February 18-19, 2023
Stuart Malina, Conductor
Inbal Segev, Cello
blue cathedral, Higdon
Cello Concerto, Elgar
Inbal Segev, Cello
Symphony No. 8, Dvořák
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.
A native of Israel, Inbal Segev came to the U.S. with the encouragement of Isaac Stern to continue her cello studies. After she graduated from the Juilliard School and earned a master’s from Yale, she collaborated with former New York Philharmonic concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and violist Karen Dreyfus to found the Amerigo Trio in 2009.
As soloist, Ms. Segev has appeared with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and Pittsburgh Symphony; and she has collaborated with such prominent conductors as Marin Alsop, Stéphane Denève, Lorin Maazel, Cristian Măcelaru and Zubin Mehta.
Ms. Segev is committed to reinvigorating the cello repertoire. She has commissioned new works from Timo Andres, Avner Dorman, Gity Razaz, Dan Visconti and Anna Clyne. Her 2020 premiere recording of Clyne’s cello concerto, DANCE, topped the Amazon Classical Concertos chart, and its opening movement was chosen as one of NPR Music’s “Favorite Songs of 2020.” Taking advantage of electronic media to reach a broad audience, at the start of the pandemic Ms. Segev launched “20 for 2020” on YouTube. The commissioning, recording and video project featured twenty pieces by twenty cutting-edge composers “reflecting our collective experiences of the year 2020,” including compositions of John Luther Adams, Viet Cuong and Vijay Iyer. Continuing her skillful use of benefit the reach of social media platforms, her popular masterclass series, Musings with Inbal Segev, is available on YouTube.
Her recordings include the Elgar Cello Concerto, which she plays in Greenwich this weekend, and Romantic cello works. She performs on a Francesco Ruggieri cello made in 1673.
Jennifer Higdon (1962-)
Born in Brooklyn and raised in what might be called a countercultural family in Atlanta and eastern Tennessee, Jennifer Higdon was surrounded from the earliest age by artistic events and experimental film festivals. As a child she seemed inclined to writing and did not involve herself with music until her mid-teens, at which time she taught herself to play the flute. Her talent for composition was developed while she was a student at Bowling Green State University and the Curtis Institute of Music. She also studied privately with George Crumb.
Higdon holds many honored positions in the music profession, such as the Rock Chair in Composition at the Curtis Institute, and composer-in-residence for many music festivals, including Vail, Music from Angel Fire, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and Bravo! In 2004 she was the first woman to be named a featured composer at the Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival. She has also served as composer-in-residence with the orchestras of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Fort Worth. In addition to her faculty position at Curtis, Higdon was the Karel Husa Visiting Professor at Ithaca College and, from 2016 to 2018, Barr Laureate Scholar at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In 2018–2019 she was in residence at the University of Texas at Austin. Higdon’s compositions have earned her the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a Grammy Award for her Violin Concerto, and she received another Grammy for her Percussion Concerto. In 2018, she won the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University.
blue cathedral is one of Higdon’s most successful works, which at recent count has more than 600 performances in the U.S. and around the world. It may be viewed on YouTube, performed by the Royal Concertgebouw under Stéphane Denève, as well as heard in recording on the Telarc label by the Atlanta Symphony under Robert Spano, who gave the world premiere in Philadelphia with the Curtis Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra on March 1, 2000.
blue cathedral is dedicated to the memory of the composer’s younger brother Andrew Blue Higdon. It is more a celebration of life than a funeral piece, and in her following note, she makes no reference to the coincidence that Blue was her brother’s middle name:
Blue — like the sky. Where all possibilities soar. Cathedrals — a place of thought, growth, spiritual expression, serving as a symbolic doorway into and out of this world. Cathedrals represent a place of beginnings, endings, solitude, fellowship, contemplation, knowledge and growth. As I was writing this piece, I found myself imagining a journey through a glass cathedral in the sky. Because the walls would be transparent, I saw the image of clouds and blueness permeating from the outside of this church.
. . . The listener would float down the aisle, slowly moving upward at first and then progressing at a quicker pace, rising towards an immense ceiling which would open to the sky. As this journey progressed, the speed of the traveler would increase, rushing forward and upward. I wanted to create the sensation of contemplation and quiet peace at the beginning, moving towards the feeling of celebration and ecstatic expansion of the soul, all the while singing along with that heavenly music.
Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
His breakthrough piece from 1899, Enigma Variations, thrust Elgar from being a moderately successful regional composer to an international celebrity, recognized as the first to achieve recognition as a distinctly English composer since Henry Purcell. Along with Rachmaninoff, Elgar was among the first generation of composers to recognize and utilize recorded media as a means of preserving his intentions as to how his works should be performed.
Composed in 1919, the Cello Concerto came late in Elgar’s career, but it got off to a rocky start due to inadequate rehearsal time allotted to the premiere in October of that year. Elgar himself conducted the opening performance by soloist Felix Salmond with the London Symphony. But the Cello Concerto is not believed to have hit its stride until 1965, when it was performed and recorded by Jacqueline Du Pré under John Barbirolli, a life-long champion of Elgar, who coincidentally had been a member of the cello section at the work’s premiere and had been featured as soloist in a subsequent performance. Du Pré’s highly impassioned interpretation caught hold and was followed by her numerous performances with Daniel Barenboim conducting. Their performances, and the tragic circumstances of Ms. Du Pré’s crippling illness, the early end of her career, and her untimely passing, would play no small role in projecting this piece to the forefront of current concert repertoire.
Although the Cello Concerto has its lighter moments, it is a work that dwells in longing and nostalgia, unusual for an instrumental concerto and exceeded perhaps only by the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg. Elgar followed it with few other pieces, though notably with a brilliant orchestral transcription of the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537 by Bach.
At Elgar’s home on the Channel Coast, the Cello Concerto was written within recent memory of the rumble and pounding of heavy artillery across the water during the final months of the war. The world of stable national alliances and empire in which Elgar had come of age had crumbled, and the catastrophe of a generation of lives senselessly lost in combat was staggering and unprecedented. Such is the emotional background of the creation of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor. Cast in four movements, the work ranges from moods of a gentle pastoral elegy to outpourings of impassioned intensity.
Symphony no. 8 in G, Op. 88
Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904)
Arriving numerically as well as temperamentally between Dvořák’s serious and dramatic formal hommage to Brahms, his Seventh Symphony, and the epic Ninth, his American souvenir titled the New World, falls the Eighth Symphony in G major, a mostly light and cheerful work. It is based on Bohemian song and dance idioms with no pretensions of grandeur or complexity. Composed by Dvořák in the Bohemian town of Vysoká u Příbramě (currently in the Czech Republic) the Eighth Symphony is cast in four movements, very much in the spirit of his very popular Slavonic Dances but in more formal symphonic settings.
The somewhat solemn introduction to the first movement quickly gives way to a more exhilarating tempo, which, aside from a brief reprise, is maintained throughout the movement. The second movement contrasts bucolic moods and bird cawing with episodes of dramatic intensity. The third movement, a gentle waltz, is an intermezzo in the style of Brahms. The final movement begins with a unison fanfare from the trumpets. The conductor Rafael Kubelik was known to remind orchestras that in Bohemia, trumpet playing such as this was “not a call to arms, but a call to dance.” And indeed, Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony is no battle symphony but as much a dance symphony as Beethoven’s Seventh, dubbed by Wagner as the “apotheosis of the dance.”
Dvořák conducted the premiere with the Orchestra of the National Theatre of Prague on February 2, 1890. Subsequent performances were given under Hans Richter in London and Vienna. Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony gained public acceptance from the start.