April 15-16, 2023
André Raphel, Guest Conductor
Leonardo Suarez Paz, Violin
Appalachian Spring, Copland
Nuevos Aires, Suarez Paz
Leonardo Suarez Paz, Violin
Symphony No. 7, Beethoven
Concerts are held at the Performing Arts Center at Greenwich High School
10 Hillside Road, Greenwich, CT
Saturdays at 7:30 pm Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets are good for either performance.
Acclaimed for his versatility, Guest Conductor André Raphel is renowned for compelling musical performances. A dynamic podium presence, he has led critically acclaimed festivals, world premieres and commissioned works.
Born André Raphel Smith in Durham, North Carolina, he began formal music lessons at age 11. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Miami, and a master’s degree at Yale, where he began conducting studies with Otto-Werner Mueller. He continued as Mueller’s student at The Curtis Institute of Music and he earned a diploma in conducting at the Juilliard School, where he received the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and an advanced certificate in orchestral conducting.
Maestro Raphel made his Carnegie Hall debut leading the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, with Robert Shaw narrating Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, in a concert celebrating the centennial of legendary mezzo-soprano Marian Anderson. He was the Music Director of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra for fifteen years and enjoys an active career as guest conductor both in the U.S. and abroad.
Maestro Raphel has a strong commitment to education and community engagement. In 2010, he launched a highly successful College Series with the Wheeling Symphony. During his tenure with the St. Louis Symphony, he was Music Director of the orchestra’s “In Unison” program, a partnership between the orchestra and local churches.
The Philadelphia Orchestra issued a special commemorative CD featuring William Grant Still’s Symphony No.1 with Maestro Raphel conducting.
Leonardo Suarez Paz, is known to our audiences as a member of GSO’s string section since 2005. For this concert he takes center stage as soloist playing his own composition, Nuevos Aires, a tango concerto.
Mr. Suarez Paz, is a graduate of the Conservatorio Superior de Música Manuel de Falla in Buenos Aires and a violin student of Miguel Angel Bertero. At age 16, he became the youngest member of the Orquesta Estable, or permanent orchestra, of the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s premier concert hall. He has recorded Grammy-winning albums with Placido Domingo, Carlos Franzetti, Ruben Blades and Luis Miguel. In the U.S., Mr. Suarez Paz starred in Tango Argentino and Forever Tango on Broadway. Mentored by the renowned composer Astor Piazzolla, he directs, composes, arranges, and choreographs for many productions and projects, and he is a Latin Grammy Award nominee with releases on EMI Classics (L’Atelier) and Azica (Masters of Bandoneon, Escualo). He has performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in the U.S., and at Spoleto and Umbria jazz festivals in Italy.
During his time at the Teatro Colon, the New York Philharmonic performed there and Mr. Suarez Paz saw the orchestra rehearsing with David Gilbert, who was then conductor of the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Suarez Paz recalls thinking that he would like to be conducted by him, so he thought it was fortuitous that he found himself joining the GSO in 2005. He recalls being impressed with Danny Miller, bringing the best players to the orchestra, and Mary Radcliffe dedicating her life to helping the orchestra and the students. He adds, “I am very proud to be able to share my own violin concerto with the orchestra of my heart, the Greenwich Symphony.”
Appalachian Spring – Suite
Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Back home in New York after studies in Paris with celebrated composition pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, Copland carried a commission for an organ concerto from Mme. Boulanger for her to premiere at her U.S. performance debut. The resulting work, Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, given in January 1925 by the New York Symphony under Walter Damrosch, was met with mixed reactions. Those experienced in music and ready to hear new sounds loved it, but more conservative listeners for whom music had stopped at the threshold of the twentieth century—not so much. Damrosch, in an effort to allay their misgivings with a bit of humor, addressed the audience briefly: "If a gifted young man can write a symphony like this at age twenty-three, within five years he will be ready to commit murder." The acceptance that Copland would acquire by the 1930s and 1940s as the voice of homespun America, as evocative and wholesome as Norman Rockwell illustrations set to music, lay some years in the future.
During the 1930s, Copland felt the need to “change his tune” from iconoclastic avant-garde to a more populist vein that could be embraced by the mainstream public. An early success along these lines was El Salon Mexico (1936), named for a popular night spot in Mexico City known for its music and the sometimes uninhibited behavior of its patrons. With the ballets Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and Appalachian Spring, Copland forged a new American idiom based on elements derived from English speaking settlers, stewed in the Franco-Russian styles he had absorbed in Paris from his studies and the influences of Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and others. Through some half-dozen film scores, most of them based on American literary and stage works, Copland would persuade an emerging generation of Hollywood film composers that they no longer needed to imitate Liszt and Wagner when scoring for pictures dealing with American life. Copland received the 1949 Academy Award for his score to The Heiress.
Appalachian Spring was commissioned in 1943 by dancer/choreographer Martha Graham for the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation. Despite its popularity, the work has been somewhat misunderstood with regard to its subject and title. The subtext is early nineteenth-century life among a pioneer community. Copland’s use of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts was a highly effective device to impart an atmosphere of American authenticity, but the work is not about life among the Shakers. The Shakers were an unusual Christian sect, which among other things, eschewed marriage and advocated celibacy. While composing the piece, Copland’s working title was simply “Ballet for Martha.” In his mind there were no associations with Appalachia or spring. Graham applied the title Appalachian Spring based on a phrase from a poem by Hart Crane. Spring has been presumed to be a seasonal reference, but is believed to refer to a source of water.
The premiere of Appalachian Spring was given on October 30, 1944 in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress. The work was scored for a 13-piece ensemble due to the small orchestra pit. Conductor Artur Rodzinski asked Copland to enlarge the orchestra for concert purposes, and the composer also made a few cuts. Rodzinski premiered this version with the New York Philharmonic in October, 1945. Though the original is occasionally revived as a ballet, this suite has become the version familiar to most listeners. Copland was awarded the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Music for Appalachian Spring.
Nuevos Aires – Violin Concerto, with Bandoneon and Cello Concertante
Leonardo Suarez Paz
Tango apparently runs in the DNA of Leonardo Suarez Paz, something of a renaissance man who plays the violin on a broad professional front. At Jazz at Lincoln Center, where he often performs, he has been described by its director Wynton Marsalis as a “virtuoso extraordinaire.” As a choreographer, dancer, singer, arranger, and composer, Mr. Suarez Paz is the current embodiment of a legacy of 100 years and four generations of an extended family of tangueros from Buenos Aires, which includes the celebrated composer Astor Piazzolla, whom Suarez Paz has cited as a prime mentor in his artistic development. A multiple Latin GRAMMY award nominee, Suarez Paz is taking part in the redefinition of the contemporary music of Buenos Aires and the idiom of Nuevo Tango and bringing this complex Argentinian musical heritage into the realm of twenty-first-century international classical music.
The first movement of the concerto Nuevos Aires, “Celia, Beatriz, and Olga,” dedicated to the women of tango and named for the composer’s grandmother, mother, and wife, relates to motherhood and the energy of creation. A waltz, or vals as it is called in tango, is both melodic and grounded, like the dance of a pregnant woman, which the composer observed in his wife, a dancer, while they were expecting their child. The second movement, "Astor, Fernando, and Niccolo” is dedicated to friendship and family ties in honor of the composer's mentor, Piazzolla, his father, and his son. The movement begins like a relationship between three friends—bandoneon, cello, and violin. The friendship solidifies, united by a shared tango melody. The final movement, “Horacio and Horacio” is dedicated to the two maestri—composer/pianist Horacio Salgan and poet Horacio Ferrer—who formed the composer’s understanding of the tango groove and the energy of rhythm. A circle of rhythms, subdivided constantly in different rhythmic keys highlights Candombe as the ancestral root of Tango as well as the future into which it is being written.
Nuevos Aires was commissioned in 2017 by the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra of New York. Mr. Suarez-Paz premiered the work as soloist with Max Lifchitz conducting on June 20, 2017, at Christ and St. Stephen's Church in New York City.
Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven conducted the premiere of his Seventh Symphony at a benefit concert given in Vienna on December 8, 1813, for wounded veterans of the Battle of Hanau. In his address to the participants, Beethoven remarked: "We are moved by nothing but pure patriotism and the joyful sacrifice of our powers for those who have sacrificed so much for us.” The first performance of one of the most enduringly popular of Beethoven’s nine symphonies was nearly overshadowed by the premiere of a somewhat bizarre Beethoven novelty, the battle symphony Wellington’s Victory, a piece that required antiphonal brass and artillery effects, as well as an enlarged 100-piece orchestra.
Despite this distraction, the Seventh Symphony was a huge success; the second movement in particular with its elegiac mood, so deeply moved the audience that an immediate encore was demanded. It is interesting to note however, that even a work of such obvious strength and high quality has not been universally acclaimed. Wagner loved it for its overall rhythmic vitality and referred to it as the “apotheosis of the dance.” Celebrated conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, on the other hand, dismissed it with a wisecrack regarding the third movement: "What can you do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about." But generations of listeners have made up their minds. Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony is one of the treasured cornerstones of our concert repertoire.