Thank you for joining us.
It is a real joy to see the London Symphony Orchestra return to concert performances at LSO St Luke's this autumn. A warm welcome to the numerous guest conductors and artists who will join the LSO in the Jerwood Hall over the coming months, and welcome back to our family of conductors: Sir Simon Rattle, Gianandrea Noseda and François-Xavier Roth.
It is a pleasure to invite you to watch and listen today. I hope you enjoy the performance, and that you are able to join us again soon.
Wednesday 30 September
Stravinsky & Dvořák
Stravinsky Pulcinella – Suite
Dvořák Symphony No 9, ‘From the New World’
Jonathon Heyward conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
Visit our website for information on how we are ensuring activity at our venue LSO St Luke’s is COVID-19 secure.
The support of our audience has truly never been more important for the Orchestra and its world-class artistic programme. By supporting us now and in the months to come, you will help us to continue to adapt our music-making and activities to meet the challenges of these times, including sharing the gift of music with our local communities through our LSO Discovery programme.
The London Symphony Orchestra is hugely grateful to all the Patrons and Friends, Corporate Partners, Trusts and Foundations, and other supporters who make its work possible.
The LSO’s return to work is supported by Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne and DnaNudge.
This performance is generously supported by our Technical Partner, Yamaha Professional Audio.
Pulcinella – Suite
III. Scherzino – Allegretto – Andantino
VI. Gavotta (con due variazioni)
VIII. Minuetto – Finale
When first approached by the famous impresario Sergei Diaghilev to write a ballet based on the libretto of centuries old comedia dell arte (a type of improvised comedy based on stock characters), Stravinsky needed some convincing. However, Diaghilev had come prepared with several 18th-century manuscripts that he'd acquired in London and Naples – many by Pergolesi, the Italian Baroque composer – and on studying the manuscripts Stravinsky is said to have fallen in love and soon set to work to adapt the melodies and textures and lift them into the 21st century. He kept specific themes and textures and interjected his own modern rhythms, cadences, and harmonies, resulting in a work that would mark his transition into neo-Classicism. How strange it must have been for the collaborators and audiences he had shocked with his modernism just seven years previously in The Rite of Spring, as he now appeared to be taking on a style heavily influenced by 18th-century music. Even Diaghilev was unsure at first whether to acknowledge Stravinsky as the composer of the Pulcinella ballet or merely its arranger. Stravinsky himself is said to have commented: 'The remarkable thing about Pulcinella, is not how much but how little has been added or changed'.
The ballet premiered at the Paris Opera in 1920, with Diaghilev’s famed Ballet Russe and sets by Picasso, a dream production – although Diagheliv asked Piacasso to re-do the sets twice! Two years later, Stravinsky compiled the orchestral suite of what had become one of his favourite works into the arrangement we hear today. The suite is scored for much of the same orchestra as its original ballet but without the vocal lines.
Igor Stravinsky was born near St Petersburg, the third son of Feodor Stravinsky, one of the principal basses at the Maryinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. His musical education began with piano lessons at home when he was ten and he later studied law at St Petersburg University. His most important teacher would prove to be Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with whom he studied from the age of 20, taking regular lessons from 1905 until 1908. It was The Firebird, a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev and premiered by the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1910, that brought Stravinsky into sudden international prominence. In the next year he consolidated his reputation with Petrushka, a transformation of something essentially Russian into a work of surprising modernity. Stravinsky had become known as the most radical composer of his age. A rapid succession of works – The Nightingale, an opera, in 1914, Renard in 1915, The Soldier’s Tale in 1918, the Symphonies of Wind Instruments two years after that – all reinforced his daring approach to composition before he entered neo-Classicism with the ballet Pulcinella in 1920 (the subsequent orchestral suite we hear today), reworking the manuscripts of Pergolesi into something very personal and loved by the composer. In the same year, Stravinsky settled in France, taking French citizenship in 1934. His love for his adopted homeland came to a sad ending when, in a mere eight months, from November 1938, Stravinsky suffered the deaths of his daughter Lyudmilla, his mother and his wife. Faced with war in Europe, Stravinsky and his second-wife-to-be Vera Sudeikin later emigrated to the United States where he would spend the rest of his life, settling in California.
Stravinsky’s neo-Classical period culminated in 1951 in his three-act opera The Rake’s Progress, to a libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman. Until then he had ignored Schoenbergian serialism, but in 1952 he began to study Webern’s music intensely and Agon was the first work in which he embraced serialism wholeheartedly. During this time, he was also active as a performer of his own music, initially as a pianist but increasingly as a conductor. The first among contemporary composers to do so, he left a near-complete legacy of recordings of his own music, released then on CBS and now to be found on Sony Classical. His conducting career continued until 1967, when advancing age and illness forced him to retire from the concert platform before he passed away in New York in 1971.
Symphony No 9, ‘From the New World’
1. Adagio – Allegro molto
3. Scherzo: Molto vivace
4. Allegro con fuoco
‘Every nation has its music. There is Italian, German, French, Bohemian, Russian; why not American music? The truth of this music depends upon its characteristics, its colour. I do not mean to take these melodies, plantation, Creole or Southern, and work them out as themes ... But I study certain melodies until I become thoroughly imbued with their characteristics and am enabled to make a musical picture in keeping with and partaking of those characteristics.’
Antonín Dvořák’s interview for the Chicago Tribune, printed on 13 August 1893, was one of a series of articles in which he expounded his theory of an American national music. He was a man with a mission – having been enticed to America on the promise of a vast salary if he would head up the new National Conservatory of Music, he now had to help its founder, the philanthropist Mrs Jeanette Thurber, to realise her dream of reversing the prevailing trend among American composers to look to Europe for inspiration and initiate instead a national American school of composition. In preparation for this he began to explore the popular styles of North America, and waxed lyrical on the ‘natural voice of a free and vigorous race’.
The previous January, Dvořák had set to work on what would be his ninth symphony, completing the score on 24 May. On 15 December 1893, the day before the work’s premiere, the New York Herald printed another interview in which Dvořák expanded further on his thoughts about American music, making it very clear that he had incorporated the spirit of American melody into his new symphony. He also told his friends that the work was ‘essentially different from my earlier things’; however, for all this, there is surprisingly little that separates this work from Dvořák’s ‘European’ symphonies.
The Adagio introduction, by turns brooding and stormy, contains the first hints at the somewhat Wagnerian ‘motto theme’ that will recur throughout the symphony, and which we first hear in full, straining at the leash in the horns at the opening of the first movement proper, before it is heard in all its majesty in the full orchestra. The second-theme group consists principally of two carefree melodies, the first heard in the flute and oboe, while the second, with shades of the spiritual ‘Swing low, sweet chariot’, is heard first in the flute alone. When the main themes return in the reprise, Dvořák surprises his listeners with some unexpected harmonic shifts along with some further expansion of the melodic material, a sign that he is not done with this music yet.
The second movement opens with an expansive brass chorale, setting the scene for the beautiful pentatonic cor anglais melody that has become one of the most famous tunes in the classical repertoire. This movement, Dvořák said, was a sketch for a work based on Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha, and it is clear that he considered its main melody to have a native American character. A faster central section dispels the mood of nostalgia with bucolic wind melodies, but the idyll is soon interrupted by a brass fanfare and an echo of the ‘motto theme’. Then the pensive atmosphere returns, the feeling of longing exaggerated by a halting final rendition of the tune by a sextet of violins and violas.
The Scherzo was also suggested to Dvořák by Hiawatha, more particularly a scene of Native American dancing. The beating ostinato crotchets and the introduction’s build-up of folkish fifths reinforces this notion, but Dvořák couldn’t quite leave Bohemia behind, introducing the three-against-two rhythmic patterns so characteristic of the furiant (an eastern European dance that he often used in his scherzos) and creating a very Czech-sounding waltz for his trio section; scattered at intervals throughout we hear echoes of the first movement ‘motto’.
Dvořák creates another great theme for the opening of what was to be his last symphonic finale, this time a stoic march that could have come straight out of Russia. This movement is a patchwork of inspired melodies, with a string of dance-like tunes that have a genuinely American flavour, but in fact the true second theme is a simple clarinet melody that provides a brief oasis of calm in this otherwise rather frantic music. The march tune intervenes periodically as if to reaffirm its authority, before themes from both the Largo and the Scherzo begin to break in, in anticipation of a climactic entry of the symphony’s ‘motto’ theme. It is the conflict between this melody and the final movement’s march theme that forms the basis for the rest of the movement, and they combine in the coda until finally, exhausted by its efforts, the music peters out into nothing on the long, last chord.
Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony was an overnight success, and although relations between Mrs Thurber and the composer cooled significantly within a year, she must have been delighted with the work. His final symphony it may have been, but as his first major American-inspired composition, it served to encourage and legitimise further attempts at writing ‘national’ music, and thus paved the way for the great American composers of the 20th century and beyond.
Programme note © Alison Bullock
Today, Dvořák is celebrated as one of Europe's most forward-thinking and accomplished composers. He wrote his First Symphony at 24, subtitled 'The Bells of Zlonice' after a village he lived in as a child. This love for his home country echoes throughout his work, which often makes use of Slavic rhythms, melodies and folklore.
Moving to the US in 1892, he was appointed Director of the National Conservatory, one of the few conservatoires to accept women and students from ethnic minorities at the time. Dvořák wrote a series of newspaper articles during this time advocating African American and Native American music, and these influences can be heard in his Symphony No 9, 'From the New World'.
'Looking back before going forward is something that I was interested in in these two pieces, and what brings them together both dramatically and compositionally.' Jonathon Heyward
IDAGIO Magazine spoke to conductor Jonathon Heyward ahead of his debut with the LSO.
Read the full interview
Jonathon Heyward is forging a career as one of the most exciting young conductors on the international scene. Winner of the 2015 Besançon International Conducting Competition, Jonathon was selected as a Los Angeles Philharmonic Dudamel Conducting Fellow for the 2017/18 season, later making his subscription debut with Hilary Hahn as part of the orchestra’s Bernstein @ 100 Celebration at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The LA Times declared that he had 'forged a seamless connection among the music, the orchestra, and the audience' and that his 'concert augurs great things to come'.
Named Chief Conductor Designate of the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie in 2019, a position that commences in January 2021, Jonathon recently completed three years as Assistant Conductor of the Hallé Orchestra, conducting his first subscription concert, with Benjamin Grosvenor, in 2018. Hailed by Sir Mark Elder as 'a bright rising star of the conducting world', Jonathon’s recent and forthcoming engagements include debuts with the Seattle Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Detroit Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Brussels Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Hallé, Württembergisches Kammerorchester, Orquestra Sinfónica Portuguesa in Lisbon, Osaka Symphony, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, Flanders Symphony, South Netherlands Philharmonic, and the Het Gelders Orkest. Other highlights include concerts with the St Petersburg Symphony, Basel Symphony, Prague Symphony, Orchestre National de Lille, a production of Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli’s new opera, Wake, with the Birmingham Opera Company.
Originally trained as a cellist and chamber musician, Jonathon commenced his conducting studies at the Boston Conservatory with Andrew Altenbach. He went on to take up the position of Assistant Conductor for both their opera department and the Boston Opera Collaborative, where he worked on such productions as La bohème, The Magic Flute and The Rape of Lucretia. In 2013, Jonathon became the youngest ever semi-finalist at the Blue Danube International Opera Conducting Competition at the age of 21, and, soon after, was appointed Associate Director of the Hampstead Garden Opera Company in London. In 2016, he completed his postgraduate studies in conducting with Sian Edwards at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 2020, was a recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Career Assistance Award.
London Symphony Orchestra
© Ranald Mackechnie
© Ranald Mackechnie
Julián Gil Rodríguez
Thank You for Joining Us
The support of our audience has truly never been more important. You can help us to continue to adapt our music-making and activities to meet the challenges of these times.
You can also donate now via text.
Text LSOAUTUMN 5, LSOAUTUMN 10 or LSOAUTUMN 20 to 70085 to donate £5, £10 or £20.
Texts cost £5, £10 or £20 plus one standard rate message and you’ll be opting in to hear more about our work and fundraising via telephone and SMS. If you’d like to give but do not wish to receive marketing communications, text LSOAUTUMNNOINFO 5, 10 or 20 to 70085. UK numbers only.
- Subscribe to our YouTube channel, where you can watch over 500 videos, including new music released every Sunday.
- Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for quizzes, listening suggestions and more.
- Find us on Apple Music to listen to all our recordings.
- Sign up to our email list to be the first to hear about our latest news and programmes.
Wednesday 7 October, 6.30pm
Strauss, Hannah Kendall & Bartók
Strauss Le bourgeois gentilhomme – Suite
Hannah Kendall The Spark Catchers
Bartók Dance Suite
Kerem Hasan conductor