Stories from the East
Saturday, March 31, 2018 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)
Seattle Chamber Singers
Aaron Breid, conductor
Edward Zhang, piano
Kamran Ince (*1960)
Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11 [mvmts. 2 & 3]
— intermission —
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 –1908)
Scheherazade, Op. 35
About the Concert
In Scheherazade, one of the most popular pieces in the orchestral repertoire, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov created “a kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images” around the seductive storyteller at the center of The Arabian Nights — basing each movement on a different tale, lavishing each of them with the beguiling melodies and the dazzling orchestral colors for which he was famous. Born in Montana but raised in Turkey, composer Kamran Ince responded to a commission from the vocal ensemble Chanticleer with an a cappella setting of a text by the 13th Century sufi poet Jelaleddin Rumi in which he “tried to convey the strong yearning for god with searching lines, at times incomplete, breathless.”
About the Conductor
Aaron Breid is rapidly garnering acclaim as an operatic and symphonic conductor. Over the last five years, he has stepped in to conduct more than a dozen performances (of Turandot, Carmen, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Così fan tutte and The Ballad of Baby Doe) with Minnesota Opera, Central City Opera, Opera Santa Barbara, Opera Omaha and Virginia Opera. During the 2017–2018 season, Mr. Breid will appear as guest conductor with the Omaha Symphony, Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra and UNO Chamber Orchestra, in addition to serving as cover conductor for Washington National Opera’s The Little Prince and North Carolina Opera’s Samson et Dalila.
Over the previous two seasons, Mr. Breid made his conducting debuts with Virginia Opera, Opera Santa Barbara and Opera Omaha (Opera Outdoors) in addition to covering performances with the Charlotte Symphony and Sarasota Opera. In 2015, he was named associate conductor of Central City Opera, where he has led productions of Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carmen, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and Il trovatore. Previously, he served as assistant/cover conductor for Minnesota Opera for four seasons, where he collaborated on 20 productions, including the world premieres of Silent Night, The Manchurian Candidate, Doubt and The Dream of Valentino.
Past seasons have seen Mr. Breid collaborate in productions with San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program, Des Moines Metro Opera and Brevard Music Festival, as well as symphonic performances with the Rochester Philharmonic, Ocala Symphony, Golden Valley Symphony and the Edina Chorale and Orchestra. Mr. Breid is an alumnus of the prestigious Pierre Monteux School for Conductors.
About the Soloist
Fourteen-year-old pianist Edward Zhang began his piano studies at the age of six and is currently a student of Sasha Starcevich. His talent has been recognized in a number of competitions, including the 2017 Bösendorfer and Yamaha International Piano Competition, where he was awarded a silver medal. He was a semi-finalist in the 2017 Minnesota International E-Piano Junior Competition, received gold medals in the 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 Chopin Festival of the Northwest, and won the 2011 Seattle International Piano Competition, the 2013 Performing Arts Festival of the Eastside, the 2014 Washington State Outstanding Artist Competition and the 2015 Russian Chamber Music Festival of Seattle Competition. Edward received a gold medal in the 2016 Seattle Young Artist Music Festival, has performed in the Nordstrom Recital Hall and Katzin Concert Hall, and on Classical KING-FM.
Edward made his orchestra debut with Philharmonia Northwest in 2014, performing with them again in 2016 as a Seattle Young Artists Festival medalist, and played the first movement of Chopin’s Concerto No. 1 with Orchestra Seattle in 2016. He would like to express his appreciation to the Chopin Festival of the Northwest and Orchestra Seattle for this wonderful milestone in his musical journey. Edward is a ninth grader at Juanita High School in Kirkland.
Ince was born May 6, 1960, in Glendive, Montana, and currently lives in Memphis. He composed this a cappella work for the male vocal ensemble Chanticleer, who premiered it on April 26, 2007, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Los Angeles Times called Turkish-American composer Kamran Ince “that rare composer able to sound connected with modern music, and yet still seem exotic.” Born in Montana, he moved with his parents to Turkey at age six, studying cello, piano and composition at the Ankara State Conservatory before returning to the United States. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Oberlin, completing his master’s and doctoral degrees at Eastman, where his teachers included Joseph Schwantner. At the University of Memphis, where he joined the faculty in 1992, he currently teaches composition and co-directs the Imagine New Music Festival. He founded the Center for Advanced Research in Music at Istanbul Technical University and has served as its director since 1999. Ince’s awards include the Prix de Rome, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize, and the Arts and Letters Award in Music. His compositions feature and combine elements of Middle Eastern and Western music
About this work, the composer states: “I was very excited and intrigued when asked to be a part of Chanticleer’s Mass project, And on Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass, with four other composers, with no particular religious, text or language requirements. With all the composers being of varying ethnic backgrounds, it is a unique project, one that is so needed these days to break down the cultural, religious and ethnic barriers. It is a project that will provoke people to think, and perhaps help a little towards understanding and unity. The more I thought about this project the more I was drawn to the 13th Century Sufi poet Jelaleddin Rumi (known as Mevlana in Turkey). Perhaps one of the greatest mystic poets, he also founded the Order of Dervishes (Whirling Dervishes); 2007 [was] UNESCO International Year of Rumi, in celebration of the 800th anniversary of his birth. The Sufis believe that the goal of man is to emancipate oneself from human thoughts and wishes, needs and senses, so one becomes a part of, a mirror of, god. Through the whirling that can go on for hours, the dervishes are able to achieve emancipation. Rumi’s poetry is about the pure love for, and the glory of god, seeking and finding god in everything we encounter, and the desire and yearning for becoming one with the diety. In setting the poem I used of Rumi, Everywhere, I tried to convey the strong yearning for god with searching lines, at times incomplete, breathless. The glorification and the ecstatic anticipation of unification is portrayed with more direct textures. Of course I am thinking about what Rumi’s world means to me in sounds, within my musical language. This surely includes Ottoman, Turkish, as well as Western music.”
— Lorelette Knowles
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11
Chopin was born in Żelazowa (near Warsaw) on March 1, 1810, and died October 17, 1849, in Paris. He began writing this work during March 1830, completing it the following August.
Chopin was the soloist at the first public performance on October 11 of that year, in Warsaw. The accompaniment requires pairs of woodwinds, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, trombone, timpani and strings.
Although Chopin composed his two piano concertos as vehicles for himself, he played a remarkably small number of public concerts, performing with orchestra for the last time merely five years after premiering these two works. He began composing a concerto in F minor in 1829 and immediately thereafter started work on an E-minor concerto. (Due to their publication in reverse order, the E-minor concerto has become known as Chopin’s Concerto No. 1.)
“I feel like a novice, just as I felt before I knew anything of the keyboard,” the composer wrote while preparing for the premiere of the E-minor concerto. “It is far too original and I shall end by being unable to learn it myself.” Such was not the case. A reviewer who attended a private rehearsal on September 22, 1830, not only praised Chopin’s performance, he described the concerto as “a work of genius,” lauding its “originality and graceful conception” as well as an “abundance of imaginative ideas.”
Scheherazade, Op. 35
Rimsky-Korsakov was born March 18, 1844, in Tikhvin, Russia, and died near St. Petersburg on June 21, 1908. He composed this work during the summer of 1888, conducting the first performance on November 3 of that year in St. Petersburg. The score calls for piccolo, 2 flutes (one doubling piccolo), 2 oboes (one doubling English horn), 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, cymbals, snare drum, bass drum, tambourine, tam-tam, harp and strings.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov trained for a naval career, but after a 30-month voyage with ports of call in America (during the Civil War), Brazil and Europe, he gravitated toward music. Eventually acknowledged as an unrivaled master of orchestration, he influenced two generations of Russian composers (including Stravinsky) as well as Ravel, Debussy and Respighi. Along with a penchant for “cleaning up” the rough edges in music of Borodin and Mussorgsky after their deaths, he composed 15 operas, three symphonies, choral works, chamber music and art songs. Today he is most often represented on the concert stage by a trio of orchestral works that he unveiled within the span of a year: Capriccio Espagnol, Scheherazade and the Russian Easter Overture.
During July 1874, Rimsky traveled to Crimea, experiencing “the coffee houses, the shouts of its vendors, the chanting of the muezzins on the minarets, the services in the mosques, and the oriental music.” He had already incorporated Arab melodies into his Antar Symphony, but those came from a book lent to him by Alexander Borodin. “It was while hearing the gypsy-musicians of Bakhchisaray that I first became acquainted with oriental music in its natural state, and I believe I caught the main feature of its character.” A trip to Constantinople seven years later provided his only other ethnomusicological research into the Middle East.
After Borodin’s death in 1887, Rimsky set about completing his friend’s opera Prince Igor. A year later, immersed in Borodin’s exotic music, he “conceived the idea of writing an orchestral composition on the subject of certain episodes from” One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled from various sources and dating back to the ninth century, known in Europe through Antoine Galland’s 1704–1717 French translation.
Rimsky selected “separate, unconnected episodes and pictures” from The Arabian Nights (as the collection was known in English), synopsized in his preface to the score: “The sultan Shakriar, convinced of the falsehood and inconstancy of all women, had sworn an oath to put to death each of his wives after the first night. However, the sultana Scheherazade saved her life by arousing his interest in the tales which she told him during 1,001 nights. Driven by curiosity, the sultan postponed her execution from day to day, and at last abandoned his sanguinary design. Scheherazade told many miraculous stories to the sultan. For her tales she borrowed verses from the poets and words from folksongs combining fairy tales with adventures.”
Scheherazade, as Rimsky called his “symphonic suite,” consists of four movements, each given a title in the first edition of the score. “I meant these hints,” he later wrote, “to direct but slightly the hearer’s fancy on the path which my own fancy had traveled, and leave more minute and particular conceptions to the will and mood of each listener. All I had desired was that the hearer, if he liked my piece as symphonic music, should carry away the impression that it is beyond doubt an Oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders.”
The first movement opens with a broad statement of a theme likely associated with the sultan (at least initially, although Rimsky puts most of his melodies to multiple uses throughout the work), followed by chords reminiscent of those in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream that signal “once upon a time” and draw the listener into a land of make-believe. A solo violin playing Scheherazade’s theme then leads to a tale of Sinbad’s ship at sea, with Rimsky’s naval experience informing his tone painting.
Scheherazade’s violin opens the next section, with solo bassoon introducing a new melody that gets passed around the orchestra and recurs throughout the movement. Three different tales in The Arabian Nights involve a nobleman disguised as a kalendar (a member of a sect of wandering dervishes), so the action Rimsky depicts here is unclear, although the prince’s adventures are obviously quite exciting.
The third movement tells a love story about a prince and princess, with Scheherazade turning up near the end. The finale moves from a festive event in Baghdad back to the sea and finally a tragic shipwreck, rounded off with a coda featuring Scheherazade’s melody and the “once upon a time” chords from the beginning of the work.
— Jeff Eldridge