Romeo and Juliet
Sunday, July 30, 2017 @ 3:00 PM
Ken Lam, conductor
Jihye Chang, piano
Ticket holders may attend The PreConcert, a free recital in Thomas Hall, which begins one hour before the performance.
MESSIAEN Un Sourire
ALDRIDGE Piano Concerto No. 2
PROKOFIEV Suite from Romeo and Juliet
More Information (Show)
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
1991 marked the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, sparking conferences and performances around the globe. Conductor Marek Janowski commissioned Messiaen to write an orchestral piece “in the spirit of Mozart” to be premiered on December 5, the day of Mozart’s death. The composer decided to focus on Mozart’s ability to take everything in stride: I love and admire Mozart. I didn’t try, in my homage to him, to imitate his style, which would have been idiotic. I said to myself: Mozart always had many enemies. He was hungry, cold, almost all his children died, his wife was ill, he knew only tragedy. . . . And he always smiled. In his music and in his life. So I tried to smile, and I composed La Sourire, a little piece lasting nine minutes, without pretentiousness, which I hope . . . smiles!
The work contrasts two completely different themes, set apart by instrumentation (strings and oboe versus winds and percussion), rhythm (slow moving chords versus irregular groupings of 32nd notes), and mood (ethereal versus energetic). With each alternation, the themes seem to “want” to rub off each other. Yet the piece runs on two parallel tracks—until they finally come to rest on a major chord.
Robert Aldridge (1954 -)
Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, "Harmonices Mundi"
This concerto is written in memory of Evan Armstrong North who died suddenly at age 28. The work was commissioned anonymously, and by the Brevard Music Center, and is published by CF Peters Inc.
Evan's all too brief life was amazing for its breadth and quality. He graduated from Harvard in 2005, received a Masters from Georgetown in 2009, and was on his way to a doctoral degree there when he died. By all accounts, he was a true renaissance man, with a remarkable array of interests and talents. His was truly a life well lived. I was asked to write a piece in memory of Evan and tonight is the premiere of that piece. The task of writing a piece of music for someone who has left the world all too soon is not an easy one. Does one write celebratory music, in honor of his well-lived life? Or does one musically depict the loss of such a beloved young man? I tried to do something of both. The first movement begins with the musical depiction of the loss, a descending scale of despair. As it is a concerto, much of the piece is a dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra. For the most part, the piano is the voice of love and hope while the orchestra is the voice of despair and loss. How does one move forward to live after such a loss? What ensues in the process of the first movement represents a gradual triumph over despair.
Movement two is a traditional slow movement with the main theme initially stated by the solo piano. While the piano and orchestra are in lyrical and hopeful dialogue, there are occasional glimpses of despair, entering at often unexpected moments. One must move forward from great loss, but how can one ever truly do that? Finally, both piano and orchestra join together in a restatement of the theme, moving forward to reconciliation.
The last movement moves decidedly to joy and hope. It is based on material in Evan's own website, keplersdiscovery.com. This brilliant resource is a beautiful synthesis of Johannes Kepler's writings and discoveries. Kepler's findings, of course, became the foundation of modern astronomy and physics. There is an amazing array of information that Evan collects on his website. Among it all is Kepler's keen interest in the relationship between the planets and music. His book, Harmonices Mundi (Harmony of the World) contains several chapters devoted to this relationship. "In what things pertaining to the planetary movements the simple harmonies and that all those harmonies which are present in song are found in the heavens . . . that each musical tone or mode is in a certain ways expressed by one of the planets...that the counterpoint or universal harmonies of all to the planets can exist and be different from one another." And then Evan notes, "In fact, he [Kepler] found that planets did seem to approximate harmonies with respect to their own orbits.” This last movement is inspired by the incredible energy and love of discovery that can be found on Evan's website. By reading this remarkable collection, I felt that I had gained a sense of the spirit of this brilliant and much loved young man.
I'd like to thank all who have been involved in this project; to Mark and Jason at the Brevard Music Center, and to Jihye Chang, a beautiful pianist.
- Robert Livingston Aldridge
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Suite from Romeo and Juliet
Prokofiev longed to return to Russia in the mid-1930s, so the ballet Romeo and Juliet was a welcomed commission by the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad. The only problem was that, as Prokofiev put it, “living people can dance, the dying cannot,” which is why he first composed a happy ending. After much wrangling, he ultimately followed the traditional story line; yet neither the living nor the dead seemed to be able to dance to Prokofiev’s score, as his second version was declared “undanceable.” While the ballet was eventually staged, it is the three suites he extracted from the score that have brought this music the most enduring success. Tonight’s performance excerpts movements from all suites, presenting various stages of the unfolding drama.
Montagues and Capulets introduces the feuding families. The music is taken from the opening of the ballet and portrays the rift between the warring parties, followed by a rather tentative dance of Juliet with her fiancé Paris.
Aubade is the waking dance for Juliet’s intended wedding. The joyful mood in the strings and woodwinds seems slightly undercut by the chromatic interjections by the brass.
The Child Juliet explores the complex psyche of a teenager—from exuberant to pensive and confused (some things never change). The Street Awakens seems to picture a piazza before the day gets going.
In Morning Dance the street now comes alive in this rousing and vibrant movement.
Masks is a witty and charming movement that captures the cat-andmouse character that runs through the whole drama.
Dance sounds more like a joyride, as Romeo and Juliet start to get to know each other, wondering who that other person is, yet realizing the excitement of being together.
In Death of Tybalt the plot thickens. Tybalt's death at Romeo's hands dashes any hope for reconciliation between the feuding families. The piece moves from exhilarating and suspenseful music to a funeral march. Romeo and Juliet Before Parting is the central movement of this suite, as it unpacks a wide range of emotions—from puppy-love and hope for happily-ever-after to fear and sadness—yet time keeps on ticking (with an unrelenting pulse throughout the music).
Romeo at the Grave of Juliet expresses intense grief and despair at the funeral procession. As the music quiets, the drama heightens; Romeo takes the poison, and the fate of the lovers is sealed. Surely Prokofiev could not have matched the intense music of this movement with any kind of happy ending, proving the allure of tragedies once again! The Death of Juliet is the closing Adagio of the ballet. The full measure of the tragedy is further explored in an emotionally intense reference to the Young Juliet. The music ebbs away like Juliet’s life.
- Siegwart Reichwald
Overture Program Information
Artist Information (Show)
Ken Lam is Music Director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Associate Professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and Artistic Director of Hong Kong Voices.
In 2011 Mr. Lam won the Memphis Symphony Orchestra International Conducting Competition and was a featured conductor in the League of American Orchestra's 2009 Bruno Walter National Conductors Preview with the Nashville Symphony. He made his US professional debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in June 2008 as one of four conductors selected by Leonard Slatkin. In recent seasons he has led performances with the symphony orchestras of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Pops, Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, Illinois, and Meridian, as well as the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Guiyang Symphony Orchestra, and the Taipei Symphony Orchestra.
In opera, he has led critically acclaimed productions at Spoleto Festival USA, Lincoln Center Festival, and at the Luminato Festival in Canada, and has directed numerous productions of the Janiec Opera Company at Brevard.
Ken Lam studied conducting with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar at Peabody Conservatory, David Zinman and Murry Sidlin at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, and Leonard Slatkin at the National Conducting Institute. Previous conducting positions include Associate Conductor for Education of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He read economics and law at St. John's College, Cambridge University, and previously spent ten years as an attorney specializing in international finance.
Mr. Lam was the recipient of the 2015 Johns Hopkins University Global Achievement Award.
Pianist Jihye Chang has appeared as soloist and collaborative artist in venues throughout the United States, Canada, Korea, France, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Her performances and recordings have been broadcast on KBS TV and KBS FM Radio Korea, PBC TV Korea, Yedang TV Korea, and Costa Rica Classical Radio. She has appeared as a soloist with the Wonjoo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Virtuosi of Festival Internacionale de Musica in Recife, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, Fargo Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, the Sun-Hwa Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hot Springs Festival Ensemble.
Ms. Chang has showcased her versatility and excellence on many prestigious stages with renowned musicians, including William Preucil (violin), Alexandra Preucil (violin), Frank Cohen (clarinet), Richard Young (viola/violin), and Bion Tsang (cello). She was also a guest artist at the Virtuosi Festival in Recife and Festival Inverno de Garanhuns in Brazil and Arts Festival Olivet in France. Her recent engagements include an appearance at the Fort Worth Chamber Music Society, a lecture and solo performance for the Guest Artist Series at Converse College, performance for Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Dante-The Divine Comedy Project, and numerous appearances at the Cummer Museum and Museum Of Contemporary Arts in Jacksonville. In the 2016-2017 season, she launched a multi-year solo recital project, “Continuum 88,” commissioning and premiering works related to the most prominent genres of piano literature.
Together with violinist Benjamin Sung, Ms. Chang was one of the recipients of the 2009 Aaron Copland Fund Recording Grant. An avid performer of new music, Ms. Chang has been a frequent guest artist of the Studio 2021 Series at Seoul National University, and new music festivals.
Ms. Chang holds the degrees of Doctor of Music and Master of Music in Piano Performance from the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. She resides in sunny Tallahassee with her husband, violinist Benjamin Sung, and their amazing baby boy, Aiden. In her leisure time Jihye enjoys drinking good espresso, cooking, and eating.