Pre-Concert with Maestro WillisPre-Concert with Maestro Willis
Jessie Montgomery – Starburst
Adam Neiman – Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra with Adam Neiman, piano
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Serenade for Strings
Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra
Adam Neiman, piano
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Serenade in C major for String Orchestra
I. Pezzo in forma di sonatina
II. Valse. Moderato
III. Elegia. Larghetto elegiaco
Pre-Concert with Maestro Willis
1981, New York, NY
Commissioned by the Sphinx Organization
This brief one-movement work for string orchestra is a play on the imagery of rapidly changing musical colors. Exploding gestures are juxtaposed with gentle fleeting melodies in an attempt to create a multidimensional soundscape. A common definition of a starburst: “the rapid formation of large numbers of new stars in a galaxy at a rate high enough to alter the structure of the galaxy significantly” lends itself almost literally to the nature of the performing ensemble who premieres the work, The Sphinx Virtuosi, and I wrote the piece with their dynamic in mind.
— Jessie Montgomery
Concerto for Piano & String Orchestra
On tour throughout the northeastern U.S. featuring Adam Neiman as the soloist with the Manchester Chamber Orchestra, Ariel Rudiakov, conducting.
Piano solo, and String Orchestra
Concerto for Piano & String Orchestra reflects Neiman’s extensive experience as a concerto soloist, with a respectful nod to the great romantic concertos of the standard canon. For the composer, string instruments are fundamentally “singing” instruments, and the use of the strings in this work could be described as lush, romantic, and powerful. The piano writing is highly virtuosic, complex, and woven into the tapestry of the string lines, to create a true conversation between the instruments. Emotionally this work conveys a variety of feelings: from somber, pensive, and dark; to erotic, joyous, and exclamatory; with sections of irony and sarcasm thrown into the mix.
The work is cast in one unbroken movement, but with detectable divisions representing four mini-movements within the larger form. The first and third sections are the darkest, with slow brooding material that introduces and develops motives embedded within the initial themes. The second and fourth sections shift gears to a more “scherzando” feeling, with a waltz that Neiman calls “demented waltz,” polluting the air of purity and beauty brought forth by the first and third sections. These frenetic “scherzo” sections use the motives and themes of the first section, but they are sped up and corrupted by the sardonic nature of the material. In the end, beauty and glory triumph, and the work ends with a powerful rush to the finish line, in what I hope gives the audience a thrill.
– Adam Neiman
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Serenade in C major for String Orchestra
May 7, 1840. Votkinsk, district of Viatka, Russia
November 6, 1893. Saint Petersburg
Between September 21 and November 4, 1880
October 30, 1881. Eduard Nápravník conducted in Saint Petersburg
UNITED STATES PREMIERE:
January 24, 1885. Leopold Damrosch conducted at the Academy of Music in New York
In writing to his friend and patroness Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, on October 22, 1880, Tchaikovsky remarked: “The Overture  will be very loud, noisy, but I wrote it without any warm feelings of love and so it will probably be of no artistic worth. But the Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from inner compulsion. This is a piece from the heart and so, I venture to say, it does not lack artistic worth.”
The two works that Tchaikovsky composed simultaneously in 1880 could not reflect a greater stylistic contrast. The 1812 Overture, bombastic, and dispassionate – by the composer’s own admission – is tempered by the tender and deeply personal Serenade. Tchaikovsky’s energy was focused almost solely on the composition of Serenade, hoping that its careful construction would garner critical acclaim and secure its longevity. While the work is written for strings only, it is a tour de force, teetering stylistically between a symphony and a piece for a much smaller string ensemble.
The allure of the orchestral suite can be explained by the skillful incorporation of Tchaikovsky’s signature musical tendencies. His propensity for orchestration is on display through the sparkling textures woven within the strings, techniques that enable each movement to possess a distinct character. The greatness of Tchaikovsky’s ability to communicate a spectrum of emotion was recognized by choreographer George Balanchine who set the piece in his 1934 ballet, Serenade. Russian folk melodies can be heard quoted throughout, especially in the second movement waltz.
The work, conceived partly as an homage to Mozart, begins with the unmistakable chorale-like anthem that establishes itself through a series of colorful and robust chords. The movement, while restrained to adhere to classical form, unfolds itself to reveal a tapestry of playful themes, textures, and sonorities. Minutes later, the prominent opening theme returns abruptly to signal the conclusion of the episode. Tchaikovsky presents the listener with a generous second-movement waltz, a dance form that puts the composer’s virtuosity on full display. Folk melodies are interspersed flirtatiously by the violins throughout. The Élégie is arguably the centerpiece of the suite. Tchaikovsky waits to maximize the power of the orchestra until the third movement, which opens with a somber, thin orchestral texture, reminiscent of the composer’s own ballet music. The themes build from measure to measure and climax to a euphoric culmination accentuated by soaring cello lines. The finale begins pensively and serves as the perfect conclusion – a cleanse for the musical palate – to the whirlwind of the previous three movements. However, like the rest of the work, the final moments of the Serenade provide a degree of drama all their own. The sections of the finale are clearly delineated with exciting tempo changes which carry the work to its close. Listeners, no doubt, will be satisfied by the work’s familiar final bars.
Halle McGuire Hobbins
Adam Neiman, Piano
Hailed as one of today’s preeminent American classical pianists, Adam Neiman has cultivated a breathtaking career spanning more than three decades and traversing four continents. Possessed of an encyclopedic repertoire – nearly seventy piano concertos, dozens of diverse solo recital programs, and virtually the entire canon of standard chamber music – Mr. Neiman has been universally acclaimed as a thought-provoking, charismatic, and highly virtuosic performer, whose continually expanding discography has granted him a rarified legacy among 21st-century performers.
Born in 1978, Adam Neiman’s trajectory as a concert pianist began at the age of eight, immediately gaining momentum with a succession of regional and national competition triumphs, recital and concerto appearances across the United States, and successful forays onto the international concert and competition circuit by his early teens. After making his Los Angeles concerto debut at Royce Hall at age 11, Clavier Magazine wrote,”Adam Neiman gave a performance that rivaled those of many artists on the concert stage today…his playing left listeners shaking their heads in disbelief.” At fourteen, he debuted in Germany at the Ivo Pogorelich Festival, and at fifteen, he won second prize at the Casagrande International Piano Competition in Italy, the youngest medalist in the competition’s history. During his freshman year – as a 17-year old undergraduate piano major at the Juilliard School – Mr. Neiman won three of America’s most prestigious classical music awards: an Avery Fisher Career Grant, Gilmore Young Artist Award, and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Nominated during the same year for a Grammy Award, he subsequently graduated from the Juilliard School in 1999 as a recipient of the school’s highest honors: the rarely-bestowed Arthur Rubinstein Award, and as a two-time winner of its Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
Mr. Neiman went on to make debuts with prestigious symphony orchestras across the globe, including those of Belgrade, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Saint Louis, San Francisco, Slovenia, Umbria, and Utah, in addition to the Sejong Soloists, New York Chamber Symphony, and National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C. He collaborated with many of the world’s celebrated conductors, including David Atherton, Jiri Belohlavek, Michael Francis, Giancarlo Guerrero, Theodor Gushlbauer, Carlos Kalmer, Uros Lajovic, Yoël Levi, Andrew Litton, Rossen Milanov, Heichiro Ohyama, Peter Oundjian, Leonard Slatkin, Osmo Vänska, and Emmanuel Villaume. As a recitalist, Neiman performed in major cities and concert halls throughout North America, as well as in Italy, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Serbia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom.
His 2019-2020 concert season includes recital and concerto debuts in Poland (Warsaw and Katowice) and Israel (Tel Aviv and Haifa) respectively, as well as three recording projects: a DVD on Aeolian Classics (Schubert works, including the Sonata in A Major, D. 959), a CD on Avie with violinist Frank Almond (sonatas and trios by Grieg and Maier), and a CD on Aeolian Classics with flutist Anastasiya Ganzenko (duos by Fauré and Prokofieff). During recent concert seasons (2011-2019), Neiman dedicated himself to the extensive performance and recording of three monumental solo projects: the complete Liszt Transcendental Études (2017 Aeolian Classics, DVD), Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata paired with the Diabelli Variations (2018 Aeolian Classics, 2-CD set), and Rachmaninoff’s complete Preludes, Études-Tableaux, & Cinq Morceaux de Fantaisie (2018 Aeolian Classics, 3-CD set).
A sought-after chamber musician, Neiman regularly performs at festivals and chamber series across the globe. Initially a founding member of the Corinthian Trio (with violinist Stefan Milenkovich and cellist Ani Aznavoorian), Neiman later became a member of Trio Solisti for three seasons, capping his tenure with the ensemble with a presentation of the complete chamber music of Brahms at Carnegie Hall in 2015. His affiliation with Trio Solisti culminated in three critically acclaimed chamber music recordings on Bridge Records, which augmented an already extensive catalogue of recordings released on BHM, Lyric Records, MSR Classics, Naxos, Onyx, Sono Luminus, and VAI.
Mr. Neiman is an accomplished composer, with a catalogue of compositions that includes two symphonies, a piano concerto, a string quartet, and various solo and chamber works. Recent commissions include his Concerto for Piano & String Orchestra for the Manchester Music Festival, his Trio No. 2 for Clarinet, Violin, & Piano for the Northshore Music Festival, and his String Quartet for the Seattle Chamber Music Society. His various documentary film appearances as a pianist resulted in his eventual contribution as a composer to the PBSdocumentary by Emmy Award-winning director Helen Whitney entitled: “Forgiveness, A Time to Love and a Time to Hate.”
Beyond his creative activities as a pianist and composer, Mr. Neiman has achieved renown as an industry leader, pedagogue, entrepreneur, and record producer. He is currently in his fourth year as Artistic Director of the Manchester Music Festival in Vermont, which presents world-class chamber music concerts during its annual summer festival. Neiman is in his fifth year as a member of the full-time piano faculty at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he was also recently appointed as Director of String Chamber Music. He is CEO of Aeolian Classics, LLC, which, in addition to releasing top-tier classical music recordings, co-sponsors with Roosevelt University an annual competition: the Aeolian Classics Emerging Artist Competition. The yearly laureate of the Aeolian Classics Emerging Artist Award (currently in its fourth edition) receives a debut album on Aeolian Classics, organized and produced by Mr. Neiman.
Mr. Neiman’s studies began at the age of five – first under the guidance of his mother, then privately with Trula Whelan, Hans Boepple, and Dame Fanny Waterman, DBE. At 17 years old, Neiman entered the Juilliard School, studying principally with Herbert Stessin while also working closely with György Sandor and Jacob Lateiner. He graduated from the Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance.
Aha! With Alastair: Montgomery, Neiman, and Tchaikovsky
Thank you to our generous series sponsors; Jack M. Champaigne Masterworks Series and June H. Edwards Mosaic Series.
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