Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6

Wed, July 3, 2024 6:30 pm
Fri, July 5, 2024 6:30 pm

PROGRAM

Grant Park Orchestra

Ludovic Morlot, conductor

Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

ANGÉLICA NEGRÓN

Color Shape Transmission


ARTURO MÁRQUEZ

Fandango
Folia Tropical
Plegaria (Prayer) (Chaccone)
Fandanguit 

Anne Akiko Meyers, violin

INTERMISSION


PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY

Symphony No. 6, Pathétique
Adagio – Allegro non troppo
Allegro con grazia
Allegro molto vivace
Finale: Adagio lamentoso 

LOCATION

Jay Pritzker Pavilion


RUN TIME

Approx. 125 minutes including 20 minute intermission


SPONSORS

The appearance of Anne Akiko Meyers is generously underwritten by Jeannette and Jerry Goldstone.

MEET THE ARTISTS

Anne Akiko Meyers

Violin

Anne Akiko Meyers is one of the most respected and admired violinists, collaborating with today’s most important composers, championing their work and creating a remarkable legacy of new violin repertoire for future generations. Since her teens, she has performed around the world as soloist with leading orchestras and in recital and is a prolific recording artist with more than 40 releases, which are staples of classical music radio stations and streaming platforms.

Her 2023-24 season highlights include performances of the Philip Glass Concerto No.1 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl and the Prague Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the world premiere of a requiem by Billy Childs with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, NPR’s popular Tiny Desk series and a residency at the Laguna Beach Music Festival where Anne is this year’s artistic director. Future commissions include a work for violin and orchestra by Eric Whitacre and New Chaconne by Philip Glass.

Anne recently premiered and performed Fandango by Arturo Márquez with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl, and Blue Electra by Michael Daugherty at The Kennedy Center with Gianandrea Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra to massive critical and audience acclaim. In September 2023, Apple Music will be releasing the highly anticipated live recording of Arturo Márquez’s Fandango with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Last season highlights included appearances with the Los Angeles, National, Albany, Detroit, Nashville, Princeton, San Diego, San Jose, Tucson, and Wichita Symphony Orchestras. She premiered Fandango at Carnegie Hall (WQXR’s live broadcast is available on demand), Disney Hall, and in Mexico City on tour with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  She released Mysterium, a recording of newly imagined violin/choral music by J.S. Bach and Morten Lauridsen, with Grant Gershon and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and Shining Night, her 40th recording, which features world premieres and new arrangements of music by J.S. Bach, Brouwer, Corelli, Ellington, Piazzolla, Ponce, and Lauridsen, with pianist Fabio Bidini and guitarist Jason Vieaux.

Anne has  worked closely with some of the most important composers of the last century, including
Arvo Pärt (Estonian Lullaby), Einojuhani Rautavaara (Fantasia, his final complete work), John Corigliano (cadenzas for the Beethoven Violin Concerto; Lullaby for Natalie), Arturo Márquez (Fandango), Michael Daugherty (Blue Electra), Mason Bates and Adam Schoenberg (violin concertos), Jakub Ciupiński, Jennifer Higdon, Samuel Jones, Morten Lauridsen, Wynton Marsalis, Akira Miyoshi, Gene Pritsker, Somei Satoh, and Joseph Schwantner, performing world premieres with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, Washington D.C., Helsinki, Hyogo, Leipzig, London, Lyon, and New Zealand.

Anne’s first national television appearances were on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at the age 11, and later performances include Evening At Pops with John Williams, CBS Sunday Morning, Great Performances, Countdown with Keith Olbermann (in a segment that was the third most popular story of that year), The Emmy Awards, and The View. John Williams personally chose Anne to perform Schindler’s List for a Great Performances PBS telecast and Arvo Pärt invited her to be his guest soloist at the opening ceremony concerts of his new centre and concert hall in Estonia. Krzysztof Penderecki selected Meyers to perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto at the 40th Pablo Casals Festival with the Montreal Symphony that was broadcast on A&E, and Meyers premiered Samuel Jones’s Violin Concerto with the All-Star Orchestra led by Gerard Schwarz in a nationwide PBS broadcast special and a Naxos DVD release. Her recording of Somei Satoh’s Birds in Warped Time II was used by architect Michael Arad for his award-winning design submission which today has become
The World Trade Center Memorial in lower Manhattan.

Career highlights include a performance of the Barber Violin Concerto at the Australian Bicentennial Concert for an audience of 750,000 in Sydney Harbour; performances for the Emperor and Empress Akihito of Japan; Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in a Museumplein Concert with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; and the national anthem at T-Mobile Park in Seattle and Dodger Stadium. She was profiled on NPR’s Morning Edition with Linda Wertheimer and All Things Considered with Robert Siegel, and she curated “Living American” on Sirius XM Radio’s Symphony Hall.

Anne has been featured in commercials and advertising campaigns including Anne Klein, shot by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz; J.Jill; Northwest Airlines; DDI Japan; and TDK; and was the inspiration for the main character’s career path in the novel, The Engagements, written by popular author, J. Courtney Sullivan. She collaborated with children’s book author and illustrator, Kristine Papillon, on Crumpet the Trumpet, appearing as the character Violetta the violinist, and featured in a documentary about legendary radio personality, Jim Svejda. Outside of traditional classical, Anne has collaborated with a diverse array of artists including jazz icons Chris Botti and Wynton Marsalis; avant-garde musician, Ryuichi Sakamoto; electronic music pioneer, Isao Tomita; pop-era act, Il Divo; and singer, Michael Bolton.

Anne was born in San Diego and grew up in Southern California where she and her mother traveled 8 hours roundtrip from the Mojave Desert to Pasadena for lessons with Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld at the predecessor to the Colburn School of Performing Arts. Anne moved to New York at the age of 14 to study at The Juilliard School with legendary teacher, Dorothy DeLay, Masao Kawasaki, and Felix Galimir; signed with management at 16; and recorded her debut album of the Barber and Bruch Violin Concertos with the RPO at Abbey Road Studios, at 18.  She has received the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Distinguished Alumna Award and an Honorary Doctorate from The Colburn School, and serves on the Board of Trustees of The Juilliard School.

Meyers endorses Larsen Strings and performs on the Ex-Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù, dated 1741, considered by many to be the finest sounding violin in existence.

Ludovic Morlot

Conductor

Ludovic Morlot took over as Music Director of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra in September 2022.

Morlot’s élan, elegance and intensity on stage have endeared him to audiences and orchestras worldwide, from the Berlin Philharmonic to the Boston Symphony. During his 8 years as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony he pushed the boundaries of traditional concert programming, winning several Grammys.  He is now Conductor Emeritus in Seattle, and in 2019 he was appointed Associate Artist of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he has had a close relationship over many years; he returns to both orchestras every season. He was Artistic Director and a founding member of the National Youth Orchestra of China 2017-2021, conducting their inaugural concerts at Carnegie Hall and in China in 2017, and touring with them to Europe in 2019. From 2012-2014 he was Chief Conductor of La Monnaie, conducting new productions in Brussels and at the Aix Easter Festival – including La Clemenza di Tito, Jenufa and Pelléas et Mélisande.

Morlot has conducted the Berliner Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, Czech Philharmonic, Dresden Staaksapelle, London Philharmonic and Budapest Festival orchestras, and many of the leading North American orchestras, notably the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago and Boston Symphony Orchestras.  Morlot has a particularly strong connection with Boston, having been the Seiji Ozawa Fellowship Conductor at Tanglewood and subsequently appointed assistant conductor for the Boston Symphony. Since then he has conducted the orchestra in subscription concerts in Boston, at Tanglewood and on a tour to the west coast of America.  He has also appeared extensively in Asia and Australasia, notably with the Seoul Philharmonic, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras. Festival appearances have included the BBC Proms, Wien Modern, Edinburgh, and Aspen festivals.

One of the things I appreciate about the Seattle Symphony’s self-produced discography is how heavily it inclines toward rare and underserved repertoire… the latest release is led with vigor and suavity by Music Director Ludovic Morlot.
JOSHUA KOSMAN, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

His tenure in Seattle formed a hugely significant period in the musical journey of the orchestra. His innovative programming encompassed not only his choice of repertoire, but theatrical productions and performances outside the traditional concert hall space. There were numerous collaborations with musicians from different genres, commissions and world premieres. Some of these projects, including John Luther Adams’ Become Ocean, Aaron Jay Kernis’ Violin Concerto performed by James Ehnes and an exploration of Dutilleux’s music, have earned the orchestra five Grammy Awards, as well as the distinction of being named Gramophone’s 2018 Orchestra of the Year. Morlot has released 19 recordings with the Seattle Symphony Media label which was launched in 2014.

Morlot opened last season with a concertante performance of Die Walküre at Seattle Opera, invited back for Samson et Dalila in January 2023 and for a fully-staged Rheingold in August 2023. In recent months he has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco, Seattle, Utah and Sao Paulo symphonies. Guesting in Europe included the Netherlands Philharmonic, Copenhagen Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lille, Bergen Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Orquesta Castilla y Leon and of course Barcelona Symphony. He has a strong commitment to supporting emerging talent and regularly conducts students at the Colburn Conservatory. In 2021 he sat on the jury of the Leeds International Piano Competition and conducted students at the Royal Academy (London), New England Conservatory (Boston) and made his annual visit to the Aspen Festival.

Having trained as a violinist, he studied conducting at the Pierre Monteux School (USA) with Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo. He continued his education in London at the Royal Academy and then at the Royal College as recipient of the Norman del Mar Conducting Fellowship. Ludovic is Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle and a Visiting Artist at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2014 in recognition of his significant contribution to music.

PROGRAM NOTES

Angélica Negrón (1981-)

Color Shape Transmission 

Scored for: three flutes including piccolo, three oboes, three clarinets, three bassoons, four French horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings

Performance time: 10 minutes 

First Grant Park Orchestra performance 

Puerto Rican-born composer Angelica Negrón is known for writing for unusual instruments, such as accordions, toys, robotic instruments, and electronics. This sonic adventurousness gives her a fresh approach to scoring for orchestra. In 2022, the Seattle Symphony commissioned Negrón to compose Color Shape Transmission as part of their Sibelius Companions series, where a new work was intended to respond to one of the Finnish composer’s seven complete symphonies. Negrón’s piece appeared alongside Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2, one of his most beloved works.  

Color Shape Transmission employs a small selection of sounds, which Negrón transforms through echo and delay effects. In addition to synthesized MIDI samples, she adds two relatively unusual instruments to the orchestra: a vibraphone with its resonators covered in aluminum foil and a melodica, a handheld reed instrument with a piano keyboard. Regarding the brief, Negrón said she finds kindship with Sibelius in their shared use of “entrancing, hypnotic textures” and their ability to make space for joy while retaining emotional weight. Negrón also drew inspiration from ceramic artist Linda Nguyen Lopez for this work. When she saw Lopez’s pieces, she said, “I just saw a lot of personality and almost empathy. I felt like they were trying to communicate with each other.” In Color Shape Transmission, she imagines the sculptures “trying to communicate through colors and textures and shapes” in a huge, resonant space.   

 

Arturo Márquez (1950-)  

Fandango 

Scored for: three flutes including piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four French horns, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, strings, and solo violin

Performance time: 30 minutes 

First Grant Park Orchestra performance 

Mexican composer Arturo Márquez had wanted to compose a piece based on the Mexican fandango for decades. Fate called when violinist Anne Akiko Meyers approached him in 2018 about writing her a violin concerto based on Mexican music. “I had known this music since I was a child, listening to it in the cinema, on the radio and listening to my father, a mariachi violinist, (Arturo Márquez Sr.) interpret huastecos and mariachi music,” Márquez writes. The Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered Fandango in 2021 under Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, who said of the piece, “He’s created a wonderful journey through the history of the violin as a Latin folk instrument…After each note, you feel like you’re touching the beauty of the folk music that Arturo Márquez has written.” 

Fandango is a traditional three-movement concerto for violin and orchestra. The first movement, “Folia Tropical,” recalls the baroque minor-mode chord progression called “La Folia,” which originated on the Iberian Peninsula. Márquez calls the introduction a “call to the remote history of the fandango.” The fandango, a fundamental part of flamenco, first appeared in eighteenth-century Spain and soon made its way to the Americas, where it was imbued with a new personality based on the people who adopted it. As such, Márquez incorporates multiple stylistic influences within the movement. The first theme is based on the Caribbean clave rhythmic pattern, while the second theme recalls an expressive bolero. The second movement, “Plegaria (Prayer),” is a free treatment of a chaconne, another baroque dance with Spanish roots. This meditative movement “pays tribute to the huapango mariachi together with the Spanish Fandango, both in its rhythmic and emotional parts,” Márquez explains. Finally, “Fandanguito” elaborates on the Huasteco Fandanguito. It also employs a fast Venezuelan dance called a pajarillo, which involves extensive introductory improvisation. This improvisatory spirit characterizes the finale, underpinned by the rhythmic vitality of the instruments native to the Huasteca region.  

 

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)  

Symphony No.6 in B minor, op.74, TH 30 (1893)  

Scored for: three flutes including piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings

Performance time: 46 minutes 

First Grant Park Orchestra performance: July 21, 1935; Ebba Sundstrom, conductor 

As early as 1889, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was thinking about his legacy. That year, he wrote to his friend Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov, “I want terribly to write a somewhat grandiose symphony, which would crown my artistic career.” It would take him until 1893 to realize this dream, however. He began sketching a symphony in E-flat major in 1892 with this intent, but he ultimately destroyed it after a wave of self-doubt. In February of 1893, Tchaikovsky had the idea for what would become his final masterpiece: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique.” He worked furiously on the symphony, sketching it in only 24 days and orchestrating it later that summer. 

The nickname “Pathétique,” or “Pateticheskaya” in Russian, was ascribed to the symphony after the premiere, likely by Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest. Although this symphony is often referred to by the French term in the West, “Patetichskaya” has a slightly different connotation, meaning full of passionate emotion instead of necessarily sorrowful. Tchaikovsky had been of two minds when it came to attaching a program, or story, to his symphonic music. He had provided a detailed synopsis for his Fourth Symphony, but this time he decided that, while there was a program behind the symphony, it would “remain an enigma to everyone—let them guess.” And guess we have.  

Tchaikovsky’s emotionally turbulent Sixth Symphony cries out for dramatic interpretation. This inclination, spurred by Tchaikovsky’s suggestion, is only further intensified by the speculation surrounding Tchaikovsky’s death just nine days after the symphony’s premiere. While the official cause of death—and most widely accepted by modern scholars—is that Tchaikovsky died of cholera due to drinking unboiled water during an outbreak in St. Petersburg, the rumor has persisted that he poisoned himself under threat that his affair with a young nobleman would be made public if he didn’t. Although we may never know for certain Tchaikovsky’s cause of death, Tchaikovsky’s complicated personal life as a gay man in Tsarist Russia and his sudden death have nonetheless influenced our interpretation of this symphony as especially tragic, like a suicide note or requiem. In reality, Symphony No. 6 follows a pattern in Tchaikovsky’s late works of alternating between joyful, fantastical compositions, such as Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, and darker pieces occupied by themes of fate, such as The Queen of Spades. Plus, Tchaikovsky had finalized the symphony’s musical material seven months before his death. 

The first movement opens with a dark bassoon solo, which foreshadows the agitated first subject introduced by the strings. The lyrical second theme bears a striking resemblance to Don José’s “Flower Song” from one of Tchaikovsky’s favorite operas, Carmen. After a woodwind interlude, the reprise of this theme fades to an impossibly quiet “pppppp” marking, which erupts into a ferocious fugue. The whole symphony can be characterized by these sudden and extreme shifts in dynamics, intensifying the nervous energy that pervades the work.  

The inner two movements provide some emotional respite. The Allegro con grazia is cast as a flowing yet slightly off-kilter dance in 5/4 time, whereas the Allegro molto vivace is an aggressive march. Joyful on the outside, the third movement rings hollow in the context of the wider symphony, as if Tchaikovsky is parodying the bombastic finales for which he was known. Flouting symphonic convention, Tchaikovsky then concludes not with fireworks but with a long drawn-out Adagio in B minor. After the opening theme, marked “lamentoso,” comes a steady crescendo to a thundering climax. However, the lamentoso melody returns, sinking ever further in the low strings before gradually fading to nothing. As tempting as it is to read personal tragedy into this ending, Tchaikovsky was optimistic about the future while composing this symphony, writing to his nephew, “You can’t imagine how blissful I feel in the conviction that my time is not yet passed, and to work is still possible. Of course, I might be mistaken, but I don’t think so.” 

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