Thursday, August 27, 2009

Toshi's favorite Tchaikovsky....

Symphony No. 5, in E minor, Opus 64

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

Although Tchaikovsky showed talent for music as a child, he was trained first in jurisprudence. In 1863, he left that endeavor and devoted himself to his music. When Tchaikovsky began this symphony in 1888, he was plagued with self-doubt and uncertainty. He thought he had no inspiration, no ideas, that perhaps he was “written…out.” Nevertheless, this sentimental, theatrical, pessimistic composer wrote to his benefactor only a month later that “inspiration is coming. We shall see.”

I. Andante; Allegro con anima. The symphony has a motto theme, a melody used in each movement to create the emotional foundation of the whole. Two clarinets in their lower range announce this first theme, which seems to be a menacing theme of Fate. The movement proper then opens into a march theme, lively and filled with spirit. The second theme brightens the atmosphere a bit, but essentially, this is a dejected, pessimistic movement that vanishes in darkness.

II. Andante cantabile con alcuna licenza. Perhaps one of the most familiar slow movements in the entire symphonic repertoire, the theme is mournfully sung by solo French horn over sustained strings. This theme is even more nostalgic than the motto theme previously heard. The emotionalism intensifies and the horn solo becomes a duet, followed by oboe and clarinet melodies portraying melancholy. Suddenly, the lyricism is disrupted by the motto theme in a trumpet blast. The opening melodies return in a passionate outpouring before a terrifying eruption of the motto, this time in the trombones. The movement fades away with pleading, broken phases.

III. Valse: Allegro moderato. The charming melody is based on a Florentine street song Tchaikovsky heard 10 years earlier. The waltz has an undercurrent of melancholy that never disappears. The trio section has a rapid staccato figure that skips through the orchestra and then accompanies the returning waltz tune. At the end, a hollow-sounding, deep reminder of the Fate motto returns, much like an unhappy memory.

IV. Andante maestoso: Allegro vivace. The motto leads off the finale, but in E major, not E minor, suggesting a final triumph. The melody is ceded to the warm tones of the strings and marches to the woodwind choir, with a background of flowing triplet rhythm, a symbol of rejoicing. The timpani announce the final allegro. Joyous in outlook, the movement surges until it reaches the coda, when the motto is proclaimed in trumpet fanfares, irresistibly ebullient and victorious.

Program Notes by Joy S. Perry

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lone Ranger....

"An intellectual snob is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger." -Dan Rather

"I think Lone Ranger." - Audrey J. Szychulski, OSFL Executive Director

Overture to William Tell

Gioacchino Rossini

Rossini wrote 38 operas, all of them by the time he was 37 years old. His mastery of the opera buffa—opera based on real people who could be subjects of spoofs—was incomparable. His most famous of this genre is The Barber of Seville. In contrast, William Tell, his last and grandest operatic work, is far more serious and profound than anything else he composed and was his only attempt at French grand opera. Less ornate than his Italian operas, Rossini sticks to French traditions of lyricism, patriotic songs, ballets, and recitatives. The opera is seldom performed because it lasts nearly 5 hours and requires an exceptionally rare voice to sing the difficult tenor role. Yet, the overture remains with its well-known melody, the theme brought into homes by the Lone Ranger and “Heigh-ho Silver.”

First performed in Paris in 1829, William Tell is based on a play by Schiller. The opera recounts the story of Tell, the tyrant-killer in Switzerland and leader of his country’s revolution against the hated Austrian foreigners. It contains the famous trial of marksmanship when Tell was forced to shoot an apple placed on his son’s head.

The overture is in four sections, with the first three depicting Swiss mountain scenes that form the opera’s background. They foretell the dramatic progression of the opera, from innocence through the storm and strife to the dawn of liberty. The quiet opening using five solo cellos suggests a mountain sunrise. The second section portrays a mountain storm, using the trombones in full force. In the third portion, a Swiss cattleman’s call to the flocks is played by the solo English horn. Then, the final section begins with a fiery trumpet fanfare, a call to revolt, with the magnificent concluding gallop that merges into a revolutionary march for the Swiss patriots.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Did you hear blue catherdral on WSKG last week?

Bill Snyder had played this piece right after his interview with Toshi last Tuesday morning. It's beautiful! For more information hear is a sneak peak at the Program Notes on it from the upcoming October 10th Concert.

blue cathedral

Jennifer Higdon
(b. 1962)

Jennifer Higdon is a native of Brooklyn, grew up in Atlanta and rural Tennessee, and currently lives in Philadelphia. She wrote blue cathedral (her spelling, all lower case) in 1999 on a commission for the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music; it was premiered by the institute’s orchestra in March 2000. Since then, on its way to becoming a classic, the work has been performed by more than 150 orchestras. She had a “late start” with no involvement in music until she began teaching herself to play the flute at the age of 15. She majored in flute performance at Bowling Green State University and then earned an artist’s diploma in flute from the Curtis Institute. She received a doctorate in composition from the University of Pennsylvania.

The work has the standard orchestration with some fascinating additions, including crotales, marimba, tam-tams, vibraphone, glockenspiel, bell tree, sizzle cymbal, suspended cymbal, chimes, triangles, bass drum, and eight crystal glasses tuned by adding water (à la glass harmonica); and at the end of the work most of the musicians play about 50 Chinese bells (“Chinese Health Reflex Balls”).

Higdon wrote the work during a time of personal devastation and transformation, indicated by the inscription “in loving memory of Andrew Blue Higdon.” She explains the genesis of the piece: “The recent death of my younger brother, Andrew Blue, made me reflect on the amazing journeys that we all make in our lives, crossing paths with so many individuals…. In tribute to my brother, I feature solos for the clarinet (the instrument he played) and the flute (the instrument I play). Because I am the older sibling, it is the flute that appears first in this dialogue. At the end of the work, the two instruments continue their dialogue, but it is the flute that drops out and the clarinet that continues on in the upward progressing journey.”

Yet, blue cathedral is not mournful, but has an uplifting quality, with a bit of wistfulness. The flute and clarinet duet leads to the exuberant energy of the percussion section in the middle of the work and then is joined by the brass and strings. The horns have a beautiful chorale before the flute and clarinet soloists recall their earlier conversations over the glass accompaniment. The musicians not playing then sound the Chinese Health Reflex Balls used in acupressure. An altered piano then sounds 33 times, reminiscent of a clock chiming in the distance, once for each of her brother’s years.

The work is named not only for her brother, but blue, like the sky, where all possibilities can soar, and cathedral, a place of thought, growth, spirituality, and a symbolic doorway. “I found myself imagining a journey through a glass cathedral in the sky. … The listener would float down the aisle, slowly moving upward at first and then progressing at a quicker pace, rising towards an immense ceiling which would open to the sky. … I wanted to create the sensation of contemplation and quiet peace at the beginning, moving towards the feeling of celebration and ecstatic expansion of the soul, all the while singing along with that heavenly music.”

Program Notes by Joy S. Perry

Toshi's Artistic Vision

Each symphony orchestra, large or small, needs to periodically go through a vision cycle which is vital to its survival in the present rapidly changing culture.

1. Clarifying the orchestra’s Goal, and Dream
2. Verifying the strength, value, asset, resource, and identifying threats and weaknesses.
3. Refining a particular vision
4. Strategizing concrete action to bring the artistic vision to life.

My artistic vision derives from three fundamental principles of music.

I Music must be an evidence of living.

Music is not an acquired culture, but an active part of natural life.
The communication between the musicians and the audience is unique only to the human.
The value of a live concert is infinite.
The composer is resurrected through the live performance.

II Music is the universal language of mankind

Music is the inarticulate speech of the heart, without words.
When the speech of man stops short, the art of music begins.
So-called “Classical” and “Popular” music should not be separated by a boundary.
Music should be available to everyone in the community.

III Music influences the community it exists within.

Music has a power to unite.
Music asks for harmonious cooperation of mind and soul as an artistic creation.
Music is the most social, the most affecting, the purest of the arts, and it is most
connected with the moral side of civilization, and it promotes the perfection of human

Based on these principals, Here is my artistic vision of a symphony orchestra:

1. Build the finest orchestra the community can support.
2. Perform for as many people in the community, through the diversity of musical
3. Create a sense of welcoming and belonging.
4. Enhance the enjoyment of life.
5. Adapt to the changing climate of the particular audience, and reinvent the product.
6. Work together within the constituents of the organization, and with the citizens.
7. Be the leader of the artistic community, and form partnerships.
8. Be financially responsible.
9. Celebrate the goodness of the community.

Toshiyuki Shimada
Music Director and Conductor

Monday, August 10, 2009

Be Toshi's Paparazzi!

Do you ever wonder what is like to be a Paparazzo, hunting the Stars to get that perfect Shot? Well here is your Chance to try it out! The “Be Toshi’s Paparazzi” contest starts TONIGHT! Toshi is in Corning and Elmira this week (August 10th – 16th). Post your Pictures of you and Toshi on our wall on facebook or make it your profile picture and let us know where your found Toshi and you will in a pair of tickets to any OSFL Concert this season. Good Luck and Find TOSHI!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Letter From Toshi

Each year at the beginning of the every concert season, I have been asked by many audiences, “How do you come up with the works for the concerts?” Well, each music director has his or her own secret; however, I am willing to share how I create my programs. The secret is that I program for the entire season in mind, using very conventional formulas.

Comparatively speaking, it is more challenging to program four-concert season programs than thirty-concert programs. Every day, some composers in the world are producing new pieces; thus, the repertoire for symphony orchestras increases on the top of an immense number of works, written all the way back to the pre-Baroque period. So, how does a music director of a small orchestra create a program for a season? The key to the successful season is balanced programs regardless of whether for four or thirty concerts. I classify the entire symphonic repertoire into two categories: the musical period and the country. So, the classification by the country of the composer’s origin will divide the composers, such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, Bruckner, Wagner, and Richard Strauss, all into Austro-Germanic composers. Vivaldi, Rossini, Verdi, Respighi, into the Italian group; Lully, Berlioz, Gounod, Lalo, Saint-Säens, Bizet, Faure, Debussy, Ravel Honegger, Poulenc, Messiaen, and Boulez all fit into the French category. Slavic composers are Smetana, Chopin, Dvorak, Janacek, Penderecki, and Lutoslawski, and Hungarians are Liszt, Bartok, Kodaly, and Ligeti. I separate Russians from Slavs; thus Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and Shostakovich are all in the same group. And how many composers do you know who are Spanish, British, Scandinavian, Asian, or Latin American. Enesco? He belongs to Rumania (“Other” country) and Romantic/20th century.

Another way to classify music is by the musical periods. Baroque, Classical, early and late Romantic, early and late 20th century, and contemporary periods separate the entire repertoire. Thus, Beethoven is classical and Austro-Germanic, and Tchaikovsky is late Romantic and Russian. Stravinsky would be a 20th century and Russian composer. Prokofiev and Shostakovich will fall into the same category.

Gustav Mahler was born in Bohemia but was educated in Vienna, so he might be a crossover composer, a Slavic-Austro-Germanic and late Romantic composer. Most of the American composers will be categorized as 20th century composers, such as Barber, Gershwin, Copland, Piston, Carter, and Bernstein. Now, there is one additional category very important to me, which classifies composers as either male or female. As all of us know, the majority of composers from the past were men. If you can name ten woman composers of the Romantic period, then you should be a musicologist. Without Googling, I can only name four: Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Cecil Chaminade, and Amy Beach, who was an American. Luckily, the late 20th century produced a great number of very prominent woman composers: Vivian Fine, Sofiya Gubaydulina, Barbara Kolb, Libby Larsen, Tania Léon, Thea Musgrave, Nancy Van de Vate, Marta Ptaszynska, Shulamit Ran, Kaija Saariaho, Hilary Tann, Augusta Reed Thomas, Joan Tower, Gwyneth Walker, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Melinda Wager, and Jennifer Higdon. Do you know any of these composers?
Looking through this season’s program of the OSFL, you will find that a variety of music is being represented. I know that there is some void, or deficiency, in certain categories, but I will try to make up for them in the future seasons. Our first concert in October will feature music by Rossini, who was a Italian and early Romantic composer, by Barber who was an American 20th century composer, by Higdon who is an American contemporary female composer, and by Tchaikovsky who was a Russian and late Romantic composer. In December’s concert, you will hear two Russian late Romantic composers, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, Poulenc, who was a French and 20th century composer, Handel, who was German/British and Baroque, and Mozart who was an Austrian Classical period composer. In addition, other works will be featured from British, American (Jewish), and American (Irish) composers of the 20th century.

How about the concert in March 2010? You will be hearing works predominately by the Germanic composers Beethoven and Brahms, in the Classical period and Romantic period, respectively, and the late Romantic/20th century Hungarian composer Dohnányi. Our last concert of the season in May is represented by Austrian, Polish (Slavic), and American composers of Classical, Romantic, and 20th century periods. Can you place these composers into their designated categories?

To get the full benefit and impact of the diverse symphonic music from all over the world, and from the past and present works performed by the OSFL, audiences would need to attend all four concerts. The orchestra and I are very excited to present these masterpieces to you throughout the season. Please try not to miss any of these great concerts and make sure you JOIN the Movement.

Toshi Shimada

"Thank yous" are in order

Hello everyone. I would personally like to say thank you for everything you have done for us here. In the Social Media Makeover contest we came in 21 out of 2,000. That is something we could have never done alone.

Also again a big thank you to everyone who was involved in the "Where is Toshi" contest.

Keep visiting for more updates!