Accompanied by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, the American violinist William Hagen performs Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending. The concert was recorded at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, on February 19, 2017.
The Lark Ascending is a relatively simple piece – its musical discourse is plainly and easily perceived; yet at its heart is an emotional profundity that links it with other works by Vaughan Williams from the same period, in which a calm, almost detached pastoral approach is used to convey great feeling. Vaughan Williams completed The Lark Ascending in 1914 for violinist Marie Hall, with whom he consulted on the solo part. After a thorough revision in 1920, she first played it in a violin-piano arrangement in Shirehampton Public Hall in December 1920. The first performance of the orchestral version was in London, at a Queen's Hall concert in June, 1921, during the second Congress of British Music Society.
Verses from George Meredith's poem "The Lark Ascending" precede this evocative tone painting, describing the unique circling ascent of the lark, accompanied by its long-breathed, rhapsodic song. The writing for the violin mimics the "silver chain of sound... In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake" described by Meredith, though of course it also carries the main melodic argument. A brief cadence of soft chords from winds and strings discreetly usher in the first flight of the soloist, who rhapsodizes without accompaniment on a folk-like theme of considerable plasticity. The orchestra then quietly enters, and the first theme is developed organically until the section closes with a reprise of the solo cadenza.
A more straightforward folk theme on woodwinds begins the middle section, which has been likened to the pastoral countryside over which the lark soars; the violin's free descant over the orchestra certainly underscores that impression. A magical moment ensues when solo woodwinds evoke a panoply of birdsong under the busy rustling of the violin; the effect is like a choir of birds led by the virtuoso lark. Vaughan Williams would achieve a similar effect in Jane Scroop: Her Lament for Philip Sparrow from his 1935 choral suite Five Tudor Portraits. A note of sadness and nostalgia informs the reprise of the first section, and the piece ends with one more cadenza from the violin, whose song circles ever higher into the upper reaches of the instrument until it more disappears than ends; as quoted from Meredith, "Till lost on his aerial rings / In light, and then the fancy sings."
Source: Mark Satola (allmusic.com)
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
♪ The Lark Ascending, romance for violin & orchestra (1914, rev. 1920)
William Hagen, violin
Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra
Concertmaster: Benjamin Hoffman, violin
First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica, February 19, 2017
American violinist William Hagen (b. 1992) has performed as soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician across the United States, Europe, and Asia. This season, William performs with orchestras all over the United States, including his debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and appears at the Louvre in Paris and other venues around Europe.
Summer of 2018 featured debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Alexander Prior, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Brett Mitchell, and an appearance at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago with Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra.
His 2017-2018 season featured debuts with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (hr-Sinfonieorchester) conducted by Christoph Eschenbach and the Seattle Symphony directed by Pablo Rus Broseta, and return engagements with the Utah Symphony under the direction of Matthias Pintscher and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Gourlay. He performed recitals with pianist Albert Cano Smit in Chicago, Aspen, Darmstadt, and at the University of Florida.
In the 2016-2017 season, William performed with conductor Nicolas McGegan both at the Aspen Music Festival and with the Pasadena Symphony, made his debut with the Oregon Symphony under Carlos Kalmar, performed with the Brussels Chamber Orchestra in Beijing, and played recitals in Paris, Brussels, Virginia and at the Ravinia Festival. He played chamber music concerts with Steven Isserlis at Wigmore Hall in London, with Tabea Zimmermann at the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, and in New York City with the Jupiter Chamber Players.
William's 2015-2016 season included his Tokyo recital debut, his debut at the Colmar Festival in France, and recitals in Los Angeles, Brussels, and several cities in Florida. He returned to the Utah Symphony at Deer Valley Music Festival and to the Aspen Music Festival, both as chamber musician and as soloist with conductor Ludovic Morlot, and appeared with the Sofia Philharmonic in Bulgaria and the Shreveport Symphony, among others. He also played chamber music with Gidon Kremer, Steven Isserlis, and Christian Tetzlaff at the "Chamber Music Connects the World" festival in Kronberg, Germany.
Since his debut with the Utah Symphony at age nine, William has performed with conductors such as Marin Alsop, Christian Arming, Placido Domingo, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Michel Tabachnik and Hugh Wolff, and with the symphony orchestras of Albany, Buffalo, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, St Louis, Oregon, Utah, and others. Abroad, he has performed with the Brussels Philharmonic, the National Orchestra of Belgium, the ORF Radio-Sinfonieorchester in Vienna, the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, and in Japan with the Yokohama Sinfonietta and the Sendai Philharmonic.
A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, William first heard the violin when he was 3 and began taking lessons at age 4 with Natalie Reed, followed by Deborah Moench. At age 10, he began studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where he studied until the age of 17. After studying at the Juilliard School for two years with Itzhak Perlman, William returned to Los Angeles to continue studying with Robert Lipsett at the Colburn Conservatory. He is currently enrolled at the Kronberg Academy in Germany, where he is a student of Christian Tetzlaff. William is an alumnus of the Verbier Academy in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program, and the Aspen Music Festival, where he spent many summers.
William performs on the 1732 "Arkwright Lady Rebecca Sylvan" Antonio Stradivari, on generous loan from the Rachel Barton Pine Foundation.
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