Saturday, February 25, 2023 at 7:30pm
Vista Philharmonic Orchestra: Winter Rhapsody
Bruce Hangen, Artistic Director & Conductor
Saturday, February 25, 2023 at 7:30pm
The Concert Hall at Groton Hill
Overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla
Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
Symphony No. 1 in G Minor “Winter Dreams”
Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
I. Dreams of a Winter Journey: Allegro tranquillo
II. Land of Desolation, Land of Mists: Adagio cantabile
III. Scherzo: Allegro scherzando giocoso
IV. Finale: Andante lugubre –– Allegro maestoso
∼ INTERMISSION ∼
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Misha Dichter, guest pianist
Vista Philharmonic Orchestra
Bruce Hangen, Artistic Director & Conductor
Stone Family Endowed Music Director’s Chair
*Alice Hallstrom, Concertmaster
Cynthia Cummings, Associate Concertmaster
*Amelia Hollander Ames
*Young Sook Lee
Colleen McGary Smith
*Kevin Ann Green
Laura Crook Brisson
Librarian: Kate Weiss
+Groton Hill Music School Faculty
PROGRAM NOTES by Maestro Bruce Hangen
Putting together tonight’s program began first with the guest artist, pianist Misha Dichter. Misha had been scheduled to perform a Beethoven concerto with us until the Covid pandemic canceled everything. As we looked to reschedule his appearance, it seemed timely that our new concert hall would emerge as the locus for the performance.
In past years in the high school auditorium, every time we had a piano soloist we needed to rent a concert grand piano. This is expensive, of course, but also cumbersome and not exactly convenient for any guest soloist. In our new facility, however, we had the ability to purchase our own concert grand. The idea came to me, then, to ask Misha Dichter to not only reschedule his appearance with us, but also to go to the Steinway factory in New York and choose for us which piano we should purchase and call our own. He agreed, the rest is history, and this concert finds us with Misha Dichter finally appearing with us, on the piano he chose for us, and in repertoire of his choosing –– the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).
In short, the Rhapsody is a famous piece, enormously popular since its first performance in 1934, and played by professionals and students the world over. Its foundation is a violin piece by 18th century violin phenom, Nicolo Paganini (“little pagan”). Rachmaninoff was so taken by the theme of this violin Caprice (as were several other composers), he composed this concerto-like theme and 24 variations at his home Switzerland for himself to play. Its musical language is filled with flash, flourish, flying fingers and, ultimately, a romanticism that is sure to live on for eons.
Continuing with the Russian music theme, Tchaikovsky’s (1840-1893) first symphony precedes the Rachmaninoff in tonight’s program. Not wanting to do yet another old “war horse” symphony of Tchaikovsky, plus recognizing tonight’s date, I chose to schedule Tchaikovsky’s first symphony, subtitled “Winter Dreams” — a first performance for both the Vista Philharmonic and me. This is a thoroughly delightful, four-movement work that clearly shows the light-hearted influence of Mendelssohn, especially in the first and third movements. The second and fourth movements by contrast highlight Tchaikovsky’s subtle use of Russian folksong.
To begin, here’s a curtain-raiser…literally! It’s an overture to an opera by Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857), father of “modern” Russian music, called Ruslan and Ludmila. The story is based on a Pushkin tale, but it is not important at all for tonight’s purposes. The piece is chosen just because it is Russian, it is an appropriate duration (short!), and it serves as a bright, energetic, and uplifting concert opener.
Enjoy your Vista Philharmonic Orchestra in this “Winter Rhapsody” program in our new concert hall, featuring our new Steinway concert grand piano!
ABOUT TONIGHT’S GUEST ARTIST: Pianist Misha Dichter
Now in the sixth decade of a distinguished global career, Misha Dichter remains one of America’s most popular artists, extending a musical heritage from the Russian Romantic School, as personified by Rosina Lhevinne, his mentor at The Juilliard School, and the German Classical style that was passed on to him by Aube Tzerko, a pupil of Artur Schnabel. He also studied composition and analysis with Leonard Stein, a disciple of Arnold Schoenberg. Born in Shanghai to parents who had fled Poland at the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Dichter and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was two; he began studying the piano at five. At age 20, while enrolled at the famed Juilliard School in New York City, he won the Silver Medal at the 1966 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which helped launch an enviable concert career. Shortly thereafter, on August 14, 1966, Mr. Dichter was the guest soloist in a Tanglewood performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, a concert that was broadcast nationally on NBC and subsequently recorded for RCA. Two years later, he made his New York Philharmonic debut under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, collaborating on the same concerto. Appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra, the principal London orchestras, and every major American orchestra soon followed.
Mr. Dichter has performed and recorded with some of the most illustrious conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries, among them Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Colin Davis, Lawrence Foster, Valery Gergiev, Carlo Maria Guilini, Bernard Haitink, Mariss Jansons, Kiril Kondrashin, Erich Leinsdorf, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Eugene Ormandy, Carlos Prieto, André Previn, Simon Rattle, Gerard Schwarz, Robert Shaw, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano, William Steinberg, Michael Tilson Thomas, Hans Vonk, Edo de Waart, David Zinman, and Pinchas Zukerman. Notable chamber music collaborations have included violinists Itzhak Perlman, Mark Peskanov and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, cellists Lynn Harrell and Yo-Yo Ma, and the American, Argus, Cleveland, Emerson, Guarneri, Harlem, St. Petersburg, Tesla, and Tokyo string quartets. With his wife, pianist Cipa Dichter, he has toured North America and Europe, presenting both masterworks and neglected scores of the two-piano and piano-four-hand repertoires. Mr. Dichter has been seen frequently on national television and was the subject of an hour-long European television documentary.
His discography on the Philips, RCA, MusicMasters, and Koch Classics labels are legendary, iconic and musically omnivorous, encompassing the major scores of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Gershwin, Liszt, Mussorgsky, Schubert, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky. A noted exponent of Liszt’s piano works and a champion of the composer’s forward-looking contributions to the development of music, Mr. Dichter was honored in 1988 with the “Grand Prix International du Disque Liszt,” presented for his Philips recording of the master’s piano transcriptions. His first recording with Cipa Dichter is a three-CD set of Mozart’s complete piano works for four hands and is available on the Nimbus label.
In 2007, Mr. Dichter took a three-month hiatus from the concert stage to deal with the onset of Dupuytren’s Disease, a contracting of one or more fingers. After totally successful surgery and physical therapy, he returned to public performance and became a supporter and spokesperson for the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. A media presentation, “Dupuytren’s Contracture: Misha Dichter – A Pianist Reborn,” is accessible on YouTube.
An accomplished writer, Mr. Dichter has contributed articles to many leading publications, including The New York Times. He is also a talented sketch artist, and in 2012 an e-book of his music-related illustrations, “A Pianist’s World in Drawings,” was released by Rosetta Books and features over 50 original drawings that were created over the span of his half-century career.
Fiercely dedicated to extending his artistic traditions to new generations of pianists, Mr. Dichter conducts widely attended masterclasses at major conservatories, universities and music festivals, including Aspen, Curtis, Eastman, Harvard, Juilliard, Yale, and Holland’s Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He and his wife Cipa reside in New York City in a household ruled over by Baxter, their amiable Springer Spaniel. They have two sons and five grandchildren. He remains an avid tennis player and jogger.
Fred and Joan Reynolds and family
Matt and Judy Fichtenbaum and family, donors of the Steinway Concert Grand Piano
Bruce and Sue Bonner
Peter and Karen Burk
Barbara and John Chickosky
Phil and Carolyn Francisco
David Gaynor and Bernice Goldman
Mary Jennings and Jim Simko
Simon Jones and Richard Gioiosa
Bob and Sue Lotz
Carole and Art Prest
Pam and Griff Resor
The Riggert Family
Phil and Dorothy Robbins
Shepherd’s of Townsend
David and Bobbie Spiegelman
Randy Steere and Paul Landry