NEC Chamber Orchestra: Shaw, Harberg, Schoenberg

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

The NEC Chamber Orchestra was created to provide the students with an opportunity to apply the principals of chamber music in a small orchestral setting.  The participants are chosen by audition at the beginning of the academic year and remain together throughout. As the ensemble rehearses and performs without a conductor, leadership responsibilities are rotated for every work performed. This affords the students an opportunity to develop communication skills, take responsibility for musical decisions and broaden their aural and score reading capabilities. Participation in the program also allows them to explore a wide range of the incredibly rich chamber orchestra literature.

Donald Palma is artistic director.

Joining the Chamber Orchestra tonight as soloist in Amanda Harberg's Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra is Elizabeth McCormack '24 MM, winner of the NEC Chamber Orchestra Competition.  Also on the program is Caroline Shaw's Entr'acte and Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht.

This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here:

  1. Caroline Shaw | Entr'acte (2011)


    Program note

    Entracte was written in 2011 after hearing the Brentano Quartet play Haydn’s Op. 77 No. 2 — with their spare and soulful shift to the D-flat major trio in the minuet. It is structured like a minuet and trio, riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further. I love the way some music (like the minuets of Op. 77) suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, technicolor transition.
    - Caroline Shaw

  2. Amanda Harberg | Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra (2021)


    Elizabeth McCormack


    Program note

    Cast in three dramatically contrasting and colorful movements—an elegant opening reminiscent of a Classical Sonata-allegro, a tender lullaby, and a closing, raucous scherzo—Amanda Harberg’s Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra evolved from her piccolo sonata, following a commission from Philadelphia Orchestra piccoloist Erica Peel.  Yanick Nézet-Séguin, who led the premiere, praised the concerto as “an extraordinary addition” to the piccolo’s limited repertoire.  He notes that “Amanda’s creativity and unique voice are on full display in this work.  Simply in choosing to explore the piccolo’s middle and lower voices, she quietly shrugs off the mundane and explores the unexpected.  This isn’t performative, or different for the sake f being different: Amanda simply sought to highlight a particular aspect of the piccolo’s beauty which is often overlooked.  This spirit—of curiosity for curiosity’s sake, of seeking out hidden loveliness as opposed to what is immediately apparent—pervades Amanda’s work.”  Harberg’s piccolo concerto will undoubtedly remain an important and beloved fixture of the instrument’s repertoire for years to come, rewarding listeners with its individual blend of new and old.

    • Elizabeth McCormack '24 MM, piccolo

  4. Arnold Schoenberg | Verklärte Nacht for String Orchestra, op. 4


    Program note

    Composed in 1899, Verklärte Nacht is almost Wagnerian, recalling especially Tristan und Isolde, which stretched the limits of tonality and the sexual morality of the 1860s.  The title Verklärte Nacht comes from an 1896 poem by Richard Dehmel (1863–1920) that celebrates new life, both literally and figuratively.  Its form—and that of Schoenberg’s music—is an ABACA structure.  Section A recurs as a refrain in which a narrator describes a couple walking outside at night.  In section B, the woman informs her companion that she is pregnant by another man, and in section C, the man answers with exceptional understanding, compassion, and acceptance.  The transfiguring warmth shared between the man and the woman defies taboos of society to create unity for the unborn child.
           Schoenberg did not consider the piece to be true “program music.”  In 1950, he commented: “It does not illustrate any action or drama, but was restricted to portray nature and express human feelings … in other words, it offers the possibility to be appreciated as ‘pure' music.”  In 1917, Schoenberg transcribed the work for string orchestra.


    Verklärte Nacht

    Zwei Menschen gehn durch kahlen, kalten Hain;
    der Mond läuft mit, sie schaun hinein.
    Der Mond läuft über hohe Eichen;
    kein Wölkchen trübt das Himmelslicht,

    in das die schwarzen Zacken reichen.
    Die Stimme eines Weibes spricht: 

    Ich trag ein Kind, und nit von Dir,
    ich geh in Sünde neben Dir.
    Ich hab mich schwer an mir vergangen.
    Ich glaubte nicht mehr an ein Glück
    und hatte doch ein schwer Verlangen
    nach Lebensinhalt, nach Mutterglück 

    und Pflicht; da hab ich mich erfrecht,
    da ließ ich schaudernd mein Geschlecht
    von einem fremden Mann umfangen,
    und hab mich noch dafür gesegnet.
    Nun hat das Leben sich gerächt:
    nun bin ich Dir, o Dir, begegnet.

    Sie geht mit ungelenkem Schritt.
    Sie schaut empor; der Mond läuft mit.
    Ihr dunkler Blick ertrinkt in Licht.
    Die Stimme eines Mannes spricht: 

    Das Kind, das Du empfangen hast,
    sei Deiner Seele keine Last,
    o sieh, wie klar das Weltall schimmert!
    Es ist ein Glanz um alles her;
    Du treibst mit mir auf kaltem Meer,
    doch eine eigne Wärme flimmert
    von Dir in mich, von mir in Dich.

    Die wird das fremde Kind verklären,
    Du wirst es mir, von mir gebären;
    Du hast den Glanz in mich gebracht,
    Du hast mich selbst zum Kind gemacht.

    Er faßt sie um die starken Hüften.
    Ihr Atem küßt sich in den Lüften.
    Zwei Menschen gehn durch hohe, helle Nacht.

    Richard Dehmel

    Transfigured Night

    Two people are walking through a bare, cold   wood;
    the Moon keeps pace with them and draws their gaze.
    The Moon moves along above tall oak trees,
    there is no wisp of cloud to obscure the radiance
    to which the black, jagged tips reach up.
    A woman's voice speaks:

    "I am carrying a child, and not by you.
    I am walking here with you in a state of sin.
    I have offended grievously against myself.
    I despaired of happiness,
    and yet I still felt a grievous longing
    for life's fullness, for a mother's joys
    and duties; and so I sinned,
    and so I yielded, shuddering, my sex
    to the embrace of a stranger,
    and even thought myself blessed.
    Now life has taken its revenge,
    and I have met you, met you."

    She walks on, stumbling.
    She looks up; the Moon keeps pace.
    Her dark gaze drowns in light.
    A man's voice speaks:

    "Do not let the child you have conceived
    be a burden on your soul.
    Look, how brightly the universe shines!
    Splendour falls on everything around,
    you are voyaging with me on a cold sea,
    but there is the glow of an inner warmth
    from you in me, from me in you.
    That warmth will transfigure the stranger's child,
    and you bear it me, begot by me.
    You have transfused me with splendour,
    you have made a child of me."

    He puts an arm about her strong hips.
    Their breath embraces in the air.
    Two people walk on through the high, bright night.

    Translation by Mary Whittall


    Chamber Orchestra

    Kitty Amaral ‡‡
    David Carreon *
    Hayong Choi
    Nick Hammel
    Clayton Hancock ‡

    Hyeon Hong §
    Masha Lakisova
    Yeji Lim §§
    Qiyan Xing **


    John Clark §
    Njord Fossnes  
    Rituparna Mukherjee *
    Maureen Sheehan ‡   

    Alexander Davis-Pegis ‡   
    Claire Park §
    Yi-I Stephanie Yang *     

    Daniel Slatch

    Doyeon Kim

    Gustavo Barreda

    Yoonsu Cha

    Principal players
    * Shaw
    § Schoenberg

    Double symbol for principal 2nd violin