Virginia Brisac Moore was a member of the School’s first graduating class

By Adrienne Lotto

In December of 1783, Yale President Ezra Stiles met Lucinda Foote, a 12-year-old prodigy and University applicant. “Were it not for her sex,” Stiles wrote, reflecting on their interview, “she would be considered fit to be admitted.”

While it would take until 1969 for Yale College to open its doors to women, the tides of gender equality began to turn at Yale’s graduate and professional schools in the mid-19thcentury—and it was the art schools that led the way. The Yale School of Fine Arts became Yale’s first co-educational school when it opened in 1869. And when the newly established Yale School of Music conferred its first Bachelor of Music degrees in 1894, one of those four degrees was awarded to a woman.

That woman was Stratford, Conn., resident Virginia Brisac Moore. While the details of her life are largely unknown, certain clues point to an upbringing in the world of arts and music.

Virginia was born on May 17, 1859, and was among the youngest of nine children. Her father, Charles Moore, was a lace merchant who at various points in his life kept shops in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York City. His was a job that required artistic taste, something he clearly passed on to his children. Two of Virginia’s older brothers, Charles Herbert Moore and Howard Berndtson Moore, became successful painters— Charles Herbert is known even today for his landscape paintings.

Virginia’s maternal grandfather, Elof Berndtson (later Anglicized to Benson), was a sea captain who emigrated from Sweden to the United States in the early 19thcentury, and her mother was a devout member of the Swedenborgian church. It is known that Virginia, too, was a member of the Swedenborgian Church of New Jerusalem. Perhaps this was one outlet for music making in her early life.

At some point before Virginia was born, the Moore family relocated from Manhattan to Stratford, where Virginia grew up. She attended the Guy B. Day School in Bridgeport, Conn., a small, co-educational college preparatory “classical school.” There, Virginia would have taken classes with subjects in the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music). Several alumni of the Guy B. Day School went on to study at Yale. So, too, did Virginia; curiously, after a long break in her schooling.

Virginia entered the School of Music as a 35-year-old. It is not known what she studied at the School of Music or what she did in the years after receiving her degree, but one thing seems certain: Virginia embodied a life of independence that was unorthodox for a woman of her time. She remained unmarried and died at age 73 of appendicitis.

Virginia Brisac Moore, unlike Lucinda Foote before her, was fortunate to have been born in an era in which co-education was increasingly becoming the norm.

Soprano Adrienne Lotto ’20MM is a student in the early music, oratorio, and chamber ensemble program at the Yale School of Music and Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 

Published November 26, 2019
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Ariel Horowitz receives Yale-Jefferson Award for Public Service

Ariel Horowitz

Violinist Ariel Horowitz ’20MMA has received the Yale-Jefferson Award for Public Service in recognition of her leadership of the Heartbeat Music Project, which “offers music education for Navajo (Diné) K-12 students living on the Navajo Reservation,” according to the organization’s recently launched website. “We cultivate a safe space for our students to thrive and gain confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their local and global potential.”

The Yale-Jefferson Award recognizes “sustained public service that is individual, innovative, impactful, and inspiring” and individuals who “demonstrate service that draws on the Yale community and/or resources to benefit the world beyond Yale.”

Horowitz, the Heartbeat Music Project’s artistic director and founder, said the leadership effort “sort of fell into my lap” during her junior year at the Juilliard School. Her mother, Amy Horowitz, an affiliate faculty member at the University of Indiana Bloomington’s Center for the Study of Global Change, was at the Navajo Technical University, in Crownpoint, New Mexico, working, with a grant from Indiana University, on the “redistribution of intellectual resources,” (Ariel) Horowitz said. Discussions with her mother led Horowitz, with a small grant from the Juilliard School, to Crownpoint, where she organized a five-day workshop for a handful of Navajo third-graders. “It was like a little music day camp,” Horowitz said.

Folks at the Navajo Technical University wanted to bring more musicians to Crownpoint to work with Navajo students in kindergarten through 12th grade. “I’d never taught a high-schooler,” Horowitz said. “I was barely not a high-schooler myself.”

This coming summer will be the fifth that Horowitz has led a two-week tuition-free music camp for Navajo children in Crownpoint. Enrollment is up to about 60.

Horowitz is quick to point out that she doesn’t do the work alone. Sharon Nelson, a Navajo woman and a graduate student in NTU’s Diné studies program, has been instrumental. “She has added a really important cultural component for out camp,” Horowitz said. Specifically, Nelson has served as a generational bridge. Camp attendees don’t speak Diné, Horowitz explained, and the elders with whom they live don’t speak English. (According to a 1993 article in The New York Times, “Dine … is an Athapascan word for man, but has been translated as ‘the people’ by the Navajos, who routinely use it to refer to themselves and their language.”)

“A lot of YSM students have become involved,” as well, Horowitz said. Violinist Greg Lewis ’19MM, to name one, is the organization’s communications director. The classical music scene is competitive, Horowitz said. Working on an initiative like the Heartbeat Music Project offers “a different perspective on what’s important.” A lot of students who attend the annual music camp “haven’t seen our instruments before,” Horowitz said. “Their lived experience is so drastically different from mine.” The Navajo people, she pointed out, face “massive systemic inequity” and “intergenerational trauma.”

Horowitz’s goal for the project transcends music. First and foremost, she wants Navajo children to have a meaningful experience “because there’s not a lot of that to go around” on the reservation. She wants to help children reach a point at which they can be academically competitive without losing contact with their traditional Diné culture.

Horowitz is learning as she goes. “People get degrees in nonprofit management,” she said. “I’m a violinist at a music school.” Still, she said, “I feel proud of how I’ve risen to the occasion, to the challenge. I honestly think I’m a better person for it.” Receiving the Yale Jefferson Award, though, is overwhelming. “I feel kind of awkward,” she said. “I am fully aware that while the Heartbeat Music Project is a really fantastic endeavor, it’s a drop in the bucket. I don’t think one person can affect the change that needs to happen.” She does hope the award provides a platform from which she can encourage other musicians to broaden their perspectives. “I get excited every time I see a project like this.”

Violinist Ariel Horowitz ’20MMA received the Yale-Jefferson Award for Public Service on Friday, November 22.

Published November 21, 2019
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Nancy Marx Better, on her relationship with the School of Music

Nancy Marx Better

In addition to her service to the University, for which she will receive the Yale Medal today, Nancy Marx Better ’84BA has long been committed to furthering the specific interests of the School of Music. Better has served on the School’s Board of Advisors since 2012.

“Our family’s dedication to music at Yale really comes from my mother,” Better said, explaining that through her mother, pianist and philanthropist Sylvia Marx, her family developed a relationship with the School.

Better’s family has had a decades-long relationship with the University. Four generations of Better’s family have studied at Yale, including her three children. The only member of her family who did not study at Yale is Marx, who has served on the School’s Board of Advisors since 2002. “If Yale had been co-ed in the early 1950s, I’m sure they would’ve wanted her,” Better said of her mother, who studied at and graduated from Connecticut College.

Better’s service to the School is of a practical nature. “While I’m not a music expert, I think that I have some good institutional knowledge about Yale,” she said. Better, who has worked as a journalist, chairs the Yale University Library Council, and, as the University has pointed out, “has participated on the Yale Development Council dating back to its establishment in 2012, has been an Alumni Schools Committee interviewer since 1990, and served on the Yale Tomorrow Campaign Committee from 2005 through the close of the campaign,” among other areas of service. Better takes a holistic view of her work for the University.

“The School of Music is part of the fabric of Yale,” she said. “Music is everywhere at Yale,” from University President Peter Salovey’s interest in bluegrass to the countless students who have relationships with music. “There’s this broader sense that the arts spark creativity and innovation in other areas. It’s sort of osmosis. I like to think that the tremendous breadth and depth of what’s available at Yale benefits everybody.” Better is interested in connecting the dots.

“The stuff I really like is strategy,” Better said. “I really enjoy talking with (School of Music Dean Robert Blocker) and my colleagues about the strategies for the School of Music. I love to look forward.” She sees the future in the students whose performances she hears. She’s “dazzled” by their artistic potential.

Better is also encouraged by the School’s Music in Schools Initiative, a partnership with the New Haven Public Schools in which teaching artists from the School support the work of music teachers in the public schools. The Declaration on Equity in Music for City Students, which the School published in 2017, and the work that Yale does in the community is “extraordinary,” she said. “It’s classic Yale.”

Nancy Marx Better will receive the Yale Medal on Thursday, November 21, during the Yale Alumni Association Assembly and Yale Alumni Fund Convocation

Published November 21, 2019
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Peter Oundjian, on the Yale Philharmonia’s “spontaneity and commitment”

Peter Oundjian conducts the Yale Philharmonia

Yale Philharmonia Principal Conductor Peter Oundjian has conducted Scheherazade many times. Still, he said last week after he and the orchestra rehearsed the piece in preparation for a concert this Thursday night, “For me, it’s always the first time. You have to have fresh energy for every single performance.”

It’s something he learned as the first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet—and something he’s brought to the podium. The Yale Philharmonia has energy in abundance, in addition to the professionalism one finds in and around ensembles like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which Oundjian led for a decade and a half.

Professional groups like the TSO have a repertoire that includes pieces like Scheherazade, which are programmed every so often. Musicians who’ve been in a particular orchestra for a number of years might perform a piece like Scheherazade many times. The Yale Philharmonia, though, is an orchestra whose roster turns over by half every year, as students graduate from the School of Music. While the Philharmonia has performed Scheherazade in recent years, the musicians who’ll perform the piece on Thursday night have not—at least not together.

“This orchestra has never and will never play this music again,” Oundjian said. That means, performance-wise, “there’s no preconception and there’s no habit.” For Oundjian, and for audiences, this means an “incredible amount of spontaneity and commitment” in each performance.

“There’s an element of risk that makes this so exciting,” he said. This is why live performance is the experience that it is. “You don’t know what’s going to happen or how it’s going to happen.”

So far this season, Philharmonia audiences have heard the orchestra deliver memorable performances of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, along with music by Debussy, Mozart, and Szymanowski. On Thursday night, the Philharmonia will perform Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on a program that also includes Debussy’s Nocturnes, with the treble voices of the Yale Schola Cantorum, and Weber’s Bassoon Concerto, with Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition winner Eleni Katz ’20MM.

What audiences can expect from this orchestra, Oundjian said, is a “huge amount of talent and instinct.”

The musicians, he said, “turn up for orchestra ready for anything that’s possible, which, for them, is limitless.”

Principal Conductor Peter Oundjian will lead the Yale Philharmonia in a performance of Debussy’s Nocturnes, with the treble voices of the Yale Schola Cantorum, Weber’s Bassoon Concerto, with Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition winner Eleni Katz ’20MM, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade on Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 p.m., in Woolsey Hall.

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Published November 18, 2019
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Drummer Louis Hayes pays tribute to hard-bop pioneer Horace Silver

Louis Hayes. Photo courtesy of the artist.

In 1956, teenage drummer Louis Hayes joined a new quintet led by pianist Horace Silver. While Hayes had found early success in Detroit playing alongside Kenny Burrell, Yusef Lateef, and Doug Watkins, Silver was in New York developing the hard-bop style, having already worked with the likes of Stan Getz, Miles Davis, and the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey. The Washington Post described Silver’s stylistic leanings this way upon his 2014 passing:

When other jazz musicians were becoming more and more esoteric, reaching levels of musical abstraction where few listeners would follow, Mr. Silver remained grounded in the traditions of gospel and the blues. … ‘They got so sophisticated that it seemed like they were afraid to play the blues, like it was demeaning to be funky,’ Mr. Silver told Newsday in 1994, describing his populist musical approach. ‘And I tried to bring that. I didn’t do it consciously at first. But it started to happen.’”

Silver didn’t reimagine the jazz landscape alone. Those who played in his band were part of the new sounds. For Hayes, playing with Silver was an entrée to working subsequently alongside such iconic artists as Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, and Oscar Peterson. The list of musicians with whom Hayes has worked is almost surreal and includes John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, and McCoy Tyner, among others. “Look who he’s played with,” Ellington Jazz Series Artistic Director Thomas Duffy said. “Everybody.”

“His oxygen was being breathed by all the greats,” Duffy said. Putting it another way, Duffy asked, “What do all these people have in common?”

Louis Hayes.

Hayes comes to Yale on Friday, November 15, to perform a program called Serenade for Horace, the name of the 2017 album its label, Blue Note Records, described as “his splendid tribute to his mentor and friend.” Hayes told Blue Note that Silver said, “Louis, you are a part of my legacy.”

Of Hayes’ 2017 tribute album, DownBeat said, “Serenade for Horace isn’t just homage paid to a jazz great; it’s also a testament to the vitality of Silver’s songbook.” All About Jazz offered, “(Hayes) brings together a group of seasoned, dedicated musicians to honor Silver, not by imitating or outdoing him, but by playing his music with great fidelity to Silver’s ideas and the hard bop period which he helped to innovate.”

On November 15, Hayes will be joined by tenor saxophonist Abraham Burton, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, pianist Anthony Wonsey, and bassist Dezron Douglas. Burton, Douglas, and Nelson played on Serenade for Horace.

Drummer Louis Hayes’ quintet will perform an Ellington Jazz Series program called Serenade for Horace on Friday, November 15, at 7:30 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall. Free student-rush tickets will be offered at the box office for students in college and K-12 with a valid ID. Tickets will be distributed starting 30 minutes before each concert. One ticket per ID, subject to availability.

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Published November 13, 2019
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Hilary Purrington’s “Harp of Nerves” to receive world-premiere performance

Hilary Purrington. Photo by JIJI

In 2017, a few months after graduating from the School of Music, composer Hilary Purrington ’17MMA received the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood Emerging Composer Commission. After her Likely Pictures in a Haphazard Sky was read during the orchestra’s 2017 Underwood New Music Readings, the organization’s artistic director, Derek Bermel, said, “Hilary Purrington’s music spoke in a highly personal voice … Her work unfolded assuredly, revealing an orchestral palette at once austere and lyrical.”

On November 13, the ACO will give the world-premiere performance of Purrington’s guitar concerto, Harp of Nerves. The yield of the Underwood Commission, Purrington’s concerto was written for JIJI (Jiyeon Kim) ’17MM, winner of Victor and Sono Elmaleh First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild’s 2016 Victor Elmaleh Competition. Purrington and JIJI were roommates during their time at Yale. Their careers are in sync in an upward trajectory.

“I had JIJI in mind, of course,” Purrington said, and proposed a guitar concerto upon receiving the commission. During the composition process, Purrington said, “imagining (JIJI) playing the piece (was) helpful. She loves new music and she plays a lot of new music.” Also helpful was “knowing (JIJI’s) character and what she’s going to put into the piece.” That includes the “drama of seeing her playing.”

Throughout her relationship with the ACO, Purrington attended “as many ACO concerts as I could … to really get their sound in my head. I also wanted to have a sense of (Zankel Hall) and them playing in the hall.” That includes the subway rumble audiences can feel if not hear. “I have these very slow crescendo and decrescendo bass-drum rolls that come from that, directly,” she said, laughing, “since it’s going to be there anyway.”

To write for guitar, Purrington wanted to know the instrument as well as she could, so she studied the instrument herself. “I played quite a bit,” she said. “It was massively helpful and completely changed my approach. When she gave JIJI the music this past summer, Purrington said Jiji had no questions, which she took as the “highest compliment.”

JIJI. Photo by Lauren Chun

“She really understands the instrument well,” JIJI said. “She really used very idiomatic writing for the guitar. You can tell” she studied the instrument. “I’ve known Hilary’s music since we lived together. I was like, ‘You know what to do. You do your magic.’” JIJI, who recently heard a performance of Likely Pictures in the Haphazard Sky, described Purrington as an “amazing orchestrator” and said, “She knows how to work with textures and colors. She’s just really smart. You can hear it in her music.”

JIJI’s guitar will by amplified for the performance. “It liberates me, so I’m not forcing it on the instrument,” trying to compete with the orchestra, she said.

As Purrington pointed out, JIJI is a champion of new music. “Art should reflect the life of the time we live in,” she said. We live in this century and we should be part of this century.” There’s also a matter of available repertoire. JIJI said classical guitarists have, to a degree, been playing the same music over and over again, whereas, for example, the percussion repertoire has “exploded.” “Classical guitar needs this,” she said. “We need to really reinvent ourselves and try to expand our repertoire.” Purrington is helping with that.

The American Composers Orchestra will present a program called New England Echoes on Wednesday, November 13, at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. The program includes the world premiere of Hilary Purrington’s guitar concerto, Harp of Nerves, with soloist Jiji, a selection of Charles Ives’ songs, arranged by Purrington, YSM faculty composer Hannah Lash ’12AD, and Jonathan Bailey Holland and featuring mezzo-soprano Jaime Barton, and the New York premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Evidence.

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HILARY PURRINGTON

JIJI

Published November 11, 2019
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Bernarda Fink to perform “kaleidoscope” of favorite works

Bernarda Fink

Mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink was born in Argentina to Slovenian parents. Her world, growing up, was a mix of cultures. Fink’s father often sang songs by Austrian composer Franz Schubert in the house, and Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s music is “part of my Slavic roots,” Fink said. At the same time, Argentine composer Carlos Guastavino’s work is “mother earth,” a musical home as much as any other.

This semester, Fink’s physical home is here in New Haven. She’s serving as Visiting Lecturer in Voice (a joint appointment with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music) at a time when her career focus is shifting to include more teaching and a bit less performing. “I am in the privileged time,” she said, a career point at which she can share her experiences with younger artists and learn anew from them. “It is amazing how much we can learn from teaching and from knowing different personalities and different young people searching for themselves,” she said. “You rediscover things you know and forgot. It is a beautiful experience.”

While she’s performing less than she has in previous years, Fink remains a fixture on the concert stage, one whom The New York Times has described as “a master of the disarming, deceptive simplicity of the song recital.” On Friday, Fink will perform a program she described as “a kaleidoscope of all my most precious pieces.” The program, with pianist Anthony Spiri, includes music by Schubert, Dvořák, Guastavino, Austrian composer Hugo Wolf, and Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo.

While on paper the program looks long, Fink said it’s on the shorter side, a reflection of her shifting career focus. If there’s one thing Fink wants from an audience it’s “that they come with open hearts.” An artist “has to have empathy for different music types,” she said. The same goes for concertgoers.

Mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink will perform music by Schubert, Wolf, Dvořák, Rodrigo, and Guastavino, with pianist Anthony Spiri, on Friday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Morse Recital Hall. 

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Published November 5, 2019
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Yale Choral Artists to perform all-Brahms program

Tomorrow, the Yale Choral Artists will perform a program that “is intended to showcase Brahms’ mastery of the choral idiom and the incredible emotional range of his choral output,” the group’s founding director, Jeffrey Douma, said, “from the intricate counterpoint of the two a cappella motets Schaffe in mir, Gott and Warum ist das Licht gegeben, to the moving elegy Nänie, a work originally for chorus and full orchestra but performed this weekend in a piano four-hands reduction (a practice common in the era before recorded music).”

“We finish the program,” Douma said, “with the Liebeslieder, one of Brahms’ most popular works during his lifetime, adding a unique dimension by alternating between solo quartets and tutti choir from movement to movement, highlighting the individual character of each of the 18 exquisite miniatures that comprise the set.”

Douma founded the Yale Choral Artists, a professional project-based group, nearly a decade ago. “In recent years in the United States, the emergence of the professional project choir has added an exciting and rich new dimension to the choral landscape,” he said, “and I think it has been important to have that model as part of the range of ensemble singing at Yale.”

Many of the Choral Artists are products of Yale. “Just over half of YCA’s singers for this project are YSM alums from both the voice program and choral conducting program,” Douma, a professor of choral conducting at the Yale School of Music, said. “We also have two Yale College alums in the group this time.”

In addition to solo careers, members of the Choral Artists perform with such ensembles as Chanticleer, Conspirare, the Handel and Haydn Society Chorus, Seraphic Fire, the Trinity Wall Street Choir, and Voices of Ascension, among others. The vocalists’ successes are in large measure a reflection of the potential they brought to and realized during their time at Yale.

“We are fortunate to have some of the best young musicians in the world studying here,” Douma said. “Like all of my colleagues, I am so proud to be able to send them out into the world and am thrilled when we are able to invite them back to compose and perform both for the YSM community and for our broader audiences.”

Founding Director Jeffrey Douma will lead the Yale Choral Artists and faculty pianists Robert Blocker and Melvin Chen in an all-Brahms program on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall. The concert is free and open to the public.

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Published October 25, 2019
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Program notes offer insight into Yale Philharmonia’s Oct. 25 concert repertoire

By Rachel Glodo

On Friday, Oct. 25, guest conductor Ludovic Morlot will lead the Yale Philharmonia in a performance of Debussy’s Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune, Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto, with Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition winner Jung Eun Kang, and Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony.

Here are the program notes that we’ll share with concertgoers and audiences watching online.

Claude Debussy

Debussy’s Prélude à L’après-midi d’un faune

The plot of Stéphane Mallarmé’s symbolist poem L’Aprés-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a Faun) cannot be called action-packed: “Faun awakens. Faun recounts seeing two nymphs. It may or may not have been all a dream.” The poem (translated in part below) is a series of indefinite but connected images that evoke the sensual pastoralism of Greek mythology:

These nymphs I would make last.
So rare
Their rose lightness arches in the air,
Torpid with tufted sleep.
I loved: a dream?

This was precisely the nebulous imagery that most appealed to Claude Debussy, who met Mallarmé in Paris’ salon scene in the 1880s. Like Mallarmé’s work, Debussy’s symphonic poem does not express a clear programmatic narrative. Instead, it uses orchestral and chromatic color to paint contours, suggest hazy images, and invite the listener to join the faun’s dreamworld. Debussy’s faun awakens to a sinuous flute melody, which returns throughout the piece like the nymphs’ elusive forms glimpsed through the trees.

While Debussy’s Prélude was generally well-received at its 1894 premiere, it was not until 1912 that it entered a different type of mythology. Presented by the Ballets Russes with dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky in the title role, the ballet shocked (and delighted) Parisian audiences: Nijinsky’s faun ended his afternoon with an intimate, luxurious orgasm.

Karol Szymanowski

Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35

For 19th century listeners, a “concerto” meant a composition for a solo instrument and orchestra that highlighted the soloist’s virtuosity and artistry. It typically unfolded in three movements, each movement with its own prototypical patterns. This was, after all, what made concertos fun: everyone knew the “rules,” and it was exciting to see how a composer would play with and bend these rules. The early 20th century saw rules bent to a breaking point. Established norms—from concert attire to musical forms—were challenged and refashioned.

Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto (1916) exemplifies this tension. For example, the concerto is through-composed—that is, it is presented as a single movement. While there are five identifiable sections, one proceeds after another with a restless energy, without pause.

Szymanowski’s musical language fuses 19th century “Romantic” elements—cantabile violin melodies, a lush orchestral palette, and impassioned melodic sighs—with the traumas of the new century: jagged, sometimes wandering solo lines, anxious flutters from the woodwinds, and above all, perhaps, the final ambiguous whispers of the violin. Wistful and ironic, the concerto’s conclusion is reminiscent of T.S. Eliot’s famous line: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper” (1925).

Sergei Prokofiev

Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, Op. 100

Like many well-known artists, Prokofiev was shuffled around the Soviet Union during the war years, spending time in the northern Caucasus, Tbilisi (Georgia), Alma-Ata (Almaty, Kazakhstan), and Perm (in the Urals) before returning to Moscow in 1943. Though the Second World War still raged, the tide had turned for the Allied forces. In the summer of 1944, Prokofiev departed war-time Moscow for the state-sponsored “Composer’s House” in rural Ivanovo.

Despite the temptation of pastoral beauty and a cohort of fellow composers—including Shostakovich, Khachaturian, and Kabalevsky—Prokofiev maintained a disciplined schedule and produced the piano score of his Fifth Symphony in a single month. (Khachaturian recalled, “The regularity with which he worked amazed us all!”)

The result is a symphonic journey that is simultaneously expansive and tightly designed, suggesting both the shared and private experiences of nations at war. As Prokofiev told Time magazine, a little dryly perhaps, his symphony was “about the spirit of man, his soul or something like that.” Prokofiev conducted the premiere in Moscow on January 13, 1945. As the composer raised his baton, the audience heard a celebratory artillery volley: the Red Army had begun the Vistula-Oder Offensive in Poland, Nazi forces were being pushed westward, and victory was only nine months off.

Rachel Glodo is the Assistant to the Associate Dean at the Yale School of Music. She has a bachelor of arts degree from Yale University and a master of music degree in musicology from Northwestern University.

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Published October 23, 2019
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Merz Trio is a winner of the Concert Artists Guild competition

The Merz Trio. Photo by Nile Scott

The Merz Trio, which includes pianist and Yale School of Music alumnus Lee Dionne ’11BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’19DMA, violinist Brigid Coleridge, and cellist Julia Yang, was named a winner of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. The other winners were cellist Jamal Aliyev, violist Jordan Bak, and recorder player Tabea Debus.

“Each of the winners receives management contracts with CAG, including performance opportunities with more than 40 leading orchestras, concert series, and festivals, as well as a New York showcase performance and professional career development and coaching,” according to the organization’s news release. Application materials for this year’s competition required “a general statement of your artistic intent. This should also include how you plan to use your art to make an impact outside the concert hall.”

The Merz Trio, which won first prize at the 2019 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, “is passionate about connecting with diverse audiences through innovative concerts, multidisciplinary projects, and interactive performances,” the group’s website indicates. The trio’s work has been supported in part by Entrepreneurial Musicianship grants from the New England Conservatory, where it is in residence. The Merz Trio was formed in 2017 and won the Lerman Gold Prize and Audience Choice Award at the 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition in Easton, Maryland.

Lee Dionne. Photo courtesy of the artist

A founding member of the Merz Trio, Dionne has performed as a chamber musician and as a soloist in venues around the world and has recorded for MSR Classics and Naxos Records. He is a core member of Cantata Profana along with several fellow Yale alumni including violinist Jacob Ashworth ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, cellist Hannah Collins ’06BS ’08MM ’09AD, clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich ’13MM, stage director Ethan Heard ’07BA ’13MFA, guitarist Arash Noori ’12MM ’13AD, percussionist Doug Perry ’14AD, soprano Annie Rosen ’08BA ’12MM, composer-pianist Daniel Schlosberg ’10BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, and bass-baritone John Taylor Ward ’12MM ’13MMA ’17DMA.

In addition to degrees earned at the Yale School of Music, Dionne has a soloist diploma from the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, and an undergraduate degree in literature from Yale College.

The final round of the 2019 CAG competition took place on October 6, 2019, at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Numerous YSM alumni have been among the winners of the CAG competition over the past decade. These include percussionist Mitya (Dmitrii) Nilov ’18MM; pianist Dominic Cheli ’16MM; guitarist Jiji (Jiyeon Kim) ’17MM; double bassist Samuel Suggs ’14MM ’20DMA; violinists Katie Hyun ’09AD and David Southorn ’09MM ’10AD, and cellist Mihai Marica ’04CERT ’08AD of the Amphion Quartet; violinist Sami Merdinian ’06MM ’07AD of Sybarite5; and violinist Sarah McElravy ’12AD, violist Eric Wong ’12AD, and cellist Felix Umansky ’12AD of the Linden String Quartet. The Argus Quartet, which served from 2015 to 2017 as YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, was a CAG competition winner in 2017. The competition has been held since the early 1950s.

The Yale Daily News recently published a piece about the Merz Trio. Read it here.

MERZ TRIO

LEE DIONNE

Published October 17, 2019
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