Hilary Hahn And Beethoven's Seventh At NY Philharmonic

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Hilary Hahn and Beethoven’s Seventh at NY Philharmonic

On Friday November 28, 2014, I attended a live concert at NY Philharmonic called Hilary Hahn and Beethoven’s Seventh. The program of the concert was a combination of three music pieces of the period from the beginning of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century. The first piece was Cyrano de Bergerac Overture by J. Wagenaar; the second- Violin Concerto by Korngold; and the third- Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven. Amsterdam-born Jaap van Zweden was a conductor who directed all three music pieces. He is at present a music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and a music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Hilary Hahn, an American two-time Grammy Award-winning violinist, was the solo violin for the Korngold’s Violin Concerto. The Avery Fisher Hall, where the concert was held, was filled to its full seating capacity. From the point of entry I saw many couples of ages above sixty, who comprise roughly 50% of the audience. Another major group was families with high-school and college age children. By my estimates, they comprised 20% of the audience. The remaining 30% were equally divided between young couples in mid twentieth and thirtieth and college students in earlier twentieth. In terms of ethnicity, the white/caucasian group was the largest- about 70% of the audience. It was made up of people from the USA, Russian, and Western European countries, particularly France and Germany. There was a significant Asian group, representatives from countries of South Asia such as India and Eastern Asia such as China and Korea, which roughly comprised another 30% of the audience. The African-American group was drastically underrepresented. It could barely constitute 5% of the audience. The audience make up signifies that people of European descent have the highest interest in classic music, while the interest is growing among representatives of Asian countries. The concert was divided in two parts with a 15 minutes intermission between them. The first part included pieces by Wagenaar and Korngold, the second movement was exclusively left for the Beethoven’s Symphony. The first piece by the Dutch composer Johan Wagenaar Cyrano de Bergerac Overture was composed in 1905. What interesting about this piece is that it delineates an unrepresented western tradition. Netherland composers are virtually obscured today and the tradition that Wagenaar represents is not popularly known. In Wagenaar’s own words, Dutch music style is “simple, spirited or firm in melody, by a sense of a cozy and quietly sensitive, a sharp rhythm and, finally, sense of humor” (Keller). The musical characteristics of Cyrano de Bergerak are precisely those he outlined.
The piece was inspired by a play of Edmond Rostand that was premiered 8 years earlier than Wagenaar composed his piece. It is about life of a real character- French writer and military man who lived in the 17th century and became famous for his vivacious manner and reckless courage. As written by the NY Times “The overture does not depict events in the life of Cyrano de Bergerac, as immortalized in the Edmond Rostand play, but rather portrays his character.” To compose the flamboyant music on par with Cyrano de Bergerac’s personality such instruments are used: flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, tuba, timpani, triangles and strings. Changing music dynamics and color suggest different, often contrasting, traits of Bergerac. He is a heroic and strong character with a gentle, loving nature. The beginning of the overture depicts his strong part: the swaggering beginning in fast tempo-allegro with bursting basses and full orchestra is dedicated to the theme of heroism. The beginning gets overtaken by a melodic theme in moderate tempo andante, which is dedicated to the feelings of love and amorous earning. This melody is spacious and unsettling like love itself. In the third movement the music tempo