NEC Symphony + David Loebel: Big Questions
The pandemic has forced us to question many basic assumptions about both our everyday lives and the state of our country. Joan Tower’s Made in America—a 21st century take on America the Beautiful—is bracketed on this concert by two contrasting works of Charles Ives: The Unanswered Question asks the biggest question of all, while Variations on “America” harks back to an earlier time of bombastic, sentimental patriotism. Perhaps amid all these serious thoughts there’s still space for the humor of Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony. –David Loebel
This performance is open to in-person audiences, and can also be viewed below via livestream.
View livestream from Jordan Hall:
- NEC Symphony
Giuseppe Verdi | Overture to "La forza del destino"
Franz Joseph Haydn | Symphony No. 94 in G Major, Hob.1:94, "Surprise"
Adagio - Vivace assai
Menuet: Allegro molto
Finale: Allegro di molto
Charles Ives | The Unanswered Question
Joan Tower | Made in America (2004)
I crossed a fairly big bridge at the age of nine when my family moved to South America (La Paz, Bolivia), where we stayed for nine years. I had to learn a new language, a new culture, and how to live at 13,000 feet! It was a lively culture with many saints' days celebrated through music and dance, but the large Inca population in Bolivia was generally poor, and there was little chance of moving up in class or work position.
When I returned to the United States, I was proud to have free choices, upward mobility, and the chance to try to become who I wanted to be. I also enjoyed the basic luxuries of an American citizen that we so often take for granted: hot running water, blankets for the cold winters, floors that are not made of dirt, and easy modes of transportation, among many other things. So when I started composing this piece, the song "America the Beautiful" kept coming into my consciousness and eventually became the main theme for the work. The beauty of the song is undeniable, and I loved working with it as a musical idea. One can never take for granted, however, the strength of a musical idea — as Beethoven (one of my strongest influences) knew so well. This theme is challenged by other more aggressive and dissonant ideas that keep interrupting, unsettling it, but "America the Beautiful" keeps resurfacing in different guises (some small and tender, others big and magnanimous), as if to say, "I'm still here, ever changing, but holding my own." A musical struggle is heard throughout the work. Perhaps it was my unconscious reacting to the challenge of how do we keep America beautiful. —Joan Tower
Charles Ives (arr. William Schuman) | Variations on "America"
Introduction and Theme
Claire Byeol Kim
Ru-Yao Van der Ploeg
Max Zhenren Zhao
Nga leng Lai‡
Nga leng Lai
^Ives Unanswered Question