Department of Music

Program Notes: Orchestra Concerts - 11/19-20/2022

Program annotations for the Brown University Orchestra's November 19-20, 2022 concerts, directed by Mark Seto and presented in Sayles Hall.

D’un matin de printemps (“On a spring morning”) (1917–18) 6’
Lili Boulanger (1893–1918)

Trumpet Concerto (1950) 16’
Alexander Arutiunian (1920–2012)

William MacDonald ‘23, trumpet
2021–22 BUO Concerto Competition Winner




Concertino for Marimba, Op. 21 (1940) 15’
Paul Creston (1906–1985)

Ryan Sawyer ‘23.5, marimba
2021–22 BUO Concerto Competition Winner

Cloches à travers les feuilles (“Bells through the leaves”) from Images, Book 2 (1907) 5’
Claude Debussy (1862–1918)

Orchestral version (2021) by Anthony Cheung (b. 1982) (world premiere)

La Valse (1919–20) 13’
Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)

About the Program

Lili Boulanger was the product of a musical family. Her father, Ernest, had won the prestigious Prix de Rome and taught at the Paris Conservatoire; her older sister, Nadia, enjoyed a long career as a composer and pedagogue. When Lili Boulanger was two, the eminent composer Gabriel Fauré (a friend of the family) discovered she had perfect pitch, and at the age of 19, she became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome. Sadly, Boulanger suffered from chronic health issues, and she died at the age of 24.

Despite her youth, Boulanger’s compositions demonstrate remarkable technical polish and emotional maturity. Her setting of the penitential Psalm 130, Du fond de l’abîme (“From the depths of the abyss”), written during World War I, is a harrowing meditation on loss. D’un matin de printemps (“On a spring morning”) and the companion piece D’un soir triste (“On a sad evening”) are the final works that Boulanger wrote in her own hand. (She dictated her final composition, Pie Jesu, to her sister as her physical condition deteriorated.) Boulanger produced three different versions of D’un matin de printemps: for duo (piano with either flute or violin), trio (piano, violin, and cello), and orchestra. It is a sparkling, vivacious work that abounds with brilliant colors, piquant harmonies, and lively rhythms.

- notes by Mark Seto


The Armenian-Soviet composer Alexander Arutiunian first conceived of a concerto for trumpet in 1943 at the behest of his longtime friend Zsolak Vartasarian, the principal trumpeter of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. The composer shelved the project when Vartasarian died in military action later that year, but he completed the work in 1950. The Trumpet Concerto was premiered by Aykaz Messiayan in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall, and widely popularized by the Ukrainian-born virtuoso Timofei Dokschitzer, who made the first recording of the work.

Arutiunian’s concerto is laid out in seven sections that are performed without pause: 1) a dramatic introduction with theatrical flourishes for the solo instrument; 2) a lively principal section inflected with characteristics of Armenian folk music (although all the melodies are original); 3) a slower, lyrical interlude that makes prominent use of the clarinet; 4) development and fragmentation of the principal material; 5) a quiet, introspective section with muted trumpet; 6) a reprise of the principal section; and 7) a brilliant cadenza (written by Dokschitzer) and brief coda.

- notes by Mark Seto

Paul Creston’s Concertino for Marimba was commissioned by and dedicated to the conductor Frédérique Petrides for her all-women ensemble Orchestrette Classique. The piece was completed in 1940, making it the first concerto conceived for solo marimba. As such, Creston was primarily interested in “demonstrating the capabilities of the marimba as a solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment” when constructing the work.

The first movement of the piece is marked “Vigorous.” The composer notes the presence of two primary themes in the movement, which he identifies as “a strongly rhythmic one and a lyric one.” Both themes are established in the orchestral introduction. These themes develop in the solo part, where they traverse a wide range of rhythmic settings while maintaining a simple ¾ meter. The movement concludes with a brilliant glissando across the range of the marimba.

The second movement, marked “Calm,” offers a tranquil setting that strongly contrasts the textures of the previous movement. Warm seventh chords move across the solo marimba part, which makes use of four-mallet technique. The calm setting is brought to a climax toward the middle of the movement before returning to the original texture.

The third movement, marked “Lively,” functions as both a scherzo and finale for the work. The movement demands extended lengths of virtuosic playing from both marimba and orchestra. Similar to the first movement, the composer emphasizes the importance of rhythmic variety in the development of themes.

- notes by Ryan Sawyer

The most decisive turning point in Debussy’s musical career occurred when he heard the sounds of Javanese gamelan music at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle. His initial reaction, that it “make[s] our tonic and dominant seem like ghosts!” and that its contrapuntal intricacies make Palestrina’s multi-part masses “child’s play,” reveal an open ear attuned to the expressive power of rich timbres, staunchly rejecting the “arbitrary treatises” that he found stifling in his musical education. From that point on, Javanese gamelan was to occupy a prominent place in his work. It can be heard directly in his treatment of a melody in several layers across multiple registers, each elaborated with its own distinctive rhythmic and timbral profile.

These textures are clearly present throughout “Cloches à travers les feuilles” (“Bells through the leaves”), the first piece in the second set of Images for piano. Also memorable is Debussy’s use of the floating, unresolved whole-tone scale at the outset, a sonority which has become synonymous with his music, and which has sometimes been likened to slendro tuning in gamelan music. After the opening, he offsets the whole-tone scale with other extended chords and modes, and a brightening middle section opens the space up in an ever more ecstatic E Major, before returning to the muted colors of the opening.

My interest in making an orchestral version comes out of an initial love for the original as a pianist. The six pieces that form the two sets of Images are amongst the most evocative and poetic in the piano literature, and really make the instrument orchestral in its scope. I’ve tried my best here to make the bell-like sonorities distinctive and return them to their source, to honor the crucial presence of gamelan music’s timbres and layers, and to bring out the orchestral colors that are inherent to the composer’s treatment of the piano. I’m grateful to the BUO and Mark Seto for giving the first performances at these concerts.

- notes by Anthony Cheung

In a 1906 letter, Maurice Ravel spoke of plans to write a musical tribute to the waltzes of Johann Strauss: “You know of my deep sympathy for these wonderful rhythms, and that I value the joie de vivre expressed by the dance.” He intended to call the piece Wien—the German name for Vienna. Years passed and the composer only began serious work on the project in 1919, when he was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev to write a new score for the Ballets Russes. In the intervening years, of course, the world had turned upside down. The Great War had a catastrophic effect on Old Europe and its cultural heritage. Ravel, who volunteered as an ambulance driver, witnessed the horrors of the war up close, and was nearly killed on several occasions. He was further devastated by the sudden passing of his mother while away at the front. 

Critics have often linked La Valse to this backdrop of loss. The cultural historian Carl Schorske has argued that the piece reenacts the “violent death of the nineteenth-century world.” More recently, Jillian Rogers has suggested that La Valse can be understood as a traumatic response to the war and the death of the composer’s mother. The frenzied final minutes of the piece lend credence to these interpretations: the waltz spins wildly out of control, and hurtles to a brutal, abrupt conclusion.

Yet Ravel’s own vision for the piece emphasizes not destruction, but a “dancing, whirling, almost hallucinatory ecstasy.” His choreographic scenario for the piece reads:

Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo [the first loud statement by the full orchestra]. An imperial court, about 1855.

Indeed, the musicologist Michael Puri has proposed that La Valse celebrates the “miraculous recovery” of the past through the workings of memory. The piece begins with murky, mysterious fragments of waltz rhythms. Gradually, these fragments coalesce, and the orchestra launches into an exuberant, glittering series of waltz tunes.

When Ravel played the score for Diaghilev, the impresario declared that it was unsuitable for dance. He reportedly said, “Ravel, it’s a masterpiece… but it’s not a ballet… It’s the portrait of a ballet.” La Valse was thus first presented as a concert piece, by the Lamoureux Orchestra of Paris in December 1920. But contrary to Diaghilev’s judgment, other choreographers have found inspiration in Ravel’s score, including Bronislava Nijinska, George Balanchine, and Frederick Ashton.

- notes by Mark Seto

For further reading:

  • Puri, Michael J. Ravel the Decadent: Memory, Sublimation, and Desire. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Rogers, Jillian C. “Musical ‘Magic Words’: Trauma and the Politics of Mourning in Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, Frontispice and La Valse.” Nineteenth-Century Music Review (2022): 1-42.
  • Schorske, Carl E. Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture. New York: Knopf, 1979.

About the Musicians

Musicians are listed in alphabetical order except for string principals.

✣ principal on Boulanger
✦ principal on Arutiunian
♭principal on Creston
♮principal on Debussy/Cheung
♯ principal on Ravel


Charles Loh, concertmaster
Maya Taylor, assistant concertmaster
Renée Choi, principal second violin
Amy Zhang, assistant principal second violin
Eliana Alweis
Mark Appleman
Rebecca Bowers
Athina Chen
Sabrina Chiang
Barron Clancy
Jessica Ding
Ziqi Fang
Pauline Gregory
Christopher Jeong
Kelly Jeong
Tiger Ji
Isaac Kim
Minchae Kim
Moonhee Kim
Sarah Kim
Brian Lee
Bryce Li
Owen Lockwood
Meg Lorraine
Grace Ma
April Moon
Ethan Park
Kyoko Saito
Haley Seo
Michael Sun
Ryan Urato
Emily Wang
Daniel Xu
Henry Zheng
Lily Zhou


Caitlyn Carpenter, principal
Seowon Chang, assistant principal
Chai Harsha
Christopher Hong
Chloe Kim
Sunny Li
Kieran Lucus
Michael OuYang
Zoë Schwartz
Richard Tang
Annie Wu


Aaron Gruen, principal
Nicholas Huang, assistant principal
Lisa (Seo Hyun) Baek
Jimmy Cai
Leeah Chang
Lauren Cho
Elvin Choi
Alex Ding
Sedong Hwang
Austin Jacobson
Avery Maytin
Torben Parker
William Suh
Sean Yu
Hannah Zupancic


Camille Donoho, principal
Seth Heye-Smith, assistant principal
Tom Gotsch
Emma Venarde


Judy Lee♯
Erica Sahin✦
Faith Shim♭
Seehanah Tang✣
Chloe Zhao♮


Erica Sahin
Chloe Zhao


Vanessa Chang✣♭
Junnie Kim
Christopher Lee✦
Anna Ryu♮♯
Siyuan Su


Junnie Kim


Qingyang Cheng♮
Phoebe Hong✣
Yiyun Li✦
James Ro♭♯


Yiyun Li


Bryan Kwon✣♭♮♯
Matias Lee
Nitin Sreekumar✦


Lizzy Bernold♭
Milan Capoor
Robin Hwang✣
Brendan McMahon♮
Zach Potts✦
Mei Tiemeyer♯


Alice Cannon✣
Andrew Furst✦
William MacDonald♯
Jackson Moore
Chris Shin♮


Nicholas Cancellaro♮
David Kamper✣♯
Bradley Smith✦


Rami Najjar


Collin Brown


Srikrishnan Raju♭♮
Ryan Sawyer♯
Nicholas Vadasz✦


Megan Ball
Tats Daniel (11/20 only)
Ryan Lee
Srikrishnan Raju
Nicholas Vadasz
Alex Zhou (11/19 only)


Ryan Lum


Hyunjung Choi
David Moon

photo of William MacDonaldWilliam MacDonald started studying the cello at age six before switching to the trumpet at age 13. He was admitted to the university studio of Prof. Helmut Fuchs at the Dresden Conservatory of music, graduating in May of 2019 with the German higher education diploma (Abitur) and honors for music.

William MacDonald has performed with both student and professional orchestras, including the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Tanglewood Young Artists Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Chemnitz Chamber Orchestra, L’Orchestre de la Francophonie and the Longwood Symphony. He has performed as a soloist with the Dresden University Orchestra and can be heard on a CD recording alongside the Choir of the Saxon State Opera.

William MacDonald has pursued musical studies with Sergei Nakariakov, Prof. Wolfgang Bauer, Raymond Mase, David Krauss, and Benjamin Wright. During the winter of 2019, he gained acceptance to the Juilliard School of Music, the New England Conservatory, the Dresden College of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music. William is currently a senior at Brown University, pursuing a degree in biology in addition to his musical studies.

photo of Ryan SawyerMarimbist Ryan Sawyer (he/him) is a “Junior .5er” double concentrating in Music and Applied Math. Formerly a member of the Class of 2023, Ryan delayed his graduation by a semester to take a position as an organist at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He plays percussion in various ensembles across campus, having played with the Orchestra, Wind Symphony, Percussion Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, Chorus, and other ensembles in his time at Brown. His academic interests extend to composition, where he primarily focuses on percussion composition. Ryan is also an avid rock climber and is currently co-president of the Brown Climbing Club.

From Atlanta, Georgia, Ryan first began playing marimba at 11 years old. He credits much of his technical foundations to his time in the marching arts. Ryan marched two seasons in the Atlanta Quest organization for the Winter Guard International circuit and one season with Atlanta CV in the Drum Corps Associates circuit. In these ensembles, he worked under the instruction of talented percussionists such as Chris Romanowski, Tyler Roquemore, Bobby Crosby, and Alex Shive. 

photo of Anthony CheungComposer/pianist Anthony Cheung writes music that explores the senses, a wide palette of instrumental play and affect, improvisational traditions, reimagined musical artifacts, and multiple layers of textual meaning. Recent highlights include the song cycle the echoing of tenses for the American Modern Opera Company at the 2022 Ojai Festival, to be reprised this season at Brown and at the 92nd Street Y, and the upcoming Parallel Play with the LA Philharmonic, conducted by John Adams. His music has been commissioned and performed by leading groups such as the Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Scharoun Ensemble, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and many others. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Rome Prize, and received First Prize at the 2008 Dutilleux Competition. As a co-founder of New York’s Talea Ensemble, he served as pianist and artistic director of the group. Recordings include portrait discs on the Kairos, New Focus, Wergo, and Ensemble Modern labels. He studied at Harvard and Columbia and has taught at the University of Chicago and Brown University, where he is currently Associate Professor of Music.

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.