Piotr Gajewski, music director and conductor
Saturday, October 16, 2021 at 8 p.m.
The Music Center at Strathmore
Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 3 p.m.
Capital One Hall
Variations on “America”
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (World Premiere)
Danielle Talamantes, soprano
– INTERMISSION –
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61
Gil Shaham, violin
This performance is made possible with generous support from
Edward Brinker and Jane Liu, in support of violinist Gil Shaham
Kathleen Knepper, in support of the world premiere of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The many individual donors who made the Prufrock work possible.
National Philharmonic Music Director and Conductor Piotr Gajewski, a student and disciple of the late Leonard Bernstein, continues to thrill audiences with inspiring performances of great music. His large and varied repertoire, most of it conducted without a score, amazes critics and audiences alike. In The Washington Post he has been hailed as an “immensely talented and insightful conductor, whose standards, taste and sensitivity are impeccable.” A critic from The Buffalo News observed, “His courtly, conservative movements matched the music’s mood. A flick of the finger, and a fanfare sounded. He held up his palm, and the musicians quieted. It was like watching a race car in the hands of a good driver.”
In addition to his work with the National Philharmonic, Gajewski has guest conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic, the South Florida Symphony, the Annapolis Symphony and in Europe, England’s Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Karlovy Vary Symphony in the Czech Republic, and most of the major orchestras in his native Poland, including the Warsaw, Kraków, and Wrocław philharmonics. From 2013 to 2017 he served as principal guest conductor of the Silesian Philharmonic in Katowice; he continues to appear frequently with that orchestra, as well as with the Białystok Philharmonic and Warsaw’s Sinfonia Iuventus. Gajewski also regularly collaborates with contemporary composers, and has conducted numerous important world premieres.
Committed to the development of young talent, Gajewski has served on the faculties of The American University, The George Washington University, and The Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. Since 2007, he has served three times on the jury of Poland’s Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Young Conductors.
At the National Philharmonic, Gajewski launched the groundbreaking “All Kids, All Free, All the Time” initiative, and created summer institutes for young string players and singers as well as masterclasses with esteemed visiting artists. Working with the local school system, Gajewski established the National Philharmonic’s program of annual orchestra concerts for all second-grade students in Maryland’s Montgomery County—more than 13,000 each year.
Gajewski began studying piano at age four. After immigrating to the United States, he continued his studies in the Preparatory Division of Boston’s New England Conservatory, at Carleton College in Minnesota, and at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in orchestral conducting. His conducting mentors, in addition to Bernstein—with whom he studied at Tanglewood Music Center on a Leonard Bernstein Conducting Fellowship—include such luminaries as Seiji Ozawa, André Previn, Gunther Schuller, and Maurice Abravanel.
Maestro Gajewski’s many honors include the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit, bestowed on him by the former president of Poland, and a prize at New York’s Leopold Stokowski Conducting Competition.
A true Renaissance man, Gajewski continues to play competitive soccer, holds a law degree and a license to practice law in two states, and from 2007 to 2011 served on the City Council in his hometown of Rockville, Maryland.
Piotr Gajewski is represented worldwide by Sciolino Artist Management, samnyc.us.
“It’s not often that an operagoer is fortunate enough to witness the birth of a star!,” noted of Soprano Danielle Talamantes’ recent turn as Violetta in La Traviata with Hawaii Opera Theatre. Works recently postponed and slated for future seasons include a turn as Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème with Jacksonville Symphony and three world premiers: Mosaic for Earth by composer Dwight Bigler at her Alma Mater, Virginia Tech, the rhapsody written for Talamantes and orchestra based on T.S. Eliot’s iconic poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock with the National Philharmonic, and the stunning oratorio Kohelet with the Santa Clara Master Chorale; the latter two works by acclaimed composer Henry Dehlinger.
Recent seasons performances include Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen and Anna in Verdi’s Nabucco with The Metropolitan Opera, Beatrice in Catán’s Il postino with VA Opera, Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio with Princeton Festival; Violetta in La traviata with Hawaii Opera Theater and Finger Lakes Opera, Mimì in La bohème with St Petersburg (FL) Opera; the title role of Susannah with Opera Roanoke; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Cedar Rapids Opera Theater; and a début at Spoleto Festival USA as Sergente in Cavalli’s Veremonda.
Professional recordings include At That Hour: Art Songs by Henry Dehlinger on the Avie Record Label; Canciones españolas and Heaven and Earth: A Duke Ellington Songbook on the MSR Classics label.
Gil Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time: his flawless technique combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit has solidified his renown as an American master. He is sought after throughout the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, and regularly gives recitals and appears with ensembles on the world’s great concert stages and at the most prestigious festivals.
Highlights of recent years include a recording and performances of J.S.Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin and recitals with his long time duo partner pianist, Akira Eguchi. He regularly appears with the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco Symphonies, the Israel Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and in multi-year residencies with the Orchestras of Montreal, Stuttgart and Singapore.
Mr. Shaham has more than two dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, earning multiple Grammys, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d’Or, and Gramophone Editor’s Choice. His most recent recording in the series 1930s Violin Concertos Vol. 2 was nominated for a Grammy Award. He will release a new recording of Beethoven and Brahms Concertos with The Knights in 2020.
Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and in 2008, received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize. In 2012, he was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America. He plays the 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius, and lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.
Composer Henry Dehlinger is an exciting arrival on the contemporary classical music scene. Hailed by Gramophone Magazine as “a master of myriad styles planted largely in tonal soil” and “a pianist of exceptional fluency,” his vocal, chamber, and orchestral works are helping shape the landscape of 21st century American music.
Throughout Dehlinger’s output, one finds a modern musical language that is evocative yet familiar. It makes use of eclecticism while being rooted in the American vernacular, whether he is writing for small ensembles, symphony orchestras, or solo voice and piano. In his large-scale vocal and choral works, he renders themes from a diverse palette of musical styles to amplify the texts he is setting. These fragments are then woven into meaningful aural experiences that are at once epic and intimate.
“Dehlinger shapes music to illuminate the meaning of the text,” says Gramophone’s Donald Rosenberg, “The songs are diverse in atmosphere and harmonic language… and the writing is rich, often rapturous.”
Musicologist James Melo adds, “Dehlinger has been one of the most successful practitioners of polystylism, a distinctly 21st-century musical style that draws from multiple influences, genres, traditions, and techniques.”
Audiophile Audition‘s Steven Ritter calls his work “stunningly superb” and “formidably essential listening!”
His latest album, At That Hour: Art Songs by Henry Dehlinger, was released in October 2020 by Avie Records. This world premiere recording of his vocal solo works adds to the list of critically acclaimed collaborations with Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes and her bass-baritone husband, Kerry Wilkerson. It is featured on Spotify’s High Notes playlist, representing “the best new releases in opera and vocal music.”
Dehlinger’s stylish arrangements of the Duke Ellington Songbook, with their melodic lines and edgy vocal and piano writing throughout, are equally celebrated. Fanfare Magazine calls them “superbly judged, from the lyricism through to the stride.”
“Just as impressive,” says Journal of Singing’s Gregory Berg, “is how Dehlinger weaves together those fragile pastel shades with the bold brassiness of stride piano. In lesser hands, the result would be musical chaos; Dehlinger makes it work perfectly.”
Born and raised in San Francisco, Dehlinger studied piano and sang in the San Francisco Boys Chorus during his formative years. His mentors were piano virtuoso Thomas LaRatta, choral conductor William “Doc” Ballard, and voice teacher Edith Doe Ballard. All three helped shape him as a performer and an artist. He earned a reputation as a prodigious talent, singing with the San Francisco Opera and performing with major orchestras under conductors such as Riccardo Chailly and Edo de Waart. He graduated from Santa Clara University where he studied piano with Hans Boepple.
The end of the second decade of the millennium marks the culmination of a prolific period for Dehlinger the composer. During the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, sixteen Dehlinger compositions premiered. This 2021-22 season, he premieres several more, including his latest large-scale concert works: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Kohelet.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (2017) is inspired by the famous poem by T.S. Eliot. This sweeping rhapsody for voice and orchestra will be first performed by National Philharmonic in the fall. Composed for the voice of Danielle Talamantes, the piece examines the twin crucibles of paralysis and isolation in modern urban life and embraces a musical aesthetic that merges classical and vernacular elements. Prufrock also uses the melodic and rhythmic contours of Eliot’s stream of consciousness narrative to dictate mood and melodic character.
Kohelet (2019), a cantata in five movements for mixed chorus, soloists and orchestra, is Dehlinger’s magnum opus to date and premieres in the spring with two performances. Composed for the Washington Master Chorale, Santa Clara Chorale and Santa Clara University Concert Choir, it combines lush, modal melodies, energetic meters, and colorful harmonic textures with Hebrew text from Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
Dehlinger drew his inspiration for Kohelet, in part, from Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, a work he performed in his youth as a soloist with the San Francisco Boys Chorus. Like Chichester, Kohelet is an ecumenical blend of Judaic antiphonal singing and Christian choral tradition that is alternately boisterous and reverent.
Dehlinger’s Amore (2019) kicked off National Philharmonic’s livestream orchestra concert, Amore & Mozart, in spring 2021. The full title – Amore e ‘l cor gentil sono una cosa – translates to “Love and the gentle heart are one and the same.” Dehlinger composed the piece for his friends Jennifer and Eddie’s nuptials in Florence, Italy. What better text could he set than a beautiful love sonnet in Italian from La vita nuova by revered Florentine poet Dante Alighieri? Moreover, it premiered with the operatic duo of Talamantes and Wilkerson, who sang it on the album, At That Hour, and at the wedding!
Other notable compositions include Fantasia in Groove (2021), a concert suite of urban impressions of Los Angeles for cello and piano; Ring Out, Ye Bells (2021), a setting of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar’s reverent Christmas hymn; I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (2021), a new choral setting of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous Christmas poem; Hodie! (2020), Dehlinger’s thrilling Christmas concert opener for mixed chorus; Preludes of T.S. Eliot (2020), a setting of Eliot’s four-part poem that further explores themes of isolation in modern urban life and which Dehlinger wrote in response to the coronavirus pandemic; Cello Sonata in C Minor (2020); Three Choral Songs on James Joyce (2019); At That Hour When All Things Have Repose (2019); Bahnhofstrasse (2019); On the Beach at Fontana (2019); Simples (2019); Alone (2019); Flood (2019); Strings in the Earth and Air (2019); Night Piece (2019); Tutto è sciolto (2019); A Memory of the Players in a Mirror at Midnight (2019); Questa fiamma (2017); Requiescat (2017); Fragrance (2016); and The Mount (2015).
Memorial Day (2020) is Dehlinger’s tribute to the fallen men and women of the U.S. armed forces. Scored for TTBB chorus, trumpet in C, and snare drum, it is a setting of the solemn poem of the same name by Joyce Kilmer – American poet, patriot, and fallen hero who was killed by an enemy sniper’s bullet during the Second Battle of the Marne in World War I.
Dehlinger’s other recordings include Evocations of Spain (2011), a solo recital of piano works by Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados; Canciones españolas (2014), a critically acclaimed recital of Spanish songs by Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Turina and Dehlinger’s first musical collaboration with Danielle Talamantes; and Heaven and Earth: A Duke Ellington Songbook (2016), also with Talamantes, featuring Dehlinger’s arrangements of Ellington jazz standards, which Audiophile Audition called, “a knock-your-socks-off performance that leaves you hankering for much, much more.”
Dehlinger is a voting member of The Recording Academy and ASCAP. Dehlinger, his wife Lauren, and their Shetland Sheepdogs, Spy and Summer, divide their time between their homes in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, and Northern California.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
* * *
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
* * *
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a
I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more? —
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
* * *
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)
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