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The Richmond Symphony Welcomes Back Former Music Director George Manahan to Conduct Dvořák & American Masterpieces

January 24, 2019



The Richmond Symphony Welcomes Back Former Music Director George Manahan to Conduct Dvořák & American Masterpieces

Altria Masterworks: Dvořák & American Masterpieces

Saturday, February 9 at 8pm

Sunday, February 10 at 3pm
Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts

January 24, 2019 – Richmond, VA: The Richmond Symphony proudly welcomes the return of former Music Director George Manahan to lead this Altria Masterworks performance, Saturday, February 9 at 8pm and Sunday, February 10 at 3pm in the Dominion Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The program features two twentieth-century American titles, Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront and Copland’s Suite from Billy the Kid. These works are complemented by a contemporary piece from Aaron Jay Kernis, Musica Celestis, and Dvořák’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor, Op.53 performed by the Richmond Symphony’s Concertmaster Daisuke Yamamoto. With a dynamic program and world-class musicianship, the Richmond Symphony looks forward to inspiring audience members with the power of live music.

Currently the Music Director of both the American Composers Orchestra and Portland Opera, George Manahan‘s career embraces everything from opera to orchestra, traditional to contemporary. He is the winner of the prestigious Ditson Conductor’s Award for his promotion of American music. Following his twelve year tenure with the Richmond Symphony from 1986 – 1998, Mr. Manahan served as Music Director of the New York City Opera for fourteen seasons. His guest appearances have included the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and the symphonies of Atlanta, San Francisco, New Jersey, and the Hollywood Bowl. He is a regular guest with the Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared with the opera companies of San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Santa Fe, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera National du Paris, Teatro de Communale de Bologna, the Bergen Festival, and the Casals Festival.

On the Waterfront is Leonard Bernstein’s only film score. By transcending the particular story of the film for which it was written, the music depicts a larger slice of American life — the America of Bernstein himself, with its fast pace, fears, loneliness, and dreams. After Bernstein’s score received an Oscar nomination, the composer admitted that setting the mood for an already completed film was probably the most difficult work he had ever tried to do. “It has often been said that the best dramatic background music for a motion picture is that which is not heard . . . at least, not consciously heard.” Being in the background was never easy for Bernstein.

The Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront is composed entirely of such background music. There is no clearly recognizable “theme song,” however, the Suite does adhere closely to the melodic material introduced in the first few measures by the solo French horn. The music evokes several moods: the sorrow of the opening; the fear and danger of life on the piers in the early drum sequence; the frustration and hopeful longing of the flute and harp; and the resolute optimism of the work’s conclusion.

In 1938, Aaron Copland was asked to collaborate with the choreographer Eugene Loring on a ballet about the famous western outlaw “Billy the Kid” for Ballet Caravan (the touring version of the American Ballet). “I have never been particularly impressed with the musical beauties of the cowboy song as such,” Copland once wrote. Nonetheless, he took the songs along when he went to compose in Paris. “Perhaps there is something different about a cowboy song in Paris. . . It wasn’t very long before I found myself hopelessly involved in expanding, contracting, rearranging, and superimposing cowboy tunes on the rue de Rennes.” The suite that Copland extracted from the full length ballet kept all the primary dramatic musical elements as well as remnants of those cowboy tunes he was once so unimpressed by.

Dvořák began writing his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor, Op.53 the year after he wrote his Slavonic Dances. The orchestra boldly introduces the first movement of the concerto and then the violin responds with two cadenza-like statements. The principal melody predominates the first movement, at times robustly and other times more lyrically. There is a beautiful secondary theme, melancholy and pastoral in character. Just before there should be a typical restatement of the themes, there is a sudden shift into the second movement without any pause. This contains beautiful expressive melodies interrupted by some quick changes of mood and key. Three lively melodies alternate throughout the third movement, often intentionally confusing duple and triple meters. Throughout, Dvořák seems to be recalling those Slavonic Dances that brought him initial renown.

Aaron Jay Kernis’ Musica Celestis shares some interesting similarities with one of the most beloved (and listened-to) pieces of American orchestral literature: Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. The most obvious is that both are arrangements of the slow movements taken from each composer’s first string quartet. A second similarity is that both composers, born a half-century apart, can be called “neo-romantic” – a style that stands in direct contrast to many other modern trends in music. It is traditional, conservative and often tonal. Kernis started composing his String Quartet No. 1 when he “began realizing that [he] wanted everything to be included in the music: soaring melody, consonance, tension, dissonance, drive, relaxation, color, strong harmony, and form—and for every possible emotion to be elicited.” He adapted the quartet’s slow movement for string orchestra. Like the Barber Adagio, Musica Celestis begins very quietly, builds to a “high, intense, and impassioned climax, and subsides to a quiet conclusion.” Written just twenty-eight years ago, Musica Celesta hasn’t reached that level of popularity of Barber’s Adagio – but may well be on its way to such renown.

Tickets start at $10 for adults, and are free for active military members and for children 18 and under. Visit richmondsymphony.com or call 804.788.1212 for more information.
The concert sponsor is Keiter. The Masterworks series is sponsored by Altria. The media sponsor for this series is Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Saturday, February 9, 2019 at 8:00 PM
Sunday, February 10, 2019 at 3:00 PM

Richmond Symphony
Masterworks 5
George Manahan, Conductor



Musica Celestis





Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 53

I. Allegro; ma non troppo

II. Adagio; ma non troppo

III. Finale: Allegro giocoso; ma non troppo

Daisuke Yamamoto, violin







Suite from Billy the Kid

I. The Open Prairie

II. Street in a Frontier Town

III. Card Game at Night

IV. Running Gun Battle

V. Celebration on Billy’s Capture

VI. Billy’s Death

VII. The Open Prairie Again




Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront




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About the Richmond Symphony

Kicking off its 61st Season in September 2018, the Richmond Symphony is the largest performing arts organization in Central Virginia. The organization includes an orchestra of more than 70 professional musicians, the 150-voice Richmond Symphony Chorus and more than 260 students in the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra programs. Each season, more than 200,000 members of the community enjoy live concerts and radio broadcasts. The Symphony also provides educational outreach programs to over 55,000 students and teachers each year. The Symphony was recently named one of 21 American orchestras selected as a leader in orchestra innovation by the League of American Orchestras through its Futures Fund Initiative. The Richmond Symphony is partially funded by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Visit www.richmondsymphony.com for more information.


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