The WFSO once again will welcome the brilliant Italian pianist, Alessio Bax, for a powerful ending to the 74th concert season. Tchaikovsky’s “Little Russian” will delight with its intense harmonic colors and flowing beauty. The climax of the evening will be experienced as Alessio Bax brings his musical sensitivity and smooth touch to the intensely romantic Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1. Don’t miss this memorable season finale!
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Little Russian”
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in d, Op 15
Guest Artist: Alessio Bax
Alessio Bax, piano
Combining exceptional lyricism and insight with consummate technique, Alessio Bax is without a doubt “among the most remarkable young pianists now before the public” (Gramophone). He catapulted to prominence with First Prize wins at both the Leeds and Hamamatsu International Piano Competitions, and is now a familiar face on five continents, not only as a recitalist and chamber musician, but also as a concerto soloist who has appeared with more than 150 orchestras, including the London, Royal, and St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestras, the Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati, Sydney, and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, and the NHK Symphony in Japan, collaborating with such eminent conductors as Marin Alsop, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Simon Rattle, Yuri Temirkanov, and Jaap van Zweden.
Bax constantly explores many facets of his career. He released his eleventh Signum Classics album, Italian Inspirations, whose program was also the vehicle for his solo recital debut at New York’s 92nd Street Y as well as on tour. Bax and his regular piano duo partner, Lucille Chung, gave recitals at New York’s Lincoln Center and were featured with the St. Louis Symphony and Stéphane Denève. He has also presented the complete works of Beethoven for cello and piano with cellist Paul Watkins in New York City. This summer is highlighted by his fifth season as Artistic Director of Tuscany’s Incontri in Terra di Siena festival as well as return appearances at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival and at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival with the Dallas Symphony and Fabio Luisi conducting.
Bax revisited Mozart’s K. 491 and K. 595 concertos, as heard on Alessio Bax Plays Mozart, for his recent debuts with the Boston and Melbourne Symphonies, both with Sir Andrew Davis, and with the Sydney Symphony, which he led himself from the keyboard. Recent seasons also saw Bax make his solo recital debut at London’s Wigmore Hall, which aired live on BBC Radio 3, and give concerts at L.A.’s Disney Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
At age 14, Bax graduated with top honors from the conservatory of Bari, his hometown in Italy, and after further studies in Europe, he moved to the United States in 1994. A Steinway artist, he lives in New York City with pianist Lucille Chung and their daughter, Mila. He was invited to join the piano faculty of Boston’s New England Conservatory in the fall of 2019.
“Bax Plays Brahms”
April 29, 2022
Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto #1 in D, Op. 15 (1858)
By the time Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) wrote his first piano concerto, Romanticism and Classical forms had nearly run their course. Just around the corner lay the impressionism of Claude Debussy, the rhythmic drive of Igor Stravinsky, and the atonality of Arnold Schoenberg. Although Brahms turned a frequent backwards glance to the Classical and Romantic traditions of Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann more often than pushing the artistic envelope, his music did have a subtle impact on what was to come. Unfortunately, though, not to the extent that Robert Schumann had hoped for when writing publically, shortly after meeting the 20 year old compositional upstart at his home in Düsseldorf for the first time in 1853, that Brahms “vouchsafed to give the highest and most ideal expression to the tendencies of the times.” That’s a heavy weight for any young artist to bear.
Add to that the awful sting of being hissed at rather than applauded following the first two performances of the Piano Concerto #1 in D, and it certainly would be “rather too much,” as he wrote to Joseph Joachim about his first major orchestral work in which he himself admits he was “only experimenting and feeling [his] way.” It didn’t help that the concerto was infused to its compositional core with the pain of losing his new mentor to a suicide attempt and subsequent institutionalization in 1853—followed by his untimely death in 1857—while at the same time falling in love with said mentor’s wife, composer and musician Clara Schumann.
The concerto form, born of the Late Baroque period (1680-1750), is a work for one or more solo instruments and orchestra. In the hands of Mozart, the form reached an apotheosis of lyrical beauty based on back-and-forth dialogue between soloist and orchestra. Beethoven, while building on what Mozart, Haydn and other Classical composers created before him, expanded the form’s scale and pushed the dialogue between solo instrument and orchestra in new, more complex directions, inviting the soloist to jointly shape the material into a vast, more balanced dialogic structure. Brahms followed in Beethoven’s footsteps with his own concertos, making the soloist a nearly constant participant in symphonic dialogue, while still holding the spotlighted role.
The inspiration for Brahms’ first piano concerto was indeed tragic. Within a week after Schumann’s attempted suicide, Brahms began drafting what would eventually become, nearly five painful and guilt-ridden years later, his Piano Concerto #1. It was a long road to concertohood, however. The work started out its life as a sonata for two pianos, after which it was transformed into a four-movement symphony, becoming, finally, a three-movement concerto for the composer’s favorite instrument. Brahms held onto material from the original work’s first movement, composing the other two movements from scratch. After all, a lot happened between the work’s inception in 1853 and completion in 1858.
The first movement, marked “Maestoso,” follows the standard first-movement concerto form of exposition, development, recapitulation and coda; it is also one of the longest concerto movements in the repertoire, not to mention one of the most physically and mentally demanding on the pianist. The work opens with the agitated, swirling sounds of the strings and rumble of the tympani, surely inspired by Brahms’ memory of his new friend leaping to his hoped-for demise into the Rhine. Aside from the stormy emotional gestures that open the work, much of the first movement is, as the “Maestoso” designation indicates, majestic and dignified. While the opening surely captures the young composer’s emotional turmoil, we can also hear a young man early beset by not only tragedy, but also the understanding that he can’t bring his friend back, nor, apparently, stop loving his widow.
The latter can be heard in the slow second movement that, as Brahms wrote to Clara in 1857, is a “tender portrait” of her. Upon hearing the Adagio, Clara responded that “the whole piece has something churchly about it; it could be an Eleison.” Indeed, unbeknownst to her, Brahms, who had been studying Renaissance choral music, had earlier inscribed the words “Blessed, who comes in the name of the Lord” in Latin atop this sketch for this quietly impassioned middle movement whose lovely theme we hear introduced by the bassoons as it opens with serene string accompaniment. Three years earlier, Brahms had written to Clara saying, “I think of you as going to the concert hall like a high priestess to the altar.” No doubt this movement embodies the same feelings of love and admiration.
The final movement, which is the shortest of the three, is a Rondo marked “Allegro no troppo” (“fast, but not overly so”). Choosing the traditional rhythmically dynamic movement to close his first concerto, Brahms borrowed from the structure of the finale of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which was composed nearly sixty years earlier. As the finale emerges lighter and more vivacious than the hectic turmoil of the opening movement, we sense that however much the composer’s feelings for Clara have developed over time, he has, over the work’s five-year compositional period, also come to terms with the loss of what was sure to likewise become a deep and lasting friendship with her husband had it had time to more fully develop. Although composed in his youth, the Piano Concerto No. 1 is a bold and impassioned mature work that, as Schuman had written in his journal upon meeting Brahms, was composed by “a genius,” the true heir to Beethoven.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.2 in C minor (“Little Russian”), Op. 17 (1872; rev. 1879-80)
Ask anyone on the street who comes to mind when you say “classical music” and you’re sure to hear Tchaikovsky’s name at the top of the list, even if that list is only three composers deep. If we are using the word “classical” in its broadest sense, than yes, Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is indeed a composer of classical music, strings, woodwinds, brass and all. But if we are speaking historically, Tchaikovsky epitomizes everything held dear by the Romantic Era of which he played a major role. Another minor misconception is that he was a member of “The Mighty Handful,” a group of Russo-centric composers who eschewed the Western musical tradition, which included among its better-known members Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. What sets their Russian counterpart apart from “The Five,” as the group was alternately known, is their embrace of “orientalism,” or the adoption of Eastern themes and harmonies.
What sets them apart simultaneously links them together, interestingly, to the extent that Tchaikovsky likewise incorporated Russian peasant songs and themes into his compositions, though all the while with an ear back to the Western classicism of his favorite composer, Mozart. As such, it is mainly Tchaikovsky’s lyricism and glowing orchestral color that draws listeners to his symphonies, ballets, operas and concerti. Many critics of Tchaikovsky found his compositions at times too lyrical, passionate and emotional—some to the level of being banal—and though Tchaikovsky certainly does wear his heart on his sleeve, it seems that his attraction to Mozart kept him reigned in somewhat. When it comes to his symphonies, it is the last three he is known for. They are more brooding, moody, and tend to minor keys, whereas his first three are much lighter, which is perhaps why they do not get performed quite as often as the later ones.
Tchaikovsky wrote his Second Symphony while visiting the Ukrainian country estate of his sister in the summer of 1872—the first version, that it; it was revised five years later. Its subtitle, the “Little Russian,” refers to the fact that Tchaikovsky incorporated Ukrainian folk tunes into each of its four movements, which was more than any of his other orchestral compositions. It is the revised version, with its reworked opening movement and shortened finale that is most often heard today. The “Little Russian” opens with a horn playing the melody from the Russian folksong “Down Little Mother Volga” in its more melancholy Ukrainian iteration. The second movement is a march whose main theme was lifted from his own unpublished opera, Undine (1869). The third, an energetic and playful scherzo in ABA form. The finale opens with a grand brass introduction not dissimilar to the opening of the famous “Promenade” of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which was composed two years later. Following the opening, the theme emerges bit by bit after several restarts, taking wing as the Ukrainian folk tune “Let the Crane Soar.”
Join us for an inspiring celebration of the vast diversity and creativity that makes us who we are. From the sights and sounds of Mexico to the basic elements of jazz and blues and our Wild West roots, the music on this program exemplifies the very essence of America. Nicholas Bardonnay of Westwater Arts will join the WFSO for this special concert, presenting three dazzling photographic presentations: Mágico, Rodeo!, and a newly commissioned series featuring Wichitan Frank Yeager’s work, which will accompany Dvořák’s Largo from his famous Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”
Bernstein: Overture to Candide
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony)
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor: II. Largo
Copland: Rodeo – Four Dance Episodes
Guest Artist: Nicholas Bardonnay, of Westwater Arts
Nicholas Bardonnay, photographer & multimedia artist
Nicholas Bardonnay is a photographer, multimedia artist, and the Creative Director & CEO of Westwater Arts.
Founded in 1973, Westwater Arts has created multimedia experiences for more than one million classical music lovers. To date, over 195 U.S. and international orchestras have programmed their groundbreaking art form: symphonic photochoreography. Westwater Arts' visual repertoire is set to music by Dvořák, Mahler, Copland, Shostakovich and 22 other renowned composers.
Since joining Westwater Arts in 2009, Nicholas has photographed, produced, and performed over a dozen photochoreography pieces. Some recent projects have taken him to many of our beautiful national parks, Iceland, Mexico and the Czech Republic. His creative process begins with either a visual concept or a musical work, then he pairs one with the other. During concerts, Nicholas uses multiple digital projectors to fill a large panoramic screen with hundreds of tightly choreographed image transitions, which he live-cues from memory. He has worked on more than 120 concerts with orchestras in cities across the U.S. as well as Scotland, England, Singapore, Canada, Poland and Germany. When Nicholas is not traveling for concerts or photographing new “visual concertos,” you can usually find him on the road in his vintage Airstream or planning his next big bike adventure.
For this special concert with the WFSO, Nicholas is presenting three visuals concertos: Mágico, Rodeo!, and a newly commissioned piece featuring the photography of Wichita Falls’s own, Frank Yeager.
Mágico is choreographed to Moncayo’s Huapango—his most beloved work. The piece celebrates the beautiful diversity, warmth and cultural richness of our neighbor to the south, Mexico—both in music and images.
Transporting us to a place both familiar, and yet, one-of-a-kind, is the new WFSO commission exploring the grandeur of Yellowstone. This experience combines the timeless Largo movement from Dvořák’s New World Symphony with Frank Yeager’s wonderful photography spanning his many years documenting the special landscapes, plants and animals of America’s first national park.
Finally, closing out the concert is Rodeo!, which is set to Copland’s synonymous work. The piece portrays the excitement of a lively small-town rodeo from behind the scenes, with a backdrop of sweeping western landscapes and centuries of ranching heritage in the American West.
Learn more about Nicholas and his collaborative art form at WestwaterArts.com.
“Music in Pictures”
February 26, 2022
Leonard Bernstein: Overture to Candide (1955-56)
Along with being the first US-born conductor to head up a major American orchestra, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was also one of the most influential music advocates of the 20th century, writing, teaching, and regularly appearing on television. Equally as adept at composing and conducting popular music as he was with art-music, Bernstein’s unique style brings together the intellectual clarity of Stravinsky, the vitality of Gershwin, and the accessibility of Copland. As is often the case with new art, music and literature in America, the artwork has to wait awhile for society to catch up with it. Witness Candide, which was composed just two years before he took the helm of the New York Philharmonic from 1958-1969. Many listeners found the operetta too intellectual, thus Bernstein made extensive revisions two times over the next 30 years.
What really excited audiences was what Bernstein shared with them a year later—West Side Story. In the preceding years, though, Candide grew on folks. The “comic operetta,” as Bernstein labeled it, is based on the 1759 Voltaire novella of the same name about the misadventures of the young and naïve Candide. Clocking in at around only four minutes, the overture issues forth a bombastically eclectic collection of styles reflecting the various circumstances Candide finds himself in throughout the work. At times stylized and vaudevillian, the overture does its job in a rapid-fire way by at one and the same time forecasting the music to come, while also keeping us somewhat anchored by returning us to the lyrical main theme of the work. The fast pace and jubilance are accentuated by the extensive use of percussion and brass instruments—timpani, snare, tenor and base drums, cymbals, triangle, xylophone, glockenspiel, four horns, two trumpets, and three trombones. Encapsulating some of the show’s best tunes, the overture to Candide stands today as Bernstein’s most popular and oft-performed orchestral work.
William Grant Still: Symphony No. 1 in A flat major (“Afro-American Symphony”) (1930)
William Grant Still (1895-1978) is our nation’s most well-known African American classical composer and, like our great poet Langston Hughes, he is associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 30s. Much like Hughes’ call in “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” for young African American artists to embrace the culture of the “lowdown folk” without “fear or shame” (as opposed to the “smug, contented, respectable folk” of the “Negro middle class”), Still, in his own words, sought “to portray not the higher type of colored American, but the sons of the soil, who still retain so many of the traits peculiar to their African forebears; who have not responded completely to the transforming effect of progress.” For both Still and Hughes, this in part meant incorporating the African American rhythms of blues and jazz into their work. Still’s Symphony No. 1 in A flat major (also known as the Afro-American Symphony), was premiered under the baton of Howard Hanson in 1931 by the Rochester Philharmonic. Not only was this the first time a complete work by an African American was performed by a major orchestra, by the mid-1940s it had also been performed by orchestras in Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London and Berlin. Two more important dates: in 1936, Still was the first African American to conduct a major orchestra in a performance of their own work; and in 1955 he was likewise the first African American to conduct a major orchestra in the Deep South.
In the 30s, blues was still seen by white audiences as vulgar, and although George Gershwin helped elevate jazz a bit in the eyes of concertgoers by incorporating its rhythms it into some of his classical works, it wasn’t until Still so seamlessly brought together blues, jazz and spirituals together with the traditional classical form of the symphony that white audiences saw African American music as something to be celebrated in the concert hall.
While the Afro-American Symphony follows the traditional four-movement symphonic structure, Still subtitled each movement with epigraphs from four dialect poems by African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The opening movement, marked “Longing,” presents the principal theme, an original twelve-bar blues melody introduced by the English horn, which calls to mind the solo for English horn in the second movement of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, a work itself influenced by African American spirituals. “Sorrow,” the second movement, depicts the strength of an oppressed people battered down but not yet broken. Here we hear the solo oboe present the main theme over flute and string accompaniment. The third movement, “Humor,” brings ragtime into the mix with the inclusion of the banjo for the first time in symphonic music. “Humor,” which is often performed as a stand-alone work, includes a tune reminiscent of Gershwin’s famous “I’ve Got Rhythm” (also composed in 1930), though Gershwin likely heard Still improvise the tune in the 1920s in the Broadway show Shuffle Along. The final movement, “Aspiration,” brings together the themes and styles of the previous movements to once again highlight the distinctive voice of African American spirit and creativity.
José Moncayo: Huapango (1941)
Mexico has a rich and varied musical heritage that, like the American music discussed above, is born out of the landscape and its people. If the ‘American sound’ is exemplified in Copland’s Rodeo, you could say that the ‘Mexican sound’ is likewise encapsulated in José Moncayo’s Huapango. Like Rodeo, Huapango borrows liberally from regional folk tunes. Moncayo (1912–1958) was a Mexican pianist, percussionist, teacher, composer and conductor. His compositional output was rather modest—a couple symphonies, a ballet, an opera, and a handful of chamber pieces and works for solo piano, all written between 1931 and 1958. It is his 1941 Huapango, which premiered at the Palacio de Bellas Artes by the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, that will keep Moncayo’s name and music on the Mexican classical ‘A List’ in perpetuity. The following year, Moncayo was awarded a scholarship to the Berkshire Institute in the US (now known as Tanglewood), where he attended courses taught by his friend Aaron Copland; while there, he also met the then twenty-four year old Leonard Bernstein.
Huapango is a short, bright, single-movement work inspired by traditional dances (huapangos) from Veracruz, a local his teacher, conductor and composer Carlos Chávez, asked Moncayo to visit for some compositional inspiration. Huapango incorporates three tradition Veracruzan dances (“Siqui-Siri,” “Balajú,” and “El Gavilán”) and features instruments typical of the state, which is situated along the Gulf of Mexico (trumpets, harp, and violins). Written like a brief symphony without pauses between its four movements, Huapango brings together the traditional sounds of Veracruz in a lively orchestral form—sometimes playfully (scherzo), others nostalgically (lento), and sometimes at break-neck speed (the opening and closing allegros). Guitars are simulated by strummed violins, and the trumpet and trombone alternate in competition for the leading role throughout the work. As with both the Bernstein and Copland works on the program, we will also hear from the xylophone, harp and tympani in this rhythmic, brassy and percussive work.
Antonín Dvořák: “Largo” from Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” (1893)
The New World Symphony was composed by Antonín Dvořák while he was living in America as the director of the National Conservatory of Music between 1892 and 1895. The Ninth Symphony, as it is more formally known, is Dvořák’s most celebrated work by concertgoers and astronauts alike (Neil Armstrong took a recording of it to the moon in 1969!). Similar to the traditional Veracruzan dances in Moncayo’s Huapango, Dvořák brought to American with him the Romantic-era fascination with native folk songs and dance rhythms known as ‘musical nationalism,’ as seen, for example, in the music of Béla Bartók (Hungary), Jean Sibelius (Finland), Frederick Chopin (Poland), Aaron Copland (America), and The Mighty Five (Russia). In America, for Dvořák, that meant exploring (or coopting) Native American and African American music. As the composer put it: “I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil.”
Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered under the baton of Anton Seidl at Carnegie Hall on December 16th, 1893. In a New York Herald article appearing the previous day, Dvořák said, “I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral colour.” Further, he says that the second movement, marked “Largo,” was a “sketch or study for a later work, either a cantata or opera . . . which will be based upon Longfellow’s [The Song of] Hiawatha.” This follow-up work never came to fruition, though the theme from the same movement was adapted into the African American spiritual-like “Goin’ Home” by Dvořák’s student William Arms Fisher in 1922.
Aaron Copland: “Four Dance Episodes” from Rodeo (1942)
While one could easily argue that Leonard Bernstein was the quintessential conductor and musical statesman of 20th century America, one could also argue that Aaron Copland was the most influential American composer of the century. Whereas Bernstein helped bring the sounds of classical music to millions of Americans, Copland’s music is the sound of America, as seen in works such as Appalachian Spring, Lincoln Portrait, and Quiet City. Indeed, his most well-known works are so quintessentially American sounding that we seldom stop to think about just how unique they actually were in the era of High Modernism’s musical and artistic experimentation.
Copland was the first American student to study under famed French music teacher Nadia Boulanger. Once back home in 1925, Copland did his best to break from European musical traditions by experimenting with the sounds of American jazz and the neo-classicism of Stravinsky (much like Stravinsky himself explored jazz in some of his own music). By the time Copland composed his harsh and atonal Piano Sonata (1939-1941), he knew he risked alienating the audiences of the very landscape he wished to emulate. Writing nearly 100 years earlier about his own shedding of the European tradition in “Song of Myself,” American poet Walt Whitman said:
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is
It is for my mouth forever, I am in love with it,
I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked,
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.
And so with Copland, who stripped away the crowded intellectualism of the European parlor in exchange for an undistilled American idiom—a “fanfare for the common man,” if you will. Contact with the land, “undisguised and naked” of the weighty cloak of the past. Open air. Vastness. America. This is Copland’s music.
Rodeo, which was commissioned by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in October of 1942. It was the second of Copland’s “cowboy ballets,” the first being Billy the Kid (1938), and even though his new and more accessible sound was a hit from the get-go, he showed some trepidation in returning to the cowboy theme so soon. Choreographer Agnes de Mille successfully persuaded him to pursue the new project by telling him she envisioned a simple American love story set on a Western ranch, a “The Taming of the Shrew—with cowboys!”
Subtitled “The Courting at Burnt Ranch,” Rodeo consists of five segments: “Buckaroo Holiday,” “Ranch House Party,” “Corral Nocturne,” “Saturday Night Waltz” and “Hoe-Down.” For the concert suite titled “Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo” Copland penned in 1943, “Ranch House Party” is omitted. Like Bernstein’s Candide to come a decade later, Rodeo is also scored in part for cymbals, triangle, xylophone, triangle, glockenspiel, snare and bass drums (and wood block and whip/slapstick!). The ballet is about a cowgirl raised at Burnt Ranch who longs to be more than just one of the boys; indeed, she longs for one of the boys—the Head Wrangler, who, like the rest of the cowboys, has a hankering for the Rancher’s Daughter. Classic love story. And we all know how those end—at least in fiction: girl gets boy. Eventually catching the attention of the Champion Roper, who has just lost the Rancher’s Daughter’s attentions to the Head Wrangler, our heroine dons a lovely dress for the Hoe-Down, finally attracts the glance of the Head Wrangler, and the love story ends with our couple locked in a kiss in the middle of the dance.
Experience a truly Classical Extravaganza with music from the period that is set apart for its elegance, balance and simplicity. This special concert will be held in the intimate and beautiful Akin Auditorium and will be followed by a reception for our guests. The Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto will feature WFSO’s principal flutist, Dr. Pam Youngblood, and harpist Dr. Jaymee Haefner, who will perform the joyous and melodic work. The musical selections travel a broad arc, from Haydn’s vibrant yet serious Overture to an English Opera to Schubert’s dramatic and tragic Fourth Symphony.
*This event is separate from the subscription season and is not included in the purchase of regular season tickets. Discounted pricing is available with season ticket purchase.
Haydn: Overture for an English Opera
Mozart: Flute and Harp Concerto in C major
Schubert: Symphony 4 in C minor (Tragic)
Guest Artists: Dr. Pam Youngblood, flute
Dr. Jaymee Haefner, harp
Dr. Pamela Youngblood, flute
Pamela Youngblood, DMA, Chair of the Department of Music and Theatre and Co-Coordinator for the School of Arts, teaches graduate and undergraduate flute students, flute pedagogy, flute choir, and a course on women in music.
Youngblood has been principal flutist and a featured soloist of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra since 1980, and was soloist in a performance of David Amram’s new concerto Giants of the Night in 2004 with the composer conducting. She also recently performed the Lowell Liebermann Flute Concerto with the WFSO. An active recitalist, she has been a featured performer at conventions of the National Flute Association in Anaheim, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Charlotte, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and San Diego, the Texas Music Educators Association, and the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors.
Her first CD, Wind Song: New American Classics for Flute and Piano, was recorded with TWU collaborative artist Gabriel Bita and released on the Azica Records label in May 2010. Her second CD Sparkle and Wit: International Treasures for Flute and Piano was released on the Azica label in 2012. She has performed internationally in Germany, Spain, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, England, Scotland, and the Czech Republic as a member of the Metropolitan Flute Orchestra, based at the New England Conservatory, and the International Flute Orchestra.
Youngblood recently received national recognition as the Phi Kappa Phi Artist for 2016-2018. In October of 2013, she was awarded an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Music, honoris causa, by Nashotah House Seminary, Wisconsin. In November of 2014, she was granted the title of Lay Canon for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, an honor bestowed in recognition for several decades of dedicated work in church music. She also received the Advocacy for Music Therapy Award, presented by the Texas State Task Force of the Southwest Region of the American Music Therapy Association, in the spring of 2014.
Dr. Jaymee Haefner, harp
Jaymee Haefner’s performances have been described by Daniel Buckley as possessing “an air of dreamy lyricism… interlocking melody lines with the deftness of a dancer’s footwork.” Jaymee joined the University of North Texas College of Music faculty in 2006 and serves as Assistant Professor of Harp and Director of Undergraduate Studies. Her performances include a feature at the 50th Anniversary American Harp Society (AHS) National Conference in New York City, the 2014 AHS National Conference in New Orleans, and performances throughout the Dallas–Fort Worth area, in Mexico, the Czech Republic and Russia. She published The Legend of Henriette Renié and One Stone to the Building: Henriette Renié’s Life Through Her Works for Harp and has presented lectures for the World Harp Congress (WHC) in Sydney and Amsterdam. Jaymee was Chairman of the 2011 AHS Institute and serves as the Treasurer for the WHC. Dr. Haefner obtained her BM and MM degrees from the University of Arizona and her DM degree from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. When she isn’t on stage, Dr. Haefner trains in American Karate with her son, and recently obtained her first-degree black belt.
“A Classical Extravaganza”
January 22, 2022
“O Mozart, immortal Mozart! what numberless consoling images of a better, brighter world have you engraved upon our souls?”
Franz Joseph Haydn: Overture for an English Opera in C Major, Hob. 1a-3 (1791)
It was nearly the opera that never was—Haydn’s The Soul of the Philosopher, or Orpheus and Eurydice. It was also his last opera, composed when he was 58 years old. Haydn’s longtime patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, died in 1790, freeing up time for Haydn to finally accept the invitation to visit London, where his work had already been performed and praised for many years. Indeed, the London press referred to him as a “modern-day Orpheus.” His trip was based on an agreement to write six new symphonies and one opera, the latter for John Gallini, the owner of a new opera house then under construction. While there, he composed some of his best-known work, including the Surprise, Drumroll, Military and London symphonies. His operatic version of the ancient Greek tale of Orpheus was not performed as planned in London in 1791, nor any subsequent year during his lifetime. In fact, it remained unperformed until its premiere in 1951 in Florence, Italy. It was another four years before it was finally heard by Londoners. Why the 160 year wait? Politics. King George III and his son, the Prince of Wales, each backed rival opera houses. Suffice it to say that royal egos trumped the music and London lost out. That said, the overture of the opera itself was heard as a stand-alone work in 1795 at the Theatre Royal as part of a grand courtly masque in celebration of the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Princess of Brunswick. The Overture to an English Opera, as it became known, was written in what would become the standard overture form consisting of a slow introduction leading to a faster main section. This brief performance perhaps provided some consolation to Haydn, who had been enamored with the tale of Orpheus since he conducted Gluck’s opera Orfeo de Euridice at Eszterháza fifteen years earlier.
Mozart: Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C Major, K. 299 (1778)
Although Mozart was not a big fan of the flute (having written only three concertos for the instrument), the Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra has since become one of the most popular double concertos in the repertoire. Written in the spring of 1778 during an extended stay in Paris as a commission for a wealthy patron and his daughter, this unusual concerto likewise brings to the foreground an instrument that was not yet taken seriously as an orchestral family member at the time—the harp, or “plucked piano.” Considering Mozart wrote no other works for the harp, we can assume his taste for the instrument was even less favorable than that of the flute. Although certainly a tenuous paring in Mozart’s day, the flute-harp repertoire grew quite rapidly in the 19th century, especially for unaccompanied duo. Mozart not only had his patrons in mind when penning the score, he also had contemporary French tastes in mind as well, as seen in the concerto’s similarity to the popular sinfonia concertante of the time, which combined both the concerto and symphony genres by having one or more solo instruments in conversation with and a part of the orchestra. Today, the concerto is often performed by chamber ensembles as a way to highlight their own flutists and harpists, as is the case tonight as we feature WFSO regulars Pam Youngblood and Jaymee Haefner.
Franz Schubert: Symphony 4 in C minor, D. 417 (“Tragic”) (1816)
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was the only Classical Viennese composer actually born and raised in Vienna—Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn all settled in the Austrian capital city. Regarded as the greatest art song composer, Schubert was the last in line of the Frist Viennese School composers, while at the same one of the first Romantic ones. Unlike Mozart and Beethoven, he was neither a child prodigy nor a great virtuoso, but he was prolific, leaving over 600 songs for solo voice and piano, eight symphonies, and a large body or chamber works by his untimely death at the age of 31 of syphilis. At 11, having passed an audition with Mozart’s nemesis, Antonio Salieri, young Franz entered the Imperial Court Chapel as a choirboy. As a burgeoning composer, he was more influenced by the work of Haydn and Mozart than that of his closer contemporary, Beethoven, whose symphonies were just beginning to hit their stride. Schubert’s life exemplified that of the neglected Romantic genius who died poor and in all but obscurity. Mozart too had a tough time of it, but at least he had some success during his lifetime; it would require the passing of a full generation before Schubert’s genius would be fully recognized. Like most of Schubert’s orchestral work, the Symphony No. 4 in C Minor was not performed publically for at least two decades after the his death, premiering in Leipzig, Germany in 1849. Composed in 1816, when he was just 19 years old, the self-dubbed “Tragic” symphony was his most serious symphony to date, though the subtitle falls a little flat when one listens to the work. If anything, it calls to mind the Strum und Drang symphonies of Haydn and other composers of the era, not the personal anguish of, say, Beethoven’s later work. The long first movement opens with a slow introduction (Adagio molto) reminiscent of Haydn, before becoming faster and more lively (Allegro vivace), and thus more suggestive of the influence of Mozart. The lovely second movement, marked Andante, is introduced slowly by the strings and then joined by a lone oboe, after which enter the other woodwinds. The calm beauty of the movement is interrupted twice by brief passages of considerable agitation (a hint of the “tragic”?), but soon returns to the gentle lyricism and the first thematic material before moving into the third movement, a Minuet. The closing Allegro returns us to the mood of the opening movement, ending on anything but a tragic note. Perhaps, when we are 19, nearly everything can be deemed tragic in one way or another. Listen the Symphony No. 4 and decide for yourself.
The very best of the holiday season will be yours when you attend the Hometown Holiday Celebration with the WFSO. Music Director Fouad Fakhouri invites you to bring the entire family to enjoy your festive favorites. The Wichita Falls Youth Symphony Orchestra will share the stage with us in a classic celebration of community, family, and friends.
Guest Artist: Jim Hall
Wichita Falls Youth Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Matthew Luttrell, Music Director
Jim Hall, vocalist
Jim Hall, who currently works as the Chief Information Security Officer for Midwestern State University, has a long-time love of singing and performing. Jim headlines a show titled “Jim Hall and Friends” at the Wichita Theatre Stage 2 Dinner Theatre throughout the year and finds that, outside of his family, music is one of life’s greatest joys. He has appeared on the Wichita Theatre main stage in roles such as Dom Claude Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Walter Hobbs in Elf the Musical, Joseph Pulitzer in Newsies, George Banks in Mary Poppins the Musical, Frank Kell and J.D. McMahon in North Texas Rising, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Curtis in Sister Act, King Triton in The Little Mermaid, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, the Marquis St. Evremond in A Tale of Two Cities, Kerchak the gorilla in Tarzan the Musical and Shrek in the Texoma debut of Shrek the Musical.
Dr. Matthew D. Luttrell, Music Director and Conductor of Wichita Falls Youth Symphony Orchestra
Dr. Matthew D. Luttrell, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands and Orchestra, joined the faculty of MSU Texas in 2013. His duties include conducting the Wind Ensemble, Communiversity Orchestra, Marching Band, and Advanced Conducting. In addition to his duties at MSU Texas, Dr. Luttrell is the conductor of the Wichita Falls Youth Philharmonic and serves as the 2nd trombone of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra.
Dr. Luttrell earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Arizona StateUniversity (2010) with an emphasis in wind conducting under Gary Hill and euphonium performance under the instruction of Sam Pilafian. He holds a Masters of Music Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2002) and the Bachelors of Music Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder (1998).
Prior to Midwestern State University, Dr. Luttrell served as Director of Bands at Adams State University, Associate Director of Bands at the University of Texas Arlington, and as Assistant Director of Bands at Illinois State University. He is an active conductor, clinician, and adjudicator for orchestras, bands, and athletic bands, and his international conducting experience includes Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. His ensembles have consistently received invitations to perform in regional concert performances, as well as NFL season and post-season games.
Dr. Luttrell’s professional affiliations include College Band Directors National Association, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association, World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, the National Association for Music Education, and is an honorary member of both the Tau Beta Sigma and Kappa Kappa Psi honorary bands fraternities.