This Saturday at 8 p.m. in Battell Chapel, the Yale Undergraduate Chamber Orchestra will perform music by American composers, led by the group’s music director, Ian Niederhoffer ’19.
The program features Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s “Music for Small Orchestra.” The group will also join violinist Emily Switzer ’17 MUS ’19 in the premiere of a violin concerto titled “when the days begin to fade away” by Max Vinetz ’18, the group’s artistic director.
“YUCO’s two main goals are to perform underperformed music and new music,” he said.
According to Vinetz, this program both fits the group’s agenda and expands its mission.
Vinetz and Niederhoffer said the Yale Undergraduate Chamber Orchestra’s two goals mean that the group performs music that other Yale ensembles do not.
“We are focusing on repertoire not performed by other ensembles on campus,” Niederhoffer said. “We are at liberty to be bold with our repertoire choices.”
The introduction of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s music also broadens the group’s focus to playing underperformed music specifically by underrepresented composers like Crawford. Vinetz said Crawford was “participating in the early American avant-garde” of the 1920s and 1930s, “as much as she was allowed to” as a woman.
Niederhoffer emphasized the fact that this program features three American composers. With this program choice, he said, the concert demonstrates different ways of expressing what it means to be an American composer.
Violinist Alex Wang ’19 also identified a sense of an American identity in “Appalachian Spring,” noting that the piece “epitomizes [Copland’s] take on bucolic America,” highlighting the pastoral character of the piece.
“Appalachian Spring” features 13 instrument parts, and was originally written as accompaniment for a ballet, then adapted into an orchestral suite. Set in 19th-century Pennsylvania, the ballet tells the story of a young couple celebrating the springtime completion of their farmhouse. The piece also features a Shaker melody, known as “Simple Gifts.”
“‘Appalachian Spring’ is a classic I wanted to do because it’s fantastic music, and it’s one of my favorite pieces,” Niederhoffer said.
Vinetz’ violin concerto is comprised of five movements. In the third movement, Switzer said, the violin is “up in the atmosphere as the orchestra makes commentary underneath.”
The final movement builds continuously until the end, she said, when the orchestra drops out and the violin soloist continues playing loudly, then “disintegrates.”
Switzer noted that working with living composers is convenient for clarifying aspects of the music. The first step of playing a new piece is ensuring that everything the composer wants can be executed, she said. If aspects of the music are not possible on a given instrument, Switzer said, working with living composers allows the musician to discuss ways of revising those elements.
“My focus now has been getting familiar enough with the piece to envision a trajectory, since this piece is not in a traditional format,” Switzer said.
In the piece, Vinetz said, he quotes lines from well-known violin concertos, which he says serves as a way of establishing his “autonomy” as a composer.
The Yale Undergraduate Chamber Orchestra was founded in 2016.
Julia Carabatsos | firstname.lastname@example.org .