WALKER: Folksongs for Orchestra
SHOSTAKOVICH: Concerto No. 2 in F Major for Piano and Orchestra
KODÁLY: Galántai táncok (Dances of Galánta)
Artists & Insights
Louis Langrée, Music Director, Louise Dieterle Nippert & Louis Nippert Chair
Louis Langrée has been Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) since 2013 and Music Director of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center since 2003.
Langrée, known for imaginative programs, began his CSO tenure with Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire with Eighth Blackbird, Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, narrated by Maya Angelou and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Two of his recordings with the CSO were Grammy-nominated in the Best Orchestral Performance category: Transatlantic, with works by Varèse, Gershwin, and Stravinsky; and Concertos for Orchestra, featuring world premieres by Sebastian Currier, Thierry Escaich, and Zhou Tian. His Pelléas et Mélisande trilogy contrasted settings by Fauré, Debussy, and Schoenberg. A multi-season Beethoven Revolution cycle paired the symphonies with world premieres and 20th-century masterworks, culminating with a recreation of the legendary 1808 Akademie.
A regular presence at Lincoln Center since his 1998 debut, Langrée has conducted around 250 concerts and productions, including more than 50 Metropolitan Opera performances; has taught Juilliard School masterclasses; appeared with the CSO as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series; and made his New York Philharmonic guest conducting debut in March, 2020. Langrée has raised the artistic profile and repertoire of the Festival Orchestra well beyond the classical period, from Lully to Magnus Lindberg.
An advocate for the music of our time, Langrée has conducted premieres by Julia Adolphe, Daníel Bjarnason, Anna Clyne, Jonathan Bailey Holland, David Lang, Nico Muhly, André Previn, Caroline Shaw, and Julia Wolfe among numerous others including, with the CSO, the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 6, the composer’s final opus. Among the many period-instrument ensembles he has worked with are the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Freiburg Baroque, Concerto Köln, and Orchestre des Champs-Elysées.
Louis Langrée has guest conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, NHK Symphony, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre de Paris, and Leipzig Gewandhaus among others. In addition to the Met, he frequently conducts at the leading opera houses including the Vienna Staatsoper, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Bavarian Staatsoper, and at festivals including Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence, BBC Proms, Edinburgh International, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Langrée was previously music director of the Orchestre de Picardie, Opéra National de Lyon, Glyndebourne Touring Opera, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and chief conductor of the Camerata Salzburg. A native of Alsace, France, he is a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
from Music Director Louis Langrée
I am beyond delighted and excited to welcome you back to Music Hall and the shared experience of a live, in-person concert!
Tonight’s concert will be a celebration with joyful, energetic, dance-like music and a beloved piano concerto from the repertoire. We begin with a fusion of the African-American Spiritual tradition and the symphonic tradition, George Walker’s Folksongs for Orchestra. Walker’s setting allows for the ethos of the lyrics to be dramatically conveyed through orchestral colors and the passing of fragmented melodic material from instrument to instrument.
Next, we welcome back the fantastic pianist Kirill Gerstein to play Dmitri Shostakovich’s exuberant and tender second piano concerto. The work was a birthday present to his 19-year-old son, Maxim, who premiered it at his piano graduation from the Moscow Conservatory in May 1957. Dmitri included a few musical jokes in the third movement by quoting the notorious Czerny finger exercises—a good way to ensure his son practiced. Maxim went on to have a career as a conductor, and guest conducted the CSO twice, both times choosing programs that paid homage to his father. In 1983 he conducted the Symphony No. 10, and in 1984 he conducted the Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar, at the May Festival.
Lastly you will hear Zoltán Kodály’s exhilarating Galántai táncok (“Dances of Galánta”), a highly expressive and virtuosic orchestral gem. Kodály uses gypsy melodies to craft five elaborate Hungarian dances, each more frenzied than the last—until the piece ends in stomping, roaring, and irresistible energy!
Kirill Gerstein, pianist
Kirill Gerstein’s curiosity and versatility have led to an intense engagement with a wide range of repertoire and styles. From Bach to Adès, Gerstein’s playing is distinguished by its clarity of expression, discerning intelligence and virtuosity, and an energetic, imaginative musical presence that places him at the top of his profession.
Based in Berlin, Gerstein appears worldwide in performances ranging from concerts with the Chicago and Boston orchestras, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Royal Concertgebouw, Vienna and Berlin philharmonics, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, to recitals in London, Berlin, Vienna, Paris and New York. A long-time believer in the role of teaching, Kirill Gerstein is Professor of Piano at Berlin’s Hanns Eisler Hochschule under whose auspices he recently launched a series of free and open online seminars titled “Kirill Gerstein Invites,” featuring conversations with leading musicians, musicologists and philosophers. Guest speakers have included Andreas Staier, Iván Fischer, Ian Bostridge, Thomas Adès, Brad Mehldau, Anthony Fogg and Paul Boghossian.
Over the last year, Gerstein’s decade-long relationship with Thomas Adès came to the fore with the world and European premieres of Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written especially for Gerstein. Deutsche Grammophon’s world premiere live recording release of the new work, as captured in Boston, was winner of the Contemporary category at the 2020 Gramophone Awards and was followed shortly by Gerstein’s own release of Adès compositions on myrios classics. This season, Gerstein premieres another new concerto written especially for him, this time by Thomas Larcher. Co-commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Vienna Konzerthaus, Gerstein will present Larcher’s new work for the first time in April 2021 in Prague followed by concerts in Vienna, Amsterdam and Bratislava.
Kirill Gerstein has collaborated with myrios classics since 2010, and his thoughtfully curated recording projects for the independent label have most recently included Strauss’s Enoch Arden (for pianist and narrator), with the late Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire; Downfall); Busoni’s monumental Piano Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo; The Gershwin Moment with the St. Louis Symphony and David Robertson; and Liszt’s Transcendental Études, picked by The New Yorker as one of 2016’s notable recordings. He has recorded Scriabin’s music for piano and orchestra with the Oslo Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko (LAWO Classics); and Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos for Semyon Bychkov’s and the Czech Philharmonic’s The Tchaikovsky Project box set (Decca Classics).
Born in 1979 in Voronezh, Russia, Kirill Gerstein attended one of the country’s special music schools for gifted children and taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ record collection. Following a chance encounter with jazz legend Gary Burton in St. Petersburg when he was 14, he was invited to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he studied jazz piano in tandem with his classical piano studies. At the age of 16, he decided to focus on classical music, continuing his studies with Solomon Mikowsky in New York, Dmitri Bashkirov in Madrid and Ferenc Rados in Budapest. Gerstein is the sixth recipient of the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award, First Prize winner at the 10th Arthur Rubinstein Competition and an Avery Fisher Career Grant holder.
Meet the Orchestra
Learn more about the artists of the Orchestra.
Folksongs for Orchestra
George Walker (b. June 27, 1922, Washington, D.C.; d. August 23, 2018, Montclair, NJ) completed his Folksongs for Orchestra in the fall of 1990; they were premiered in May of 1992 by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under conductor David Zinman. Walker, the first African American composer to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music (for Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra), uses the orchestra in an interesting way to set these folk song melodies, quoting the melodies in full before presenting them in fragments throughout the orchestra. These performances are the work’s CSO premiere.
Concerto No. 2 in F Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 102
Shostakovich (b. September 25, 1906, Saint Petersburg; d. August 9, 1975, Moscow) wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2 as a gift for his son, Maxim. And it was Maxim who gave the first performance of the work, at his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory—also Maxim’s 19th birthday. Nikolai Anosov conducted the USSR Symphony Orchestra for the premiere.
Galántai táncok (“Dances of Galánta”)
Galántai Táncok (also referred to as Dances of Galánta) by Zoltán Kodály (b. December 16, 1882, Kecskemét, Hungary; d. March 6, 1967, Budapest) was commissioned for the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society and premiered by the Budapest Philharmonic on October 23, 1933. This piece is based on the folk music of Galánta, where Kodály lived for many years, and contains melodies inspired by those the composer grew up listening to as a child.
Folksongs for Orchestra
Born: June 27, 1922, Washington, D.C.
Died: August 23, 2018, Montclair, NJ
Composition History: Walker completed his Folksongs for Orchestra in the fall of 1990; they were premiered in May of 1992 by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under conductor David Zinman.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani, anvil, bass drum, chimes, claves, glockenspiel, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tambour de basque, tom-tom, triangle, vibraphone, xylophone, harp, harpsichord, piano, strings.
CSO Subscription Performances: These performances are the work’s CSO premiere.
Concerto No. 2 in F Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 102
Born: September 25, 1906, Saint Petersburg
Died: August 9, 1975, Moscow
Composition History: Shostakovich wrote the Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1957. His son, Maxim, was pianist for the premiere with the USSR Symphony Orchestra, Nikolai Anosov conducting.
Instrumentation: solo piano, 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, timpani, snare drum, strings.
CSO Subscription Performances: Three previous subscription performances, including the premiere, in 1974, with pianist John Ogdon, Sir Andrew Davis conducting, and the most recent, in January 2008, with pianist Alexander Toradze, Paavo Järvi conducting.
Galántai táncok (“Dances of Galánta”)
Born: December 16, 1882, Kecskemét, Hungary
Died: March 6, 1967, Budapest
Composition History: Kodály wrote Galántai Táncok (“Dances of Galánta”) on commission for the 80th anniversary of the Budapest Philharmonic Society; the work was premiered by the Budapest Philharmonic on October 23, 1933, Kodály conducting.
Instrumentation: 2 flutes (incl. piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, glockenspiel, snare drum, triangle, strings.
CSO Subscription Performances: Seven previous subscription performances. Eugene Goossens conducted the CSO premiere of the work in November 1937; Juraj Valčuha led the most recent, in October 2014. Other notable performances include the Orchestra’s 2004 European tour, Paavo Järvi conducting; a New Year’s Eve concert in 1997 led by Jesús López Cobos; and a 1957 tour of Florida under the direction of Max Rudolf.