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Saturday Matinee: Christoph von Dohnányi Conducts Beethoven

This concert is now past.
Christoph von Dohnanyi
Location: Avery Fisher Hall (Directions)
Price Range: $28.00 - $70.00
Sat, Feb, 2, 2013
2:00 PM
The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)


Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus

Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus (1801)

None other than the most powerful woman in the world at the time, the Hapsburg Empress, Maria Theresia, commissioned the 30 year-old Ludwig van Beethoven to compose a ballet on the subject of Prometheus. The creator of the scenario and choreographer was the renowned Neopolitan Salvatore Vigamò (1769-1821), master of the ballet at the Viennese court. His third production was The Creatures of Prometheus, an allegory that tells the story of the Greek demigod who stole fire from the gods. The playbill at the premiere provided the story: "Prometheus is a lofty spirit who, finding the human beings of his time in a state of ignorance, refined them through art and knowledge and gave them laws of right conduct... The ballet presents two animated statues who, by the power of harmony, are susceptible to the passions of human existence. Prometheus takes them to Parnassus, to receive instruction from Apollo, god of the arts, who commands Amphion, Arion, and Orpheus to teach them music; Melpomene and Thalia, tragedy and comedy. Terpsichore aids Pan, who introduces them to the Pastoral Dance, which he has invented, and from Bacchus they learn his invention — the Heroic Dance." The two-act ballet consists of an overture, an introduction, fifteen dance numbers, and a finale. Despite some "artistic differences" between the choreographer and Beethoven that were eventually sorted out, their collaboration was hugely successful. While the ballet is no longer performed, Beethoven "recycled" some of the music into other works, and the overture has had a post-ballet life as a popular curtain raiser at symphony concerts.

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 5 (1808)

"Thus fate knocks at the door!" Whether this attribution to Ludwig van Beethoven about the four opening chords of his grand Fifth is true or not, no one really knows, but the pulse "ba-ba-ba-BAH" is practically embedded in our DNA. No other symphony has such instant recognition. Rising from this unmistakable four-note motif, its euphoric path transports the listener from tragedy to triumph, from darkness into the light. The creation of the Fifth extended over five years, a period when Beethoven was confronting his growing deafness, unhappy love affairs, and other personal crises. Its Viennese premiere took place under less than favorable circumstances: a marathon benefit concert sponsored by Beethoven himself, in the depth of winter, in an unheated concert hall, with a program totaling about four hours. A musician playing that night quipped: "There we continued, in the bitterest cold from half past six to half past ten, and experienced the truth that one can easily have too much of a good thing-and still more of the loud." The symphony's birth was difficult, as Leonard Bernstein observed: "The man rejected, rewrote, scratched out, tore up, and sometimes altered a passage as often as twenty times. Beethoven's manuscript looks like a bloody record of a tremendous inner battle." Nevertheless, its transition from C Minor to C Major during its mighty course — shouted out joyfully and repeatedly at the climax — brings the immortal Fifth to a glorious ending.(Pop culture note: parts of the Fifth were used in movies as diverse as The Longest Day, Saturday Night Fever, Howard's End, and Fight Club.)

String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36

String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36, "Agathe" (1864-65)

When we think of Johannes Brahms we tend to imagine an old man with a bushy beard and pants that are just a bit too short, forgetting that he, too, was once young and handsome. And perhaps that's because the iconography — with only a couple of exceptions — surrounding this composer seems to have skipped his younger years and gone straight to his maturity. In 1858, when he was 25, he met and fell passionately in love with a singer, Agathe von Siebold, a professor's daughter. They had a long courtship and finally exchanged engagement rings (tongues were wagging that, for the sake of appearances, they should marry). But Brahms got cold feet and wrote to his beloved: "I love you! I must see you again, but I cannot wear shackles! Write to me whether I should come back to fold you in my arms, to kiss you, to tell you that I love you!" But she refused to see him and broke off the engagement. Neither Agathe nor Brahms ever got over the affair, and whether sublimating his feelings or expiating his guilt and expressing remorse for "playing the scoundrel," as he wrote to a friend, in this Sextet he immortalizes her by weaving her name into its principal themes. In the first movement, the notes A-G-A-H-E (H = B-natural in German notation, and omitting T) appears three times. Brahms also suggests the syllabic stress of her name when spoken in the rhythm of the motto, which can be heard in the second movement Scherzo. The third movement is a theme with variations — a form that Brahms was often drawn to — and the finale dazzles with its fugal passages and a brilliant coda. He confided to his friend Joseph Gänsbacher: "Here I have set myself free from my last love."


Christoph von Dohnanyi

Christoph von Dohnányi is recognized as one of the world’s pre-eminent orchestral and opera conductors. His appointments have included opera directorships in Frankfurt and Hamburg, and principal orchestral posts in England and Germany, as well as in Paris. He continues a longstanding partnership with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, where he served as principal conductor and artistic adviser for ten years and is honorary conductor for life. For 20 years he served as music director of The Cleveland Orchestra. Mr. Dohnányi began the 2014–15 season with concerts with the Philharmonia at the Salzburg Festival. In Europe he leads the Orchestre de Paris, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In the U.S. he returns to conduct two subscription weeks with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Upon completing his tenure in Cleveland, Mr. Dohnányi led major orchestras in the United States and now enjoys ongoing relationships with the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and, as music director laureate, Cleveland. Recent highlights include all-Beethoven and all-Brahms concerts with Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia, the complete Beethoven piano concertos with Yefim Bronfman and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the complete Brahms symphonies with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Mr. Dohnányi frequently leads productions at Covent Garden, La Scala, and Vienna Staatsoper, as well as in Berlin and Paris. He has led the Vienna Philharmonic in many Salzburg Festival appearances, including the World Premieres of Henze’s Die Bassariden and Cerha’s Baal. He also regularly appears with the Zurich Opera and with the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. He has made critically acclaimed recordings for London/Decca with The Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic. With Vienna, he recorded a variety of symphonic works and a number of operas, including Beethoven’s Fidelio, Berg’s Wozzeck and Lulu, Richard Strauss’s Salome, and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. With The Cleveland Orchestra his discography includes concert performances and recordings of Wagner’s Die Walküre and Das Rheingold; the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann; symphonies by Bruckner, Dvořák, Mahler, Mozart, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky; and works by, among others, Bartók, Berlioz, Ives, Varèse, and Webern.

Learn more about Christoph von Dohnányi


Glenn Dicterow

Glenn Dicterow has established himself worldwide as one of the most prominent American concert artists of his generation. His extraordinary musical gifts became apparent when, at age 11, he made his solo debut in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (where his father, Harold Dicterow, served as principal of the second violin section for 52 years). In the following years, Mr. Dicterow became one of the most sought-after young artists, appearing as soloist from coast to coast.

Mr. Dicterow, who has won numerous awards and competitions, is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Ivan Galamian. In 1967, at the age of 18, he performed as soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Andre Kostelanetz in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. In 1980 he joined the Orchestra as Concertmaster, and has since performed as soloist every year, most recently in Brahms’s Double Concerto in November 2012, with cellist Alisa Weilerstein, conducted by Case Scaglione. Prior to joining the New York Philharmonic, he served as Associate Concertmaster and Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Mr. Dicterow, who frequently appears as a guest soloist with other orchestras, has made numerous recordings. His most recent CD is a solo recital for Cala Records entitled New York Legends, featuring John Corigliano’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing, the premiere recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, and Martinů’s Three Madrigals for violin and viola, in collaboration with violist Karen Dreyfus and pianist Gerald Robbins. His recording of Bernstein’s Serenade, on Volume 2 of the American Celebration set, is available on the New York Philharmonic’s Website, Mr. Dicterow can also be heard in the violin solos of the film scores for The Turning Point, The Untouchables, Altered States, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Interview with the Vampire, among others. Glenn Dicterow is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music, as well as a faculty artist at the Music Academy of the West, following three years of participation in Music Academy Summer Festivals. Beginning in the fall of 2013, he will become the first to hold the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Learn about The Glenn Dicterow Fund.

Learn more about Glenn Dicterow



Lisa Kim

Lisa Kim joined the Philharmonic violin section in 1994 and was named Associate Principal, Second Violin Group (In Memory of Laura Mitchell), in 2003. She teaches in South Korea and the United States, and has performed with the Seoul National Philharmonic Orchestra and the SooWon, North Carolina, Winston-Salem, and Durham symphony orchestras. Ms. Kim's chamber music activities have included the Philharmonic Ensembles series, Hofstra Chamber Ensemble series, Mostly Chamber Festival, Lyric Chamber Music Society, and Brooklyn's Bargemusic; collaborations with the late Lukas Foss, Lynn Harrell, Ani Kavafian, Yo-Yo Ma, and Garrick Ohlsson; European performances under the International Music Program; and Jordan's Jurash Festival at the invitation of King Hussein. Lisa Kim began violin studies at age seven, attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from The Juilliard School. She has won prizes in the Arts Recognition and Talent Search, Bryan Young Artists String Competition, Winston-Salem Young Talent Search, and Durham Symphony Young Artists Competition. She joined the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music in 1999.

Learn more about Lisa Kim



Rebecca Young

Rebecca Young joined the New York Philharmonic in 1986 as its youngest member. In 1991 she won the position of Associate Principal Viola. Two months later she was named principal viola of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After spending the 1992–93 season in Boston and two summers at Tanglewood, she ultimately decided to return to her family in New York, resuming her Associate Principal position with the Philharmonic in September 1994. She can currently be seen leading the viola section of the All-Star Orchestra, a popular televised educational series about classical music.

An avid chamber musician, Ms. Young has performed with many renowned groups, including the Boston Chamber Music Society, Boston Symphony Chamber Players, New York Philharmonic Ensembles, and The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. She can be heard in a recording of Schubert’s Trout Quintet with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax, violinist Pamela Frank, and bass player Edgar Meyer on the Sony Classical label.

In the spring of 1999 Ms. Young joined Philharmonic Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps in the World Premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths: Music for Two Solo Violas and Symphony Orchestra with the Philharmonic. The work was commissioned for them by Tomoko Masur, wife of Philharmonic Music Director Emeritus Kurt Masur and herself a former violist. The two performed it at Avery Fisher Hall, in Washington, D.C., and again during the Orchestra’s subsequent tour of the Canary Islands, Spain, and Portugal, as well as the Europe 2000 Tour, and again in April 2011, at Avery Fisher Hall. Ms. Young is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

Ms. Young was first introduced to music at the age of two when her parents took her to the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concerts led by Leonard Bernstein. Today, she is the host of the Philharmonic’s popular Very Young Peoples Concerts, intimate chamber music concerts where she has tap-danced, played drums, ridden a scooter around the stage, and even sung Gilbert & Sullivan. Her philosophy is less to educate than, as she puts it, “to make the audiences have so much fun they want to come back!”

Learn more about Rebecca Young



Irene Breslaw

A former Naumburg Scholarship winner and graduate of The Juilliard School, Irene Breslaw joined the viola section of the New York Philharmonic in August 1976. She was named Assistant Principal Viola in 1989. Prior to joining the Orchestra, Ms. Breslaw was a member of both the St. Louis Symphony Ochestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In May 2001 Ms. Breslaw celebrated 25 years as a member of the New York Philharmonic.

An active chamber musician, Ms. Breslaw appears regularly with the New York Philharmonic Ensembles. In the summers of 1993 and 1995, she traveled to Finland to perform chamber music with several of her Philharmonic colleagues and to coach members of the VIVO Youth Orchestra, an experience she found extremely rewarding. She has also recorded the Mozart Clarinet Trio, "Kegelstatt," with Principal Clarinet Stanley Drucker and pianist Lukas Foss for Elysium Records. Since 1998 Ms. Breslaw has been on the orchestral performance faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, and is an adjunct at Queens College.

Ms. Breslaw is married to Dr. Daniel Grapel and is the mother of a son and daughter.

Learn more about Irene Breslaw



Maria Kitsopoulos

Cellist Maria Kitsopoulos comes from a musical family — her mother being an opera singer, one brother a conductor, and her other brother a composer. She was a finalist in the first Emmanuel Feuermann Cello Competition and a prizewinner in the National Society of Arts and Letters Cello Competition, and she won fellowships for study from the Aspen and Tanglewood music festivals. She received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor of musical arts degrees from The Juilliard School where, upon graduation, she was awarded the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Leadership. Her teachers have included Jerome Carrington, Ardyth Alton, Scott Ballantyne, Harvey Shapiro, and Aldo Parisot.

Before joining the New York Philharmonic, Ms. Kitsopoulos was an active performer of contemporary music with groups such as Ensemble Intercontemporain, Music Mobile, Guild of Composers, and Continuum, with whom she appeared as soloist in the New York Premieres of works by Leon Kirchner, Valentin Silvestrov, and Chinary Ung. As a member of the popular four-cello ensemble CELLO, Ms. Kitsopoulos performed music commissioned by that quartet — including works by Peter Schickele, Meyer Kupferman, and Reza Vali — at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and Merkin Concert Hall, as well as at colleges and universities throughout the United States. In addition she performed in Broadway productions and Community Concerts.

In the spring of 1996, Ms. Kitsopoulos earned a position with the New York Philharmonic. She has since performed chamber music with fellow New York Philharmonic musicians as well as guests including violinists Nikolaj Znaider and Leonidas Kavakos and pianists Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman.

Maria Kitsopoulos has performed as soloist with the Phoenix Symphony, Westfield Symphony, and Graz orchestras, among others. Her solo recital debut in New York’s Merkin Concert Hall was sponsored by the Guild of Composers as well as the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Other recent appearances have included a solo engagement with the Athens State Orchestra. In New York, Ms. Kitsopoulos has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the New York Chamber Symphony.

Ms. Kitsopoulos performs on a 300-year-old cello made by Carlo Giuseppe Testore. She previously served on the faculty of Juilliard. An active recording artist, she has recorded for Musical Heritage Society, Angel Records, Deutsche Grammophon, Columbia, Mogul Entertainment, and MK Records. In September 2012 she performed the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello on an episode of The Colbert Report.

Learn more about Maria Kitsopoulos



Wei Yu

Cellist Wei Yu joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2007 at age 26. Mr. Yu has been a prizewinner at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String, Holland American Music Society Cello, Music Teacher National Association (MTNA National Collegiate Strings), Canada’s National Music Festival, Calgary’s Kiwanis Festival, and China’s National Cello competitions. He was invited to play for Mstislav Rostropovich at the Seventh American Cello Congress in 2003.

An active chamber musician, Mr. Yu has been invited to the Marlboro and Ravinia music festivals, and recently he has collaborated with musicians such as cellist David Soyer, pianists Richard Goode and Menahem Pressler, violinists Midori and Pinchas Zukerman, and members of the Guarneri and Juilliard Quartets. As a member of the New York Philharmonic Ensembles, he makes regular appearances at Merkin Concert Hall.

In the summers of 1998 through 2000, Wei Yu participated in the Morningside Music Bridge program at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. He subsequently enrolled in the University’s Gifted Youth program under the tutelage of John Kadz and is currently on the faculty of the Morningside Music Bridge program and has given cello master classes at universities and festivals in the United States, Canada, and China.

Born in Shanghai, China, Mr. Yu began studying the cello at age four and made his concerto debut at age eleven performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. His principal teachers include Mei-Juan Liu, John Kadz, Hans Jørgen Jensen, and David Soyer. He performs on the 1778 “Ex-Soyer” Gagliano cello, on generous loan from the Marlboro Music Festival.

Learn more about Wei Yu

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