Mendelssohn & Sibelius
SUN 2/18/24 at 4 PM
Performance #260 Season 9, Concert 16
Peter Norton Symphony Space
Zachary Schwartzman conductor
The concert will last approximately 2 hours.
PLEASE KEEP PHONE SCREENS DIM Silence all electronic devices
PHOTOS AND VIDEOS ARE ENCOURAGED but only before and after the music
FELIX MENDELSSOHN Ruy Blas Overture
SERGEI PROKOFIEV Violin Concerto No. 2
Allegro, ben marcato
Yangxin Song ’25 violin
JEAN SIBELIUS Symphony No. 1
Andante, ma non troppo—Allegro energico
Andante (ma non troppo lento)
Finale (Quasi una Fantasia)
Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture
Notes by TŌN clarinetist Dávid Kéringer
Composed for Victor Hugo’s historical drama of the same title, Felix Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture is a testament to the composer’s ability to create magnificent music on rather short notice. A few weeks before the new play was to debut on stage, the producers, the Leipzig Theatrical Pension Fund, commissioned Mendelssohn to write an overture and a song for Hugo’s piece, which the composer wasn’t particularly fond of. Only the reverse-psychological effect of a last-minute conversation made him change his mind. In the hope of better attendance, the Fund wanted Mendelssohn’s name included, but at first, he declined their request for an overture. The Romance for two-part women’s chorus was submitted, but six days before the show, one of the producers’ comments made him have second thoughts: they apologetically said that they understood it was simply impossible to compose an overture with those time constraints. Irritated by those words, he started working on the score that same night, and the Ruy Blas Overture was premiered at the event. He later admitted that he enjoyed composing the piece.
The overture opens with a majestic wind fanfare answered by emotional string passages, immediately setting the tone for the unfolding drama. Mendelssohn masterfully employs contrasting sections, seamlessly transitioning between light and dark, trouble and joy. Key themes of a never-existing musical play are introduced; we can imagine the closed velvet curtains in an elegant opera house, just before the plot and the characters’ arcs would unfold. In Victor Hugo’s drama, the deceitful former minister of finance, Don Salluste de Bazan, seeks revenge on the Spanish queen, Maria, who damaged his reputation by exposing his wrongdoings. Don Salluste’s brother refuses to help; he instead disguises his valet, Ruy Blas, as a nobleman and introduces him to the royal court. Blas does surprisingly well: he starts political reforms and wins the queen’s heart, creating the awaited tension between the royal couple. When Don Salluste reveals the truth and humiliates his valet, Blas kills him and commits suicide with poison. During Blas’ last moments, the queen then confesses her love and forgives him.
One would rightfully ask the question: Why would Mendelssohn choose to end the piece in C major, in a pretty uplifting way? Contrary to the aforementioned plot, the outcome of this musical piece is quite positive. My first thought would be that Mendelssohn was simply exercising artistic freedom—it was the natural way to develop the musical texture, or maybe it was the result of the self-reported detachment from the topic. It’s possible that the short time might have prevented him from completing the assignment as expected; by immersing himself in something he dislikes, only to please the Fund. So, to answer the question, I don’t necessarily think that Mendelssohn had the same ideas in his head as Hugo had. He might have imagined his piece as a stand-alone work and not as something closely related to the drama’s story.
Regardless of that, Mendelssohn’s beautifully crafted music has kept the piece relevant since then, making it a captivating journey for audiences of all generations.
Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2
Notes by TŌN violinist Haley Maurer Gillia
Prokofiev composed his Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor in 1935, at a critical point in his life: It was the last piece he wrote before returning home permanently to Russia. He believed, wrongly, that if he were to follow Stalin’s guidelines he’d be able to compose and perform his works with more ease. This proved challenging and dangerous (but that’s another story). He wrote the concerto in Europe while he was on tour with violinist Robert Soetens, and he intended it to be a stark contrast from his dreamy First Violin Concerto.
Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto also entered my life at a critical juncture in my journey as a violinist: It was my college audition piece. I spent many hours practicing and performing it, finding my voice, developing technical skills, and telling my own story through this nuanced work. I always imagined the violin soloist as the hero on a treacherous journey, with dreamlike sequences, dances embellished with castanets, and danger conveyed through intentionally grotesque double stops. I am thrilled to now be playing it for the first time in concert from the perspective of the violin section.
I have always been stunned by the work; the push/pull tension between vividly written musical characters—dark and ominous, majestic, militaristic, and anxious, but also light and sweet, lush, dreamy, and heartbreakingly romantic—that shift sometimes abruptly, sometimes smoothly from one to the next, or at times interweave, sometimes dueling, sometimes dancing.
Prokofiev takes us on an evocative journey, and finding the bright moments amid the dark, and vice versa, is thrilling. The textures and interplay between the orchestra and soloist create a cinematic experience defined by contrast. One of my favorite parts is the opening: The violin enters alone with a simple, haunting melody played only on the violin’s G string, its lowest. While the melody is seemingly “simple,” it is also filled with tension; it feels both moving and held back at the same time. This opposition underpins the entire concerto. The second movement is slow, graceful, and delicately beautiful. The third movement is fast and fiery, highly rhythmic.
The dark and light coexist, creating a work of extravagant beauty and intensity. Such tension and contrast seem fitting since Prokofiev was struggling with a deep love for his home country while simultaneously dealing with the realities of Stalin’s cruelty and harshness.
Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1
Notes by TŌN clarinetist Zachary Gassenheimer
Finnish composer Jean Sibelius began drafting his opus 39 in 1898. The work was first envisioned as a programmatic “musical dialogue” in four movements. Each movement initially was to be representative of a different descriptive phrase. However, this idea was quickly abandoned for a more cyclical approach to composition, a method of composing in which the main material is repurposed and brought back in different ways throughout all movements. It was through this method that Sibelius masterfully assembled his First Symphony.
This piece has one of the most unique beginnings to a symphony. The listener first hears a hushed, rumbling timpani. A solo clarinet then presents a haunting melody, one that will serve as the structural foundation for almost every melody that follows. The clarinet solo concludes with a descending passage that seamlessly transitions to the powerful and lively first theme of the Allegro energico. This dramatic movement comes to a close with two pizzicato chords.
The second movement begins with a low sustain. Next, a beautiful melody in call and response is heard between the orchestra and two clarinets. This is followed by a brief moment of solo bassoon that resembles the foreboding nature of the symphony’s opening clarinet passage. The music continues to develop and finally erupts in an “orchestral storm” that then dies down, allowing the return of the main theme.
The third movement is a bombastic scherzo. It begins with pizzicati from the violins as the woodwinds lead the way for the main theme presented by the violins. The middle section of this movement eases in pace while alluding to thoughts of a peaceful nature scene. This is short lived, as the main material of this movement returns and carries the music to the movement’s end.
The final movement begins as a reimagined version of the clarinet melody that began the entire journey. This reiteration of the theme is presented with a passionate and lush orchestration of the motif that is carried by the strings. As the symphony unwinds and comes to a close, the cyclical nature of the work is present in full force as the final movement concludes just as the first one, with two pizzicato chords.
ZACHARY SCHWARTZMAN conductor
Zachary Schwartzman has conducted around the United States, in Brazil, England, Bosnia, and Mexico. His orchestral performances have been featured on NPR, including a national broadcast on “Performance Today.” A recipient of the career development grant from the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation, he has served as assistant conductor for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opera Atelier (Toronto), Berkshire Opera Festival, Opéra Français de New York, L’Ensemble orchestral de Paris, Gotham Chamber Opera, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Connecticut Grand Opera, and Opera Omaha, among others. He was associate conductor for two seasons with New York City Opera, as well as conductor in their VOX series, and has been associate/assistant conductor for fifteen productions at Glimmerglass Opera, where he conducted performances of Carmen and the world premiere of Jeanine Tesori’s A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck.
Mr. Schwartzman’s credits as assistant conductor include recordings for Albany Records, Bridge Records, Naxos Records, Hyperion Records, and a Grammy-nominated world-premiere recording for Chandos Records. He had a twelve-year tenure as music director of the Blue Hill Troupe and has been assistant conductor for the American Symphony Orchestra since 2012. He has appeared as both assistant conductor and conductor at Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. He is currently resident conductor of The Orchestra Now (TŌN) and music director of the Bard College Community Orchestra. In addition to degrees in Piano Performance and Orchestral Conducting, he earned a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College.
YANGXIN SONG ’25 violin
Yangxin Song began to play the violin with her father when she was three years old. At the age of five, she began studying with Mingjian Liu, a violin educator and violin maker in China. She performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major with an orchestra when she was nine. By age 14, she had successfully performed ten standard concertos and 24 caprices by Paganini. She has had recitals and concerts in significant venues including the Wuhan Qintai Grand Theatre, Shenzhen Concert Hall, Hubei Theatre, Xian’ning Grand Theatre, and Poly Theatre.
In 2014, Ms. Song participated in the Schoenfield International Violin Competition and the CCTV Piano and Violin Competition. In 2018, she participated in the second Siqing Lu Shenzhen Futian International String Festival and Competition, where she was instructed by musicians including Joel Smirnoff, Sophie Rowell, and Siqing Lv. She has also taken master classes with Eugene Drucker, Movses Pogossian, The Shanghai Quartet, Bing Wang, and Julia Glenn.
In 2019, Ms. Song performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major with the Wuhan Chamber Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marian Simons. She and her quartet (which was instructed by Weigang Li) won first prize in the China Youth Music Competition, and a gold medal in the 2020 Vienna International Chamber Music Competition. In July 2021, she was selected for the Chinese Young Musicians Program at the Tianjin Juilliard School. In October 2022, she won the Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition and earned the opportunity to perform with The Orchestra Now at Symphony Space in 2024.
Ms. Song is currently a third-year B.M. degree student at the Bard Conservatory with a full scholarship, studying violin with Daniel Phillips and instructed by Honggang Li and Gil Shaham, and studying viola with Melissa Reardon. In addition to her music major, she is also pursuing a B.A. degree in psychology at Bard College.
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The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is a group of vibrant young musicians from across the globe who are making orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences by sharing their unique personal insights in a welcoming environment. Hand-picked from the world’s leading conservatories—including the Yale School of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal Academy of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music—the members of TŌN are enlightening curious minds by giving on-stage introductions and demonstrations, writing concert notes from the musicians’ perspective, and having one-on-one discussions with patrons during intermissions.
Conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein, whom The New York Times said “draws rich, expressive playing from the orchestra,” founded TŌN in 2015 as a graduate program at Bard College, where he is also president. TŌN offers both a three-year master’s degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies and a two-year advanced certificate in Orchestra Studies. The orchestra’s home base is the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center at Bard, where it performs multiple concerts each season and takes part in the annual Bard Music Festival. It also performs regularly at the finest venues in New York, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others across NYC and beyond. HuffPost, who has called TŌN’s performances “dramatic and intense,” praises these concerts as “an opportunity to see talented musicians early in their careers.”
The orchestra has performed with many distinguished guest conductors and soloists, including Leonard Slatkin, Neeme Järvi, Gil Shaham, Fabio Luisi, Joan Tower, Vadim Repin, Hans Graf, Peter Serkin, Naomi Woo, Gerard Schwarz, Tan Dun, and JoAnn Falletta. Among TŌN’s many recordings are albums featuring pianists Piers Lane, Anna Shelest, and Orion Weiss; Buried Alive with baritone Michael Nagy, which includes the first recording in almost 60 years—and only the second recording ever—of Othmar Schoeck’s song-cycle Lebendig begraben; Classics of American Romanticism, featuring the first-ever complete recording of Bristow’s Arcadian Symphony; and the soundtrack to the motion picture Forte. Recordings of TŌN’s live concerts from the Fisher Center can be heard on Classical WMHT-FM and WWFM The Classical Network, and are featured regularly on Performance Today, broadcast nationwide.
Explore upcoming concerts, see what our musicians have to say, and more at ton.bard.edu.
Leon Botstein Music Director
Samuel Frois Concertmaster
Haley Maurer Gillia
Chance McDermott Principal
Shengjia (Sherry) Zhang
Julián Andrés Rey Peñaranda
Michael Halbrook Principal
Andrea Natalia Torres-Álvarez
Tania Ladino Ramirez
Sam Boundy Principal
Dariimaa Batsaikhan not performing in this concert
Elvira Hoyos not performing in this concert
Rowan Puig Davis Principal
Luke Stence TŌN ’22
Holdan Silva Acosta
Milad Daniari TŌN ’18
Jordan Arbus Principal (Mendelssohn)
Chase McClung Piccolo (Prokofiev)
Olivia Chaikin Principal (Sibelius)
David Zoschnick Principal (Mendelssohn, Prokofiev)
Quinton Bodnár-Smith Principal (Sibelius)
Dávid Kéringer Principal (Mendelssohn, Prokofiev)
Colby Bond Principal (Sibelius)
Zachary Gassenheimer not performing in this concert
Han-Yi Huang Principal (Mendelssohn, Prokofiev)
Kylie Bartlett Principal (Sibeilus)
Stefan Williams Principal (Mendelssohn, Prokofiev)
Douglas Nunes Principal (Sibelius)
Ziming Zhu Assistant (Sibelius)
Forrest Albano Principal (Mendelssohn)
Jid-anan Netthai Principal (Prokofiev)
Giulia Rath Principal (Sibelius)
Zachary Johnson Principal (Mendelssohn)
Stephen Whimple Principal (Sibelius)
Samuel Boeger Bass Trombone
Pei Hsien (Ariel) Lu
Cheng Wei (Ashley) Lim
Neilson Chen not performing in this concert
JULIÁN ANDRÉS REY PEÑARANDA violin
Julian will talk briefly about the Mendelssohn and Prokofiev pieces on stage before the performances.
Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia
Alma maters: Conservatori del Liceu Barcelona, M.M., 2019; Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga, B.M., 2017
Appearances: Orquesta Filarmónica Juvenil de Cámara de Bogotá, 2022; Filarmónica Joven de Colombia, 2021; Festival Internacional de Cartagena, 2017; Aruba Symphony Festival, 2019
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? My parents are musicians and they taught me the beauty of this career. I wanted to be musician since a was a little child.
How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply? I knew about TŌN in Colombia because some people from the program came to my city in order to teach in a festival. Also, because of the agreement with Filarmónica Joven de Colombia. Being in TŌN became a goal because I have always loved playing in orchestras and I believe that this opportunity can give me more tools for improving myself as a musician, not just in the performance, but also in many different necessary aspects for being an integral musician.
What has been your favorite experience as a musician? Music has given to me a lot of wonderful experiences; however, what I really love is to use music as a tool for fixing our society. As an explanation, in my country some people have been victims of violence, drug problems, and other troubles in their life. I believe and have seen how music can give us a purpose in our life, works as a cure for broken souls, and allows people to get better. To see that and be part of these kinds of experiences is the best part of being a musician.
Favorite non-classical musician or band: Hector Lavoe
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would really love to be a soccer player.
CHENG WEI (ASHLEY) LIM harp
Ashley will talk briefly about Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1 on stage before the performance.
Alma maters: University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, M.M., 2022; Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts/ Royal College of Music, London, B.M., 2020; Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Diploma, 2018
Awards/Competitions: 2020 & 2021 Wiltshire Louise Schaefer Fund; 2019 NAFA Merit Award; Participant, 2022 USA International Harp Competition
Appearances: Bowdoin Music Festival, Maine, 2019; HarpMasters, Switzerland, 2018
When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? When I was living in a girls home from the ages of 12 to 14, the prominent Singaporean percussionist Riduan Zalani would visit as a volunteer and make music with us. Having experienced first-hand the impact that music can make on a person during hard times really drove me to want to do the same. I picked up the harp at 14 and never looked back!
What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st century? Fewer unspoken concert hall rules! Dismantle barriers between the performers and the audience. A more welcoming environment would invite newer audiences.
Favorite non-classical musician or band: P. Ramlee and Pink Martini
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I was actually accepted into pharmaceutical school alongside music school. So either a pharmacist or my childhood dream, which was to be a cleaner in a zoo. Because I wanted to be near animals but I didn’t really like studying.
Piece of advice for a young classical musician: Don’t be afraid of failure and rejection. You fail, fail, and fail before you succeed, so embrace and accept it as part of growth. And get out of the practice room to experience the world!
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THE ORCHESTRA NOW
Leon Botstein Music Director
James Bagwell Associate Conductor and Academic Director
Jindong Cai Associate Conductor
Zachary Schwartzman Resident Conductor
Andrés Rivas GCP ’17 Assistant ConductorErica Kiesewetter Director of Orchestral Studies
Keisuke Ikuma Artistic Coordinator of Chamber Music
Sima Mitchell First Year Seminar Faculty
Kristin Roca Executive Director
Marielle Metivier Orchestra Manager
Viktor Tóth ’16 TŌN ’21 Eastern/Central European Music Curator and Assistant Orchestra Manager
Matt Walley TŌN ’19 Program Coordinator and Admissions
Sebastian Danila Music Preparer and Researcher
Benjamin Oatmen Librarian
Leonardo Pineda ’15 TŌN ’19 Director of Youth Music Education
Shawn Hutchison TŌN ’22 Recruitment and Alumni/ae Coordinator
Marketing & Development Staff
Brian J. Heck Director of Marketing
Nicole M. de Jesús ’94 Director of Development
Grace Anne Stage Manager
Board of Trustees
James C. Chambers ’81 Chair
Emily H. Fisher Vice Chair
Brandon Weber ’97 Vice Chair, Alumni/ae Trustee
Elizabeth Ely ’65 Secretary; Life Trustee
Stanley A. Reichel ’65 Treasurer; Life Trustee
Roland J. Augustine
Leon Botstein President of the College, ex officio
Mark E. Brossman
Marcelle Clements ’69 Life Trustee
The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche Honorary Trustee
Asher B. Edelman ’61 Life Trustee
Kimberly Marteau Emerson
Barbara S. Grossman ’73 Alumni/ae Trustee
Andrew S. Gundlach
Glendean Hamilton ’09
Matina S. Horner ex officio
Charles S. Johnson III ’70
Mark N. Kaplan Life Trustee
George A. Kellner
Fredric S. Maxik ’86
Jo Frances Meyer ex officio
Juliet Morrison ’03
James H. Ottaway Jr. Life Trustee
Martin Peretz Life Trustee
Stewart Resnick Life Trustee
David E. Schwab II ’52 Life Trustee
Roger N. Scotland ’93 Alumni/ae Trustee
Mostafiz ShahMohammed ’97
Jonathan Slone ’84
James A. von Klemperer
Patricia Ross Weis ’52
Leon Botstein President
Coleen Murphy Alexander ’00 Vice President for Administration
Jonathan Becker Executive Vice President; Vice President for Academic Affairs; Director, Center for Civic Engagement
Erin Cannan Vice President for Civic Engagement
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Malia K. Du Mont ’95 Vice President for Strategy and Policy; Chief of Staff
Peter Gadsby Vice President for Enrollment Management; Registrar
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Max Kenner ’01 Vice President for Institutional Initiatives; Executive Director, Bard Prison Initiative
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Program and artists subject to change.