Department of Music

Program Notes: Orchestra Concert - 12/09/2023

Program annotations for the Brown University Orchestra December 9, 2023 concert, directed by Mark Seto and presented at the Lindemann Performing Arts Center.

Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 (1919) 30’
Edward Elgar (1857–1934)

I. Adagio—Moderato
II. Lento—Allegro molto
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro

Sedong Hwang ‘24, cello
2022-23 BUO Concerto Competition Winner

Intermission 10’

Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103, “The Year 1905” (1957) 60’
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

I. The Palace Square
II. The Ninth of January
III. Eternal Memory
IV. The Tocsin (The Alarm Bell)

About the Program

Notes by Sedong Hwang ‘24

The Elgar Cello Concerto in E Minor is the last notable work written by the composer and is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Composed in the aftermath of World War I in 1919, the concerto carries a contemplative, elegiac, and haunting beauty that suits the instrument’s darker, autumnal colors. Initially, the piece was not well received by the public due to inadequate rehearsal times. It was not until Jacqueline du Pré’s performances in the 1960s that the concerto captured the imagination of listeners around the world. The piece is split into four movements, all unique in their own right and loosely connected to one another. It culminates at the very end where the first movement’s introduction becomes the last movement’s coda, tying the whole composition together nicely.

The first movement’s opening boldly establishes the dark atmosphere of the piece, descending down to the lowest E of the instrument, and takes the audience into the depths of a more melancholic world. From here, the 9/8 Moderato section, which features one of the piece’s best known themes, emerges gracefully. This quiet, swaying tune reappears throughout the entire movement, becoming a recurring motif between the movement’s outpouring of agony and despair. 

The second movement begins with a pizzicato version of the concerto’s opening recitative, symbolizing the more lighthearted tone of the coming movement. Tonally, E minor oscillates with G major, creating brilliant sixteenth note scurries between the soloist and the orchestra in a playful back and forth chase. The movement ends in a short explosive phrase that effectively breaks away from the recognizable patterns, setting a stark contrast with the vastly different third movement.

The third movement, which arguably contains the most beautiful melody within the piece, is characterized by pairs of eight-bar phrases marked by octave leaps. These shifts offer a stark contrast to the earlier movements, employing a profound sense of lyrical introspection, guiding the listener through its soaring highs and tender lows. The movement concludes with a sense of resolved tranquility, setting the stage for the final movement’s dramatic return to the concerto’s main thematic elements.

The final movement bursts forth with energy, revisiting the concerto’s primary themes with a renewed, passionate fervor. Here, the cello takes center stage, delivering its lines with noble strength, while the orchestra provides a robust backdrop. The movement encapsulates the transformative journey of the entire piece, culminating in a revisitation of the first movement’s theme, now filled with the emotional richness that it acquired along the way. The concerto concludes with a decisive and profound statement, leaving a lasting impression of a journey that moved from darkness to a measured resolve.

Notes by Mark Seto

On a cold morning in January 1905, thousands of peaceful, unarmed protesters gathered outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The crowd intended to petition Nicholas II to address their poverty and brutal working conditions, but the Czar had fled the city in advance of the demonstration. In his absence, the people grew restless. Troops opened fire, and hundreds died. One of the survivors was Dmitri Shostakovich’s father, and the composer was born the following year. The Bloody Sunday massacre, as it came to be known, was a frequent topic of conversation in the Shostakovich home. The 1905 Revolution marked the beginning of a period of political transformation in Russia, culminating in the February and October Revolutions in 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union.

In 1955, Shostakovich announced that he was writing a symphony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. However, work on the project stalled, and he completed the Eleventh Symphony in 1957. The premiere was timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution that fall.

The symphony, which lasts about one hour, unfolds in four continuous movements. To convey the program, Shostakovich makes extensive use of revolutionary songs that would have been immediately recognized by contemporary Soviet listeners. The Palace Square establishes a mood of icy, uneasy stillness. Shostakovich quotes two songs popular among political prisoners: “Listen!”, played by a flute duet, and “The Arrested Man,” which portrays a dialogue between a prisoner and a sympathetic guard. The Ninth of January begins with quiet rumblings in the low strings and builds to a searing climax. After a moment of repose, the sudden crack of drum shots and ensuing chaos signal the start of the massacre.

The third and fourth movements capture contrasting responses to the atrocity. Eternal Memory begins with the violas playing the mournful tune “You Fell as Victims,” written to commemorate the Bloody Sunday dead. The orchestra snaps to attention with a sharp brass fanfare at the beginning of The Tocsin (The Alarm Bell), which heralds the coming storm through quotations from several revolutionary songs. “Rage, Tyrants” originated in Ukraine and was popularized in the 1905 Revolution. (During the Soviet era, Ukrainians who opposed the Soviet government also sang the song, interpreting the “tyrants” as Russian communists.) “Whirlwinds of Danger,” another well-known tune, was originally written and sung by Poles who resisted Russian annexation in the nineteenth century.

Officially, Shostakovich claimed that the Eleventh Symphony was about the events of 1905, and about the events of 1905 only. But the parallels to contemporaneous events are hard to miss. The year before Shostakovich completed the piece, Soviet troops had killed thousands of protesters during the Hungarian Uprising. The lyrics from the songs Shostakovich quotes in the finale speak to the timeless desire to resist oppression, whether in 1905, 1956, or 2023:

Rage, you tyrants, and mock at us
Threaten us with prison and with chains
We are stronger than you in spirit, though you trampled on our bodies
Shame! Shame! Shame on you, you tyrants!

Malevolent whirlwinds blow around us
Dark forces press down on us with hate
We have engaged in the fateful struggle with our enemies
The fate that awaits us is still unknown

But with pride and courage we will raise
The battle standard of the workers’ cause
The standard of the great struggle of all peoples
For a better world, for holy freedom!

About the Musicians

Moonhee Kim, concertmaster
Renée Choi, assistant concertmaster
Charles Loh, principal second violin
Daniel Xu, assistant principal second violin
Eliana Alweis
Rebecca Bowers
Athina Chen
Athena Deng
Uri Dickman
Jessica Ding
Ziqi Fang
Andrew Gao
Pauline Gregory
Justin Jang
Tiger Ji
Mitsuki Jiang
Isaac Jin
Sarah Kim
Kiran Klubock-Shukla
Samuel Lederman
Brian Lee
Owen Lockwood
Meg Lorraine
Grace Ma
Tony Pan
Ethan Park
Jesalina Phan
John Qiu
Kyoko Saito
Lucas Stancill
Michael Sun
Ryan Urato
Dayoung Yu
Henry Zheng
Lily Zhou

Caitlyn Carpenter, principal
Yujin Chung, assistant principal
Yunjoe Chang
Barron Clancy
Chai Harsha
Bart Hearn
Chloe Kim
Brandon Lee
Andrew Li
Kieran Lucus
Michael OuYang
Sejin Park
Zoë Schwartz
Emily Vesper

Elvin Choi, principal
Hannah Zupancic, assistant principal
Jimmy Cai
Leeah Chang
Alex Ding
Chelsea Hwang
Sedong Hwang
Austin Jacobson
Avery Maytin
Torben Parker
Janek Schaller
William Suh
Grace Yang
Sean Yu

Camille Donoho, principal
Thomas Gotsch, assistant principal
Christine Parker
Nathan Throneburg
Emma Venarde

Kajsa Harrington
Judy Lee✦
Erica Sahin
Faith Shim✣
Seehanah Tang
Chloe Zhao

Erica Sahin

William Belfor
Richard Huang✦
Junnie Kim
Anna Ryu✣

Anna Ryu

Qingyang Cheng
Phoebe Hong
Sungwon La✦
Yiyun Li✣

Yiyun Li

Grace Gongoleski
Caroline Kao✣
Kelly Lin✦
Autumn Wong

Grace Gongoleski

Lizzy Bernold
Milan Capoor
Brendan McMahon✣
Mei Tiemeyer✦

Andrew Furst
William MacDonald✦
Nikhil Reuben✣
Chris Shin

Ethan Vivoda-Sadee✣
Zhixing Wang✦

Gregory Lee

Collin Brown

Michelle Qiu✣
✳Ryan Sawyer✦

Tats Daniel
Jacqueline Lee
Ryan Lee
Michelle Qiu
Nicholas Vadasz
Austin Xiang

Michelle Qiu

Hyunjung Choi

Musicians are listed in alphabetical order except for string principals.

✣ principal on Elgar
✦ principal on Shostakovich

✳ denotes graduating musician

photo of Sedong HwangSince the age of five, Sedong Hwang’s dedication to perfecting his cello performance has led him to earn a series of impressive accolades. These include being the winner of ASTA Los Angeles finals, SYMF young cellist, VOCE competition, JCM concerto competition, PSYO concerto competition, Brown University concerto competition, and silver medalist in the PCM Nationals and Enkor International Competition. 

Sedong learned everything he knew about the instrument from exceptional teachers like Sangwon Cho, Robert deMaine, Stan Sharp, and Joon Sung Jun, all of whom helped him to build a confidence, love, and passion for the craft. Over the years, he participated in several masterclasses and lessons with esteemed cellists like Lynn Harrell, Hans Jørgen Jensen, and Ron Leonard. For his sound, he takes inspiration from legendary figures like Pierre Fournier, Jacqueline du Pré, Leonard Rose, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Additionally, Sedong’s commitment to the instrument included deep involvement in prestigious music programs. He completed three years at the Montecito International Music Festival, was part of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensemble for four years, and spent six years with Junior Chamber Music. During his time with Junior Chamber Music, he toured and performed in cities including Boston, New York, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. His group was also recognized as the leading chamber group for three consecutive seasons. He served as the co-principal of the PSYO for three years, participated in the California all-state orchestra, and played in the BUO for four years.

Breaking the fourth wall of biographies, I wanted to address the audience here directly. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone here tonight and for giving me the opportunity to play in the Lindemann Performing Arts Center. I want to also thank my mom, dad, and sister for supporting me and my musical endeavors, and for flying all the way here from California to be here with me tonight. This will probably be my last major solo performance as a cellist, so I promise to try my best. In the past, I have had the honor of playing the Haydn, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Saëns concertos with various orchestras. Now, it’s finally time for the Elgar.

photo of Mark SetoMark Seto leads a wide-ranging musical life as a conductor, scholar, teacher, and violinist. He is Director of the Brown University Orchestra and Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in Music at Brown University, where he teaches courses in music history, theory, and conducting. He is also Artistic Director and Conductor of The Chelsea Symphony in New York City. 

Since Seto’s tenure with The Chelsea Symphony began in 2011, the ensemble has strengthened its commitment to new music by programming dozens of world premieres and establishing an annual competition for early-career composers; performed at Lincoln Center for the red carpet premiere of Mozart in the Jungle, the Golden Globe-winning Amazon Original series starring Gael García Bernal, Bernadette Peters, and Malcolm McDowell; and established a program to bring music to New York City correctional facilities, including Rikers Island. Recent highlights with The Chelsea Symphony and at Brown include an Earth Day concert at the American Museum of Natural History featuring Become Ocean by Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams, performances of John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 in commemoration of Stonewall 50—WorldPride NYC, and collaborations with violinist Jennifer Koh and composer/pianist Vijay Iyer.

Seto's research as a musicologist explores issues of influence, nationalism, and cultural identity in fin-de-siècle Paris. His articles and reviews have been published in 19th-Century Music (University of California Press), Nineteenth-Century Choral Music (Routledge, 2013), Nineteenth-Century Music Review (Cambridge University Press), Current Musicology, and Nineteenth-Century French Studies. Working from manuscript sources in Paris, Seto prepared performance materials and conducted the western hemisphere premiere of La Nuit et l’amour by Augusta Holmès, one of the most significant women composers of the French Third Republic.

Seto holds a BA in Music from Yale University and an MA, MPhil, and PhD in Historical Musicology from Columbia University. He studied at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors in Maine, where he served as an assistant to music director Michael Jinbo for two seasons. His conducting teachers include Lawrence Leighton Smith and Shinik Hahm, and he has participated in workshops with Kenneth Kiesler, Daniel Lewis, Donald Portnoy, Donald Thulean, and Paul Vermel. He is a recipient of the Yale Friends of Music Prize and has been honored with an ASCAP Morton Gould award.

The origins of the Brown University Orchestra date back at least to 1858, the year a “Grand Concert…accompanied by the Orchestra of Brown University” took place in Seekonk, Massachusetts. The modern era of the BUO began in the winter of 1919, when the College Orchestra was established. Renamed the Brown-Pembroke Orchestra in 1940, it became the Brown University Orchestra in 1953. The orchestra’s current membership consists of approximately 100 student musicians from Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. The BUO has given concerts at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, toured China and Ireland, and performed with such renowned soloists as Itzhak Perlman, Navah Perlman ’92, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Christopher O’Riley, Eugenia Zukerman, Pinchas Zukerman, Dave Brubeck, and Jennifer Koh. In 2006 Daniel Barenboim conducted the BUO during the first of his two residencies with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The BUO has hosted Samuel Adler, Lukas Foss, Steve Reich, Steven Stucky, Joseph Schwantner, Michael Torke, Peter Boyer, Nico Muhly, Joan Tower, John Harbison, Vijay Iyer, and other distinguished composers-in-residence, and won 7 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. BUO alumni include current and former members of the Cleveland Orchestra, New World Symphony, Nashville Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra and Opera, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and YouTube Symphony Orchestra.

In the fall of 2014, the BUO recorded two compact discs for Naxos: Manhattan Intermezzo, featuring pianist Jeffrey Biegel playing works for piano and orchestra by Neil Sedaka, Keith Emerson, Duke Ellington, and George Gershwin; and Anthony Burgess: Orchestral Music, the first recording of orchestral works by the famed British composer-novelist. Both CDs were released in 2016, receiving rave reviews internationally. In March 2016, Manhattan Intermezzo topped the classical charts as the No. 1 best-selling Naxos recording worldwide.