Eric Paetkau, Music Director
Tony Yike Yang, Piano
We open our season with two of the greatest pieces of music ever written!
At the tender age of 19, Tony Yike Yang has already garnered himself an international reputation for being one of the next great piano virtuosos. A Laureate of the International Chopin Competition, Yang brings his technical prowess and innate sense of romanticism to Rachmaninoff’s incredible second Piano Concerto.
His sunniest symphony of all, Brahms’ lovable 2nd Symphony is a true masterpiece and the continuation of our Brahms Cycle.
Canadian Dinuk Wijeratne’s musical explosion Yatra opens the season with a burst of orchestral energy!
Yatra – Dinuk Wijeratne* – 2 minutes
Élan – Derek Charke* – 2 minutes
Piano Concerto in c minor Op. 18 – Sergei Rachmaninoff – 30 minutes
Symphony No. 2 in D Major Op. 73 – Johannes Brahms – 42 minutes
Tony Yike Yang
Born in December 1998, 19-year-old Tony Yike Yang is emerging as one of the foremost
pianists of the younger generation. As a frequent prizewinner, Yang’s success at the 17th
International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition led him to become the competition’s youngest
ever laureate, winning the 5th prize at the age of 16.
Recently, Yang was also awarded the Jury Discretionary Award at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn
International Piano Competition where he was the youngest competitor. In previous years, Yang
has won top prizes at the Thomas and Evon Cooper International Piano Competition (Oberlin,
2014), the Bosendorfer and Yamaha USASU International Junior Piano Competition (Phoenix,
2013), the Hilton Head International Young Artists Piano Competition (Hilton Head, 2013), the
Gina Bachauer International Junior Piano Competition (Salt Lake City, 2012), and the Canadian
National Chopin Competition as the competition’s youngest ever competitor (Toronto, 2014).
Over the past few years, Yang has had the privilege of performing extensively in Canada and the
USA, as well as making appearances in Europe and Asia. He has taken part and performed at
many festivals, important events, and charities, as well as having given performances for many
world-renowned people. A few of his performance highlights includes having performed in front
of her Royal Highness Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Canadian PM Stephen Harper, and
Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Yang has performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra,
Hunan Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Métro politain, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Ottawa
Symphony Orchestra, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Sinfonietta, Toronto Festival
Orchestra, and the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Academy Symphony Orchestra. In addition,
he has also made appearances at the Chopin and His Europe, Rockport Music Festival,
Oberlin-Lake Como Academy, Festival de Lanaudi è re, Stratford Summer Festival, Canadian
Chopin Festival , Bravo Niagara, Wintergreen, and the International Niagara Music Festival,
among many others.
Yang’s debut album, Tony Yike Yang – Chopin: Sonata B-Moll / Ballada F-Moll / Mazurki , was
released in August 2016 on the Fryderyk Chopin Institute’s Blue Series. It features Yang in the
second and third stages during the Chopin Competition in Warsaw in October 2015, and an
editorial review by the Chopin Institute notes that his extraordinary account of the Barcarolle in F sharp minor, Op. 60 shows clearly why he captivated the audience in Poland and all across the world.
Yang has been featured on many television programs, including the “Inspiration Generation”
series on Global TV where he was selected as one of six outstanding Canadian young people,
demonstrating the talents and excellence of Canadians. In recent years, Yang was named CBC
Music’s Classical Young Artist, and was also featured as one of their 25 hot Canadian musicians
Yang is currently a student in the Harvard University and New England Conservatory of Music
Joint-Degree Program, where he is studying with Prof. Wha Kyung Byun. In the past, he has
studied on full-scholarship at the Juilliard Pre-College, and at the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Yatra – Wijeratne*
Piano Concerto in c minor – Rachmaninoff
Moderato: C minor
The opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tollings on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme. In this first section, the orchestra carries the Russian-character melody while the piano makes an accompaniment made of rapid oscillating arpeggios. After the statement of the long first theme, a quicker transition follows until the lyrical second theme, in E flat major, is presented. The exposition ends with an agitated closing section.
The agitated and unstable development borrows motives from both themes changing keys very often and giving the melody to different instruments while a new musical idea is slowly formed. The music builds in a gradual climax as if the first bars were to be repeated, but in the recapitulation the theme is presented as unique to the first statement.
While the orchestra restates the first theme, the piano, that in the other occasion had an accompaniment role, now plays the march-like theme that had been halfly presented in the development, thus making a considerable readjustment in the exposition, as the main theme, played by the orchestra has become an accompaniment. This is followed by a piano solo, which leads into a descending chromatic passage. Then the second theme is heard, beginning with a horn solo. It starts with an unexpected key of A-flat major but in a short while it moves back to C minor. From the beginning of this theme the movement is placid until drawn into the agitated closing section, and the movement ends in C minor fortissimo.
Adagio sostenuto – Più animato – Tempo I: C minor → E major
The second movement opens with a series of slow chords in the strings which modulate from the C minor of the previous movement to the E major of this movement.
At the beginning of the A section, the piano enters, playing a simple arpeggiated figure. This opening piano figure was composed in 1891 as the opening of the Romance from Two Pieces For Six Hands. The main theme is initially introduced by the flute, before being developed by an extensive clarinet solo. The motif is passed between the piano and then the strings.
Then the B section is heard. It builds up to a short climax centred on the piano, which leads to cadenza for piano.
The original theme is repeated, and the music appears to die away, finishing with just the soloist in E major.
Allegro scherzando: E major → C minor → C major
The last movement opens with a short orchestral introduction that modulates from E (the key of the previous movement) to C minor, before a piano solo leads to the statement of the agitated first theme. After the original fast tempo and musical drama ends, a short transition from the piano solo leads to a lyrical theme in B flat major is introduced by the oboe and violas. This second theme maintains the motif of the first movement’s second theme. The exposition ends with a suspenseful closing section in B-flat major.
After that an extended and energetic development section is heard. The development is based on the first theme of the exposition. It maintains a very improvisational quality, as instruments take turns playing the stormy motifs.
In the recapitulation, the first theme is truncated to 8 bars on the tutti, because of the huge, stormy tension in the development section. The recapitulation’s 2nd theme begins lyrically, as it was in the exposition, in the distant key of D flat major. However, after the ominous closing section ends it then builds up into a triumphant climax in C major from the beginning of the coda. The movement ends very triumphantly in the tonic major with the same four note rhythm ending the Third Concerto in D minor.
Symphony No 2 – Brahms
In the Second Symphony, Brahms preserved the structural principles of the classical symphony, in which two lively outer movements frame a slow second movement followed by a short scherzo:
- Allegro non troppo (D major)
- Adagio non troppo (B major)
- Allegretto grazioso (quasi andantino) (G major)
- Allegro con spirito (D major)
I. Allegro non troppo
The cellos and double-basses start the first-movement sonata form in a tranquil mood by introducing the first phrase of the principal theme, which is continued by the horns. The woodwinds develop the section and other instruments join in gradually progressing to a full-bodied forte (at bar 58). At bar 82, the cellos and violas introduce a new theme in F-sharp minor, which eventually moves to A major. After a development section based mostly on motives of the principal theme group, the recapitulation begins at bar 302, with the second theme returning at bar 350. Towards the conclusion of the movement, Brahms marked bar 497 as in tempo, sempre tranquillo, and it is this mood which pervades the remainder of the movement as it closes in the home key of D major.
Brahms bases much of the first movement on a melody he formerly composed for Wiegenlied, Op. 49, the tune commonly referred to as “Brahms’s Lullaby”. It is introduced at bar 82 and is continually brought back, reshaped and changed both rhythmically and harmonically.
II. Adagio non troppo
This movement is characterised by the use of developing variation. A brooding theme introduced by the cellos from bars 1 to 12, with a counter-melody in the bassoons, begins the second movement (also in sonata form). A second theme, marked L’istesso tempo, ma grazioso, appears in bar 33. After a brief development section, the recapitulation is highly modified. The movement then finishes with a coda-like section in which the main theme is reintroduced in the end.
III. Allegretto grazioso (quasi andantino)
The third movement scherzo opens with pizzicato cellos accompanying a lilting oboe melody in G major. A contrasting section in 2
4 time marked Presto ma non assai begins in the strings, and this theme is soon taken over by the full orchestra (minus trumpets). Bar 107 returns to the main tempo and gentle mood, but the idyll setting is again disrupted in bar 126 when the earlier Presto marking makes a re-entry, this time in a 3
8 variation. Brahms yet again diverts the movement back into its principal tempo (bar 194) and thereafter to its peaceful close.
The third movement contains very light articulated sections, very similar in character to the Slavonic Dances of Brahms’ contemporary, Dvořák. This lighter element provides a contrast to the previous two movements.
IV. Allegro con spirito
Busy-sounding (but quiet) strings begin the final Allegro con spirito, again in sonata form. A loud section breaks in unexpectedly in bar 23 with the full orchestra. As the excitement appears to fade away, violins introduce a new subject in A major marked largamente (to be played broadly). The wind instruments repeat this until it develops into a climax. Bar 155 of the movement repeats the symphony’s first subject again, but instead of the joyful outburst heard earlier, Brahms introduces the movement’s development section. A mid-movement tranquillo section (bar 206, and reappearing in the coda) elaborates earlier material and slows down the movement to allow a buildup of energy into the recapitulation. The first theme comes in again (bar 244) and the familiar orchestral forte is played. The second theme also reappears in the tonic key. Towards the end of the symphony, descending chords and a mazy run of notes by various instruments of the orchestra (bars 395 to 412) sound out the second theme again but this time drowned out in a blaze of brass instruments as the symphony ends in a triumphant mood.