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Enigmatic Elgar

Saturday, November 11 at 7:30pm

Sunday, November 12 at 3:00pm


Enigmatic Elgar

Saturday, November 11 at 7:30pm

Sunday, November 12 at 3:00pm


Enigmatic Elgar

Saturday, November 11 at 7:30pm

Sunday, November 12 at 3:00pm


The Palace Series

Experience the thrill of a live, full orchestra


The Palace Theatre
61 Atlantic Street, Stamford, CT 06901


2 hours with a 20
minute intermission

Saturday, November 11 at 7:30pm

Sunday, November 12 at 3:00pm

About this performance

One of the greatest pianists and composers of his generation, Sergei Rachmaninoff was on the verge of collapse after the poor reception of his first Symphony, and spiraled into depression. Inconsolable, he was unable to write any music for three years, until his therapist helped him to begin work on his magnificent Piano Concerto No. 2. It saved his career and most probably his life. Hearing this work performed live is an overwhelming experience of nostalgic passion, soaring melody, and uncontrollable excitement.

To bring the program to an exuberant close is Edward Elgar’s hidden portraits of his friends, immortalized in his Enigma Variations. The hidden theme is never revealed; some have guessed it to be derived from Home Sweet Home and Auld Lang Syne, but Elgar took the secret to his grave. But he left us with music of incredible imagination, creativity, and beauty.

Tony Siqi Yunpiano
Michael Stern, conductor

Musical Program to include

Gabriela Lena Frank  Elegia Andina

Sergei Rachmaninoff  Piano Concerto No. 2

Edward Elgar Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, Enigma

Your Orchestra Lumos Experience

Join Us for Illuminating discussions hosted before and after concerts

Behind the Baton: Held in the theater one hour prior to each concert
Learn more about the program with Music Director Michael Stern. This pre-concert talk offers a deeper
look into the music and introduces you to the soloist.

After Hours: Held in the lower lobby café following Saturday evening concerts
Michael Stern moderates an interactive discussion after the concert with a panel of guests (musicians, composers, and community leaders). Join us for a glass of wine and feel free to ask questions and share your own thoughts!

Sharing the Joy of Music with Young Audiences

Orchestra Lumos is dedicated to broadening access to, and appreciation of, musical experiences for young
audiences. Kids ages 5 to 17 come FREE* with accompanying adult for Sunday afternoon concerts. (* $4 facility fee is applied to all tickets ordered).

Tony Siqi Yun piano

The Canadian born pianist Tony Siqi Yun will this season make his subscription debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He first met Maestro Nézet-Séguin in the final round of the inaugural China International Music Competition in 2019, where he went on to win First Prize and a Gold Medal performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. Other recent concerto performances have included the Cleveland Orchestra (Tchaikovsky), Toronto Symphony and Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, (Clara Schumann), Buffalo Philharmonic (Tchaikovsky) and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (Beethoven).

Tony regularly performs solo recitals in both Europe and North America. Recent and future highlights include his debuts at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Luxembourg and in North America the Vancouver Recital Society, Stanford Live, and Gilmore Rising Stars Series. At the Kissinger KlavierOlymp in 2022 he was awarded two prizes.

Tony has a long-standing relationship with the China Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he has toured and also appeared as soloist in the 2019 CCT New Year’s Concert. He has also performed with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

He is a recipient of the Jerome L. Greene Fellowship at the Juilliard School where he studies with Professors Yoheved Kaplinsky and Matti Raekallio.

Program Notes

Elegia Andina (Andean Elegy)

Gabriela Lena Frank

American composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank was born in Berkeley, California, to parents of widely mixed background: Her mother is of Peruvian/Chinese/Spanish ancestry and her father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Michigan, Frank has traveled extensively in South America drawing on its folk culture as inspiration for her compositions. In 2015 she established a farm in Mendocino County, California, in which she started her own school for emerging composers, the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music.

Frank composed Elegia Andina in 2000, explaining: ” [It] is dedicated to my older brother, Marcos Gabriel Frank. As children of a multicultural marriage, our early days were filled with Oriental stir-fry cuisine, Andean nursery songs, and frequent visits from our New York-bred Jewish cousins. As a young piano student, my repertoire included not only my own compositions that carried overtones from Peruvian folk music but also rags of Scott Joplin and minuets by the sons of Bach. It is probably inevitable then that as a composer and pianist today, I continue to thrive on multiculturalism. Elegía Andina is one of my first written-down compositions to explore what it means to be of several ethnic persuasions, of several minds. It uses stylistic elements of Peruvian arca/ira zampoña panpipes (double-row panpipes, each row with its own tuning) to paint an elegiac picture of my questions…In addition, as already mentioned, I can think of none better to dedicate this work to than to “Babo,” my big brother — for whom Perú still waits.”

Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18

Sergey Rachmaninov

Although Sergey Rachmaninov’s mentor at the Moscow Conservatory, Nikolay Zverev, discouraged his initial attempts at composing, he continued to march to his own drummer, defying his teacher and transferring to classes in counterpoint and composition.

Clearly, his sense of his own worth was more accurate than that of his professors. While still a student, he produced a string of successful works, including the tone poem Prince Rostislav, his First Piano Trio, and a flood songs and piano pieces. For his graduation in 1892 he composed the opera Aleko, which won him the highest distinction, the Great Gold Medal. The same year he also composed the Prelude in C-sharp minor, a work whose inordinate fame haunted him all his life because audiences always expected – and demanded – it as an encore at his performances as one of history’s greatest pianists.

By 1895 Rachmaninov felt confident enough to compose a symphony. The premiere took place in St. Petersburg in 1897 but was a dismal failure, in large part because to the shoddy conducting of Alexander Glazunov who was under “the influence.” Whereas earlier setbacks had produced in the young composer creative defiance, this disappointment brought on a severe depression. For three years he was unable to do any significant composing. After consulting numerous physicians and advisors, even asking old Leo Tolstoy for help, he finally went for therapy in 1900 to Dr. Nikolay Dahl, an internist who had studied hypnosis and rudimentary psychiatry in Paris. The result was one of the first well-known successes of modern psychotherapy. Although the composer was able to return to creative work, relapses into depression dogged him for the rest of his life. Significantly, all his large instrumental compositions are in minor keys, and one of the melodic themes recurring in many of his compositions is the Dies irae from the Catholic mass for the dead reminding mourners of the terrors of the day of judgment.

Rachmaninov expressed his gratitude to Dr. Dahl by dedicating the Second Piano Concerto to him. The first performance of the complete work, in November 1901with the composer at the piano, was an instant success. It is Rachmaninov’s most frequently performed and recorded orchestral work. It even found its way into Hollywood as background music to the World War II movie Brief Encounter.

The first movement opens with dark, plodding unaccompanied chords on the piano that increase in intensity and volume, gradually joined by the orchestra and leading to the first theme. The effect is like the tolling of the giant low-pitched bells common in Russian churches. The second broadly romantic theme is a Rachmaninov signature. The lyrical mood is sustained throughout until the coda with its sudden conclusion in a dramatic burst of energy.

In the Adagio sostenuto, muted strings, followed by the piano left hand hesitantly accompany the high woodwinds. The right hand then joins the woodwinds in dreamy interplay. After a brief energetic cadenza, the atmosphere of the beginning returns.

The beginning of the third movement in the lower range of the orchestra is deceptively gentle, enhancing the surprise of the sudden sparkling piano cadenza. The main theme, introduced by the violas and oboes, is intensely passionate – in the same vein as the second theme of the opening movement. After a surprisingly calm episode, the tempo increases to presto; and after another short cadenza the highest instruments in the orchestra take up the theme, culminating in a glittering climax.

Enigma Variations, Op. 36

Edward Elgar ‘Variations on an Original Theme’

If you look at photographs of Edward Elgar, read about his tastes or listen to his music, he projects the stereotype of Imperial Britain’s aristocracy or, as composer Constant Lambert described him, “[the image of]… an almost intolerable air of smugness, self-assurance and autocratic benevolence…” His military bearing, walrus moustache, country gentleman’s dress – all very proper and Edwardian – matched his conservative, violently anti-Liberal ideas. His style appeared to have been fostered and fully sanctioned by the equally conservative Royal College of Music.

The reality was very different: Elgar was born to a lower middle-class family and never served in the army. Worst of all, his father was a music store owner, or as the British used to say, “in trade.” And he was a Catholic. He was nervous, insecure, and prone to depression and hypochondria; he always carried a chip on his shoulder for not being “fully accepted.” Musically, he was completely self-taught. But to the chagrin of Britain’s music establishment, Elgar – an “outsider” – was the first English composer since Henry Purcell (1659-1695) to achieve world fame. It was the Enigma Variations, composed in 1899 when he was 42 that propelled him out of his parochial obscurity to worldwide recognition.

Elgar had begun the Variations as a private amusement for his wife, Alice, whom he adored. He created musical portraits of their friends, later turning them into a proper orchestral composition at her suggestion. The expressive and stately theme was his own, but Elgar claimed that he had employed a second, hidden theme along with the main obvious one. This second theme has remained a mystery to this day, although in later years Elgar said that it was derived from a melody “…so well-known that it is strange no one has discovered it.”

The Elgar friends and their peculiarities are portrayed in the 14 variations, each of which is headed by a nickname or initials, making some of the identities a puzzle as well – although by now scholars have figured out the lot:
1. CAE: Elgar’s wife Caroline Alice, whose inspiration contributed to a romantic and delicate touch to the theme.

2. HDSP: H.D. Steuart-Powell, amateur pianist and chamber music partner of Elgar. The detached, rapid staccato note replicates the sound of the piano.

3. RBT: R.B. Townshend, author, eccentric and actor with a “funny voice.”

4. WMB: William M. Baker, a country squire and neighbor. The variation suggests that the man fancied the hunt.

5. RPA: Richard Arnold, son of poet Matthew Arnold, music lover, conversationalist and party wit. The contrast in the two parts of the variation suggests Arnold was eloquent on both serious and frivolous topics.

6. Ysobel: Isabel Fitton, an amateur violist with hopeless fingering difficulties.

7. Troyte: Arthur Troyte Griffin, well-known architect and terrible amateur pianist. The pounding of the timpani says it all.

8. WN: Miss Winifred Norbury, owner of an eighteenth-century house with a nervous laugh, both of which Elgar loved. It leads without pause to:

9. Nimrod (the Bible’s great hunter): A.J. Jaeger (“hunter” in German), an editor at Novello, Elgar’s publisher. Jaeger’s encouragement and support were crucial for Elgar in his major debut. His love for Beethoven is hinted at in a quote from the Pathétique sonata. This, the second longest of the variations, is traditionally performed as a separate piece to memorialize the death of an orchestra musician.

10. Dorabella: Dora Penny, a frequent visitor with hesitant speech, whose nickname derived from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.

11. GRS: George R. Sinclair, organist; actually the variation is a musical description of Dan, Sinclair’s bulldog, falling into the river, paddling out and barking.

12. BGN: Basil G. Nevinson, amateur cellist and close friend.

13. ***: Lady Mary Lygon and a second, earlier, younger flame who had left Elgar heartbroken; one went to Australia, the other to New Zealand, hence the steamer engine thump and the quote from Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage. The second part of the variation, a clarinet solo, suggests a wrenching farewell.

14. EDU: Edoo, the nickname for Elgar himself, known only to his closest friends; his self-portrait sounds quite heroic.

Program notes by:
Joseph & Elizabeth Kahn

*artists and programs subject to change