London Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Saturday, March 19, 2022
Bing Concert Hall
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Nicole Cabell, soloist
View the full orchestra roster here.
ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Suite in A, Op. 98, B. 184 ‘American’ (1894-5)
Andante con moto
Moderato: alla polacca
GEORGE WALKER (1922-2018)
Lilacs, for voice and orchestra (1995)
When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd
O powerful western fallen star!
In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house
Sing on, sing on you gray-brown bird
ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61 (1845–6)
Sostenuto assai – Allegro, ma non troppo
Scherzo with two trios: Allegro vivace
Allegro molto vivace
Texts for Lilacs can be viewed here.
The London Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 North American Tour is made possible through an intercontinental partnership with the Music Academy of the West.
Performance costs of Walker's Lilacs supported by The Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
This performance is generously supported by the Koret Foundation
PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.
HEALTH AND SAFETY: Masks are no longer required for indoor performances but are strongly recommended.
Born in Nelahozeves, Bohemia, September 8, 1841; died in Prague, May 1, 1904
Suite in A, Op. 98, B. 184 ‘American’ (1894-5)
“The musician must prick his ear for music. Nothing must be too low or too insignificant for the musician.” With these words, which he wrote in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in February 1895, Czech composer Antonin Dvořák crystallized his approach to all that was new in what he had heard in his three years in the United States. His interests were wide and, given that his base was in New York as director of the newly formed National Conservatory of Music, his travels were relatively wide, too—Boston, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Chicago, Iowa, Omaha, St. Paul. Thousands of midwestern Bohemian and Moravian immigrants greeted the composer on his travels. After viewing the nearby Minnehaha Falls, 3,000 welcomed him at a hastily arranged reception in St. Paul. The falls inspired a short, melancholy melody that Dvořák soon turned into the slow movement of his Violin Sonatina, Op. 100 (1893). [Kreisler then popularized the piece as Indian Lament]. An eight-hour train journey later, Dvořák was back in Spillville, Iowa, where the composer, his wife, sister-in-law, and his six children were spending the summer of 1893. This rural community of largely Czech-speaking immigrants proved a congenial setting for the internationally famous composer, who had recently declared that he would from now on only compose for his own pleasure. His early morning walks through the woods by the Little Turkey River helped him sketch the "American" String Quartet, Op. 96 in just three days, and write it out fully in a further 12. Always a quick worker when inspiration was running high, Dvořák began work on a string quintet three days later and completed the work by the beginning of August. It, too, is often referred to as the "American." "The influence of America must be felt by everyone who has any 'nose' at all," Dvořák wrote during his summer in Spillville.
From the outset of his time as director of Jeanette Thurber’s Conservatory, Dvořák was charged with discovering an "American" style, or even a distinctly "American" national music. While he acknowledged that the Quintet may reveal “American color” and his Symphony From the New World is “an endeavor to portray characteristics which are particularly American,” Dvořák’s innate egalitarian openness to everything he observed and heard led him to conclude that this was only a beginning. Rather than exclusively focusing on folksong, spirituals, or, as we will hear, Native American music, he suggested towards the end of his stay, an "American" national music could better evolve like the nation itself, from the music of all races.
In Spillville, Dvořák came into daily contact with Indigenous North American people and, on several occasions, requested that a group of them assemble at an inn for performances of Native American singing and dancing. As with the spirituals that his student and friend Harry T. Burleigh introduced him to in New York, Dvořák absorbed what he heard into his compositional arsenal and shaped it into his own distinctive language. Some of its traces can be heard in the Suite in A, one of the last works he completed in 1894 before setting sail for a final return to Europe. The five-movement suite was originally written for solo piano and Dvořák skillfully orchestrated it, incorporating a lifetime of orchestral experience, a year later. He never heard the orchestral version, however, and his score was not published until seven years after his death. Whether orchestra or piano, both versions have an overall structural cohesion, with a lyrical opening movement, a spirited scherzo, then a sprightly dance, followed by a reflective, melancholy slow movement, and concluding with a boisterous finale. As though emphasizing the cohesion, Dvořák brings back the gently falling, pentatonic opening theme in a jubilant manner at the very end of the suite. Additional subtle unifying thematic motives and modal coloring from one movement to another have been analyzed at length. Throughout, Dvořák keeps themes simple and direct, taking a cue from what he heard in Spillville, perhaps, or from folk tunes heard elsewhere, cutting away at extraneous material, distilling the essence of what he wishes to say. Striking harmonic shifts and a great fluidity of rhythm add to the interest of an infrequently played score.
Born in Washington, DC, June 27, 1922; died in Montclair, New Jersey, August 23, 2018
Lilacs, for voice and orchestra (1995)
Composer, pianist, and educator George Walker earned a string of "firsts" during a long life. They were capped, perhaps, by becoming the first Black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize, in 1996, when he was 74, for his Lilacs, for voice and orchestra which Faye Robinson, Seiji Ozawa, and the Boston Symphony had first performed that February. Recognition for his achievement, however, did not reach far. “I got probably more publicity nationwide than perhaps any other Pulitzer Prize-winner,” Walker told The Washington Post almost 20 years later. “But not a single orchestra approached me about doing the piece or any piece.” That same year, 2015, The Guardian’s international edition ran a story headed “George Walker: the great American composer you've never heard of.”
With Clifford Curzon and Rudolf Serkin among his piano teachers, the newly graduated Walker built a reputation as a pianist, touring internationally for a few years. At Curtis, his composition teachers included Rosario Scalero, teacher of Samuel Barber, and, in Paris, Nadia Boulanger, teacher of pretty well every American composer of a certain generation. While teaching paid the bills—he was music department chair and a distinguished professor at Rutgers University 1969-92—Walker remained productive as a composer. His catalogue includes over 90 works and he continued composing until his later years. Within five or six years of his death at the age of 96, he had premières of a fifth Sinfonia, a work for cello and orchestra, and Bleu, for violin unaccompanied. “Why keep working?” Walker was asked at the time. “I want more people to hear my work,” he replied. “I want people to get acquainted with my music.”
Walker’s Lyric for Strings (1946) remains his most frequently played piece and continues to generate a feeling of loss, hope, and comfort in an audience, after the manner of Barber’s Adagio for strings. Lilacs, composed a half century later, explores a similar sentiment, but with a more ambitious, complex, and, ultimately, a more accomplished feeling of mourning and loss. In the words of the Pulitzer committee: “This passionate, and very American, musical composition ... has a beautiful and evocative lyrical quality.” Using the first three and thirteenth stanzas of Walt Whitman’s pastoral elegy to the assassinated Lincoln, Walker sets four songs for soprano and large orchestra with sensitivity and textural transparency. The slow moving When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd is a tender, reflective and tortured song of mourning within a high-reaching vocal line. Dark colors from the brass and wrenching strings set the mood for O powerful western fallen star! The music is now more despairing and restless, with sudden changes of mood. With In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, the music becomes lighter and more optimistic. It is springtime again and the lilacs bring a feeling of hope. In the final song, the hermit thrush sings its lament, initially with references to a spiritual Lit'l boy, how old are you?, arranged and made famous by Boston singer Roland Hayes (1887-1977) whose legacy this BSO commission honors. Earlier musical references to lilacs, the star, and the thrush itself are woven into Walker’s woeful but uplifting closing song.
Texts for Lilacs can be viewed here.
Born in Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810; died in Endenich, nr Bonn, July 29, 1856
Symphony No. 2 in C, Op. 61 (1845–6)
One of the landmarks of 19th century German symphonic writing, Schumann’s Second Symphony was written during a troubling period for the composer. Its outer movements reflect the tremendous effort Schumann went through fighting off the debilitating depression that was to shortly overwhelm him. In each, a vigorous, cogently argued symphonic structure pursues a Beethovenian trajectory through struggle to victory, though it is the cumulative effect of all four movements that determines the ultimate goal. Schumann completed a draft of the work in just two weeks, in December 1845. The fuller working out and orchestration of the large-scale symphony lasted right up to its première under Mendelssohn’s baton, in Leipzig, November 5, 1846.
There is an underlying serene quality to the opening brass fanfare which heralds a solemn, broad chorale, underpinned by a restless, unsettling contrapuntal flow from the strings. The two elements are drawn, in part, from the music of Bach, whose music Schumann (and his wife Clara) had been studying and which had been leading towards his adoption of what he termed a “completely new manner of composing.” While the two strands work together at the outset, both elements are developed separately, with the brass motto theme recurring to glow in the coda of the opening movement and again towards the end of the succeeding movements, especially the last. The main theme of the first movement proper is expertly evolved from the underlying restless contrapuntal flow in the strings. As it is developed and cogently argued in brief phrases, the music is constantly questioned by harmonic instability, rhythmic disturbances, and chromatic restlessness. Schumann puts it this way: “I would say that my resistant spirit had a visible influence on it and it is through this that I sought to fight my condition. The first movement is full of this combativeness and is very moody and rebellious in character."
After an energetic, constantly developing first movement, Schumann launches a no less driven scherzo, rather than the customary slow movement. In it, the violins joyously navigate a capricious route through countless twists and turns in music that shares something of the lightness and buoyancy of a scampering scherzo by Mendelssohn. The second of the movement’s two trio sections is colored by the chorale melody and capped by the brass motto theme. The heart of the symphony lies in its yearning slow movement. This is in the minor key, providing time for reflection. Its poignant main theme echoes that of the trio sonata in Bach’s Musical Offering and shares the spiritual depth of the aria Erbarme dich (Have mercy) from Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
The finale is uniquely structured and, from the opening upward rush from the strings followed by decisive orchestral chords, it is a festive celebration of life. “Not until the last movement did I begin to feel well again,” Schumann reflected, two or three years after completing the work. “Otherwise, it reminds me of a dark time.” The main theme is upbeat, and its march-like dotted rhythms begin the process of reviewing and transforming themes from earlier movements, in this case the first. The slow movement’s theme is next, now much quicker, in the major key, and the material for vigorous development, together with the march from the first movement. Then, suddenly, the music builds to an expectant pause and, in a brilliant touch of magic, Schumann introduces an altogether new theme from the winds. It is calm, lyrical and almost serene. It is also an homage to Beethoven—but not Beethoven the symphonist, rather Beethoven the song writer, with a theme derived from the final song in his song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved). Further development of this and earlier material lead to a variant of the new theme on the strings, now directly quoting from Beethoven where the words are “Take then these songs, beloved, which I sang to you.” Schumann’s new symphonic song now pushes through to a blazing C major conclusion and the apotheosis of his symphonic writing. His Second Symphony is music that draws strength and inspiration from the past, creating a new approach to the symphony for the future. “It will tell you of many joys and sorrows,” Schumann said of his hard-won, but ultimately triumphant symphony.
—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Artists
The London Symphony Orchestra is built on the belief that extraordinary music should be available to everyone, everywhere. From orchestral fans in the concert hall to first-time listeners across the UK, Europe, and the world.
The London Symphony Orchestra was established in 1904, as one of the first orchestras shaped by its musicians. Since then, generations of remarkable talents have built the LSO’s reputation for uncompromising quality and inspirational repertoires.
Today, the LSO is ranked among the world’s top orchestras, with a family of artists that includes Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, Principal Guest Conductors Gianandrea Noseda, François-Xavier Roth, and Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas. In March 2021 it was announced that Sir Antonio Pappano will take up the role of Chief Conductor of the LSO from September 2024.
The LSO is Resident Orchestra at the Barbican in the City of London. The Orchestra reaches international audiences through touring and artistic residencies—including with the Aix-en-Provence Festival and Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara—and through digital partnerships and an extensive programme of live-streamed and on-demand online broadcasts.
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LSO musicians are at the heart of this unique programme, leading workshops, mentoring bright young talent, performing at free concerts for the local community and using music to support adults with learning disabilities. LSO musicians also visit children’s hospitals, and lead training programmes for music teachers.
The ambition behind all of this work is simple: to share the transformative power of classical music with people who would not normally experience it. The impact is unrivalled, and every year, LSO Discovery reaches thousands of people of all ages.
In 1999, the LSO formed its own recording label, LSO Live, and revolutionised how live orchestral music is recorded, with over 150 recordings released so far. Overall, the LSO has made more recordings than any other orchestra.
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Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music.
From 1980 to 1998, Sir Simon was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director in 1990. In 2002 he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker where he remained until the end of the 2017–18 season. Sir Simon took up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017. He will remain in this position until the 2023-24 season, when he will become the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus. From the 2023-24 season Sir Simon will take up the position of Chief Conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich. He is a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Sir Simon has made over 70 recordings for EMI record label (now Warner Classics) and has received numerous prestigious international awards for his recordings on various labels. Releases on EMI include Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (which received a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance) Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Ravel’s L'enfant et les sortileges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Rachmaninov’s The Bells and Symphonic Dances, all recorded with the Berliner Philharmoniker. His most recent recordings include Berlioz’ Le damnation de Faust, Helen Grime’s Woven Space, Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Turnage’s Remembering, and Beethoven’s Christ on the Mountain of Olives, which were all released by the London Symphony Orchestra’s own record label, LSO Live.
Sir Simon regularly tours within Europe and Asia and has strong longstanding relationships with the world’s leading orchestras. He regularly conducts the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Berlin, Deutsche Symphonieorchester Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. Recent operatic highlights include Manon Lescaut with the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Der Rosenkavalier with the Metropolitan Opera New York, Janáček’s Jenufa with the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, and Tristan und Isolde with the London Symphony Orchestra at Festival d’Aix en Provence.
Music education is of supreme importance to Sir Simon, and his partnership with the Berliner Philiharmoniker broke new ground with the education programme Zukunft @ Bphil, earning him the Comenius Prize, the Schiller Special Prize from the city of Mannheim, the Golden Camera and the Urania Medal. He and the Berliner Philharmoniker were also appointed International UNICEF Ambassadors in 2004 - the first time this honour has been conferred on an artistic ensemble. In 2019 Simon announced the creation of the LSO East London Academy, developed by the London Symphony Orchestra in partnership with 10 East London boroughs. This free program aims to identify and develop the potential of young East Londoners between the ages of 11 and 18 who show exceptional musical talent, irrespective of their background or financial circumstance. Sir Simon has also been awarded several prestigious personal honours which include a knighthood in 1994, becoming a member of the Order of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen in 2014 and was recently bestowed the Order of Merit in Berlin in 2018. In 2019, Sir Simon was given the Freedom of the City of London.
In the 2021-22 season, Sir Simon will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He will return to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin to revive Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, and in the spring will conduct a new production of Janacek’s Makropulos Case. He will tour Europe and the US with the London Symphony Orchestra, and later on in the season will join mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená for a chamber music project, where they will tour some of Europe’s major cities.
Universally acclaimed for her velvety timbre and finely nuanced interpretations, American soprano Nicole Cabell continues to demonstrate her incredible versatility in repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary on the world’s greatest opera and concert stages as well as on disc.
Last season saw Nicole Cabell sing her first staged Bess in James Robinson’s acclaimed production of Porgy and Bess for English National Opera, conducted by John Wilson. At home in the U.S., she returned to Cincinatti as Juliette (Roméo et Juliette) and joined Pittsburgh Opera as Mimì. This season she sings Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) at Michigan Opera Theatre under Christopher Allen; and next season, she makes her debut at Theater an der Wien in Matthew Wild’s new production of Porgy and Bess.
Ms Cabell’s recent debut as Handel’s Alcina at Grand Théâtre de Genève under Leonardo García Alarcón—praised by Opera Magazine for her “rounded and silky [tone], projected with ease, immaculately controlled”—Nicole Cabell subsequently reunited with Alarcón last season for her debut at Dutch National Opera as Flavia in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo, alongside appearances in full lyric roles, such as Violetta (La traviata) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Mimì (La bohème) at Cincinnati Opera and for her debut at Opéra national de Paris.
Nicole Cabell, was the winner of the 2005 BBC Singer of the World Competition and is a Decca recording artist. Her solo debut album, Soprano was named “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone and received the 2007 Georg Solti Orphée d’Or from the French Académie du Disque Lyrique.
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