Thomas Ludwig: Violin Concerto/Symphony in Two Movements

Twenty-five years ago, during my student days at Juilliard, I had a dream of Arturo Toscanini coaching me on conducting. The lovely music playing in my dream was the melody from the Adagio movement of Beethoven's 4th Symphony and Beethoven was sitting in the corner with his arms folded while I conducted the orchestra. The next morning, in the kitchen of Mrs. Donfray's apartment, I took a spatula in hand, and while trying to conduct, the peace and happiness of the previous night's dream swept over me again.

Although this dream led me to pursue conducting and composing with every ounce of energy I could muster, my musical career has never been predictable or easy. Indeed, after the recording session with the London Symphony on this CD and experiencing the glories of England, I found myself in the same year burning in the sun and heat of Virginia, where, as a carpenter, I suffered a near-fatal fall. My confusion in this incident was more than made up for by the overwhelming warmth of God's love that I felt in the minutes after this accident. Later on in my career, after touring as conductor for Mikhail Baryshnikov and the thrill of the Metropolitan Opera House, I found myself, soon after, teaching beginning violin to Chinese children. Injustice, sacrifice, and hardship are great teachers. I accept my destiny. Nonetheless, there have been a few people who have helped in a way that I can never repay. Maestro Thomas Sleeper, who conducted the world premiere of this violin concerto, has two very rare qualities of fearless commitment to the score and profound love for music. He has remained a constant friend and for this I am deeply grateful. I also wish to thank Dean William Hipp and the University of Miami Symphony as well as the London Symphony Orchestra for their enthusiasm and courage in pioneering this new music.

I hope you will enjoy these two works and the artistry of the incomparable violinist Mark Peskanov.


In 1985, MARK PESKANOV was accorded the unprecedented honor of receiving two major awards in one year: the Avery Fisher Career Grant and the First Isaac Stern Award given by Carnegie Hall. In July 1987, he was presented with the first Frederick R. Mann Young Artist Award, following his perfor­mance with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Music Center.

Such impressive tributes are not new to this young artist, who has been garnering ecstatic critical acclaim throughout his professional career. His Chicago Symphony debut prompted the Chicago Tribune to call him "a sensational soloist." His Cincinnati debut was described as "a blazing performance" by the critic of the Cincinnati Post. More recently, The New York Times commented on his New York debut: "Mr. Peskanov has it all-technique, temperament and taste…a tremendous violinist…His concert was a triumph."

A native of Odessa, U.S.S.R., Mark Peskanov attended the Stolyarsky School of Music, which has produced some of the most renowned musicians in the world. There be began studying at the age of seven as a pupil of Boris Brant. After emigrating to the United States in 1973, the young artist immediately earned recognition as one of the outstanding violinists of his generation. He studied with Dorothy DeLay at The Juilliard School, where

he won the annual violin competition in 1976 and earned his B.A. in 1979.

Mr. Peskanov made his debut during the 1977-78 season with the National Symphony, conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich. He was also engaged by the Cincinnati Symphony, then under the baton of Sixten Ehrling. The following season, he made his London debut with Rostropovich and the London Philharmonic. A special triumph of his 1980-81 season was his participation in the world premiere of John Williams' Violin Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony, conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The orchestra and its young soloist also repeated this work at Carnegie Hall. He also recorded this work with the London Symphony and Slatkin.

Mark Peskanov has performed throughout the United States with such prestigious orchestras as the American Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Denver Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and the Toronto Symphony. Some of the summer festivals he has performed with are Aspen, Boulder, Chicago's Grant Park Festival, the Hollywood Bowl, Meadowbrook, Tanglewood, Wolf Trap, and the Seattle and Vancouver Chamber Music Festivals. His recital engagements have taken him coast to coast and include Alice Tully Hall in New York. Recently, he toured South America and made his debut in Japan, where he appeared with the NHK Symphony and performed chamber music with Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma. During the 1987-88 season Mr. Peskanov made his debut tour of Australia.

Mark Peskanov is a gifted composer and has collaborated on a motion picture score for MGM.

THOMAS M. SLEEPER, hailed as "a conductor of persuasive fluency and fiery conviction," is Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Miami. A native of Oklahoma, he earned his B.M. in Music Education at the University of Texas, Austin, and his M.M. in conducting at Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. He was appointed to his first position as Associate Conductor of the Dallas Civic Symphony and the SMU Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theatre at age 22. He later became Interim Music Director of the Dallas Civic Symphony until joining the faculty at Stetson University as Director of Instrumental Activities and Conductor of the University Orchestra and Opera Theatre. In 1992 Mr. Sleeper was appointed Foreign Guest Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the China-Wuhan Symphony, and in 1993 be assumed his current position at the University of Miami School of Music.

Mr. Sleeper has been a guest conductor with a number of symphony orchestras including the Savannah Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Central Philharmonic of China, China-Wuhan Symphony and the Florida Symphony. He has conducted orchestras for the Ballet Theatre of Miami and the Bay Ballet Theatre, Tampa. During the 1993-94 season,

he conducted a series of highly successful concerts and radio-television broadcasts with the Philharmonic Orchestra of China and took the orchestra to Shanghai—the first time the Philharmonic Orchestra of China had performed there since the revolution of 1949.

An active composer and advocate of new music, he has conducted the premieres of works by such composers as Henry Brant, Robert Xavier Rodriguez, Carlos Surinach and. Thomas Ludwig. He has recorded for the IRIDA label. His own compositions have been performed throughout the United States and in Europe and Asia, including performances at the Association for Contemporary Music in Moscow. Mr. Sleeper's compositions have been recorded on the MMC label.

Of a recent performance of Salome and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, James Roos of the Miami Herald stated that "Festival Miami ended in a blaze of Beethoven Sunday after-noon, when Thomas Sleeper led the UMSO in a remarkably crisp and effective performance of the Beethoven symphony."

THE UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA was founded in 1926 by Arnold Volpe at the direction of then-UM President Dr. Bowman E Ashe. The UMSO has had the distinction of performing with some of the most celebrated conductors and soloists of our century including Pierre Monteux, Sir Thomas Beecham, Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler, Gregor Piatagorsky, Jasha Heifitz, Arthur Rubenstein and Lauritz Melchoir. Continuing its tradition of excellence, the University of Miami Symphony Orchestra performs regularly with international artists as part of Festival Miami, a month-long series of concerts which the UMSO opens and closes. Thomas Ludwig's Concerto No.1 for Violin and Orchestra premiered on the closing night of Festival Miami 1994.

This recording marks the UMSO's second compact disc. Their first release on the Centaur Label features premiere recordings of three works by Carlos Surinach. American Record Guide referred to the world premiere of Surinach's Symphonic Melismas as "the most auspicious premiere by the UM Symphony since Andre Castellanitz premiered William Schumann's New England Triptych in 1956."

The University of Miami School of Music has an enrollment of more than 600 music majors in a wide range of academic and professional degree programs, and the Symphony Orchestra has established itself as the premier ensemble in the School's orchestral program.

THOMAS LUDWIG, called “America's new symphonist" by Symphony Magazine in 1982, first achieved public recognition for a series of symphonic tone poems premiered in the late seventies at Alice Tully Hall-Lincoln Center, New York City, by the New York City Symphony conducted by the composer. "Song of April," the "Kwak" ballet suite, and "Cambodia”—a rather controversial work dedicated to the innocent victims of that modern-day holocaust, resulted in varied reviews and audience reactions. The ballet suite was con­sidered "melodically and rhythmically intoxicating—orchestrated by a master's hand" by the New York Daily News. "Cambodia," on the other band, provoked a storm of controversy, perhaps, because of the raw nerve it touched in the American consciousness of the late seventies. The same paper dismissed it as "nothing more than melodramatic movie music with rather turgid orchestration." The New York Times was more objective, stating "the piece is a solidly crafted work in a polite blend of interwar symphonic dissonance."

Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1952, Ludwig began violin studies with his father at the age of three. Many other private teachers followed, including Mischa Mischakoff, and at the age of seventeen, he entered the Juilliard School in New York with a full scholarship to study violin with the late Ivan Galamian. At the age of twenty, Thomas Ludwig was appointed Music Director and Conductor of the New York City Symphony. During this formative time of growth, critics noted that "Mr. Ludwig secured brilliant performances of Beethoven and Strauss from a splendid young ensemble." His early conducting lessons included informal studies with Leonard Bernstein, Herbert von Karajan, and Jean Morel. In 1978, Ludwig took a two-year break from conducting to study composition with John Corigliano. This collaboration resulted in his Symphony No.1 "Age of Victory." A pivotal turning point in his career followed soon after when he conducted and supervised a recording session of this new work with the London Symphony Orchestra at EMI studios in London. Anthony Camden, chairman of the LSO, wrote of "the terrific originality and imagination of the Ludwig symphony which made such an impact on the members of the London Symphony Orchestra." It subsequently was brought to the attention of Maestro Jorge Velazen who conducted the world premiere performance at Washington, D.C.'s prestigious Inter American Music Festival at Kennedy Center in 1982. The performance was greeted with a shouting, standing ovation with the headline in the Washington Post the following day reading "Ludwig's Eloquent Victory—Masterful Message in the Language of Music.

In 1989, the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM in Mexico City commissioned Thomas Ludwig to write a large-scale symphony. The work, dedicated to one of the poor infants of the Zona Rosa, was premiered in June, 1989, at Nezahualcoynel Hall in Mexico City, to an enthusiastic audience. Set in four movements in a neo-romantic idiom, the Symphony No.2 echoes the spiritually apocalyptic vision of a Gustav Mahler.

In a more humorous vein, Ludwig's Overture Fantasie to "Cocoanuts" employs over 25 different percussion instruments and, although based on a Chinese tune is flavored with Latin rhythms, Bartokian textures, and surrealistic imagery.

Over the past two decades, Thomas Ludwig has maintained a dual career as both conductor and composer. Hailed as "a prodigiously gifted conductor with a superb baton technique," Maestro Ludwig has served as resident conductor for American Ballet Theatre and Mikhail Baryshnikov at the Metropolitan Opera House and on tour, and as Music Director for the Atlanta and Washington Ballet Companies. Ludwig has guest conducted professional orchestras of Mexico City, London, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C., and across the United States. For four years, as adjunct professor at the American University in Washington, D.C., he was director of the orchestra and opera theatre.

Among a listing of Ludwig's works are four symphonies, two overtures, a violin concerto, three tone poems, a woodwind quintet, a piano quartet, and vocal works. A highly successful ballet suite—Fred and Ginger has been performed across the country. His music has been broadcast over numerous radio stations including National Public Radio and Voice of America.

Thomas Ludwig has won prizes at the Kennedy Center's Freidheim Awards and the Indianapolis Symphony Composers Competition. In an unusual career. Ludwig is not only a gifted composer. but a man dedicated to expressing a sympathy for the forgotten. The poignant and compelling personality of his Symphony No. 2—written for the homeless child of the Zona Rosa, the stark drama of "Cambodia," and the sweet lyricism

of his Violin Concerto testify to his unique musical and human voice in a century of too often cold and tepid personalities.



This work was begun by Thomas Ludwig in June 1989 at the urging of Jorge Velazen, the internationally recognized Mexican conductor who had premiered Ludwig's first and second symphonies. Velazen had arranged a meeting with Leon Spierer, the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. Although Spierer was enthusiastic about the piece, he was unable to procure a European premiere. The violin concerto was completed three years later in Atlanta when a new collaboration evolved that of Mark Peskanov as violin soloist and Thomas Sleeper. conductor.

The Violin Concerto is a large, neo-romantic, post-modernist canvas. After an extended orchestral introduction, the opening solo violin has a theme inspired by the pro­found courage and loneliness of Shai Ling, the young woman student leader of the Tiennamen Square pro-democracy movement in China. The Adagio (second movement) is in the milieu of romantic violin concertos of the 19th century. The third movement is a rondo with a dance-like motif as the main theme.

In the words of the composer:

"I began work on the violin concerto with just a violin in the damp and decrepit basement space of my Tremont Street house in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This setting was also the scene of various criminal activities of past and present characters including arsonists, rapists, witches, and an axe murderer. His particular act took place outside my bedroom window, prompting a boarding up of that whole wall, as my wife and three young infants lived there. The house itself was rather grim-with no heat, a waterfall down an inner wall, and, as I just mentioned, the friendly natives. Having followed the pro-democracy movement in Beijing, and being singularly inspired by the sacrifices of the young students, I proceeded into this squalid basement to try to activate the muse.... Like my second symphony, born in Mexico City and premiered at Sala de Nezahualcoyotl, this violin concerto was written in the spirit of a different era, one where time flows at a more leisurely pace and emotions are cultivated with no regard for modern encumbrances."

-program notes by John King

L S O:Date recorded: 6 May, 1980; Location: EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London;

Producer: Carter Harman; Engineers: Richard Bowoly, Neville Boyling; Digital recording: Mike King, Feldon Audio Ltd.; Sony PCM Video System.

U M S O:Date recorded: 23 October, 1994; Location: Maurice Gusman Concert Hall, Miami;

Producer: William Hipp; Engineer: Peter MeGrath

Digital editing, both LSO and UMSO by William Allgood, Allgood Productions, Atlanta "Symphony in Two Movements" published by G. Schirmer

Design:Carol Norton. Photography: Jerry Burns (cover), Lynne Siler (portrait).




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