Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Friday, February 09, 2018

Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No.3 in C minor "Organ" | Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor | Danse macabre in G minor | Marche héroïque in E flat major – George Li, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin – Sunday, February 11, 2018, 03:00 PM EST (UTC-5) / 10:00 PM EET (UTC+2) – Live on Livestream

George Li (Photo by Simon Fowler)

Camille Saint-Saëns, known for clean, polished music with elegant, orderly lines, may have reached the pinnacle of his work with his Third Symphony. From energetic flourishes to the triumphant entrance of the pipe organ in its grand, final movement, the Organ Symphony showcases the beauty and power of the organ as it interacts with orchestral colors and agility.

Chinese American concert pianist George Li performs Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22.

Sunday, February 11
Los Angeles: 12:00 PM
Detroit, New York, Toronto: 03:00 PM
Brasília: 06:00 PM
London: 08:00 PM
Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, Warsaw: 09:00 PM
Kiev, Jerusalem, Athens: 10:00 PM
Moscow: 11:00 PM

Monday, February 12
Beijing: 04:00 AM
Tokyo, Seoul: 05:00 AM

Live on Livestream


Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

♪ Marche héroïque in E flat major, Op.34 (1871)

♪ Danse macabre in G minor, Op.40 (1874)

♪ Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22 (1868)

i. Andante sostenuto
ii. Allegro scherzando
iii. Presto

George Li, piano

♪ Symphony No.3 in C minor "Organ", Op.78 (1886)

i. Adagio – Allegro moderato – Poco adagio
ii. Allegro moderato – Presto – Maestoso – Allegro

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Leonard Slatkin

(HD 720p)

Live from Orchestra Hall, Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit

Sunday, February 11, 2018, 03:00 PM EST (UTC-5) / 10:00 PM EET (UTC+2)

Live on Livestream

Photo by Simon Fowler
George Li was born on August 24, 1995, in Boston, Massachusetts, to parents from the People's Republic of China. He began piano lessons at the age of 4 with Dorothy Shi, and later studied with Yin Chengzong, before transferring to his current teachers, Wha Kyung Byun and Russell Sherman.

Praised by the Washington Post for combining "staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression", pianist George Li possesses brilliant virtuosity and effortless grace far beyond his years. He captured the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition and was the recipient of the 2016 Avery Fisher Career Grant.

Recent and upcoming concerto highlights include performances with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, Hamburg Philharmonic with Manfred Honeck, a tour of Asia with the London Symphony Orchestra and Giandrea Noseda, St Petersburg Philharmonic with Yuri Temirkanov, Philharmonia Orchestra with Long Yu, Oslo Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Mälmo Symphony, Verbier Festival Orchestra, DSO Berlin, Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, Sydney Symphony and Frankfurt Radio Symphony. He frequently appears with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, including performances at the Paris Philharmonie, Luxemburg Philharmonie, New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music, Graffenegg Festival and in various places throughout Russia.

Recital highlights include Carnegie Hall, Davies Hall in San Francisco, the Mariinsky Theatre, Munich's Gasteig, the Louvre, Seoul Arts Center, Tokyo's Asahi Hall and Musashino Hall, NCPA Beijing, Ravinia Festival, Lanaudiere Festival, Edinburgh Festival and Montreaux Festival.

An active chamber musician, George has performed chamber music with James Ehnes, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Benjamin Beilman, Kian Soltani, Pablo Ferrandez and Daniel Lozakovich.

George is an exclusive Warner Classics recording artist, with his debut album releasing in October 2017 which was recorded live from the Mariinsky.

George Li gave his first public performance at Boston's Steinway Hall at the age of ten and in 2011, performed for President Obama at the White House in an evening honoring Chancellor Angela Merkel. Among George's many prizes, he was the First Prize winner of the 2010 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and a recipient of the 2012 Gilmore Young Artist Award. George is currently in the Harvard University / New England Conservatory joint program, studying with Wha Kyung Byun.


Photo by Christian Steiner

Marche héroïque in E flat major, Op.34, which immediately preceded the first of the symphonic poems was written as a homage to an artist and friend of the composer, Henri Regnault, who was killed in the Franco-Prussian war. However, it is not a mournful piece. A few bars of introduction hint at the main theme, which is immediately introduced in a brisk marching pace and elaborated, raising to a first climax. This subsides and the tempo slows down. The horns bring about a reminiscent mood. Remembrance and nobility are the predominant feelings in this central section, which fades away to allow for the return of the heroic opening theme in a section that brings to mind an Elgarian splendor. The coda hastens the pace to the brilliant ending.

Source: Hector Bellman (

Composed in 1874 and published in 1875, Danse macabre in G minor, Op.40, is the third of Saint-Saëns' four orchestral tone poems and is easily his most popular work in that medium. In his Le carnaval des animaux (The Carnival of the Animals), composed in 1886, Saint-Saëns parodies the Danse macabre, as well as works by other composers.

The title of Danse macabre is usually translated as Dance of Death, but Ghoulish Dance or Dance of Grim Humor might better communicate the character of the piece. Saint-Saëns did not originally write the Danse macabre as a work for orchestra. It was first a song for voice and piano that the composer later transcribed and modified for orchestra. A few lines from the song's text will aid in understanding the symphonic poem: "Death at midnight plays a dance-tune/Zig, zig, zig on his violin... Through the gloom, white skeletons pass/Running and leaping in their shrouds... The bones of the dancers are heard to crack". Once the cock crows, signaling the approach of morning, the fun ends. It is possible that this is the first instance of Death being portrayed as a violinist, an instrument generally associated with the devil.

After the orchestra strikes midnight, depicted by horns and pizzicato strings, the violin soloist plays as if he/she is tuning his/her instrument before a solo flute performs a bouncy melody, which is answered by the strings. The violin soloist then enters with a lilting waltz tune, played twice and answered first by a brief return of the flute theme, with added percussion, and then the entire orchestra with the waltz theme. The piece thus far has behaved like an exposition, presenting the principal material, while what follows consists of variations on that material. Xylophones playing the flute melody depict skeletons dancing just before a fugal presentation of the waltz begins. A new melody in the woodwinds is based on the Dies irae, a chant melody setting the text of the Judgment Day and often invoked by Romantic-era composers when the subject is death. Eventually, both the flute and waltz tune sound at once in the entire orchestra, just before the violin again begins "tuning". After a huge reprise of the combined melodies, a "cock crow" sounds in the oboe and rapid scales depict the scurrying off of the creatures of the night.

Source: John Palmer (

The Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22, by Camille Saint-Saëns, was composed in 1868 and is probably Saint-Saëns' most popular piano concerto. It was dedicated to Madame A. de Villers née de Haber. At the première, the composer was the soloist and Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894) conducted the orchestra. Saint-Saëns wrote the Concerto in three weeks, and had very little time to prepare for the première; consequently, the piece was not initially successful. The capricious changes in style provoked Zygmunt Stojowski (1870-1946) to quip that it "begins with Bach and ends with Offenbach".

The piece follows the traditional form of three movements but allows for more freedom in tempo markings. Normally, the first movement is fast-paced, while the second is slower, but the first movement here is slow and the second movement has a scherzo-like quality, resulting in a form resembling a typical symphony but lacking the first movement (a form also represented by Beethoven's fourteenth piano sonata). The Concerto is scored for solo piano, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, crash cymbals and strings.

The movements in the concerto are:

Andante sostenuto (in G minor & sonata form). The Concerto begins with a piano solo playing a long improvisational introduction in the style of a Bach fantasia. After the orchestra enters, the restless and melancholy first theme is played, again by the piano solo. Saint-Saëns drew the theme from his student Gabriel Fauré's abandoned Tantum ergo motet. A brief second theme appears, followed by a middle section of increasing degrees of animato. The main theme is recapitulated fortissimo and the soloist is given a long ad libitum cadenza. The Bach-like opening motif returns in the coda.

Allegro scherzando (in E flat major & sonata form). The second movement is in E flat major and, instead of being a typical adagio, resembles a scherzo.  The mercurial piano part is marked leggieramente, and the two main themes are clever and light-hearted. The energetic, delicate personality of this particular movement is characteristic of Saint-Saëns' musical wit, most famously observable in Le Carnaval des Animaux.

Presto (in G minor & sonata form). The Concerto concludes by returning to G minor. Like the preceding movement, it moves quickly; this time the form is an extremely fast, fiery tarantella in sonata form, featuring a strong triplet figure. At presto speed, the orchestra and soloist rush tumultuously along, gaining volume and momentum and finishing in a whirlwind of G minor arpeggios.

The Concerto, particularly the second movement, heavily influenced fellow French composer Gabriel Pierné's Piano Concerto in C minor in 1887.

Georges Bizet wrote a transcription of the Concerto for solo piano.


The London Philharmonic Society commissioned the Symphony No.3 in C minor "Organ", Op.78, from Saint-Saëns, much as it had Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Saint-Saëns directed the first performance in London on May 19, 1886. Although he lived until 1921, Saint-Saëns would not compose another symphony. He later explained: "With it I have given all I could give. What I did I could not achieve again". He had intended to dedicate the piece to Liszt, but the score was published after Liszt's death with the inscription, "Á la Memoire de Franz Liszt".

The Symphony in C minor shows Saint-Saëns' use of thematic transformation, also present in the overture Spartacus and the Fourth Piano Concerto. This technique Saint-Saëns observed in the symphonic poems of Liszt, as well as in Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Following their lead, Saint-Saëns takes his principal theme through transformations throughout his Third Symphony. To the typical forces of a large orchestra he added his and Liszt's primary instruments, the organ and piano. Saint-Saëns cast the symphony in two large sections, but each of these is in two clear parts, creating a traditional four-movement work.

After an Adagio introduction, the tempo shifts to Allegro moderato and the strings perform the main theme of the first movement, which incorporates the chant at the beginning of the Dies irae, a melody associated with both death and, in part because of the Totentanz, Liszt. The melody exhibits an AABB pattern, which is typical of the composer's works, and is the main idea, or "motto" theme, of the entire symphony. This restless theme is transformed and eventually gives way to a new, calmer idea. Afterward, these two themes appear simultaneously in the development section before a return brings more transformational episodes and prepares for the slow "movement", in D flat major.

Strings, supported by organ chords, perform the main theme of the second movement, Adagio, which is the best known section of the Third Symphony. Woodwinds take the peaceful theme and vary it until a new transformation of the "motto" theme injects contrasting, restless energy. A return of the Adagio theme rounds off the movement. Near the end we hear a brilliant mixture of woodwinds with reed stops on the organ.

An aggressive, brief theme opens the Scherzo, a transformation of the motto contained in the low string outburst that follows the first phrase. When the tempo changes to Presto, the piano enters with rapid, rising arpeggios and scales, played several times on different harmonies. The Scherzo material returns, and what seems like a reprise of the Presto section introduces a new theme, played by the lower instruments under busy figurations and anticipating the finale.

The finale opens with a powerful chord played on the organ. Yet another transformation of the "motto" theme appears; this time its ties with the Dies irae are very clear. A few quiet statements follow before the organ and orchestra join in a powerful presentation of the transformed theme. After a development section, the piece closes with all the available forces in C major.

Source: John Palmer (

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