Saturday, February 5, 2022 • 7:30 p.m.
First Free Methodist Church (3200 3rd Ave W)

Harmonia Orchestra
William White, conductor
Rachel Lee Priday, violin


William Grant Still (1895–1978)
Poem for Orchestra

Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14

— intermission —

Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953)
Symphony No. 5 in B♭ major, Op. 100

About the Concert

How do we continue to make art in the midst of global disruption? Faced with the cataclysms of the second world war, these composers persevered, creating some of the most glorious works of the 20th century.

Health and Safety

All in-person concert attendees age 12 and older will be required to provide proof of vaccination at the door (either a physical document or a photograph thereof). Masking requirements will be determined on a concert-by-concert basis and communicated at least 48 hours prior to each performance. Children under the age of 12 may attend our concerts only if they are masked and accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Programs and artists are subject to change. Harmonia reserves the right to alter its policies throughout the season in accordance with updated health guidelines.

About the Soloist

Rachel Lee Priday

A consistently exciting artist, renowned globally for her spectacular technique, sumptuous sound, deeply probing musicianship, and “irresistible panache” (Chicago Tribune), violinist Rachel Lee Priday has appeared as soloist with major international orchestras, among them the Chicago, Houston, National, Pacific, St. Louis and Seattle Symphony Orchestras, Boston Pops Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic and Germany’s Staatskapelle Berlin. Her distinguished recital appearances have brought her to eminent venues, including Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Chicago’s Ravinia Festival and Dame Myra Hess Memorial Series, Paris’s Musée du Louvre, Germany’s Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival and Switzerland’s Verbier Festival.

Passionately committed to new music and creating enriching community and global connections, Rachel Lee Priday’s wide-ranging repertoire and multidisciplinary collaborations reflect a deep fascination with literary and cultural narratives. Recent seasons have seen a new violin sonata commissioned from Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Cerrone and the world premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s The Orphic Moment in an innovative staging that mixed poetry, drama, visuals and music. She has collaborated often with Ballet San Jose, and was lead performer in “Tchaikovsky: None But the Lonely Heart” theatrical concerts with the Ensemble for the Romantic Century at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Her work as soloist with the Asia America New Music Institute promoted cultural exchange between Asia and the Americas, combining premiere performances with educational outreach in the U.S., China, Korea and Vietnam.

This season, Ms. Priday performs in duo recital with composer/pianist Timo Andres in Seattle and Washington, D.C. Upcoming concerto engagements include the Portland Symphony, Roanoke Symphony and UC Davis Symphony at the Mondavi Center, while recent engagements have included the Pacific Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Johannesburg Philharmonic, Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic, Stamford Symphony and Bangor Symphony.

Rachel Lee Priday began her violin studies at the age of four in Chicago before moving to New York to study with the iconic pedagogue Dorothy DeLay; she continued her studies at The Juilliard School Pre-College Division with Itzhak Perlman. She holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MM from the New England Conservatory, where she worked with Miriam Fried. In 2019, she joined the faculty of the University of Washington School of Music as Assistant Professor of Violin. Ms. Priday has been profiled in The New Yorker, The Strad, Los Angeles Times and Family Circle. She performs on a Nicolo Gagliano violin (Naples, 1760), double-purfled with fleurs-de-lis, named Alejandro.

Program Notes

William Grant Still
Poem for Orchestra

Still was born May 11, 1895, in Woodville, Mississippi, and died December 3, 1978, in Los Angeles. He composed this work in Los Angeles during the first half of 1944, completing it on June 6 of that year. Rudolph Ringwall led the Cleveland Orchestra in the first performance on December 7, 1944. The score requires 3 flutes (doubling 2 piccolos), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons (one doubling contrabassoon), 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba, timpani, percussion (snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, gong, glockenspiel), celesta, harp and strings.

Widely regarded during much of his lifetime as “dean of Afro-American composers,” William Grant Still moved from Mississippi to Little Rock, Arkansas, with his mother, an English teacher, after his father died when he was an infant. He began studying the violin at the relatively belated age of 15. After graduating from high school as valedictorian at 16, he enrolled in pre-med courses at Wilberforce University in Ohio, but became preoccupied by music and transferred to Oberlin, where he took composition lessons with George Andrews. He would later study privately with George Whitefield Chadwick in Boston and with Edgar Varèse in New York.

After service in World War I, Still landed in Harlem, working as an arranger and playing in pit orchestras. He received his big break as an orchestral composer in 1931 when Howard Hanson and the Rochester Philharmonic premiered his Symphony No. 1 (“Afro-American”), which for a time would become the most-performed symphony by any American. In 1934, he moved to Los Angeles, initially working in the film industry, and would reside there for the rest of his life. Still’s catalog would eventually encompass nearly 200 pieces of music, including nine operas and four more symphonies.

“In 1944, Erich Leinsdorf, then conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, wrote to commission a new orchestral work from me,” Still remarked. “He placed no limitations on the kind of work I should write, nor was there any specification as to time limit. The commission was made possible by the Fynette H. Kulas Original American Composers Fund, created by Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Kulas, who are both trustees of the Cleveland Orchestra.

“At the time, my mind had already been turning toward a new orchestral work, so the commission came at an opportune moment. I determined to express in music to the best of my ability the spiritual re-birth of mankind through a drawing closer to God. Accordingly, I wrote the Poem for Orchestra, and after it was finished, I asked my wife to write a short poem which would express in words what I tried to express in music:

Soul-sick and weary,
Man stands on the rim of a desolate world.
Then from the embers of a dying past
Springs an immortal hope.
Resolutely evil is uprooted and thrust aside;
A shining new temple stands
Where once greed and lust for power flourished.
Earth is young again and on the wings of its re-birth
Man draws closer to God.
  — Verna Avery

“The Poem for Orchestra is in three sections. The first, expressing the desolation of the world, is dissonant. The second section, a development of material that may be found in the opening section, is more like an energetic scherzo, signifying the building for a new world. The third section has in it completely new musical material — and this time the harmonies are consonant — signifying a spiritual re-birth and an exaltation in the approach to the Divine Force. At the very end of the work, there are some remainders of the opening thematic material, but these do not come with the same desolate feeling that they had in their first appearance.”

A Plain Dealer critic reviewing the Cleveland premiere found the work “deeply moving,” while Musical America deemed it “indeed beautiful, with distinctive themes, clever orchestration, lovely lyrical passages and stirring, forthright vitality.” Artur Rodzinski and the New York Philharmonic took it up in April 1946, followed by the Dallas Symphony in February 1948 and the Chicago Symphony under Rafael Kubelik in November 1950. Reviewing a 1979 performance at USC, Daniel Cariaga of the Los Angeles Times called the Poem for Orchestra “a heroic, lushly textured work which uses the entire resources of the orchestra tellingly, an American Heldenleben, if you will, but one compressed into less than 10 minutes. Its Hansonian idiom and extreme attractiveness, two qualities once again acceptable in our concert halls, make it worthy of a currency previously withheld.”