Carnegie Hall’s Link Up with the SSO

Have you ever been to Carnegie Hall?

Many people dream to one day visit the world famous music hall, and now students in Saskatoon have the opportunity to have a close connection with it! The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is so excited to announce our new partnership with Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute with their education initiative Link Up.

Link up is a highly participatory program where grades 3-5 students learn to sing and play the recorder (or another classroom instrument), and perform with the SSO from their seats at the “culminating concert” at TCU Place. All of the teaching resources are open source, and teacher and student manuals are sent straight to the schools.

This year, we are doing the program “The Orchestra Sings” where students will explore timeless classical repertoire such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, “Simple Gifts” from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and the main theme of the “New World” Symphony by Antonín Dvořák.

Over 100 students are already signed up, and we are eager to reach our goal of 1000 students for this year’s program!

Visit  Link Upfor more information!

Forward this on to the teachers you know, and please direct questions to outreach@saskatoonsymphony.org!

Dvořák’s Cello Concerto

It was Victor Herbert, the composer of Babes in Toyland and Naughty Marietta, who inspired Dvořák to write the most beloved cello concerto in the repertory. We owe this historical curiosity, along with some of Dvořák’s most popular music, to Jeannette M. Thurber, the wife of a New York wholesale grocer, who exhausted her husband’s millions establishing an English-language opera company that folded and a National Conservatory of Music that flourished long enough to entice Dvořák to settle temporarily in the New World. The composer agreed to serve as director of her school for $15,000, and when he arrived in 1892, Victor Herbert was the head of the cello department. Herbert, who had come to the United States from Vienna only six years before, was highly regarded as a cellist, conductor, and composer, though he hadn’t yet written the first of the forty operettas that would make him enormously popular.

In 1892, Dvořák was as famous as any composer alive. Taking on an administrative title and a heavy teaching schedule was probably an unfortunate waste of his time and talents, although the music Dvořák wrote in this country includes some of his best: a string quartet and a string quintet (both titled American) composed in Spillville, Iowa; the New World Symphony; and this cello concerto.

For several years Dvořák had been unmoved by a request from his friend Hanuš Wihan, the cellist of the Bohemian Quartet, to write a cello concerto. During his second year at the National Conservatory, Dvořák attended the premiere of Victor Herbert’s Second Cello Concerto, given by the New York Philharmonic on March 9, 1894. It is difficult today to know why this long-forgotten score made such a deep impression on him, for Herbert was hardly an overwhelming or influential talent. But Dvořák enthusiastically applauded Herbert’s concerto, and he heard something in it that made him think, for the first time, that there was important music to be written for solo cello and orchestra. This concerto would prove to be the last major symphonic work of his career.

On April 28, 1894, Dvořák signed a new two-year contract with the conservatory. After spending the summer holiday in Bohemia, he returned to New York on November 1; a week later he began this concerto. While he was writing the second movement, he received word that his sister-in-law, Josefina Kaunitzová (with whom he had once been in love), was seriously ill. As a tribute to her, he quoted at length one of her favorite melodies, “Kéž duch můj sám” (Leave me alone), the first of his Four Songs, op. 82. He completed the concerto on February 9 (his son Otakar’s tenth birthday), at 11:30 in the morning.

After the premiere of the New World Symphony in 1893, Dvořák said, “I know that if I had not seen America I never would have written my new symphony.” The cello concerto shows no such outward signs of the composer’s American experience—it doesn’t imitate the rhythms and melodies of the native music he heard in the United States—and has often been accepted as an early warning sign of his 2 homesickness. In fact, once Dvořák returned to Bohemia for the summer of 1895, with his new concerto in his bags, he realized that he couldn’t leave his homeland again; in August he wrote to Mrs. Thurber asking to be released from his contract. Since he had already contributed so much to American music, including a symphony as popular as any ever written, she could not refuse. The unveiling of the cello concerto, the last of Dvořák’s American products, belongs to the final chapter of his life: the premiere was given in London in March 1896, with the composer conducting. (The first American performance was not given until December.)

The literature for solo cello and orchestra isn’t extensive. At best, Dvořák can’t have known more than the single concertos by Haydn (a second was discovered in 1961) and Schumann, the first of Saint-Saëns’ two, and Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations for cello and orchestra. (He also knew the Triple Concerto by Beethoven and the Double Concerto by Brahms.) Dvořák had written one long-winded cello concerto in his youth and later said he thought little of the cello as a solo instrument (“High up it sounds nasal, and low down it growls”). Now, with little previous inclination and few useful models, Dvořák gave the form its finest example. Brahms is reported to have said, “Why on earth didn’t I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago.”

The first movement of Dvořák’s Cello Concerto is as impressive as anything in the composer’s output. The music is long and expansive. The orchestral exposition commits the textbook sin of traveling to a foreign key for the second subject — a luxury traditionally saved for the soloist — but Dvořák’s theme is so magnificent (Donald Tovey called it “one of the most beautiful passages ever written for the horn”) that it can justify the risk. Dvořák later admitted the melody meant a great deal to him. Once the soloist enters, the music grows richer and more fanciful. The development section dissolves into simple lyricism. By the recapitulation, Dvořák is writing his own rules: he bypasses his first theme and goes straight for the big horn melody, as if he couldn’t wait to hear it again. The movement is all the stronger for its daring and unconventional architecture.

Dvořák’s progress on the slow movement was sidetracked by the memory of Josefina, and, as a result, the music he wrote is interrupted midway by the poignant song she loved. The depth of his feeling for her, often debated and sometimes denied, is painfully clear. Josefina died soon after Dvořák permanently returned to Bohemia, and, hearing the news, he took this jaunty rondo finale down from the shelf and added a long, contemplative coda as a memorial. The concerto still ends in high spirits, but it’s no longer the same piece Dvořák took home from the New World.

Dvořák began his cello concerto in New York on November 8, 1894; he completed the score on February 9, 1895 (at 11:30 A.M.), revised the ending that June, and conducted the first performance, with Leo Stern as soloist, on March 19, 1896, in London. Performance time is approximately forty minutes.

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Brahms’ Fourth Symphony

I shall never write a symphony!


Brahms famously declared in 1872. “You can’t have any idea what it’s like to hear such a giant marching behind you.” The giant was Beethoven, of course, and although his music provided essential inspiration for Brahms, it also set such a high standard that the younger composer found it easy to discount his own creations as negligible in comparison.

Four more years passed before Brahms would finally sign off on his First Symphony. But once he had conquered his compositional demons he moved ahead forcefully. Three symphonies followed that first effort in relatively short order: the Second in 1877, the Third in 1882–83, and the Fourth in 1884–85. Each is a masterpiece and each displays a markedly different character. The First is burly and powerful, flexing its muscles in Promethean exertion; the Second is sunny and bucolic; and the Third, while introspective and idyllic on the whole, mixes in a hefty dose of heroism. With his Symphony No.4, Brahms achieves a work of almost mystical transcendence born of opposing emotions: melancholy and joy, severity and rhapsody, solemnity and exhilaration.

Clara Schumann recognized this play of duality already in the first movement, observing

It is as though one lay in springtime among the blossoming flowers,

and joy and sorrow filled one’s soul in turn.

Brahms was well aware of his distinct achievement in this work. He composed it during two summer vacations at Mürzzuschlag in the Styrian Alps — the first two movements in the summer of 1884, the second two in the summer of 1885. On many occasions he was known to suggest that his compositions reflected the places in which they were written, and in this case he wrote from Mürzzuschlag to the conductor Hans von Bülow that his symphony-in-progress “tastes of the climate here; the cherries are hardly sweet here — you wouldn’t eat them!” Brahms was given to disparaging his works—in fact, he once described this symphony as “another set of polkas and waltzes” — but in this case he perfectly evoked the bittersweet quality that pervades many of the Fourth Symphony’s pages.

Although it is cast in the same classical four-movement plan as his earlier symphonies, Brahms’ Fourth seems more tightly unified throughout its duration (largely through repeated insistence on the interval of the third, especially the minor third), and its movements accordingly proceed with a sense of cumulative power. The opening movement (Allegro non troppo) is soaring and intense, and the second (Andante moderato) is by turns agitated and serene. The Allegro giocoso represents the first time Brahms included a real scherzo in a symphony, quite a contrast to the lighter, even wistful allegretto intermezzos that had served as the third movements of his first three. And for his finale, Brahms unleashes a gigantic passacaglia, a neo-Baroque structure in which an eight-measure progression (here derived from the last movement of Bach’s Cantata No. 150) is subjected to 32 variations of widely varying character.

As soon as he completed the work, Brahms sent copies to several of his trusted friends and was miffed when they all responded with concern over this or that. His confidante Elisabet von Herzogenberg insisted that she respected the piece, but she allowed of the first movement that “at worst it seems to me as if a great master had made an almost extravagant display of his skill!” His friend Max Kalbeck suggested Brahms throw away the third movement entirely, use the finale as a free-standing piece, and compose two new movements to replace them. The composer did not cave in, but he anticipated the symphony’s premiere with mounting apprehension. His music had long been criticized as “too intellectual,” and Brahms knew that his Fourth Symphony was at least as rigorous as anything he had previously composed. To his amazement, the symphony proved a success at its premiere and audience enthusiasm only increased in subsequent performances.

Here Brahms’ great masterwork played by your SSO on our Opening Night!

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What are they up to?

As we’re preparing for our upcoming season to start, we thought we’d share what some of our guest artists are up to this summer!

Carissa Klopoushak

Ironwood Quartet

Before getting back to the swing of things playing in the National Arts Centre Orchestra and preparing for her November performance with the SSO, Carissa has been working with her team at Ironwood Quartet.  The quartet has just recently wrapped up some performances at summer festivals, including their own!  They are at the helm of the Classical Unbound Festival where the serve as artists-in-residence – the festival’s goal is to  unbind so-called ‘classical’ music from its formal attire and bind it more closely to our hearts and souls.

Carissa’s creative juice never takes a summer break though – we know she’s already working with her colleagues at Ritornello to plan next year’s festival.  This November she returns to the SSO to perform a truly stunning work, Vivian Fung’s Violin Concerto No 1, as part of this season’s Homecoming concert!

 

 

Danika Lorèn

Original art by Loren for Crumb’s Apparition

After finishing a refreshing run in Saskatoon Opera’s Die Fledermaus, Danika headed back to Toronto to prepare for some new performances with her group Collectif.  The group strives to create new experiences for audiences through multi-discipline adventures in art song.  This summer they’re performing as part of Toronto Summer Music and Wellington Water Week.  They re-think the concert experience, creating films and animations, and doing it all themselves!

Their new cabaret for Wellington Water Week, called Watering Hole, has classical music getting a dash of comedic irreverence in a casual atmosphere.  With tons on her plate over the next few months, it’s exciting to have Danika returning to the SSO to sing Handel’s Messiah – its one of the most anticipated performances this season!

 

Ryan Cole

Victoria Symphony Splash

It seems like all good musicians Ryan is spending his summer with his instrument!  As the Principal Trumpet of the Victoria Symphony, he’s prepping for Splash! It’s the big highlight of their summer season – in true island fashion, the orchestra plays from a barge in the Victoria inner harbour to over 40,000 people gathered on the lawns of the legislature and the Empress hotel (and even all around them in kayaks!). It really is a special concert in Victoria.

Between all the concerts and teaching summer session at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, he’s going to make a trip home to enjoy some of this stellar Saskatoon summer.  This November Ryan makes his SSO solo debut performing a new concerto written just for him, Marcus Goddard’s Trumpet Concerto.  We’re thrilled to showcase this special musical moment.

And if you follow him on social media, you already know he’s practicing!

 

 

Spencer McKnight

Cast of Don Giovanni

Opera, apperol spritz, and pasta…ahead of coming home to begin work on new rep for the upcoming season, including a number of debuts, Spencer is in Italy singing his heart out.  He just recently completed a run of the role of Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Vicenza, and is taking time to be a tourist for a bit before he says arrivederci Roma!

Spencer is stepping on to the TCU Place stage with the SSO next spring with the North American debut of Materna Requiem by Rebecca Dale.  The work features an unusual setting of the requiem’s Pie Jesu – normally sung by a female or child, Dale’s Requiem places the piece into the voice of a tenor to highlight a father’s love for his new born son.

In the year ahead he’s making a number of special appearances as well as solo recitals, including performances of his new recital Songs of the Isles in spring 2020.

A momentus achievement for the SSO

I recently had the chance to see one of my favourite paintings in person for the first time.  I’ve seen endless copies of this particular painting since I was a kid; the particular gaze of the girl in painting, the light on her jewelry, the folds of her clothing – I thought I knew every inch of this painting.  

But as I sat for a while and stared at her I realized that she was completely different than I’d ever imagined.  Her gaze was the same as I’d seen in books and posters and copies, and the light seemed to dance across her face in the same way, but she was different.  She sparkled. More precisely, the negative space around her wasn’t just darkness but rather it was darkness filled with the movement of light in the room in which I was standing.  I wasn’t looking at a painting, I was inside the world the artist created.

This past weekend I was sitting in the audience at Knox as the SSO and Chorus performed our last concert of the season.  I was feeling a sense of relief and gratitude that it was the perfect end for a very strong season. I was enjoying that the audience was so excited to be there, and enjoying the joy on the face of each and every chorus member as they got to sing their hearts out.  And then it happened again. Along came Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, a piece I have heard endless times in my life – and to be honest, I’ve never felt it was his best work. I’ve always felt it was a bit much…a great commercial pop hit from an artist who could write truly thrilling music.  And played to death on radio and CDs.  But faced with the piece performed by live chorus and orchestra, I was struck. It’s not just another “hit”, but a deeply personal and moving moment when Mozart places you right inside the world he created; its graceful and gentle, but deeply sincere.  It’s exactly the sound Mozart had intended on creating for the listener.

The truth of the matter is, in 2019 we don’t have many moments in our day to day lives when our soul gets swept up in the moment.  Between trying to Marie Kondo our way to happiness and snapchat filter our way to feeling good about ourselves, our day to day lives aren’t much to revel in.  The realities of life don’t give us a natural pause. There is no natural cadence from stress in an ever connected world, and no ordinary distraction from how exhausted our schedules are making us.  And while spending $3 on a mindfulness app might be the answer to all your worries, I strongly recommend making art and music a significant part of your life.

But there is no replacement for the real thing.  Seeing copies of that painting for the rest of my life, I would have never realized how deeply the painting spoke to me.  It was a great reminder to me that there is no substitute for an orchestra.

In my conversations with patrons this year I’ve heard about the music that really moved them – from a newer patron who found Mozart’s Requiem to be wonderfully intense, to the long time music lover who is still deeply moved by last season’s Armed Man.  One thing became clear: the sound of hearing this music live was wholly different than listening to a recording.  The sound of a live symphonic orchestra cannot be faked.

We have a few more days until the end of this year’s Share in the Future campaign.  We set a lofty goal this year, and we’ve got about $40,000 to raise before the end of day on Friday to reach our goal of $300,000.  This year’s campaign is special because if we are successful, we will have made the SSO deficit free. This is a remarkable accomplishment for any orchestra in 2019, but a significant achievement for Saskatoon’s orchestra.  

This achievement would not be possible were it not for the exceptionally generous support of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation.  The Remai Foundation’s matching of donations instantly doubles your support of your orchestra, and allows us to boldly enter a new era for your symphony.  

Imagine only ever having the chance to hear recordings of orchestral music.  It’s just not the same. A live symphony orchestra is a vast expanse of sound that captures the size and intensity of human expression.  It can be as big as a prairie sky or as personal as a broken heart. It can bring you to your feet or move you to tears. It has the power to be the loudest sound you’ve ever heard or so soft that the entire room sits in silence to hear the next note.  It’s an extraordinary experience.  

I invite you to join me in making a donation to the Share in the Future campaign in these final days.  It feels really good to be part of something this momentus for Saskatoon’s oldest arts organization, and it sends a clear message to the musicians of the SSO that their work is valued and supported by their community.  

It’s true that without an orchestra in town, life would go on.  But without the chance for future generations to come face to face with this glorious sound, they’ll never understand the power of a live orchestra.

I’m certain of this – because until the day I came face to face with that painting, I had no idea she sparkled.  

Thank you for making music matter,
Mark Turner
Executive Director

 

To make a gift to our Share in the Future campaign:

Click Here to Give Online

Call us at 306-665-6414

Visit us at the SSO offices – 602B 51st Street 

Choose Your SSO Adventure

It’s subscription season at the SSO! We’ve carefully programmed 16 concerts for you to choose from. Six Masters, four Pops, three Chamber and three Baroque. You can subscribe to everything, to each series, or make your own series with a flex pack.

Your flex pack can be built around the concerts that excite you most or the dates that work best for you. We’ve put together some other flex pack collections that might intrigue you below:

While orchestras do have the advantage of blind auditions, which means there are more opportunities for equality amongst musicians, the orchestral world is still playing catch up when it comes to female composers. Want a subscription package that includes a female composer in each concert? Look no further than our Masters series! We didn’t choose these pieces because they were composed by women, we chose them because they are beautiful works by contemporary artists. Take our concert on March 7th. We will be doing the North American premiere of Rebecca Dale’s Materna Requiem.

 

Perhaps you want to take advantage of our prairie connections. There is a wealth of talent that has grown up here on the prairies and moved away to continue their education and careers. We are always happy to bring them home to perform with us!

You could create a Praire 5-flex with:
Homecoming (November 16, 2019) with both guest artists and the guest conductor all having prairie roots.
Christmas with the SSO (December 7, 2019) with special guests including Elly Thorn, the University Chorus and our own Dean McNeill.
Thomas Yu with the SSO (February 8, 2020) Thomas returns home to play more Saint-Saëns with the SSO! You may remember when he was here in 2016 to play Carnival of the Animals with Godwin Friesen
Requiem – North American Premiere (March 7, 2020) Soprano Chelsea Mahan and Tenor Spencer McKnight are joined by the University of Saskatchewan’s Greystone Singers for this North American Premiere.
Accent with the SSO (March 21, 2020) Two of Accent’s members are from Saskatoon and we can’t wait to bring them here! We’ve followed their journey online and across the globe.

Make it a Prairie 6-flex by adding in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (October 5, 2019) featuring violinist Véronique Mathieu who now calls Saskatoon home or choose a performance of Handel’s Messiah featuring prairie soloists!

 

If you are all about vocal and choral music we have several options this season! On top of the prairie picks we mentioned featuring vocal soloists and/or choirs (Requiem, Christmas with the SSO, Accent, and Messiah) we are extremely excited to be included in Jeremy Dutcher’s orchestra tour.

Dutcher will be joining us on stage at TCU Place on November 9 and we’ve already had several people asking about single ticket sales. Some of the benefits of subscribing to the SSO means you get tickets before single tickets go on sale August 1, and you get a discount for buying in bulk. Early bird prices end May 31, while there is still a discount for subscribing compared to single ticket purchases, the deals are better the earlier you subscribe!

Prefer your flex pack to be all about guest artists showing off their instrumental skills?

We have cellist Stéphane Tétreault rejoining us for Opening Night (September 21, 2019), Homecoming (November 16, 2019) has Carissa Klopoushak performing a new violin concerto, and Ryan Cole performing a new trumpet concerto, our Christmas with the SSO (December 7, 2019) features Dean McNeill on Trumpet, and Thomas Yu’s performance (February 8, 2020) fits in nicely to this flex pack. Let us not forget that the season is ending with the Canadian piano royalty, Jane Coop (May 2, 2020)!

Here’s Jane Coop performing a Beethoven Concerto, though not the one she will be performing with the SSO. We are excited to have this pianist on stage to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in C minor.

Make it a 6 Flex by adding Four Seasons (October 5, 2019) or Jeremy Dutcher (November 9, 2019).

 

We are always looking for ways to be a more eco-conscious organization and how to do our part when it comes to climate change. We have have been thinking about it so much we have inadvertently included works related to mother nature in several concerts. Enough so that you could create your own Mother Nature flex pack.

There’s the Four Seasons (October 5, 2019), our concert with Thomas Yu (February 8, 2020) includes Canadian composer Vincent Ho’s Earthbeat, paired with the Requiem (March 7, 2020) is Jocelyn Morlock’s Oiseaux bleus et sauvages and our Family Movie Night (January 25, 2020) will take us under the sea.

And one can’t forget the audience favourite The Planets (October 19, 2019). We are pairing the movements of Holst’s work with Canadian composer Heather Schmidt’s Lunar Reflections to give us a whole galaxy tour all from the comfort of your seats in TCU Place.

 

You can create flex packs based on contemporary composers, “the hits”, new works, works new to you, and any other reasoning/combination that works for you.  We may be biased, but we believe you can’t go wrong with any subscription pack from the SSO!

Explore the full season and download a subscription form by clicking here.

You can subscribe any time before opening night by giving us a call or stopping by our new office. Early bird prices end May 31 so the best deals are ending soon.

See you at the Symphony (office)!

p.s. We are working to raise $300,000 by May 31 for this year’s Share in the Future campaign. All donations made by May 31 are going to be matched by the Frank & Ellen Remai Foundation. Your donations help us keep our ticket prices more accessible, our outreach programs running, and help us continue to bring incredible concerts to you! Thank you for supporting live music by donating today.

Click here to donate.