NEC Philharmonia + Hugh Wolff: Wennäkoski, Bartók, Mendelssohn

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Tonight's concert by NEC Philharmonia and Hugh Wolff includes Of Footprints and Light by Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski, Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony and Bartók's Concerto for Viola and Orchestra with soloist Cara Pogossian '24 GD, the winner of the Concerto Competition.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here:

  • Cara Pogossian '24 GD, viola
  1. Lotta Wennäkoski | Of Footprints and Light (Helsinki Variations) (2019)

     Program note

    In honor of the centenary anniversary of independent Finland, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra launched a “Helsinki Variations” commission project spanning a number of years. At the beginning of 2017, six Finnish composers were invited to write works to be performed by the HPO in 2019–2022. Each composer selected a Finnish work dating from before 1945 as inspiration for a new piece lasting not more than 15 minutes. Lotta Wennäkoski’s Om fotspår och ljus (Of Footprints and Light), based on a scene from the opera Asiens ljus (Light of Asia) by Ida Moberg (1859-1947), was the first composition to be performed. The opera tells the story of Buddha’s life, and in this scene the young prince Siddhartha Gautama sings to his faithful servant Channa in the palace garden. Moberg worked with Asiens ljus from 1910 until her death in 1947. The opera remained unfinished, and presumably only an excerpt (”Lullaby”) has ever been performed in public.

    Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski studied the violin, music theory and composition in Budapest, Helsinki, and The Hague. Her main composition teachers have been Eero Hämeenniemi, Kaija Saariaho, Paavo Heininen, and Louis Andriessen.        Wennäkoski began her composition career by composing for radio plays and short films. A major landmark on her career was a concert at the Musica Nova Helsinki festival in 1999. Her notable works include Sakara for orchestra (2003), commissioned by Esa-Pekka Salonen; the string quartet Culla d’aria (2004), commissioned by the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival; Hava for chamber orchestra; the flute concerto Soie (2009), one of the recommended works at the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 2012; Verdigris for chamber orchestra (2015), commissioned by The Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Flounce for orchestra, commissioned by the BBC and performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2017; Hele (2018)for chamber ensemble, commissioned by the LA Philharmonic; Sigla (2022), a harp concerto; Pige (2022) for string quartet; her violin concerto Prosoidia (2023); and her first big opera Regine.       As a composer, Wennäkoski has been described as a lyricist and a lyrical Modernist and post-Expressionist, and she has described herself as "often navigating in an area between exciting timbral qualities and more conventional gestures like melodic fragments."

  2. Béla Bartók | Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, SZ 120 BB128

    Completed and orchestrated by Tibor Serly

    Andante religioso
    Allegro vivace

    Cara Pogossian

    Armenian-American violist Cara Pogossian is an avid chamber musician having attended numerous summer festivals, including the Marlboro Festival, Ravinia Steans Music Institute, and Taos School of Music. In 2022, Cara was the winner of the Borromeo String Quartet Guest Artist Award, and, more recently, her quartet was selected as a 2022-2023 Honors Ensemble at the New England Conservatory. She has toured with the Curtis Institute on multiple occasions, performing Schubert’s Cello Quintet, as well as with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra as principal violist. Cara has had the privilege of collaborating and performing with many of the leading figures in classical music, such as Don Weilerstein, Ida Kavafian, Joseph Lin, Marcy Rosen, Peter Wiley, Daniel Phillips, Kim Kashkashian, and the Borromeo String Quartet. 
            Cara is lucky enough to have an entire family of musicians, with whom she frequently performs. During the pandemic, the Pogossian/Manouelian Clarinet Quintet collaborated with composers Timo Andres, Ian Krouse, Artashes Kartalyan, and Aida Shirazi, premiering each of their works in a series of online concerts. 

            A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Hsin-Yun Huang and Misha Amory, Cara is currently continuing her graduate studies with Kim Kashkashian at the New England Conservatory of Music as the recipient of the Abraham Skernick Memorial Presidential Scholarship.

    Program note

    The Concerto for Viola and Orchestra was one of the last pieces Béla Bartók wrote. He began composing it while living in Saranac Lake, New York, in July 1945. It was commissioned by William Primrose, a respected violist who knew that Bartók could provide a challenging piece for him to perform. He said that Bartók should not "feel in any way proscribed by the apparent technical limitations of the instrument".  Bartók was suffering the terminal stages of leukemia when he began writing the piece and left only sketches at the time of his death.|
           Primrose asked Bartók to write the concerto in the winter of 1944. They exchanged several letters about the piece and in one, from September 8, 1945, Bartók claims that he is nearly done with it and only has the orchestration to complete. The sketches show that this was not truly the case. After Bartók died, his close friend Tibor Serly completed the piece in 1949.  The concerto was premiered on December 2, 1949, by Primrose and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, with Antal Doráti conducting.  

            The concerto has three movements, and in a letter dated August 5, 1945 Bartók wrote that the general concept is "a serious Allegro, a Scherzo, a (rather short) slow movement, and a finale beginning Allegretto and developing the tempo to an Allegro molto. Each movement, or at least 3 of them will, [be] preceded by a (short) recurring introduction (mostly solo for the viola), a kind of ritornello."  The first movement is in a loose sonata form. The second movement is significantly shorter, and closes with a very short scherzo movement with an attacca into the third movement.       
    – Wikipedia

    • Cara Pogossian '24 GD, viola

  4. Felix Mendelssohn | Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, op. 56 "Scottish"

    Andante con moto - Allegro un poco agitato
    Vivace non troppo
    Allegro vivacissimo - Allegro maestoso assai

    Program note

    Felix Mendelssohn, a frequent visitor to the British Isles, at age 20 took a tour of Scotland. He visited the ruins of Holyrood Castle in Edinburgh and was profoundly moved by what he saw. Writing his sister in Berlin, he said, “In the deep twilight, we went to the palace where Queen Mary Stuart lived and loved. The chapel is now roofless and thick with grass and ivy. Before this ruined altar, Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything around is broken and rotting, and the bright sky shines in. I think that I found the beginning of my Scottish Symphony there today.“
            It took him another thirteen years to complete, but the symphony seems imbued with Scottish character and history. The grand sweep of the melancholy opening movement builds to a violent storm scene in the coda (the kind of weather Mendelssohn might have had on the windswept Hebrides Islands). The second movement’s pentatonic clarinet tune with the Scottish snap (sixteenth followed by dotted eighth) has the jaunty character of a Scottish jig. The deeply felt slow movement alternates between an achingly beautiful song without words and a proud stoic march to execution (Mary Queen of Scots’ fate at the hands of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England?). The finale is a grand battle scene, the drama subsiding to a lonely, ghostly clarinet (the destruction-strewn field after the battle?), followed by a striking triumphal coda (the victorious soldiers and their families?). All this is speculation, but the narrative fits the music and history, and is a portal into one of the masterpieces of early German Romanticism.                       
    – Hugh Wolff


  5. NEC Philharmonia

    First Violin
    K. J. McDonald
    Harin Kang
    Passacaglia Mason
    Mitsuru Yonezaki
    SooBeen Lee
    Michael Fisher
    Hannah Park
    Emma Boyd
    Yebin Yoo
    Julian Rhee
    Sydney Scarlett
    Caroline Smoak

    Second Violin
    Hannah Kim
    Joshua Brown
    Hyeon Hong
    June Chung
    Darwin Chang
    Hila Dahari
    Gabriella Foster
    Jordan Hadrill
    Ioan-Octavian Pirlea
    Eunha Kim
    Minami Yoshida
    Chiung-Han Tsai

    Bram Fisher
    Nathan Emans
    Asher Boorstin
    Sachin Shukla
    Joy Hsieh
    Jowen Hsu
    Philip Rawlinson
    Yeh-Chun Lin
    Anna Mann
    Daeun Hong

    Shannon Ross
    Miruna Eynon
    Isaac Pagano-Toub
    Rachel Lin
    Andres Sanchez
    Max Zhenren Zhao
    Nicholas Tsang Man To
    Lily Uijin Gwak

    Luke Tsuchiya
    Isabel Atkinson
    Cailin Singleton
    Alyssa Peterson

    Gregory Padilla

    Anne Chao
    Shengyu Cui ‡
    Isabel Evernham §
    Jungyoon Kim *

    Anne Chao *
    Isabel Evernham ‡

    Dane Bennett §
    Kian Hirayama
    Abigail Hope-Hull ‡
    Sojeong Kim
    Alexander Lenser *

    Xianyi Ji *§
    Phoebe Kuan ‡

    E-flat Clarinet
    Phoebe Kuan

    Bass Clarinet
    Dillon Acey

    Zoe Beck ‡
    Adam Chen *
    Seth Goldman
    Erik Paul
    Julien Rollins §

    French horn
    Grace Clarke §
    Jihao Li ‡
    Noah Silverman
    Qianbin Zhu *

    Daniel Barak
    Reynolds Martin *
    Matthew Milhalko ‡
    Cody York §

    Quinn McGillis ‡  
    Kevin Smith *

    Bass Trombone
    Scott Odou

    James Curto ‡
    Masaru Lin *

    Jakob Schoenfeld ‡
    Halle Hayoung Song §

    Gustavo Barreda *
    Eli Geruschat ‡
    Ross Jarrell

    Felix Ko
    Connor Willits

    Yoonsu Cha

    Principal players
    * Wennäkoski
    ‡ Bartók
    § Mendelssohn