Opening Night Gala 2022
Carnegie Hall, please.
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Jeff Spurgeon: Ah, the change of seasons in New York City. New Yorkers are back in their autumn routines, school in sessions, summer vacations, just a memory and a crisp chill in the air means a new performance season at the city, including here at Carnegie Hall. Tonight, is special gala concert on West 57th Street to mark the beginning of a new season of performances. Leading this Carnegie Hall celebration tonight is an ensemble that is no stranger to this stage. It's the Philadelphia Orchestra. And with you here from Carnegie Hall Live, I'm Jeff Spurgeon,
John Schaefer: and I'm John Schaefer and Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin is back with his band, one of several bands that he leads, to open the festivities this season with works by Ravel, Liszt, Dvořák, and the contemporary American composer, Gabriela Lena Frank.
And our featured soloist in this concert will be the pianist, Daniil Trifonov. He'll be playing that crowd pleasing Piano Concerto No.1 by Liszt.
Jeff Spurgeon: Philadelphia Orchestra is about, as close as Carnegie Hall has to a house band. They've performed at this hall more than 750 times, which sounds completely exhausting, doesn't it? But it's over many, many decades.
John Schaefer: Over many years, yes.
Jeff Spurgeon: Uh, this year alone though Philadelphia will be here for, uh, four more concerts beside this one. In the 22-23 season, Daniil Trifonov is also a repeat performer here at Carnegie this year with four concerts scheduled. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the conductor, wins though. 10 concerts he has scheduled at Carnegie this season conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and appearing as well with the Met Orchestra Chamber Ensemble in wild recital halls.
John Schaefer: What does he win? Does he win a nap? Hopefully.
Jeff Spurgeon: He doesn't seem to need them. I don't know how he keeps going. Yannick is one of the busiest men in the classical music world where he talked about his work with Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Opera, and he's also music director of his home orchestra, the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal. Uh, Yannick is a native of that city.
John Schaefer: But it is the Philadelphians who will get things started this season with Maurice Ravel's La valse. Now, Ravel had thoughts of composing the work about not just the waltz, but the Waltz King Johann Strauss, which was in the early part of the 20th century, and Ravel greatly admired Strauss. In fact, the original title for La valse was Wien, which is the German name for Vienna, where the Waltz King lived.
Jeff Spurgeon: But it was many years and a World war later that Ravel finished this piece. It was a commission from Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe, the great impresario and Diaghilev got a look at the score for La Valse, and he told Ravel, "This is a masterpiece. but it's not a ballet. It's a portrait of a ballet. A painting of a ballet." Ravel was insulted by that remark, and he and the Diaghilev ended their relationship right there. We spoke with Yannick Nézet-Séguin today about this work, and he loves the commentary that he says Ravel makes on the Viennese society of that time.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Time and again, I feel that not only it is a a masterpiece, it's just a masterpiece period. But I just think that the message of that piece, which is, um, a Ravel's take of, you know, a French person's take on decadent Europe, symbolized by Austrian richness and wealth of, you know, the walls. Um, I wouldn't say he was mocking Strauss, I think he was doing in his own right, the same thing as maybe Strauss was doing at the time, and especially Mahler. Rehearsing it uh, with the orchestra. I told them, um, think of the exaggeration that Mahler was doing with everything, taking the forms that were existing in the Austrian Germanic repertoire and making it implode in a way. And I believe that this is the implosion of European society in La Valse. And in these times, I think that's what great art can still bring us, you know?
Um, I think there's a lesson in how all the instruments in La Valse are, seem to be falling apart, and yet it's actually staying together until there's a final What? Cataclysm, I don't know. But it's, it's important, you know, a, a crisis can happen again, and we need to, to have art to show us the way.
John Schaefer: That is the conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, talking about the opening piece on the program tonight, La valse by Maurice Ravel. And Jeff, I'm struck by several things he said there, but the use of the word exaggerated because by the end of La valse, the, the kind of waltz theme has become so exaggerated. You know, you can see that as the absolute apotheosis of the waltz, or you can see it as a kind of sarcastic commentary on what has happened, you know, to the society that produced that waltz. It's really fascinating.
Jeff Spurgeon: And it's a work that allows a viewpoint from either of those angles and, and both of them. That's part of the richness of this kind of great art, is that it doesn't have just one message. You can read it in several different ways. The orchestration is so rich, so sensuous, so beautiful. And yet you hear this ominous tone in it as well. It's amazing that way.
John Schaefer: It really is. You know, uh, and this is a totally different tradition, but you know, the center cannot hold, things fall apart kind of feeling at the end. Now, Ravel himself said that that was not what his intention was.
Jeff Spurgeon: He was writing a ballet.
John Schaefer: But, you know, uh, there is a theory that the artist knows as much about his or her art as anybody else. So, if you hear this as a commentary on the end of a, a civilization and the break that took place at World War I, that is absolutely a valid way of approaching La valse.
Jeff Spurgeon: And in spite of what Sergei Diaghilev said about the work, it was choreographed, Ravel wanted it danced to, and it has been several times, even in the 1920s, it was already, uh, being choreographed. Oh, and, uh, by the way, this is 100 years since the first performance of the work at Carnegie Hall was, uh, first performed here in February of 1922. So, it's a work that's been around for a while.
John Schaefer: Yep.
Jeff Spurgeon: We have a couple of minutes to go before the performance begins. The Philadelphia Orchestra is on stage, but because this is a gala concert, there was a reception beforehand. They'll be a dinner after. So, this will be a concert without an intermission. But, you know, it's hard to get people from the cocktail lounge into the concert hall. So, I'm sure that right now at the other end of Carnegie Hall, the ushers are shoving people in. Please go in, take your seats so the music can begin. So as soon as everybody's in their seats and, uh, when Yannick Nézet-Séguin appears, the music will start too.
John Schaefer: And it will start with La valse, but we, uh, we will also hear Daniil Trifonov joining the Philadelphia Orchestra on this concert. He'll be playing, uh, the Concerto No. 1 by Franz Liszt.
Trifonov is from Russia, but he has been a New Yorker for the last few years, and he has worked together with Yannick Nézet-Séguin a number of times. They've made recordings of the Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Uh, and Yannick says the Trifonov, and I'll quote him here, "carries the torch of a legendary pianistic Russian tradition, one that combines incredible lyricism with impeccable technique."
Jeff Spurgeon: Trifonov performs the Lizst concerto as the second piece on this program. Trifonov, in addition to being a player, is also a composer. And a few years ago, he came to our studios and performed one of his pieces. This is a, a portion of the work he called Rachmaniana.
MUSIC - Trifonov: Rachmaniana
Daniil Trifonov playing a composition of his own, uh, inspired and dedicated to Rachmaninoff off his work Rachmaniana. Well, that's a recording, but we're going to hear him play live for you in just a few minutes. From Carnegie Hall, the houselights are down, stage doors are closed. The Philadelphia orchestras on stage.
We are awaiting, uh, for that door to open. Concertmaster, David Kim, will step out on stage and get the orchestra tuned. And then this gala concert opening this new season at Carnegie Hall will begin with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Conductor at Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Ravel's La valse. And there goes David Kim on stage now.
John Schaefer: You know, it's totally appropriate. That is once again the Philadelphia orchestra out on stage. Jeff, you and I were in these seats last year.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yep.
John Schaefer: For the big reopening and it was Yannick and the Philadelphians who started that very weird season as we were all quite not quite sure what it would be as it unfolded. Uh, things much more
Jeff Spurgeon: relaxed,
John Schaefer: close to normal now. Yeah, I would say. Yeah. Um, but Philadelphia long history with Carnegie Hall, 1906, the legendary Arthur Rubinstein made his American debut with this orchestra in this hall. Three decades later, Rachmaninoff joined the orchestra here at Carnegie, played a cycle of his works. And then, uh, the great Eugene Ormandy, the longest tenured music director of the orchestra, did his final concert here in 1984. So, a rich history between the Philadelphia Orchestra and Carnegie Hall, the orchestra's all tuned up. The stage door opens and out strides Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Jeff Spurgeon: Beautifully attired in a Royal Purple Velvet jacket and some smart pin striped, gray pants. He dresses nicely for his performances. Fun to watch him, and he's on the podium now for Ravel's La valse to open the brand-new season at Carnegie Hall in this performance you are hearing from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Ravel: La valse
Jeff Spurgeon: A new season at Carnegie Hall begins with a performance of Ravel's La valse, a waltz for an age of anxiety. Maurice Ravel's music played by the Philadelphia Orchestra and their music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
John Schaefer: Interesting. You refer to it as a waltz for the age of anxiety. It was of course, post-World War I, when it was a very anxious time in Europe, but suitable for our time now.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's right, that's right.
John Schaefer: I think we just heard, uh, our, our piano soloist, uh, testing the instrument for a moment there.
Jeff Spurgeon: We got it. We got a preview and now coming off stage Yannick Nézet-Séguin the audience settling back in and we have a little bit of a stage change. Let's see, how many Car-, Here's a riddle for you. How many Carnegie Hall stagehands does it take to move a concert Steinway? We'll answer that question in just a couple of minutes. Some of the Philadelphia orchestra musicians are coming off. The instrumentation is not as, uh, uh, grand and broad in the Liszt Piano Concerto No 1 as it was in Ravel's La valse so few chairs off and a piano on.
John Schaefer: and La valse I mean, you know, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, really going for the over-the-top quality in, in that, you know, which is what Ravel intended, right? The first half played as the Viennese might say, mit Sahne , you know?
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes.
John Schaefer: Uh, with cream, um, you know, to give it that kind of old school Viennese sound
Jeff Spurgeon: -and, and keeping that tension alive too. All right. So, most of the musicians, they need to move are off. So, we've gotta get a piano on and we need to tell you a little bit about the soloist we're going to hear. It's Daniil Trifonov great Russian pianist, great musician,
John Schaefer: composer as well.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes. Right. And, and I ask Yannick about working with Trifonov, a musician who lives inside every piece of music he plays.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: I think the composer in Trifonov is always present in his um, playing. Of course, he is one of those, you know, I say this with love, monsters of the piano. You know, I believe what stands out with Daniil is really that he goes inside how the composer thinks, and several times, many, many times playing with him, I realized in the middle of the performance, it feels as if he's writing it in front of us, that it's completely spontaneous and invented because he just knows so well inside out how the, the composer was thinking.
And now that we've played together a lot, I can anticipate his choices too. And, you know, plugging ourselves or having being in the moment and accompanying a genius like this doesn't mean just staying in the back seat. We have to be actually very much in the front seat to make sure that you're not left in the dust. And, um, yeah, it's, it's always a huge pleasure.
John Schaefer: That is tonight's conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin talking about Daniil Trifonov, who will play the Liszt Concerto No 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Just as soon as, uh, things are settled on this big stage,
Jeff Spurgeon: the answer is three. It takes three stagehands to move a well four, if you count the piano bench, it took a fourth, uh, stagehand. But otherwise, that giant instrument was rolled out very neatly by, by three people.
John Schaefer: Jeff and I tucked our feet in
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes.
John Schaefer: To keep our,
Jeff Spurgeon: That's no kidding.
John Schaefer: requisite number of toes intact.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's no kidding.
John Schaefer: Um, you know, this Liszt Piano Concerto No 1, there are many things we can say about it. If you are a fan of the comedian, Martin Short, and if you are a fan of Martin Short, you know where I'm going with this already. Martin Short, for many years had a character called Ed Grimley who had this weird kind of alfalfa hair thing, and whose pastime was playing the triangle. Now the triangle has a very important role to play. Yes. In the piano concerto, number one by Franz Liszt. To the point that critics in Liszt's day were like, Dude, what are you doing?
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah.
John Schaefer: Or whatever the German equivalent of, Dude, what are you doing is. Um, and you know, it's, it's,
Jeff Spurgeon: it shut down the work in, in its own time and place. That one review, I think Edward Hensley did it. And, uh, and he said the, the ridiculous use of the triangle made the work trivial. And it wasn't played for a very long time after that.
John Schaefer: Now, you know, I have to say the triangle is not my favorite instrument by any stretch.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, it doesn't have a particularly broad palette.
John Schaefer: But, but here's the thing. The triangle does have a surprisingly broad palette in the right hands. There are number of different sound sources from this little bent piece of metal.
Jeff Spurgeon: Right.
John Schaefer: Different, uh, effects that you can, anyway, all of which is simply to say that history has done it disservice to Ed Grimley and Martin Short. No, no to, to Franz Liszt and the Piano Concerto No 1. Um, the second half does have a healthy dose of triangle and deal with it. Um, Liszt himself, you know, he was the rock star.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes, that's right.
John Schaefer: Of the mid-19th century. You know, and, and when that movie Lisztomania came out in the seventies, there was a reason why a genuine rock star singer, Roger Daltrey from The Who played Liszt, because that is the kind of figure that he cut on the concert stages of Europe.
Jeff Spurgeon: He had a magnetism while it was absolutely an animal magnetism, the women went mad for him. He was an extremely handsome man as a, as a young man. And so, he was absolutely a rock star, a complete sensation. And, uh, and it, the legend may never die. And the truth is too, that he may have been the greatest pianist ever in the history of the instrument.
John Schaefer: And certainly, you know, uh, from his writing, we know this is true. Uh, although, you know, it sounds anecdotal that he had unusually long fingers, and could stretch well over in octave. And, and, you know, took advantage of that to write music that was so fiendishly difficult that, it, it took years before anybody else would, would ever be able to play it. So, this Piano Concerto No 1. Fireworks aplenty, but also a really neatly structured piece. You know, rather than fast, slow, fast and each movement a distinct entity, it's like one long sort of circuitous conversation where material is brought back and wrapped up.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah.
John Schaefer: For you at the end.
Jeff Spurgeon: This was one of the developments that Liszt put into his own works in creating the symphonic poem with that same idea of exploring id, um, large ideas that weren't just structurally music, but involved all kinds of different emotions, and that did break with the usual sequence of materials that were customary in that time. Now on stage, Daniil Trifonov and Yannick Nézet-Séguin to bring you Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1 with the Philadelphia Orchestra from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Liszt: Piano Concerto No 1
John Schaefer: Opening night of the new season here at Carnegie Hall, and that was a celebratory performance of the Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1. And as you can hear from the audience here at Carnegie Hall, a very well received performance. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, and right now pointing at the soloist, Daniil Trifonov at the piano.
The, uh, orchestra's principal percussionist, Christopher Deviney had the, uh, I'll say honor of playing the important percussion part.
Jeff Spurgeon: That's why he's the principle.
John Schaefer: It's the triangle in the second half of, of that Piano Concerto by Franz Liszt. I'm John Schaefer, along alongside Jeff Spurgeon here on opening night
Jeff Spurgeon: and just a few feet away from us, are Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Daniil Trifonov going over perhaps a couple of notes on the performance.
Trifonov will be going back on stage as you hear the audience would like a little more time with him. Many of the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra are also offering him an enthusiastic applause. You hear it now from the audience. Deep bow from Trifonov and a great big bouquet of flowers for him. The um, the back of the stage at Carnegie Hall is decorated gloriously for this opening night with great big purple and pink and blue orchids and hydrangeas. And a great big bouquet of those orchids was just handed to Trifonov as well.
Now Nézet-Séguin, back on stage, the orchestra on its feet once again. So, uh, Great round of applause for all of the artists involved in that Liszt Piano Concerto that we just heard.
John Schaefer: Terrific performance. And, uh, once again, uh, Jeff and I just backstage where we can keep a, a sharp eye on proceedings to see if we're, uh, going to have the pianist back out at center stage and he is going back out at center stage. I wanna see whether that's to take a bow or to retake his place at the keyboard. And it is the latter. Looks like we'll get an encore from Daniil Trifonov.
MUSIC – Bach: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring
John Schaefer: Providing an encore to this opening night season opening concert at Carnegie Hall, A little bit of Bach Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring sounded very much like the, uh, famous transcription, uh, that, uh, was used so much in England during World War II, but I, since it was decorated a little bit by treatment of himself,
Jeff Spurgeon: I, I suspect that that is the case and why not a little joyous Bach music?
John Schaefer: Absolutely.
Jeff Spurgeon: On opening night of a new season here at Carnegie Hall, Trifonov will be back three more times in this new Carnegie Hall season. He'll perform a recital with, uh, violinist Joshua Bell. Uh, another concerto performance with the National Symphony Orchestra he'll play the Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto in this Carnegie Hall season, and he has a solo recital as well, which will include Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Mozart, and then just for fun, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, and a Scriabin sonata.
John Schaefer: This is the thing that strikes me about, that's December 7th that Trifonov will be doing that. This is the kind of pianist who plays Gaspard de la Nuit, and then says, "now I'm gonna climb this other higher mountain" and goes to the Sonata number five by Scriabin, so it's just,
Jeff Spurgeon: a ferocious, a monster at the piano
John Schaefer: as Yannick said.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yes, when we spoke to him earlier. Opening night at Carnegie Hall backstage. I'm Jeff Spurgeon with John Schaefer, and we're bringing you this season opening concert, a gala concert, by the Philadelphia Orchestra and their music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. We've heard two works on the program, but we have two more to come.
John Schaefer: And, a fair amount of the orchestra will vacate the stage for the next piece by Gabriela Lena Frank, because it is a work that only calls for strings even though it evokes the sounds of, uh, a number of other instruments, and we can get to that later, but, uh, first there is the matter of the piano once again being wheeled past us now in the opposite direction.
Jeff Spurgeon: still three stagehands managing it beautifully.
John Schaefer: Still full complement of toes here on Jeff's part and mine. So, the second half of the -program, there is no intermission, will begin with Gabriela Lena Frank, and then conclude with the Dvořák Symphony No 8. As we've mentioned a couple of times already, it is, um, entirely appropriate that the Philadelphians are here opening this season, uh, as they did last season, as they have done many times over the years. Uh, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin a regular visitor, a visitor, almost seems the wrong word. They must have a, an apartment for him here in the complex because between the, the Met Orchestra and his Montreal Ensemble and this band, um, he's just, he's here an awful lot.
Jeff Spurgeon: He's a ubiquitous musician for sure. Classical New York is 105.9 FM HD WQXR, Newark, and 90.3 FM WQXW Ossining.
John Schaefer: The next piece on the program is, an excerpt of a suite of works by Gabriela Lena Frank, and in case you're wondering about her name, it reflects her very unusual heritage, Lithuanian Jewish on her father's side and her mother is a Peruvian of Chinese descent. And, um, a lot of her music sort of employs the sounds of South America, uh, and evokes South American instruments. And the piece we're going to hear is from perhaps Gabriela's best-known work, which is called Leyendas or More Properly Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout.
And the movement called Chasqui refers to the, um, the Incan marathon runners, you know, the messengers who would run from one high peak to the other, uh, with important messages to be delivered. And, it evokes the sounds of the charango, which is a traditional string instrument of South America.
Jeff Spurgeon: Guitarish,
John Schaefer: Small. It's like a mandolin except it's made out of an armadillo shell. Traditionally, um, these days that's frowned upon. So you'll find charango is made of wood, but traditionally it is an armadillo shell. And then the quena flute, which is one of the panoply of Andean flutes. This one is a single flute as opposed to a pan flute.
Again, there is no charango on stage. There is no flute on stage. It's up to the strings to make you feel like you're hearing these instruments. Uh, the work, the entire suite, Leyendas, was originally written for string quartet. It is now very popular in its string orchestra form, and that is what we're going to hear.
And we actually had a chance to talk to Yannick Nézet-Séguin about this movement, Chasqui, from this work called Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: And, uh, this Chasqui is really making the Philadelphia Orchestra strings sound so good. This was a string quartet piece that she wrote many years ago and she expanded it now for full, uh, string section.
Uh, but the Philly strings, of course, are, uh, peerless and, uh, have them make the, uh, Peruvian folklore their own. In this Chasqui is just something that is the right, I think, mix of cultures that we need and where music is a meeting of different opinions and different viewpoints that only musically, we can do. And without, you know, having the words in the way.
Jeff Spurgeon: It is an interesting remark from Yannick Nézet-Séguin to not have the words in the way since so much of his time is spent in the world of opera where the words are important. But in this particular case, it's just going to be the strings of the Philadelphia Orchestra with this work Chasqui about which Gabriela Lena Frank says, uh, it's very important that it have a lightweight touch because these chasqui, these runners needed to be light on their feet,
John Schaefer: Had to travel light.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yep.
John Schaefer: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, taking the, uh, podium center stage once again, bowing to the audience. Opening night audience here at Carnegie Hall. Here's the work by Gabriela Lena Frank.
MUSIC - Frank: "Chasqui" from Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout
John Schaefer: Chasqui is the title of that work by Gabriela Lena Frank, a portion of her larger work called An Andean Walkabout. Chasqui, the messengers running from peak to peak in the Andes. A light work originally for string quartet but arranged by Gabriela Lena Frank for string ensemble.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yannick Nézet-Séguin is not leaving the stage. We are going to get the Dvořák Symphony No 8, very soon to conclude this concert, opening the brand-new season at Carnegie Hall. And so, with a pause, here are the Philadelphia Orchestra and Nézet-Séguin and Dvořák's Symphony No 8 from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Dvořák: Symphony No. 8
Jeff Spurgeon: Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No 8, live performance
John Schaefer: on opening night of the 2022-23 season here at Carnegie Hall. Performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who is quick to bound off the podium and in and among the musicians of the orchestra, striding from one to the other, bumping fists, shaking hands, a good time had, by all I would say.
Jeff Spurgeon: I think so at this opening night concert of Carnegie Hall's New season, uh, backstage, Jeff Spurgeon, John Schaefer, bringing you, uh, this performance and now the orchestra on its feet. Nice deep bow to the audience by Nézet-Séguin. Great appreciation for this orchestra up, uh, in New York as they were last year, just 51 weeks ago, opening, uh, the new season at Carnegie Hall
John Schaefer: and opening it with the Dvořák Symphony No 8, of course, the Symphony No 9 by Dvořák, the famous New World Symphony.
Jeff Spurgeon: Mm-hmm.
John Schaefer: full of the sounds of North American music, but this Symphony No 8 kind of redolent of Czech folk music without actually quoting. But, uh, you know, you hear birds, you hear the sounds of the countryside. And
Jeff Spurgeon: Dvořák spent a lot of summers at, uh, Vysoka Village, about 35 miles south of Prague. Went there first, uh, as a guest of friends, and then bought some land near that property. And, and he spent all of his summers there. And composed this symphony and the seventh Symphony and lots of other works at, uh, at this, at this beautiful nature spot. He'd get up in the morning and take a long walk at four or five in the morning, and that was his routine and that, and he found so much inspiration in nature and exactly as you say, John, it's all through this symphony.
John Schaefer: And it's, it's, it's much closer in sound and effect to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony than to the seventh or the ninth Symphony by Dvořák.
Jeff Spurgeon: I think that's exactly right. And this performance by Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra is by no means the first performance of this Dvořák eighth for either ensemble. But this is only the second time that Nézet-Séguin and Philadelphia have done this work together. The first time was last night when Philadelphia opened its season at uh uh, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. So, it's a new experience in a way. And Yannick Nézet-Séguin told us that he thinks Dvořák makes it easy to find new, wonderful things in this work over and over again.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Dvořák constantly made room for popular roots in this music and this 8th Symphony, which is, I believe, a perfect symphony for the effusive quality of his melodies, but also the, the structure is just perfect.
But every, at every turn, he takes something from nature and combines it with what he heard on the streets, which was complete folklore. And today we are merging, we are creating bridges between what we call popular music and what we call classical or concert music. And I love that we blurred the lines and I think that Dvořák did it so well.
And every time I open a score, that's a warhorse like this, Dvořák eight with the Philadelphia Orchestra, it has, uh, my commitment and our commitment is that it's not just run of the mill or routine something.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yannick Nézet-Séguin speaking of this to Dvořák eighth and, uh, performance that clearly the audience here at Carnegie Hall really, really has enjoyed you, heard lots of applause while Nézet-Séguin was speaking for individual members of the orchestra. And now the conductor is back on stage asking his musicians to rise once again and receive the applause of this opening night Carnegie Hall audience.
John Schaefer: It is opening night, and so it's a gala, a festive occasion. The audience came in a festive mood. They are clearly leaving in a very festive mood as well. Yannick Nézet-Séguin making drinking motions on stage and, uh with that, and then hastening to get off stage
Jeff Spurgeon: with that, the audience is dismissed and there are clearly other activities ahead. Indeed, there is a gala reception for Carnegie Hall's patrons, uh, after this event. And the Philadelphia Orchestra is going to be bustling its way back home just very soon.
And now with the microphone, Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin, congratulations on another great Carnegie Hall opening night with your Philadelphia musicians here in New York.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Thank you. Thank you. It feels amazing to be back and with this full house and the energy of everyone.
Jeff Spurgeon: And a little bit more relaxation, fewer masks, a little bit, a little bit more of the usual feeling of getting together to share great music.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: It's so important. I'm very proud that, you know, arts organizations like the Philadelphia Orchestra, and of course Carnegie Hall kept music alive during this... You know, what happened. I don't know even how to describe that time, but yes, we need this communication. We need this feeling of proximity. We need this feeling of, of generosity between humans and that's what an orchestra is. So, yes, it does feel great.
John Schaefer: So last night you played the Symphony No 8 with the ensemble at your home opener in Philadelphia. Tonight, here at Carnegie Hall. What is it about that work? I mean, you must plan these programs pretty carefully in any event, but when it's a season opener Yeah. That, that's, you know, every eye is on you, so how do you make those decisions?
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: So, it's a very good question. I think that it's a combination of many things, you know, and there's first the history between me and the orchestra, or the story I would say between me, myself, and the orchestra. So, of course, I plan to visit as much of the repertoire over the, the seasons.
And we had decided that this season was my turn to do the eighth of Dvořák because I think every season since I am music director, I gave it away to, uh, to guest conductors. So, I said, that's my turn now because it's, yes, it's been played a lot and people, musicians of orchestras played so many musicians in this orchestra, you know, play played it.
They said, this is the first symphony I played when I was a kid. So, it gets played a lot and in a way it's very familiar because it's so great. But a little bit like Beethoven five last year. Revisit a true, uh, staple of the repertoire is really interesting when it's the chemistry between me and this orchestra that can do anything. Now, for this opening of season, we, the reason behind it is related to La valse in a way, not directly, but about something that it tells us about social issues.
La valse was very much, uh, as we discussed earlier, La valse was very much a, a, uh, the decadence of the West that's about to explode. So, I think we need to remind ourselves, and we need it’s our role as artists to remind audiences that this is still a possibility and that we need to stick together. Uh, it's also, it also happens to be a virtuosic piece and really great piece of music, but there's this message behind it.
And in Dvořák, I feel like the, what the programs have been doing, especially in the last couple of years, and what we've been trying in Philadelphia to do even more and more, is to get rid of all the frontiers or the borders in between things and in between genres. And Dvořák was a pioneer. Taking like Brahms, but even more so than Brahms, taking what's popular in the, in the, the folklore in the tradition and making it, elevating it in a way to a western structure that's very complex and making a much better art form this way. And I think this is the way that the future with what we consider a jazz or pop. So yeah, there was that reason behind it.
John Schaefer: Well, and Gabriela Lena Frank's piece, you know, drawing on the folklore of South America was a beautiful lead in to the Dvořák.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Oh, I, I'm glad you, you enjoyed it because this is, this is a masterpiece, I think and played by this orchestra, and we can understand how melodically, you know, it's influenced in the same way as yes indeed, Dvořák or other composers of the past.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, we have three more concerts to look forward to in this Carnegie Hall season with you in the Philadelphia Orchestra with Soprano Pretty Yende, and a New York Premier by Xi Wang. Um, a huge Rachmaninoff program with another, as you mentioned, monster of the piano, Yuja Wang. You're doing, she's doing all four of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos in one concert, and the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
Wow. What a thing that's going to be. Yeah. And then you have a program with that excellent vocal ensemble, The Crossing. Yeah. Uh, coming up next year. So, there's lots more to look forward to from you and this orchestra here at Carnegie Hall.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: We won't complain to be at Carnegie Hall so often, you know, and we love New York audiences and of course, as a half or one third New Yorker, myself, I can't wait to be back at the Met with the hours.
But coming here on this stage of Carnegie Hall with this orchestra is. It's, it's always the highlight of our, of our season.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, we are delighted to talk to you, and we know that you have some people you need to see. There's a gala, uh, uh, dinner. I think that's going to be happening in a few minutes. I'm sure your attendance there would be appreciated. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Thank you for relaying what we do, uh, to all the listeners abroad.
Jeff Spurgeon: Thank you so much, Yannick Nézet-Séguin with us, the Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and that should bring us, I think, to the end of this particular broadcast from Carnegie Hall.
John Schaefer: Unless you're planning to sing something.
Jeff Spurgeon: I, I, I didn't prepare anything, John, so I think we oughta close the thing up.
John Schaefer: Our thanks to Clive Gillinson and the staff of Carnegie Hall. WQXR's team includes engineers, Edward Haber, George Wellington, Bill Sigmund, Duke Markos and Irene Trudel. Our production team included Eileen Delahunty, Laura Boyman and Aimee Buchanan.
Leadership support for WQ XR is provided by the Jerel Green Foundation, the Carson Family Charitable Trust, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation and the Thompson Family Foundation. I'm John Schaefer.
Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. Carnegie Hall Live as a co-production of Carnegie Hall and WQXR in New York.