Events & Tickets
THE PASTORAL SYMPHONY
New World Center
Bring the outside in with this picturesque evening featuring Cristian Măcelaru, a University of Miami Frost School of Music graduate and now Conductor-in-Residence of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Inspired by Charles Jenck’s sprawling private sculptural garden in Scotland, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation marries nature, science and mathematics in an imaginative display that was nominated for the Best Contemporary Classical Composition at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Its colorful portrayal of nature pairs beautifully with Beethoven’s serene Sixth Symphony. With blissful-sounding winds and stirring strings, its gentle score reveals vivid musical inklings of babbling brooks, bird calls, yodeling, shepherd’s hymns and spring-time storms.
Approx. Duration: 23 minutes
Part I from The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
The Snail and the Poetics of Going Slow
Symmetry Break Terrace / Black Hole Terrace
The Willow Twist
Ludwig van Beethoven
Approx. Duration: 40 minutes
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, “Pastoral”
Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country: Allegro ma non troppo
Scene by the Brook: Andante molto mosso
Merry Gathering of Country Folk: Allegro
Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm: Allegretto
Part I from The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
Approximate duration: 23 minutes
Growing up in the Boston area, Michael Gandolfi taught himself to play rock and jazz guitar. He went on to earn two composition degrees at the New England Conservatory of Music, followed by a summer of study at the Tanglewood Music Center, where he worked with Leonard Bernstein and Oliver Knussen. Decades into his own illustrious teaching career, Gandolfi now directs the composition programs at both Tanglewood and the New England Conservatory. Tanglewood commissioned Gandolfi’s Impressions from ‘The Garden of Cosmic Speculation’ in 2004; three years later the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (led by Robert Spano, one of Gandolfi’s strongest champions) asked for an expanded version. Now entitled simply The Garden of Cosmic Speculaton, the work has grown to encompass 16 movements split into three large sections and the composer has said he intends to continue expanding it.
Gandolfi’s inspiration for the orchestral cycle came from The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, a 30-acre installation by the landscape architect Charles Jencks at his estate in Scotland. After visiting the site in 2004, Gandolfi described it as “a joining of terrestrial nature with fundamental concepts of modern physics,” a formula that resonated with his own passion for physics.
Part I begins with The Zeroroom, the name of the garden’s formal entrance. Gandolfi described the space as “a fanciful, surreal cloakroom flanked by an orderly procession of tennis racquets that appear to be traveling through the wall in a ‘quantum dance,’ and large photographs that progress from our place in the universe, galaxy, solar system, planet, to the precise position of the garden in Scotland. At the end of this corridor is a door with a mirror under which is inscribed ‘IUIUIUIUEYEWEYEWEYEWEYEW.’ Over the mirror is a pair of eyes carved into the wood. One places one’s eyes against the carved eyes for a view to the garden. The first object one sees in the garden is a Yew tree. I composed a work in which a succession of episodes emerge from and acquiesce to a ‘cosmic cloud,’ depicting this journey from the macro view of the universe to the micro view of the yew tree.”
For the second movement, Gandolfi latched onto the recurring patterns in the garden of Soliton Waves, which “are found in the fine iron fencework, the small and large land sculptures and in details of the stonework that abound in the garden. A soliton wave has the special property of being able to join with other waves, combine to create new waveforms, and then emerge completely unchanged, with no ‘memory’ of having joined or passed through other waves.” Musical phrases mimic these wave interactions, including “two large development sections that depict the joining of soliton waves in the creation of new waveforms. Ultimately the original waveform reemerges completely unchanged.”
The Snail and the Poetics of Going Slow references a feature Jencks named the “Snail Mound” with curving paths spiraling to the top. Gandolfi’s musical treatment emphasizes “the serene quality of this majestic garden structure.” The high-energy movement that follows, Symmetry Break Terrace / Black Hole Terrace, references two adjacent garden features that model space-time distortions. The music ventures into a black hole and beyond, as marked by section headings such as “Face to Face with the Black Hole,” “The Final Descent” and “The Energy Jet.”
Part I closes with The Willow Twist, named after a delicately curling metal sculpture. This “exuberantly whirling dance,” as Gandolfi marked it in the score, has a triplet lilt that hints at Scottish reels.
Article from The Wall Street Journal about the Atlanta School of Composers, including Gandolfi
Description and pictures of The Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Symmetry Magazine
Program note on the work by Gandolfi
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, “Pastoral”
Approximate duration: 40 minutes
Beethoven composed his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies concurrently in 1808, and introduced them together (with their numbers switched) as part of a four-hour extravaganza in Vienna. The following year, they were published in the familiar order, with adjacent opus numbers. Beethoven’s Sixth stands as one of the first programmatic symphonies, using descriptive movement headings to evoke specific ideas and images. The “Pastoral” nickname came from Beethoven himself, when he marked the parts for the initial performance with the heading “Pastoral Symphony, or Recollections of Country Life: More an Expression of Feeling than Painting.”
Beethoven’s journals and letters reveal his love of nature, as when he wrote in 1810, “How delighted I will be to ramble for awhile through the bushes, woods, under trees, through grass and around rocks. No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees and rocks produce the echo that man desires to hear.” Recognizing and appreciating the natural world was a cornerstone of the Romantic ethos, and Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony joined a common thread in music, art and literature of the early 19th century that rhapsodized on the beauty and grandeur of the natural world, with a reverence that was in no small part spiritual.
Just as the first four notes of the Fifth Symphony influence every measure of the opening movement, the Sixth Symphony builds an expansive essay out of a seemingly naïve theme. The first movement, characterized as the “Awakening of Cheerful Feelings upon Arrival in the Country,” enters bashfully, with four quiet measures that trail off.
Fragments of this figure build slowly, basking in long stretches of unmoving harmony.
The development section, often an opportunity for increased turbulence and activity, instead sinks deeper into a country calm, savoring each radiant chord change.
The second movement, “Scene by the Brook,” establishes a lapping triplet pulse under another mere wisp of melody.
The idyllic scene ends with a trio of birdcalls from the woodwinds, representing a nightingale, quail and cuckoo.
From here, the Symphony diverges from a typical four-movement pattern. There is a scherzo-like third movement, “Merry Gathering of Country Folk.”
The rollicking dance music halts unresolved and is supplanted by the first staccato raindrops of the “Thunderstorm.”
Fearful dissonances and thunderous timpani strikes make for a convincing tempest, until it trails off in one last upward patter from the flute.
A clarinet takes over to establish the sing-song contours of the “Shepherd’s Song: Happy and Thankful Feelings after the Storm.”
This tune, at once humble and heroic, returns the Symphony to its pastoral calm. Near the end, a hymn-like variant lends a deeper resonance to this sunny conclusion.
PDF score from the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library
Guide to the Sixth Symphony from The Guardian
Depictions of Beethoven in nature from the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, his birthplace
-- Copyright © 2016 Aaron Grad
Aaron Grad is a composer, guitarist and writer based in Seattle. Besides providing program notes for the New World Symphony, he has been the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s program annotator since 2005 and also contributes notes to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
Audio clips provided by Naxos of America, Inc.
Cristian Măcelaru, conductor
Currently in his first season as Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Cristian Măcelaru is one of the fast-rising stars of the conducting world. Recently appointed as Music Director as the National Orchestra of France, he will begin this position in September 2021.
In January 2020 Mr. Măcelaru received his first-ever Grammy Award for conducting the Decca Classics recording of Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti and The Philadelphia Orchestra.
Summer 2020 will commence Mr. Măcelaru’s first season as Inaugural Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the World Youth Symphony Orchestra at Interlochen Center for the Arts. It will also mark his fourth season as Music Director and Conductor of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the world’s leading festival dedicated to contemporary symphonic repertoire. Among the 2020 season’s highlights are a dozen composers-in-residence, including Sean Shepherd who premieres a new work for the Festival.
Mr. Măcelaru attracted international attention for the first time in 2012, when he stepped into the breach with the Chicago Symphony, deputizing for Pierre Boulez. In the same year, he received the Solti Emerging Conductor Award for young conductors, followed in 2014 with the Solti Conducting Award. Since then, he has performed regularly at the podium of the best American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony and National Symphony. A particularly close collaboration connects him with The Philadelphia Orchestra, where he served for three seasons as Conductor-in-Residence.
Mr. Măcelaru has been in great demand as guest conductor with many reputable orchestras worldwide, among others the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester (DSO) Berlin, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony and Danish National Symphony.
The 2020-21 season marks Mr. Măcelaru’s second year as Chief Conductor at the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne. He continues to strengthen his European presence with appearances including with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen, Bamberg Symphony, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Monte Carlo Philharmonic and Belgian National Orchestra. In North America, he returns to the San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Seattle and St. Louis symphonies.
As part of the 2020 Beethoven Year celebrations, Mr. Măcelaru leads the New Japan Philharmonic in an all-Beethoven program at Suntory Hall in Tokyo with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, cellist Daniel Müller-Schott and pianist Lambert Orkis.
Mr. Măcelaru was born in Timișoara, Romania and comes from a musical family. His studies took him from Romania to the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, University of Miami in Florida and Rice University in Houston, where he studied conducting with Larry Rachleff. He then deepened his knowledge at Tanglewood Music Center and Aspen Music Festival. He resides in Bonn with his wife Cheryl and children Beniamin and Maria.