Our mission to nurture new American music is alive and well as we present an IRIS co-commission, a new concerto by our old friend and collaborator, composer Adam Schoenberg. Written specifically for Project Trio, this piece features the intrepid Greg Patillo, flute; Peter Seymour, bass; and Eric Stephenson, cello; brilliant musicians all. Opening the program is a wondrous work by Mozart, already a veteran composer at 16, when he wrote his Symphony No. 20. To close, Antonín Dvorak’s most Brahmsian and romantic Symphony No. 7 rounds out this extraordinary evening.
Symphony No. 20 in D major
Composed in July 1772.
On December 15, 1771, Wolfgang Mozart, age sixteen, and his father, Leopold, returned to Salzburg from their second Italian tour following the staging of the young composer’s new opera Ascanio in Alba in Milan. The day after their arrival, Sigismund, Archbishop of Salzburg and Leopold’s employer, died. After three months of uncertainty over Sigismund’s successor, Hieronymous Joseph Franz von Paula, Count of Colloredo was elected in March. For the installation ceremonies in April, Wolfgang was commissioned to compose a short allegorical opera on Metastasio’s old text Il sogno di Scipione (“Scipio’s Dream”), lionizing the new Archbishop. The impression it created must have been favorable, because Colloredo honored the previous Archbishop’s pledge to appoint Wolfgang to the position of composer and concertmaster in his musical establishment. Mozart composed at a feverish pace during the months surrounding Colloredo’s installation. In addition to Il sogno di Scipione, he wrote two Masses, various sacred works, four divertimentos (K. 131, 136-138), another opera (Lucio Silla), several songs, two church sonatas, eight symphonies and began six string quartets (K. 155-160) before he left on what proved to be his last Italian journey in October. The symphonies (K. 114, 124, 128-130 and 132-134) appeared in quick order during the early months of 1772. Mozart planned them for use at the frequent concerts and entertainments given in Salzburg, and their scoring may reflect the new Archbishop’s taste for a small ensemble of flutes or oboes, horns and strings. In style, these Symphonies show Mozart at the earliest stages of wedding Italianate tunefulness and galanterie with the Austro-German orchestral and expressive devices that came to be seen increasingly in his works: the fully rounded forms, the inclusion of a minuet to expand the work from three to four movements, and certain rhythmic and orchestration techniques were all derived from practices developed in Mannheim and Vienna. These symphonies are important steps in Mozart’s creative evolution — charming and beautiful in themselves while pointing clearly toward his the towering masterpieces of his later years.
The Symphony No. 20 was completed in Salzburg in July 1772. The opening movement, brilliant in sonority, festive in mood and more grandiloquently French than lyrically Italian in spirit, is in a nascent sonata form, lacking a true development section and reserving the initial gesture of the main theme (the arch shaped motive with trills heard in the strings immediately after the strong opening chords) until late in the recapitulation. The Andante is one of those achingly beautiful confections that only Mozart could have produced. Built from almost banal melodic and accompanimental components, it seems to rise on its translucent cloud of flute and muted string sonorities into some pure and perfect sphere that is the quintessence of Classicism. The Menuetto is a decidedly straight-forward affair, but the Trio contains some delicious suspensions — momentary dissonances that lend the music an invigorating piquancy and charm. The bounding finale is what was known in the 18th century as a Kerhaus, a “sweeping out,” the final dance of the evening, and it is here used as a merry dash to the end.
Adam Schoenberg, born in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton in 1980, grew up in a musical environment, improvising and playing piano from age three. Schoenberg received his baccalaureate in music composition from Oberlin (2002) and his master’s degree (2005) and doctorate (2010) from Juilliard, where he was a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow; his teachers have included John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, Jeffrey Mumford, Lewis Nielson and George Tsontakis. Schoenberg has received awards and grants from ASCAP, Meet the Composer, International Brass Chamber Music Festival, Southern Arts Federation and Society for New Music, as well as the prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006. He was a MacDowell Colony Fellow in 2009 and 2010, Guest Composer at the Aspen Music Festival and School in 2010 and 2011, and 2012 BMI Composer-in-Residence at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University; he has also held residencies with the Kansas City Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony and Lexington Philharmonic. In 2012 Schoenberg became the first American classical composer to sign with Universal Music Publishing Classical Group and Ricordi London. A committed educator, Adam Schoenberg is on the faculty at UCLA, where he teaches composition and orchestration. He has also presented lectures and master classes at Juilliard, University of Missouri/Kansas City, Oberlin and other leading colleges and conservatories. His commissions include those from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, IRIS Orchestra, Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra, Sybarite Chamber Players, Blakemore Trio, Cleveland Orchestra trumpeter Jack Sutte, harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Nick Tolle and the Consortium of Vibraphone Players, and New Juilliard Ensemble. An accomplished film composer, Schoenberg has scored two feature-length movies and several shorts.
Composed in 1884-1885. Premiered on April 22, 1885 in London, conducted by the composer.
When Dvořák attended the premiere of the Third Symphony of his friend and mentor Johannes Brahms on December 2, 1883, he was already familiar with the work from a preview Brahms had given him at the piano shortly before. The effect on Dvořák of Brahms’ magnificent creation, with its inexorable formal logic and its powerful shifting moods, was profound. Dvořák considered it, quite simply, the greatest symphony of the time, and it served as one of the two emotional seeds from which his D minor Symphony grew. The other, which followed less than two weeks after the first presentation of the Third Symphony, was the death of his mother.
Brahms not only encouraged Dvořák in his work, but also convinced his publisher, Simrock, to take on the music of the once little-known Czech composer. Dvořák always respected and was grateful to his benefactor, and when Brahms’ Third Symphony appeared he looked upon it as a challenge presented to him to put forth a surpassing effort in his next work in the form. With Brahms’ Symphony as the inspiration, and his grief at his mother’s passing as the soul, the idea of a new symphony grew within him. He poured some of his sadness into the Piano Trio in F minor, Op. 65, composed early in 1884, but the spark that ignited the actual composition of the Seventh Symphony was not struck until the following summer. Dvořák had been garnering an international success with his music during the preceding years, and his popularity was especially strong in England. As one of the stops on his busy conducting tours through northern Europe, he visited Britain for the first time in the spring of 1884, and on June 13th he was elected an honorary member of the Philharmonic Society and simultaneously requested to provide a new symphony for that organization. It gave him the reason to put the gestating Symphony to paper. Following another English foray in the fall that was even more successful than the earlier one, he set to work on the Symphony in December.
With thoughts of his mother still fresh in his mind, and with the example of Brahms always before him (“It must be something respectable for I don’t want to let Brahms down,” he wrote to Simrock), Dvořák determined to compose a work that would solidify his international reputation and be worthy of those who inspired it. In his study of the composer’s work, Otakar Šourek wrote, “Dvořák worked at the D minor Symphony with passionate concentration and in the conscious endeavor to create a work of noble proportions and content, which should surpass not only what he had so far produced in the field of symphonic composition, but which was also designed to occupy an important place in world music.” On December 22nd, Dvořák wrote to his friend Antonín Rus, “I am now busy with the new Symphony (for London) and wherever I go I have no thought for anything but my work, which must be such as to move the world — well, God grant that it may be so!” He was so pleased with progress on the piece, even during the busy holiday season, that on New Year’s Eve he told another friend, Alois Göbl, “I am again as happy and contented in my work as I have always been up to now and, God grant, I always shall be.” The orchestration was undertaken during the winter, and the score finished in March, only a month before its premiere in London.
Dvořák reported to Simrock that the Symphony’s introduction was “an exceptionally brilliant success.” Its triumph caused the eminent conductor-pianist Hans von Bülow, who led the Symphony in its Berlin premiere in 1889, to say of Dvořák, “Next to Brahms, [he is] the most God-gifted composer of the present day.” (Bülow also called him, with all due respect, “a genius who looks like a tinker.”) After Dvořák made some revisions in the score — including the excision of forty measures from the slow movement — he presented it to Simrock for publication with the expectation of a good payment. Simrock, however, argued that Dvořák’s large works did not sell well (he conveniently ignored the fact that the Slavonic Dances were making huge profits) and offered only half the requested amount. Dvořák replied that not only was the D minor Symphony the best such work he had ever written and certain to be in demand, but that he was also a father needing to support a family. As a final argument, the composer, whose first job had been as a butcher’s apprentice in a peasant village, and who throughout his life followed the country practice of keeping pigeons, added, “I have a lot of expense with my garden and it doesn’t exactly look as if there’ll be a good potato crop this year.” Dvořák got his full payment. It was the second of his symphonies to be published, and was usually known as “No. 2” until the 1960s, when the first five symphonies finally became widely available.
Dvořák’s D minor Symphony has been regularly heard in the world’s concert halls ever since it was new, and it is regarded by many as his finest achievement in the genre. Sir Donald Tovey’s comment is representative: “I have no hesitation in setting Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony along with the C major Symphony of Schubert and the four symphonies of Brahms as among the greatest and purest examples of this art-form since Beethoven.” It has a gravity and austerity that are seldom encountered in the works of this composer, about whose music the great Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick once said, “In it, the sun always shines.” Its texture and orchestration are often reminiscent of Brahms, but Dvořák’s own distinctive personality is never suppressed, a difficult balance for him to attain during these years since he wanted to write music that would embody both the great German symphonic tradition and the unique characteristics of the Bohemian folk music that he held so dear. Though they are very different works, he succeeded remarkably well in each of his last three symphonies.
The Symphony begins with an ominous rumble deep in the basses reminiscent of both the introductory measures of Bruckner’s symphonies and the beginning of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, another work in D minor and coincidentally also commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society. The haunting main theme is introduced by the violas and cellos, then echoed by the clarinets. Almost immediately, the possibilities for development built into the theme are explored, and the music rapidly grows in intensity until a climax is achieved when the main theme bursts forth in dark splendor from the full orchestra. The tension subsides to allow the flute and clarinet to present the lyrical second theme. The development, woven from the thematic components of the exposition, is compact and concentrated. The recapitulation is swept in on an enormous wave of sound that is capped by the re-entry of the timpani. The main theme is abandoned quickly, and the repeat of the flowing second theme is entrusted to two clarinets in a rich setting. The main theme returns, at times with considerable vehemence, to form the coda to this magnificent movement.
The second movement opens with a chorale of an almost otherworldly serenity that had been little portrayed in music since the late works of Beethoven. A complementary thematic idea with wide leaps of pathetic beauty is heard from the strings. The unusual form of the movement, part variations, part sonata, is perhaps best heard as the struggle between the beatific grace of the opening and the various states of musical and emotional tension that militate against it. It is likely that Dvořák intended this deeply expressive music as the heart of the Symphony, as a cathartic portrayal of the feelings that had troubled him since the death of his mother.
The Scherzo, the greatest dance movement among Dvořák’s symphonies, is at once graceful and compelling, airy and forceful. Its bounding syncopations give it an irresistible vivacity set in a glowing, burnished orchestral sonority. Though the trio is more lyrical, it has an incessant rhythmic background in the strings that lends it an unsettled quality.
The finale, which continues the brooding mood of the preceding movements, is large in scale and assured in expression. Unlike many minor-mode symphonies of the 19th century, this one does not end in a blazing apotheosis of optimism, but, wrote Otakar Šourek, “rises to a glorious climax of manly, honorable and triumphant resolve.” It is a moving climax to one of Dvořák’s greatest creations.
Of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, Otakar Sourek wrote, “The spirit of the great symphonist-architect emanates in full glory from the work as a whole, and from each movement, from each section and, indeed, from each bar, building up before us a composition of monumental proportions, unified in all its parts, bold in design, of material without flaw or fracture, a composition which is one of the greatest and most significant symphonic compositions since Beethoven.”
Combining the virtuosity of world-class artists with the energy of rock stars, PROJECT Trio is breaking down traditional ideas of chamber music. The genre-defying Trio is acclaimed by the press as “packed with musicianship, joy and surprise” and “exciting a new generation of listeners about the joys of classical and jazz music.”
Gramophone Magazine recently singled out the group as “an ensemble willing and able to touch on the gamut of musical bases ranging from Baroque to nu-Metal and taking in pretty much every stylism in between,” while The Wall Street Journal hailed the Trio for their “wide appeal, subversive humor and first-rate playing.” The New York Times has called beatboxing flutist Greg Pattillo “the best in the world at what he does.”
The Trio was forged out of a collective desire to draw new and diverse audiences by performing high energy, top quality music. Using social media to broaden their reach beyond the concert stage and classroom, the Trio has its own YouTube channel, which has over 80 million views and 96,000 subscribers, making PROJECT Trio one of the most watched instrumental ensembles on the internet.
Highlights of the Trio’s 2014-15 season include engagements with the Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, and Charleston Symphonies, the Illinois Philharmonic, and season opening concerts with the Evansville Philharmonic and WCF Symphony. This season, the Trio will participate in residencies at Mercyhurst College and Concordia College, as well as performing and leading masterclasses in schools, universities, festivals, and other venues throughout the Germany, Italy, and United States.
Recent performance highlights include appearances and collaborations with the Charlotte, San Diego, Toronto, Milwaukee, Saint Louis and New Jersey Symphonies, the Britt Festival, the Mainly Mozart Festival and the Chicago Sinfonietta. Their international tours have included concerts in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Hong Kong. In May 2013, the Trio completed a landmark tour of the former Soviet Union sponsored by the US Department of State.
PROJECT Trio was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition and NPR Music’s series, Heavy Rotation, where hosts around the country share a favorite new song. They selected Sweet Pea, from PROJECT’s 2012 Random Roads Collection album, as “one of the best new tunes out there.” In addition to TV and live radio appearances on such programs asSoundcheck on New York’s WNYC, and Sirius XM among others, their music can be heard in Nike and Smart Car commercials. Greg Pattillo recently demonstrated his beatbox style for Jay Leno and performed with the Tonight Show orchestra.
PROJECT Trio’s discography includes six recordings, four live EP’s, and a DVD, PROJECT Trio: Live In Concert. All of these projects are self produced on the ensembles record label, Harmonyville Records. When Will Then Be Now and their catalog-spanning Random Roads Collection, debuted at the top of both the Billboard Canadian and US classical and jazz charts. Like all of the other PROJECT Trio’s recordings, both soared to the top of the iTunes charts. Following up on the success of their first two CDs, Winter in June and Brooklyn, their third disc, Project Trio was acclaimed by Jazz Review as “a glorious celebration of the music of our time.”
The members compose and arrange all of their own music, which they publish on their Harmonyville label. Their repertoire includes pieces for trio as well as several works with orchestra. With a goal to further expand the repertoire for their unique combination of flute, cello and bass, the Trio is collaborating with composer Adam Schoenberg on a concerto commissioning project for the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons and launched the annual PROJECT Trio Composition Competition, now in its second year.
The Trio is dedicated to arts education, teaching the art and joy of jamming on classical instruments and opening minds to what instruments can do. Engaging younger audiences, PROJECT Trio has performed and led workshops for over 300,000 students on four continents and is instantly recognizable to students of all ages as a result of their YouTube following and appearances on popular TV shows on Nickelodeon and MTV. With specialized curricula for age groups from elementary students through college, their educational programs are adapted to meet the National Standards for Music Education. Taking note of the group’s success in building new audiences, Chamber Music America invited the members to make a presentation on successful audience engagement techniques for the 21st Century at the January 2014 CMA conference in New York City. In the summer, the group runs multiple camps focusing on composition, arranging, improvisation, and 21st century chamber music. The camps are annually held at the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon and New York City.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Pattillo, Stephenson, and Seymour met at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where they were honored with the 2013 CIM Alumni Achievement Award. Founded in Boulder, Colorado in the summer of 2005, the Trio got its big break in 2006 when Greg Pattillo’s Beatbox Flute video went viral on YouTube, receiving millions of views in its first week. PROJECT Trio has since become one of the world’s most exciting instrumental ensembles.