For Immediate Release Press Contact: Marjorie Wass/Juliana Minsky, 805/687-3322
Santa Barbara Symphony Presents West Coast Premiere: Avner Dorman’s Lost Souls, Performed by Israeli pianist, Alon Goldstein
Season finale concert features concerto composed for acclaimed pianist and Brahms’ passionate last symphony
Saturday evening concert to be broadcast live on radio station, KDB-93.7/FM
“…an irresistible powerhouse performance.” – The New York Times
“Dorman thinks big — lots of notes, crashing sonorities, jazzy rhythms — and Goldstein has the chops to pull it off. But most of all, Dorman has a sense of humor that makes the whole undertaking work both musically and dramatically.” -The Washington Post
Santa Barbara, CA, April 29, 2011 – On Saturday, May 14 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 15 at 3 p.m., the Santa Barbara Symphony presents Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein performing the West Coast premiere of Lost Souls by Avner Dorman in the final concert of the 2010-11 Season. The program will open with Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and close with Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, the composer’s final symphony and a profoundly satisfying summation of his art.
“I am excited to bring the joy of a reunion of three Zubin Mehta ‘alumni’ to our audience in this powerful premiere work,” said Nir Kabaretti, Music and Artistic Director, Santa Barbara Symphony. “And we are so pleased to perform Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, one of the most important symphonic works of the 19th Century, as a tribute from the Santa Barbara Symphony to our wonderful community. So, until next October!”
KDB-93.7/FM will broadcast the Saturday, May 14 concert on the airwaves as well as on the internet, at www.kdb.com at 8 p.m. Tim Owens, Vice-President and General Manager, KDB, and musician/scholar Ramon Araiza, who gives the Symphony’s popular “Music Behind the Music” pre-concert lectures, will host the live broadcast. In October 2010, the Symphony’s opening night concert of the 2010-11 Season was broadcast on KDB for the first time.
Alon Goldstein is one of the most sensitive artists of his generation, admired for his musical intelligence and dynamic personality. Alon’s artistic vision and innovative programming have made him a favorite with audiences and critics alike throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel.
He made his orchestral debut at the age of 18 with the Israeli Philharmonic under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta, and in April of 2008 made a triumphant return with Maestro Herbert Blomstedt. In recent seasons, Goldstein has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco, St. Louis, Houston, Vancouver, Kansas City and North Carolina Symphonies, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and orchestras on tour in Paris, Russia, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London recognized Alon’s distinctive musical and interpersonal skills and created the position of Performance Fellow for him. As such, he initiated an innovative chamber music concert series, collaborating with students and faculty members as well as organizing annual festivals devoted to the 4-hands piano repertoire. After the residency in London, Alon spent two seasons as “Artist-in-Residence” at the Theo Lieven International Piano Foundation in Lake Como, Italy. In this inspiring environment, as one of only eight promising young pianists in residence from around the world, he was able to enjoy private master classes with world-renowned musicians.
He is the winner of numerous competitions, among them the Arianne Katcz Piano Competition in Tel Aviv, Nena Wideman Competition in the US and the Francois Shapira competition in Israel. He is also the recipient of the 2004 Salon di Virtuosi Career Grant and the America Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships. The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC chose a live recording of one of Alon’s recitals there for its first CD release. Other recordings include solo recital programs through the Jerusalem Music Center “Mishkenot Sha’ananim” and the Israeli Music Institute featuring works by Israeli composers. Alon graduated from the Peabody Conservatory where he studied with Leon Fleisher and served as his assistant – a position assigned only to his most exceptional students.
Avner Dorman was born in 1975 into a musical family in Tel Aviv — his father plays bassoon and conducts — and had cello and piano lessons as a child but only took up music seriously as a teenager. He studied composition with the Georgian émigré composer Josef Bardanashvili at Tel Aviv University while also taking courses in musicology and physics, and then pursued graduate study at Juilliard, where his doctoral work as a C.V. Starr Fellow was guided by John Corigliano. Dorman was a Composition Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and also served as Composer-in-Residence for the Israel Camerata from 2001 through 2003; he was a member of the composition faculty of the Cabrillo Music Festival in 2009. In 2000, at age 25, Dorman became the youngest composer to win Israel’s prestigious Prime Minister’s Award, and that same year he received the Golden Feather Award from ACUM (the Israeli Society of Composers and Publishers) for his Ellef Symphony. His additional distinctions include being named “2002 Composer of the Year” by Ma’ariv, Israel’s second largest newspaper, awards from ASCAP and the Asian Composers League, and selection as an IcExcellence Chosen Artist in 2008.
Michael McCurdy, of G. Schirmer, Avner Dorman’s publisher, wrote, “Dorman refers to Lost Souls as a ‘séance for piano and orchestra,’ saying that this three-movement concerto was created by calling on ghosts from music’s past. Lost Souls begins quite dramatically: the pianist, in a departure from all other concerti, is not on stage, but is called from beyond by the orchestra’s microtonal séance. As the ‘soul-oist’ emerges, a tense polytonal dialogue begins between the two worlds, and Dorman begins to echo seamlessly various musical styles through his own evolved voice, recalling hints of Bach, Art Tatum, Messiaen, Lutoslawski, Ravel, Ligeti, Sweelinck and Gershwin.
“Music history’s graveyard is a harrowing resource for many composers; for Dorman, the weight of the past is not a burden, but can be embraced in the present through his own art. As with many works by Avner Dorman, Lost Souls brings together his own cultural mélange and melds it into a dynamic work that is a combination of his disparate influences — in one moment in Lost Souls, Cuban Batá drums [traditional double-headed, hourglass-shape drums] accompany a Baroque toccata [i.e., in a nimble, virtuosic style] that in the end sounds as if it were Arabic in its origin.
“Perhaps for Dorman, his own soul has found its place in this globalized culture where Art Tatum and Johann Sebastian Bach converse on the Ouija board of the 21st century, and where these souls of the past can be the inspiration for the future.”
Dorman wrote Lost Souls for Israeli pianist, Alon Goldstein. For Dorman, this work is channeled straight from his relationship with the pianist: “I love Alon’s playing. He seems like he is from a different era — the way he carries himself, his mannerisms — it seems like he was born and lived in the 19th century,” Dorman recalls. He wanted to capture Goldstein’s special quality in this new work and took what he could from their relationship and his knowledge of Goldstein’s musicianship — Goldstein has performed Dorman’s Piano Sonata No. 2 close to forty times. Dorman says “one thing I truly admire about Goldstein’s playing is that he can go quite crazy during the sonata, but in the end he is a very refined classical pianist, with all of the notes coming out very clear, as if he had predetermined all of the dynamics and articulations — he has very stylized playing. I wrote this concerto to give him those moments, on the one hand, but to also give him the simple melodies, to give him room to express his unique musical persona.”
Alon Goldstein on Lost Souls:
“First of all, Avner’s concept of the piece is incredibly imaginative. Initially, before talking to Avner about the piece, I had put down all sorts of ideas. At our first meeting, when he shared with me the premise, the focal point of this new concerto I became silent. He saw and heard it so clearly in his mind. There was nothing for me to add verbally – just to continue to inspire him with my playing.
The idea of starting a piece with a séance! Are we back in the 1960s with all this experimental ‘stuff’, or are we really going back in time trying to relive a lost era and bring to life all these Lost Souls – souls of the great piano concerti – Grieg, Chopin, Ravel and Rachmaninov? The result ends up being what we hope will be a concerto that opens a new era.
I have been practicing the piece now for almost two months and something very interesting and strange is happening – curiosity!! It happened to me maybe a dozen times so far – I would be practicing alone somewhere, and suddenly some people will come and, looking very excited, they will ask me questions about what they’ve just heard, wanting to hear more and know more. There is something intoxicating in the music, as if it casts a spell on the people who come in contact with it. You see it in their eyes.”
Dorman wrote of the formal progress and expressive intent of Lost Souls: “The first movement is closely related to sonata form, with a short introduction in the high strings and a concluding coda. The haunting opening motif (the ‘séance motif”) consists of soft, high string slides across a small interval. It is followed by the soloist’s wild entrance cadenza — a hard landing back from the after life. The main motif of the exposition is built from the small interval of a whole step (A-G-A). The exposition explores this motif through various toccata-like sections, morphing the simple motif into a variety of different themes. Dramatically, the soloist is trying to remember his old favorite repertoire, hence the allusions to great piano concertos of the past (Ravel, Bach, Prokofiev, Lutoslawski and Ligeti in the first movement). As the exposition progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that the afterlife (the pianist) and our world (the orchestra) cannot fully synchronize and are bound to clash. The development begins with an expressive Adagio (first soft, then passionate, then soft again). After a return to the opening ‘séance motif,’ the development proceeds to a fast section which explores various polymetric, polytonal and polyrhythmic combinations of the various motifs of the movement. In the recapitulation, the motifs of the entire movement collide more aggressively. The highest point of complexity resolves to four octaves on the note D in the piano and strings. The coda is the catharsis of the first movement, resolving its harmonic, rhythmic and emotional conflicts.
“The second movement is in a modified rondo form: A-–B–A’–B’–A’’–C–A+B. The ritornellos in the orchestra (the returning A sections) are of an otherworldly nature alluding to the ‘séance motif.’ The solo sections (B) are very simple and reminiscent of some of the earliest keyboard music we know (like that of the Dutch Baroque composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck). The solo sections (B) represent the pianist’s ‘return engagement.’ After a short third ritornello (A’’), a mischievous scherzo in the piano and some percussion (with hints of Messiaen) leads back to the ‘séance motif,’ now appearing in the woodwinds and not as ghostly as before. The final ritornello combines the A and B sections in a solemn coda. At the very end of the second movement, the ‘séance motif’ appears for the final time, summoning the last, and most evil, spirit in the concerto.
“The final movement — in A–A–B form — is an exorcism scene. The last soul conjured will not leave the stage. The orchestra performs an exorcism ritual (in changing meters but mostly in 13/16 meter) to vanquish it. The piano fights back (now mostly in 7/8 meter) and does not show signs of fatigue. The orchestra splits up as the different sections attempt to exorcise the spirit separately. The sections join forces again and finally manage to defeat the demon.”
Like almost every musician of the late 19th century, Dvo?ák had to come to grips with the astounding phenomenon of Richard Wagner and his music dramas. Around 1890, he undertook a study of this grandiloquent music, as well as that of Wagner’s stylistic ally (and father-in-law) Franz Liszt, and he was rewarded with a heightened awareness of the expressive possibilities of orchestral program music. Several important scores from Dvo?ák’s last years seem to bear the influence of his study of this so-called “Music of the Future”: Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra, Poetic Tone Pictures for Solo Piano, and the 1892 cycle of three concert overtures originally titled Nature, Love and Life, among others.
In his study of the composer, John Clapham indicated that Dvo?ák intended the triptych of overtures to represent “three aspects of the life-force’s manifestations, a force which the composer designated ‘Nature,’ and which not only served to create and sustain life, but also, in its negative phase, could destroy it.” More specifically, Otakar Sourek noted that they depicted “the solemn silence of a summer night, a gay whirl of life and living, and the passion of great love.” Dvo?ák linked the three works by employing a motto theme representing Nature that appears in all of them, and he further pointed up their relationship by, at first, giving them a common opus number. He had difficulty settling on titles for the individual movements, however, arriving at the names In Nature’s Realm, Carnival and Othello (and three separate opus numbers) only after much consideration. The cycle was written between March 1891 and January 1892 in Prague and at the composer’s country home in Vysoká; Carnival was sketched during July and August, and completed on September 12th.
Dvo?ák said that the Carnival Overture was meant to depict “a lonely, contemplative wanderer reaching at twilight a city where a festival is in full swing. On every side is heard the clangor of instruments, mingled with shouts of joy and the unrestrained hilarity of the people giving vent to their feelings in songs and dances.” Dvo?ák evoked this scene with brilliant music given in the most rousing sonorities of the orchestra. Into the basic sonata plan of the piece, he inserted, at the beginning of the development section, a haunting and wistful paragraph led by the English horn and flute to portray, he said, “a pair of straying lovers,” the wanderer apparently having found a companion. Following this tender, contrasting episode, the festive music returns and mounts to a spirited coda to conclude this joyous, evergreen Overture.
In the popular image of Brahms, he appears as a patriarch: full grey beard, rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes. He grew the beard in his late forties as, some say, a compensation for his late physical maturity — he was in his twenties before his voice changed and he needed to shave — and it seemed to be an external admission that Brahms had allowed himself to become an old man. The Second Piano Concerto of 1881 is almost autumnal in its mellow ripeness; this Fourth Symphony is music of deep thoughtfulness that leads “into realms where joy and sorrow are hushed, and humanity bows before that which is eternal,” wrote the eminent German musical scholar August Kretzschmar.
The Fourth Symphony’s first movement begins almost in mid-thought, as though the mood of sad melancholy pervading this opening theme had existed forever and Brahms had simply borrowed a portion of it to present musically. The movement is founded upon the tiny two-note motive (short-long) heard immediately at the beginning. Tracing this little germ cell demonstrates not only Brahms’ enormous compositional skills but also the broad emotional range that he could draw from pure musical expression. To introduce the necessary contrasts into this sonata form, other themes are presented, including a broadly lyrical one for horns and cellos and a fragmented fanfare. The movement grows with a wondrous, dark majesty to its closing pages.
“A funeral procession moving across moonlit heights” is how the young Richard Strauss described the second movement. Though the tonality is nominally E major, the movement opens with a stark melody, pregnant with grief, in the ancient Phrygian mode. The mood brightens, but the introspective sorrow of the beginning is never far away.
The third movement is the closest Brahms came to a true scherzo in any of his symphonies. Though such a dance-like movement may appear antithetical to the tragic nature of the Symphony, this scherzo is actually a necessary contrast within the work’s total structure since it serves to heighten the pathos of the surrounding movements, especially the granitic splendor of the finale.
The finale is a passacaglia — a series of variations on a short, recurring melody. There are some thirty continuous variations here, though it is less important to follow them individually than to feel the massive strength given to the movement by this technique. The opening chorale-like statement, in which trombones are heard for the first time in the Symphony, recurs twice as a further supporting pillar in the unification of the movement.
The concert sponsor for the Santa Barbara Symphony’s May 2011 concert is Marilynn L. Sullivan. Artist sponsor is Marlyn Bernard Bernstein and the media sponsor is The Santa Barbara Daily Sound.
All Santa Barbara Symphony concerts begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. To purchase, call the Symphony office at (805) 898-9386 or order online at www.thesymphony.org. To purchase individual concert tickets, call The Granada Box Office at (805) 899-2222. All Symphony concerts are held in The Granada at 1214 State Street, downtown Santa Barbara.
About The Santa Barbara Symphony
Celebrating 58 years of great music, the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra Association was founded on the belief that a special city deserves a special orchestra. The Symphony has been celebrated for its unique ability to deliver brilliant orchestral concerts while maintaining a strong commitment to education and community engagement. With audiences almost twice the size of any orchestra in the Santa Barbara area, the Santa Barbara Symphony is, according to Mayor Helene Schneider, “A jewel in Santa Barbara’s crown.” For more information, please go to www.thesymphony.org.