Jan Lisiecki Plays Beethoven

& NACO performs Dvorák's Symphony “From the New World”

2023-06-07 20:00 2023-06-08 22:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: Jan Lisiecki Plays Beethoven


In-person event

Conductor Alexander Shelley replaces Lina Gonzalez Granados
Climb, by Jessica Hunt will not be performed
Addition to the programming: My Name Is Amanda Todd, by Jocelyn Morlock    -   -   - 
The NAC Orchestra welcomes pianist and long-time friend Jan Lisiecki back to Southam Hall to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. “My journey with Beethoven’s music started,...

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Southam Hall,1 Elgin Street,Ottawa,Canada
June 7 - 8, 2023

≈ 2 hours 10 minutes · With intermission


Last updated: June 6, 2023

JOCELYN MORLOCK My Name is Amanda Todd (10 min) 

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 (34 min)

I. Allegro con brio
II. Largo
III. Rondo: Allegro


ANTONÍN DVOŘÁK Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From the New World” (40 min)

I. Adagio – Allegro molto
II. Largo
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace
IV. Allegro con fuoco

*Canadian Premiere


Jocelyn Morlock

My Name is Amanda Todd

The late Jocelyn Morlock (1969–2023) was one of Canada’s leading composers, who wrote compelling music that has been recorded extensively and receives numerous performances and broadcasts throughout North America and Europe. Born in Winnipeg, she studied piano at Brandon University, and later earned a master’s degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia, where she was recently an instructor and lecturer of composition. The inaugural composer-in-residence for Vancouver’s Music on Main Society (2012–14), she took on the same role for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from 2014 to 2019.

Jocelyn had close ties with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, who in 2015, commissioned My Name is Amanda Todd, a powerful work about the teen from Port Coquitlam, BC, who took her own life due to cyberbullying. It subsequently won the 2018 JUNO Award for Classical Composition for the Year.

Here’s her description of the work:

When I first approached writing this piece, I was focused on what happened to Amanda, and was feeling how devastating it must be to have people endlessly sharing bad messages and comments about you, especially at such a young age. That negativity seemed overwhelming. When talking to her mother, Carol Todd, and to the NAC Orchestra’s Christopher Deacon, I became aware of how transformational and empowering it would be for this young girl, Amanda, to take control and to tell her own story on this very same platform that people were using against her.

When I met Carol, she told me about all the places that she would be speaking, because people finally recognize the need to do something to stop cyberbullying. She told me about the kids who reach out to her and are looking for help, or who reach out to her to tell her that Amanda’s videos and her story have helped them; kids who, because of Amanda and Carol, found hope in their situation. I’m left with a feeling of profound joy in Amanda’s bravery, and Carol’s message.

Musically, the opening of the piece My Name is Amanda Todd draws first on overwhelming sorrow, which grows into a furtive, somewhat frenzied negative energy, like the uncontrolled proliferation of negative comments and images. I then use almost the same musical material (very similar small gestures, pitches, and rhythms) and gradually modify it to create increasingly powerful, positive music.

Ludwig van Beethoven

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37

I. Allegro con brio
II. Largo
III. Rondo: Allegro

The early years of the 19th century marked a significant professional, artistic, and personal turning point in the life of Beethoven (1770–1827). At this time, he was publicly emerging in Vienna as a virtuoso piano performer and improviser; it was also a period of enormous compositional productivity for him. Meanwhile, he discovered he was going deaf—his awareness that it was progressive and incurable led to a personal crisis, the despondent feelings of which he expressed in his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter written to his brothers on October 6, 1802. By the following year, he had weathered the struggle with stoic acceptance and was approaching his art with a renewed vigour that resulted in a notable aesthetic shift. Although still based on 18th-century (Classical era) art music’s structures, forms, and other compositional techniques, the works of his “heroic” period, as this phase is often described, incorporate various stylistic innovations that imbue them with a sense of dramatic purpose that was hitherto unprecedented.

It remains a matter of debate among scholars as to when exactly Beethoven composed his C minor piano concerto—he might have written it as early 1800 or later in 1802 and revised it. Whatever the case, it didn’t receive its first public performance until April 5, 1803, with the composer at the piano. Stylistically, the Third Piano Concerto does seem to sit at the aesthetic crossroads of this period, for Beethoven clearly fuses Classical concerto structure and the rhetorical style between soloist and orchestra that he inherited from Mozart with hints of a new expressive direction, especially in the piano part.

Certain key areas are used to the latter end, for example, throughout the concerto, their moods further underscored by the characters of the various themes. The Allegro con brio is dominated by an assertive main theme, which suggests defiant heroism when set in sombre C minor, or noble valour in the related key of E-flat major. As if removed to another realm, the Largo is set in the luminous key of E major; to establish this rarified world, the piano, alone, opens the movement with a gorgeous song. In the finale, the robust main theme, first introduced in C minor, undergoes a journey of transformation in later recurrences: as a serious fugue subject (in F minor), a gentle tune in E major (recalling the atmosphere of the second movement), and finally, in the coda, a peppy dance in jubilant C major. A central episode in A-flat major featuring a sweet, easy-going melody intoned by clarinet offers a mellow respite.

As for the piano part, in each movement, there is boldness in its frequent variation of the thematic material, which gives us some insight into how formidable an improviser Beethoven was. In the first movement, listen to how the piano works through the themes first presented by the orchestra, adding embellishments and flourishes. Similarly, in the Largo, after the song returns, it becomes increasingly rapturous in its elaborations, as if reveling in the sonorities of the instrument. There are, of course, plenty of bravura moments too, including in the first movement’s thrillingly dramatic cadenza, which Beethoven had written himself, and the showy dash to the concerto’s brilliant conclusion.

Antonín Dvořák

Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, “From the New World”

I. Adagio – Allegro molto
II. Largo
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace
IV. Allegro con fuoco

After the second movement, storms of applause resounded from all sides. Everyone present turned to look in the direction in which the conductor, Anton Seidl, was looking. At last, a sturdily-built man of medium height, straight as a fir tree from the forest whose music he so splendidly interprets, was discovered by the audience. From all over the hall there are cries of “Dvořák! Dvořák!” And while the composer is bowing, we have the opportunity to observe this poet of tone who is able to move the heart of so great an audience. […] Dr. Dvořák, hands trembling with emotion, indicates his thanks with Mr. Seidl, the orchestra and the audience, whereupon he disappears into the background while the Symphony continues.

So described the New York Herald’s critic of what occurred at the premiere of Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, performed by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, on December 15, 1893. Based on this report, the piece appeared to be an unequivocal success, but this was not remotely the full picture. Even the work’s popularity today—it’s been regularly performed by orchestras around the world since the early 20th century—conceals a history and legacy that’s more complicated and uncomfortable, as musicologist Douglas Shadle incisively revealed in his recent historical study of the piece. As Jim Crow laws took hold in the late 19th century, the composition, performance, and initial reception of this symphony brought to a head many divisive issues regarding musical nationalism, aesthetics, and racial politics, the effects of which still resonate throughout American classical music culture today.

The “New World” Symphony was the first of several works Dvořák completed after he came to New York in 1892 to be artistic director and professor of composition at the National Conservatory of Music. The institution’s president, Jeannette Thurber, had invited him, believing that the Czech composer, then at the peak of his fame, could help guide the creation of an American “national” style of art music. As he considered what this could be, Dvořák learned about African American spirituals from one of the Conservatory’s Black students, Henry Thacker Burleigh, and was also given transcriptions of Indigenous melodies from the critic Henry Krehbiel. Eventually, he arrived at what he thought was the way forward. In a New York Herald interview published in May 1893, the composer declared that the music of the African diaspora “must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.”

Dvořák’s statement, appearing months before the symphony’s premiere, proved to be explosive, as many white critics and composers offered a wide gamut of responses, much of it revealing deeply racist attitudes. While a few agreed with him, some felt that diasporic African melodies were too trivial a music to warrant “elevation” to (European) art music; several declared that such music was not even genuinely American to begin with, while others said that “the best” of these melodies were written by white men like Stephen Foster. It did not occur to them that Black musicians and composers at the time might have their own perspectives to contribute to the conversation.

When Dvořák arrived in the States, Thurber gave him a copy of Henry Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, hoping he would first write an opera. But he wrote a four-movement symphony instead, which was perhaps more significant, given that late-19th century critics regarded it as the most prestigious type of orchestral composition, and despite its Germanic origins, upheld it as a mode of universal expression. Structurally, the “New World” Symphony unfolds conventionally, with fast outer movements (the first opens with a slow introduction) framing a slow movement and a scherzo and trio, both of which Dvořák noted were influenced by Longfellow’s poem (the latter depicting Hiawatha’s wedding feast). For the symphony’s thematic material, just as he drew on the shape, colour, and “spirit” of Czech folk music to create original tunes for his earlier works, the composer similarly saw diasporic African music as raw material for his inspiration and manipulation. (Dvořák did not regard his appropriation as problematic, being ignorant, as Shadle has said, of “th[is] music’s historical and emotional ties to Black bodies.”) In line with the venerated principle of thematic unity, musical motifs from the Allegro molto return in later movements, such as its first and closing themes appearing simultaneously at the second movement’s climax, with the Largo’s own haunting main melody; the scherzo also features reminiscences of the same themes; and in the finale, melodies from the first and second movements reappear in the coda, with the symphony closing on a blazing statement of the Allegro molto’s first theme.

A question lingers: Does the “New World” Symphony sound American? Some critics in Dvořák’s day were unconvinced, asserting that what the composer wrote sounded more Slavic or even Irish, comparisons not entirely devoid of racist sentiment in 19th-century America. Thus, as we today might continue to feel drawn to this work’s power, we must also grapple with the historical complexities of its creation and the legacy of its performance.

Program notes by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD


  • Alexander Shelley ©Curtis Perry
    Conductor Alexander Shelley
  • Jan Lisiecki ©Christoph Köstlin
    Piano Jan Lisiecki
  •  ©
    Featuring NAC Orchestra

NAC Orchestra

First Violins
**Yosuke Kawasaki (concertmaster)
Jessica Linnebach (associate concertmaster)
Noémi Racine Gaudreault (assistant concertmaster)
Marjolaine Lambert
Zhengdong Liang
Frédéric Moisan
Emily Kruspe
Carissa Klopoushak
*Martine Dubé
*Erica Miller
*Renée London

Second Violins
Mintje van Lier (principal)
Winston Webber (assistant principal)
Jeremy Mastrangelo
Emily Westell
Manuela Milani
Leah Roseman
Karoly Sziladi
Mark Friedman
**Edvard Skerjanc
*Andréa Armijo Fortin
*Heather Schnarr

Jethro Marks (principal)
David Marks (associate principal)
David Goldblatt (assistant principal)
Paul Casey
David Thies-Thompson
*Tovin Allers

Rachel Mercer (principal)
**Julia MacLaine (assistant principal)
Timothy McCoy
Marc-André Riberdy
Leah Wyber
*Karen Kang
*Desiree Abbey

Double Basses
Max Cardilli (assistant principal)
Vincent Gendron
Marjolaine Fournier
**Hilda Cowie
*Paul Mach

Joanna G'froerer (principal)
Stephanie Morin

Charles Hamann (principal)
Anna Petersen
*Melissa Scott

English Horn
Anna Petersen

Kimball Sykes (principal)
Sean Rice

Darren Hicks (principal)
Vincent Parizeau

Lawrence Vine (principal)
Julie Fauteux (associate principal)
Elizabeth Simpson
Lauren Anker
Louis-Pierre Bergeron

Karen Donnelly (principal)
Steven van Gulik
*Amy Horvey

*Steve Dyer (guest principal)
Colin Traquair

Bass Trombone
*Scott Robinson

Chris Lee (principal)

*Michael Kemp (guest principal)

Jonathan Wade

Principal Librarian
Nancy Elbeck

Assistant Librarian
Corey Rempel

Personnel Manager
Meiko Lydall

Orchestra Personnel Coordinator
Laurie Shannon

*Additional musicians
**On leave