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18-19 Opening Night
Conductor Howard Hsu
Guest Artist Kelly Hall-Tompkins, Violin
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Saturday, October 6, 2018 (7:30 pm)

Location: Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Jonathan Bailey Holland: Motor City ReMix
Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto, Op. 14
with Guest Artist Kelly Hall-Tompkins
Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 2, Op. 73 in D major

Special thanks to the Evelyn and Arthur Lierman Children's Fund and the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region for their support of the outreach efforts associated with this weekend's concert. We're looking forward to welcoming participants from Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club's STAR programs!

Learn more about our visiting conductor, Howard Hsu:
Howard Hsu is the Music Director of the Valdosta (GA) Symphony Orchestra, and serves as Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestra Studies at Valdosta State University. Under his leadership, the Valdosta Symphony was selected as the 2014 winner of the American Prize in Orchestral Performance (community division). He has performed with world-renowned artists such as Robert McDuffie, Simone Dinnerstein, Jennifer Frautschi, Wendy Warner, Rachel Barton Pine, Stanford Olsen, Alexander Ghindin, Alexander Schimpf, Katia Skanavi, Awadagin Pratt, Amy Schwartz Moretti, and the Empire Brass, and has introduced live classical music to thousands of children in the Southern Georgia region. He conducted the world premiere of James Oliverio’s Trumpet Concerto No. 1: World House, the U.S. premiere of Ned McGowan’s Concerto for iPad and Orchestra (Rotterdam Concerto 2), and has given the Georgia premieres of Fernande Decruck’s Sonata for Saxophone and Orchestra, several of the Debussy/Matthews Preludes, and Jonathan Bailey Holland’s Motor City Dance Mix. Hsu has appeared as a guest conductor with the Hartford (CT) Symphony Orchestra, Macon (GA) Symphony, New Britain (CT) Symphony, and Bronx (NY) Arts Ensemble. Hsu received his D.M.A. from the University of Connecticut, his M.M. from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and his B.S. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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Program Notes

Jonathan Bailey Holland
Motor City Remix

Jonathan Bailey Holland was born in 1974 in Flint, Michigan. He originally composed this work as Motor City Dance Mix in 2003 on a commission from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who performed the premiere under the direction of Neeme Järvi. In 2014 he created a reduced-orchestration version of the piece, calling this new version Motor City Remix; this was first performed by the Chicago Sinfonietta under the direction of Joseph Young. The score of Motor City Remix calls for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion, harp, and strings.
Jonathan Bailey Holland began studying composition while a student at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he received a school-wide award for his very first composition. Upon graduation from Interlochen, he continued his composition studies with Ned Rorem at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he received a Bachelor of Music degree. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in Music from Harvard University, where his primary teachers were Bernard Rands and Mario Davidovsky. He has also studied with Andrew Imbrie, Yehudi Wyner, Robert Saxton and Robert Sirota.
Currently, Holland is Chair of Composition, Theory and History at Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and Faculty Chair of the Music Composition Low Residency MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Previously he served as Professor of Composition at the Berklee College of Music.
Holland has been a strong advocate for music education, and has contributed several works intended for educational concerts; he has also lectured widely on the subject. He has received numerous awards and grants, including the Indianapolis Symphony’s Marian K. Glick Young Composers’ Showcase award, a Fromm Foundation commission, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and many more. He has had commissions and performances from groups all across America.
Holland writes the following about his Motor City Dance Mix and its reduced-orchestration version, Motor City Remix: “Motor City Dance Mix was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony for the opening of the newly renovated Max M. Fisher Music Center at Detroit's Orchestra Hall. As I tried to decide what type of piece to compose for this event, a fanfare seemed logical. However, the last work I composed for the Detroit Symphony was in fact a fanfare – Fanfares and Flourishes on an Ostinato. Not wanting to repeat myself, I was forced to think about the occasion and the types of music associated with celebrating. What do people do to celebrate something important?
Dance, of course. I have been interested in composing a dance piece for orchestra for some time; specifically, a work that draws on current popular dance music. While I have studied, taught and written only classical music, all styles of music have influenced me personally and artistically for as long as I can remember. To this day my music collection contains almost equal parts classical, jazz, pop, rap, Latin and other styles of music. My eclectic taste has undoubtedly influenced my compositional output, although it may not always be evident to the listener. With this piece, I wanted all of these influences to be immediately apparent. What could be more appropriate for the celebration of a new music hall in Motown than a work that combines elements of dance club music with jazz, latin, and other popular music influences?”


Samuel Barber
Concerto for Violin & Orchestra, Op. 14

Samuel Barber was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1910 and died in New York City in 1981. He completed his Violin Concerto in 1940 and the first public performance was given the following year by Albert Spalding, violin, with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. Barber revised the work in 1948. The concerto calls for solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, snare drum, piano, and strings.
Controversy attended the history of Barber’s Violin Concerto even before the composer finished the work. A Philadelphia businessman had commissioned the Concerto on behalf of his protégé, the brilliant young violinist Iso Briselli. After Barber wrote the lush and romantic-sounding first two movements, Briselli is said to have wished for something a bit more showy. He got his wish and then some. When Barber delivered the first part of his moto-perpetuo Finale, Briselli found it not to his taste at all. The dramatic shift in mood from the first two movements was far too abrupt for the young violinist’s liking—a complaint, it must be said, that has been echoed by many critics over the years. Briselli asked Barber to revise the movement but the composer refused. The commission was dissolved, and Barber lost half his fee.
This version of events is at variance with the long-accepted account given by Barber biographer Nathan Broder. Broder wrote that the commission was abrogated because Briselli called the Finale “too difficult,” but this is illogical on its face. By all accounts, Briselli was a brilliant technician who counted the concertos of Paganini, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven among his repertory. There seems little doubt that Barber’s Finale was well within his capabilities.
Yet several witnesses recall that, prior to defending his work to the businessman, Barber had a student violinist read through the Finale to ensure its “playability”—an odd thing to do if Briselli’s objections were purely musical. The matter remains unresolved, though since 1994 (more than 50 years after the event) Briselli has had his lawyer threaten to sue anyone who repeats Broder’s account as definitive!
It turns out that the music was well worth the soap opera. The violin jumps right in with the subject of a long-lined, lyrical, and romantic first movement. In Barber’s hands the violin and orchestra are conversationalists rather than adversaries, with lyricism their common purpose. Note how Barber is able to slip seamlessly between intensity and calm.
The second movement opens like a hymn, with an introspective oboe melody over rich harmonies. The soloist enters with something brighter, leads the orchestra through a central section of increasing musical and emotional fervor, then returns to the mood of the opening.
The Finale is angular, fleet-footed, and frequently off-kilter. Yet, as always with Barber, it is essentially melodic. Such is the movement’s economy and precision that it is over before you know it.
Is the Finale so different from the first two movements that it doesn’t fit? Some have thought so, particularly upon its premiere in 1941. Since most of us have by now heard abruptness of a much higher order our jaded ears find it less so. Barber himself saw it as the logical resolution of the tension raised by the first two movements. Today the Concerto is performed more than ever, giving listeners ample opportunities to decide for themselves.


Johannes Brahms
Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73

Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg in 1833 and died in Vienna in 1897. He composed his Second Symphony in 1877, and it was first performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, Hans Richter conducting, in December of that year. The work is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings.
Brahms had a devilish sense of humor. Before his Second Symphony was first performed, he told his friends: “You have only to sit down at the piano and strike the chord of F-minor several times in succession, first in the treble, then in the bass, fortissimo and pianissimo, and you will gradually gain a vivid impression of my latest.” The work was so gloomy, he said, that he would have the score printed with a black border and the orchestra would perform it wearing crepe on their sleeves.
Brahms was making sport of the critics who found his music hopelessly grim. What his friends heard, of course, was one of the sunniest, most lyrical pieces he had ever written, and in the brightest key possible. Afterwards, Brahms was still feeling puckish: “I do not know whether I have a pretty symphony. I must enquire of skilled persons.”
Casual listeners may take the French horn melody in the second bar of the first movement as the theme of the piece, given its frequent return appearances and its prominence at the end of the movement—yet it is not. Instead, Brahms has hidden the principal motive in plain sight: the notes D-C#-D of the very first bar, merely a pick-up to that horn melody. Its debut may be innocuous, but this motive is the musical core of the movement and the force that drives the entire symphony: to listen for it is to hear it everywhere.
The long, winding line in the cellos that opens the second movement is so mesmerizing that it seems to take one to the ends of the earth and back even before the second subject in the winds arrives. You’ll hear the three-note motto in the turbulent middle section, both right-side up and upside down. Brahms’ audience didn’t always know what to make of this piece, but today there is little doubt: this is simply one of the most amazing symphonic movements ever written.
Although the third movement is laid out exactly like a scherzo with two trios, its opening is gentle and bucolic. The serenity of the main body is set off perfectly by the two presto episodes, each having a bit of the rustic dance about them.
Brahms begins the hushed opening of his Finale with the same three-note motive that began the symphony; this time, it spins out a passage that restrains its nervous anticipation as long as it can until the theme bursts forth gloriously in the full orchestra. The second theme is deliciously warm in the string section’s low registers. As the movement unfolds it gathers in most of the previous thematic material, including liberal doses of the three-note motto, in a tour-de-force of sonata form. The final pages are electrifying, with particularly inspired writing for the trombones.
After the symphony had its premiere and Brahms had to own up to his previous shenanigans, he still made light of his accomplishment. He told a friend who had not yet heard the work to “drum nothing but Berlioz, Liszt, and Wagner” for a month or so beforehand. “Then its tender amiability will do a lot of good.”
But “tender amiability” only begins to describe this glorious and endlessly fascinating work. It is a paradox that Brahms’ most relaxed and genial symphony is also the most tightly controlled and meticulously crafted of the four. For Brahms, inspiration and craft were not mutually exclusive.
—Mark Rohr
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