Event Details

Classical Series

2017 - 2018

Hear Kayleen Asbo speak about this program:

This season begins with Garages of the Valley, a picturesque ode to Silicon Valley dot-com titans, by Grammy-nominated Mason Bates, recently named the most performed composer of his generation. Award-winning pianist Joyce Yang plays Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto with its breathtaking solo lines. Music Director Candidate Francesco Lecce-Chong pairs this passionate piece with Tchaikovsky’s awe-inspiring Fourth Symphony. From its terrifying brass fanfares to its painfully lonely moment with a single bassoon, it moves from tragedy to triumph.

“Her attention to detail and clarity is as impressive as her agility, balance and velocity.” 
- Washington Post

Listen to this concert's playlist on Spotify


Concert Conversation with Kayleen Asbo and Francesco Lecce-Chong

Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 7pm
Sunday, October 8, 2017 at 2pm
Monday, October 9, 2017 at 7pm

Kayleen will interview each Music Director Candidate. There will also be an opportunity for Q & A with the Candidate. These Concert Conversations are general seating and free to Classical Series concert ticket holders. Approximately 30 minutes in Weill Hall.

For information about Kayleen's "Musical Mondays at the Museum" series, please click here.

View this video featuring each of the Music Director Candidates:


We gratefully acknowledge the generous contributions from the following

Sponsored by The Peggy Anne Covington Fund
Guest Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong underwritten by David & Corinne Byrd
Guest Artist Joyce Lang underwritten by Sigmund Anderman, in memory of Susan Anderman
Discovery Open Rehearsal Series sponsored by The Stare Foundation and David Stare of Dry Creek Vineyard
Pre-concert talks sponsored by Jamei Haswell and Richard Grundy, and Ellen and Chuck Wear
County of Sonoma - Board of Supervisors



Performance at: Weill Hall at the Green Music Center

Program Notes

Garages of the Valley for Orchestra
Mason Bates was born on January 23, 1977, and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He composed Garages of the Valley in 2014 on a consortium commission from the Milwaukee Symphony, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. It is dedicated to Edo de Waart, conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The work was premiered on March 6, 2014, in Stillwater, Minnesota, by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Scott Yoo. The work is scored for a roughly classically-sized orchestra, though with atypical doublings characteristic of modern orchestral sound: Three flutes (2nd doubling alto flute, all doubling piccolo), two oboes (2nd doubling English horn), two clarinets (2nd doubling E-flat clarinet and bass clarinet), two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, one or two percussionists (on marimba, wood block, sandpaper blocks, djembe, suspended cymbal, bongo drums, glockenspiel, triangle, xylophone, bass drum) and strings. Duration is about 10 minutes.
Mason Bates is most definitely a composer of today, whose music—while grabbing the listener with its rhythmic energy and orchestral color—draws upon approaches of a wide range of composers and musicians in the classical, electronic, pop and avant garde realms, without sounding like something put together in a giant blender. Many, though by no means all, of his orchestral works employ electronic elements as well, though Garages of the Valley does not.

Bates took a combined academic program at Columbia University and Juilliard, with a degree in English literature and compositional study. His music has attracted wide attention that led to him serving consecutive terms as composer-in-residence at the San Francisco Symphony and the Chicago Symphony. He is now beginning a third such residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Although he had written works with traditional generic titles (Violin Concerto, Cello Concerto), many works bear titles that show how he has been especially drawn to themes related to modern technology, whether in recording (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, The B-sides) or the development of computing (Mainframe Tropics, The Rise of Exotic Computing, or his opera The (Re)evolution of Steve Jobs for Orchestra and Electronics.

He explains the title of Garages of the Valley in his program note: it celebrates the simple locations where world-changing developments were created in quick succession in just a few short decades.
"Much of the Digital Age was dreamed up in the most low-tech of spaces. The garages that dot the landscape of Silicon Valley housed the visionaries behind Apple, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Google. The imagined music of these tech workshops begins hyper-kinetically yet sporadically, filled with false starts. It soon flashes into a quicksilver world of exotic textures and tunings that is informed by the music of Frenchman Gérard Grisey (whose imaginative orchestrations sound electronic but are completely unplugged). The exhilarating finale reflects the infectious optimism of the great inventors of our time, who conjured new worlds within the bright Valley’s dark garages. 

The piece is dedicated to Maestro Edo de Waart, who lived just north of the Valley when some of its garages were just starting to burst with energy."  
 – Mason Bates
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 37
Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna on March 26, 1827. Sketches for this concerto appear as early as 1796 or 1797, though the principal work of composition came in the summer of 1800. It may have been revised at the end of 1802 for the first performance, which took place in Vienna on April 5, 1803, with the composer as soloist. Some time after completing the concerto—but before 1809—Beethoven wrote a cadenza, possibly for the Archduke Rudolph; most modern soloists play that cadenza. In addition to solo piano, the score calls for two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings. Duration is about 34 minutes.

It is misleading to think of this concerto as “Opus 37,” a number applied when the work was published four years after composition; rather it should be linked with the other compositions of 1799‑1800: the six Opus 18 string quartets, the Septet, Opus 20, and the First Symphony, Opus 21. Still, even though it is an early work, the Third Piano Concerto shows a significant advance over its predecessors.

When the premiere finally took place, it was part of a lengthy concert that Beethoven himself produced to introduce several of his newest works (this concerto, the Second Symphony, and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives); he also inserted the First Symphony, already becoming a favorite in Vienna, to attract the audiences. Critical response to the concerto at its first performance ranged from lukewarm to cold. In fact, the only thing that really pleased the audience, it seems, was the familiar First Symphony. Still, in a pattern familiar throughout Beethoven’s life, a work that was spurned at its premiere quickly established itself in the public favor. When Beethoven’s pupil Ries played the second performance, the prestigious Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitschrift declared it to be “indisputably one of Beethoven’s most beautiful compositions.”

It is also a concerto in which Beethoven seems to be paying specific homage to Mozart, and especially to Mozart’s C-minor concerto, K.491. That work contains a magical moment at the very end of the first movement which Beethoven seems to echo intentionally. Beethoven’s first movement begins with a lengthy orchestral statement that lays out all of the thematic material at once, beginning with a march-like theme pregnant with possibilities that closes the first phrase with a rhythmic “knocking” motive clearly invented with the timpani in mind (although Beethoven does not explicitly reveal that fact yet).

Much of the “action” of the first movement involves the gradually increasing predominance of the knocking motive, especially when the soloist engineers a definitive modulation to the new key.  It completely dominates the development section, which twines other thematic ideas over the recurring staccato commentary of that rhythm. The recapitulation does not emphasize the knocking beyond what is minimally necessary for the restatement; even the cadenza, which Beethoven composed some years after the rest of the concerto, is based on all the important thematic ideas except the knocking rhythm. The reason appears as the cadenza ends. Beethoven (following the example of Mozart’s C-minor concerto) allows the piano to play through to the end of the movement, rather than simply stopping with the chord that marks the reentry of the orchestra, as happens in most classical concertos. At last the timpani get the original knocking motive, played softly behind a wash of hushed arabesques in the piano. Here for the first time in Beethoven’s concerto output he produces one of those magical “after the cadenza” moments of other-worldly effect, moments for which listeners to his later concertos wait with eager anticipation.

The Largo seems to come from an entirely different expressive world, being in the unusually bright key of E major. It is a simple song‑form in its outline but lavish in ornamental detail. In his last two piano concertos, Beethoven links the slow movement and the final rondo directly. He does not quite do that here, though he invents a clever way of explaining the return from the distant E major to the home C minor: the last chord of the slow movement ends with the first violins playing a G‑sharp as the top note of their chord, which also includes a B‑natural. Beethoven reinterprets the G‑sharp as A‑flat (part of the scale of his home key) and invents a rondo theme that seems to grow right out of the closing chord of the slow movement. He does not forget that relationship once he is safely embarked on the rondo. One of the most charming surprises in the last movement is a solo passage in which the pianist takes over an A‑flat from the orchestra and, while repeating it in an “oom‑pah” pattern, reinterprets it again as a G‑sharp to recall momentarily the key of the slow movement before the strings return with hints that it is high time to end such stunts and return to the main theme and the main key. But Beethoven has not yet run out of surprises. When we are ready for the coda to bring down the curtain, the pianist takes the lead in turning to the major for a brilliant ending with an unexpected 6/8 transformation of the material.
Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Opus 36
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Kamsko-Votkinsk, Vyatka Province, Russia, on May 7, 1840, and died in St. Petersburg on November 6, 1893. He began the Symphony No. 4 in May 1877 and completed the score on January 19, 1878. Nikolai Rubinstein conducted the first performance in Moscow on March 4 that year. The score calls for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum and strings. Duration is about 44 minutes.

Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony has long been regarded as the first of his truly mature symphonies, and perhaps his finest achievement in the genre. The expressive power of the symphony may bear some trace of the preceding winter, when the composer passed through a crisis that included an attempt at suicide.

Two women were involved, in very different ways, with very different effects on Tchaikovsky’s work. The first was Nadezhda von Meck, the recently widowed mother of eleven children, passionately devoted to music, especially that of Tchaikovsky, which she had first heard a few years earlier. Upon learning from a friend of the composer’s that he was continually hard-pressed for money, she offered him, in December 1876, a modest commission. It was the beginning of fourteen years of support, carried out with the extraordinary stipulation that they were never to meet in person. The long-distance relationship, which produced more than 700 letters, turned out to be the most intense and emotional relationship either of them ever experienced.

At precisely this time Tchaikovsky was wrestling with the personal torment of coming to terms with his homosexuality (still illegal in Russia), which left him open to possible discovery and blackmail. His life became immensely complicated when he received a letter in May 1877 from Antonina Milyukova, a young pupil at his conservatory expressing her passionate and undying devotion to him. Tchaikovsky had just become obsessed with the hope of turning Pushkin’s poetic novel Eugene Onegin into an opera. In the poem, a young girl writes a similar letter to the title character; his callous response to it triggers the ultimate tragedy. Life seemed to be imitating art. Tchaikovsky had no desire to be cast in the role of the unfeeling Onegin, so he put Antonina off as gently as possible. But she refused to leave him alone, even after he had darkly hinted at the true state of his emotional makeup. Tchaikovsky felt forced, against his will, into marriage, fearing the consequences if he refused and hoping that a marriage would at least stifle gossip about him.

The marriage took place in midsummer. Within two days, Tchaikovsky knew that he had committed a grave folly. When the couple returned to Moscow from a honeymoon visit to St. Petersburg, with the marriage still unconsummated, the composer implored Mme. von Meck to supply money for a temporary escape. In early August he fled to the Caucasus and spent the rest of the summer at his sister’s home. There he orchestrated the Fourth Symphony, which he had fully sketched during the torments of the late spring.

When he finally had to return to Moscow in late September, he found it impossible to face his bride. One night he walked, fully clothed, into the icy waters of the Moscow River, hoping to contract a fatal case of pneumonia. The suicide attempt failed, and Tchaikovsky in despair had his brother send him a faked telegram requiring his immediate presence in St. Petersburg. From there he ran off to Switzerland, Vienna, and Italy, where he spent the winter finishing the Fourth Symphony.

Naturally, the symphony was dedicated to Nadezhda von Meck. In his letters to her Tchaikovsky always referred to it as “our” symphony. Composed during an extended period of emotional upheaval, the Fourth is arguably his finest symphony, a work of rich expressive force and a more effective architecture than he ever achieved in any other symphony. Like its evident inspiration, Beethoven’s Fifth, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth progresses from a mood of fateful combat to eventual triumph. To Nadezhda von Meck he wrote an explanation of its secret program:
The introduction contains the germ, the central idea...this is Fate, the inevitable force that jealously watches to see that felicity and peace shall not be complete... that hangs over the head like a sword of Damocles and constantly, unswervingly, poisons the soul....
Tchaikovsky’s fatalism takes him through moods of despair and longing before finally finding that life can be made bearable by taking happiness from the joys of the people around us. But he kept this attitude a secret between himself and his patron; in performance he preferred to let the music speak for itself. Certainly the strength of the Fourth projects Tchaikovsky’s musical ideas even without the explanation sent to his “beloved friend,” the one who really made the symphony possible.

© Steven Ledbetter (www.stevenledbetter.com)

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