Carnegie Hall, please.
Please, here are your tickets. Enjoy the show.
Your tickets, please? Follow me.
Jeff Spurgeon: In New York City, there are lots of ways to get to Carnegie Hall, subway, a taxi, a walk down 57th Street. You have just found another way to get to America's most famous home for classical music. Welcome to Carnegie Hall Live, the broadcast series that gives you a front-row seat to concerts by some of the greatest artists in the world and you hear the performances exactly as they happen. You are part of the audience sharing the experience of music-making at Carnegie Hall. I'm Jeff Spurgeon.
Annie Bergen: I'm Annie Bergen, backstage at Carnegie Hall. Tonight we're continuing an annual tradition here at Carnegie. We're bringing you a concert by the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. Since 2013, Carnegie Hall has brought together some of the most talented young musicians from around the United States to be part of this program. With us now is the man who had the vision to bring these ensembles to life, the Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, Clive Gillinson. Welcome, Clive
Clive Gillinson: Annie, hi there, and thanks for inviting me on.
Annie Bergen: Sure. What an exciting night. I mean, it's great that this orchestra is back on stage after a three-year absence. Really incredible.
Clive Gillinson: It's been thrilling. It's been a particularly thrilling season. I think the whole audience, having missed live music for two years, it was so emotional for so many concerts, and tonight for these kids, the first time back for them at National Youth Orchestra after a two-year absence is fantastic.
Annie Bergen: Now, this program has certainly grown since you began it. There are now three ensembles. Tell us about them.
Clive Gillinson: Sure. Our original concept was for the National Youth Orchestra, 16 to 19-year-olds, the most brilliant, all around the country, who we would bring together and then take on a major tour either across America or to venues around the world. We also at the beginning had the view that we wanted to create NYO Jazz as well because that is America's art form. That was last. The second one that we created was NYO2, which is a younger orchestra. That came out of the fact that we were getting extraordinary players for NYO, but it wasn't as diverse as America's population and we felt there were a lot of kids who hadn't had the opportunities, either not access to the best teaching or in other ways and we wanted to reach out and bring together those kids, so we created NYO2 to do that. They have now gone through NYO2, they've been nourishing NYO, and they're going on to music colleges and into the profession in America, transforming the profession in America.
Annie Bergen: It's terrific. Tonight, we hear the original ensemble, the NYO USA, 16 to 19-year-olds, as you said and they audition for the program, then they come for training in Purchase, New York?
Clive Gillinson: They do SUNY Purchase from the beginning has been our partner, and they spend two weeks up there, not only preparing for the concert that comes at the end of the tour, but also playing chamber music, working with each other, work with a composer in residence. They do all sorts of things that really develop them as musicians, but also we want to try and develop them as people who want to put something back into society from having had this great experience.
Annie Bergen: Then they have the concert here at Carnegie Hall. What happens after that?
Clive Gillinson: They have a concert here, which, obviously, is a huge thing for them. Big, big event. Then they go on, they'll travel to Amsterdam, Berlin, Ravello in Italy, and then onto the Lausanne Festival in Switzerland. They play in the greatest venues in the world.
Annie Bergen: When did you realize the need for a national youth orchestra in this country?
Clive Gillinson: For me, playing in the National Youth Orchestra, Great Britain as a kid, was one of the greatest experiences in my entire life. When I arrived here and found there wasn't a national youth orchestra, I couldn't believe it, but, of course, America does so many things by state rather than nationally. I felt this was a responsibility Carnegie Hall really should take on to create this, and it's been one of the greatest things we've ever done. It transforms the lives of everybody who Participates.
Annie Bergen: It certainly has. Thank you so much, Clive. We're going to get back to you at intermission.
Clive Gillinson: Thanks a lot.
Jeff Spurgeon: Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, he could be three people tonight and he wouldn't be in enough places. He's so busy this evening, so we're really grateful that he's taken time to join us for this broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live. The first piece we're going to hear on this program tonight is the Cello Concerto by Edward Elgar, and the soloist in the work will be Alisa Weilerstein. She's one of the finest cellist of her generation. The Los Angeles Times says that she and the cello seem to be one of the same. In addition to many other honors she has received, she also in 2011 was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, the Genius Grant.
Annie Bergen: She'll be playing one of the favorite pieces in the cello repertoire. Edward Elgar might be best known for his enigma variations and, of course, the pomp and circumstance marches. He was a bit of a late bloomer, only coming into prominence in his 40s, and finishing his first symphony in his 50s and the Cello Concerto is the last full-scale orchestral work Elgar wrote, and it was at a very difficult time for the world, especially Europe. Elgar, like many other composers of his time, was forever impacted by World War I. He completed his Cello Concerto in 1919. Not only was he troubled by this war to end all wars, but he was also financially troubled and in ill health. He wrote everything good and nice and clean and fresh and sweet as far away never to return.
Jeff Spurgeon: And that feeling, that foreboding you can hear in the music. There are four movements in the Elgar Cello Concerto. Instead of bringing the listener in gradually with an orchestral introduction, traditional four concertos, four individual instruments, Elgar drops us almost straight away into a very dramatic solo moment for the cello. The piece was not very popular when it was originally written, but it has gained popularity over time through lots of performances, and let's not discount the importance of the Jacqueline du Pré recording that she made of the work in the 1960s. Conductor Daniel Harding, who is leading the orchestra, the NYO, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America in just a moment, told us about what it's like for the orchestra. These young people, 16 to 19 years of age from around the United States to work with cellist Alisa Weilerstein on their first rehearsal.
Daniel Harding: They're so inspired having her sitting there. When someone sets the bar that high and you can see them all like, "Okay, we got to do what we can do." It's a tremendous thing that she's taken the time to be with us and play this piece. Again, another piece which is absolutely not a young person's piece. We are confronting them with pieces of music that are really about the important and the internal things. I think it's hugely important to discover these things and think about these things when you're young as a musician and not to talk down to youth orchestra and say, "No, we should only play young people's music."
Jeff Spurgeon: That was the voice of Daniel Harding. He's the conductor of this concert that you are about to hear from Carnegie Hall, and that ovation, well, that was for Daniel Lee. He's the concertmaster from Kenner, Louisiana, New Orleans community. He will be the concertmaster for the first half of this concert, which is the Elgar Concerto. Annie, it's wonderful to see this group of young people, these 16 to 19-year-olds from across the country on stage at Carnegie Hall, and they all have these wonderful uniforms that have been a tradition.
Annie Bergen: Thank you too.
Jeff Spurgeon: You can tell us what we're looking at.
Annie Bergen: It's a great site to see. They are all dressed in red trousers, black jackets, and black and white Converse sneakers. They look terrific. It's really exciting.
Jeff Spurgeon: I have to believe, I think Converse has been with the National Youth Orchestra since its inception. I don't know if they have a nicer promotion than this would. It's a really wonderful thing to see the kids in those sneakers. The house is almost completely full here at Carnegie Hall. You can imagine that with about 100 and change young musicians getting a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall, that parents come from around the country, but there are lots of other people who are really fascinated by this project. As I say, we have a good-sized house tonight for this performance of the Elgar Concerto in the first half of the concert and the Mahler Symphony No. 5 in the second half.
Annie Bergen: Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and conductor Daniel Harding have just stepped out onto the stage to the applause of the musicians and the audience. Alisa shaking hands with the concertmaster. So exciting, as you said, for many of these musicians, it's their first time on the stage of Carnegie Hall, the Cello Concerto by Elgar, about to be performed by the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, conducted by Daniel Harding. Alisa Weilerstein is the featured soloist.
[MUSIC - Edward Elgar: Cello Concerto in E Minor]
Jeff Spurgeon: From Carnegie Hall Live, you have just heard a performance of the Cello Concerto of Edward Elgar, featuring soloist Alisa Weilerstein, conductor Daniel Harding, and the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. A project of Carnegie Hall, bringing together more than 100 musicians. In just this ensemble alone, there are three NYOs, National Youth Orchestras, in the Carnegie Hall Program. This is the largest, the senior organization, 16 to 19-year-olds in the orchestra that just participated with Alisa Weilerstein in that Elgar performance. Great big audience in Carnegie Hall. Now we're backstage too. My co-host, Annie Bergen is right there.
Annie Bergen: Yes. Alisa Weilerstein getting a round of applause from everyone back here as she steps back on stage to receive another ovation with conductor Daniel Harding. Alisa bowing to the audience, and recognizing Daniel Harding, and he gesturing to the musicians to all rise. Then, of course, everyone applauding in appreciation for that tremendous performance. It's such an emotional piece.
Jeff Spurgeon: There's so much electricity in a performance like this, in a work like this, it asks so much of its soloist work with a great history, and then you add the electricity. All of that youthful energy in the NYO, and so you have a really excited group of people on stage and in the audience as well at Carnegie Hall tonight.
Annie Bergen: This is their first big US concert before they head overseas. The pandemic had put a hold on the orchestra being able to travel for the past couple of seasons, but now they have their passports in hand and are ready to take on Europe. It is intermission here at Carnegie Hall. I am Annie Bergen and we are backstage. Just off the stage, the musicians in their red trousers, black jackets, and Converse sneakers are all filing now off the stage. In just a short while, we'll have a conversation with Alisa. We'll begin our second half in just a while to hear Mahler Symphony No. 5.
Jeff Spurgeon: We'll spend a few minutes with Alisa and with Clive Gillinson. Then we'll get you all ready for this great, massive piece of Mahler music that is going to occupy the second half of this concert. Now--
Annie Bergen: Clive is with me. Clive, welcome back.
Clive Gillinson: Hi, thank you.
Annie Bergen: Why don't you put on your headphones.
Clive Gillinson: Alisa, that was wonderful.
Alisa Weilerstein: Thank you. Thank you.
Annie Bergen: It's a terrific performance.
Alisa Weilerstein: Thank you so much.
Annie Bergen: Clive, what do you think?
Clive Gillinson: It's one of my favorite pieces anyway. I adore it, but then I'm English. It truly is one of the most expressive pieces ever written, isn't it?
Alisa Weilerstein: Absolutely.
Clive Gillinson: It's so beautiful and it's so heartfelt and I thought you played it absolutely beautifully. It was wonderful.
Alisa Weilerstein: I appreciate that. It's something so personal-
Clive Gillinson: It really is.
Alisa Weilerstein: -and in a way, especially in the third and fourth movements in particular that you feel like you're looking in very private moments and it's almost unbearable in a way. It's very, very, very personal, very intimate.
Clive Gillinson: It's really such a good cello, isn't it?
Alisa Weilerstein: Completely. Completely. Yes.
Annie Bergen: Alisa, you've played this piece with many different orchestras. What was it like to play it tonight with these young musicians?
Alisa Weilerstein: Oh, it was absolutely fantastic. It's been great actually to go through the rehearsal process and see things just coalesce. The enthusiasm, of course, is just amazing. We have four more concerts to play actually on the tour, so this is going to be great fun.
Annie Bergen: You yourself started playing at a very young age. When did you become familiar with the Elgar Concerto?
Alisa Weilerstein: Oh, gosh, I wanted to play it well before I actually could play it. Maybe I know that I was six or seven or something I heard it for the first time. Of course, I begged my teachers to let me learn it and they obviously said no because I could barely play the cello. I remember I think I was around 12 when I learned it, learned the notes as a student and then played it in public for the first time with orchestra when I was around 16.
Annie Bergen: Did you yourself have any youth orchestra experience like these kids?
Alisa Weilerstein: Oh, yes. Although not at their age, I was a bit younger. I played in the Cleveland Youth Orchestra from the time I was 10 until I was 12. Then, as a student at Aspen, I played a lot of opera, actually, which I loved. It was super fun.
Annie Bergen: You had your first rehearsal with the orchestra just this week. Did you get to spend much time with the kids, talk the piece over?
Alisa Weilerstein: No.
Annie Bergen: No.
Alisa Weilerstein: Honestly, no, to be perfectly honest. There was a bit more rehearsal than there would be with a professional orchestra. Of course, going over things which, of course, that they never played before and that we really needed to work out in a more detailed way, which was just great fun. I never run through rehearsals. I like to work. I like rehearsing.
Annie Bergen: You have plenty of time to get to know them when you go on the tour, right?
Alisa Weilerstein: Yes. They've been so sweet.
Annie Bergen: You can talk all the way.
Alisa Weilerstein: They've been just so wonderful to be with them. It's just the beginning.
Annie Bergen: The conductor Daniel Harding said that you met a while ago in Australia-
Alisa Weilerstein: Correct.
Annie Bergen: -but only work together a couple of times.
Alisa Weilerstein: Yes, we chose to cover each one together with Mahler Chamber Orchestra. It was two concerts in Australia. I think we were in Australia for a total of four days and we came from Europe. It was a big blur. Clive's shaking his head, he's like, yes.
Clive Gillinson: Insane.
Alisa Weilerstein: It was a little insane. It was fun.
Annie Bergen: How is Daniel Harding doing with the kids?
Alisa Weilerstein: Fantastic. He's really, really great with them. The chemistry is really great.
Annie Bergen: What do you learn from these kinds of experiences with young musicians?
Alisa Weilerstein: Oh, let me count the ways. It's about communication. It's about what really gets through. It's about how the learning process really is and very often the less we say, the better, because people pick up on things and the way everyone is learning to listen, they really react, and if we give them the space to react, it produces a really amazing result.
Annie Bergen: Tell us about your new project, Fragments.
Alisa Weilerstein: Oh, how much time do we have?
Alisa Weilerstein: I commissioned 27 different composers. There are actually 28 composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. On the project, it's a multi-season project in six chapters and I'm playing the first chapter, of course, at Carnegie on April 1st. It is 60 minutes played without pause. I asked each composer to do the same thing, 10 minutes of music and two or three fragments that I could intersperse with one another, as well as the movements of Bach. Chapter one, you'll hear the complete first Bach suite and several different pieces of new music that I've ordered in a completely original order, and there will be no programs for you to look at while you're listening to the concerts.
You'll find out what you've heard afterwards just because I'm of the strong belief that especially when we hear new music, that when we know too much about the person who has written it in advance, that we somehow listen differently. I wanted to experiment with the idea of that this is the project that it's not about the people that have written the music so much rather than the music that they've actually written.
Annie Bergen: The experience.
Alisa Weilerstein: The experience of it. I've also engaged Elkhanah Pulitzer, the fantastic director, and Seth Reiser, lighting designer, to really add this incredible visceral element of responsive lighting to the entire experience. I'm very excited about this.
Annie Bergen: It will be at Carnegie in April.
Alisa Weilerstein: Yes. Indeed.
Annie Bergen: We're really forward to that.
Alisa Weilerstein: Indeed.
Annie Bergen: Thank you so much, Alisa Weilerstein.
Alisa Weilerstein: Thank you.
Annie Bergen: Terrific performance.
Alisa Weilerstein: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Annie Bergen: This is Classical New York 105.9 FM in HD WQXR, Newark, and 90.3 FM WQXW, Ossining.
Clive Gillinson: Thanks, Alisa. [crosstalk].
Jeff Spurgeon: We are at intermission of the performance by the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, the 2022 edition, as they present themselves to the world in this concert, and, of course, with Alisa Weilerstein in that great Elgar Concerto. Clive Gillinson, Artistic and Executive Director of Carnegie Hall, you played that concerto a time or two, right? You were an orchestral cellist for many years in London, but you surely spent some time with the Elgar Concerto yourself.
Clive Gillinson: I played it in my late teens at the Royal Academy of Music when I was studying there, and also, I was very lucky to play with the first orchestra there. It's one of the most beautiful pieces to play as well. You could hear the way Alisa spoke about it. It is so expressive, it's so soulful. It really demands a huge amount of you as a player and a very difficult piece for a young player to play. I remember at the time trying to find the depths of this artistically. It's very difficult, because it's one of the pieces that he wrote towards the end of his life and it's a very sad piece, in fact, very profound.
Jeff Spurgeon: Indeed, as you say, Clive, very beautiful and so much richness for the soloist. This concert is about the experience of putting young musicians together for the first time and seeing the magic of the music that they can make. We're going to have that experience in a few minutes again when the NYO for 2022 plays just another small piece in the second half of the work, the Mahler Symphony No. 5. That is something we are going to look forward to in just a few minutes. We will have some more time as well with Clive Gillinson. Right now, let's spend a little bit more time with Alisa Weilerstein. A few years ago here in New York City at WQXR's studios, she came to us and played for us a little bit of Bach and we thought we'd share that with you tonight.
[MUSIC - Bach: Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major]
Jeff Spurgeon: We didn't get an in-concert encore from cellist Alisa Weilerstein on this performance from Carnegie Hall Live, but we are happy to share with you her performance just now of the Prelude and Gigue from Bach's cello suite, the suites for unaccompanied cello number three in this case, a recording that was made in the studios of WQXR in New York a few years ago when Alisa Weilerstein dropped by for a visit. She dropped by Carnegie Hall tonight for a performance of the Elgar Cello Concerto with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. That was the first half of this concert. The second half will begin in a few minutes. The Mahler, Symphony No. 5. I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside co-host Annie Bergen and Carnegie Hall's Executive and Artistic Director, Clive Gillinson.
Annie Bergen: Welcoming back Clive. This second half, as we've mentioned, is going to feature Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Wow. Quite a substantial piece of music for some young musicians to play over an hour long. How are pieces decided for these programs?
Clive Gillinson: You're certainly right. It's not just a demanding piece for a young orchestra to play. It's a demanding orchestra piece for any orchestra to play, but we try and choose a repertoire firstly that is going to use all the players so that everybody has some real playing to do. You don't want, like there's one Brown Symphony where the triangle plays one note. You don't want to do that to any player, that they spend the whole time waiting for one note. We tried to do great orchestral pieces that show off the entire orchestra, that really makes sure everybody gets a lot of playing, like [unintelligible 00:56:01] as well, which was the previous piece we did.
It's always chosen on that basis. Something that will really appeal to all the players, will appeal to audiences around the world as well, because we're always taking everything on tour and that really shows off the extraordinary playing of the orchestra. One of the things I always find is when I shut my eyes and listen to this orchestra, I cannot conceive that it's 16 to 19-year-olds. You think you're hearing one of the top orchestras in the world. Making huge demands on them I think is actually really important and valuable to them.
Annie Bergen: Of course, each year they get to learn and perform with a different conductor. Over the years, we've had Sir Antonio Pappano, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Robertson, and Marin Alsop, just to name a few, and, of course, tonight it's Daniel Harding who's going to be going on tour with them. How have conductors reacted to being invited to join the program?
Clive Gillinson: They love it. The enthusiasm of the players, you heard it a little bit when Alisa was talking earlier, they are so responsive and they learn so quickly and they just want to learn everything. They're voracious. It's true for the conductors as well, but creating a project like this, you have to create a virtuous circle. If you're going to get the most brilliant young players, you've got to have a great conductor, you've got to have a great soloist, you've got to go to great venues around the world, you've got to get every single piece as part of a magic circle in that way, and then it's irresistible to everybody involved.
Jeff Bergen: Clive, thank you so much. We're going to let you go and get ready for the second half while Jeff and I set up the Mahler for our radio listeners and we'll see you at the end of the show.
Clive Gillinson: I'll see you at the end. Thank you very much.
Jeff Spurgeon: Clive Gillinson is the Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall and, as I said earlier, he could be five people tonight and there wouldn't be enough of him to spread around the work that he has to do, so we're very grateful that he's sharing some of his time with us on this broadcast. Next up from the NYO in 2022 is the Mahler Symphony No. 5, more than an hour of music, large orchestra. We spoke with some of the NYO musicians earlier this week about working on this giant piece and we asked them how they prepare for something so substantial and how they maintain their stamina.
Serin Park: Honestly, for myself, I think I feed off the energy everyone else has. Definitely, I am so grateful for my stand partner, because we're like in the middle where we'd just give head nods and we're like, "We got this." The adrenaline, even during rehearsals when it's like we're going to hit the break soon, even during that, I think that's really what's keeping me going, and especially I just feel all this power coming from everyone and I'm obviously giving back as much as I can as well.
Devon Grinith: They took most of the principal players in the one section off the Elgar for the Mahler because it takes a lot of endurance and stamina to be able to play through the whole thing. It's about an hour and 10 minutes, so it's a lot of playing, it's a lot of fun. A lot of loud parts too.
Daniel Harding: It's really interesting to see what things they find easy and what things they find difficult. Obviously, at that age, they've got so much energy and enthusiasm and they have all sorts of muscles that we don't have anymore, but then the smarts about how you know when to save your energy so that you use it when it's really required, that's something people learn over years and years [unintelligible 00:59:36], but confronting a piece like this in your teenage years, that's a life-changing experience, so, fantastic.
Jeff Spurgeon: The voice of conductor Daniel Harding there speaking along with a couple of members of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. The young woman is violinist Serin Park from New York City. She, in fact, will be the concertmistress or concertmaster, I'm not sure what's the right way to do that these days. And anyway, she'll be [chuckle] in that chair for the second part of this program, and the other player you heard was a young trombonist from McKinney, Texas, named Devon Grinith, and Conductor Daniel Harding.
Jeff Spurgeon: It sounds like-- Yes, go ahead, Annie, please.
Annie Bergen: Yes. The stage got quiet, and applause now for the concertmaster to head out for Mahler's Symphony No. 5, and they are tuning.
[MUSIC - Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor]
Jeff Spurgeon: Mahler composed this Symphony during the summers when he was on break from his job with the Vienna Court Opera. Around the same time that Mahler met Alma Schindler, daughter of a famous landscape painter and a musician and composer in her own right. This is the symphony that features that special tribute to her in the fourth movement, the famous Adagietto.
Annie Bergen: The love letter.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes, Mahler's probably most famous single piece of music, and so that will appear in the midst of this symphony as well.
Annie Bergen: Conductor Daniel Harding has spoken about the work as a symbolic reference from Mahler's conversion from Judaism to Christianity. There are five movements in total. In an interview on Swedish radio, Harding describes them; the first movement: A funeral march followed by a slow Jewish dance. The second movement evokes violence, the third features waltzes, and the fourth, the Adagietto, as we mentioned, the love letter to Alma. The final movement is more upbeat, with a huge corale, followed by what Harding calls a symbolic crash.
Jeff Spurgeon: Conductor Daniel Harding is walking out on stage now. There are lots of ways to listen to the Mahler Symphony No. 5; you can get Mahler's own program; he usually withdrew them after he made the composition and said, "Don't pay any attention to what I said, just pay attention to the music." You can do that tonight too. We're certainly paying attention to this Orchestra. Listen to that cheer for the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, about to perform the Mahler Symphony No. 5 for you.
[MUSIC - Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor - IV. Adagietto: Sehr langsam]
[MUSIC - Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor - V. Rondo-Finale: Allegro]
Jeff Spurgeon: You've just heard a performance of the Symphony No. 5 of Gustav Mahler, massive work for a great orchestra. The orchestra that you heard play it was a group of young people, ages 16 to 19, gathered together from across the United States of America. They are the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, and you heard their performance tonight from Carnegie Hall live.
The NYO, the National Youth Orchestra, is a Carnegie Hall project and it's a wonderful performance. This performance was the first time in three years that the NYO has been able to perform in front of a group of people listening to the music and enjoying it, as you certainly hear the reaction now from Carnegie Hall live. I'm Jeff Spurgeon. Annie Bergen and Clive Gillinson are with us tonight on this amazing broadcast by this group of young people.
Annie Bergen: Yes, I'm backstage, Jeff, and you can hear the ovation for the tremendous performance of that Mahler symphony. The conductor, Daniel Harding, now going back out on stage, the musicians tapping their stance in appreciation and the audience on their feet. Now Daniel Harding singling out the various sections of the orchestra, of course, the brass section, the woodwinds.
Jeff Spurgeon: The horns.
Annie Bergen: Oh, yes, the horns.
Jeff Spurgeon: The horns and the trumpets have fabulous music to play. We should pay tribute to the trumpeters who had that very difficult task of opening-
Annie Bergen: Absolutely.
Jeff Spurgeon: -the entire work. Jack Ramu from Georgia, Lydia Hanje from Alabama played those solo parts and other members of the section are from Alabama. I mentioned Alabama, Maryland, and Illinois, and Georgia. Horn players from North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, New York, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and of course, that incredible string section that brought us that beautiful fourth movement, Adagietto.
Annie Bergen: The percussionists too, including the whip and the glockenspiel. They all had a chance to play. It was really incredible. Of course, now, Daniel Harding is off the stage and the musicians have stepped back down. Applause continues for the performance tonight by these incredibly talented young musicians, just a few days away from their European tour.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes. They're off to Amsterdam and to Berlin, and the Ravello Festival in Italy. Then they'll enjoy an appearance at the Lucerne festival in Switzerland. Their August 5th concert, by the way, will be webcast, so you can watch it on [unintelligible 02:15:58] TV and at Carnegiehall.org. You can follow this group of young people as they tour the world. What an incredible experience for this orchestra, which has only been performing together, playing together for about two weeks.
Got together at Purchase College in upstate New York, 25, 30 miles away from New York City. That's the campus where the orchestra comes together after everyone has been chosen by audition from across the United States. They come together, work with clinicians, members of other orchestras from around the country, and then gather with the conductor, in this case, Daniel Harding.
Annie Bergen: There's just been more acknowledgment of the different sections of the orchestra again, Daniel Harding pointing to the string sections, the harpists now standing to get the applause and the brass section, the woodwinds. What a terrific performance, and all of the musicians standing now and being appreciated for the concert.
Jeff Spurgeon: It is a great spectacle.
Annie Bergen: It is, in their red trousers and black jackets and Converse sneakers. What a treat?
Jeff Spurgeon: It is one of the most exciting concerts of the year at Carnegie for sure because of the energy on stage and the energy from all the support in the audience. We know that people are listening to this broadcast around the country and around the world. We add that support of this orchestra and this great Carnegie Hall project to the energy that's part of what's happening at Carnegie Hall right now.
Annie Bergen: The applause continues, and now Daniel Harding going back out on stage. It looks like we might get an encore, I believe. The National Youth Orchestra of the United States conducted by Daniel Harding on Carnegie Hall live.
[music - Adventures on Earth by John Williams] [music - Adventures on Earth by John Williams]
Jeff Spurgeon: An encore from the 2022 edition of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States. That was Adventures on Earth. Some of John Williams' music from the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. You heard the performance coming to you from Carnegie Hall live. This performance by this group of 16 to 19-year-olds who have come together after submitting video auditions, writing an essay, filling out all the forms, including a passport form.
This more than 100 member ensemble spent a couple of weeks in Upstate New York. They've just given a concert at Carnegie Hall, and they're going to be heading out on tour very soon.
Annie Bergen: [laughs] You can't see us, Jeff, but we're all grinning backstage.
Jeff Spurgeon: Of course.
Annie Bergen: Really, what a tremendous performance of that music from E.T., a montage of themes, including the iconic bicycle scene, E.T. and Elliott's goodbye, and the ship flying off into the night. I was just thinking, these musicians weren't even born when the film came out in 1982. I'm sure their parents are very happy to hear that music now.
Jeff Spurgeon: Maybe they don't mind playing some old things to please the crowd.
Annie Bergen: Right. This is Daniel Harding acknowledging the applause, stepping back on stage now for another ovation from the musicians and the audience members, again, they're all rising to acknowledge the appreciative audience tonight. I'm joined again by Carnegie's executive and artistic director, Clive Gillinson. What'd you think?
Clive Gillinson: That was sensational. It brings back great memories as well because I was still playing in the London Symphony Orchestra when we recorded this music with John Williams.
Annie Bergen: Oh, wow.
Clive Gillinson: It's been a big part of my life, John's [unintelligible 02:25:45]
Annie Bergen: Lucky you.
Clive Gillinson: Yes.
Annie Bergen: Lucky you.
Clive Gillinson: Those are among the highlights for all the players in the orchestra.
Annie Bergen: E.T. score won the 1983 Academy Award for best original film score, and it's just such a crowd-pleaser. Wow.
Jeff Spurgeon: Clive, I have a question for you about the subculture that's arisen. Because the NYO has been going now for, well, not quite 10 years, and a couple of pandemic interrupted things, but my goodness, it's a whole subculture of people who've been in these orchestras over the years. It's a real community that's been formed, hasn't it?
Clive Gillinson: Well, it's a huge community. I think what is wonderful is today with social media, it means they all stay connected in the way-
Jeff Spurgeon: That's right.
Clive Gillinson: -people didn't used to be in the past with youth orchestras, but now it's a community around the world as well, because they meet so many young, great musicians all around the world wherever they travel. It's extraordinary what a community creates in so many ways.
Jeff Spurgeon: That is something that technology has allowed to happen.
Clive Gillinson: Absolutely.
Jeff Spurgeon: What a wonderful thing that it's a part of that. I feel like we should mention too, that for listeners who know musicians who might want to join this program, there is information if you go to carnegiehall.org/nyo and you'll find a couple of forms there that say application information. You can find out how a young person of your acquaintance, ages 14 to 19, could be a part of one of these national youth orchestras or the National Youth Orchestra Jazz also.
Annie Bergen: We are welcoming now conductor Daniel Harding backstage having what? A cup of tea.
Daniel Harding: A cup of tea, absolutely.
Annie Bergen: How appropriate. How did it go out there?
Daniel Harding: Oh, look, I had the time of my life, and I have a feeling I'm not the only one.
Annie Bergen: What a tremendous performance. Congratulations. What's it been like working with these youngsters or late teenagers the past couple of weeks?
Daniel Harding: Oh, they've completely exhausted me.
Daniel Harding: I thought I was a relatively young, energetic person, but no, I've discovered I'm old. It's quite incredible the level of energy and commitment they have, but what was really special tonight, you never know what's going to happen with a group like this playing such an enormous program in Carnegie Hall. I thought, "How will they react?" How they reacted, they concentrated. It was extraordinary. The last thing I expected was the unbelievable focus they brought this evening, and that combined with all the other qualities that we knew about, that was really special.
Annie Bergen: How do you blend the technical part of conducting WiSA, wanting them to really understand all the emotion and inner meaning of that Mahler Symphony?
Daniel Harding: Look, these pieces are technically ferocious for any orchestra, and that part never ends, but I think it's so important right at the beginning to start thinking about talking about the music. They're all brilliant, and technically, they'll jump away at these things, and over years, they'll keep battling with them like the rest of us do. I think the most wonderful thing with them is to share ideas about what the piece is about, about what's inside. What's phenomenal is to see how they are so quick and able to translate ideas into musical gestures. That's fantastic.
Annie Bergen: What else are you learning from them during this experience?
Daniel Harding: Oh, look, their openness. We talked about their concentration, their incredible appetite just to keep going. Every time they turn the page and they seem to discover some new wonder, it's really inspiring.
Annie Bergen: Now you're heading off to Europe, to Amsterdam first stop, right?
Daniel Harding: Yes.
Annie Bergen: When do you leave? This weekend, I guess, right?
Daniel Harding: Yes, exactly.
Annie Bergen: Okay. Will you be playing a little bit of tourist here in New York in the meantime or--
Daniel Harding: A little bit, yes.
Daniel Harding: I think I might have a little lie down first.
Annie Bergen: Thank you so much, Daniel Harding. A big thanks for stopping by. Terrific performance.
Daniel Harding: Thank you.
Clive Gillinson: Can I just add one tiny thing?
Annie Bergen: Yes, please do.
Clive Gillinson: Daniel, let me just say that I think what is so important for them is you treat them as if they're a professional Orchestra, and they deserve that respect, in fact. It comes in both directions then, doesn't it? They really responded to the fact that you demand so much of them.
Daniel Harding: Absolutely. I didn't have any feeling. My approach to it was we talk about the same things we talk about if we're playing this with any other Orchestra and I show them, the word you used is respect, I show them respect of asking them to do all the things that I think are important and what's phenomenal. There are moments when I think, "Wow, I've never heard someone take that idea so seriously and translate it so well."
They've got all this-- I don't know what percentage of musicians from this orchestra end up becoming professionals, but what's amazing is they're all going to go off and be doctors and lawyers and musicians and members of the musical community in different ways, but they're going to take all these experiences and all that incredible intelligence they have and be fantastic members of our community. That's wonderful.
Annie Bergen: Great hope for classical music.
Clive Gillinson: Thank you so much for doing it as well.
Annie Bergen: Yes, thank you. Good luck.
Clive Gillinson: Fantastic.
Daniel Harding: Pleasure. A real pleasure. Thank you. Good evening.
Annie Bergen: Clive, we want you to hear what the kids are saying about heading to Europe.
Speaker 5: I'm looking forward to-- well, all the venues are going to be awesome, but I'm especially looking forward to playing at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw because I know that Mahler conducted there. It's a great hall. It's a special hall. I'm really excited for that.
Serin Park: I'm personally really excited for the venue in Italy, when we're playing outdoors, that seems so cool, and just the whole experience of getting to play these great pieces in all these amazing places and hear the live applause because we lost that for a few years. I'm very, very excited for that.
Devon Grinith: For me, I'm very excited for the food in Europe. I've never been to Europe, so I'm really excited, especially for Italy, I want to have pizza.
Speaker 8: I'm looking forward to taking them to two of the greatest halls we have in Berlin and in Amsterdam. That'll be an extraordinary experience for them. If you think about, for example, playing Mahler in Amsterdam and what that means historically, that's fabulous. We have a concert in Ravello, which is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. The orchestra's perched on the top of the cliff with the bay behind them. The sound disappears in about a quarter of a second, but boy, it's an incredible place to visit. That'll be a different experience, and Lucerne. Lucerne, which along with Berlin, those are two of the really, really great modern halls. It'd be lovely for them too.
Clive Gillinson: Well, wonderful to hear all the reactions, but I think what all of us forget is that most of these students have never played in an Orchestra remotely of this quality. I think the experience, you can see them out on stage still now, all taking photographs, doing everything. It's just a treasured moment to play with a great conductor like Daniel, to play this extraordinary music, which you couldn't play with any other youth orchestra, and to be able to share this with people who will be their friends for life. Daniel mentioned earlier about some people doing different things. Well, in point of fact, it's about 50% going to music professionally.
Annie Bergen: Interesting.
Clive Gillinson: It's not necessarily the 50% who are best. They all have so multi-talented and they're so extraordinarily talented, and they could choose many different professions, and lots will be music and lots more.
Annie Bergen: I have a question. If a musician enters at age 16, do they stay until 19 or they are only in it for one year?
Clive Gillinson: They have to re-audition every year. They can stay till 19, but then they don't automatically get back in. They've got to compete nationally every single time.
Annie Bergen: Does anyone ever compete or audition for more than one instrument?
Clive Gillinson: Well, we've had one insane moment where one guy got in playing the violin, and I think he was so good. I think he was one of the principal violins. He then the next year, decided to audition as a cellist and he led the cellists. It's unthinkable to have that talent. It made everybody really mad.
Annie Bergen: It'd be interesting to see where he ends up.
Clive Gillinson: Well, exactly. Extraordinary talent.
Annie Bergen: Okay. Thank you so much.
Jeff Spurgeon: He does ruin the grade curve for everyone, that's for sure.
Clive Gillinson: He certainly does.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, Clive, I have to say that I think this has to be one of the great fulfilling experiences of your career, the creation of this orchestra, this program, the support that you've gathered from the musical community, not only in the United States but around the world to support this huge project. It's a thrill every year to share this concert and to be part of what you so precisely and correctly described as these life-changing moments with kids out on stage of Carnegie Hall taking pictures. We're actually here, we played here. It's an amazing thing, and I think you just deserve so much congratulations for the realization of this project every single year. [crosstalk]
Clive Gillinson: Well, look, thank you, Jeff, but it's a huge, huge team effort, and our education team, led by Sarah Johnson and Doug Beck, do a quite extraordinary job. It is so much work. It's unbelievable. They deserve the credit.
Annie Bergen: Thank you so much. Clive Gillinson, executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall. Thank you so much.
Clive Gillinson: Thank you very much indeed.
Jeff Spurgeon: That will conclude this broadcast from Carnegie Hall live with thanks to the WQXR team, engineers Edward Haber, George Wellington, Bill Siegmund, and Chase Culpon, our production team, Eileen Delahunty and Laura Boyman, and a very special thanks to Clive Gillinson, and of course, the staff of Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall Live is a co-production of Carnegie Hall and WQXR in New York. For Annie Bergen, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, we thank you so much for listening this evening, and we return you now to WQXR studios. Miyan Levenson has great music for you ahead.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of New York Public Radio’s programming is the audio record.