NEC at Symphony Hall: Philharmonia, Symphonic Choir + Hugh Wolff: Brahms, Frank, Lutosławski

Symphony Hall | Directions

301 Massachusetts Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

NEC Philharmonia and Symphonic Choir close the semester with a joint concert conducted by Hugh Wolff in Boston's Symphony Hall. 

This evening’s concert features music from each of the last three centuries: a 19th century classic, an orchestral showpiece from the 20th century, and a 21st century reckoning with the complicated history of civilizations in the Americas.  Brahms’s Tragic Overture sets the tone for Gabriela Lena Frank’s Conquest Requiem.  This work combines the Latin Requiem Mass with Spanish and Nahuatl poetry to tell a complex story of resistance, conquest, genocide, love and assimilation in 16th century Central America.  Witold Lutosławski’s brilliant Concerto for Orchestra closes the concert and gives every section of the New England Conservatory Philharmonia a chance to shine.

Vocal soloists for the regional premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank's Conquest Requiem include soprano YeonJae Cho '24 AD and baritone Libang Wang '23 MM.

  • YeonJae Cho '24 AD, soprano
  • Libang Wang '23 MM, baritone
  1. Johannes Brahms | Tragic Overture in D Minor, op. 81


    Program note

    Johannes Brahms did most of his composing during the summer months, in the countryside far from noisy Vienna.  The summer of 1880 was not a happy one.  Brahms chose to stay in Bad Ischl, a resort near Salzburg.  The weather was awful, and Brahms developed an ear infection.  Terrified of losing his hearing (as had his hero Beethoven), he returned to Vienna for medical treatment.  The infection subsided, and Brahms resumed his composing in Bad Ischl, but his output was fairly meager.  Among the works he did complete were two overtures: the Academic Festival Overture and the Tragic Overture.  The latter is as somber and serious as the former is ebullient and light-hearted.  The Tragic Overture, written between the Second and Third Symphonies, is structured much like a symphonic movement.  A vehement opening gives way to a second subject of typical Brahmsian yearning.  In place of the development, Brahms dials back both tempo and passion for music of quiet introspection.  A luminous transition featuring quiet trombones brings the reprise of the yearning melody.  Passion and vehemence return too, but give way to doubt and regret just before the stormy conclusion.

  2. Gabriela Lena Frank | Conquest Requiem (2017)

    Introit: Cuicatl de Malinche (Song of Malinche)
    Judex ergo cum sedebit
    Dies irae: Cuicatl de Martín (Song of Martín)
    Recordare, Jesu pie
    Rex Tremendae: El aullido de Malinche (The Howl of Malinche)
    Confutatis maledictis
    In Paradisum: Benediction de Malinche y Martín

    Program note

    Born in California of Lithuanian-Jewish and Peruvian-Chinese parents, Gabriela Lena Frank has long explored her multicultural heritage in her music.  The recipient of many awards and performed worldwide, she is a unique voice in the 21st century.   She writes this about her Conquest Requiem:

    Much has been written of the violent meeting of the Old and New Worlds that produced the Americas - North, Central, and South - known to the world today.  Over the centuries since, key figures have emerged - conquistadores Cristoforo Colombo, Hernán Cortés, and Francisco Pizarro; chroniclers Bernal Díaz del Castillo, the native Garcilaso de la Vega, and the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas - as especially emblematic of the cataclysm that was the Conquest.  These men and countless others bore witness and, oftentimes, great responsibility for the death and destruction of entire societies while simultaneously having a hand in the birth of new mestizo (mixed-race) civilizations.

    Against such grand historical strokes, the stories of ordinary people are easily swept away but for the efforts of creative imagination, employed here in the Conquest Requiem.  This piece is inspired by the true story of Malinche, a Nahua woman from the Gulf Coast of Mexico who was given to the Spaniards as a young slave.  Malinche's ever-evolving prowess as an interpreter of her native Nahuatl, various Mayan dialects, and Spanish elevated her position such that she would convert to Christianity and become mistress to Cortés  during his war against the Aztecs.  She would later give birth to their son Martín, one of the first mestizos of the New World.

    While Malinche has been conflated with Aztec legends, she has been variously viewed as feminist hero who saved countless lives, treacherous villain who facilitated genocide, conflicted victim of forces beyond her control, or as symbolic mother of the new mestizo people.

    In the Conquest Requiem, Malinche's story is the linchpin for the juxtaposition of traditional liturgical verses from the Latin Mass for the Dead against Nahua poetry as chronicled from the mouths of fallen indigenous princes.  Newly composed Spanish words from playwright/poet Nilo Cruz round out the text.
    - Gabriela Lena Frank


    NEC Symphonic Choir

    Oluwanimofe Akinyanmi
    Aislin Alancheril
    * Andrés Almirall
    Stellan Connelly Bettany
    * Alexis Boucugnani
    Brittany Bryant
    Isabella Butler
    Peter Butler
    * Mildred Cady
    Coco Chapman
    * Ashley Chen
    Chen Chen
    Jing Chen
    Su Cong
    Patrick Dempsey
    Yuxin Duan
    Ivy Evers
    Molly Flynn
    Jaden Fogel
    Abisal Gergiev
    Jiawei Gong
    * Killian Grider
    Siyuan Guan
    Changjin Ha
    Jialin Han
    Cameron Hayden
    * David Helder
    * Riccardo Lucas Hernandez
    Blake Hetherington
    Chenzhejun Hu
    * Weza Jamison-Neto
    Owen Johnson
    Song Hyeon Kim
    Sunmin Kim
    * Molly Knight
    * Marnen Laibow-Koser
    Jordan Chun Kwan Lau
    Che Li
    Lucci Zimeng Li
    Pengyi Li
    Qianqian Li
    Shawn Xiangyun Lian
    * Corinne Luebke-Brown
    * Sally Millar
    Hannah Miller
    Yechan Min
    Sianna Monti
    Yuhang Nan
    Daniel Oslin
    Daniela Pyne
    Eric Qu
    Quinn Rosenberg
    Rafe Schaberg
    Samuel Schwartz
    Xingrong Shao
    Yide Shi
    Tamir Shimshoni
    Rachel Solyn
    Anisha Srinivasan
    Claire Stephenson

    Margaret Storm
    Wanrou Tang
    * Jane Tsuang
    Jason Vu
    Truman Walker

    Calvin Wamser

    Chenzhou Wang
    Qizhen Wang
    Tianyou Wang
    Yinuo Wang
    Yuehan Echo Wang

    Tianyou Wang
    * Sarah Warner
    Shanshan Xie
    Ian Yan
    Kerui Chris Yang
    *Aimee Yermish

    Yuki Yoshimi
    * Maggie Zheng
    Zhaoqian Ellie Zhong

    *community member


    • YeonJae Cho '24 AD, soprano
    • Libang Wang '23 MM, baritone

  4. Witold Lutosławski | Concerto for Orchestra

    Capriccio notturno e arioso
    Passacaglia, toccata e corale

    Program note

    Witold Lutosławski was born in 1913 in Warsaw (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy, land-owning family.  When World War I broke out, the family fled to Moscow.  Three years later, the Russian Revolution brought further suffering to the family: his father and uncle, considered dangerous Polish nationalists, were executed by the Bolsheviks without trial.  The shattered family returned to Poland when the war ended, and young Witold began his musical education.  His flourishing career as a composer was again interrupted by war in 1939.  Serving as a radio technician, he was captured by the Germans but escaped and walked 250 miles back to Warsaw.  There he and fellow composer Andrjez Panufnik formed a duo and performed in cafés to earn a living.  Together they arranged hundreds of songs and composed original material, but almost all of it was lost in the destruction of Warsaw after the Ghetto Uprising.  Resuming his career after 1945 under Communist authorities meant finding a voice that was authentic and personal but would escape criticism of party enforcers.  TheConcerto for Orchestra is a brilliant example.  The three-movement work combines folk melodies and traditional forms with a strikingly original color palette, complex harmonies, and rigorous counterpoint.  The structure is clear and concise, the melodies recognizable – the work’s ambition is wide and its impact deep.  The opening Intrada cycles a short folk melody contrapuntally through the strings – from cellos to first violins.  A dramatic middle section interrupts the counterpoint, leading to a dense climax.  The opening melody returns, now cycled through the woodwinds, the intensity replaced with calm.  The middle movement – Capriccio notturno e Arioso – serves as a scherzo.  The Capriccio is a quiet skittering idea – pianissimo violin sixteenths recall the buzzing insect sounds of a Bartók nocturne.  Again the counterpoint is rigorous and the material is developed thoroughly before the trumpets interrupt with the arioso.  This is more of a declamation than an aria.  As in the first movement, the middle section is passionate and climactic.  The skittering nocturne returns in lower strings and harps, before the percussion and basses get the last word.  The movement dissipates into nothingness.  The third and final movement, Passacagalia Toccata e Corale, more than half the length of the entire piece, is in two big sections.  The first is the passacagalia: a skeletal melody in the basses and harps followed by about seventeen variations, more and more elaborate and intense, sometimes following the bass line and sometimes in conflict with it.  The final variation finds the passacaglia melody pianissimo high up in the first violins.  Then the second half of the movement begins with a toccata of tremendous rhythmic energy.  Like the first movement, it features short melodic ideas developed with imitative counterpoint.  About nine minutes in, a gentle chorale with triadic harmonies emerges in the oboes and clarinets.  After the kinetic energy and dissonant harmonies of the toccata, the simplicity of this moment is striking.  The chorale is repeated in quiet variations – first brass, then strings – before the toccata returns.  An apotheosis of the chorale with fortissimo brass and full orchestra brings the work to a frenzied conclusion. 
            The Concerto for Orchestra secured Lutosławski’s significant place in the 20th century: a central European with folk music roots, who developed into an avant garde composer, never afraid to explore new techniques and fresh sounds.       
    – Hugh Wolff

  5. NEC Philharmonia

    First Violin
    Tiffany Chang
    Boxianzi Vivian Ling
    Yebin Yoo
    Rachel Yi
    Clayton Hancock
    Bree Fotheringham
    Justus Ross
    Dorson Chang
    Jeffrey Pearson
    Tsubasa Muramatsu
    Qiyan Xing
    Hanks Tsai
    Hila Dahari
    Ian Hsu
    Bella Jeong
    Yeonsoo Kim


    Second Violin
    Jaewon Wee
    Aidan Ip
    Passacaglia Mason
    Xiaoqing Yu
    Youngji Choi
    Kristy Chen
    Kitty Amaral
    Natalie Boberg

    Eunha Kim
    Wangrui Xu
    Stella Ju
    Isabella Gorman
    Yuzhe Qiu
    Haeun Honney Kim

    Ayano Nakamura
    Samuel Zacharia
    Lydia Plaut
    Elton Tai
    John Harry Clark
    Poppy Yu
    Rituparna Mukherjee
    Yi Chia Chen
    Junghyun Ahn
    Kwong Man To
    Lisa Sung
    Hyelim Kong


    Claire Deokyong Kim
    Jeffrey Ho
    Claire Park
    Jeremy Tai
    Barna Zsolt Károly
    Aixin Vicky Cheng
    Hechen Sun
    Sarah Tindall

    Seoyeon Koo
    Daniel Kim
    Youjin Ko
    Lillian Yim

    Christopher Laven
    Willie Swett
    Jesse Dale
    Yu-Cih Chang
    Chiyang Chen
    Alyssa Peterson
    Daniel Slatch
    Cailin Singleton

    Jeong Won Choe
    Anna Kevelson
    Amelia Libbey
    Yang Liu
    Elizabeth McCormack §
    Yechan Min ‡
    Erika Rohrberg *
    Dianne Seo

    Javier Castro *
    Anna Kevelson §
    Amelia Libbey ‡
    Dianne Seo

    Donovan Bown ‡  
    Gwen Goble *  
    Kian Hirayama
    Sojeong Kim §
    Kelley Osterberg
    Sam Rockwood
    Nathalie Vela

    English horn
    Gwen Goble §
    Kelley Osterberg ‡

    Thomas Acey
    Tyler J. Bourque
    Tristen Broadfoot
    Hyunwoo Chun ‡
    Hugo Heokwoo Kweon
    Soyeon Park
    Erica Smith *

    Bass Clarinet
    Thomas Acey

    Zoe Beck
    Andrew Brooks *
    Adam Chen
    Andrew Flurer
    Matthew Heldt
    Evan Judson
    Miranda Macias §   
    Richard Vculek ‡

    Evan Judson

    French horn
    Logan Fischer
    Sam Hay  
    Karlee Kamminga *
    Xiang Li §
    Hannah Messenger
    Yeonjo Oh
    Paolo Rosselli
    Tasha Schapiro
    Sophie Steger ‡

    Jenna Stokes

    Daniel Barak §
    Sarah Heimberg
    Eddy Lanois
    Reynolds Martin ‡
    Nelson Martinez *
    David O’Neill
    Dimitri Raimonde

    Elias Canales
    Puyuan Chen ‡
    Lukas Helsel §
    Zachary Johnson *
    Noah Korenfeld  
    Quinn McGillis

    Bass Trombone
    Chance Gompert
    Jaehan Kim §
    Luke Sieve *

    Jimmy Curto *
    Masaru Lin ‡
    David Stein §

    Steph Krichena *
    Jeff Sagurton §
    Leigh Wilson ‡

    Eli Geruschat
    Steph Krichena ‡
    Danial Kukuk §
    Ross Jarrell
    Parker Olson
    Zesen Wei
    Leigh Wilson

    Yoonsu Cha ‡
    Yvonne Cox §
    Shaylen Joos

    Lingbo Ma, piano ‡
    Solomon Ge, piano §
    Sunmin Kim, celeste

    Principal players
    * Brahms
    ‡ Frank
    § Lutoslawski