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Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

June 28, 2016 @ 7:30 PM


The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, featuring Nobuyuki Tsujii on piano, performs works by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Our 111th year of free concerts at the historic Naumburg Bandshell (directions). No tickets issued– 1,200 seats provided on a first come first serve basis. Benches around concert ground also available. The concert is weather dependent– no rain dates, no rain location. Thank you to our donors who generously support our series.

WQXR will broadcast every concert in this series live on 105.9 FM and via live stream on their website.

Program Details

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano

Ludwig Van Beethoven, (1770-1827), Coriolan Overture, Opus 62 (1807)

Ludwig Van Beethoven, (1770-1827), Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, “Emperor Concerto”, Opus 73 (1809-1811)

I. Allegro
II. Adagio un poco mosso
III. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo

Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano


Ludwig Van Beethoven, (1770-1827), Symphony No. 5 in C minor, “Fate”, Opus 67 (1804-08)

I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante con moto
III. Scherzo. Allegro
IV. Allegro

WQXR HOST: Annie Bergen

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Additional Information

A standard-bearer of innovation and artistic excellence, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is one of the world’s foremost chamber orchestras. Julian Fifer and a group of like-minded young musicians determined to combine the intimacy and warmth of a chamber ensemble to the richness of an orchestra founded Orpheus in 1972.  With 71 albums, including the Grammy Award-winning Shadow Dances: Stravinsky Miniatures, and 42 commissioned and premiered original works, Orpheus rotates musical leadership roles for each work and strives to perform diverse repertoire through collaboration and open dialogue.

Performing without a conductor, Orpheus presents an annual series at Carnegie Hall and tours extensively to major national and international venues. The 2016-17 Season is the first in Orpheus history to welcome back four celebrated soloists including pianists Christian Zacharias and Fazil Say, violinist Vadim Gluzman, and cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The season also features cutting-edge new works by American composers Jessie Montgomery and Michael Hersch, and thrilling symphonies by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Schubert, and Bizet.

Orpheus has trademarked its signature mode of operation, the Orpheus Process™, an original method that places democracy at the center of artistic execution. It has been the focus of studies at Harvard and of leadership seminars at Morgan Stanley and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, among others. Two unique education and engagement programs, Access Orpheus and Orpheus Institute, aim to bring this approach to students of all ages.

Access Orpheus, Orpheus’ educational initiative, shares the orchestra’s collaborative music-making process with public school students from all five boroughs in New York City. Because of declining resources for arts education, many public schools do not have access to fulltime arts teachers to provide music instruction and exposure to art and culture. Access Orpheus helps to bridge this gap with in-class visits, attendance at working rehearsals, and free tickets for performances at Carnegie Hall.

Orpheus Institute brings the Orpheus Process™ and the orchestra’s musicians to select colleges, universities, conservatories, and businesses to work directly with leaders of tomorrow. Corporate employees and students in all fields of study learn from Orpheus’ creative process and in areas of collaboration, communication, creative problem solving, and shared leadership. In the coming seasons, Orpheus will continue to share its leadership methods and performance practices as the ensemble provides audiences with the highest level of musicianship and programming.

MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) is proud to support Orpheus’ collaboration with Nobuyuki Tsujii. The Japan-United States Friendship Commission also supports this collaboration.
Nobuyuki Tsujii’s international tours are supported by All Nippon Airways (ANA) and he is grateful for their assistance.

This concert is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

Orpheus is represented in North America exclusively by Baker Artists, LLC, and in Europe by Konzertdirektion Schmid. Orpheus has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical, EMI Classics, BMG/RCA Red Seal, Decca, Nonesuch, Verve, Avex Classics, and its own label Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Records.

Nobuyuki Tsujii
As the joint Gold Medal winner of the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Nobuyuki Tsujii has earned international recognition for the passion and excitement he brings to his live performances with his formidable technique and natural gift for pianistic colour. His recent debuts include performances at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium in New York, at the BBC Proms / Royal Albert Hall in London, and at Musikverein in Vienna.

Nobu’s recent German tour with the Dresden Philharmonic and Michael Sanderling, with whom he performed Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 and made his debut at Berliner Philihamonie, received great critical acclaim. Other highlights in the 2015/16 season include his debut with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, a Wigmore Hall debut, and recitals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stuttgart and Basel.

Nobu records exclusively for Avex Classics International and has made a number of best-selling recordings in recent years, receiving two Japan Gold Disc Awards. The live DVD recording of his 2011 Carnegie Hall recital has been named “DVD of the Month” by Gramophone magazine as was his latest DVD release, ”Touching the Sound – The Improbable Journey of Nobuyuki Tsujii”, a documentary film by Peter Rosen.


See also for Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano

and for performances:
Nobuyuki Tsujii – Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18

Notes on the Program:
Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 [1807]LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN, (Born December, 1770 in Bonn, Germany, Died March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria)
Heinrich Joseph von Collin’s play Coriolan—not to be confused with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, based on the same story from Plutarch—debuted in Vienna in 1802. The drama follows a Roman general who defects to the enemy camp and raises an army against Rome, reaching the gates of the city before his mother convinces him to stop. The play was dormant by the time Beethoven wrote his overture in 1807, and his motivation for undertaking the project remains unclear. (It may have been meant to draw the attention of the new managers of Vienna’s main theater, or it was also possible that Beethoven was courting the playwright for an opera collaboration.) Beethoven’s overture appeared in conjunction with the play for one single performance in 1807, and since then it has lived on as a concert work.

The choice of key, C minor, foreshadows the fateful Fifth Symphony, composed the following year. Like that symphony, the Coriolan Overture generates powerful emotions from elemental material. The signature motive is a drawn-out C bursting into a short, explosive chord. The unresolved harmonies, like hanging questions, suggest a battle waging within the protagonist’s own conscience. After a developmental sequence of brittle motives over a running bass line and a return of the opening material, a final whiff of the sweet counter-theme gives way to even more brutal chords and pauses. The last phrases bow out quietly, ending with barren plucks on the keynote.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73 (“Emperor”) [1809]LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
In the summer of 1809, Napoleon’s army occupied Vienna for the second time in four years. Beethoven, unlike most of his friends and patrons, remained in the city, and he passed the miserable season with little contact with the outside world. He spent some of that time finishing the Fifth Piano Concerto, his final and most substantial work in the genre. It would also be the only concerto he did not perform himself, given the deteriorated state of his hearing by the time of the 1811 premiere in Leipzig.

Beethoven’s early symphonies and concertos built upon the classical traditions of Haydn and Mozart. The work with which Beethoven eclipsed all symphonic precedents (at least in terms of sheer size) was the Symphony No. 3 in E-flat, from 1803, nicknamed “Eroica” (Italian for “heroic”). The Piano Concerto No. 5, also in the key of E-flat, is in many ways a sibling to the “Eroica” Symphony. In the case of the concerto, Beethoven had no part in the nickname—“Emperor” came later from an English publisher—but both works share a monumental posture and a triumphant spirit. Beethoven dedicated the concerto to the Archduke Rudolph, the youngest brother of the Austrian emperor Franz. More than just a patron, Rudolph was a piano student of Beethoven’s, and the two maintained a warm friendship until the composer’s death.

The “Emperor” Concerto begins at a climax: the orchestra proclaims the home key with a single chord, and the piano leaps in with a virtuosic cadenza. The ensemble holds back its traditional exposition of the thematic arguments until the pianist completes three of these fanciful solo flights, the last connecting directly to the start of the movement’s primary theme. It is a remarkable structure for a concerto, with an assurance of victory, as it were, before the battle lines have been drawn. Even once the piano returns, the movement continues in a symphonic demeanor, forgoing a standalone cadenza in favor of solo escapades that integrate deftly into the forward progress of the form.

The slow movement enters in the radiant and unexpected key of B major with a simple theme, first stated as a chorale for muted strings. The piano plays a decorated version over pizzicato accompaniment, and woodwinds later intone the same theme, supported by piano filigree and off-beat string pulses.

The transition back to the home key for the finale is brilliantly understated: the held note B drops to B-flat, providing a smooth lead-in for the piano to introduce the principal theme of the Rondo. The motive’s upward arpeggio generates extra propulsion through its unexpected climax on an accented off-beat, adding a dash of Haydn’s humor to a score that has all the power and majesty of Beethoven in his prime.

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 [1808]LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Beethoven made his first sketches for the Fifth Symphony in 1804. He composed the bulk of the symphony in 1807-08 while working concurrently on the Sixth Symphony, and he introduced both works during a four-hour marathon concert in Vienna on December 22, 1808, at which the frigid temperatures and under-rehearsed orchestra made more of an impression than the immortal music heard there for the first time.

The Fifth Symphony begins with the most famous musical cell from all of Beethoven’s ouevre—perhaps the most recognizable motive ever penned by a composer. Beginning in the tragic key of C minor, the orchestra delivers four unadorned notes: three short repetitions of G dropping to a sustained E-flat. The legend that Beethoven described this opening motive as “fate knocking on the door” is apocryphal, but the description has stuck as a fitting metaphor for the tense foreboding contained within those four notes. This one motive fuels the entire first movement, and traces of it return later in the symphony.

(As a sidenote, the Fifth Symphony reached what may have been its height of popularity during World War II, when it became associated with the Allied “V for Victory” media campaign. The morse code for the letter V is three dots and a dash, just like Beethoven’s motive, so the BBC adopted the start of the symphony as its call sign for broadcasts to occupied Europe.)

The Andante con moto second movement features a double set of variations, alternating the development of two contrasting themes. Some of the accompanying rhythms echo the short-short-short-long rhythmic pattern from the first movement, contributing to the symphony’s organic cohesion.

The Scherzo retreads the central tonal conflict of the work, juxtaposing a moody first theme in C minor and a spry fugato section in C major. A coda builds tension that releases directly into the concluding Allegro, which adds piccolo and trombones to the scoring for extra orchestral brilliance. With this grand finale—the longest movement of the symphony—Beethoven’s Fifth completes its epic journey to a triumphant resolution in C major.
© 2016 Aaron Grad



June 28, 2016
7:30 PM
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Historic Naumburg Bandshell
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