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OUTLIERS AND INTRIGUE

Livestream and broadcast performance without in-person audience. 

Marc Albrecht conducts the works by Shostakovich and Schumann.

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This series is made possible in part by generous lead gifts from
Kathryn and Charles Cunningham
&
Nancy and John Lindahl.

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Artists

Program

    • Joel Thompson
    • In Response to the Madness
      • Rui Du, violin
      • Cecilia Belcher, violin
      • Sam Bergman, viola
      • Minji Choi, cello
    • ca. 6’
    • Miguel del Águila
    • Herbsttag (Autumn Day) for Flute, Bassoon and Harp
      • Roma Duncan, flute
      • J. Christopher Marshall, bassoon
      • Marguerite Lynn Williams, harp
    • ca. 8’
    • Dmitri Shostakovich
    • Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra, Opus 35
      • I. Allegro moderato
      • II. Lento
      • III. Moderato
      • IV. Allegro brio
      • [There are no pauses between movements.]
        • Marc Albrecht, conductor
        • Jon Kimura Parker, piano
        • Manny Laureano, trumpet
    • ca. 21’
    • Robert Schumann
    • Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Opus 120
      • I. Fairly slow – Lively
      • II. Romance: Fairly slow
      • III. Scherzo: Lively
      • IV. Slow – Lively – Faster
      • [There are no pauses between movements.]
        • Marc Albrecht, conductor
    • ca. 29’

Profiles

Minnesota Orchestra

The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 and led since its centennial by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, is recognized for distinguished performances around the world, award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts, educational engagement programs, and commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of the future. The Orchestra tours regularly throughout Minnesota and nationally, and has toured abroad in Australia, Canada, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa. Its 2020-21 concert season began in October with a series of Friday night concerts in Orchestra Hall featuring smaller ensembles of Orchestra musicians performing for TV, radio and online audiences. In June, the Orchestra will welcome in-person audiences of limited size back to Orchestra Hall.

At Home Video Collection

Marc Albrecht, conductor

Marc Albrecht makes his Minnesota Orchestra debut in this performance. He held the position of first Kapellmeister at the Semperoper Dresden, and in 1995 he became one of the youngest music directors in Germany at the Staatstheater Darmstadt. In 2006 he took over the direction of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, and then became chief conductor of the Dutch National Opera and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. His 2017 production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at the Dutch National Opera was nominated for a Grammy Award. Albrecht has appeared with many major European and Asian major orchestras and has been a guest conductor in the U.S. with Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Houston Symphony.

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Jon Kimura Parker, piano

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker, the Minnesota Orchestra’s creative partner for summer programming, has given performances for Queen Elizabeth II, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Japan, and he is an Officer of The Order of Canada, his country’s highest civilian honor. He performs as a duo partner with James Ehnes, Aloysia Friedmann, Lynn Harrell, Jamie Parker, Orli Shaham and Cho-Liang Lin, and he is a founding member of the Montrose Trio. He has also performed with Audra McDonald, Bobby McFerrin, Doc Severinsen, Pablo Ziegler and the Miró Quartet. With Stewart Copeland, he co-founded the quintet Off The Score. He is a professor of piano at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. He has recorded for Telarc, CBC and his own label.

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Manny Laureano, trumpet

Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano, who joined the Minnesota Orchestra in 1981, has performed solos in all the Orchestra’s concert series. His solos with the Orchestra have included Copland’s Quiet City, Clarke’s Southern Cross, Vizzutti’s Compadre, Hertel’s Concerto a cinque in D major, Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto, and concertos by Arutiunian, Haydn and Tomasi, among others. He has commissioned and performed several new pieces for trumpet and orchestra, including works by Michael Gilbertson and Reinaldo Moya. He is in great demand as a soloist, clinician and conductor. He served as an assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra during the 2005-06 season, and is the music director of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music.

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Sarah Hicks, host

Sarah Hicks, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, has led a broad range of programs since joining the Orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006. Her notable projects with the Orchestra have included co-creating the Inside the Classics and Sam & Sarah series with Orchestra violist Sam Bergman; conducting a live-in-concert recording with singer-rapper Dessa, released in 2019 on the Doomtree Records label; leading numerous original Orchestra programs including Home for the Holidays and A Musical Feast; and conducting many of the Orchestra’s Movies & Music concerts. Away from Orchestra Hall, she recently conducted performances of Disney Pixar’s Coco at the Hollywood Bowl as well as the orchestra in ABC’s live televised production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

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Program notes

  • In Response to the Madness

    Joel Thompson

    • Born
      1988
      The Bahamas

    In Response to the Madness

    • Premiered
      June 12, 2019

    As our state and country continue to react with pain over the killing of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by police last Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, the Minnesota Orchestra has made an addition to tonight’s program to address the outrage, anger and frustration in our community: In Response to the Madness, a string quartet composed in 2019 by Joel Thompson.

     

    “A scream into the void”

    Thompson composed In Response to the Madness on a 2019 commission from the Grant Park Music Festival. It received its premiere on June 12 that year, in a performance by the Grant Park Music Festival Project Inclusion String Quartet at Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center.

     

    Thompson included these remarks in the work’s score: “I only made one rule for myself: each time before sitting down to compose this piece, I had to ingest all the major news stories of the day. The result of this experiment in compositional process is a stream-of-consciousness response to the political mayhem, the massacres, the climate, and our seemingly futile attempts at trying to make things better. It is essentially a scream into the void—or perhaps into the mirror. What does this music do for all the chaos in the world? This craft to which I’ve dedicated my life cannot directly cool the planet, save lives, or reinstate civility and understanding into our government and society. The piece is merely a response to the madness—one to which I hope listeners can relate—but I also hope it gives voice to our current angst and perhaps inspires us to change our tune.”

     

    About the composer

    Joel Thompson is an Emmy Award-winning composer, conductor, pianist and educator whose most frequently performed work is Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, which sets to music the final words of seven Black men killed by police or authorities. Since its premiere in 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and conductor Dr. Eugene Rogers, it has been honored with an Emmy Award as well as the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition.

     

    Speaking about Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, Thompson explained to ArtsATL last year that “I wrote that piece five years ago and it’s so disheartening that it remains relevant. It’s the only piece of mine that I hope is not performed. That it’s still addressing an issue that’s still relevant—the police brutality against African Americans in this country—is disheartening. But I have gratitude that people are willing to engage with the work. That means that they are willing to have conversations in their communities.”

     

    Thompson is currently pursuing a doctor of musical arts degree in composition at Yale University, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in choral conducting, both from Emory University. In 2017 he was a post-graduate fellow in Arizona State University’s Ensemble Lab/Projecting All Voices Initiative, as well as a composition fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he studied with composers Stephen Hartke and Christopher Theofanidis and won the 2017 Hermitage Prize. He taught at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta from 2015 to 2017, and also served as Director of Choral Studies and Assistant Professor of Music at Andrew College from 2013 to 2015.

     

    Thompson’s compositions have been performed by ensembles such as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Sinfonietta, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Master Chorale, Los Angeles Master Chorale, EXIGENCE and San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. He has been commissioned to write a range of pieces, including a work about the 1956 Tallahassee bus boycott for premiere by the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. Among his other recent and upcoming commissions are a new piece for the interactive digital performance Modulation, co-presented by LA Opera, and an evening-length work for tenor Russell Thomas, which will premiere in the 2022-23 season. In addition, Houston Grand Opera commissioned his opera The Snowy Day, an adaptation of Ezra Jack Keats’ illustrated children’s story.

     

    Born in the Bahamas in 1988, Thompson lived in Jamaica until he was 10, when his family relocated to Houston. Three years later, he moved to Atlanta. He originally intended to pursue studies in the field of medicine before shifting his attention to music as an undergraduate at Emory University. A sampling of his music can be found on SoundCloud.

     

    Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola and cello

     

    Program note by Carl Schroeder.

  • Herbsttag (Autumn Day) for Flute, Bassoon and Harp

    Miguel del Águila

    • Born
      September 15, 1957
      Montevideo, Uruguay

    Herbsttag (Autumn Day) for Flute, Bassoon and Harp

    • Premiered
      1986

    Tonight’s program consists of music by relatively young composers: each began their respective works between the ages of 26 and 31. The second of these pieces is the moving and deeply personal Herbsttag (German for Autumn Day) by Miguel del Águila, an Uruguayan-born American composer who lives in Seattle. Del Águila’s music has been heard at Orchestra Hall only once before: his sextet Salón Buenos Aires was performed in a chamber music concert at Sommerfest 2016. Scored for flute, bassoon and harp, Herbsttag was composed in 1984 and received its premiere in 1986 at Vienna’s Austrian Radio Concert Hall by the American Music Ensemble Vienna, whose members were flutist Maura Bayer, bassoonist Judith Farmer and harpist Gabriela Mossyrsch.

     

    Spanning eight minutes, Herbsttag is music that defies expectations and creates fresh and unusual sounds. Although the bassoon is a “low” instrument and the flute usually plays up high, the score often calls for bassoon to play in its upper register while flute sounds in its lowest octave, to an extent that the bassoon sometimes crosses above the flute. Both the flute and bassoon players are occasionally instructed to employ special effects such as blowing or speaking into their instrument at no specific pitch. Meanwhile, the harpist strays far from the instrument’s stereotypical gentle arpeggios and glissandos by using modern techniques including whistling sounds, percussive finger-taps on the instrument’s soundboard, and pedal slides in which a sustained pitch is altered by adjusting the foot pedals rather than re-plucking the strings.

     

    The music begins and ends with rhythmically simple, sparsely-scored passages, while the midsection is much more active. The score at times calls for complex polyrhythms, with five notes per beat in the flute clashing against six in the bassoon. Harmonies are adventurous and sometimes jazz-tinged, and the tempo shifts several times but remains relatively slow throughout.

     

    Words from the composer

    The title and inspiration of Herbsttag come from the country where the work premiered: Herbsttag is the title of a poem by the Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke, who lived from 1875 to 1926. Del Águila offers the following comments on his composition:

     

    “Rainer Maria Rilke’s same-named poem inspired the work and sets the tone for the entire piece. Just like Rilke’s poem, my work recreates an existential reflection about loneliness, the end of youth, the passing of time and the meaning of our own existence. At the time I composed this work, in my mid-twenties, I was exiled in Vienna, most of my family was in the U.S. and some were still left in Uruguay enduring the horrors of a military regime.

     

    “This work stands alone among all my works which are often driven by Latin rhythms, energetic and with clear structure and melodies. In Herbsttag the distant hints of Jazz in the harmonies and in melodic inflections (blue notes, glissandi, bending tones) convey my longing for a distant America and my family there. Herbsttag does not develop or modulate. Just like my feelings while composing it, the work seems caught in a somewhat depressive and hopeless mood from where there is no escape or resolution. The middle section portrays Rilke’s cold Autumn Day wind blowing the dry leaves along the wet streets of Vienna. The work ends with a glissando to nowhere from the same chord that began the piece, now missing the harmonic ground of tonic and third. After numerous reiterations of the theme, flute and bassoon end the piece with empty air notes.”

     

    Inspiration from poetry

    In addition to his comments on Herbsttag, del Águila has produced his own English translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s German-language poem that inspired the music.

     

    Lord, it is time. Let the great summer go,
    lay your shadows on the sundials,
    and over harvest piles let the winds blow.
    Command the last fruits to be ripe;
    grant them one last southern hour,
    urge them to completion, and with power
    drive final sweetness to the heavy wine.
    Who’s homeless now, will for long stay alone.
    No home will build his weary hands.
    He’ll wake, read, write letters long to friends
    and will the alleys up and down
    walk restlessly wandering, as falling leaves dance.

     

    About the composer
    Miguel del Águila is one of the most distinctive and highly regarded composers of his generation, and his music has enjoyed great success and frequent performances, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when it has been shared with both in-person and online streaming audiences. A three-time Grammy Award nominee, he has composed more than 130 works, ranging from chamber music to concertos to operas, that couple drama and driving rhythm with nostalgic nods to his South American roots. His music has been been played by nearly 100 orchestras and thousands of ensembles and soloists, and is featured on more then 50 CDs.

     

    In 2021 del Águila is serving as composer in residence with Danish Chamber Players/Ensemble Storstrøm in Denmark. His recent commissions include works for John Hopkins Center for the Arts, Cuarteto Latinoamericano, Eroica Trio, Kalliope Reeds and Fivebyfive. A sought-after guest as lecturer, educator, music advisor and curator, he is currently a BYU Barlow Endowment’s Board of Advisors member, and he served as judge for United States Artists Fellowships, the Camino de la Fe competition and the Cayambis Music Press Editorial Committee.

     

    Del Águila’s training and early professional experience took place in Uruguay, the U.S. and Europe. After graduating from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, he traveled to Vienna, where he studied at the Universität für Musik un Darstellende Kunst and Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna. Early premieres of his works in Vienna’s Musikverein, Konzerthaus and Bösendorfer halls won him praise from audiences and press. He returned to the U.S. in 1992, settling on the West Coast. A full biography appears on the composer’s website.

     

    Instrumentation: flute, bassoon and harp

     

    Program note by Carl Schroeder.

  • Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra, Opus 35

    Dmitri Shostakovich

    • Born
      September 25, 1906
      St. Petersburg, Russia
    • Died
      August 9, 1975
      Moscow, Russia

    Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Piano, Trumpet and String Orchestra, Opus 35

    • Premiered
      October 15, 1933

    Dmitri Shostakovich burst to worldwide fame in 1926 with the premiere of his First Symphony, composed when he was only 19. Saucy and supremely accomplished, the symphony was conducted by Bruno Walter in Berlin and Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia, and overnight Shostakovich became a household name in the world of classical music. He also became the darling of the Russian government, which hailed the young man as “a Soviet composer brought up in the best traditions of Soviet culture.”

     

    Over the next few years Shostakovich composed such brash stage works as his opera The Nose (based on a tale by Nikolai Gogol), the ballet The Age of Gold (a criticism of capitalism), and incidental music for Vladimir Mayakovsky’s satirical play The Bedbug. In 1932 he completed his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, which would get him into almost lethal trouble several years later when the prudish Stalin went to see it; that would be the first of Shostakovich’s many collisions with Soviet authorities.

     

    An unexpected direction

    None of those future difficulties weighed on Shostakovich in 1933, when the young composer set out in an entirely unexpected direction: he decided to compose a concerto for trumpet and orchestra. There are relatively few trumpet concertos, and this is in part because the trumpet is a difficult instrument to write a concerto for. Though it makes a brilliant sound, the trumpet plays a narrower range of pitches than, say, a violin or piano, and the instrument has myriad technical challenges. Shostakovich quickly sensed the solo trumpet’s limitations in the music he wanted to write. He brought in a piano to help things out, and the piano soon took over the concerto, pushing the trumpet into a secondary role.

     

    Shostakovich was a virtuoso pianist—he won an honorable mention at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw in 1927—and he was the soloist at the concerto’s premiere in Leningrad on October 15, 1933. Shostakovich’s piano-playing was praised for its clarity and precision, and it should come as no surprise that this music is suited so exactly to those virtues. The scoring—for just piano, trumpet, and strings—is exceptionally light, with many extended sections for piano alone. The trumpet has some brilliant solo passages, but it plays a subordinate part here, used primarily for accent and piquant contrast.

     

    Shostakovich frequently performed this concerto, especially as a young man, and several recordings of his live performances survive. While on a visit to Paris in 1958, Shostakovich made a studio recording of both his piano concertos with conductor André Cluytens. That recording makes clear that even in his 50s, at a time when he was not performing regularly in public, Shostakovich remained quite a brilliant pianist.

     

    The music: A kaleidoscopic concerto

    This uniquely-scored concerto is remarkable for the kaleidoscopic variety of its moods. The music can be brilliant or somber, percussive or lyric, gentle or harsh, charming or sneering, changing almost by the instant. There are occasional hints as well of American jazz, another form of music that was about to become a hot-button topic with Soviet authorities. This mercurial concerto is quite compact: its four movements, played without pause, span just over 20 minutes.

               

    Allegro moderato. The concerto bursts to life with a splash of color—glittering flashes from piano and trumpet—before the piano announces the lyric first subject, quickly repeated by the violins. The writing for piano in this movement is extremely athletic, with wide melodic skips and extended passages in octaves. The central episode, marked Allegro vivace, turns turbulent before the movement closes quietly on fragments of its opening melody.

     

    Lento. A slow, ghostly waltz for muted strings opens the Lento. The piano takes up this waltz but soon races ahead in a violent section that Shostakovich marks both appassionato and marcatissimo. The quiet waltz, now featuring lovely lyric writing for muted trumpet, returns to bring the movement to its close.

     

    Moderato. The third movement, a brief Moderato, functions as a bridge to the fiery finale, and it opens with a long passage for piano alone. Strings enter with a variation of the first movement’s opening theme, and the music proceeds directly into the finale.

     

    Allegro brio. The final movement returns to the mood and manner of the first, with angular themes, virtuoso writing for piano, and extended passages for trumpet. Pushed along by fiery fanfares from the trumpet, the concerto blisters its way to the sudden, surprising close.

     

    Instrumentation: solo piano, solo trumpet and strings

     

    Program note by Eric Bromberger.

  • Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Opus 120

    Robert Schumann

    • Born
      June 8, 1810
      Zwichau, Germany
    • Died
      July 29, 1856
      Endenich, Germany

    Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Opus 120

    • Premiered
      December 6, 1841

    The story of Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony begins with the issue of numbering. Schumann’s Fourth Symphony is really his second. He sketched his First Symphony in three days in January 1841, and in May he began crafting another symphony, this one in the key of D minor. Clara heard her husband at work in his room and wrote happily in her journal: “Robert began yesterday another symphony, which will be in one movement, and yet contain an adagio and a finale. I have heard nothing about it, yet I see Robert’s activity and I hear the D minor sounding wildly from a distance, so that I know in advance that another work will be fashioned in the depths of his soul.”

     

    The journey of a neglected symphony

    Robert Schumann presented the completed symphony to Clara on September 13, 1840, a particularly happy day: it was her 22nd birthday. However, the symphony’s premiere in Leipzig on December 6 was not so happy. The performance was subpar, the audience did not respond well, and the disappointed Schumann set the manuscript on the shelf, where it remained for the next ten years. During that decade, he composed two more symphonies, which were published as his Second and Third.

     

    Perhaps it was the successful premiere of the Third Symphony in 1851 that caused Schumann to remember his neglected earlier effort in this form. He pulled out the manuscript of the Symphony in D minor, made a piano arrangement of it, then revised this version and re-orchestrated it. The composer led the premiere of the revised version in Düsseldorf on December 30, 1852, and in this form it proved much more successful. Schumann’s conducting of this symphony at the Lower Rhine Music Festival on the following May 15 was among the final public triumphs of his brief life. The following year he attempted suicide, and he lived his final two years in an asylum. After Schumann’s death the D-minor symphony was published as his Symphony No. 4, though in order of composition it predated the Second and Third.

     

    A symphony played without pause

    Schumann’s Fourth Symphony is remarkable in that the basic outlines of a traditional symphony are evident, yet the work deviates from these norms in numerous ways. Clara’s initial journal entry was not entirely accurate: the symphony is in four movements rather than one, but these four movements are played without pause. Providing even further unity, nearly all of this symphony grows out of one central theme, announced at the beginning and then varied inventively across the span of the four movements. One of the great pleasures of the Fourth Symphony lies in following Schumann’s thematic imagination—from the first simple theme-shape, he spins a wealth of material in quite different tempos and moods.

     

    Fairly slow–Lively. This central theme emerges from the great all-together A that opens the symphony: second violins, violas and bassoons sing this quiet falling-and-rising shape. This opening gradually accelerates to the main body of the movement, marked Lebhaft (“lively”), and the theme-shape is now embedded within the chain of flying 16th-notes that make up this theme. This movement seems at first to be in sonata form (there is an as-expected repeat of the exposition material), but then Schumann launches off in his own direction—in what should be the development section, he introduces new material, dispenses with the normal recapitulation, and drives to a vigorous close in the completely unexpected (and completely satisfying) key of D major.

     

    Romance: Fairly slow. Solo oboe and the cello section sing the opening theme of the Romance, which Schumann marks ausdruckvoll (“expressive”). This is sung with great delicacy, and there is evidence that the composer had originally considered accompanying it with a guitar. No sooner has it been stated than Schumann brings back the symphony’s opening theme in its original shape, and this leads to the central section, where the solo violin weaves a filigree of triplets around the orchestra’s restatement of the theme.

     

    Scherzo: Lively. The Scherzo gets off to a gruff start, with great chords pounding over the chugging string accompaniment; the trio section is a nice variation of the solo violin theme from the Romance, flowing here with a liquid ease.

     

    Slow–Lively–Faster. The mood changes sharply at the introduction to the last movement as the music returns to D minor, and the skies cloud over. Over rustling string tremolos come bits of theme and ominous brass warnings, and it is hard not to believe that Schumann based this transition on the corresponding spot in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which makes the same dark transition into a triumphant finale. Gradually Schumann’s music rushes ahead and leaps into D major for the three bright chords that launch the finale, full of energy, fugal writing and stirring horn calls. Although the tempo is already fast, Schumann presses ahead as he nears the conclusion, moving first to Schneller (“more quickly”) and finally whipping this music to its close on an almost breathless Presto.

     

    Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba and strings

     

    Program note by Eric Bromberger.

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