This season at New England Conservatory, 30+ concerts demonstrate just how vital music is to human struggle, and what revolution in artistic expression sounds like. Programs range from roots music to Beethoven, fight songs to anti-war anthems. Join our year-long exploration of how music speaks truth to power!
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Tonight's guest conductor, pianist Jeffrey Kahane, returns to conduct the NEC Philharmonia for a second time.
Kahane leads the Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major, No. 25, K. 503 from the keyboard—playing his own cadenzas.
Also on the program:
John Adams's Harmonielehre.
Influenced powerfully by the example of Arnold Schoenberg and his many compositional acolytes, a young composer like John Adams had to come to grips with the aesthetic imperative represented by the serialist method. To acquiesce was the path to acceptance by the compositional establishment and, thereby, career success. To rebel was the lonely alternative. In his note on the work, Adams describes his manifesto of aesthetic freedom, his own Harmonielehre, that he wrote as a deliberate parody of Schoenberg’s own treatise on harmony of the same name.
“(Schoenberg) was a ‘master’ in the same sense that Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms were masters. That notion in itself appealed to me then and continues to do so. But Schoenberg also represented to me something twisted and contorted. He was the first composer to assume the role of high-priest, a creative mind whose entire life ran unfailingly against the grain of society, almost as if he had chosen the role of irritant. Despite my respect for and even intimidation by the persona of Schoenberg, I felt it only honest to acknowledge that I profoundly disliked the sound of twelve-tone music. His aesthetic was to me an over ripening of 19th century Individualism, one in which the composer was a god of sorts, to which the listener would come as if to a sacramental altar. It was with Schoenberg that the "agony of modern music" had been born, and it was no secret that the audience for classical music during the twentieth century was rapidly shrinking, in no small part because of the aural ugliness of so much of the new work being written…
“Rejecting Schoenberg was like siding with the Philistines, and freeing myself from the model he represented was an act of enormous will power. Not surprisingly, my rejection took the form of parody…not a single parody, but several extremely different ones. In my Chamber Symphony the busy, hyperactive style of Schoenberg’s own early work is placed in a salad spinner with Hollywood cartoon music. In The Death of Klinghoffer the priggish, disdainful Austrian Woman describes how she spent the entire hijacking hiding under her bed by singing in a Sprechstimme to the accompaniment of a Pierrot-like ensemble in the pit…
“My own Harmonielehre is parody of a different sort in that it bears a "subsidiary relation" to a model (in this case a number of signal works from the turn of the century like [Schoenberg's]Gurrelieder and the Sibelius Fourth Symphony), but it does so without the intent to ridicule. It is a large, three-movement work for orchestra that marries the developmental techniques of Minimalism with the harmonic and expressive world of fin de siècle late Romanticism. It was a conceit that could only be attempted once. The shades of Mahler, Sibelius, Debussy, and the young Schoenberg are everywhere in this strange piece. This is a work that looks at the past in what I suspect is "postmodernist" spirit, but, unlike Grand Pianola Music or Nixon in China, it does so entirely without irony."
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