January 28-29, 2023

January 28-29, 2023                   

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Stuart Malina, Conductor
William Hagen, Violin

Black Iris (#metoo), Esmail

Violin Concerto, Tchaikovsky
          William Hagen, Violin

Symphony No. 5, Sibelius

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. Maestro Malina invites audience members to remain in the auditorium after the concert for an informal Q&A session.

 

William Hagen has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician across the United States, Europe, and Asia. In 2021, William made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe at the Rheingau Music Festival, and appeared at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

As soloist, Hagen has appeared with the Detroit Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and regularly appears as soloist at the Aspen Music Festival. In Europe, he has soloed with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony (HR Sinfonieorchester), the Vienna Radio Symphony (ORF Radio Sinfonieorchester Wien), and the major orchestras of Belgium, including the Brussels Philharmonic, National Orchestra of Belgium, and the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège. William has also soloed in Japan with the Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Sendai Philharmonic.

As recitalist and chamber musician, he has performed at venues such as Wigmore Hall and the Louvre, and collaborated with artists such as Steven Isserlis, Gidon Kremer, Edgar Meyer, and Tabea Zimmerman, among others. He maintains an active schedule on both sides of the Atlantic, making frequent trips to Europe and cities around the US to play a wide range of repertoire. In 2019, Hagen released his debut album, “Danse Russe,” with his good friend and frequent collaborator, pianist Albert Cano Smit. The album is available on all streaming platforms.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Hagen began playing the violin at the age of four, studying with Natalie Reed and then Deborah Moench. He studied with Itzhak Perlman and Catherine Cho at the Juilliard School, Christian Tetzlaff at the Kronberg Academy, and was a longtime student of Robert Lipsett, studying with Mr. Lipsett for 11 years both at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts and at the Colburn Conservatory of Music. In 2015, he won third prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. Hagen performs on the 1732 “Arkwright Lady Rebecca Sylvan” Antonio Stradivari, on generous loan from the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation.

 

Program Notes
 
Black Iris (#metoo)
Reena Esmail (1983–)
 
Born in Chicago, Reena Esmail draws on both her Indian and American backgrounds in shaping her musical compositions from Hindustani, as well as Western traditions of classical music. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and from Yale School of Music, and her teachers have included Susan Botti, Alan Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, and Samuel Adler. 

Esmail received a Fulbright–Nehru Fellowship, which enabled her to study Hindustani music in India with Srimati Lakshmi Shankar and Gaurav Mazumdar. She currently studies and collaborates with Saili Oak. Her doctoral thesis, Finding Common Ground: Uniting Practices in Hindustani and Western Art Musicians, explores the methods and challenges of the collaborative process between Hindustani musicians and Western composers.   
 
Esmail is the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s 2020–2023 Swan Family Artist in Residence. She was the Seattle Symphony’s 2020–2021 Composer-in-Residence, as well as a 2017–2018 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. Esmail won the 2012 Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is currently Artistic Director of Shastra, a nonprofit organization that promotes cross-cultural music connecting music traditions of India and the West. Esmail has composed on commission for an impressive number of performance organizations, including the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Kronos Quartet, Albany Symphony, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 
 
From the composer’s program notes:
This work bore its original title #metoo from the social movement that was exploding across our country during the time I was writing it. The movement, created in 2006 by Tarana Burke to create safe spaces for young women of color, grew into a movement that allowed so many women to speak out, contextualize one another’s experiences, and begin to heal. I always get asked why there aren’t more women composers. This piece is one response—of many hundreds of responses—to that question. So many of us decide to become composers when we are young women because we fall deeply in love with individual pieces of music. We listen to them incessantly, we memorize every note of them, we live our lives through the lens of that music. And then at some point, for some of us, as we engage with that music, something devastating happens to us—often by the very person who has introduced us to that music. We hate ourselves. We blame ourselves. We bury it deep within our psyche—until we hear that piece of music again. It could be at a concert, it could be in a theory class, it could be on the radio. We are powerless to fend off that tidal wave of sensory memory. The very music we once loved becomes a trigger that slowly destroys our love for our art.
 

black iris paintingI was so filled with rage while I was writing this work. The rage of seeing the injustices that plagued even the strongest, most powerful women among us, the rage of having to relive the worst moments of my own life over and over again, every time I checked Facebook or turned on the news. The rage that as women, some of the strongest bonds we share are forged from the most devastating and corrosive experiences.  #metoo has been retitled Black Iris after the famous Georgia O’Keefe painting of 1926. The light petals on the top, and the dark petals beneath—the image was so resonant with the experience about which this work was written. The work, commissioned by the Chicago Sinfonietta, was premiered on March 11, 2018 under Mei-Ann Chen at the Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville, Illinois.

 
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840—1893)
 
Although he was putting the finishing touches on his Fourth Symphony during the period of 1877–1878, Tchaikovsky’s main preoccupation was recovering from his disastrous marriage and reconciling himself to the fact that he was not suited to conventional married life, an emotional conflict that drove him to the brink of a nervous breakdown. He settled for a period in Clarens, Switzerland, where he was joined by his composition pupil and violinist Iosif Kotek, with whom he was believed to share an intimate relationship. Kotek, who had been in Paris, brought with him a copy of the newly published and recently premiered violin concerto by Edouard Lalo titled Symphonie Espagnole. 

Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, his impressions of the Lalo:
"It has a lot of freshness, lightness, of piquant rhythms, of beautiful and excellently harmonized melodies . . .
Lalo, in the same way as Delibes and Bizet, does not strive after profundity, but carefully avoids routine,
seeks out new forms, and thinks more about musical beauty than about observing established traditions, as
do the Germans."
 
Tchaikovsky and Kotek played through the concerto together to the sheer delight of Tchaikovsky, who, despite his misgivings about writing virtuoso solo music for the violin, found inspiration to create a violin concerto of his own, with Kotek assisting with the technicalities. Kotek proved to be more than a technical adviser, but a musical inspiration as well, by encouraging Tchaikovsky to replace his original second movement with the one known as the canzonetta. The original second movement would survive as the opening of the violin/piano piece Souvenir d’un lieu cher. 
 
Tchaikovsky had planned to dedicate the work to Kotek, but declined to do so, fearing the rumors that would fly around his relationship to the violinist. After a scathing review at the premiere, Kotek refused to play the concerto, fearing it would harm his reputation. His friendship with Tchaikovsky broke apart as a result.
 
Tchaikovsky sent a rededicated copy of the concerto to Leopold Auer, one of the leading violinists of his time, who rejected it as unplayable. At least one violinist, Adolph Brodsky, was willing to take it on, however, and he gave a highly successful premiere in 1881 with the Vienna Philharmonic under Hans Richter.  Nevertheless, here is some of what the notorious Eduard Hanslick had to say:
 
"For a while it moves soberly, musically, and not without spirit. But soon vulgarity gains the upper hand and asserts itself to the end of the first movement. The violin is no longer played; it is pulled, torn, drubbed. The Adagio is again on its best behavior, to pacify and to win us. But it soon breaks off to make way for a finale that transfers us to a brutal and wretched jollity of a Russian holiday. We see plainly the savage vulgar faces, we hear curses, we smell vodka. A noted philosopher once observed, speaking of obscene pictures, that they stink to the eye. Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto gives us for the first time the hideous notion that there can be music that stinks to the ear."
 
Auer had second thoughts on the playability of the concerto some thirty years later when he second-guessed Kotek as well as the composer and undertook his own adjustments to the solo part. It is this version that has been performed by subsequent generations of violinists. There is scarcely a violinist today who does not perform the Tchaikovsky, the popularity of which is rivalled perhaps only by the concertos of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.
 
Symphony No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 82
Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
 
By 1915, Sibelius was already Finland’s most accomplished and celebrated composer. In that year, in commemoration of his fiftieth birthday, the Finnish government commissioned Sibelius to compose his Fifth Symphony. 
 
During the previous decade, the music world had been revolutionized by new works of Stravinsky and Schoenberg, as well as the new sounds and styles of Debussy and Ravel. Sibelius’s way to modernity lay not through complex polyrhythms, altered tonality, or exotic orchestration, but through new manipulations of traditional form. Although his first two symphonies were largely in the traditional Romantic style, they gave clues to this inclination. The Third Symphony was a brisk departure, classically fleet of foot, but bold and heroic. The Fourth was a dark and brooding affair, no doubt influenced by the composer’s bout with throat surgery and a prolonged illness caused by heavy smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
 
The Fifth Symphony seems to emerge out of the ruins of Sibelius’s health like a new day in a cold but invigorating climate, such as the northern land which was Sibelius’s home. The simplicity of the gentle horn call with which the symphony introduces itself is deceptive as the movement develops in complex waves of sound that reveal an unconventional sonata form leading to a scherzo. The second movement also presents itself with very simple elements, such as a pizzicato figure underpinned by gentle harmonies, which develop in complexity and intensity before returning to a mood of calm serenity. The finale begins with a molto perpetuo played tremolo, which seems to recall in basic outline the Ode to Joy theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. A triplet figure in horns soon reveals itself, believed to be inspired by a graceful flight of swans arising from a lake. These themes are given to variational development until Sibelius achieves a moment of originality unprecedented in music, and unimitated since: a nine-bar cadence in which the Fifth Symphony makes its final utterance of six widely spaced bursts of short quarter notes chords.
 
The Fifth Symphony would undergo three revisions. The first version’s premiere was performed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra on December 8, 1915, the composer’s fiftieth birthday. A revised version was premiered exactly one year later by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra in Turku, Finland. The final version was given by the Helsinki Philharmonic on November 24, 1919. Each premiere was conducted by Sibelius. The final revision, which we hear today. was the version that concludes with the unusual final chords, familiar to today’s audiences.
                                                                                     
– Richard Schneider