Yale Philharmonia principal conductor Peter Oundjian on “The Rite of Spring”

Peter Oundjian. Photo by Sian Richards

On Friday, September 15, the Yale Philharmonia will perform Stravinsky’s revolutionary Rite of Spring, which was written for the Ballets Russes and whose 1913 premiere in Paris sparked protests. We spoke to principal conductor Peter Oundjian about the piece, its place in history, and what the audience can expect to experience.

Q: How have stories and reports of the audience’s reaction to the premiere of The Rite of Spring framed the work’s place in the repertoire? And what should today’s audiences understand and take away from that reaction?

A: The “riot” which occurred is one of the reasons the piece achieved such prominence. If anything, it had more to do with Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography than the music, as far as we can tell. Just imagine this first audience witnessing dancers stomping their feet for long durations, strange costumes … it was just bizarre! Stravinsky was unhappy about it; however, the events of that night stimulated him to promote the piece and make sure its excellence was appreciated.

Q: In what ways, musically, does The Rite of Spring represent a watershed moment in music history?

A: The piece is the antithesis of 300 years of development of Western art music. Everything that had come before was relatively uniform. Style and musical forms had been created. What Stravinsky did with this symphonic arch was annihilated by his new concepts. We should also remember that Czech composer Leoš Janáček’s music was radical, as well, and he was Stravinsky’s contemporary. The Rite of Spring was completely fresh and new. Harmonically, is it polytonal … it was all quite dissonant. Rhythmically, it was quite a departure from the musical norms of the day.

Q: What are your reasons for programming The Rite of Spring as part of the Yale Philharmonia’s season? In what ways and to what degree is the piece a unique teaching tool?

A: I am sure some of our students have played it before. It is, after all, one of the most important pieces in the repertoire. It is not only for the students in the orchestra, but also for our audience, who are bound to be curious to hear and witness a live performance of such a masterpiece.

Q: How do you approach the work each time you conduct the piece?

A: I think I approach it as though the pagan ritual were occurring before my eyes, and the sacrificial virgin is about to dance herself to death. It’s a new girl each time.

Q: What if anything is lost (or gained) by performing The Rite of Spring as a concert work as opposed to a fully produced ballet?

A: There is not a performance of this piece that is not ballet, in some aspects. If you come, you’ll see some sense of spectacle. The omission of the visual aspect allows people to focus on the inventiveness of the music and the power and drama behind it.

Q: Besides the obvious, what can audiences experience through a live performance of the piece that they can’t by listening to a recording?

A: To see all these musicians playing off the beat of the conductor, from an audience perspective, it’s alarming to see this being reproduced in front of your eyes. It is an extraordinary experience!

The September 15 Yale Philharmonia program includes Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, as well as Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, and Tallis’ “Why Fum’th in Fight,” performed by the Yale Voxtet. Learn more and purchase tickets.

Published September 8, 2017
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Paolo Bortolameolli named assistant conductor at LA Phil

Paolo Bortolameolli

Conductor Paolo Bortolameolli ’13MM has been appointed an assistant conductor to Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel at the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the upcoming season. Bortolameolli previously served as a Dudamel Fellow, an initiative, Dudamel said in a press release, that “continues the LA Phil’s commitment to supporting and training the next generation of exceptional conductors.”

While at YSM, Bortolameolli was an assistant conductor of the Yale Philharmonia. He has served as a cover conductor for Marin Alsop at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and led the New Haven Chamber Orchestra during his final year at Yale.

A native of Chile, Bortolameolli has worked with the top ensembles in that country including Orquesta Filarmónica de Santiago, Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile, Orquesta de la Universidad de Concepción, Orquesta USACH, Orquesta de Cámara de Chile, and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional Juvenil.

PRESS RELEASE
PAOLO BORTOLAMEOLLI

Published August 1, 2017
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Paul Hawkshaw awarded Fulbright for Bruckner research, residency in Vienna

Paul Hawkshaw

Professor of Musicology Paul Hawkshaw will be a Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Vienna in the spring of 2018. During his residency, he will teach classes at the University of Vienna’s Institute of Musicology and at the city’s University of Music and Performing Arts, in addition working at the Austrian National Library on a project titled A Bequest and a Complex Legacy: Untangling Anton Bruckner’s Revisions in Later Times, which aims to sort out the many different revisions of Bruckner’s music that have resulted from, in Hawkshaw’s words, “unauthorized tampering in Bruckner’s scores by well-meaning students and friends of his.”

According to Hawkshaw, the International Bruckner Society recently began a new Collected Works Edition under the auspices of the Austrian National Library and the Vienna Philharmonic. The New Anton Bruckner Collected Edition will eventually include new definitive scores of Bruckner’s complete works. Hawkshaw, who serves on the society’s editorial board, will work on three of the symphonies: numbers Seven, Eight, and Nine.

“In some cases,” Hawkshaw said, “previous editions had errors as a result of misreading the sources. For others, new, more reliable manuscript sources have surfaced since the older printed scores appeared.” MORE

Published April 5, 2017
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Inside YSM: David Yi, conductor

David Yi

On Friday, February 24, 2017, YSM conducting fellow David Yi led the Yale Philharmonia and student pianist Vyacheslav Gryaznov in a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1, Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin,” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3.

Asked when he became interested in conducting, David said, “I first started with the piano and then played the violin. For some reason, I always wanted to become a conductor, ever since I was a child. I always loved playing in the orchestra as a violinist/pianist. There is something great about making music with a large group of people. As a conductor, nothing is more satisfying than the moment when I realize that we are making music together.” 

In addition to his studies with Yale Philharmonia principal conductor Peter Oundjian, David’s approach to leading an orchestra has been shaped by several other notable conductors.

“Hugh Wolff at the New England Conservatory had a huge influence on my approach to score study,” David said. “Nicolás Pasquet at the Franz Liszt Conservatory in Germany helped with physical conducting. I had an opportunity to study with Riccardo Muti. He emphasized the importance of showing drama through music.”

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Published March 24, 2017
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Adams Center for Musical Arts opens

Adams Center, exterior

Adams Center for Musical Arts

The new Adams Center for Musical Arts opened today, as students, faculty, and staff returned to the Yale School of Music and Yale College to begin the spring semester. Twenty-four months after ground was broken, the complex is in use by the School of Music and by Yale College students who participate in the University’s undergraduate ensembles.

“The Adams Center for Musical Arts is a welcoming space and place for Yale’s musical community,” Yale School of Music Dean Robert Blocker said. “It was designed to enhance and enrich the creative, artistic, and intellectual process of making music together. Each space — from the smallest practice room to the beautiful ensemble halls and the student commons — was designed with the intent of supporting and sustaining the cherished musical culture that Yale has enjoyed for more than three centuries.”

Named for Stephen ’59BA and Denise Adams in recognition of their continued generosity and support of the Yale School of Music, the $57.1 million Adams Center for Musical Arts was made possible primarily through gifts from Yale alumni. The complex connects a newly renovated Hendrie Hall to the previously renovated Leigh Hall by way of a new structure that is anchored by a dedicated orchestra rehearsal room and an atrium in which students from the School of Music and Yale College can gather. MORE

Published January 17, 2017
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[ concerts ]

Peter Oundjian conducts the Yale Philharmonia Apr. 1

peter_oundjian_conducting

Peter Oundjian

The Yale School of Music presents the Yale Philharmonia with conductor Peter Oundjian on Friday, April 1 at 7:30 pm. Oundjian returns to Yale for the first time since October to conduct a program featuring two of Russia’s most celebrated composers: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Sun-A Park, a winner of the 2015 Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition, will be the featured soloist in Tchaikovsky‘s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor. The concerto’s memorable melodies and integrated folk tunes made it an instant success in its day, and it remains one of the most beloved piano concertos in the repertoire today.

Sun-A Park

Sun-A Park

Shostakovich‘s Symphony No. 8 in C minor came on the heels of his triumphant “Leningrad” Symphony, which served as an important piece of patriotic, morale-boosting art in the early 1940s.  MORE

Published March 8, 2016
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[ faculty ]

Peter Oundjian Named Principal Conductor of Yale Philharmonia

oundjian3

The Yale School of Music is pleased to announce that conductor Peter Oundjian has been named the principal conductor of the Yale Philharmonia, continuing his nearly 35-year affiliation with the School. Mr. Oundjian will conduct three concerts every year with the Yale Philharmonia and will help shape the artistic identity of the orchestra, including close involvement with the selection of guest conductors and repertoire.

Maestro Oundjian will be a major addition to the orchestral conducting program at the School. This program, which will admit one conductor this year, includes performances with the Yale Philharmonia and New Music New Haven in Sprague and Woolsey Halls, as well as opportunities to work with Maestro Oundjian and the guest conductors of the Yale Philharmonia, which in recent years have included Valery Gergiev, Yu Long, Hu Yongyan, Jahja Ling, and James Conlon, among many others. Maestro Oundjian will join colleagues in the admissions process and collaborate in providing a comprehensive curriculum for the conducting program. MORE

Published November 13, 2015
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[ concerts ]

Peter Oundjian conducts the Yale Philharmonia Oct. 16

Peter OundjianThe Yale School of Music presents the Yale Philharmonia with principal conductor Peter Oundjian and violinist Adelya Nartadjieva in a concert on Friday, October 16 at 7:30 pm. Oundjian will lead the orchestra in an evening of music by Bartók, Tchaikovsky, and Berlioz.

The program will open with Bartók‘s Divertimento for String Orchestra. Written in 1939 but interweaving elements of Baroque styles, the three-movement work features contrasts of both texture and dynamics.

Adelya Nartadjieva, a second-year violin student at YSM, will be the featured soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major. Nartadjieva, a winner of the 2015 Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition, is the first of the three winners to perform with the Yale Philharmonia this year. MORE

Published October 2, 2015
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[ concerts ]

Peter Oundjian leads the Yale Philharmonia in Wagner, Korngold, Brahms April 10

Benjamin Hoffman, violin

Benjamin Hoffman, violin

The Yale School of Music presents a concert featuring guest conductor Peter Oundjian and the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale on Friday, April 10. Award-winning violinist Benjamin Hoffman is also featured on the program, which includes music of Wagner, Korngold, and Brahms. TICKETS

The concert opens with Wagner‘s Overture to Tannhäuser. The opera’s overture is its most famous section: the shimmering, dramatic chords give way to a series of thrilling and expansive themes that, like many of Wagner’s overtures, can easily stand alone.

Second on the program is the Violin Concerto in D major by Hollywood film composer Erich Korngold, featuring violin soloist Benjamin Hoffman, a winner of the Woolsey Concerto Competition. The Moravian-born Korngold once vowed never to write music outside of film until Hitler was defeated; after the end of WWII in 1945, the violin concerto was the first concert piece he wrote. MORE

Published March 27, 2015
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[ in the press ]

New Haven Register: Peter Oundjian leads Yale Philharmonia

Peter Oundjian“An American in Paris” headlines the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale concert Friday night in Woolsey Hall, and it’s another opportunity to watch Canadian Peter Oundjian work.

Guest conductor (and violinist) Oundjian, who has been music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for a decade, will lead the Philharmonia in the bouncy and brassy Gershwin masterwork – which led to the 1951 Gene Kelly film – as well as “Symphonic Metamorphosis” by Paul Hindemith, a German composer who later became a member of the Yale School of Music faculty. MORE

Published November 6, 2014
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