2019/2020 Season | Great and Noble
What constitutes “great and noble” music? What is its source? I contend that all great music is linked to the composer’s culture, especially its folk music and contemporary musical language.
This season we focus on an extraordinary composer whose music is inextricably linked with the music of his homeland. Antonin Dvořák’s music is inconceivable without the folk traditions of Bohemia. Dvořák said his most serious works were constructed from the “half-forgotten tunes of the Bohemian peasants.”
Towards the end of his life, Dvořák went to America, where he taught young composers in an effort to forge an American style. Steeped in his awareness of folk music, Dvořák urged these composers to look to the African-American folk tradition for inspiration.
His suggestion that the music of a people born into slavery should have the greatest influence on the music of America was met with an overtly racist incredulity. Dvořák would never know how successfully he had identified the roots of the new nation’s music. He would have been surprised at the direction this music was to take, because it was the 12-bar blues, and not the 12-tone row, that became the 20th century’s most influential style!
We have chosen to complement our symphonic cycle with music by Dvořák’s heirs—American composers who forged musical styles unique to our country. From Barber’s glorious Symphony No. 1, to the Pulitzer Prize winning Symphony No. 3 of Charles Ives, and finally to the “Great American Symphony”—Roy Harris’s Third—I believe we are presenting a season of extraordinary profundity.
Balancing these two themes, we present three works for soloists by composers who were also forging a national style for their countries. Bartók, from Hungary, whose Piano Concerto No. 3 is one of his most gorgeous works; Prokofiev, the international composer whose works were steeped in the folk traditions of Russia; and then the incomparable Benjamin Britten, whose muse was as much the literature as the music of his beloved Great Britain.
Every composer we feature is powerfully linked to the others by the fact that they all mine the rich veins of their culture’s heritage.
Please join us at the beautiful Empress Theatre for this extraordinary journey of discovery.
Concert 1 - BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS
Saturday, November 2, 2019 @8pm
Sunday, November 3, 2019 @3pm
Empress Theatre, Vallejo
Barber Symphony No. 1
Bartók Piano Concerto No. 3
Bobby Mitchell, piano
Dvořák Symphony No. 7
Modelled on Sibelius’s Symphony No. 7, Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1 launched his career. From great beginnings to profound endings, Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, his last composition, was a birthday gift to his wife. I can’t wait to share the stage with the gifted Bobby Mitchell playing Bartók’s final testament! To conclude this concert, we begin our traversal of the last three symphonies of Antonin Dvořák. His Symphony No. 7 in D minor is one of his most fiery works, modeled on Brahms, but with Dvořák’s unmistakable, sparkling use of Czech folk idioms.
Bobby Mitchell is experienced in the fields of improvisation, composition, and conducting. He has performed extensively in the Americas, across Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East. Recent highlights include concerto performances with Philippe Herreweghe and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. He has otherwise performed as concerto soloist with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Eastman Wind Ensemble, and Noord Nederlands Orkest. Bobby records for the Alpha / music Outhere label.
Concert 2 - ICONOCLAST
Saturday, February 29, 2020@8pm
Sunday, March 1, 2020@3pm
Empress Theatre, Vallejo
Harris Symphony No. 3
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2
Amalia Hall, violin
Dvořák Symphony No. 8
Premiered by the Boston Symphony in 1939, Roy Harris’s Symphony No. 3 set the bar for a unique American sound, with spacious textures and gorgeous harmonies that evoke our wide-open landscapes. Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, another masterpiece from the 1930s, features one of the most beautiful slow movements ever composed. I am excited to present international violin virtuoso Amalia Hall as our soloist. We finish with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, deeply inspired by Czech folk traditions. Underneath its sunny and genial nature, a new form of composition takes shape, where melody dictates structure
Since making her debut at the age of 9 with the Auckland Philharmonia, Amalia Hall has been a regular soloist with orchestras in New Zealand and Europe including I Virtuosi Italiani, Munich Chamber Orchestra, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, the State Philharmonic of Sibiu and Filharmonica Marchigiana.
Amalia Hall has received widespread acclaim for her ability to move audiences with her “sumptuous and sweet tone,” inherent musicality and natural facility.
Concert 3 - NEW WORLD
Saturday, April 18, 2020@8pm
Sunday, April 19, 2020@3pm
Empress Theatre, Vallejo
Ives Symphony no. 3 (Winner Pulitzer Prize 1947)
Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31 (1943)
Zhengyi Bai, tenor | Meredith Brown, horn
Dvořák Symphony No. 9
Our closing concert features the most famous symphony ever written— Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” composed in the U.S. and inspired by African-American folk traditions. American maverick Charles Ives wrote his Symphony No. 3 just 15 years later, but it was not premiered until 1947, when it won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Last, it is a great pleasure to welcome one of our orchestra’s own, Principal Horn Meredith Brown, to join Adler Fellow Zhengyi Bai in one of the great song cycles of the 20th century: Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings.
Tenor and first-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Zhengyi Bai was a participant in the 2018 Merola Opera Program, where he appeared as Alessandro in Il Re Pastore. Bai has also performed Bénédict (Béatrice et Bénédict), Oronte (Alcina), Nemorino (L’Elisir d’Amore), Count Almaviva (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and Mr. Owen (Postcard from Morocco). In 2017, Bai won the Los Angeles District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Meredith Brown holds Principal Horn positions with the Fremont and Vallejo Symphonies, and serves as Acting Principal Horn of the Santa Rosa Symphony. She has performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet.
Her experiences in musical theater include the San Francisco appearances of White Christmas, La Bohème, Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof, Titanic, The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.