Orchestra Roster, Soloist Bio, and Program Notes for
February 21, 2005 Musica Bella Concert

Non-Series Orchestra Concert No. B

Conductor: Phillip Gaskill

Monday, February 21, 2005
Church of the Blessed Sacrament
REDEDICATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT ORGAN
POULENC ORGAN CONCERTO

Phillip Gaskill, conductor; Gregory D’Agostino, organist:
Mozart: Two Sonatas in C for Organ and Strings, K. 328 and 336
Gregory D’Agostino, organist:
Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on the Name B-A-C-H
Bach: Air on the G String, BWV 1068
Widor: Symphony No. 5 in f minor, Op. 42, No. 1, Allegro vivace
Phillip Gaskill, conductor; Gregory D’Agostino, organist:
Poulenc: Concerto in g minor for Organ, Strings, and Timpani

Click on a musician’s name to see his/her bio and photo.

Violin
Sarah Badavas
Michelle Des Roches,
  principal second violin
James Eng
Peter Hamparian
Masha Lankovsky
Vanessa Mollard
Cecee Pantikian,
  concertmaster
Gabriela Rengel

  Violin (cont’d.)
Claire Smith
Carlos Tome

Viola
Anita Casey
Ken Clark
Jeremy Hwang, principal

Violoncello
Linda Harrison

  Violoncello (cont’d.)
Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill
Joanne Lin
James Mark Pedersen,
  principal

Contrabass
Sprocket Royer

Timpani
Chi-Ching Lin


Manager   Anahit Harutyunyan-Gaskill
Assistant Manager   Thomas Crane
Music Director/Conductor   Phillip Gaskill


ABOUT OUR SOLOIST

Hailed by The Washington Post as “brilliant” and “impeccable,” organist Gregory D’Agostino has appeared throughout the U.S. including such well-known venues as Alice Tully Hall Lincoln Center, West Point Military Academy, San Diego’s Balboa Park, and New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Internationally he has appeared at St. Paul’s Cathedral London, St. Etienne du Mont Paris, Radio Hall Bratislava with the Slovak Radio Orchestra, St. Petersburg State Kapella with the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, St. John’s Cathedral Hong Kong with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and at numerous festivals on three continents.
      At the Centennial National Convention of the American Guild of Organists, D’Agostino performed two different memorized programs for the 100th anniversary of the Guild before overflowing crowds of 3,400 at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Church of St. Mary the Virgin. He has been a featured artist at South Carolina's Piccolo Spoleto Festival for three seasons, St. Petersburg International Festival of the Palaces (Russia), Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (Washington), San Diego's Balboa Park International Organ Festival, London Incorporated Association of Organists, Prague Free Organ World Festival (Czech Republic), Schola Cantorum (Paris), European-American Festival (Southampton, New York), and the Olomouc International Organ Festival (Czech Republic).
      Mr. D’Agostino’s repertoire is unusually wide — he performed the major works of Bach on Germany’s historic Silbermann organs; at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, following his first-prize in the Juilliard Organ Concerto Competition, he performed Handel Organ Concertos, which was also the subject of his doctoral thesis. As harpsichordist and artist-in-residence at Monmouth University (New Jersey) he directed an original instrument orchestra in a two-year concert series.
      In the realm of 19th century music, and specifically Liszt and the French romantics, D’Agostino’s interpretations have been called “the standard by which all others will be judged.” His sense of color, rubato, and drama achieve a “stunning, controlled delirium” as reviewed for The American Organist magazine. In addition, his adaptations for organ establish him as a leading advocate for the art of transcription: Stravinsky’s Firebird, Barber’s Fugue, Schumann’s Symphony No. 4, Vaughan Williams’s A Vision of Aeroplanes, and works by Moszkowski, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Rameau, Couperin, Dagincourt, and jazz legend Dave Brubeck.
      His interest in new music has led to collaborations with renowned composers George Crumb, Ned Rorem, Milton Babbitt, David Diamond, Stephen Paulus, Pia Gilbert, Stephen Dembski, Robert Baksa, and Dan Locklair, many of whose works Mr. D’Agostino has premiered. In May 2004, he gave the first performance of the complete organ works of Ned Rorem in two concerts at The Riverside Church, New York, in the presence of the composer and in celebration of Rorem’s 80th birthday. Allan Kozinn of The New York Times wrote: “Mr. D’Agostino gave deft, powerful performances that got to the heart of Mr. Rorem’s writing, the gentle and songlike as well as the robust and purely dexterous.”
      Among his seven commercially released CDs are Monuments of Germanic Music (Centaur Records), Islands & Vistas (Orcas Records), Locklair Organ Concerto (Albany Records), Babbitt’s Manifold Music (Bridge Records), and Crumb’s Pastoral Drone (Grammy-winning series, Bridge Records). A versatile artist, he has recorded for film including Jonathan Bepler’s score for Cremaster 2 by filmmaker Matthew Barney, now part of the permanent collection of Minneapolis’ Walker Arts Center and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Mr. D’Agostino’s playing has been broadcast on Radio Prague and Czech National Television, and in the U. S. on National Public Radio’s Pipedreams. In addition, his work has been supported by the prestigious Aaron Copland Fund, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Cecil Walker Charitable Trust.
      D’Agostino earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Organ Performance from The Juilliard School, where he was a scholarship student of Jon Gillock and Vernon deTar, Performing Artist with the Lincoln Center Institute, and Teaching Fellow in music theory. He received the M.M. and B.M. in organ performance from The Juilliard School, where he also studied harpsichord with Lionel Party. Further studies have been with Xavier Darasse, Bernard Lagacé, and Marie-Claire Alain at the Toulouse Organ Academy, France.
      Mr. D’Agostino is an active member of the American Guild of Organists and serves on the national committee on Seminary and Denominational Relations. As a teacher, he has given masterclasses for the AGO and been guest lecturer at Juilliard, faculty of the Duquesne University Pipe Organ Encounter, and director of the New York City Pipe Organ Encounter.


PROGRAM NOTES
by Gregory D’Agostino


Mozart Sonatas for Organ and Strings
Mozart wrote seventeen sonatas for organ and instruments. Most are scored for strings, and most cast the organ in the role of continuo, or accompaniment. The two works heard tonight make much greater use of the organ, especially K. 336. The opening theme of the first work, K. 328, is reminiscent of the opening of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, the famous “Elvira Madigan” Concerto; the organ work was likely written in 1779, whereas the concerto was written in 1785. The second of the two works, K. 336, has the most substantial organ part of all the sonatas, and resembles the first movement of an early classical concerto movement. Toward the end of the sonata, there is an opportunity for a brief solo cadenza, after which the strings rejoin to conclude the work.
¶    ¶    ¶    ¶
Liszt Fantasy and Fugue on the Name B-A-C-H
The musical notes of Bach’s name are derived from the German musical alphabet. The translation from the German to the English is: ‘B’ = our B-flat, ‘A’ = our A, ‘C’ = our C, and ‘H’ = our B natural. You will hear these four notes repeated at the start, and then again and again throughout the stunning work in both obvious and well-disguised ways. Though famous as a composer and especially a piano virtuoso, Liszt the organist wrote works that propelled the instrument into the future. Organ works in his day were written, for the most part, in a sort of nineteenth century version of baroque music. The “B-A-C-H,” written in 1856, used a daring chromatic harmonic language, pianistic figurations including octaves and arpeggios, ample opportunity for use of sound color, and a form unusual for its day — though a fugue follows the opening fantasy, the entire piece is played in one movement without breaks.
¶    ¶    ¶    ¶
Bach “Air on the G String”
The “Air” is the second movement of the Orchestral Suite No. 3 and, as far as we know, was first excerpted and transcribed in the nineteenth century. The original work, scored for strings and harpsichord continuo, was likely written between 1722 and 1731. Some 150 years later, German violin virtuoso August Wilhelmj, in the custom of his day, arranged and composed it for his own use. His transcription of the “Air” became known as “Air on the G String” because he intended for it to be played entirely on the violin’s lowest string. The gentle “Air” has become one of the most beloved and famous works of Bach. In an interesting connection with another composer on tonight’s program, Wilhemj gave his first public concert at age nine; Franz Liszt was so impressed with him that he sent him at age sixteen to study with Ferdinand David in Leipzig, stating “Let me present to you the future Paganini!”
¶    ¶    ¶    ¶
Widor “Allegro Vivace” from Symphony No. 5
Widor initiated a whole school of organ-writing that was “symphonic” rather than liturgical. The title of “Symphony” is meant to have more literary significance than musical, in the sense that Widor favored exploring variation form over that of the more characteristic sonata. In fact, the Allegro vivace, the opening movement of his Fifth Symphony, is a set of variations based on the 40-measure theme heard at the outset. Widor skillfully uses this form to yield a variety of organ colors and textures while still preserving the forward flow of the music without pause. Though the movement is the first of five movements in this symphony (the last being the famous “Toccata”), its drama and thundering conclusion have been considered an end all its own.
¶    ¶    ¶    ¶
Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Strings, and Timpani
Poulenc’s Concerto, dated 1938, was commissioned by the Princess Edmond de Polignac, and is dedicated to her. The construction of the work is conceived in the style of a baroque fantasia, built on a single theme and played without pause. The work begins with a noble and stately Andante, whose opening pitches are reminiscent of Bach’s Fantasy in G minor. This is followed by an Allegro giocoso and a lilting Andante moderato. The alternation of “slow and fast” continues with an exhilarating Allegro, followed by a calm passage of lush harmonies. A final Allegro brings us back to the solemn theme of the opening of the work. It concludes with gentle chords from the organ accompanied by pizzicato strings, and one brief reminder of the opening material to punctuate the very end. This brilliant composition occupies a unique place in Poulenc’s catalogue in that its nearly baroque conception is unusual for him.