Saturday, March 9, 2019 | Chrysler Hall, Norfolk | 8PM

Sunday, March 10, 2019 | Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach | 2:30PM

Jeffrey Biegel returns to the VSO for one of the most-loved concertos of all time, Grieg’s Piano Concerto. This concerto is among Grieg’s earliest important works and the only concerto the composer completed. Written in just a month in the summer of 1944, Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 was intended to be “a hymn to free and happy Man, to his mighty powers, his pure and noble spirit.” This triumphant and electrifying composition has remained one of his most popular works.

JoAnn Falletta , conductor
Jeffrey Biegel , piano

Bantock : Kishmul’s Galley
Grieg : Piano Concerto
Prokofiev : Symphony No. 5

 

Concert Sponsor
BARBARA SPIGEL

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Joanne Falletta, Music Director, Conductor - Virginia Symphony OrchestraJoAnn Falletta

Music Director

JoAnn Falletta is internationally celebrated as a vibrant ambassador for music, an inspiring artistic leader, and a champion of American symphonic music. An effervescent and exuberant figure on the podium, she has been praised by The Washington Post as having “Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein.” Acclaimed by The New York Times as “one of the finest conductors of her generation”, she serves as the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center and music advisor to the Hawaii Symphony.

Ms. Falletta is invited to guest conduct many of the world’s finest symphony orchestras. Recent guest conducting highlights include debuts in Belgrade, Gothenburg, Lima, Bogotá, Helsingborg, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, a European tour with the Stuttgart Orchestra, return engagements with the Warsaw, Detroit, Phoenix, and Krakow Symphony Orchestras and a 13 city US tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra with James Galway.

She has guest conducted over a hundred orchestras in North America, and many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Her North America guest conducting appearances have included the orchestras of Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Toronto and the National Symphony and international appearances have included the London Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Korean Broadcast Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, China National Symphony, Shanghai Symphony, Liverpool Philharmonic, Manchester BBC Philharmonic, Scottish BBC orchestra, Orchestra National de Lyon and Mannheim Orchestra among others. Ms. Falletta’s summer activities have taken her to numerous music festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, the Hollywood Bowl, Wolf Trap, Mann Center, Meadow Brook, OK Mozart Festival, Grand Teton, Eastern, Peninsula and Brevard Festival.

Falletta is the recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards including the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award, the coveted Stokowski Competition, and the Toscanini, Ditson and Bruno Walter Awards for conducting, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s prestigious John S. Edwards Award. She is an ardent champion of music of our time, introducing over 500 works by American composers, including more than 110 world premieres. Hailing her as a “leading force for the music of our time”, she has been honored with twelve ASCAP awards. Ms. Falletta served as a Member of the National Council on the Arts during both the George W Bush and Obama administrations.

Under Falletta’s direction, the VSO has risen to celebrated artistic heights. The VSO, which made critically acclaimed debuts at the Kennedy Center and New York’s Carnegie Hall under Falletta and entered into their first multinational recording agreement with Naxos, performs classics, pops and family concert series in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Williamsburg.

In addition to her current posts with the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Virginia Symphony, Brevard Music Center and Hawaii Symphony, Ms. Falletta has held the positions of principal conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Phoenix Symphony, music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Denver Chamber Orchestra.

Ms. Falletta received her undergraduate degree from the Mannes College of Music in New York and her master’s and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School.

JoAnn Falletta on NPR | The Innovative Mosaic Of American Symphonies

Jeffrey Biegel, piano

Considered the most prolific artist of his generation, Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters upon Biegel, for his achievements in performance, recordings, chamber music, champion of new music, composer, arranger and educator.

Biegel recently performed the World Premiere of Giovanni Allevi's 'Concerto for Piano and Orchestra' with Orchestra Kentucky and in Milan's Teatro dal Vermes, recording released in 2017 with Orchestra Sinfonica Italiana. In August 2018, Naxos releases Kenneth Fuchs's "Concerto: Spiritualist" featuring Biegel with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by JoAnn Falletta, and, Grammy award composer, Dick Tunney unveils the new "Peanuts Concerto" for piano and orchestra based on music by Vince Guaraldi. In November, 2018, Christopher Theofanidis's "Concerto for Piano, Strings, Harp and Percussion" will receive its premiere with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, Stuart Malina conducting. Equally championing pop music icons, Biegel has brought Jimmy Webb's 'Nocturne for Piano and Orchestra' to the public with Orchestra Kentucky, and PDQ Bach's 'Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra' by Peter Schickele with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

A leading pioneer of concerto projects joining multiple orchestras as a model for commissioning new music in the 21st century, Biegel created the first largest consortium of orchestras in 1998 for Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's 'Millennium Fantasy' premiered with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2000, followed in 2002 with Tony Award winning composer Charles Strouse's 'Concerto America' with the Boston Pops, Lowell Liebermann's 'Concerto no. 3, Opus 95', premiered with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (2006), William Bolcom's 'Prometheus' for piano, orchestra and chorus, with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and Pacific Chorale (2010), Richard Danielpour's 'Mirrors' with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra (2010), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's 'Shadows' (2011) with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Jake Runestad's 'Dreams of the Fallen' (2013) with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Chorus of New Orleans, Lucas Richman's 'Piano Concerto: In Truth' (2013) with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 2014 with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for the Albany label, and Kenneth Fuchs's "Piano Concerto: 'Spiritualist'" with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MA) in 2016.

An avid composer, Biegel's choral music is published by the Hal Leonard Corporation, Carl Fischer, Porfiri & Horvath and The LeDor Group. Leonard Bernstein said of pianist Jeffrey Biegel: "He played fantastic Liszt. He is a splendid musician and a brilliant performer." These comments launched Biegel's 1986 New York recital debut, as the third recipient of the Juilliard William Petschek Piano Debut Award in Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. He studied at The Juilliard School with Adele Marcus, herself a pupil of Josef Lhevinne and Artur Schnabel, and is currently on faculty at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, a City University of New York (CUNY).

Granville Bantock was born August 7, 1868, London, England. He studied at Trinity College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London. He was active as a conductor, arranging performances of his own and his colleague’s works. In fact he was unusually generous in this respect taking the opportunity to perform his peer’s works as often as possible.

In 1897 Granville Bantock became conductor at The Tower in New Brighton, where he remained for four years, taking the opportunity to do what he could to encourage British composers in a musical establishment of limited possibility, augmented in 1898 by the foundation of the New Brighton Choral Society. Granville Bantock's music was influenced by folk song of the Hebrides (as in the 1915 Hebridean Symphony) and the works of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss and produced many large-scale orchestral and choral works. His works are neither dissonant nor chromatic but are based upon common chords and diatonic discords. The compositions are homophonic and the chromaticism’s that do appear are semi-oriental in nature, possibly due to his early training for the Indian civil service.

Sir Granville Bantock probably has the unenviable distinction - with less than a handful of other arguable challengers - of being the most unreasonably neglected composer in the whole pitiable chronicle of neglected 20th century British music. He wrote around 800 pieces in genres from opera to light music. Later tone poems followed, generally with some declared literary derivation. Some of his works have an "exotic" element, including the oratorio Omar Khayyám (1906-1909). Among his other better-known works are the overture The Pierrot of the Minute (1908) and the Pagan Symphony (1928). His works were often performed at the beginning of the century, but much of his work has faded from the repertoire. Nevertheless, many of his works have been commercially recorded.

Sir Granville Bantock died October 11, 1946, London, an English composer known especially for his large-scale choral and orchestral works.

Edvard Grieg was born June 15, 1843, Bergen, Norway. His family was Scottish in origin, however, the composer’s grandfather having emigrated to Norway after the Battle of Culloden. His mother, Gesine Hagerup, who belonged to a well-established Norwegian family, studied music at Hamburg. From the age of six Grieg received piano lessons from her, and as a second-son with such talent like his, Grieg flourished in the arts. In 1858, at the recommendation of the violin virtuoso Ole Bull, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory.

During his years of study at the conservatory, Grieg was influenced by the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann. Edvard wasn’t the most disciplined pupil. He preferred to discover the music himself. Instead of the compulsory etudes he preferred to improvise and play and finding new tunes and melodies. However, despite the certain amount of reluctance, his love for music grew into what was to become, in his innermost spirit, the right thing to do in life – to be an artist. Grieg proved to be very talented, and moved to Europe to attend the best conservatory. His teachers in Leipzig he had some of the best pedagogues in Europe: Ignaz Moscheles in piano, Carl Reinecke in composition and Moritz Hauptmann, whom Edvard Grieg had the greatest respect for. During his stay in Leipzig Edvard Grieg came in contact with the European music-tradition, first of all he studied the works of Mozart and Beethoven, but also the compositions of more modern composers like Mendelsohn, Schumann and Wagner. Rooted in the national folk tradition of Norway, Grieg’s music is noted for a refined lyrical sense. His spirited rhythms often have a folk song association. His harmonies, developed from the late Romantic style, were considered novel.

As a composer Edvard Grieg was fortunate to be a success while still alive. Grieg spent much time on travels, and received impressions from the big musical metropolis like Leipzig, Prague, Berlin, London and Paris, as well as the Norwegian mountains. He found new ways of approach to the Norwegian folk music, with the result that in the late 19th century France they spoke about two main stiles in music; the Russian school and the Norwegian School. Among the happiest moments of the composer’s life, his daughter was born 1868. In a flurry of inspiration, Grieg composed his masterpiece, Piano Concerto in A Minor. This masterpiece became his final breakthrough as a composer, and after this he was reckoned as one of the greatest composers in his time.

Edvard Grieg died September 4, 1907, Bergen, became Norway’s greatest composer and was a founder of the Norwegian nationalist school of music.

 

Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was born on 23 April 1891 in Sontsovka, then a remote rural estate under Russian Empire. His mother, Maria Prokofieva, was an accomplished pianist. The daughter of a former serf, she was tutored in theatre and art by her master’s family from an early age. Sergeyevich was his parents’ only surviving child, having two elder sisters who died in infancy. Watching his interest in music, he mother gave him his first lesson in piano as he turned three. He composed his first piece at age five, meant for piano, it was called ‘Indian Gallop’. The composition was written by his mother in the F Lydian mode. In 1899, his parents took him to Moscow, where he for the first time heard an opera. Intrigued, he began to write one. Very soon a libretto in three acts and six scenes was ready. Later with the help of his mother, he transcribed the music. In 1902, the young Prokofiev was taken to meet Sergei Taneyev, the Director of the Moscow Conservatory. Impressed by his musical talent, Taneyev persuaded composer and pianist Reinhold Glière to give him private lessons during the summers of 1902 and 1903.

During his time at the Conservatory, Prokofiev first tried his hand at symphony. Slowly, he also started experimenting with harmonies, leading to the creation of a number of short piano pieces. He called them "ditties", and these later laid the foundation of his musical style. His teachers were struck by his originality, and when he graduated he was awarded the Anton Rubinstein Prize in piano for a brilliant performance of his own first large-scale work—the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat Major. The conservatory gave Prokofiev a firm foundation in the academic fundamentals of music, but he avidly sought musical innovation. Prokofiev’s musical talent developed rapidly. He studied the compositions of Igor Stravinsky, particularly the early ballets, but maintained a critical attitude toward his countryman’s brilliant innovations. Contacts with the then-new currents in theatre, poetry, and painting also played an important role in Prokofiev’s development. He was attracted by the work of modernist Russian poets; by the paintings of the Russian followers of Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso; and by the theatrical ideas of Vsevolod Meyerhold, whose experimental productions were directed against an obsolescent naturalism.

Prokofiev was among the most prolific and original composers of the first half of the 20th century, excelling in virtually every musical genre. Prokofiev wrote seven symphonies. Of these the ‘Classical’ Symphony (No. 1), written in 1916–17 with the work of Haydn in mind, is the best known. The Fifth Symphony of 1944 is a work on a much larger scale. The Third Symphony makes use of material from the opera The Fiery Angel, and the Fourth Symphony draws on the ballet The Prodigal Son. Of Prokofiev’s five piano concertos the third is the best known, written in the composer’s instantly recognisable musical language, from the incisive opening to the motor rhythms that follow, in a mixture of lyricism and acerbic wit. More overtly Romantic in feeling are the two fine violin concertos. In addition to a wide variety of choral and vocal music, which includes a concert version of the film score for Alexander Nevsky, Prokofiev wrote a number of less memorable works for various occasions of political importance. Chamber music by Prokofiev includes two sonatas for violin and piano, the second originally for flute and piano and revised by the composer with the help of the violinist David Oistrakh. Prokofiev, himself a formidable pianist, completed nine piano sonatas out of a projected eleven. His music for piano also includes piano versions of music from the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella.

Prokofiev died March 5, 1953 in Moscow Russia. He was a 20th-century Russian (and Soviet) composer who wrote in a wide range of musical genres, including symphonies, concerti, film music, operas, ballets, and program pieces.