Department of Music

Program Notes: Orchestra Concerts - 03/19-20/2022

Program annotations for the Brown University Orchestra's March 19 and 20, 2022 concerts, directed by Mark Seto, featuring cellist Aaron Gruen '23, and presented in Sayles Hall.

Three Latin American Dances (2004) by Gabriela Lena Frank (b. 1972)

Introduction: Jungle Jaunt
Highland Harawi
The Mestizo Waltz

Concerto No. 1 for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 107 (1959) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

Allegro con moto

Aaron Gruen ‘23 cello

2021-22 Brown University Orchestra Concerto Competition Winner


[brief intermission]


Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960) by Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990)

Meeting Scene
“Cool” Fugue

Melody (1982) by Myroslav Skoryk (1938–2020)

About the Program

Three Latin American Dances is dedicated to Aaron Lin Lockhart (b. 24 August, 2003) in keen anticipation of this hombrecito’s dance… As such, the work has the following scheme:

I. Introduction: Jungle Jaunt

This introductory scherzo opens in an unabashed tribute to the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein before turning to harmonies and rhythms derived from various pan-Amazonian dance forms. These jungle references are sped through (so as to be largely hidden) while echoing the energy of the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera, who was long fascinated with indigenous Latin American cultures.

II. Highland Harawi

This movement is the heart of Three Latin American Dances, and evokes the Andean harawi, a melancholy adagio traditionally sung by a single bamboo quena flute so as to accompany a single dancer. As mountain music, the ambiance of mystery, vastness, and echo is evoked. The fast middle section simulates what I imagine to be the “zumballyu” of Illapa — a great spinning top belonging to Illapa, the Peruvian-Inca weather deity of thunder, lightning, and rain. Illapa spins his great top in the highland valleys of the Andes before allowing a return to the more staid harawi. The music of the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók is alluded to.

III. The Mestizo Waltz

As if in relief to the gravity of the previous movement, this final movement is a lighthearted tribute to the “mestizo,” or mixed-race, music of the South American Pacific coast. In particular, it evokes the “romancero” tradition of popular songs and dances that mix influences from indigenous Indian cultures, African slave cultures, and western brass bands. It exists in its original version as the final movement of my string quartet, Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout (2001).

- Gabriela Lena Frank

About Gabriela Lena Frank

Currently serving as Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra and included in the Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history, identity has always been at the center of composer/pianist Gabriela Lena Frank's music. Born in 1972 to a mother of Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Gabriela explores her multicultural American heritage through her compositions.

In 2017, Gabriela founded the award-winning Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, a non-profit training institution held on her two rural properties in Boonville, CA for emerging composers from a broad array of demographics and aesthetics. Civic outreach is an essential part of Gabriela’s work. She has volunteered extensively in hospitals and prisons, with her current focus on developing the music school program at Anderson Valley High School, a rural public school of modest means with a large Latino population in Boonville, CA.

In the 2022-23 season, she will see the premiere of her first opera, El último sueño de Frida y Diego with Pulitzer playwright Nilo Cruz, co-commissioned by San Diego Opera and San Francisco Opera.

Shostakovich was at the height of his career when he composed his Cello Concerto No.1 in 1959. As a Soviet-Era Russian composer, he was under constant scrutiny and so any expression of resistance to the state had to be done subtly, often ambiguous and hidden in his works. He explored musical trends coming from the West instead of sticking to the tried and true Russian style of composition. Inspired by Sergei Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante, his cello concerto contains many of the features that define his music: stark contrasts, chromaticism, and sarcasm. The concerto was composed for the legendary cellist Mstislav Rostropovich to worldwide acclaim and, according to stories, Rostropovich picked up the piece and performed it by memory four days after receiving the score. 

The first movement, Allegretto, begins with a four-note motif in the cello solo, a motif that functions as Shostakovich’s signature in many of his previous compositions, spelling out the notes D-S-C-H (German for the notes D-Eb-C-B), the composer’s initials in German: Dmitri Schostakovich. At the same time, this relentless motif reminds us of the constant threat of government secret police knocking at the composer’s door. The more lyrical second theme is a traditional Jewish melody and may be Shostakovich’s way of subtly showing his support for the persecuted Jewish minority in Soviet Russia. What follows is a slalom course navigating between 2/2 and 2/3 time as the protagonist tries to outsmart the secret police. The cello plays a wild march-like theme, akin to what you might hear at a rock concert, followed by a dialogue between the cello and the horn – the alter ego of the protagonist throughout the concerto – as we come to the end of this movement. The relentless four-note motif takes us to the lowest register of the cello and a final bang extinguishes any sense of hope we may have had.

After an orchestral introduction, movement 2, Moderato, features a simple requiem-like cello melody with a lilting accompaniment in the orchestra. Pay attention to the folk tune in the cello with an oom-pah accompaniment in the winds. The movement climaxes in an emotional outpouring before a restatement of the initial melody in the cello, but this time played as harmonics requiring immense bow and finger control of the cellist. 

There is no break between movement 2 and the Cadenza. While it is reflective and solemn at first, don’t be deceived. Try and spot the familiar themes we heard in the first two movements meshed together in this first slow section. Shostakovich builds up to a virtuosic and frenzied section filled with double stops and pyrotechnic runs, forcing any cellist to the limits of their technical skills. The orchestra interrupts the final phrase of the movement leading us straight into movement 4, Allegro con moto. If there is a protagonist in the story, their fate seems inevitable as the music pushes forward with an ostinato pizzicato orchestral accompaniment and shriek-like glissando slides in the cello. The main theme of the movement quotes one of Stalin’s favorite songs, the Georgian folk song Suliko, but paired with the fast tempo, chromaticism, and constant interruptions by the timpani, it makes the quotation feel ironic and sadistic. On the verge of losing sanity, the four-note motif from the first movement returns leading us to a coda where the cellist and orchestra hold on for dear life.

- Aaron Gruen

When West Side Story debuted on Broadway in 1957—with a book by Arthur Laurents, concept and choreography by Jerome Robbins, and lyrics by a young Stephen Sondheim—it created an immediate sensation for its engagement with hot-button social issues: racial tensions, immigration, urban gang violence, and policing. Much of this work is done by the story, which transplants Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to modern New York City. The star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, are doomed by the rivalry between the Jets (barely assimilated Eastern Europeans) and the Sharks (Puerto Ricans). 

Yet Bernstein’s score also deserves much of the credit for crafting a work that the composer described as “an out and out plea for racial tolerance.” The music of West Side Story is remarkable for its spirit of inclusivity. Latin American dance idioms (the mambo, the cha-cha) intermingle with riffs from cool jazz and bebop (a distinctly Black American intellectual property) and modernist European compositional techniques (the fugue on a twelve-tone subject in “Cool”). In its exuberant stylistic diversity, Bernstein’s music advocates for a world where people from different races and cultures can live in peace and harmony.

In collaboration with his colleagues Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal, Bernstein extracted and reorchestrated nine selections from the musical into the Symphonic Dances. The suite was premiered by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall on February 13, 1961, in a gala concert entitled “A Valentine for Leonard Bernstein.” Jack Gottlieb, Bernstein’s longtime assistant, provided this summary of the Symphonic Dances and how the selections relate to the plot of the musical:

Prologue (Allegro moderato): The growing rivalry between two teenage gangs, the Jets and Sharks.
“Somewhere” (Adagio): In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship.
Scherzo (Vivace leggiero): In the same dream, they break through the city walls, and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air and sun.
Mambo (Presto): Reality again; competitive dance between the gangs.
Cha-Cha (Andantino con grazia): The star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time and dance together.
Meeting Scene (Meno mosso): Music accompanies their first spoken words.
“Cool” Fugue (Allegretto): An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility.
Rumble (Molto allegro): Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed.
Finale (Adagio): Love music developing into a processional, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of “Somewhere.”

For further reading: Carol J. Oja, “An Out and Out Plea for Racial Tolerance: West Side Story, Civil Rights, and Immigration Politics.”

- Note by Mark Seto

Over a career that spanned more than six decades, Myroslav Skoryk (born July 13, 1938 in Lviv; died June 1, 2020 in Kyiv) made immense contributions to musical life in Ukraine. His vast compositional output includes works for orchestra, chorus, ballet, and opera; jazz and popular music; and scores for more than 40 films. He taught composition and theory at the Lviv Conservatory and the Kyiv Conservatory, and served as the Artistic Director of the National Opera of Ukraine.

While Skoryk’s compositions draw on a wide variety of stylistic influences, from Carpathian folk music to the avant-garde, his most celebrated work, the Melody in A Minor, is disarmingly simple. Written for the 1982 film High Mountain Pass, Skoryk said that he wanted this piece to convey an understanding of tragedy that cannot be expressed in words. Melody has since become one of the nation’s spiritual anthems, and we offer our performance in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

About the Musicians

Musicians are listed in alphabetical order except for string principals.

✣ principal on Frank
✦ principal on Shostakovich
✻ principal on Bernstein


Mark Seto

Renee Choi, concertmaster
Sarah Kim, assistant concertmaster
Maya Taylor, principal second violin
Emily Kim, assistant principal second violin
Mark Appleman
Rebecca Bowers
Stella Chen
Sabrina Chiang
Luke Choi
Pauline Gregory
Tiger Ji
Julian Joseph
Daniel Joh Kang
Isaac Kim
Kevin Kim
Minchae Kim
Kiran Klubock-Shukla
Brian Lee
Justin Lee
Bryce Li
James Li
Owen Lockwood
Charlie Loh
April Moon
Yui Musha
Rohun Rajpal
Kyoko Saito
Haley Seo
Anusha Srinivasan
Michael Sun
Ryan Urato
Mina Woo
Elbert Wu
Tomoki Yamanaka
Lily Zhou

Annie Wu, principal
Chloe Kim, assistant principal
Seowon Chang
Alexander Daskalopoulos
Arman Deendar
Susan Hasegawa
Bart Hearn
Sunny Li
Xinru Li
Kainoa Maruoka
Sarah Ogundare
Maya Silver-Lewis
Michael Tu

Sedong Hwang, principal
Jeffrey Zhu, assistant principal
Elvin Choi
Ethan Chung
Tessa Devoe
Alex Ding
Eli Flomenhoft
Aaron Gruen
Nicholas Huang
Rebecca Kirby
Torben Parker
Sierra Rowley
Janek Schaller
William Suh
Sean Yu

Camille Donoho, principal
Emma Venarde

Lindsay Kunhardt
Maxime Pitchon✻
Grace Samaha
Faith Shim
Seehanah Tang✦
Chloe Zhao✣

Maxime Pitchon
Grace Samaha

Vanessa Chang✣
Anna Ryu✦✻
Si Yuan Su

Shandra Stiemert

Marina Benson
Annie Huang✦
Suhang Liu✣
James Ro✻

Gordon Sherman

Javier Nino-Sears

Leo Major

Bryan Kwon✦✻
Nitin Sreekumar✣
Autumn Wong

Nitin Sreekumar

Lizzy Bernold✣
Robin Hwang✻
Brendan McMahon
Zach Potts✦
Mei Tiemeyer

William MacDonald✻
Derrick Pennix
Nina Poku✣
Chris Shin

Zachary Bernstein
Nicholas Cancellaro✣
Bradley Smith✻

Rami Najjar

Sudatta Hor

Srikrishnan Raju✣
Ryan Sawyer✦
Nicholas Vadasz✻

Tatsuya Daniel
Jonathan Dou
Ian Gurland
Srikrishnan Raju
Ryan Sawyer
Nicholas Vadasz

Ryan Lum

David Moon

Aaron grew up in Munich, Germany, and started playing the cello at the age of four, receiving lessons from Jessica Kuhn. During high school in the UK he studied with Tim Lowe at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and attended mastercourses and workshops with professors including Wolfgang Boettcher, Wen-Sinn Yang, Julian Arp, and Colin Carr. In recent summers he attended the Castleman Quartet Program in Upstate New York, the Berkshire High Peaks Festival, and the AIMS Music Festival in Graz, Austria, where he was the youngest participant. For the 2020-21 academic year he studied cello with Petr Nouzovsky at the Prague Music Conservatory in the Czech Republic during which he won the Domenico Savino International Music Competition. In addition to his work with Petr Nouzovský, he also studied conducting with Miriam Němcová, piano with Aneta Majerová, and composition with Ondřej Kukal.

Aaron is a third-year student and is concentrating in Chemistry and Music, studying cello with Daniel Harp. He is co-principal cellist of the Brown University Orchestra and performs regularly with his Piano Quintet, including a performance in Carnegie Hall in 2020. He also maintains an active teaching studio at Moses Brown School in Providence and is a leader of the group Healing Through Harmony, which gives performances in medical facilities around Rhode Island.

Apart from his musical activities, Aaron works in a Chemistry lab researching biological signaling, is a member of the running club and is currently training for the Providence Marathon, volunteers in a local hospital, and has a cat named Smudge.

Mark 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.

“ Special thanks to Gary Buttery, Gabriela Lena Frank, David Gasper, Daniel Harp, Paul Mason, and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. ”