Thu October 27 | 7:30 PM



October 27, 2022 7:30 PM


Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor
David Krakauer, clarinet

Program includes:

Traditional/arr. Krakauer: Der Heyser Bulgar and Der Gasn Nign

Abraham Ellstein: Chassidic Dances

David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: The Fretless Clarinet

(Eugene Symphony co-commission & Pacific Northwest premiere)

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade

Bask in the lavish sounds of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade, which depicts various tales from the celebrated poetic epic 1,001 Arabian Nights. Its lush tapestry of musical storytelling has enchanted audiences for more than a century, making it one of the most popular orchestral works ever written. First, clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer guides us through the history of klezmer, the rich Eastern European Jewish musical tradition passed down through generations of folk musicians across the globe. Then, we hear the Pacific Northwest premiere of The Fretless Clarinet, a new klezmer-inspired concerto co-written by Krakauer and his partner Kathleen Tagg.

View our entire Digital Program Book for more detailed information.


6:10pm - String Quartet Performance, The Studio.
Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras’ Ambassador Music Program

6:30pm Eugene Symphony Guild Pre-Concert Talk, The Studio.
Music Director and Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong will talk with David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg, co-composers, about the program.

7:05pm - String Quartet Performance, Hult Lobby.
Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestras’ Ambassador Music Program

This concert will be broadcast on KWAX 91.1 on Tuesday, November 15, 2022 at 1:00 PM. Broadcasts underwritten in part by Eugene Safe Storage.


Learn more about David Krakauer

Only a select few artists have the ability to convey their message to the back row, to galvanize an audience with a visceral power that connects on a universal level. David Krakauer is such an artist.

Widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists on the planet with his own unique sound and approach, he has been praised internationally as a key innovator in modern klezmer as well as a major voice in classical music. In addition, his work has been recognized by major jazz publications around the world. He received a Grammy nomination as soloist with the conductor-less chamber orchestra "A Far Cry," received the Diapason D’Or in France for The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (Osvaldo Golijov and the Kronos Quartet/Nonesuch) and the album of the year award in the jazz category for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for The Twelve Tribes (Label Bleu).

Krakauer began his journey with the music of his Eastern European Jewish cultural heritage at the end of the 1980s as the Berlin Wall was falling, and culture from “behind the Iron Curtain” began to emerge in the West. Inspired by these massive cultural shifts, he began to explore klezmer music as he sought to connect with his Jewish identity in a deeper way. He very quickly became a creator in his own right; first as a member of the ground-breaking band “The Klezmatics” (that launched the second klezmer revival of the early 90s), then as an integral part of John Zorn’s Radical Jewish Culture movement, and ultimately as a composer, soloist, and band leader in the klezmer genre. He recently began composing and producing music for film, and 2020 saw him composing his first score with Kathleen Tagg for the full-length feature film Minyan by Eric Steel, nominated for best film at 2020 Berlin Film Festival and Winner of Grand Jury Prize for Best U.S. Narrative Feature at OUTFEST 2020. His second score in 2020 was for Jeremy Kagan’s animated short, Haftorahs. Haftorahs is an animated movie based on a series of drawings that are a response to each of the Haftorah portions read chronologically throughout the year.

His wide array of projects, solo appearances, and multi-genre collaborations includes ensembles, conductors, composers, and individual artists such as the WDR Big Band, Abraham Inc. (co-led with Fred Wesley and Socalled), the Emerson Quartet, Marin Alsop, Wlad Mathulets, Leonard Slatkin (Orchestre de Lyon), Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Quatuor Debussy, JoAnn Falletta, George Tsontakis, Anakronic Electro Orkestra, and Kathleen Tagg (pianist and co-creator of Breath & Hammer).

Widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists on the planet, David has been praised internationally as a key innovator in modern klezmer as well as a major voice in classical music.

Most recently Krakauer has been co-composing a number of large-scale works with Kathleen Tagg including a fantasy for concert band, a clarinet concerto for the Santa Rosa Symphony with conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, and the score for Minyan by filmmaker Eric Steel.

As an esteemed educator, David Krakauer is on the clarinet and chamber music faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, the Mannes College of Music (New School) and The Bard Conservatory.

Learn more about Kathleen Tagg

Kathleen Tagg’s output is becoming increasingly hard to categorize: the South African native, New York-based Tagg alternates between performing on major concert series and creating new works and inter-disciplinary programs using loops, samples, and visual mediums. She has created her own unique language at the piano, made up of techniques she developed and experimented with to expand the piano into a full electro-acoustic orchestra.

Additional major new productions this season include the co-creation of Mazel Tov Cocktail Party, a genre-bending project celebrating shared humanity for six musicians.

With long-time collaborator David Krakauer, she co-composed and produced the musical score for the feature film Minyan by Eric Steel, (nominated for best film at 2020 Berlin Film Festival & Winner of Grand Jury Prize for Best U.S. Narrative Feature at OUTFEST 2020). They also co-wrote a concert fantasy for the Marine band of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The launch of her electro-acoustic Breath & Hammer project with Krakauer in 2016 was the start of an ever-evolving project that has toured widely on four continents. This project features original works by Kathleen, as well as her arrangements for a “piano orchestra” made up of thousands of tiny samples made up from the whole body of the piano — all woven together into a giant tapestry. In 2017, she and David Krakauer created an evening-length theatrical music event for the Borderlands Foundations’ annual Misterium Mostu festival (Mystery of the Bridge). In 2019, they created an immersive evening-length work for the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin (The Ties that Bind Us) with video artist Jesse Gilbert.

In the past decade, her work has focused more and more on identity, ideas of connection, and sound exploration. She has been prolific as a songwriter over the past decade, but has also written for combinations as diverse as symphony orchestra (including a commission from the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra/Suidoosterfees), choir, string quartet, piano with electronics and six-piece band.

Kathleen’s recent work includes the full-length Afrikaans alt-cabaret Spieël Speel, co-created with South Africa singer Zanne Stapelberg, which premiered in July 2013 with a multi-city South African tour. The show features all-new original songs by Tagg as well as songs by Tagg and Stapelberg — with lyrics by Afrikaans luminaries such as Hennie Aucamp, Elizabeth Eybers, Deon Meyer, Antjie Krog, and Willem de Vries. The works are for a six-piece ensemble of voice, piano, violin, guitar, bass, and percussion.

Piano Circus is the umbrella for Kathleen’s solo works. She continues to work on redefining a new sound for the piano by writing new work for piano (using both the inside and outside), combining them with electronics- as well as commissioning new works by composers she loves. Her sound world draws on her native South Africa as well as her years spent in New York.

Scheherezade Program Notes

Eugene Symphony and Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong take us on a journey through sounds and musical influences of Eastern Europe:

  • Traditional Jewish klezmer music selections by clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer
  • David Krakauer blends klezmer, jazz, and classical music in the Pacific Northwest premiere of The Fretless Clarinet, co-written with pianist, composer, and producer Kathleen Tagg
  • Scheherazade, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful and electrifying depiction of the fabled One Thousand and One Nights

View our entire Digital Program Book for more detailed information.


David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg (b. 1967 and b. 1977)

DURATION: Approximately 22 minutes

Defined by his ability to transcend musical boundaries, David Krakauer is an acclaimed performer who has collaborated with top musicians across numerous genres, including klezmer, hip hop, classical, avant-garde, and jazz. He is also a faculty member at Manhattan School of Music, which is where he met the co-creator of this piece, Kathleen Tagg. Tagg is a pianist, composer, and producer, whose music has been presented on four continents and in some of the leading venues in the world, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

The Fretless Clarinet was composed in 2021, co-commissioned by Santa Rosa Symphony, Eugene Symphony, and the John and Adele Gray Endowment Fund and then dedicated to Music Director & Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong and the two orchestras.

“I gave Kathleen a simple clarinet melody and a primitive bass line, which she sculpted into a composition for clarinet and orchestra,” Krakauer said of his collaboration with Tagg. “She suggested structures and modulations. She was able to work with the form so that it retained a kind of ‘required simplicity,’ but still made it a work that felt good in the context of a clarinet and symphony orchestra.”

The name of the piece refers to Krakauer’s renowned ability for virtuoso glissandi, or the technique of sliding up or down a scale. Upon hearing Krakauer play, a friend of the performer and composer commented, “You play a fretless clarinet,” marveling at the musician’s ability to glide seamlessly between pitches.

Following are Krakauer’s notes on each movement of the work:

“Sanctuary City is informed by immigration struggles and the Black Lives Matter movement. New York City has been a sanctuary city for a long time; it provides opportunity for cultures to come together. I used material from a suite I’d written as an imaginary meeting between [jazz clarinetist] Sidney Bechet and [klezmer clarinetist] Naftule Brandwein, who have influenced my musical personality more than anyone else—I thought of them as immigrants coming from different places to meet in New York. This movement channels the intense feelings of fear, rage, worry, exhaustion, and anger that were bubbling over during COVID lockdowns in summer of 2020. The orchestra is sliding around all over the place. On top, it’s cantorial, melismatic, and the orchestra is very turbulent, and then it starts to resolve with a Terkisher beat that gains momentum and cohesion. You hear Bechet’s growling quality throughout.

“Mozart on the Judengasse—When I was a teen, I started playing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. The fourth movement is a theme and variations, and I heard Jewish underpinnings in the viola variation. In Salzburg, I visited Mozart’s birthplace and found the nearby Judengasse—the Jewish street. Mozart must have passed by as a kid and heard Jewish prayer when he lived there. I wrote a whole movement based on this viola variation, and Kathleen did her magic on it. It uses the same orchestration as Mozart’s clarinet concerto, and the structure is a traditional klezmer tune in form and proportion. Klezmer fans will hear the influence of the famous klezmer tune ‘Der Gasn Nign’ (Street Song).

“Ancestral Grooves—We were playing in Siena, Italy, and then in England for a wedding, and we had a week in between, so we rented an AirBnB on Lago di Como [in northern Italy outside Milan]. There was an amazing storm on the lake—very driving and stormy—that gave birth to the beginning of this movement. The central melodic idea evolved from klezmer doinas—modal, monophonic, melismatic improvisations. Then I wrote an original bulgar based on that doina material—so the music goes from storm to doina to bulgar. The movement ends in a joyous romp.

This concerto is about my world from the past 30 years. It’s a big part of my legacy.”

SCORED: In addition to the solo clarinet, this work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, tuba, timpani, percussion including drum set, and strings.

HISTORY: This is the first Eugene Symphony performance and the Pacific Northwest Premiere.


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908)

DURATION: Approximately 42 minutes

Born to a long line of military and naval men, Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov planned for a life in the navy as a young boy. As is so often the case with plans, his were rudely interrupted when musical talent revealed itself early at the keyboard and in composition. When he was 17, his piano teacher introduced him to Mily Balakirev, a meeting that would change his life.

A composer, pianist, and conductor, Balakirev would become the eventual leader of a group of composers—himself, Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov—who became known as The Mighty Five. This group would take it upon themselves to carve a new path of composition in Russia, less focused on emulating the Germanic compositional traditions of Beethoven and Mozart. They would establish a new, nationalist approach characterized by the incorporation of Russian folk songs, the use of whole tone and pentatonic scales common in the music of Eastern European and Asian countries, and the creation of unique sound palettes through the synthesis of new instrument groupings.

Scheherazade was born from this creative revolution, composed in 1888. For his source of inspiration, Rimsky-Korsakov drew from the folklore collection One Thousand and One Nights, a series of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age. The collection of stories had become wildly popular in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of Orientalism, the depiction of Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African societies by Western artists, writers, and designers that emphasized their exoticism and were often built upon stereotypes. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is only one example of Orientalism in Western classical music, which include Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, Puccini’s Turandot and Madame Butterfly and Verdi’s Aïda.

One Thousand and One Nights comes in many renditions and languages, but common to all versions of the story is the framing device of the ruling Sultan beguiled by his wife Scheherazade’s storytelling. The composer heads his score with this preface:

“The Sultan Shahriar, convinced of the duplicity and infidelity of all women, vowed to slay each of his wives after the first night. The Sultana Scheherazade, however, saved her life by the expedient recounting to the Sultan a succession of tales over a period of 1,001 nights. Overcome by curiosity, the monarch postponed the execution of his wife from day to day, and ended by renouncing his sanguinary resolution altogether.”

Rimsky-Korsakov depicts the Sultan immediately in the first movement, with an ominous and dark motif that permeates the entire piece. Then, Scheherazade herself is introduced with a theme by the solo violin, who will be heavily featured as the character of the Sultana Scheherazade. The first story, “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship,” begins, with lower strings rocking back and forth across their strings to represent the sea.

Our Scheherazade, the solo violin, begins the second movement as she starts to weave her second tale, “The Story of the Kalandar Prince.” The bassoon introduces a seductive melody that slowly builds in intensity as it is passed around different instruments in the orchestra. Soon, brass instruments are blaring, interrupted by a clarinet, spinning a web of notes over a bed of plucking strings.

The third movement, “The Young Prince and Princess,” tells a story of young love with a flowing, impassioned melody opened by the strings. The middle section features a swinging, jovial theme in the woodwinds, supported by twinkling percussion.

The fourth and final movement, titled “Festival at Baghdad,” once again begins with Scheherazade weaving her final tale, before catapulting into a thrilling section that showcases the virtuosity of each section of the orchestra. The piece ends with the solo violin, climbing into the stratosphere as Scheherazade’s storytelling ability has allowed her to survive the Sultan’s psychopathic vendetta.

SCORED: For two flutes, two piccolos, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, and strings.

HISTORY: First performed by Eugene Symphony in April 1996 under the direction of Marin Alsop and last performed in February 2011 under the baton of Mei-Ann Chen.

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LOCATION: Hult Center for the Performing Arts

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