St. Clair & NSO
Carl St. Clair, conductor
Meng-Chieh Liu, piano
Brett Dean: Komarov's Fall
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No.1 in B-flat minor, Op.23
Sergei Prokofiev: Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet Suites
Change is a turning point, and often a crisis. It is an adventure which might fail. It is the momentum of progress but also causes insecurity, leading many people to avoid changing. There are many examples throughout history of composers attempting to create new innovative musical works and meeting with severe criticism. Tonight, the NSO will present compositions written by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev respectively, both are imbued with rich and dense harmonic textures, rhythms, and beats that are characteristic of Slavic music and run counter to the tradition of contemporary Western music. After Nikolai Rubinstein first heard Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto, he abused Tchaikovsky verbally, resulting in a temporary break within their friendship. From Rubinstein's perceptive, it was far removed from the traditional concerto form and definitely unplayable. He was displeased by Tchaikovsky's innovation. The German conductor, Albeit von Bülow however regarded it highly, praising its “unsurpassed originality, such nobility, such strength...” History has vindicated Tchaikovsky, with this piano concerto now regarded as one of the best in its genre. In returning to Russia after eighteen years of absence in 1936, Prokofiev brought with him the manuscript of his ballet Romeo and Juliet. He dreamt of making waves in the artistic circle of the Soviet Union. Soon he realised his dream had been an illusion. Soviet cultural officials disliked the novel happy ending to the ballet, while dancers complained its music was “impossible to dance to. Subsequently Prokofiev was attacked for his “decadent formalism” which left him in fear for the rest of his life. Despite its shaky beginnings, Romeo and Juliet, with its breakthrough humor and unrestrained rhythms unlike those found in traditional ballets, has become one of the most beloved masterpieces of modern ballet.
Carl St. Clair, conductor
Music Director of the Pacific Symphony for nearly three decades, Carl St. Clair has become widely recognized for his distinguished performances, programming, and commitment. The largest ensemble formed in the United States, the Pacific Symphony's rapid artistic development is due largely to Mr. St. Clair's leadership.
In April 2018, he led the Symphony in its Carnegie Hall debut, as the finale to the Hall's yearlong celebration of pre-eminent composer Philip Glass's 80th birthday. In 2014, Mr. St. Clair was named Music Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica. An active guest conductor, he has led the Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra. Worldwide, he has conducted orchestras in Europe, South America, Australia, and Asia. Carl St. Clair has also served as general music director and chief conductor of the German National Theater and Staatskapelle in Weimar, general music director of the Komische Opera in Berlin, and principal guest conductor of the SDR/Stuttgart.
Meng-Chieh Liu, Piano
A recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, Meng-Chieh Liu first made headlines in 1993 as a 21-year-old student at The Curtis Institute of Music when he substituted at last minute's notice for André Watts at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The concert earned high acclaim from critics and audience alike, and was followed by a number of widely praised performances, including a recital at the Kennedy Center and a concert on the Philadelphia All-Star Series. Already an accomplished artist at the time, Mr. Liu had made his New York orchestral debut two years earlier.