Antoine T. Clark, conductor
Gabriel Lefkowitz, violin
Vera Stanojevi, composer
A New Commission – Vera Stanojevi (World Premiere)
Lyric for Strings – George Walker
Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major – Florence B. Price (Ohio Premiere)
Symphony No. 7 in A major – Ludwig van Beethoven
Hope can often motivate an individual to overcome circumstances beyond his or her control. This program features composers who faced nearly insurmountable challenges while presenting their music to the world but eventually were able to overcome them. Loss, racial prejudice, sexism, and severe illness are just a few of the obstacles that George Walker, Florence B. Price, and Ludwig van Beethoven faced in their careers. Two of these musical voices have permeated the orchestral repertoire for decades or centuries with their music while one during her lifetime received brief acclaim and then almost fell away from the face of history. As in the case of Florence B. Price, her almost forgotten voice is undergoing a joyful revival and is providing musicians of diverse backgrounds hope while helping to spearhead inclusion and diversity in classical music.
George Walker’s Lyric for Strings, initially titled Lament, is dedicated to his grandmother who passed away just after his graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music. The work, imbued with mournful sentiments and anguish, resolves with the belief that his loved one is at peace and the hope of reuniting with her.
Florence B. Price was the first black female composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony. Her fame and recognition for this significant achievement did not last long. Acknowledging that her gender and race had hindered her career, she wrote to Serge Koussevitzky, the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, “To begin with I have two handicaps – those of sex and race. I am a woman, and I have some Negro blood in my veins… I would like to be judged on merit alone.” Her legacy faded, with much of her music believed to be lost, until the discovery of her manuscripts in 2009 brought new recognition. Her Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major along with her symphonies and other works are finding performances throughout the country. Gabriel Lefkowitz, the concertmaster of the Louisville Symphony, is featured as violin soloist.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s loss of hearing plagued him, causing severe depression and at times a drop in his compositional output. His Symphony No. 7 in A major was written between 1811 and 1812 while improving his health in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice. The joyful symphony represents his determination to be optimistic while dealing with his progressing deafness. During a benefit concert on December 8, 1813, the premiere of his seventh symphony and his battle symphony known as Wellington’s Victory brought delight to Austrian and Bavarian soldiers wounded at the battle of Hanau in the Napoleonic Wars.
A new work written for the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra by Vera Stanojevi will open this program.