ABOUT THIS ALBUM
George Bernard Shaw once said that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language!” As an American living in London when these recordings were made, I can attest to that sentiment! Perhaps my own grappling with the ever witty Bernard Shaw is found on this set of recordings, with pieces from the UK and the USA that span nearly 122 years of musical history. While many of the musical materials used by these 5 composers are similar, with an emphasis on folk music, classical idioms, and a generally warm and Romantic sensibility, they could not be more different from each other.
Ethel Smyth and Edward Elgar were born just one year apart, and Smyth’s Serenade and Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit were written in the same year (1889). They are early works, long before either of them had achieved notable success. Of course, Elgar would go on to become one of our most beloved composers, while Smyth’s music has only recently emerged from almost total obscurity. Smyth truly was one of the most interesting people who ever lived, with interests ranging from a career as a composer, as a prolific writer, to her social activism as a Suffragette in the UK. This activism was perhaps her most lasting legacy, with her March of the Women serving as the unofficial anthem of the Suffragette movement. There is not space here to detail Smyth’s political exploits, but they make for entertaining and inspiring reading. In the musical context, I have loved Smyth’s work since I encountered it for the first time nearly 10 years ago. Smyth studied for a brief period with Johannes Brahms, and Brahms apparently had some level of respect for Smyth’s music, quite high praise for someone with attitudes towards women like Brahms notoriously had. Her music, especially these two early works, shows this Brahmsian influence clearly. Smyth was a musical polyglot however, and one can hear allusions to the music of Wagner as well. Perhaps coming from outside of the so-called War of the Romantics allowed Smyth to pick and choose what she liked from each camp and to incorporate it into her own music. With all of this said, what I love about Smyth’s music, is that like all great composers, Smyth takes in all of these influences, and then creates something uniquely her own. The simple grace of her String Quintet is irresistible with its kind hearted melodies. On the other hand, I am always awed by the emotional variety of her Serenade, from its deeply Brahmsian D Major first movement to its raucous last movement. For those encountering Smyth’s music for the first time, I think these two early examples of her work are a perfect introduction. [..]
It is one of my special passions to combine works of composers who are quite well-known with those who are less familiar to the general audience. It is an honor and privilege to be releasing the first commercial recording of Ethel Smyth’s String Quintet as arranged for string orchestra by the composer, only the second recording of her Serenade, and the first commercial recording of William Grant Still’s Mother and Child for string orchestra. I hope that this exploration of the unfamiliar and the familiar together will prove as rewarding to you as it was to myself and to the musicians of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, who were faithful and enthusiastic partners throughout the recording process.
I would like to add special thanks and appreciation here to the late John Heiss, a professor at the New England Conservatory of Music, and one of my great inspirations in taking on the challenge of recording Three Places in New England, as well as my parents, who were playing Ives’ music for me even before I was born, instilling in me a lifelong love for this American Maverick.
I would like to dedicate this recording to my wife Bernice, who always helps me explore the unexplored.
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JOSHUA WEILERSTEIN Conductor
Joshua Weilerstein enjoys a flourishing guest conducting career across the globe and has forged close relationships with many of the world’s finest orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Oslo Philharmonic, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, amongst many others. He is praised for his expressive and dynamic presence on the podium and for his “intense, eloquently moving and spectacularly knife-edge” performances. With a repertoire that spans from the Renaissance era to the music of today, he combines a deep love for canonical masterpieces alongside a passionate commitment to uncovering the works of under-represented composers such as Pavel Haas, William Grant Still, William Levi Dawson and Ethel Smyth. He is also a tireless advocate for the music of today. In 2023, Weilerstein begins his tenure as Chief Conductor of Denmark’s Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. Weilerstein was Artistic Director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne between 2015-2021 where he and the orchestra released multiple highly regarded recordings.
Born into a musical family, Weilerstein’s formative experience with classical music was as a violinist on tour to Panama and Guatemala with the Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, where the orchestra performed for thousands of young people who had never heard a live orchestra. This experience sparked a desire in Weilerstein to pursue a career in classical music. In 2009, Weilerstein won both the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen, and he was subsequently appointed as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 2012-2015.
In 2017, inspired by the musical evangelism practised by Leonard Bernstein, Weilerstein launched a classical music podcast called “Sticky Notes.” The show, for both music lovers and newcomers alike, has become wildly successful with more than 4.5 million downloads in 175 countries.
ORCHESTRE DE CHAMBRE DE LAUSANNE
Renaud Capuçon, Artistic Director
Founded in 1942 by Victor Desarzens, the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne (OCL) is today one of the most sought-after chamber orchestras in Europe. After six years under the artistic direction of the American conductor Joshua Weilerstein, the OCL is now led by the renowned French violinist Renaud Capuçon. The orchestra of around 40 musicians has a vast repertoire, from the earliest baroque to contemporary premieres.
The OCL very quickly became a presence in the most prestigious festivals and concert halls. It has participated in the Festival of Aix-en-Provence since the second festival and has been a regular guest at the Enescu Festival in Bucharest. Its tours in Germany and the USA have met with tremendous success, as have its concerts at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, at the BBC Proms in London, the Konzerthaus in Vienna or the Berlin Philharmonie. During season 2023-2024, the OCL will tour to Madrid, Barcelona and, for the first time, to the Philharmonie de Paris.
All through its history, the OCL has performed with top level soloists such as Clara Haskil, Alfred Cortot, Walter Gieseking, Edwin Fischer, Murray Perahia, Radu Lupu, Marta Argerich, Nikolai Lugansky, Daniel Barenboim, Arthur Grumiaux, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Paul Tortelier, Truls Mørk, Jean-Pierre Rampal or Emmanuel Pahud. The OCL has also been able to attract the most interesting conductors of their times, such as Paul Hindemith, Günter Wand, Christoph Eschenbach, Ton Koopman, Jeffrey Tate, Bertrand de Billy, Simone Young or Daniel Harding. [..]
The quality of the OCL is of course connected to prestigious guest soloists and conductors, but it is above all due to an identity forged through the years by a small number of artistic directors. The founder Victor Desarzens (1942-1973) was followed by Armin Jordan (1973-1985), then Lawrence Foster (1985-1990), Jesús López Cobos (1990-2000) and Christian Zacharias (2000-2013). From 2015 to 2020, Joshua Weilerstein continued the work of his predecessors while at the same time positioning the OCL for the 21st century with bold programming and imaginative use of new media. In autumn 2021, Renaud Capuçon became the orchestra’s artistic director. The tremendous musical experience of the renowned French violinist and conductor, as well as his dynamism and his artistic profile have allowed the orchestra to further consolidate its international reputation, resulting in prestigious invitations across Europe as well as collaborations with renowned conductors and soloists such as Daniel Harding, Barbara Hannigan, Maria Joao Pires and Martha Argerich.
Season 2023-2024 - www.ocl.ch
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