Behind the Scenes: American Snapshots Program Notes + Artist Bio

LexPhil kicks off the evening with John Harbison’s glitzy Foxtrot for Orchestra and an exuberant performance of Korngold’s Violin Concerto, featuring soloist William Hagen. Closing the concert, the magic of Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite will delight audiences before a visually spectacular finish in Dave & Chris Brubeck’s Ansel Adams: America. Purchase your tickets today!

By: Daniel Chetel

The extravagant nightlife of New York’s roaring ‘20s; a cinematic concerto evocative of the up-and-coming LA lm industry; the simple gift of hard work and satisfaction on a rural Pennsylvania farmstead; the sweeping, majestic natural wonders of the American west. In just four snapshots, we have the opportunity to travel from one coast to the other, and from the city to the country and then into the wilderness. 

John Harbison’s Foxtrot for Orchestra was inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic character of Jay Gatsby, always the life of the party. Originally planning an opera on the subject, Harbison eventually settled on an orchestral dance full of sultry style and plenty of sparkle. What begins in dramatic fashion quickly works into a delightful romp led by the saxophone and muted trumpets that you might expect to be more at home in the dance hall than the concert hall.

The Austrian-born composer Erich Korngold may not be a name that we hear as much as John Williams or Michael Giacchino in the lm- scoring world, but he was just as in uential. His work in Hollywood starting in the 1930s included the scores for over a dozen lms, many dominated by the use of leitmotifs to represent different characters or emotional states (a practice made famous by Richard Wagner in his epic Ring Cycle, but just as evident in tunes like the Imperial March and Leia’s Theme from John Williams’s Star Wars scores).

Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major was a hit from the moment of its 1947 premiere with the virtuoso Jascha Heifetz playing the solo part despite the fact that most of Korngold’s other concert works are often neglected in favor of his widely popular lm music. Korngold’s owing, lyrical themes— equally at home in the concerto and on the screen—unfurl sublimely across the almost quaint, sonata form opening movement. The harp, celeste, and vibraphone help set the stage for the dreamy Romance before leaping head rst into the rollicking gigue-like Finale.

The music of Aaron Copland is often said to have captured a true Americanism in music that no composer before or since has attained. His diverse collection of works evokes the openness of the American plains, the bustle of the American city, and the spirit of American folk cultures in turn. Appalachian Spring was originally composed on a commission from the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation and performed in the Library of Congress auditorium in Washington, DC in 1944. Copland wrote the music in collaboration with the choreographer and dancer Martha Graham, who was also the source of the overall program of the work.

Copland’s music—originally composed for just thirteen instruments to t into the small space for the premiere—exempli es both Copland’s modernist tendencies and his reliance on rustic and folk elements to sketch this story of a young couple embarking on the joyful and anxious prospect of their marriage. Despite the concerns of a revivalist, the young couple stands proudly together in their home ready to build their life together. Copland uses the traditional shaker tune The Gift to be Simple as the foundation of a glorious set of variations which serves as the climax of the ballet. Copland’s orchestration of this suite from the ballet has become one of his best-loved works that touches audiences to this day, concluding with a gentle, heartfelt prayer.

The work of Chris Brubeck was last heard on this stage in November 2017 with the world premiere of No Borders: Concerto for Canadian Brass and Orchestra. Tonight’s program concludes with another work by Chris along with his father, Dave, inspired by the life and work of the American photographer, Ansel Adams. Accompanied by over 100 images of or by Adams, this one-movement symphonic work celebrates his unique perspective on the American landscape. A classical musician himself, Adams said that “Photographers are in a sense composers, and the negatives are their scores.” His black and white photographs of the great natural wonders of America, including El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, are no less stunning in our era of high-resolution digital photography than they were in the middle of the twentieth century when Adams was working. A score that includes both classical and jazz-inspired infuences brings these images to life and caps a dynamic evening of American musical visions. 

William Hagen, violinist

The riveting 24-year-old American violinist William Hagen was the third-prize winner of the 2015 Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition, making him the highest-ranking American since 1985. Already a seasoned international performer, William has been hailed as a “brilliant virtuoso...a standout” (The Dallas Morning News) with “an intellectual command of line and score, and just the right amount of power” ( William performs on the 1735 “Sennhauser” Guarneri del Gesù, on generous loan from the Stradivari Society of Chicago. His 2017-18 season features debuts with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (HR Sinfonieorchester) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach and the Seattle Symphony directed by Pablo Rus Broseta, and return engagements with the Utah Symphony under the direction of Matthias Pintscher and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Gourlay. He performs recitals with pianist Albert Cano Smit in Chicago, Aspen, Darmstadt, and at the University of Florida.

In the 2016-17 season, William performed with conductor Nicolas McGegan both at the Aspen Music Festival and with the Pasadena Symphony, made his debut with the Oregon Symphony under Carlos Kalmar, performed with the Brussels Chamber Orchestra in Beijing, and played recitals in Paris, Brussels, Virginia and at the Ravinia Festival. He played chamber music concerts with Steven Isserlis at Wigmore Hall in London, with Tabea Zimmermann at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, and in New York City with the Jupiter Chamber Players.

William’s 2015-16 season included his Tokyo recital debut, his debut at the Colmar Festival in France, and recitals in Los Angeles, Brussels, and several cities in Florida. He returned to the Utah Symphony at Deer Valley Music Festival and to the Aspen Music Festival, both as chamber musician and as soloist with conductor Ludovic Morlot, and appeared with the So a Philharmonic in Bulgaria and the Shreveport Symphony, among others. He also played chamber music with Gidon Kremer, Steven Isserlis, and Christian Tetzlaff at the “Chamber Music Connects the World” festival in Kronberg, Germany.

Since his debut with the Utah Symphony at age nine, William has performed with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Christian Arming, Placido Domingo, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michel Tabachnik and Hugh Wolff, and with the symphony orchestras of Albany, Buffalo, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Oregon, Utah, and others. Abroad, he has performed with the Brussels Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Belgium, the ORF Radio-Sinfonieorchester in Vienna, the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and in Japan with the Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Sendai Philharmonic.

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William first heard the violin when he was 3 and began taking lessons at age 4 with Natalie Reed, followed by Deborah Moench. At age 10, he began studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studied until the age of 17. After studying at the Juilliard School for two years with Itzhak Perlman, William returned to Los Angeles to continue studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory. He is currently enrolled at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, where he is a student of Christian Tetzlaff. William is an alumnus of the Verbier Academy in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program, and the Aspen Music Festival, where he spent many summers.