, violinist Hilary Hahn is the recipient of two Grammies, multiple Diapason d’Or of the Year and Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik prizes, and the 2008 Classic FM / Gramophone Artist of the Year Award. She has graced the covers of all major music publications and in January 2010, appeared on The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien.
Hahn began her 2011-2012 season with a performance for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s opening gala concert and continues orchestral appearances throughout the season with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, the Camerata Salzburg, and the Houston, San Francisco, and Montreal symphony orchestras, among many others.
In the 15 years since she began recording, Hahn has released 12 albums on the Deutsche Grammophon and Sony labels, in addition to three DVDs, an Oscar-nominated movie soundtrack, an award-winning recording for children, and various compilations. In repertoire ranging from Bach to Korngold, her recordings have received every critical prize in the international press. Her latest album, Charles Ives: Four Sonatas, was released in October 2011.
Hahn shows her commitment to contemporary music with her In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. For this project, she commissioned more than two dozen composers to write short-form pieces for acoustic violin and piano. She will premiere these works in the U.S. and Europe with long-time recital partner Valentina Lisitsa over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, recording them for release in 2013-2014.Twenty-six leading international composers will be featured in the project, with the final composer to be decided in a non-traditional fashion.
An avid writer and interviewer, Hahn posts journal entries for young musicians and concertgoers on her website, hilaryhahn.com. She also produces a YouTube channel, youtube.com/hilaryhahnvideos, and serves as guest host for the contemporary classical music blog Sequenza21. Elsewhere, her violin case comments on life as a traveling companion, on Twitter: twitter.com/violincase.
Support for Great Performers is provided by Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser, The Shubert Foundation, ArtsVision, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, E. Nakamichi Foundation, Great Performers Circle, Chairman’s Council, and Friends of Lincoln Center.
Public support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts.
Endowment support for Symphonic Masters is provided by the Leon Levy Foundation.
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