BBE Appreciation Day in Manhattan

BBE Appreciation Day in Manhattan

The Borough President of Manhattan proclaimed last Sunday as “Broadway Bach Ensemble Appreciation Day,” in honor of our 30th anniversary.

At intermission of our Spring, 2015, concert, original orchestra member Paula Washington spoke of her long friendship with Mike Tietz, the group’s founder; and violist Nancy Dunetz presented him with a framed Proclamation.

Here are a few photos.

Board member Nancy Dunetz presents Mike with the framed proclamation.

Board member Nancy Dunetz presents Mike with the framed proclamation.

Music Director and orchestra founder Mike Tietz shows off the official proclamation.

Music Director and orchestra founder Mike Tietz shows off the official proclamation.

Founding member Paula Washington reminisces about her long friendship with founder Mike Tietz.

Founding member Paula Washington reminisces about her long friendship with founder Mike Tietz.

Abraham Appleman, violin

Abraham Appleman, violin

Violinist Abraham Appleman was born in Yokohama, Japan. He began his studies on the violin and piano at the age of four, soon after his family moved to the Boston area. His continued studies there led to his debut, at age fifteen, performing Max Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Since then, Mr. Appleman has had a multifaceted career, performing in Asia, Europe, and the Americas as a soloist, concertmaster, and chamber musician. He is a founding member of the chamber ensemble Voce Intimae and has served as concertmaster of the Colorado Music Festival and the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Florida.

In New York, Mr. Appleman performs regularly in the first violin section of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. As one of the foremost violinists in the recording industry, he can be heard as a soloist on numerous CDs and motion picture soundtracks. During the summer season, Mr. Appleman is regularly invited to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival.

Violin Concerto

Violin Concerto

The violin concerto was Barber’s first significant commissioned work. Barber began composing the concerto in 1939 while on a trip to Switzerland. Upon the outbreak of World War II, he returned to the United States and completed the concerto later that year. The concerto was premiered by Albert Spalding with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1941. Ever since then, it has been a staple of the violin concerto repertoire.

Barber provided these program notes for the premiere performance:

The first movement — allegro molto moderato — begins with a lyrical first subject announced at once by the solo violin, without any orchestral introduction. This movement as a whole has perhaps more the character of a sonata than concerto form. The second movement — andante sostenuto — is introduced by an extended oboe solo. The violin enters with a contrasting and rhapsodic theme, after which it repeats the oboe melody of the beginning. The last movement, a perpetuum mobile, exploits the more brilliant and virtuosic character of the violin.

Viola Concerto

Viola Concerto

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) completed the sketches for his viola concerto shortly before his death in New York from leukemia in 1945. He had been commissioned to write the concerto by William Primrose, the great Scottish violist. Bartók wrote to Primrose shortly before his death that the concerto had been fully sketched out and only required a few weeks to be orchestrated, but he died before this work could be completed. At the request of the Bartók family, it fell to Tibor Serly, Bartók’s close friend and colleague, to write the orchestrations and finalize the concerto for publication. It took four years for Serly to finish this task, owing largely to the fragmentary nature of Bartók’s sketches, which were written on 13 unordered pieces of paper. The concerto was premiered by Primrose in 1949. While a number of subsequent revisions have been done (including one by Peter Bartók, the composer’s son), the original Serly version has remained a beloved staple of the viola literature ever since.

The concerto has three movements, played without a break. The opening Moderato begins with a lyrical four-bar theme in the solo viola, accompanied by ‘cello and bass. The theme is taken up by the winds in turn, and appears several times in the course of the movement. A contrasting triplet-based theme appears twice, accompanied by syncopations in the orchestra.

A short declamatory section (lento parlando) and a bassoon solo serve as a bridge to the short second movement. Titled adagio religioso, it is a quiet sustained slow movement, with a short agitated middle section featuring woodwind trills. A sudden solo viola accelerando brings us to a lively allegretto, punctuated by horns and timpani.

The rollicking last movement is based on a Rumanian Scottish-influenced melody appearing in contrast. Brilliant viola bring this work to a satisfying conclusion.

William Frampton, viola

William Frampton, viola

Violist William Frampton has been praised by critics for his “beautifully executed” performances (The Arts Fuse) and “a glowing amber tone” (Boston Globe). Having made his New York debut in 2009 at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, he has also appeared numerous times as soloist in Boston’s Jordan Hall in performances including Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” with conductor Joseph Silverstein. An enthusiastic performer of new music, he has worked with composers such as Gyorgy Kurtag and Malcolm Peyton. 2013-14 season highlights include performances of Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” with the Johannes Quartet, a performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Sean Lee and the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey, appearances as guest principal viola of the American Symphony Orchestra, and tours to Japan and Myanmar with a string quartet led by Midori Goto and presented by her foundation Music Sharing.

William’s festival appearances have included Verbier Festival Academy, Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, Buck Hill-Skytop Music Festival Richmond Festival, Kneisel Hall, Sarasota Music Festival, The Perlman Music Program, and is the Artistic Director of Music at Bunker Hill, a chamber music series in Southern New Jersey. He has collaborated with such artists as Paul Katz, Peter Wiley, Roberto Diaz, Andres Diaz, John Dalley, Daniel Phillips, James Dunham, and Roger Tapping. He holds degrees from New England Conservatory and the Juilliard School, and studied with Kim Kashkashian, Samuel Rhodes, Choong-Jin Chang, and Byrnina Socolofsky. He teaches viola and chamber music at Queens College, CUNY, and is currently pursuing a DMA at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

In his spare time, William swims, runs, cycles, and writes a blog on some of his other interests: coffee, food and travel.

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 5

In 1936, after a performance of “Lady MacBeth of the Mtsensk District,” an article in “Pravda,” the Russian newspaper of the time, publically denounced Shostakovich. The article, often attributed to Joseph Stalin, entitled “Muddle or Music,” claimed that Shostakovich had “missed the demands of Soviet Culture to banish crudity and wildness from every corner of Soviet life.” It went on to say, “The danger of this tendency in Soviet music is clear. Leftist ugliness in opera is growing from the same source as leftist ugliness in painting, poetry, pedagogy, and science. Petit bourgeois ‘innovation’ is leading to a gap away from true art, science … literature.”

During this time period in Soviet history, all art was expected to fit within the confines of Socialist Realism. Socialist Realism dictated that everything be in support of Communism. Music and art were to enhance and support the government, not cause tension or spur acts of rebellion.

Shostakovich feared for his life, as artists who flew in the face of social norms often found themselves executed or banished. Perhaps the only thing that saved him was the fact that in the early 1930’s Shostakovich had written a score to a movie entitled “Counter Plan,” which was released for the 15th anniversary of the October Revolution. One song from that score, “The Morning Greets Us,” gained international acclaim and became the first Soviet song to be considered a hit. This is perhaps the only thing that saved Shostakovich from a gruesome fate.

Composed between April and July of 1937, the 5th Symphony was Shostakovich’s response to the events of the year before. Premiered on November 21, 1937, it was received with thunderous applause that lasted more than half an hour.

Shostakovich had no choice but to claim that the piece was nationalistic in nature. In fact, Shostakovich likely viewed the piece as his chance to regain favor with the Communist party. The last movement quotes a song Shostakovich wrote earlier in the 1930’s, based on a poem by Pushkin, which deals with rebirth. Later on in his memoirs, however, he explained that he wrote the piece in direct response to the persecution and oppression that existed under Stalin’s rule. Since the time of its premiere this symphony has become one of the staples of the classical repertoire and is considered one of the greatest works of the 20th century.

As you listen, you will hear moments of terror, pain, pleading, and downright despair; but out of these moments, Shostakovich gives us wonderful glimpses of hope and in the last movement a feel of redemption and even victory.

(Christopher Hisey)