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James Lowe, conductor
Glenn Dicterow, violin

This program explores political leadership and debate, starting with music by Ethel Smyth, a prominent women’s rights campaigner. Glenn Dicterow, long-time concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic and mentor of our concertmaster Mateusz Wolski, performed Serenade many times with Bernstein himself conducting.

Ethel Smyth
Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate
Leonard Bernstein
Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium”)
Leonard Bernstein
Slava! A Political Overture
Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op.47

SATURDAY DOORS 6PM | PRECONCERT LECTURE 6:30PM | SHOW 7:30PM
SUNDAY DOORS 1:30PM | PRECONCERT LECTURE 2PM | SHOW 3PM

Masterworks & Mimosas: Get a behind-the-scenes look at how the symphony perfects their work in the final moments with James at the dress rehearsal. Masterworks & Mimosas lets you be a part of the inner workings of the orchestra while enjoying a mimosas, coffee, and gourmet pastries. Join us at 10am on Saturday, April 20th.

You can also subscribe to all 6 Masterworks and Mimosas for only $156.

LoweDown: On Thursday, April 18th at Noon, Music Director James Lowe gives you the “LoweDown” on the music. It’s a free, fascinating, and light-hearted talk about the music. Held at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC).

Dame Ethel Smyth
Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate
Composer: born April 22, 1858, Sidcup, Kent; died May 8, 1944, Woking, UK
Work composed: 1913-14
World premiere: Smyth led the premiere of The Boatswain’s Mate at the Shaftsbury Theatre in London on January 28, 1916.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, and strings
Estimated duration: 7 minutes

Unlike many historic female composers, Dame Ethel Smyth did not labor in obscurity. She benefitted from her upper middle-class social status, which gave her access to influential people who championed her music. Through these connections, Smyth was also able to secure funds to mount professional productions of all six of her operas during her lifetime, a rare accomplishment for any composer, much less a British woman in the early 20th century. Smyth was awarded the DBE (Daughter of the British Empire) in 1922, as well as several honorary degrees, including one from Oxford.

At 19, over her father’s strenuous objections (he did not believe music a proper occupation for women), Smyth moved to Leipzig to study music at the Conservatory, although she left after a year, dissatisfied with her professors and the curriculum (they did not teach orchestration, for example). Smyth continued her music studies privately with Heinrich von Herzogenberg. Through him Smyth met Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, and Joseph Joachim, who offered critical feedback on her compositions.

The Boatswain’s Mate, Smyth’s fourth opera, is a comic opera with a libretto by Smyth, inspired by William Wymark Jacobs’s eponymous story. Retired boatswain Harry Benn, with the help of his friend Ned Travers, schemes to win the love of innkeeper Mrs. Waters. As in all comic operas, hijinks ensue when Mrs. Waters discovers Benn’s plan, much to his chagrin.

The Overture does not contain music from the opera itself; instead, Smyth said she intended the overture to “be a few minutes of cheerful music which would serve as overture to any cheerful play.”

The Overture does quote extensively from Smyth’s 1910 anthem, March of the Women, which she composed for the Women’s Social and Political Union, an activist group leading the fight for women’s suffrage in England. Some have speculated that Smyth included March of the Women as a musical indication of Mrs. Waters’ independent character.

 

Leonard Bernstein
Serenade (after Plato’s ‘Symposium’)
Composer: born August 24, 1918, Lawrence, MA; died October 14, 1990, New York City
Work composed: The Koussevitzky Foundation commissioned an orchestral work from Bernstein just after the death of Serge Koussevitzky, in 1951. Bernstein began writing the Serenade in the autumn of 1953 and finished it on August 7, 1954. The Serenade is dedicated “to the beloved memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky.”
World premiere: Bernstein led the Israel Philharmonic with violinist Isaac Stern at the Teatro Fenice in Venice on September 12, 1954.
Instrumentation: solo violin, timpani, 2 bass drums, tambourine, xylophone, glockenspiel, suspended cymbal, chimes, triangle, snare drum, tenor drum, 2 Chinese blocks, harp, and strings.
Estimated duration: 31 minutes

Who but Leonard Bernstein could successfully fuse his musical style with a set of ancient Greek Platonic dialogues? And, in so doing, create what acclaimed violinist James Ehnes calls “one of the most engaging and unusual works in the entire violin repertoire”?

The discourses in Plato’s Symposium are Plato’s re-creations of speeches given by Socrates and several friends at an Athenian banquet. As the men feasted and drank, they expounded on various aspects of love. Bernstein noted that the Serenade “resulted from a re-reading of Plato’s charming dialogue,” but also maintained “there was no literal program for this Serenade.” Nonetheless, Bernstein provided a detailed description of each of the Serenade’s five movements. Bernstein clearly found inspiration in this Classic intellectual foundation, but listeners need not be familiar with the Platonic dialogues to enjoy the Serenade. An extended violin concerto, each of the Serenade’s five movements is named for a speaker or pair of speakers. The music unfolds like a well-crafted line of reasoning, as each orator presents his particular point of view.

The tritone, a musical interval Bernstein made famous in the song “Maria,” from West Side Story, opens the first movement (Phaedrus-Pausanias), and reappears again in the closing notes of the final movement (Socrates-Alcibiades). The tritone, a forbidden interval known as “the devil in music” during the medieval and Renaissance periods because it was dissonant and hard to sing, here embodies love’s endless fascination. In the second movement, named for the playwright Aristophanes, the solo violin’s playfulness and lyricism contrast with robust countermelodies from the orchestra. The percussion section, particularly the xylophone, emphasizes the humor of the brief third movement scherzo. Bernstein describes the lyrical fourth movement adagio (Agathon) as follows: “Perhaps the most moving speech of the dialogue, Agathon’s panegyric embraces all aspects of love’s powers, charms, and functions. This movement is a simple three-part song.” Socrates himself speaks in the final movement, which opens slowly, weightily, and calls attention to Socrates’ exalted standing among the other speakers. Alcibiades, a drunken interloper, suddenly interrupts Socrates’ measured opinions. The percussion and strings present a dynamic, somewhat incoherent but nonetheless amusing discourse, in keeping with Alcibiades’ inebriated state. Of this movement, Bernstein wrote, “If there is a hint of jazz in the celebration, I hope it will not be taken as anachronistic Greek party-music, but rather the natural expression of a contemporary American composer imbued with the spirit of that timeless dinner-party.”

 

Leonard Bernstein
SLAVA! A Political Overture
Work composed: 1976-77. Dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, to mark his inaugural concerts as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra.
World premiere: Mstislav Rostropovich led the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. on October 11, 1977.
Instrumentation: 2 piccolos, 2 English horns, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, bass drum, glockenspiel, marimba, ratchet, snare drum, suspended cymbal, tambourine, triangle, tubular bells, whip, whistle, woodblock, xylophone, piano, electric guitar, and strings
Estimated duration: 4.5 minutes

The theatricality of Leonard Bernstein’s homage to his friend, cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, is unmistakable. When Bernstein was asked to write something for Rostropovich to conduct in his first concerts as the National Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Bernstein recycled two numbers from his musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The show flopped in spectacular fashion – although not because of Bernstein’s music, the only thing critics praised in their scathing reviews – and Bernstein understandably wanted his music heard.

Slava! (Rostropovich’s nickname) begins with an off-kilter vaudeville version of “The Grand Old Party” in 7/8 time. The countertheme, “Rehearse,” features a solo for electric guitar. In the midst of the hoopla, we hear a series of thunderous quotes from imaginary campaign speeches: “If I am elected to this high office …,” “The people of this nation are sick and tired …,” “Never again shall we submit to …,” “Permit me to quote the words of …,” and “I give you the next president of the United States of America!”

The raucous overture ends with a nod to Rostropovich as Bernstein quotes a brief excerpt of the Coronation Scene in Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, followed by a jubilant shout from the orchestra: “Slava!”

 

Dmitri Shostakovich
Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Composer: born September 25, 1906, St, Petersburg, Russia; died August 9, 1975, Moscow, U.S.S.R.
Work composed: Shostakovich began writing his fifth symphony on April 18, 1937, and finished it on July 20 of that year.
World premiere: Yevgeny Mravinsky led the Leningrad Philharmonic on November 21, 1937, in Leningrad, as part of a concert commemorating the Bolshevik Revolution.
Instrumentation: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, E-flat clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, orchestra bells, snare drum, tambourine, tam tam, triangle, xylophone, celeste, piano, 2 harps, and strings.
Estimated duration: 46 minutes

Everyone in the concert hall in Leningrad on that chilly night in November 1937 knew that Dmitri Shostakovich’s artistic reputation, and very possibly his life, were on the line. They were there to hear the premiere of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. Before the night was over, they also witnessed the dramatic rehabilitation of Shostakovich as the Soviet Union’s preeminent composer.

Earlier in the decade, Shostakovich had been fêted as the darling of Soviet cultural critics, but in 1936 the Soviet newspaper Pravda published a vicious denunciation of Shostakovich’s opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. Shostakovich’s response to the Pravda review was to immediately withdraw his Fourth Symphony, which he was then rehearsing (he did not perform it in public until 1961, eight years after Joseph Stalin’s death). This was not an overreaction; many of Shostakovich’s friends and associates were “disappeared” or executed for reasons far less public. Any response Shostakovich made to his critics had to be meticulously planned, lest he suffer the same fate. With his Fifth Symphony, which a reviewer famously called “A Soviet artist’s response to just criticism,” Shostakovich both mollified government critics and simultaneously reasserted his artistic integrity.

Although the Fifth Symphony is an “absolute” piece of music (i.e., there is no specific narrative attached to it), Shostakovich did include a brief description of “a lengthy spiritual battle, crowned by victory” in the program notes. The Moderato sets the tone for that “spiritual battle,” beginning with the strings’ menacing theme. Its dotted rhythms suggest a bitter march toward an implacable foe. Later, the violins introduce a lyrical second theme, in contrast to the angular rhythmic quality of the first.

The playful Allegretto juxtaposes frisky winds with stentorian brasses. In the trio section a solo violin teases and flirts, before being interrupted by the full orchestra, which transforms the violin’s merry tune into a pompous, galumphing parody of itself. A whiff of something grotesque permeates this music.

The Largo is the emotional core of the Fifth Symphony, and its power lies in its poignant melodies. Here Shostakovich gives the brass section a rest and showcases other instruments: first strings, then a solo flute and finally the full orchestra, sans brasses. Wistful cries from the oboe, a sobbing upwelling of notes from the clarinet and a brief comment from the flute follow before the whole orchestra comes together, amidst quivering string tremolos, in heart-wrenching sadness.

The Allegro non troppo opens with a firestorm, announced by pounding timpani and a blazing brass fanfare. Shostakovich returns to this theme again and again, and unleashes his seemingly endless power of invention with defiant abandon. In a quiet interlude that directly precedes the coda, Shostakovich quotes a song in the violins (later in the harp) that he set to words of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin: “And the waverings pass away/From my tormented soul/As a new and brighter day/Brings visions of pure gold.” Despite this quotation and the blast of brassy triumph that ends the Fifth Symphony, Shostakovich, perhaps enigmatically, called the conclusion an “irreparable tragedy.”

At the end of the premiere, a member of the audience remembered: “The whole audience leapt to their feet and erupted into wild applause – a demonstration of their outrage at all the hounding poor Mitya had been through. Everyone kept saying the same thing: ‘That was his answer, and it was a good one.’ [Shostakovich] came out white as a sheet, biting his lips. I think he was close to tears.”

The Fifth Symphony also succeeded as a musical work, despite negative responses from some critics who saw it as a musical capitulation to government restrictions placed on artists’ works, or a shameful compromise by a world-class composer with the dictatorial political system in which he lived. Pravda, unsurprisingly, termed it “a farrago of chaotic nonsensical sounds.” Despite the mixed critical reaction, audiences both within and outside the Soviet Union hailed the Fifth Symphony as a masterpiece. Today, it is Shostakovich’s most popular and most frequently performed symphony.

© Elizabeth Schwartz

Violinist Glenn Dicterow has established himself worldwide as one of the most prominent American concert artists of his generation.

Mr. Dicterow has enjoyed a storied career. The concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic for 34 years, an all-time record in that major orchestral position, he became the first holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at the USC Thornton School of Music in 2013.          In the Fall of 2022 he became the holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin at USC. Dicterow performs as a soloist with orchestras in the US and internationally while participating in musical festivals and chamber music, teaching in musical academies and leading masterclasses around the world. He also adjudicates at competitions, among a plethora of musical assignments in a “second act” easily as active as his much lauded years with the Philharmonic.

Glenn Dicterow first came to prominence at the age of 11, making 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. He first appeared with the New York Philharmonic in 1967, at the age of 18, performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto under the baton of André Kostelanetz.

Dicterow joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Associate Concertmaster in 1971, becoming Concertmaster there before turning 25. He came to New York as that orchestra’s Concertmaster in 1980, while soloing annually with the Philharmonic in each of his 34 years. In that time, he served as the orchestra’s “leader” (to use the British term) in collaboration with four very different music directors, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert

In a New York Philharmonic concert tour Dicterow was featured as the soloist in Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade After Plato’s Symposium, with Bernstein himself conducting. He performed the Waxman/Bizet Carmen Fantasy under Zubin Mehta as part of the New York Philharmonic’s  “Live From Lincoln Center” telecast, and he was a soloist in the orchestra’s 1982 concert at the White House. Another career highlight was his performance of the Barber Violin Concerto at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China during the Philharmonic’s 1998 tour of Asia.

His shelf of recordings is endless, as the Philharmonic’s Concertmaster, in a large array of solo assignments, both of the great romantic concerti and of the 20th Century classics that he has championed, and in a wide range of chamber music. He has twice recorded Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade with the New York Philharmonic, once with Yuri Temirkanov conducting, once with Kurt Masur. He and his wife, violist Karen Dreyfus, have committed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante to disc, alongside the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Carl St.Clair. He has recorded violin sonatas by such heroes of American music as Ives, Copland, Bernstein, and John Corigliano.

“The Glenn Dicterow Collection,” a three-CD set on the New York Philharmonic label, surveys his career with the orchestra, in performances spanning thirty years, from 1982 – 2012, featuring his performances of concerti by Bruch, Bartok, Barber, Korngold, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Szymanowski, plus the Bernstein Serenade, Kernis’s Lament and Prayer, and John Williams’s Theme From Schindler’s List, among many highlights.

As a sidelight, Dicterow has also provided the violin solos for numerous Hollywood films, including such modern classics as The Turning Point, The Untouchables, Altered States, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Interview With the Vampire, among others.

A graduate of the Juilliard School, where he was a student of Ivan Galamian, he also studied with Joachim Chassman, Naoum Blinder, Manuel Compinsky, Erno Neufeld, Gerald Vinci, Eudice Shapiro, Jascha Heifetz and Henryk Szeryng.

Today, Dicterow is as committed to passing on the great musical legacy that spurred his own career as he once was in his orchestral duties. Beside his endowed chair at the USC-Thornton School and his innovative work in the Manhattan School’s orchestral program, he is the leader of the String Leadership Program at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West, training new generations of concertmasters and principal second violinists.

Among his many honors, the Young Musicians Foundation, a Los Angeles institution which has spurred the careers of innumerable artists, honored Dicterow in February 2015 with its “Living the Legacy Award.” It should be noted that in his early teens, Dicterow, who is now on the YMF Advisory Board, won that organization’s Debut Concerto Competition in 1963.

Glenn Dicterow and his wife, Karen Dreyfus, are founding members of the Lyric Piano Quartet and the Amerigo Trio, performing, recording, teaching and proselytizing at leading festivals and musical institutions around the world.

Ticket Information:

Single Ticket Prices: $19 – $68
Phone: 509-624-1200
Box Office: The Fox Theater, 1001 West Sprague Avenue

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