Karissa Van Tassel

Conductor William Boughton will lead the Yale Symphony Orchestra in its second regular-season concert in Woolsey Hall this Saturday evening.

The concert, titled “From Darkness to Light,” will feature contemporary composer Hannah Kendall’s “Disillusioned Dreamer,” 19th- and 20th-century Czech composer Antonin Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8” and 19th-century German composer Johannes Brahms’ “Violin Concerto in D Major.” Alex Goldberg ’22, the winner of the William Waite Concerto competition, will be featured as the concerto’s
violin soloist.

“When I’m planning a season, I look at a diverse amount of music to give students the greatest possible experience,” Boughton said. “This season includes contemporary women composers of different ethnicities and diversities, combined with other American and European music.”

Boughton said that classical music has been a “domain of the white male” for a very long time and added that it is time for change. He said the 50th anniversary of coeducation at Yale is the perfect time to highlight this issue and celebrate living women composers.

The evening will open with Kendall’s piece. Kendall is a black female composer currently pursuing a DMA at Columbia University.

Boughton described Kendall’s piece as “provocative, dark, but with incredible fantasy.” He said that the piece is poignant because it is about an individual searching for their place in the world.

Kendall is the only contemporary composer to be featured in the program. Boughton said that contemporary music is important to program because audiences are able to recognize
its relevance.

“We can appreciate the beauty of music that was written 200 years ago, but we cannot understand its context because we weren’t living then,” Boughton said. “It is only with contemporary music that the relevance is obvious and immediate to us.”

The second piece — the Brahms concerto — will feature Goldberg as violin soloist. According to Goldberg, the concerto demands much from the violin, both in scope and musical range.

Because the concerto is an important piece in the violin repertoire, Goldberg has no recollection of the first time he heard the piece performed. He said it has always been an “omnipresent part of what’s in our ears.”

Yet Goldberg said he found the concerto technically challenging. He noted that Brahms wrote the concerto concurrently with the “greatest violin virtuoso” of his day, Joseph Joachim. Ever since, every great violinist has played the piece and put their own spin on it, Goldberg said.

“There is the weight of 150 years of history behind it, in addition to the challenges presented by the work on its own,” Goldberg said. “This creates some kind of anxiety of influence, the desire to be original in a way.”

The evening will close with Dvořák’s eighth symphony. Boughton said he chose this piece because it is the first of Dvořák’s symphonies not influenced by the works of Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner. “He has his own voice,” Boughton said.


Boughton studied this symphony in Communist Prague, where he said Dvořák’s music was “always present.” According to Boughton, the symphony reflects Czech characteristics and nationalism through gestures to Czech folk and dance music.

Maddy Tung ’21, a bassoonist in the orchestra, enjoys the program. She said that orchestras can often get stuck in a route where they continue to play the same works from the classical canon. She said she supports including women and people of color into the program because this prevents the canon from becoming stratified or exclusive.

Goldberg said that music can transport a person away from the concreteness of sitting in a hall and can communicate an emotional journey that presupposes the physical experience of self. He hopes to communicate something to the audience that leaves people “a little bit changed.”

“Unlike the written word, music lives in that moment in the time you perform,” Boughton said.

 

Freya Savla | freya.savla@yale.edu