Facebook Live: Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Brahms’s Third

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Stephen Hough

Facebook Live: Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Brahms’s Third

  1. Facebook Live: Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Brahms’s Third ()

Facebook Live: Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto and Brahms’s Third

The video from the live broadcast of the Saturday, Jan. 14 concert. Alan Gilbert leads Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor,” with soloist Stephen Hough, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 3.

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Conductor

Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert, former Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, launches a new appointment as chief conductor designate of Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra this fall, shortly after the opening of its already iconic new home. The Grammy Award–winning conductor previously served as principal guest conductor of the orchestra (then known as NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg) for more than a decade, and will assume the role of chief conductor in September 2019. This position follows his truly transformative eight-year tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, during which, through such key initiatives as the NY PHIL BIENNIAL, he succeeded in making the Orchestra a leader on the cultural landscape. Alan Gilbert is also conductor laureate of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the founder and president of Musicians for Unity. With the endorsement and guidance of the United Nations, this new organization will bring together musicians from around the world to perform in support of peace, development, and human rights.

Alan Gilbert makes regular guest appearances with orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He has led operatic productions for Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Zurich Opera, Royal Swedish Opera, and Santa Fe Opera, where he was the inaugural music director.

His discography includes The Nielsen Project, a box set recorded with the New York Philharmonic, and John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, captured on DVD at The Metropolitan Opera, for which he won a Grammy Award. He received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Music Direction in PBS’s Live From Lincoln Center broadcasts of two star-studded New York Philharmonic productions: of Sweeney Todd and Sinatra: Voice for a Century.

Alan Gilbert has received Honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and Westminster Choir College, as well as Columbia University’s Ditson Conductor’s Award. He is a member of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was named an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. At The Juilliard School, he is the first holder of the William Schuman Chair in Musical Studies and serves as Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies. After giving the annual Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture on Orchestras in the 21st Century: A New Paradigm during the New York Philharmonic’s EUROPE / SPRING 2015 tour, he received a 2015 Foreign Policy Association Medal for his commitment to cultural diplomacy.

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Piano

Stephen Hough

Stephen Hough combines a distinguished career as a pianist with those of composer and writer. Named by The Economist as one of 20 Living Polymaths, he was the first classical performer to be awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and is a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Since taking first prize at the 1983 Naumburg Competition, Mr. Hough has performed with the world’s major orchestras, given recitals at the most prestigious concert halls, and appeared at festivals from Salzburg to Tanglewood. His 2018–19 season highlights include the Mostly Mozart Festival, Cleveland and Minnesota Orchestras; London and New York Philharmonic orchestras; City of Birmingham, Dallas, Detroit, Finnish Radio, San Francisco, Montreal, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Sydney, Tokyo, and Vienna symphony orchestras; and the Orchestre philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Orchestra sinfonica nazionale della Rai, and Hallé Orchestra, with which he also tours China. In 2018 he was artist-in-residence at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mr. Hough’s discography of more than 60 CDs has garnered awards including the Diapason d’Or de l’Année, several Grammy nominations, and eight Gramophone Awards, and includes recent releases of Debussy solo piano works and Mr. Hough’s Dream Album (on Hyperion). His iPad app, The Liszt Sonata, was released by Touch Press in 2013.

As a composer, Mr. Hough has been commissioned by the likes of London’s Wigmore Hall, Paris’s Musée du Louvre, London’s National Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Indianapolis Symphony, and Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. His music is published by Josef Weinberger Ltd. His first novel, The Final Retreat, was published by Sylph Editions in 2018. He is an honorary member of the Royal Philharmonic Society, a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, holds the International Chair of Piano Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, and is on the faculty of The Juilliard School.

 

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Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor” (1809)

Composed while Vienna was under siege by Napoleon’s armies, Beethoven’s last piano concerto was born under the sign of war. “What a destructive, unruly life around me! Nothing but drums, cannons, human misery of all sorts!” wrote the nearly deaf composer. To protect his deteriorating hearing from the noise, Beethoven had sought refuge in a friend’s basement and covered his ears with pillows. Yet his despair amid the chaos is never manifested in the score; the music remains defiant, rebellious, triumphant. This concerto concluded one of Beethoven’s most vibrantly productive periods, in which he created an astonishing number of masterpieces (including four symphonies, the Piano Concerto No. 4, the opera Fidelio, the Violin Concerto, the three dramatic “Razumovsky” String Quartets, and two of his great piano sonatas—the “Appassionata” and the “Waldstein”). Sadly, however, it is the only one of his five piano concertos that he could not premiere himself, due to his near-total deafness. Beethoven introduced something new in this piece: where soloists would normally expect to improvise and show off their technical abilities in a cadenza, he wrote in the score: “do not play a cadenza, but immediately begin the following.” He notated an enhanced cadenza-like passage that continues to work the thematic materials and then proceeds to the end of the first movement. After its Leipzig premiere in 1811, a journalist proclaimed: “It is without doubt one of the most  original, imaginative, most effective but also one of the most difficult of all existing concertos.” It is ironic that this concerto should come to be known as “Emperor” (the nickname was appended after Beethoven’s death and refers not to Napoleon, but to the work’s regal temperament); it was Napoleon’s power grab, after all, that so disillusioned and infuriated the composer of the Third Symphony that he tore its original title page. Political implications aside, Beethoven’s masterpiece speaks with both majesty and poetry—a crowning achievement indeed.
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Symphony No. 3

JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883)

"Like a rainbow after a thunderstorm" — that's how Johannes Brahms's biographer Karl Geiringer describes the cyclical Third Symphony, in which the rising opening motif returns again and again. It was premiered in Vienna to great acclaim-perhaps more than the composer had experienced before. Brahms was his own worst enemy when it came to his craft; he was a tough critic of his creations, and once finally satisfied with what he had written, he destroyed all traces of the "journey." He threw away more than he left us. But perhaps it's not surprising: in the article "Neue Bahnen" ("New Paths") in the October 28, 1853 issue of the music journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik Schumann had made a prophecy that probably turned out to be a mixed blessing: according to him, the barely 20-year-old Brahms was "the young blood...the One called to convey the most exalted spirit of our time in an ideal way...the One at whose cradle the Graces and heroes stood guard..." It is no wonder that Brahms waited till he was 42 before he dared to write his First Symphony. When that creative struggle had finally been won, the Second Symphony followed quickly, and in 1883 the present Third was completed. This work has often been called Brahms's most personal symphony. The notes of the opening motif, F, A-flat, F, are said to represent the German words "Frei aber froh" (free but happy) — Brahms's response to his violinist/friend/musical advisor Joseph Joachim's motto "Frei aber einsam" (free but lonely). Whether it's true or not, that musical cell is the foundation and backdrop to much of the symphony. Still, the "free but happy" explanation seems a little off the mark at times, because throughout the symphony Brahms sets up conflicts expressed in the alternation of major and minor keys — as if he felt a greater kinship to the "free but lonely" motto and to an emotional palette that paints in colors of yearning, reflection, and serene acceptance.
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