ROMANTIC Concert Program


December 2, 2023 - 7:30 PM David F. Clune Auditorium at Wilton High School

RSO Board of Directors

Jeanette Horan, President Michael Liebowitz, Treasurer Lana Afasieva Videen McGaughey Bennett Lori Berisford Jennifer Dineen Sarah Fox Lauren Mulvilhill

Jennifer Finnerty, Vice President Christopher Bennett, Secretary

Dan Sheehan Allison Stockel Joel Third Luis Uriarte Richard Vazzana

Music Director Yuga Cohler

Executive Director Laurie Kenagy Director of Marketing and Communications Jessica Hinkley Orchestra Staff

T.D. Ellis, Orchestra Personnel Manager Catherine Hazlehurst, Operations Manager Amy Selig, Librarian

Ridgefield Orchestra Foundation Board of Directors Dan O’Brien, President Christopher Bennett, Vice President Mike Soltis, Treasurer Diane Kessler, Secretary Donna Case Jeanette Horan Nick Kilsby Armel Kouassi Michael Liebowitz Rhys Moore David Whitehouse

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra 77 Danbury Road, Ridgefield CT 06877 203.438.3889 | email@ridgefieldsymphony,org |

Yuga Cohler, Music Director “Cohler conducted with surety and security. The orchestra...played with a joyful sense of making a history.” — THE LOS ANGELES TIMES

Yuga Cohler is a conductor and musical producer. He is the creator of multiple orchestral concerts presented by Lincoln Center that advance classical music as a culturally relevant institution, including K-Factor: An Orchestral Exploration of K-Pop, which garnered Lincoln Center’s youngest ever audience. He is also a member of isomonstrosity, a trio whose self- titled debut album combined contemporary classical music with rap and popular artists such as Danny Brown, Zacari, and Vic Mensa. Cohler’s work has been hailed as “musical genius,” and received acclaim from such media outlets as the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, and Rolling Stone. Cohler currently serves as the music director of the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra. From 2015 - 2018, he held the music directorship of the Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles, one of the foremost pre-professional orchestras in the country. Other orchestras with whom he has appeared in concert include the Juilliard Orchestra, Symphony New Hampshire, the Filharmonica Toscanini, the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra (Japan), and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, which he guest conducts regularly and led on a sold-out international tour that concluded at Carnegie Hall. In 2018, Cohler was awarded the Paolo Vero Orchestral Prize at the Toscanini International Conducting Competition as the only American participant. Among the other accolades granted to him are the David McCord Prize for Artistic Excellence, the Charles Schiff Conducting Award, a Career Assistance Award from the Solti Foundation U.S., the Ansbacher Fellowship from the American Austrian Foundation, and fellowships from the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen and the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Cohler is Artistic Director of the Asia / America New Music Institute (AANMI), a collective that pursues cultural exchange through modern music. With AANMI, he has performed over 20 world premieres at such venues as the Beijing Modern Music Festival, the Asian Composer’s League in Seoul, and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Cohler appears as both conductor and executive producer on AANMI’s debut album, Transcendent, released by Delos Records in 2018. Cohler received his master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where he studied conducting with New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert. Prior to this, he graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University, where he studied computer science. His senior thesis, Optimal Envy-Free Cake-Cutting, has been cited by over 50 articles in the academic literature. Cohler has appeared as a guest host of the nationally syndicated classical music radio show From the Top, as well as a speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

George Li, Piano Praised by The Washington Post for combining “staggering technical prowess, a sense of command, and depth of expression.”

Pianist George Li possesses brilliant virtuosity and effortless grace far beyond his years. Since winning the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition and being named the recipient of the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Li has rapidly established a major international reputation as he performs regularly with some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, such as Gustavo Dudamel, James Gaffigan, Valery Gergiev, Gustavo Gimeno, Manfred Honeck, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Kirill Petrenko, David Robertson, Leonard Slatkin, Yuri Temirkanov, Vladimir Spivakov, Michael Tilson Thomas, Long Yu, and Xian Zhang. George Li gave his first public performance at Boston’s Steinert Hall at the age of 10. In 2011, he performed for President Obama at the White House in an evening honoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among George Li’s many prizes and awards, he was the First Prize winner of the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, the inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition, and the Grand Prix Animato, as well as a recipient of the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist Award and the 2018 Arthur Waser Prize. George is an exclusive Warner Classics recording artist. His debut album, “Live at Mariinsky,” which was recorded live at the Mariinsky Concert Hall, won an Opus Klassik award for Soloist Recording of the Year in 2018. His second recording for the label features Liszt solo works and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which was recorded live with Vasily Petrenko and the London Philharmonic, and released in October 2019. George began his piano studies at age 4 with Dorothy Shi, before continuing with Wha Kyung Byun at New England Conservatory beginning at age 12. In 2019, he completed the Harvard/New England Conservatory dual degree program, with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Master’s degree in Music. He is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the New England Conservatory. When not playing piano, George is an avid reader and photographer, as well as a sports fanatic.

ROMANTIC December 2, 2023 7:30 PM David F. Clune Auditorium

Yuga Cohler, Conductor George Li, Piano

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18 Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943) I. Moderato II. Adagio sostenuto III. Allegro scherzando George Li, Piano


Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) I. Andante: Allegro con anima II. Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza III. Valse: Allegro moderato IV. Finale: Andante maestoso - Allegro vivace

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra Musicians Performing the December 2, 2023 Concert

VIOLIN 1 Rachel Handman, Concertmaster Gabriela Rengel, Asst. Concertmaster Corinne Metter Claudia Hafer Tondi

FLUTE Allison Hughes, Principal Elizabeth Kitson

TIMPANI Barbara Freedman

PERCUSSION James Walker, Principal Sean Charles

PICCOLO Cecilia Burns

Margaret Hill Lisa Laquidara Jennifer Malone Hobbs Simon Bilyk Kathleen Thomson Mark Kushnir

OBOE Keve Wilson, Principal Dorothy Darlington

CLARINET Julie Levene, Principal Mary Jane Kubeck Rodgers

VIOLIN 2 Silvia Padegs Grendze, Principal Chié Yoshinaka, Asst. Principal Mila Gufeld Joshua Daniels

BASSOON T.D. Ellis, Principal Lisa Alexander

Fong Fong Emily Franz Lawrence Watson Jenifer Trahan

HORN Sara Della Posta, Principal Marjorie Seymour Callaghan Darlene Kaukoranta Hanan Rahman

V IOLA Suzanne Corey-Sahlin, Principal Denise Cridge, Asst. Principal George Whetstone Jody Rowitsch Elizabeth Handman Amy Jones CELLO Nicholas Hardie, Principal Cheryl Labrecque, Asst. Principal Sarah Shreder Andrew Woodruff Paul Lee

T RUMPET Jens Larsen, Principal Andrew Willmott TROMONE Bradley Ward, Principal Kurt Eckhardt


TUBA Samantha Lake

DOUBLE BASS Kevin Callaghan, Principal Joseph Russo Wendy Kain Barone Edward Allman

Program Notes

PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2 IN C MINOR, OP. 18 – Sergei Rachmaninoff COMPOSED: Using some material that goes back to the early 1890s, Rachmaninoff wrote the second and third movements of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in the fall of 1900 and completed the first movement on May 4, 1901 WORLD PREMIERE: November 9, 1901. Rachmaninoff was soloist with his teacher and first cousin Alexander Siloti conducting in Moscow INSTRUMENTATION: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, and strings THE BACKSTORY: Rachmaninoff must have known how strong and original a work his First Symphony was. Nonetheless he was always subject to depression, and following the work’s awful premiere, he quickly found himself unable to face the sight of blank manuscript paper. He grew despondent. The longer his composer’s voice was silent the worse he felt; the worse he felt the more impossible the idea of composing. At the head of the first page of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto stands the simple dedication, “À Monsieur N. Dahl.” Monsieur Dahl was actually Dr. Nicolai Dahl, an internist who had been studying hypnosis. Dahl was also an excellent violist and cellist and founder of his own string quartet. Rachmaninoff began daily visits to him in January 1900. The first aim was to improve the composer’s sleep and appetite. The larger goal was to enable him to compose a piano concerto. Dr. Dahl’s treatment, a mixture of hypnotic suggestion (“You will begin your concerto . . . you will work with great facility . . . the concerto will be excellent. . :”) and cultured conversation, did its work. By April, Rachmaninoff felt well enough to travel to the Crimea and on to Italy. When he returned home, he brought with him sketches for the new piano concerto. Five days before the premiere in November 1901, he suffered a moment of panic and was convinced he had produced a totally incompetent piece of work, but the tempestuous success he enjoyed at the premiere seems to have convinced him otherwise. THE MUSIC: The Second Piano Concerto seems to unfold effortlessly, and that is something new in Rachmaninoff’s music. He begins magnificently, and with something so familiar that we come perilously close to taking it for granted, with a series of piano chords in crescendo. The gathering harmonic tension and dynamic force constitute a powerful springboard for the move into the home chord of C minor. Once there, the strings with clarinet initiate a plain but intensely expressive melody. Nowhere is the pianist so often an ensemble partner and so rarely a soloist aggressively in the foreground as in this first movement. The initial impulse plays itself out in one grand, tightly organized paragraph and it is only then that the orchestra falls silent and the pianist steps forward as a vocal soloist in the grand Romantic manner. Rachmaninoff constructs a bridge passage into the second movement. Again the pianist is at first the accompanist, briefly to the flute, at greater length to the clarinet. Throughout the movement the relationship between piano and orchestra is imagined and worked out with great delicacy. There is something touching about the way the piano shyly inserts just six notes of melody between the first two phrases of the clarinet, the roles of piano and orchestra being reversed later in the movement. Reena Esmail

RACHMANINOFF PROGRAM NOTES cont.: A quicker interlude functions as a token scherzo. This interlude spills into a splash of cadenza, and for just five notes a pair of flutes eases the music back into softly swaying arpeggios. Rachmaninoff again makes a bridge into the finale, beginning with distant, rather conspiratorial march music, then working his way around to the piano’s assertive entrance. The march music is now determined and vigorous, and Rachmaninoff finds for contrast the most famous of his big tunes. It all moves to a rattling bring-down-the-house conclusion. – program notes by Michael Steinberg SYMPHONY NO. 5 IN E MINOR, OP. 64 – Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky COMPOSED: 1888 WORLD PREMIERE: November 17, 1888 in Saint Petersburg, Russia by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic conducted by Tchaikovsky INSTRUMENTATION: 3 flutes with 3rd doubling piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets (doubled), 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings THE BACKSTORY: Tchaikovsky approached his Fifth Symphony from a position of extreme self-doubt, nearly always his posture vis-à-vis his incipient creations. In May 1888, he confessed in a letter to his brother, Modest, that he feared his imagination had dried up, that he had nothing more to express in music. Still, there was a glimmer of hope: “I am hoping to collect, little by little, material for a symphony.” Tchaikovsky was spending the summer of 1888 at a vacation residence he had built on a forested hillside at Frolovskoe, not a long trip from his home base in Moscow. The idyllic locale proved conducive to inspiration and apparently played a major role in helping him conquer his demons long enough to complete this symphony, which he did in four months. Tchaikovsky made a habit of keeping his patron, Nadezhda von Meck, informed about his compositions through detailed letters, and thanks to this ongoing correspondence we have a good deal of information about how the Fifth Symphony progressed during that summer. Tchaikovsky had met Mme. von Meck a dozen years earlier. In fact he hadn’t exactly “met” her, since an eccentric stipulation of her philanthropy was that they should avoid personal contact. Tchaikovsky’s labor on the symphony was already well along when he broached the subject with Mme. von Meck, in a letter on June 22: “I shall work my hardest. I am exceedingly anxious to prove to myself, as to others, that I am not played out as a composer. Have I told you that I intend to write a symphony? The beginning was difficult, but now inspiration seems to have come. We shall see. . . .” His correspondence on the subject brims with allusions to the emotional background to this piece, which involved resignation to fate, the designs of providence, murmurs of doubt, and similarly dark thoughts. Critics blasted the symphony at its premiere, due in part to the composer’s limited skill on the podium; and yet the audience was enthusiastic. Tchaikovsky, true to type, decided the critics must be right. In December he wrote to von Meck, Having played my Symphony twice in Petersburg and once in Prague, I have come to the conclusion that it is a failure. There is something repellent in it, some over-exaggerated color, some insincerity of fabrication which the public instinctively recognizes. It was clear to me that the applause and ovations referred not to this but to other works of mine, and that the Symphony itself will never please the public. Samuel Barber Leonard Bernstein

TCHAIKOVSKY PROGRAM NOTES cont.: Elsewhere he wrote of his Fifth Symphony, “the organic sequence fails, and a skillful join has to be made. . . . I cannot complain of lack of inventive power, but I have always suffered from want of skill in the management of form.” These comments reveal considerable self-awareness; one might say that Tchaikovsky was wrong, but for all the right reasons. The work’s orchestral palette is indeed unusually colorful (despite the fact that the composer employs an essentially Classical orchestra of modest proportions). The composer was quite on target about “the management of form” being his weak suit; and, indeed, the Fifth Symphony may be viewed as something of a patchwork— the more so when compared to the relatively tight symphony that preceded it eleven years earlier. And if Tchaikovsky was embarrassed by the degree of overt sentiment he reached in the Fifth Symphony, it still fell short of the emotional frontiers he would cross in his Sixth. THE MUSIC: The Fifth Symphony adheres to the classic four-movement form, but the movements are unified to some degree through common reference to a “motto theme,” a sort of Berliozian idée fixe announced by the somber clarinets at the outset. Most commentators are happy to agree that this represents the idea of Fate to which Tchaikovsky referred in his prose sketch of April 1888. It will reappear often in this symphony, sometimes reworked considerably, and it certainly defines the bleak tone that governs much of the proceedings. And yet, not everything is bleak. Shafts of sunlight often cut through the shadows: hopeful secondary melodies, orchestration of illuminating brightness, rhythmic vivacity and variety, passages of balletic grace. “If Beethoven’s Fifth is Fate knocking at the door,” wrote a commentator when the piece was new, “Tchaikovsky’s Fifth is Fate trying to get out.” It nearly does so in a journey that threatens to culminate in a series of climactic B major chords. But notwithstanding the frequent interruption of audience applause at that point, the adventure continues to a conclusion that is to some extent ambiguous: four closing E major chords that we may hear as triumphant but may just as easily sound ominous. – program notes by James M. Keller, Program Annotator of the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic Samuel Barber Leonard Bernstein

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Join us for an upcoming RSO performance! Information & Tickets: 203.438.3889 |

Click HERE for our calendar of events for the 2023/2024 Season

Thank you to the following community partners for the generous sponsorship and grant support!

Proud to Support

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra

When the arts flourish, spirits lift, and minds soar.

203.431.7431 •

Bridgeport | Danbury | Darien | Fairfield | Georgetown | Norwalk | Ridgefield Rowayton | Stamford | Weston | Westport | Wilton


presented by

Sunday, February 4th Ridgefield Parks & Recreation

Purchase Your Ticket for the Culinary Best

11:00am - 1:00PM or 3:00PM - 5:00PM

$50 Advance Adult Ticket $55 Adult Ticket At the Door $25 Children Under 12 Tickets Available ONLINE or SCAN the QR Code

665 Danbury Rd, Ridgefield, CT 06877 Sales: 203-403-0125 Service: 203-403-0115 Parts: 203-403-0104

Sponsors of the MUSIC AT THE MANSION Chamber Music Concert Series

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39

Made with FlippingBook Annual report maker