with the NAC Orchestra

2020-03-25 20:00 2020-03-26 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Kawasaki Performs Koprowski


Revere the old and celebrate the new, beginning with Haydn’s high-spirited Symphony No. 100, nicknamed the “Military” because of its exuberant fanfares that evoke parades filled with pageantry and colour. The NAC Orchestra asked composer Peter Paul Koprowski to write his Violin Concerto especially for esteemed concertmaster Yosuke Kawasaki, who has held the chair since 2007. Koprowski is a Polish-Canadian JUNO nominee and recipient of the NAC’s Award for Canadian...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
March 25 - 26, 2020

≈ 2 hours · With intermission

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Last updated: March 10, 2020


Peter Paul Koprowski’s violin concerto consists of four movements Ballade-Caprice-Berceuse-Burlesque. I love that he names these movements in this fashion. Normally classical musicians get indicators like Allegro (fast) and Adagio (slow) which refers to tempos. Occasionally we’ll get something more descriptive like Allegro con spirito (fast with spirit) and Adagio mesto (slow and sad) which sheds some light on the overall character. Peter Paul eliminates any debate about the nature of these movements. The music already reflects this but to actually know that I’m engaged in performing a Berceuse for example is very reassuring. The relation between the movements is slow-fast-slow-fast. There’s a small cadenza between the Berceuse and Burlesque which Peter Paul added months after he completed the work, saying, “…I feel the piece was so much calling for!”

When I play this concerto, my general feeling is that it’s very beautifully lyrical and bittersweet. Audience members that have watched me play may have the impression that I’m excitable and happy because I’m very animated (jumping out of my chair) but I musically connect better to feelings of sadness. I don’t know if Peter Paul sensed this many years ago but I would say that this concerto and me are, dare I say, “molto simpatico”!

In 1972, Mario Bernardi was on the podium for the NAC Orchestra’s first performance of Haydn’s Military Symphony. The ensemble gave their most recent interpretation of this work in 2012, under the direction of José Luis Gomez.

This is the first time the NAC Orchestra has performed Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 2.



Symphony No. 100, “Military”

Born in Rohrau, Austria, March 31, 1732
Died in Vienna, May 31, 1809

When Haydn’s “New Grand Ouverture,” as Symphony No. 100 was initially called by the English, was first performed at the Hanover Square Rooms in London on March 31, 1794 (Haydn’s 62nd birthday), it was an immediate and enormous success. The work quickly became his most popular symphony throughout Europe, and it remained so for years to come. It even found its way to the New World as early as 1825, when it was performed in Boston.

The subtitle “Military” did not come from Haydn. Shortly after the work was introduced, this apt sobriquet was already in common use as a shortened form of “the symphony with the military movement” (the second). In fact, though, military influences can be found throughout the entire symphony.

The slow introduction contains several portentous moments for that most military of instruments, the drums (timpani), which remain prominent throughout. Both principal themes of the first movement’s main Allegro section have a military flavour: the first (flute, two oboes) humorously suggestive of toy soldiers, the second (violins) so swaggering and confident that Johann Strauss I used it as the basis of his Radetzky March in 1848.

The second movement is not the traditional slow movement, but rather an Allegretto (moderately lively) consisting of a theme and variations based on what sounds like a folk tune. In fact, the theme is original on Haydn’s part, and only later assumed the added role of a folk song. Audiences in Haydn's time normally expected trumpets and drums to remain silent in a symphony’s second movement. Here Haydn, always ready to surprise the listener, not only retains these instruments, but adds a “Turkish” component of bass drum, cymbals and triangle as well as a pair of clarinets. The coda begins with a brash bugle call, presumably used by the Austrian army.

The Menuetto is sturdy and forthright, with a gracious central Trio section. Even here the military element intrudes, with a “dum-da-dum-da-dum” rhythmic pattern hammered out by the full orchestra, led by trumpets and drums.

The exhilarating finale is one of Haydn’s most substantial (334 measures), and incorporates any number of surprises, mysteries and musical jokes. The full percussion department returns, and the symphony ends in as splendid a display of sound as Haydn ever conjured from an orchestra.

– Program note by Robert Markow

Peter Paul Koprowski

Violin Concerto

Born in Łódź, Poland, August 24, 1947
Now living in London, Ontario

Peter Paul Koprowski’s early musical training took place initially in Krakow, followed by studies in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, England and finally the University of Toronto. He became a naturalized Canadian in 1976. Among his many awards, which he has been gathering since he was a teenager, are the prestigious Jules Léger Prize (on two occasions, in 1989 and 1994), and the 1997 Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award. In 2005, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order Polonia Restituta from his natal country. He retired last year from his position of professor of composition at Western University in London, Ontario.

Koprowski’s prolific output includes more than 50 commissioned compositions from ensembles such as the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, the Esprit Orchestra (Toronto), the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. The NAC Orchestra has been performing Koprowski’s music since 1982. These compositions include In Memoriam Karol Szymanowski, Epitaph for Strings, Sweet Baroque, Songs of Forever, Sinfonia Mystica, Sinfonia Concertante, Ancestral Voices, Intermezzo and Capriccio.

His most recent works, Podhale and the Chamber Concerto for Contrabass Solo, Timpani, Percussion and Strings, were commissioned by the NAC Orchestra as part of the NAC Award for Composers. The Violin Concerto is his third and final commission under this Award. 

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Violin Concerto

World premiere: March 25, 2020 | NAC Commission 

Peter Paul Koprowski’s latest work for the NAC Orchestra is the 20-minute Violin Concerto, written for tonight’s soloist, Yosuke Kawasaki. Koprowski describes it as “unabashedly tonal, melodic, and full of contrasts.”

“The first movement,” he writes, “is moderate in tempo, poetic and lyrical. It opens with a solo clarinet in partnership with a delicate sound of glass wind chimes. Various instruments from the orchestra  join the solo violin in chamber settings. Approximately midway through there is a sudden but brief, rather aggressive brass episode, which gives way to lyrical, slowly unfolding poetic music.

“The second movement arrives without pause and brings a sudden contrast to the music. It is fast, relentless, and challenging for the soloist.

“The third movement opens with a short introduction for the winds, building on the clarinet solo which opened the composition. Although slow and rhythmically persistent, it brings a touch of humour to the work. The music is somewhat relaxed after the tumultuous second movement.

“Without a break, the movement rolls into a cadenza and then into the final movement. Light-hearted, at times aggressive and at others full of humour and vigour, the movement sums up the whole composition and brings it to a buoyant conclusion.”

– Program note by Robert Markow


Symphony No. 2, “The Four Temperaments”

Born in Sortelung, near Nørre Lyndelse on the island of Funen, Denmark, June 9, 1865
Died in Copenhagen, October 3, 1931

Denmark’s most famous composer, Carl Nielsen, like his Finnish counterpart Sibelius, ranks as one of the leading symphonists of the early twentieth century. Nielsen had a voice all his own, but he grew up in an era that included so many attention-grabbing personalities – Debussy, Bartók, Mahler, Ravel, Satie, Schoenberg, Busoni, Strauss, Stravinsky, Varèse – that there was little room left in the international consciousness for conservative music written by a quiet, simple man in Copenhagen.

But times change, and the Nielsen ratings are now significantly higher than they were just a few decades ago. His music, especially the six symphonies and three concertos (clarinet, flute, violin), is now encountered frequently and appreciated for its fresh approach to old forms, for its deeply ingrained spirit of humanity, its vital energy and ingratiating charm.

Human conditions are very much at the heart of Symphony No. 2. In 1901, during a visit to a village pub in Zealand, Nielsen saw hanging on the wall a four-part series of pictures depicting the four temperaments. His first reaction was to laugh derisively, along with all his friends. But later he found his thoughts “constantly returning to them, and one fine day it was clear to me that these simple paintings contained a core of goodness and – even – a musical possibility.” These reflections evolved into a four-movement symphony, which Nielsen completed in 1902. The premiere, conducted by the composer, was given in Copenhagen on December 1 of that year.

The “four temperaments” have occupied the minds of physicians, philosophers and psychologists since pre-Christian times. Essentially, they were thought to be the basic liquids in the human body that contributed to forming an individual’s personality: blood, phlegm (from the throat), black bile (congealed blood from the spleen) and yellow bile (gall secreted by the liver). The first was responsible for enthusiasm and excitability, the second for apathy and indolence, the third for melancholia, and the fourth for anger and irritability.

The sonata-form first movement bursts forth with all the vigour and vitality befitting a “choleric” temperament, but later there are also moments of calm and restraint (notably the sunny, genial second theme presented by woodwinds in turn). As Nielsen said, “the impetuous man can have his milder moments, the melancholy man his impetuous or brighter ones, and the boisterous, cheerful man can become a little contemplative, even quite serious – but only for a little while.”

Nielsen did not generally like the idea of writing program music, but he made an exception for the second movement of this symphony. “I visualized a young fellow [who] was uncommonly lovable. … It was impossible to scold him, for everything idyllic and heavenly in nature was to be found in this young lad. His inclination was to lie where the birds sing, where the fish glide noiselessly through the water. I have never seen him dance; he wasn’t active enough for that, though he might easily have got the idea to swing himself in a gentle slow waltz rhythm, so I have used that for the movement.” In contrast to the mood swings found in the other movements, Nielsen here affirmed that “the lazy, indolent man… only emerges from his phlegmatic state with the greatest of difficulty, so this movement is both brief (he can’t be bothered) and uniform in its progress.”

The movement marked Andante malincolico (Nielsen misspelled the Italian “malinconico”) is indeed, heavy, dour and laden with the darkly-coloured key of E-flat minor (six flats). To Nielsen, there is expressed here “a strong outcry of pain” (strings), a “plaintive, sighing motif [oboe] that slowly develops, ending in a climax of lamentation and suffering. After a short transition there is a quieter, resigned episode in E-flat major.”

In the sanguine finale, Nielsen “tried to sketch a man who storms thoughtlessly forward in the belief that the whole world belongs to him. … The final march, though joyous and bright, is yet more dignified and not so silly and self-satisfied as in some of the previous parts of his development.”

– Program notes by Robert Markow


  • Conductor John Storgårds
  • Violin Yosuke Kawasaki
  • bio-orchestra
    Featuring National Arts Centre Orchestra
  • koprowski-head10-from-web
    Composer, Violin Concerto* Peter Paul Koprowski

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