November 12-13, 2022
Maestro Malina discusses the upcoming performances:
Stuart and guest soloist Rachel Naomi Kudo discuss Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 23
Stuart Malina, Conductor
Rachel Naomi Kudo, Piano
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Vaughan Williams
Piano Concerto No. 23, Mozart
guest soloist: Rachel Naomi Kudo, Piano
Symphony No. 2, Brahms
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.
American pianist Rachel Naomi Kudo is captivating audiences around the globe with her "heartfelt, courageous and perfect playing" (Lübecker Nachrichten). Following her orchestral debut with the Chicago and Fort Worth Symphony Orchestras, Rachel has performed as both soloist and chamber musician at the Bachfest in Leipzig, Royal Castle in Warsaw, Salle Cortot in Paris, Musikverein in Vienna, Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel, International Chopin Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój, Poland, Tivoli International Festival in Denmark, Bergen International Festival in Norway, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and Alice Tully Hall, David Geffen Hall, and Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in New York.
First prize winner of the International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig, she won the Gilmore Young Artist Award, a Davidson Fellow Laureate of the Davidson Institute of Talent Development, and a Salon de Virtuosi Grant. She earned scholarships from the National YoungArts Foundation and Rohm Music Foundation, and won top prizes at the U.S. National Chopin Competition in Miami and a diploma at the 15th International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Born in Washington, D.C., to Japanese-Korean parents, Rachel began her studies with Emilio del Rosario at the Music Institute of Chicago. After spending her childhood in Japan, she returned to Chicago to pursue a musical life, playing chamber music and violin in her high school orchestra, appearing on From the Top on NPR, also studying with Kum-Sing Lee in Vancouver, Canada.
Rachel received guidance in master classes of Robert Levin, and from Emanuel Ax and Sir András Schiff at Carnegie Hall's Professional Training Workshops. Aspen Music Festival and School, Juilliard ChamberFest, International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove, Music@Menlo, Perlman Music Program's Chamber Music Workshop, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's "Chamber Music Encounters," and New York Classical Players enriched and expanded her musical horizons. Rachel believes in sharing the transformative power of music with the widest possible audience to foster cultural engagement and human connection. In February 2021, in a Virtual Special Event for The Gilmore, she presented the world premiere of Marc-André Hamelin's Suite à l'ancienne, which she commissioned with her funding from the Gilmore Piano Festival. As an educator, she is passionate about mentoring young musicians and has taught master classes worldwide.
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Vaughan Williams was a late bloomer approaching 40 years of age before he reached his stride, but he did so in a highly dramatic way. In 1910 he led two world premieres within scarcely more than a month of each other, each of which would place him at the forefront of English music for the 20th Century. First came the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, composed for The Three Choirs Festival and premiered at Gloucester Cathedral on September 6.
Tallis is recognized as a key composer of sacred works during the Tudor Period, whose service as court musician transcended the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Vaughan Williams’s interest in music of the English Church led him to Tallis. Following a brief introductory phrase, basses, celli, and violas sound the theme in pizzicato. This was Tallis’s setting of The Second Psalm, which in Tudor English was Why fum’th in sight: the Gentils spite, in fury raging stout? Why taketh in hond: the people fond, Vayne things to bring about? In the 18th Century, Handel would fashion this Psalm as a virtuoso bass aria in Messiah; in the English of his day — Why do the Nations so furiously rage together? Leonard Bernstein would express it in agitated Hebrew in his Chichester Psalms of 1965. Tallis’s original, and Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia are sustained and devotional, more as a dona nobis pacem than an anti-war protest song. References to this theme would find their ways into the composer’s opera The Pilgrim’s Progress, which as with Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron would be a lifetime project, neither of which would be entirely completed.
Set for double string orchestra with string quartet, Fantasia shows the influence of his recent studies with Ravel, who cited Vaughan Williams as the “only one of my students who does not write my music.” Fantasia has become an international concert favorite even in venues where other works by Vaughan Williams remain neglected.
On October 12 of the same year as the Fantasia premiere, Vaughan Williams led the premiere of A Sea Symphony at the Leeds Festival, a full-length choral work with soloists and orchestra to texts by Walt Whitman. He shared this program with Sergei Rachmaninov, who was featured performing the British premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 3. Vaughan Williams was in the best of company as he set sail on his own very successful career.
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, K. 488
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
In 1786, Mozart was busily at work on preparations for Nozze di Figaro, a comic opera The Impresario, and three piano concertos, No. 22, this one, and the very ambitious and forward looking No. 24. Prodigious hardly describes it. Actual performance details are no longer known, but each of the concertos is believed to have been performed by Mozart on subscription programs in 1786.
Concertos 22 through 24 have been cited among the earliest examples in which Mozart used clarinets in the orchestra. The clarinet would play an even larger role in the subsequent Concerto No. 24. Otherwise, Concerto No. 23 calls for somewhat subdued winds, omitting oboes and trumpets as well as timpani, and utilizing only flutes, clarinets, bassoons, and French horns for a darker, more intimate wind color.
The second movement is unique in at least one respect. It is the only piece written by Mozart in the key of F-sharp minor. Moreover, the movement expresses itself in a way that makes us question — where does the Classical Period end and the Romantic Era begin? There is a degree of intimacy and warmth that transcends Classical restraint and formality and opens the way for Romantic expression. The Concerto concludes with a cheerful rondo in which all cares are set aside.
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
To those who have experienced Brahms’s frequently performed Symphony No. 2 over the years, it is difficult to reconcile his own remarks about it made to his publisher in November 1877 that it “is so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it. I have never written anything so sad, and the score must be published with a black border.” To an admirer who asked about the rumbling timpani and the gloomy, lugubrious tones of the trombones, he replied, “I have to confess that I am a severely melancholic person.” This he may have been, but his Second Symphony does not remotely hint at the despair of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, nor the inexorable gloom of Sibelius’s 4th, neither of which had yet been written. And we may agree that the low brass writing, particularly in the first two movements though solemn in tone, is in no way lugubrious.
The opening movement of the Symphony, though outwardly conventional in layout, is something of a departure from the norm. Marked Allegro non troppo (fast–not too much) the operative phrase is non troppo. In today’s common English, he may have asked for a “laid back” tempo. The introduction joins two thematic motifs — a kind of slowly rocking bass and a tranquil horn call, followed by a meandering episode in the violins resolving to the solemn chorales in the low brass. This, however, has been no mindless noodling. Every figure heard so far will develop and evolve, like personalities in a play as the Symphony unfolds. Brahms never thumps, drones, or noodles. Every figure, no matter how inconsequential it may seem when it first appears, will end up presenting itself elsewhere with often surprisingly unexpected character.
The second movement, marked Adagio non troppo, (Slow–not too much) is serious in nature, but not a dirge. Moments of lightness and tender sentiments offset its darker contemplations. The third movement, an intermezzo, a form that Brahms developed as an alternative to the classical minuet or the Beethoven scherzo, is a gentle waltz with a contrasting middle section in up-tempo duple time. The Finale is a mostly high-velocity romp with a brief contrasting middle section in which previously stated light hearted motifs are given in tones of hushed mystery. Such was Brahms’s gift for development that he could make anything he wrote sound its total opposite a few moments later. In contrast to the coda of his First Symphony, which for all its glorious triumph, comes off for some a bit over stated, this Finale ends with totally unaffected enthusiasm from cascading scales and boisterous calls from the brass.
Brahms composed his Second Symphony over the course of the summer of 1877 in Pörtschach am Wörthersee, an Austrian resort town. The work took him a matter of weeks as compared to the twenty years he spent working on his First Symphony. The premiere was given by the Vienna Philharmonic on December 30, 1877, under the baton of Hans Richter. Considering the mostly consoling and upbeat character of the Second Symphony, it is likely that Brahms was being facetious with his publisher about the melancholic nature of the work.