School of Music

This Friday evening in Woolsey Hall, concertgoers can experience a diverse array of classical music, ranging from iconic symphonic works to a rarely programmed tuba concerto.

Guest conductor Carolyn Kuan will lead the Yale School of Music’s Philharmonia in Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony in Three Movements”; Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Appalachian Spring”; and Arild Plau’s Concerto for Tuba and Strings. The program will feature Woolsey Hall Concerto Competition winner Jacob Fewx MUS ’18 MUS ’19 as tuba soloist.

“As an artist, more and more I’m programming music with the world in mind,” said Kuan. “You want to share art and music in reaction to the world we live in today, trying to speak our own truth through our music and art is fantastic for that.”

Kuan considers Friday’s program “a concert of our time,” particularly in its reflection of the “very divisive world” we live in. Kuan said that “while [this divisiveness] is not actual carnage in terms of World War I or World War II,” she thinks the “attacks on humanity, morality and truth” impact our daily lives. In her programming of Friday’s concert, Kuan aimed to make music that “connect[s] with the world” and hopes to “create a sense of goodness that is completely opposite, potentially, to what’s happening in the world.”

The program will open with Stravinsky’s 1945 composition titled “Symphony in Three Movements.” This 25-minute work is widely considered to be Stravinsky’s first major composition following his immigration to the United States and was first performed by the New York Philharmonic in 1946. Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” which will follow this work, offers a musical foil to the Stravinsky.

Kuan notes that “it’s amazing to hear these two pieces,” because while “Symphony in Three Movements” and “Fanfare for the Common Man” are “incredibly different,” they were both written at nearly the same time in the midst of World War II. Even though Stravinsky often avoided disclosing the inspiration behind his works, “[the symphony] was very much war inspired,” according to Kuan.

“He talks about his experience in Germany and being targeted. … When you live in that period, you can’t help but get influenced by what’s happening, she said”

Bassist Samuel Zagnit MUS ’20, who spent his undergraduate years at the Manhattan School of Music studying Stravinsky, said he considers the symphony to be “a really special piece.” According to Zagnit, the piece features changing rhythmic motives that repeat throughout the piece.

“It’s so fun to finally get to play it and it’s incredibly satisfying to play,” Zagnit said. “Stravinsky was one of the first composers to really change the way we thought about rhythm.”

Zagnit spoke highly of Kuan’s interactions with the orchestra. He said that Kuan is not only “incredibly clear and confident on the podium, but she is also respectful and amiable to work with.” Zagnit admitted that there have been “many times where conductors give [the bass section] no attention,” and feels lucky to work with Kuan, who is “so attentive to all sections of the orchestra and makes them feel involved with the rehearsal process.”

Halfway through the program, Fewx will perform the tuba concerto, which Kuan says will “certainly be a rare opportunity” for the audience and the performers.

“It’s not everyday you hear a tuba concerto,” said Kuan.

In a traditional symphony orchestra configuration, one tuba player sits in the back row of the brass section. Yet Fewx will make his way to the front of the stage to perform this 1990 concerto. While Fewx acknowledges that it is “pretty rare to hear a tuba solo in front of an orchestra,” he hopes that the audience comes away with “a mindset that the tuba is a beautiful solo instrument.”

Fewx described the overall mood of the piece, which was written in memory of the composer’s wife, as “very dark and emotional.”

“There are some really beautiful melodies in the tuba and the strings add a lush backdrop for the music,” he added.

Kuan echoed Fewx’s sentiments.

“The tuba as a solo instrument can be incredibly beautiful,” said Kuan.

She compared Fewx’s sound to a “warm baritone” and thinks the performance will offer a “fascinating juxtaposition” between the solo tuba and the string accompaniment.

Zagnit believes that the performance offers “a chance to really hear some new sounds that many in the audience have never heard.” He noted that “it’s not always the easiest experience to hear something new,” but urged potential concertgoers to give the potentially unfamiliar music a chance.

Kuan affirmed that there is “nothing quite like being in a concert hall and having these sounds surround you, especially in Woolsey Hall.”

Friday’s performance will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Allison Park | allison.park@yale.edu