Beethoven & Golijov

Audiences of the Marin Symphony’s Sunday, February 25 and
Tuesday, February 27 concerts will be treated to two epic works in one
program: Beethoven’s majestic Symphony No. 7 and contemporary composer
Osvaldo Golijov’s The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, performed by
solo clarinetist Todd Palmer. Also on the program is Kodály’s Galanta
Dances. Alasdair Neale conducts.

The Marin Symphony concerts will be held on Sunday, February 25 and Tuesday,
February 27 at 7:30pm at Marin Center, San Rafael, California. Tickets at $65, $50 and
$27 are available at 415.499.6800 (students half price). Free pre-concert
talks with Maestro Neale begin at 6:30pm in the concert hall. Audience
members are invited to meet clarinetist Todd Palmer, Maestro Neale and
members of the orchestra immediately after the Tuesday, February 27 concert
at the Symphony’s regular Tuesday Night Wrap Party, Four Points by Sheraton
Lounge, 1010 Northgate Drive, San Rafael. No host bar. Click

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 needs no introduction. Written in 1811-12, its
second movement, the stately and sweepingly melodic Allegretto, was
immediately so well received that the audience of the 1813 premiere
requested its encore. In the centuries since its first performance, the
work has become one of the most popular in the classical music repertoire.

According to critics and performers alike, Golijov’s work, The Dreams and
Prayers of Isaac the Blind, is destined to follow suit in its popularity.
Originally conceived as a clarinet quintet, the work was recorded by soloist
Todd Palmer with St. Lawrence String Quartet in 2002 on the EMI Classics
label. (Mr. Palmer was awarded a $20,000 recording grant from the National
Foundation of Jewish Culture to fund this project.) The recording became
one of the top ten best-selling classical music CDs of 2003, receiving two
Grammy nominations and the Prelude Award from the Netherlands for best
chamber music recording of 2004.

Clarinet soloist Todd Palmer, who will be performing the work with the Marin
Symphony on February 25 & 27, says of this work, “It’s too early to put the
‘masterpiece’ label on it, but this is a remarkable piece—musically, the
first of its kind.” He observes that the first great clarinet quintet came
from Mozart, two hundred years ago. Then, a hundred years later, came the
Brahms clarinet quintet. Both works have become pillars of the clarinet
repertoire. “I believe (the Golijov work) will become the next great
clarinet quintet after the Brahms.” Mr. Palmer adds with a smile, “And it’s
coming another hundred years later.”

Marin Symphony audiences will hear a concerto version of this work, brought
to the concert hall through the auspices of Magnum Opus, a commissioning
project funded by philanthropist Kathryn Gould and designed to provide nine
new orchestral works over five years to be premiered by three San Francisco
Bay area orchestras: the Marin Symphony, the Santa Rosa Symphony and the
Oakland East Bay Symphony. Soloist Palmer notes of the orchestral work, “It
has enlarged string forces. It’s the same piece of music, and the big
moments of the original quintet sounded orchestral anyway. I think it’s a
testament to any great piece of music that it can withstand being made into
different versions.”

Listeners—particularly fans of Klezmer music—will find much to love in this
piece. A compellingly soulful work, The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the
Blind blends orchestra, solo clarinet and the inflections of chant and
Klezmer rhythms to yield a sound that clarinetist Palmer calls, “emotionally
powerful. It’s a very intense work with moments of great beauty.”
Undoubtedly, Osvaldo Golijov’s unique compositional style derives from his
unusual upbringing in an Eastern European Jewish household in La Plata,
Argentina. Golijov himself writes of the piece, “The movements of this work
sound to me as if written in three of the different languages spoken by the
Jewish people throughout our history. This somehow reflects the
composition’s epic nature. I hear the prelude and the first movement, the
most ancient, in Aramaic; the second movement is in Yiddish, the rich and
fragile language of a long exile; the third movement and postlude are in
sacred Hebrew.” The Boston Globe echoes these sentiments when it calls the
work “a 35-minute survey of Jewish history and Jewish music—full of mystery,
pain and celebration.” Isaac the Blind was a 13th century kabbalist rabbi
of Provence, France.

Mr. Golijov, 46, ranks among the most sought-after composers in the world.
In the past four years alone, he has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius
grant” and a commission from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. In 2000,
the premiere of Golijov’s St. Mark Passion took the music world by storm.
The CD of the premiere of this work, on the Haenssler Classic label,
received Grammy and Latin Grammy nominations in 2002. In January and
February 2006, Lincoln Center presented a Festival called “The Passion of
Osvaldo Golijov,” featuring multiple performances of his major works,
chamber music, late nights of Tango and Klezmer, and a night at the Film
Society. Future projects include a collaboration with director Francis Ford
Coppola on the score of his upcoming film, Youth Without Youth. Other
projects include works for the Kronos and St Lawrence quartets, and for
Yo-Yo Ma with the Boston Symphony.