Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns to Bravo! Vail, leading the Orchestra and groundbreaking violinist Hilary Hahn in Tchaikovsky’s breathtaking Violin Concerto, alongside Florence Price’s Symphony No. 3—a work featured on the Orchestra’s 2022 Grammy Award-winning recording.
The Philadelphia Orchestra's distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its annual residency in July. The Fabulous Philadelphians are admired for a legacy of innovation and known for their keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences.
All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin
TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto
PRICE Symphony No. 3
PRE-CONCERT TALK 5:00PM - Petra Meyer-Frazier (University of Denver), speaker in the Gerald R Ford Amphitheater Lobby.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin (conductor) is Music and Artistic Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitan, an Honorary Member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and Honorary Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. A native of Montreal, he studied at Montreal’s Conservatory of Music and continued his studies with Carlo Maria Guilini; he also studied at Westminster Choir College. Yannick is an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon recording artist and the winner of three Grammy Awards. His honors include Musical America’s 2016 Artist of the Year and six honorary doctorates.
Hilary Hahn (violin), three-time Grammy Award winner and Virginia native, is Artist-in-Residence with the New York Philharmonic, a post she just held with the Chicago Symphony and at Wigmore Hall in London. An avid supporter of new music and education, Hahn has personally commissioned over 30 new works and, in 2019, donated $25,000 to the Philadelphia-based music education program, Project 440. Her 2022/23 season includes a tour with Mikko Franck and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and tours of the Sibelius and Brahms Violin Concertos. Hahn last appeared in Vail for performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in 2019.
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 (1878)
PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Allegro moderato—Moderato assai
Canzonetta. Andante [attacca]
Finale. Allegro vivacissimo
By 1877, Tchaikovsky stood at the forefront of his generation of Russian composers. That year he consolidated an arrangement with the wealthy Nadezhda von Meck, whose financial patronage freed him to compose fulltime; he had been recommended to her by Iosif Kotek, a young violinist on her musical staff. Then he got married—to the great surprise of his friends, among whom it was no secret that the composer was not “husband material” in the traditional sense. Perhaps it had to do with anxiety about his homosexuality; perhaps it was an exploit of filial devotion to an 81-yearold father who viewed marriage as the principal goal of a man’s life. In any case, he had some sort of nervous breakdown only weeks after the wedding and abandoned his wife. At the outset of 1878, he traveled to Switzerland with Kotek, who had been his former pupil and almost surely his bedmate.
They played through a lot of music together, including Edoard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, a violin concerto in all but name that inspired Tchaikovsky to embark on his own violin concerto. He composed it in a heat of inspiration in late March and early April 1878, with Kotek offering technical advice on the solo part. When he sent the score to von Meck, she wrote back that she didn’t like it. Tchaikovsky was often given to self-doubt, but this time he defended his piece, although he did decide to replace its original slow movement. (The earlier one lives on as a standalone piece for violin and orchestra or piano titled Souvenir d’un lieu cher, performed not infrequently still today.) Further objections came from the violinist Leopold Auer, who Tchaikovsky hoped would introduce the concerto. When Auer declared it unplayable, the honor of the premiere went instead to Adolf Brodsky, who worked on the concerto for more than two years before he dared to perform it. Auer eventually changed his mind, performing it himself and teaching it to such pupils as Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein. What’s more, when he published his memoirs he wrote of Tchaikovsky with unmistakable warmth: “There is Tchaikovsky, with the personality and the manners of a French marquis of the 18th century; but very modest, with a modesty which could not be mistaken for a pose.”
Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is a lyrical work that rarely ventures into the stormy outbursts that can characterize his symphonic pieces. The first movement, by turns graceful and urgent, makes difficult technical demands, but the fireworks generally sparkle as counterpoint to the overall gentility. The slow movement is elegiac but not depressive, and the Finale emerges without a break, serving up a dazzling array of pyrotechnics.
Symphony No. 3 in C minor (1938-39)
FLORENCE BEATRICE PRICE (1887-1953)
Symphony No. 3 in C minor
Andante ma non troppo
Scherzo. Finale: Allegro
Florence Price is enjoying a resurgence of interest that befits her achievement. A graduate of the New England Conservatory in Boston, she flourished as a composer after moving to Chicago in 1927. Some of her compositions, which number about 300, gained repeated performances on the national stage. The historic 1939 concert sung by contralto Marian Anderson from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial closed with a rendition of Price’s arrangement of the spiritual “My Soul’s Been Anchored in de Lord.” Her works range from songs and piano pieces to concertos and four symphonies, the first of which was premiered in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony—the first symphonic work by an AfricanAmerican woman ever performed by a leading American orchestra.
Her Symphony No. 3 is a fullscaled work, its four movements running about a half-hour: a sonataform first movement, a relaxed and lyrical second movement orchestrated with elegant imagination, a percussionrich third movement (the term “Juba,” which she used often, refers to a traditional dance, which here is mixed with a Latin-tinged habanera), and a lively Finale. Various musical styles mingle in stimulating contrast. To Frederick Schwass, an administrator at the Michigan WPA Orchestra (which played the premiere, in 1940), Price wrote: “It is intended to be Negroid in character and expression. In it no attempt, however, has been made to project Negro music solely in the purely traditional manner. None of the themes are adaptations or derivations of folk songs. The intention behind the writing of this work was a not too deliberate attempt to picture a cross-section of present-day Negro life and thought with its heritage of that which is past, paralleled or influenced by contacts of the present day.” Writing to conductor Serge Koussevitzky in 1945, she described it this way: “It is not ‘program’ music. I merely had in mind the life and music of the Negro of today and for that reason treated my themes in a manner different from what I would have done if I had centered my attention upon the religious themes of antebellum days, or yet the rag-time and jazz which followed; rather a fusion of these, colored by present cultural influences.”
While many of its themes have a folkish tinge, the work also references mainstream symphonic music. The ominous wind writing in the introduction sounds somewhat Wagnerian in its dark timbre and its questing harmonies. When the music breaks into the movement’s fast principal section, the lower strings’ syncopated theme, much in the mode of a spiritual, is answered by flute, clarinet, and harp playing in a Debussyinspired whole-tone scale—a contrast that signals an original voice at work.
The Philadelphia Orchestra is admired for a legacy of innovation and known for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences. This Orchestra’s distinctive sound returns to Bravo! Vail for its 16th residency in 2023.
All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.