Carnegie Hall, please.
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Jeff Spurgeon: In New York City, there are lots of ways to get to Carnegie Hall, a taxi, the subway. You can take a walk down 57th Street. On the other hand, you've just found another way to get to America's most famous concert hall. You're hearing this concert as it happens from Carnegie Hall Live. And on this program, we're going to hear an orchestra that has crossed the equator to get to Carnegie Hall, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra from Brazil. I'm Jeff Spurgeon.
Terrance McKnight: And I'm Terrance McKnight. Tonight, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra has brought with them their Conductor of Honor Marin Alsop. Marin Alsop was the Orchestra's music director for eight years, finishing her run in 2019. But she still has a strong association with this orchestra where she has the title of "Conductor of Honour." She'll be leading The São Paulo tonight with works by Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov who has a surprising connection to Brazil. And we'll tell you about it in a few minutes. We'll also hear three works by the Brazilian composer, Heitor Villas- Lobos.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's the orchestra's first time at Carnegie Hall. We talked to Marin Alsop earlier this week, and she told us what this trip means to the musicians of this orchestra and about her history with the São Paulo Symphony.
Marin Alsop: I first guest conducted them in 2010. You know, if you've been to São Paulo, it's, it's not a welcoming city at first glance. And, uh, I was a little bit hesitant about the experience. But then I went into the hall, which is gorgeous, renovated train station, and I started working with this fabulous orchestra and musicians who were hungry to play and to engage and not afraid to show emotion.
And I really just fell in love with them. And then I became their music director after that. And, uh, really their big dream was to come to Carnegie Hall and be the first Brazilian orchestra to be presented at Carnegie Hall. And I said, "Well, let me see if I can help you with that." And it took a little bit longer. I was music director for eight years, and of course then with Covid and things got delayed, but here we are. This is kind of the, the completion of this dream.
Jeff Spurgeon: A dream come true for this orchestra tonight. In fact, they have two concerts this weekend. Tomorrow night, the orchestra is presenting a program of music inspired by the Amazon Rainforest. It will be a multimedia presentation showing images of life in the Brazilian rainforest.
Terrance McKnight: Here's a little background on this Brazilian city. São Paulo is located in the southeastern part of the country. It's an industrial city that has the largest in the southern hemisphere. There are 10 million people that live in São Paulo proper, with another 9 million in the outskirts of the city.
Its nickname is Sampa, and the people who live there are called Paulistanos. For a long time, they had a reputation of being the city where you would earn money, so you could spend that money in Rio de Janeiro. But that's been changing as the city's cultural and social options are growing. New York Times travel writer Seth Kugel describes the city this way: It's as vibrant and culturally alive as it is gritty and pickpockety.
Jeff Spurgeon: São Paulo is a city of immigrants. The first wave came in the mid 1800's to work in the coffee trade. There were Italians and Germans and Greeks. Later, the Japanese followed people from the Middle East, China, Korea. In a little, in a way it's a little bit like the US's history. Immigration grew, uh, especially after Brazil outlawed slavery, which was not until the late 1880s.
The orchestra is also celebrating Brazil's 200th anniversary this year of the nation's independence from Portugal. And three of the pieces on this program are by Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos. We'll hear those works in the second half of this program.
Terrance McKnight: Before we get to Villa-Lobos, we're gonna start with Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Marin Alsop told us how she chose this piece.
Marin Alsop: It's so interesting because I picked Scheherazade really because of the incredible, vibrant colors of the piece and the narrative. They feel very much like Brazil to me. Really, it was just coincident, reading about the history, about Rimsky-Korsakov's history when he was a young man in the Navy before he turned to, um, composing full time, his ship was stranded off of the coast of Brazil. And so, he spent many, many months in Brazil. So, I, that's just an odd coincidence. But I do think that he has a flare and a feel for this Brazilian experience.
Terrance McKnight: So, a little fun fact about Rimsky-Korsakov, who has some Brazilian adventures of his own.
Jeff Spurgeon: This piece is the famous musical telling of the story of Scheherazade, a woman whose husband had, uh, the habit of killing his wives after their wedding night in order not to worry about whether or not they would be faithful to him.
Scheherazade though was very clever. She kept herself alive by telling spell binding stories with cliff hangers every night so that her husband, the Sultan, would be so anxious to hear the next night's story that he would spare her and did so famously for 1,001 nights. You don't know anybody who can do that on TikTok, can you? I mean that is some social media presence there.
Terrance McKnight: Well, Rimsky-Korsakov, he used this famous tale as inspiration for the work that will begin tonight's program. There are four movements to this piece. Each of them depict the story told by Scheherazade. So, the first is The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship. Then there is The Legend of the Kalendar Prince, The Young Prince and the Young Princess, and finally the Festival at Baghdad—The Sea—The Ship Is Wrecked, and the Conclusion.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, that's the story of Scheherazade, but it hasn't yet begun. And in fact, the stage doors are not quite open here at Carnegie Hall. And as you can hear, the members of the São Paulo Symphony are surrounding Terrance and me as we are just a few feet from the stage door.
I dunno if you've been able to hear it. We have in the last few minutes, little snatches of moments of Scheherazade. Wind Section was doing a little rehearsal earlier on, there was a tuba player with a famous solo who we heard. And, and so we've been getting little snatches of the music even now. And now the stage doors are open.
Terrance McKnight: And the one to really listen for tonight is that violins, that violinist who actually is Scheherazade, telling those stories, leading those stories, and you get the sense that she was very musical, um, as well as poetic. So, listen up for that violinist, uh, in the world of Scheherazade.
Jeff Spurgeon: And there are other amazing orchestral solos in this piece too. No wonder it's a favorite, uh, Rimsky-Korsakov, so famous for his amazing use of orchestral color, one of the very best orchestrators ever. And you hear the audience welcoming this, uh, orchestra on stage. Its first time at Carnegie Hall. And Terrance and I were both reflecting earlier on, on the excitement that we are feeling for these musicians because as you heard Marin Alsop say they've been wanting to come to Carnegie Hall.
So, this is not, you know, a group of students who are trying to, to go for something. This is a real major symphony orchestra, but even they see Carnegie Hall as a, a real peak experience. So, we're all very excited for these musicians and they seem excited too.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah, and I'm looking at Marin Alsop right now, Jeff. She's directly in front of me and she looks so, so proud, um, to be here in this moment with these musicians. As she said, this is a dream come true for them. And her association over the years with them has, you know, made this possible.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah.
Terrance McKnight: And we're delighted to, to bring this to our listeners.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. Very exciting. The stage, by the way of Carnegie Hall is absolutely filled. It, uh, requires a big orchestra to do Scheherazade. Um, there's a piano and a harp and a good percussion battery, not necessarily for Scheherazade but for later works on the program. And there are 48 chairs set up too, for, there is a chorus that will be part of this performance tonight. They will have a larger part of tomorrow night's program in the second concert by the São Paulo Symphony. And now the concert master has taken the stage, Emmanuele Baldini, who will get the orchestra in tune. And also, as Terrance mentioned, he will be in the role of Scheherazade with those important solos in the first work on this program.
Terrance McKnight: Tomorrow night's. Tomorrow night's program features works about the Amazon.
Jeff Spurgeon: Mm-hmm.
Terrance McKnight: That should be very interesting. And they will get a warm to warm up tonight.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah.
Terrance McKnight: With this music by Villa-Lobos, such an important Brazilian composer.
Jeff Spurgeon: Tomorrow night's program will feature a lot of, um, projections that will be on the all the walls in Carnegie. So, concert goers tomorrow night will be in the Brazilian rain forest. Um, we can't bring you that experience in the radio terribly well. So, we chose this program as the one to share with you tonight. But, uh, we have some wonderful sounds and landscapes to share with you in this program that is about to begin.
Terrance McKnight: Tonight, is also an opportunity, Jeff, for me to say something I've never said on Radio. Harmonicist. We're gonna hear a harmonica concerto tonight.
Jeff Spurgeon: You know, that's a great question. Is it a harmonicist or a harmonicist? We have a yes. We'll, we'll have to get an answer to that. Maybe when we hear the concerto a little later on now, Marin Alsop on stage. Those cheers are for her and for this orchestra making their Carnegie Hall debut, the São Paulo Symphony. Bringing you now Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Jeff Spurgeon: A story worth hearing again and again, Scheherazade, the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov given a performance for you from Carnegie Hall live by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra of Brazil and their conductor of honor Marin Alsop, the orchestra making its very first performance right now at Carnegie Hall. Backstage at Carnegie. I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside Terrance McKnight. And just now coming off stage is Maestra Alsop
Terrance McKnight: beaming with Pride. She's a New Yorker bringing this orchestra back home. A dream come true for so many of these musicians. We should mention that she'll be back here again tomorrow night with this orchestra. So, you're listening on radio. You have an opportunity to come to the hall tomorrow.
Come out and see it for yourself. I'm Terrance McKnight here with Jeff Spurgeon. We're backstage at Carnegie Hall, São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Orchestra still on stage. We're just getting underway. We've got a whole second half to get to lots of music by Villa-Lobos coming up.
Jeff Spurgeon: And now the musicians of the orchestra are being directed by the conductor to stand. That's going to include just about everybody in the orchestra because Rimsky-Korsakov gave everybody great solos in this piece. Not just the violinist in the roll of Scheherazade, amazing sounds from the trumpets and the French horns and all the winds together. It's an incredible musical palette.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah, it's uh, one of those orchestral show pieces.
Jeff Spurgeon: Oh, for sure.
Terrance McKnight: That gets to show off musicians from every section of the orchestra. I'd imagine it's one of those pieces, Jeff, when you audition as a, as an instrumentalist, these are some of the solos that are required, uh, for those auditions.
Jeff Spurgeon: And a cheer there for the concert master in this performance. The, uh, role of Scheherazade, taken by the concertmaster's violin, and now the entire São Paulo Symphony Orchestra on its feet here at Carnegie Hall.
And what an interesting, uh, touch of history that Marin Alsop mentioned as the performance began, that Rimsky-Korsakov was a sailor. His father was a big admiral in the Russian, uh, Navy. And so, Rimsky-Korsakov took a few years and was on a ship that, that, uh, spent some time off the coast of Brazil. The ships had been sent to America as some kind of show of support to the North during the Civil War.
This was 1863, 1864. And we don't, it's hard to imagine because of the last 75 years, but Russia was a greater friend of the United States in that time, than France was or Great Britain. And so, it's a little wrinkle in history that, uh, brought Rimsky-Korsakov into this world. But I have to believe that his time at sea infused this music so powerfully with that sound of the ocean that just goes all the way through.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah. And even though this story is about Scheherazade, you get a sense of his personal connection with it, especially towards the end with the shipwreck. Mm-hmm. Um, such a, such an important piece. And it, and it demonstrates that music is a, a powerful way that gets beyond politics, gets beyond time. It's timeless in that way. Just can bring all of us together, uh, to enjoy it as one.
Jeff Spurgeon: Intermission here at this concert at Carnegie Hall with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra making their very first appearance at the hall.
Terrance McKnight: And right now, we get to meet a member of the orchestra staff joining us right now. All the way from São Paulo, Brazil is Dr. Arthur Nestrovski. He's the artistic director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. He's been with the orchestra for about a dozen years now. Welcome, Doctor.
Arthur Nestrovski: Well, thank you very much.
Terrance McKnight: How's... How's it feel to be here?
Arthur Nestrovski: This is extremely exciting for us to say the least. It's thrilling. It's been 10 years in the making from the very first conversations with our friends at Carnegie Hall all the way to today. So, it's exciting for us to be here.
Jeff Spurgeon: And what, what else is happening with the orchestra. You have two concerts here. What else are you doing? Spending a little time in New York, I hope.
Arthur Nestrovski: Well, uh, not much time to have fun in New York, at least not until Sunday. We're playing now a second half, which is all Villa-Lobos. And I'll talk to you about this in a minute. And tomorrow we do a very special program, which is also focused on Villa-Lobos, but it has to do with Brazilian nature and the fight for the survival of the rainforest. It's based on Villa-Lobos with many other Brazilian composers. Uh, 75 minutes of music continues, uh, no interval between the pieces and with visuals. Special film produced by Marcello Dantas, a Brazilian curator. The images were, um, filmed in the Amazonian region in Pantanal, Bonito, and the Atlantic Forest in Brazil.
And they will accompany the music from the beginning to the end, 75 minutes. And it all has to do with the influence of the forest in Villa-Lobos' music and through Villa-Lobos to the rest of us, and the fight for the survival of our landscape, which is crucial to Brazilian identity. And I would say to the world.
But this is tomorrow. Right now, we're onto the second half, which is all Villa-Lobos. We are celebrating this year, 100 years of modernism in Brazil. In 1922, there was an event in the Municipal theater in São Paulo. It's, it's called the Modernist Week. Villa-Lobos was part of that, and it's sort of shaped the art to come and we will hear three very different works which sort of represent different phases of Villa-Lobos' career, beginning with the prelude to Bachianas brasileiras No. 4, some of his most well-known works. Then, a very unusual piece. It's a harmonica concerto. He wrote it here in the States in 1955.
Jeff Spurgeon: Doctor, would you, would you just say again what it is? Cause some people didn't believe what you just said.
Arthur Nestrovski: I know, yeah. What is this piece? It's a harmonica concerto,
Jeff Spurgeon: Thank you
Arthur Nestrovski: a concerto for harmonica written by Villa-Lobos at the very end of his career here in the United States for a harmonica player called John Sebastian. But now will be performed by a Brazilian virtuoso called José Staneck. Fantastic player, as you will soon hear.
And to finish the program, a complete masterpiece. Another masterpiece called Chôros No. 10 for chorus and orchestra. We, we brought our chorus. We have the fortune of having a professional chorus, 50 strong and they're all here. And this is a piece that was written in 1926. It's a kind, it kind of sums up the achievement of Villa-Lobos' combination of extraordinary orchestration, unusual imagination for harmony, for color, and for melody, an extraordinary way to draw on Brazilian folklore in Brazilian popular music integrated with advanced orchestral techniques.
And sentimental popular music brought to the fore with a unique force. You will hear, the corners will sing, um, chant or a song, a kind of song transformed by Villa-Lobos, but which it, he adapted from a very popular song from the early 20th century with strange lyrics, very parnassian, sentimental, not really in very good taste, but somehow, he gets transformed into the most gigantic, expressive, original, transcendental, Amazonian samba.
It's something if, if you've never heard Chôros 10, get ready for it, because it really is something out of this world. And the idea is that we would bring to you, um, the best of Villa-Lobos in many guises, uh, which is the best we can bring to you as a representation of Brazilian music and Brazilian culture at large.
Jeff Spurgeon: Why is it important for the São Paulo Symphony to play at Carnegie Hall?
Arthur Nestrovski: Well, you know, in the last decade and a half or so, uh, I'm proud to say we played at the BBC Proms in, in London twice. We played at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Salle Pleyel in Paris, Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
We played in China; we played in Hong Kong. We played at the Musikverein in Vienna, Berlin Philharmonie. We played at virtually every important hall in the world except for Carnegie Hall. So, this is really a historical occasion for us, and as far as we know, we are not only the first professional Brazilian orchestra, but the first professional symphony orchestra from Latin America ever to be presented at the official subscription series at Carnegie Hall. So, uh, it's no small feat for ourselves and, uh, we're very proud of it and, and thrilled to be here.
Terrance McKnight: Tell me what about Marin Alsop attracted your orchestra to her, and what about your orchestra just keeps her working with you guys for so long? What has that, what has that relationship been like?
Arthur Nestrovski: Well, you know, Marin came for the first time in 2010. It was my first year there in São Paulo, and she conducted Mahler seven. And it was, it was happening. I mean, it was something that sort of marked the musical life in São Paul, and it was, you don't explain love at first sight, and, and it was mutual. And then of course we invited her back, and at that time, uh, we were, we had a search, we had a search committee, and we were looking for another conductor.
And conversations developed. She came again. And then it became clear that for us it would be a major step to have someone like her, but also for her it was very interesting to have a Latin American orchestra full of energy, full of enthusiasm. We have a fantastic hall, I have to say. I mean, Carnegie Hall is Carnegie Hall, but Sala São Paulo is not to be dismissed.
Jeff Spurgeon: A converted train station.
Arthur Nestrovski: It's a converted train station. It was listed by the Guardian as one of the 10 best halls in the world together with Carnegie Hall. So, I think the combination of Brazilian culture, you know, being, even with all its troubles, being very vibrant, uh, and full of energy and the desire to make things happen, um, her empathy and sympathy for what we were doing, the whole itself, the audience is there.
And what I think became clear to her is that she could do things that maybe she could not do elsewhere. Like some of the programs we're doing here in a strange, original, bold things that we were up for and. So, she was there for eight years as Chief Conductor, and now she remains as conductor of honor, and we hope this was already renewed. And I, we hope we'll keep renewing this because it's, it's obviously a very good relation.
Jeff Spurgeon: Well, congratulations to you for bringing the orchestra here to Carnegie Hall. You get to put the check mark next to the Carnegie Hall box now on the São Paulo, uh, tour, and we can feel the excitement that the orchestra is experiencing tonight with their appearance in the hall.
Thank you so much for spending some time with us.
Arthur Nestrovski: Thank you for having us here. We hope to be back soon.
Jeff Spurgeon: All right.
Terrance McKnight: Good to meet you. You know, Jeff, Marin, um, aside from the live, uh, uh, concerts with this orchestra all over the world, she's recorded so much with this orchestra. She recorded all of Prokofiev's symphonies with the São Paulo Orchestra. Let's just listen to a little bit of that. Let's listen to, uh, one of these recordings. His last symphony. This is his symphony number seven São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop.
MUSIC - Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 7
Jeff Spurgeon: Music from Prokofiev's Symphony No 7, a performance by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, a recording, but you're hearing that orchestra and that conductor from Carnegie Hall Live tonight. We are at intermission of this very first concert by the São Paulo Symphony at Carnegie. Classical New York is 105.9 FM at HD WQXR Newark and 90.3 FM WQXW, Ossining. Backstage at Carnegie Hall, I'm Jeff Spurgeon alongside Terrance McKnight.
Um, Marin Alsop, Terrance has had an astounding career, a prominent female conductor, and she's also, uh, what do they say? Paying it forward, Is that the term?
Terrance McKnight: That's right. She's um, she's a mentor, man. She, you know, not only does she work with this orchestra, but she's the chief conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio or- Symphony Orchestra.
She's the chief conductor and curator of Chicago Ravinia Festival Orchestra. And 20 years ago, she started the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship. This organization is all about promoting, presenting, and encouraging talented women conductors who are at the beginning of their professional careers. You know, Jeff, earlier tonight, before the show started, I asked her how she kept up her energy.
She didn't say swimming or running or taking Vitamin Water. She said, It's the music. Remember that?
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. Right. We were standing by the elevator.
Terrance McKnight: That's right. She said, When the music starts, you know, it, all the pain goes away, and all the energy comes. And, um, she's, this is something that she's transmitting to younger, uh, female conductors and it's such an important, and such an important thing to do.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah.
Terrance McKnight: of someone of her stature to be in that role.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. She's just been amazing. And as I say, she's also an amazingly down to earth person as relaxed and easy to be around as, as anyone. And in fact, she's just a few feet away with us talking with some orchestra officials. Uh, the stage doors are open. Uh, the houselights are on at Carnegie.
There are musicians around us and, uh, we're just, we're just being together before we are ready for the second part of this amazing concert. You heard the orchestra's artistic director, Doctor, uh Dr. Arthur Nestrovski uh, talk about the program, uh, that is coming up. It's music of Villa-Lobos and, um, and we're, we're going to get a really fabulously interesting work.
You heard me ask the doctor twice. You heard Terrance mention it. It's such an unusual thing. To have, uh, a harmonica as a solo instrument in its symphony orchestra. But we're going to hear that along with some other Villa-Lobos' music. Villa-Lobos, one of, if not the most celebrated Brazilian composer. And Marin Alsop told us that she loves getting to play his music with this orchestra.
Marin Alsop: Well, you know, it's been a real revelation and a joyous revelation, I would say, uh, working in São Paulo, getting to know these incredible Brazilian classical composers and as well as the Brazilian popular culture, which is so rich and Villa-Lobos is, I think he is, to Brazil's music what Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein are to American music.
You know, he was able to really capture the essence of the country and the folk elements, the indigenous music of the peoples, and meld it and build his own vocabulary from that. And of course, the, the feel that these musicians have for the Brazilian music is really incredible and profound. We have so much fun playing.
That's the really, I would say at the end of the day, that it's, it's about having a great time and enjoying all the rhythms and, uh, the beautiful melodies. You know, there, there's a, a sense of melancholy and I think memory that is typically Brazilian.
Terrance McKnight: The first piece that they'll play is from a one of Villa-Lobos's most famous set of works–his Bachianas brasileiras series.
These are nine pieces written between 1930 and 1945, and they were inspired by Sebastian Bach. One we'll here is the Preludio, which was originally composed for a piano, then later orchestrated by Villa-Lobos, here's conductor Marin Alsop talking about it.
Marin Alsop: Villa-Lobos was inspired by the music of Bach to write this, uh, series of compositions. Um, but Bach, he's really just the jumping off point. I would say in this Preludio, you really do sense, you know, you can hear Air on the G string, you can hear this beautiful Bach repertoire for strings that is so famous. Yet the way Villa-Lobos imbues it with this Brazilian spirit and also an emotional depth, I think that, I don't wanna say we don't feel with Bach, but I think that we can relate to more easily with Villa-Lobos.
Jeff Spurgeon: Marin Alsop talking about the Villa-Lobos work that's going to open the second part of this concert. The Preludio from the Bachianas brasileiras No. 4. Uh, work that was originally written by Villa-Lobos for piano, but then he orchestrated it and, uh, in, in the early part of the 1940s. Uh, and it's a work that has been played at Carnegie Hall, uh, first performed here in 1977, uh, with the Symphony Orchestra of Brazil.
So, uh, maybe just to make it clear, the São Paulo Orchestra, we believe is the very first orchestra to be presented as you heard, uh, the artistic director say, presented by Carnegie Hall here. Maybe not the first Brazilian orchestra here, but tonight we're going to hear, uh, a Brazilian orchestra playing music by a great Brazilian composer.
And following that, uh, preludio, then we'll have that harmonica concerto, and then we'll get the chorus out here for that final work on the program.
Terrance McKnight: Very exciting down here at Carnegie Hall, uh, for our listeners at home, I know folks, I'm just reading some comments online, uh, people talking about they wish they could've been here.
Uh, couldn't find a sitter for the dog tonight, but again, this orchestra will be here tomorrow night. So, if you're able to come out, but we're glad you're here with us on the radio tonight. Uh, we've got a full house and, uh, you can hear them getting excited about the second half of this show. The concert master is going out to get the second half started, and we'll continue with music, uh, Villa-Lobos, the second half full of his music. Such an important voice in Brazilian composition.
Jeff Spurgeon: Orchestra's tuning up on stage. Maestra Alsop just a few feet away, just waiting for things to settle down. And then we'll get out there and enjoy this preludio. Um by Villa-Lobos, I think his most familiar piece is the aria from the Bachianas brasileiras No. 5 made so famous, uh, many years ago in the original recording by, uh, the Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão and performed by many, many other artists since then. Well, tonight we're going turn to the Bachianas brasileiras number four. Hear the preludio from that work and on stage once again, Marin Alsop with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Music of Villa-Lobos from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Villa-Lobos: Preludio from Bachianas brasileiras No. 4
Jeff Spurgeon: Rich music by Heitor Villa-Lobos. That was the Preludio from the Bachianas brasileiras No. 4, played by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop. And now coming on stage, the soloist for a most unusual work, a concerto for harmonica by Villa-Lobos. And uh, that applause is for José Staneck, our soloist for tonight. And here is that concerto now from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Villa-Lobos: Harmonica Concerto
Marin Alsop: I've rarely had a soloist, just pull their instrument out of their pocket. You know, it's kind of funny, and uh, and also the personal quality of the harmonica being a street instrument, you know, originally and being an instrument of, of the people.
Jeff Spurgeon: Marin Alsop speaking of the soloist in the work, we've just heard José Staneck who played for you the harmonica concerto of Heitor Villa-Lobos with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in this orchestra's very first performance in this concert you're hearing right now from Carnegie Hall Live. Backstage, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, along with Terrance McKnight and now going out on stage for a solo bow, this fabulous instrumentalist from, uh, Brazil, José Staneck.
Terrance McKnight: He talked about his harmonica backstage here with us Jeff, and he was very proud of the fact that it didn't require a microphone.
MUSIC - Harmonic Encore
Jeff Spurgeon: Wonderful encore by Harmonicist
Terrance McKnight: Harmonicist.
Jeff Spurgeon: Thank you, José Staneck. Incorporating a few different works. You heard some Jobim in there. You heard a little Rimsky-Korsakov in there, and a little more in that amazing harmonica performance. Terrance, you'd mentioned that you were, we were looking at the harmonica, uh, a little bit before he, he performed, you were saying a word or two about it.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah, that's right. He said how his harmonica doesn't require a microphone, so he was just able to go out, stand in the middle of the stage and play what we just heard over an orchestra on this little harmonica about seven inches long.
Jeff Spurgeon: Quite something.
Terrance McKnight: You're right. Without a microphone. And, and as you could hear, he was fully heard by, by the audience and appreciate it, appreciated by that audience and taking full advantage and really playing into this, this, the fact that this orchestra and this country is celebrating 200 years of independence.
Jeff Spurgeon: Mm-hmm.
Terrance McKnight: So, he took some freedom out on stage and, and really created this celebratory mood that we're all experiencing here at Carnegie Hall tonight.
Jeff Spurgeon: Beautiful performance of that, uh, Villa-Lobos, uh, concerto for harmonica, which was commissioned, by the way, by the American Harmonicist, John Sebastian, and if that name sounds familiar to you.
Um, well, he, he wasn't as famous as his son named John Sebastian. The Lovin' Spoonful guy was the son of the man who commissioned the concerto that you just heard. John Sebastian, along with Larry Adler and a British man named Tommy Reilly, were the three guys in the 20th century who really worked hard to make a classical repertoire for this instrument of the people as Marin Alsop, uh, talked about the, about the harmonica, and you heard the magic that Villa-Lobos made of that instrument and of his sounds and the performance that, that we just heard.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah. So many smiles back here backstage. Jeff, uh, you know, the chorus is about to go on. We've got one more piece on this program. Uh, you can just feel the excitement. These musicians who've been playing with each other for so long, and now they're here in New York, uh, for a few days, they were, uh, visited a couple other places in the States. Mm-hmm. uh, they're wrapping up their tour, uh, tomorrow here at Carnegie Hall.
And we've got one more pro, one more piece on this program comes from the 1920s. It's Chôros by Villa-Lobos, and this piece has been referred to as Villa-Lobos's answer to Beethoven Symphony No 9. And we asked Marin Alsop about this final piece on the program.
Marin Alsop: I decided to close with this piece because it's really the Brazilian sort of bookend to the Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade. It's a through composed piece. It's almost a symphonic poem. Uh, the themes that we hear at the beginning are woven throughout and they culminate in this incredible text and song from the streets. And, and that is the essence to me of Villa-Lobos. I do think. It's definitely a Brazilian take on the tone poem and the inclusive nature of what Villa-Lobos was trying to achieve.
Terrance McKnight: Yeah. The, the singers, the chorus is walking past us now, orchestra is on stage. We're here live at Carnegie Hall, welcoming the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra for its very first time in this hall. They’ve played all over the world, and as their artistic director talked about this has been a dream of so many of these musicians, and to have Marin Alsop, a New Yorker, bring this orchestra back home is a real treat, uh, for so many.
Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah. Uh, this last work that we're going to hear, this, uh, uh, Chôros number 10, um, has this, as you mentioned, Terrance, this, uh, chorus in it. And, and we heard about this, this song. Some of the images in the lyrics that the chorus will sing, include the ideas of the immense sea and the sky sparkling sunlight, perfumes from blossoms that are in nature, and, um, and then emotions that spring forward from that.
So, so it's a sort of an impressionistic poem that we'll hear sung. But along with that particularly distinctive sound of Villa-Lobos's music, what did, uh, Marin Alsop say? Uh, she talked about melancholy and memory as being two characteristics of Villa-Lobos's music. I think we especially heard that in the harmonica concerto. Actually, I think that if you play brand new music on a harmonica, it sounds old, it sounds nostalgic, but uh, Marin Alsop was speaking of the particular quality of Villa-Lobos. And the stage door opens and out she goes again.
For the final work on this program from Carnegie Hall. Very first time with São Paulo Symphony, which she has asked to come to their feet to receive the applause of this Carnegie Hall audience. First time the orchestra's been at Carnegie, it's a big dream come true. And now they bring you the last work on this program.
The Chôros No. 10 by Villa-Lobos from Carnegie Hall Live.
MUSIC - Villa-Lobos: Chôros No. 10
Terrance McKnight: Chôros No. 10, music by Heitor Villa-Lobos, the São Paulo Orchestra here. Carnegie Hall, conducted by Maron Alsop. If you ever wonder why Villa-Lobos is such an important composer in Brazil, you just heard. You just heard why. Embracing the heart, the land of the country, embracing so many sounds of the country, so much fun for these musicians to play here.
You had the chorus, the orchestra, their debut in Carnegie Hall. I'm Terrance McKnight here with Jeff Spurgeon
Jeff Spurgeon: and Marin Alsop just dropped off stage just to, just to take a moment, just to take a moment, and now she's back on stage with all of those musicians from the São Paulo Symphony, few others stepping on, and uh, about 50 chorus members as well.
Fabulous writing for all those voices. A work that Villa-Lobos wrote in 1926 actually had its Carnegie Hall premier in 1930 from the New York Philharmonic and Schola Cantorum. Those cheers are for Marin Alsop. Now she asks the orchestra to stand and the chorus as well.
Terrance McKnight: I don't know if you could see it, Jeff, but she just gave a heart sign to the orchestra. So much love. Here's an encore.
MUSIC - Edu Lobo: Pe de Vento
Jeff Spurgeon: An encore from the São Paulo Symphony and Conductor Marin Alsop from- Carnegie Hall Live. That work is called Pe de Vento. And it's a composition of a living composer, a man from Rio de Janeiro named, uh, Eduardo Lobo. And uh, he is a bander. He's worked with all kinds of contemporary musicians. Part of the Bossa Nova movement in the 1960s worked with, well, among others Earth, Wind, and Fire and the list goes on and on. And, uh, Terrance I was anybody not moving some part of themselves while that music was playing?
Terrance McKnight: Not only was she conducting the music, but she led the Bossa Nova from the podium live here at Carnegie Hall. What a treat. And she's going back out on stage orchestra, standing up Marin Alsop conducting the São Paulo Symphony here in Carnegie Hall.
Jeff Spurgeon: She's asked the orchestra to stand, and they won't do it. They want her to take the applause. Now they're on their feet. The first of two concerts by the São Paulo Symphony and their first appearance of Carnegie Hall. This concert tonight, the second one tomorrow night, that will feature a great deal of projection, um, to immerse the audience in the Brazilian rainforest, uh, in a program that's going to be presented tomorrow night.
About 75 minutes of music that will be just played without intermission, without interruption. Just a great big evening in the rainforest tomorrow night at Carnegie Hall.
Terrance McKnight: Marin Alsop's going back out on stage. Picking up that baton. Here we go. Another encore.
MUSIC - Guerra-Peixe: Mourão
Mourão, music by Guerra-Peixe, played by São Paulo Symphony, Marin Alsop, conducting that second encore here at Carnegie Hall. This is Carnegie Hall Live. I'm Terrance McKnight here with Jeff Spurgeon backstage.
Jeff Spurgeon: Oh, it is a celebratory night. Yeah, it's just, just great. The energy in the, uh, audience, is as amazing as you hear, and how could it not be with this amazing palette of sounds that we are hearing.
One of the percussionists was at the front of the stage with a drum on his shoulder, uh, playing and keeping that rhythm hot and going and, uh, now out on stage just more applause for the audience. And Marin Alsop now once again, asking the entire São Paulo Symphony to come to their feet, their first appearance at Carnegie Hall,
Terrance McKnight: bringing the music and the spirit of Brazil here to, Carnegie Hall, such excitement from the audience, all the musicians on stage. Chorus is here, full orchestra is here. Marin Alsop, the conductor of honor with this orchestra.
Jeff Spurgeon: Quite a, yeah, quite a relationship she's made over more than a decade with this orchestra. Um, and really in a way this is a culmination of it, a great celebration of Brazil, of Brazilian culture, of the, uh, magic of nature in music whether it's the sea depicted in that Scheherazade of Rimsky-Korsakov or the sounds of nature in the Chôros number 10 that we just heard. So, there was so much richness in what we were able to share with you tonight.
Terrance McKnight: So glad that you all could join us for this and Marin Alsop. You know, here she is, right in. Near our microphone. So, we're just gonna get her to just tell us a little bit about this, this home coming there and you're bringing this orchestra back to New York for, for its first time.
Marin Alsop: No, it's great.
Terrance McKnight: What it, what does it mean for you?
Marin Alsop: It's very special. I mean, you, you hear, you hear the excitement in their playing, and you hear it now as they're coming off stage. They're, this is a, a dream come true for them. And it's nothing like sharing your hometown and your home hall really. You know, I grew up here in New York and Carnegie Hall is where I saw Leonard Bernstein conduct for the first time and decided I wanted to be a conductor. And, you know, here we are now celebrating not just the great repertoire like Scheherazade, but also the great sounds of Brazil, you know, bringing the country to New York. And, uh, it's, it's really been a thrill.
Jeff Spurgeon: You didn't know, you told us really anything about Brazil before you began working with this orchestra. So how has your Portuguese, uh, come along over the past decade or so?
Marin Alsop: Yeah, well, you know, it was pretty good for a while there. And, uh, now it's rusty and then this week it's coming back again. You know, it's a little bit like that. It's ephemeral, but the language is so beautiful, just like the music. It's unexpected, you know?
Jeff Spurgeon: Do you communicate with the orchestra in both languages and English and Portuguese?
Marin Alsop: Only when I want them to laugh at me. So, and I do a very good job of that. And so, they have a lot of, I guess, you know, a few of my expressions, which are completely inaccurate, have become part of their jar, the jargon of the orchestra now. So, it's, it is, quite entertaining. But, uh, they're a wonderful group of people and, uh, a wonderful orchestra.
Terrance McKnight: Mm-hmm. Do you have any sense of what they're looking, the orchestra is looking forward to doing here in New York? Outside of, outside of the music making? What are they looking for to?
Marin Alsop: Oh my God, I'm, I'm in, I think I, they came to the concert to rest because they said they've been to all the museums. They went down to the Village Vanguard to hear some jazz. You know, -these are people that are totally engaged in living, you know, they're, they didn't, they don't come to, you know, lie in the hotel room. They, they're out and about and exploring things and, and, you know, just trying to experience New York. Um, I think for many of them it's the first time to, to New York and maybe even to the States. So, it's pretty exciting.
Jeff Spurgeon: It's such a gift that you've given this orchestra. It must be a, an incredible moment of fulfillment this night and tomorrow night for you?
Marin Alsop: Well, it just feels, you know, I, I'm just very proud of them because I think they, they rise to, you know, the, the standard of Carnegie Hall and they can compete with these other great orchestras, so I'm very proud of them.
Jeff Spurgeon: Congratulations to you, Marin Alsop. Thanks for that time. We know you have another concert to prepare for and some celebration tonight. Thanks for spending a few minutes with us.
Marin Alsop: Thank you. Thanks for having us tonight.
Terrance McKnight: Always a pleasure.
Jeff Spurgeon: And with that, we'll conclude our broadcast of this first ever concert by the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, with thanks to Clive Gillinson and the staff of Carnegie Hall, WQXR’s engineers include Ed Haber, George Wellington, Duke Markos and Bill Siegmund
Terrance McKnight: Our production staff includes Eileen Delahunty and Laura Boyman. I'm Jeff Spurgeon. And I'm Terrance McKnight. This program is a co-production of Carnegie Hall and WQXR in New York.