NEC Philharmonia + Hugh Wolff: Chen, R. Strauss, Prokofiev

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Tonight's concert features performances of Qigang Chen's Wu Xing (Five Elements), Richard Strauss' Death and Transfiguration, and the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 with Changyong Shin '24 AD as piano soloist.  Hugh Wolff conducts the NEC Philharmonia.

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

  • Changyong Shin '24 AD, piano
  1. Qigang Chen | Wu Xing (The Five Elements) (1999)

    Shui (Water)
    Mu (Wood)
    Huo (Fire)
    Tu (Earth)
    Jin (Metal)

    Program note

    “This commission [by Radio France] immediately raised all my interest, for the proposition coincided with a period of personal quest,” Chen wrote. “The challenge pleased me and I took it up as a style exercise, supported by the pressure of the duration [limitation]...
         “Before going further in my process, I undertook to characterize each piece by a different symbol. From there was born the idea of representing the five elements (Wu Xing). Because according to the Yi King, five elements constitute the universe: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth....
         “To characterize musically a symbol in an extremely short time and to present a tangible material in an abstract language were my lines of strength. But even more, to establish relationships between the materials, so that each element generated the next one, as if the last was the consequence of the first.”
         The result was a small suite of five two-minute movements, with the five Chinese elements in an order based on generation (other orders traditionally suggest other themes, such as production or overcoming). According to the foreword in the printed score, water is the strongest element for Chen, but characterized by calmness. Wood is the richest element, with a lot of variations; fire represents life (warm, but not aggressive); earth, a generative principle, is the matrix; and metal refers to strength and light.
         The Five Elements was a finalist in the 2001 Masterprize competition in the UK, and it has been recorded by Didier Benetti and the National Orchestra of France.

  2. Richard Strauss | Death and Transfiguration, op. 24


    Program note

    Richard Strauss was just twenty-five when he wrote Death and Transfiguration. Together with his tone poem Don Juan, written a year earlier, the work established Strauss as a prodigy composer with a brilliant future. Death and Transfiguration has a hidden story that provides the scaffolding for the musical structure. For the premiere, and at the composer’s request, his friend Alexander von Ritter wrote the following scenario.

    I.      (Largo) In a dark, shabby room, a man lies dying. The silence is disturbed only by the ticking of a clock - or is it the beating of the man’s heart? A melancholy smile appears on the invalid’s face. Is he dreaming of his happy childhood?

    II.    (Allegro molto agitato) A furious struggle between life and death, at whose climax we hear, briefly, the theme of Transfiguration that will dominate the final portion of the work. The struggle is unresolved, and silence returns.

    III.   (Meno mosso ma sempre alla breve) He sees his life again, the happy times, the ideals striven for as a young man. But the hammer-blow of death rings out. His eyes are covered with eternal night.

    IV.   (Moderato) The heavens open to show him what the world denied him: Redemption, Transfiguration - the Transfiguration theme first playedpianissimo by the full orchestra, its flowering enriched by the celestial arpeggios of two harps. The theme climbs ever higher, dazzlingly, into the empyrean.      (translation courtesy of Herbert Glass)


  4. Sergei Prokofiev | Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16

    Andantino - Allegretto
    Scherzo: Vivace
    Intermezzo: Allegro
    Finale: Allegro tempestuoso

    Program note

    Sergei Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto has an unusual history. Written in the waning years of Tsarist Russia, it was premiered in 1913 with the composer as soloist. In the chaos following the Russian Revolution the manuscript was lost in a fire. Ten years later, after finishing his Third Piano Concerto, Prokofiev reconstruct-ted the lost concerto from memory. Needless to say, that process involved as much re-composition as reconstruction, and Prokofiev pronounced the finished product “so completely rewritten that it might almost be considered Concerto No. 4.” Despite that, it remains his Second Piano Concerto. Again, the composer played the premiere – almost exactly a century ago – in May 1924.
            In addition to its unusual star-crossed history, it has an unusual form. Cast in four movements, it eschews the traditional fast-slow-fast shape. The first movement is slow and melancholy, then doubles the tempo and lightens its mood. An enormous cadenza follows, filling almost half the movement’s length. The second movement is a short, virtuoso Scherzo – the pianist plays unrelenting sixteenth notes with both hands, an octave apart. This perpetuum mobile, reminiscent of the finale of Chopin’s B-flat minor Piano Sonata, is a technical tour-de-force. What follows under the sly title of Intermezzo, is a grim march – all sarcasm and sharp edges. The Finale hews more closely to the traditional model, a fast movement with lyrical episodes, a second, much shorter cadenza, and a brilliant run to the finish line.
            Known to be one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the repertoire, it has only recently entered the mainstream, as a younger more fearless generation of pianists has embraced it.


    Changyong Shin

    Pianist Changyong Shin has garnered international attention, with first-prize wins at the Gina Bachauer, Seoul, and Hilton Head International Piano Competitions. In 2022, he won the Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
            In 2021, Changyong captivated audiences with a sold-out recital at Lotte Concert Hall, followed by a sold-out recital tour as well and multiple performances as part of Lotte Concert Hall’s highly selective “In-House Artist Series.” He also completed a recital at Seoul Arts Center in 2023. He has performed throughout Asia, North America, and Europe, including recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel and Weill Recital Halls, WQXR’s The Greene Space, and Salle Cortot and the Louvre in Paris. He has also been featured at prominent festivals including the Barletta Piano Festival
    (Italy), Klavier-Festival Ruhr (Germany), Newport and Green Lake Festivals (United States) and Music in PyeongChang in Korea. Concerto appearances include those with the Utah Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Sendai Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, KBS Symphony and among others.
            Changyong has released three professional recordings; his debut album on the Steinway label was named one of the “Best New Recordings of 2018” by WQXR, and subsequent albums received rave reviews from ClassicsToday and Pizzicato. Throughout this year, he has dedicated himself as the host of 2024 Matinee Concert Series at Arts Center Incheon, curating a dynamic lineup of performances that include both solo showcases and chamber music collaborations with fellow musicians, culminating in four memorable concerts
            A native of South Korea, Changyong was selected as the first prize winner of the Young Artist Award of The National Academy of Arts, Republic of Korea Academy in 2022. He has pursued his musical education in the United States since 2011, earning a bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music and master’s degree and artist diploma from The Juilliard School under the tutelage of Robert McDonald. Currently, he is studying as an Artist Diploma student under the guidance of Wha Kyung Byun at New England Conservatory.

    • Changyong Shin '24 AD, piano
  5. NEC Philharmonia

    First Violin
    SooBeen Lee
    Hannah Kim
    Hannah Goldstick

    Hila Dahari
    Olga Kaminsky
    Sydney Scarlett
    Felicitas Schiffner
    Peixuan Wu
    Passacaglia Mason
    Chloe Hong
    Emma Boyd
    Joshua Brown
    Ching Shan Helen Yu
    Nathan do Amaral Oliveira

    Second Violin
    Julian Rhee
    K. J. McDonald
    Yixiang Wang
    Eunha Kim
    Gabriella Foster
    Caroline Smoak
    Joy Wei
    Jordan Hadrill
    Angela Sin Ying Chan
    Claire Thaler
    Harin Kang
    Yebin Yoo
    Célina Bethoux


    Yi-Chia Chen
    Peter Jablokow
    Chengrong Li
    Hyelim Kong
    Man To Kwong
    RuYao Van der Ploeg
    Xinlin Wang
    Joy Hsieh
    Eunha Kwon
    Anna Mann
    Adam Newman

    Zac Fung
    Lily Stern
    Shijie Ma
    Jihyeuk Choi

    Jung ah Lee
    Thomas Hung
    Soyeon Koo
    Lillian Yim
    Sophia Knappe
    Michelle Jung
    Miruna Eynon

    Cailin Singleton
    Gregory Padilla

    Yihan Wu
    Shion Kim
    Isabel Atkinson
    Misha Bjerken

    Isabel Evernham
    Honor Hickman
    Jay Kim
    Jungyoon Kim *
    Elizabeth McCormack
    Yechan Min ‡
    Subin Oh §

    Jay Kim

    Robert Diaz
    Corinne Foley
    Gwendolyn Goble *
    Kian Hirayama ‡

    Abigail Hope-Hull §
    Christian Paniagua

    English horn
    Corinne Foley ‡
    Kian Hirayama *

    Xianyi Ji §
    Phoebe Kuan
    Yi-Ting Ma ‡
    Chasity Thompson *

    E-Flat Clarinet
    Phoebe Kuan

    Bass Clarinet
    Phoebe Kuan ‡
    Yi-Ting Ma *

    Garrett Comrie *
    Matthew Heldt §
    Abigail Heyrich ‡
    Wilson Lu
    Carson Merrit

    Jialu Wang

    Carson Merrit *
    Erik Paul ‡

    French horn
    Jihao Li ‡
    Graham Lovely §
    Willow Otten *
    Qianbin Zhu  

    Ko Te Chen §
    Matthew Dao *
    Eddy Lanois ‡
    Matthew Milhalko

    Noah Korenfeld
    Ethan Lehman ‡
    Noah Nichilo *
    Kevin Smith §

    Bass Trombone
    Scott Odou *§
    David Paligora ‡

    James Curto *‡
    Masaru Lin §

    Eli Geruschat §
    Jakob Schoenfeld ‡

    Eli Geruschat  
    Doyeon Kim §
    Danial Kukuk ‡

    Jakob Schoenfeld *

    Yoonsu Cha ‡
    Shaylen Joos *

    Feiyang Xu


    Principal players

    * Chen
    ‡ Strauss