Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Franck, and Anderson

The New York Philharmonic

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Marc-Andre Hamelin

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Franck, and Anderson

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, Franck, and Anderson

Recorded April 24, 2014

Marc-André Hamelin is the soloist in César Franck’s Symphonic Variations. The program will also feature the U.S. premiere of “The Discovery of Heaven” by British composer Julian Anderson. The concert will conclude with selections from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

Marc-André Hamelin is the soloist in César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.



Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis has served as music director and principal conductor of Lyric Opera of Chicago since 2000, and in January 2013 he began his term as chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

In the 2012–13 Lyric Opera season he conducts R. Strauss’s Elektra, Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, Massenet’s Werther, and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Other 2012–13 engagements include the BBC, Cincinnati, Detroit, Melbourne, St. Louis, and Toronto symphony orchestras; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Opéra Bastille; Dvořák’s Rusalka at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu; and Britten’s Billy Budd at the Glyndebourne Festival.

Sir Andrew has conducted all of the world’s major ensembles, from the Berlin Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as at opera houses and festivals throughout the world, including The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Bayreuth Festival. He has an extensive discography on the Chandos, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Classics International, Capriccio, EMI, and CBS labels, among others. He currently records exclusively for Chandos Records.

Sir Andrew’s recording of Bowen’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2011 for Best Orchestral Performance. His 2008 recording of Elgar’s Violin Concerto with violinist James Ehnes and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (Onyx Classics) won Gramophone’s Best Concerto award. Recordings in 2007 included Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with violinist Min-Jin Kym and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Sony); Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Yundi Li and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon); and a solo recital of operatic favorites with soprano Nicole Cabell and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca), which in 2008 won the Solti Prize from the Académie du Disque Lyrique.

Born in 1944 in Hertfordshire, England, Sir Andrew studied at King’s College, Cambridge, where he was an organ scholar before later studying conducting. His diverse repertoire ranges from baroque to contemporary works, and his vast conducting credits span the symphonic, operatic, and choral worlds. In 1992 Sir Andrew was named a Commander of the British Empire for his services to British music, and in 1999 he was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s New Year Honours list.

Learn more about Sir Andrew Davis



Marc-Andre Hamelin NY Philharmonic

Four different multi-concert series celebrate pianist Marc-André Hamelin’s artistry worldwide during the 2013–14 season: the Celebrity Series of Boston, San Francisco Performances, London’s Wigmore Hall, and Antwerp’s deSingel. Highlighting diverse repertoire and interests, he will perform in solo recitals and collaborate with guest artists, including the Pacifica and Takács quartets, violinist Anthony Marwood, clarinetist Martin Fröst, and pianist Emanuel Ax. Additional recital highlights include performances at the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Washington Performing Arts Society, Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Munich’s Herkulessaal, and Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ.

This season he performs the world premiere of a piano concerto by Mark-Anthony Turnage with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He will also perform with the New York Philharmonic and Sir Andrew Davis, Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Bernard Labadie, London Symphony Orchestra with Osmo Vänskä, the WDR Sinfonieorchester with Andris Nelsons, Danish National Symphony Orchestra with Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, and a European tour with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Kent Nagano.

Mr. Hamelin records exclusively for Hyperion Records. His most recent release features late piano works of Busoni, which follows an acclaimed disc of Haydn concertos with Les Violons du Roy and Bernard Labadie. Other recent releases include three double-disc sets of Haydn sonatas; a solo disc of works by Liszt; and an album of his own compositions, Hamelin: Études, which received a 2010 Grammy nomination (his ninth) and a first prize from the German Record Critics’ Award Association. The Hamelin études are published by Edition Peters.

His complete Hyperion discography includes concertos and works for solo piano by such composers as Alkan, Godowsky, and Medtner, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, and Schumann.

Born in Montreal and a resident of Boston, Marc-André Hamelin is the recipient of a lifetime achievement prize by the German Record Critic’s Association, an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec, and a member of the Royal Society of Canada.


The Discovery of Heaven (U.S. Premiere–New York Philharmonic Co-Commission with the London Philharmonic Orchestra)

JULIAN ANDERSON (born in 1967 in London, England)
The Discovery of Heaven (US Premiere–New York Philharmonic Co-Commission with the London Philharmonic Orchestra)

The Discovery of Heaven by Julian Anderson, the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence, premiered on  March 24, 2012, conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth at the Royal Festival Hall. The work was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and is receiving its US premiere at these Philharmonic concerts. As part of an LPO March 2012 podcast, the composer gave a short interview to introduce the musical and literary inspirations for his work, and explored how a piece of music can reflect a book without having a direct narrative connection. The title of the work comes from Dutch author Harry Mulisch’s 1992 novel, which, Anderson says, is “crazy, but absolutely wonderful” (in its mythic plot, God having given the Ten Commandments to Moses, now wants them back). The composer’s musical language absorbs several eclectic influences in its three movements: I. “An Echo from Heaven”—high-pitched, surreal, slow, imperturbably almost immobile—reflects his take on Japanese gagaku (9th century imperial court music of Japan); II. “In the Street” has an earthy, deep, at times delicate, and at other times raucous sound, reflecting all the things that one might encounter in a teeming metropolis, including Mongolian overtone chanting and big band music. They all come together and “topple over” into the last movement; III. “Hymns,” which Anderson describes as “fierce,” draws inspiration from Gregorian chant, Janáček, and the battle between the side drum and the rest of the orchestra at the end of the first movement of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5. “Hymns” struggles to reconcile these two divergent sound worlds. All that being said, Julian Anderson invites us to receive the piece as it is and use our ears to form our impressions. “[A] striking new work…a gripping journey.” (The Guardian)

Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra

CÉSAR FRANCK (1822-1890)
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1885)

Born in Liège, Belgium, César Franck’s musical language is usually considered to be in the German, rather than the French tradition. And both for that reason, and because of his reserved personality and deeply held religious beliefs, he felt outside the musical mainstream when he went to Paris, where composing was more of a competitive sport. Early in his career, he was acclaimed as an organist with formidable improvisatory skills—even venturing into the business of demonstrating and performing inaugural concerts throughout the country on instruments of Cavaillé-Coll organ builders. Beginning in 1858 and for the rest of his life he served as organist at the Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde in Paris. As a teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, he had many devoted students (for his religious devotion and his spiritual approach to music, they dubbed him “Père Franck” and “pater seraphicus”). It was only later in life that he came into his own as a composer. Next to his Symphony in D, a beloved orchestral staple, this work for piano and orchestra is his most well-known composition. He wrote it as a sign of appreciation for Louis Diémer (soloist in Franck’s Les Djinns), referring to it as “a little something for piano and orchestra” when he told Diémer about it. The dedicatee premiered it in 1886 at a concert of the Société Nationale de Musique at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The three linked sections of the Symphonic Variations make it feel a little like a one-movement piano concerto. The introduction presents two main motives, whose give-and-take between soloist and orchestra has reminded listeners of a similar dialogue in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Six variations on a lyrical theme follow in the second section, Allegretto quasi Andante; and a brilliant, dance-like finale, Allegro non troppo, brings the work to a crowd-pleasing conclusion.

Selections from Romeo and Juliet

Selections from Romeo and Juliet (1935)

Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy of the “star-cross’d lovers” Romeo and Juliet and their warring families has stirred the imagination of countless composers. Prokofiev’s sumptuous ballet is arguably the most ravishing musical setting. But the story of its genesis was star-crossed too. Prokofiev had been visiting, composing, and performing with mixed success in the United States and Europe for some nine years. In the year before his official return to his native Russia (in 1936) he had discussed writing a lyrical ballet for the Kirov in Leningrad, but the theater withdrew, and he signed a contract with the Bolshoi Theatre for Romeo and Juliet. Complications—including comments that the ballet was undanceable—so frustrated Prokofiev that he decided to compose an orchestral suite in 1936 (two years before the ballet was finally staged—not in Russia, but in Czechoslovakia.). Romeo and Juliet was finally produced at the Kirov in 1940. Another bump along the road was the rather odd idea Prokofiev and stage manager Sergei Radlov had of letting the lovers survive. In a much-cited recollection, Prokofiev writes: “There was quite a fuss about our attempt to give Romeo and Juliet a happy ending. The reason for this bit of barbarism was purely choreographic: the living can dance, the dying cannot…What really caused me to change my mind about the whole thing was a remark someone made to me. ‘Your music does not express real joy at the end.’ That was quite true. After several conferences with the choreographer, it was found that the tragic ending could be expressed in dance after all, and in due course the music for that ending was written.” Prokofiev’s ability to capture the changing moods and feelings of the drama is nothing short of miraculous. The music is powerful and tender, virile and heart-breaking, passionate and anguished, and filled with the ardor of the doomed young lovers.
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