Gemma New, Sam Casseday:
young prodigies concert
young prodigies concert
In with the New! For all the famous, veteran soloists the MCO presents, we feature nearly as many young prodigies on the cusp of fame. Guest conductor Gemma New and double bassist Sam Casseday are surely among them.
With jaw-dropping artistry, 23-year-old Casseday will perform a double bass arrangement of Mozart’s 5th violin concerto, otherwise known as ‘The Turkish.’
You know the tune. You’ve heard it played on violin and as a cellphone ringtone — but have you ever heard it played on a big, bad double bass?
Around the same time Gemma New debuted at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan two years ago, the highest rated classical music radio station in the US named her one of the top five female conductors on the rise. As if to underscore their assessment, an orchestra no less prestigious than the St. Louis Symphony announced Gemma’s appointment to the position of ‘Resident Conductor’ effective from the beginning of the 2016/17 season. Celebrated for her insightful interpretations and dramatic performances, the 29 year-old will amply demonstrate to Winnipeggers why she’s been causing such a stir.
Gemma New, breaking the glass ceiling
Gemma New, who is the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s recently-appointed music director, is (alongside the MCO’s Anne Manson) one of North America’s few female conductors. New has never let the gender gap, a carry-over of the male-centric history of classical music, faze her. “Just growing up, it never occurred to me to ask, ‘Can I do this because I’m a girl?’ It seemed laughable to me,” she said. “I strongly believed, and I was always told, that if you had a passion and a mindset and a career path you want to pursue, then you can do it.”
The concerts begin at 7:30 pm on March 29th in Westminster United Church , 745 Westminster at Maryland. Tickets are $34 for adults, $32 for seniors and $10 for students, including GST, at McNally Robinson , the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice at Sherbrook), Organic Planet (877 Westminster Ave) or MCO’s Ticketline (204-783-7377).
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Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Anne Manson, Music Director
Karl Stobbe, Concertmaster
Westminster United Church
29 March 2017
Gemma New, conductor
Sam Casseday, double bass
Alan Gordon Bell
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5, in A Major — ‘Turkish’
Sir Ernest MacMillan
Two Sketches on French-Canadian Airs
Serenade for Strings, in E Flat Major, Op. 6
Concert sponsor / Investors Group
Sought after for her insightful interpretations and dynamic performances, New Zealand-born conductor Gemma New currently serves as Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Associate Conductor for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. A strong advocate for new music and innovative orchestral models, she is the Founder and Director of the Lunar Ensemble, a contemporary music collective in Baltimore as well as being the Principal Conductor for the New York City based ensemble Camerata Notturna. Ms New has been appointed Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, effective at the start of this season.
As one of two Dudamel Conducting Fellows with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the 2014/15 Season, Ms New led nine LA Phil concerts and covered frequently for their Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor Laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen, and other guest conductors. For the month of September 2014, at the invitation of Maestro Kurt Masur, Ms New resided in Leipzig, Germany as a Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Fellow, where she studied Mendelssohn’s music under Maestro Masur and led the Leipziger Symphonieorchester in the historic Lindensaal of Markkleeberg.
In 2013, Ms New made her Carnegie Hall conducting debut, leading works by Adams, Norman and Ives on the American Soundscapes series. That same year she was selected as the David A. Karetsky Conducting Fellow at the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival. One year prior Ms New was awarded the Ansbacher Fellowship, in which she was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to take up residence at the Salzburg Music Festival.
Under her leadership, the Lunar Ensemble has premiered almost 40 works since 2011 and has held composition residencies at several US universities, including the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Frost School of Music in Miami FL and Tulane University in New Orleans. Another Lunar Ensemble highlight was the Pierrot Centenary Project, which united all fifty poems of Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire through commissioned works by selected composers, culminating in the release of Lunar’s first album, featuring those works alongside Schoenberg’s seminal Pierrot lunaire.
Passionate about music education, Ms New has enjoyed working with the NJSO Academy Orchestra and New Jersey All State Orchestra during her time as Associate Conductor for the NJSO. Between 2007 and 2009, Ms New conducted the Christchurch Youth Orchestra, which grew from 40 to 70 players under her leadership and performed upwards of nine concerts a year.
Ms New holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, where she studied with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar. She graduated from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand with a Bachelor of Music (Honours) in violin performance.
Sam Casseday, from Jacksonville, Florida, entered the Curtis Institute of Music—where he is the Mrs. Cary William Bok Fellow—in 2012 and studies with Harold Hall Robinson, principal bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and renowned double-bass player, Edgar Meyer. Mr. Casseday has appeared on National Public Radio’s From the Top and as a soloist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He previously attended summer programs at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and at the Aspen Music Festival and School. At Music Academy of the West he competed in the final round of the festival's solo competition. Primarily an orchestral player, Sam has played with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He began double bass lessons at age five and studied previously with his father, Kevin Casseday. He resides in Philadelphia and is entering his fifth and final year at the Curtis Institute.
Allan Gordon Bell
Allan Gordon Bell was born in Calgary in 1953. He received a Master of Music degree from the University of Alberta, where he studied with Violet Archer, Malcolm Forsyth and Manus Sasonkin. He also did advanced studies in composition at the Banff Centre, where his teachers were Jean Coulthard, Bruce Mather and Oskar Morawetz. He is now Professor of Music at the University of Calgary, an associate Composer of Music at the University of Calgary, an Associate Composer and Past President of the Canadian Music Centre, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Member of the Order of Canada.
Bell has created works for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestra, band, and electro-acoustic media, as well as an opera. His music has been performed by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Esprit Orchestra, the Orford String Quartet, eighth blackbird, the ensembles of Toronto New Music Concerts, Arraymusic, Soundstreams Canada, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec New Works Calgary and Lands End Chamber Music—as well as many other professional and amateur organizations in North America, Europe and Asia. Symphony orchestras that have performed Bell's compositions include those of Edmonton, the National Arts Centre, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Tokyo, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg. In Winnipeg, he was Distinguished In 2002 and 2011, he was Distinguished Visiting Composer at the Winnipeg New Music Festival, and in 2014 he was the composer-in-residence at the Shattering the Silence Festival and a visiting composer at the Festival of the Sound. In 2014, Bell won a Juno award for his chamber work Field Notes in the Classical Composition of the Year category.
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, K. 219—Turkish
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
—performed on the double bass
Mozart, the greatest of all child prodigies in music, received from his father Leopold a thorough education in composition and performance. The latter included instruction in piano, harpsichord and violin. As an adult, Wolfgang concentrated his performing skills on the piano. In his early years, he appeared most often as a soloist on the violin, beginning with the concert tours his family made during the 1760s. His father once wrote to him that “[y]ou yourself do not know how well you play the violin … when you play with energy and with your whole heart and soul, yes indeed, it’s just as though you were the finest violinist in all of Europe.” This was no small compliment, coming from a renowned authority on the instrument. He published his widely used violin method in the year of Wolfgang’s birth.
Between June and December 1775, Wolfgang composed all but the first of the five violin concertos that can be unquestionably attributed to him. He completed No. 5 on 20 December 1775. It is not only the most accomplished of the series but also the most unusual. The first movement has the tempo marking Allegro aperto, for example, meaning quick and open. He appears to be the only composer to use this adjective. He applied it to just eight other works, the vocal numbers of which are either, in the words of author Jean-Pierre Marty, “hymns to hope, to joy, to love, and to nature and to happiness,” or liturgical songs of praise. This concerto movement evokes a similar mood.
The soloist’s first entry is another example of the concerto’s uniqueness. It is remarkable for being quite different in tempo and mood—quiet and dreamy—from the preceding, almost martial orchestral introduction. It’s as if the violinist were saying to the orchestra, “catch your breath while I introduce myself.” And once the quicker tempo resumes, the soloist introduces a completely new theme.
The second movement is a true Adagio, slow and heartfelt, in contrast to the easy, flowing Andante that was typical of the era. Its lyrical intensity borders on the operatic. The finale, a rondo in the style of a minuet, is the source of the concerto’s nickname. It begins in appropriately courtly fashion. In the delightfully startling minor key episode mid-way through, Mozart instructs the cellos and basses to strike their strings with the wood of the bow and asks the soloist for virtuoso pyrotechnics. These practices recall the Turkish military music that was all the rage in Austria at the time—but they evoke the folk music of Hungary to an equal degree. At that time, the word ‘Turkish’ was a catch-all term that might be applied to any music that evoked the colourful, exotic folk tunes of people living east of Austria.
Two Sketches on French-Canadian Airs
Sir Ernest MacMillan
Sir Ernest MacMillan earned the status of Canada’s elder musical statesman through his tireless and widespread activities as conductor (he was music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1931 to 1956), composer, arranger, educator, broadcaster and administrator. His talent and devotion won him the only knighthood ever bestowed upon a Canadian musician.
His original compositions included theatre pieces, orchestral works, chamber, keyboard and choral music. He also helped preserve the country’s rich heritage of folk music through his arrangements of homegrown material. He composed this appealing work in 1927. The occasion was the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Québec Folk Festival. He came across both melodies in Folk Songs of French Canada (1925), a collection edited by Marius Barbeau and Edward Sapir.
According to MacMillan, the first sketch, Notre Seigneur en pauvre (Our Lord in Beggar’s Disguise) “tells the well known legend (found in many variants), of Christ disguising himself as a beggar. He is brusquely refused by the rich miser but is welcomed by his pregnant wife who gives him food and shelter. The second sketch, À Saint-Malo, pictures the Breton port of Saint-Malo from which so many of the early settlers in Canada, beginning with Jacques Cartier, originally set sail. The present tune is a great favourite, and while not highly distinctive, it is characterized by a briskness and gaiety which commend it to the hearer.”
Serenade for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 6
Suk played a major role in the musical life of his native land (Bohemia, later renamed Czechoslovakia, then the Czech Republic). He was active as a composer, teacher, and a violinist for more than 40 years in the acclaimed Czech Quartet. He composed numerous piano works, songs and chamber pieces. His finest creations are his orchestral compositions, headed by the dramatic Asrael (Angel of Death) Symphony, and the delightful concert suite, A Fairy Tale.
He graduated from the Prague Conservatory in 1891, but he stayed on an extra year to study composition with the great composer Antonín Dvořák. This proved crucial to his professional and personal lives alike. He became Dvořák’s favourite pupil, and some of his music—early works such as this delectable Serenade in particular—is cast in the mould of his teacher’s warm-hearted, folk-influenced style. Serious and sombre describe much of the music that Suk composed for Dvořák’s class, however, including the Dramatic Overture he created for his graduation in 1892. At that time, Suk entered into a romantic relationship with Dvořák’s daughter Otylka. They married in 1898.
Soon after Suk’s graduation, Dvořák sent him off on holiday with the following suggestion: “It’s summertime now, so go and make something cheerful for a change, some respite from these eternal pomposities in minor keys.” The eighteen-year-old Suk responded with this serenade. He composed the first three movements while visiting his hometown, Křečovice, and the finale later that autumn. The Prague Conservatory Orchestra gave the first complete performance on 25 February 1894. It so strongly impressed Johannes Brahms, who had already done much to promote the music of Dvořák, that he recommended it to his publisher. It was printed in 1896.
Suk’s piece does show the influence of the Serenade for Strings that Dvořák had composed in 1875 (and which the MCO performed at the opening concert of the season). Yet it has enough individuality and creative assurance to stand as much more than a simple act of imitation. The first movement is relaxed and genial. Suk follows it with the sort of gentle, lilting waltz that both Dvořák and Tchaikovsky had included in their serenades for strings. The poignancy that wells up in the central section of the waltz comes to the fore in the third movement, the most substantial and serious of the four. The finale is vigorous and joyful, but Suk finds room in it for more thoughtful moments, too.
Dvořák didn’t have a chance to hear Suk’s Serenade until 1894 when he returned from his first visit to America. He expressed his approval, adding this playful comment: “You will never get very far: you write too big notes—save paper! Still, Handel also wrote big notes and yet he was a great composer!”