symphony orchestra Wednesday, November 15, 2023 • 7:30 pm • UNCG Auditorium

waking up down at the bottom of the sea

Alejandro Rutty (b. 1967)

Composed: 2016

waking up down at the bottom of the sea

Alejandro Rutty

Alejandro Rutty’s compositional output includes orchestral, chamber and mixed-media music, arrangements of Argentine traditional music, and innovative outreach musical projects. A unique feature of Rutty’s music is its affection for textures suggested by modern recording processing techniques, and the use of Tango, a genre he performs as a pianist, and other South American genres as part of the music’s surface.

Rutty’s compositions and arrangements have been played by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina, National Symphony Orchestra of Brazil, Porto Alegre Symphony Orchestra, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Linköping Symphony Orchestra, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Red Clay Saxophone Quartet, and the Cassatt String Quartet among other groups. Rutty’s music has been published by Effiny Music, SCI/European American Music, and Ricordi Sudamericana.

Recordings of his music have been released by Capstone Records, Arizona University Recordings, and ERM Media. The Conscious Sleepwalker (an All-Rutty CD, Navona Records) including A Future of Tango and other orchestral pieces was released in early 2012. Founder and Artistic Director of the Hey, Mozart! Project, Alejandro Rutty is currently Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Waking Up Down at the Bottom of the Sea was commissioned and premiered by the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program, Mariano Vales conductor, and the Winner of the 2019 Tampa Bay Symphony Composition Competition.

Waking Up Down at the Bottom of the Sea makes reference to two common dreams. In these dreams a person either suddenly wakes up under water, or finds itself freely breathing and living underwater and interacting with sea life. In the narrative of the piece, both things happen; the anxiety of asphyxiation, the attempt to reach the surface, the realization of the possibility of breathing under water, and the diversion into several illuminating and pleasant adventures, to finally reach the surface.

Rhythms and tropes derived from Latin American music -often in unusual combinations- populate many of those “adventures”, such as South American folk music amalgams, Argentine Tango, and urban hip-hop infused Salsa.

It can be thought, in a narrow sense, that the piece represents the Immigrant Experience: breathing and living in an unfamiliar world until it becomes one’s own. In a wider sense, however, Waking Up Down at the Bottom of the Sea embodies the act of learning; that initial fear of the unknown being overcome as we see a better version of ourselves emerge at the other end, knowing.

Piano concerto no. 1 in g minor, op. 25

Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)

Composed: 1830–1831


Felix Mendelsohn

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the early Romantic period. He composed works for chamber groups, organ, piano, concertos, and five symphonies. He toured Europe frequently and was considered a success during his lifetime. Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25, was composed around the same time as his fourth symphony, and Mendelssohn himself performed it at its premiere in Munich.

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)

Composed: 1884


Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1833. His first performance as a violinist was at the age of ten, playing works by Beethoven and Mozart. Although his professional career would fall squarely within the confines of the Romantic period, Brahms’ love of these Classical monoliths, along with the pre-Classical J. S. Bach, would brand his personal style as something uniquely bold. While Brahms’ contemporaries and immediate seniors – a wealth of icons which included Liszt, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms’ beloved Schumanns – were exploring the “New German” Romanticism of opulent outpourings of human emotion through music, Brahms instead returned to the employment of the carefully organized fundamentals of his compositional training to craft what would become some of the most robust pillars of Western canon.

The popularity of the day was in writing programmatic music. The resulting phenomenon of this being that audiences expected new works to be programmatic, and could potentially assign programmatic interpretations to new works that were not explicitly and overtly intended as such. Brahms’ first three symphonies, as traditionally and devoid of programmatic intent as they might have been written, were full enough of the day’s Romantic lyricism that audiences have been able to assign them programmatic themes since their earlier performances. Brahms eschews so much of the lyrical and melodic practices that made this possible in his fourth symphony, however, artfully weaving the simplest musical cells into a monumental whole that cannot be admired for less than its pure musical beauty alone.

The first movement, Allegro non tropo, begins with a series of descending thirds in the violins. Octave displacements in every other figure transforms this simple line at the very opening of the work from a simple descending idea into the tension upon which the entire movement relies. The development of this theme is passed around the voicing of the orchestra, further emphasizing the opening line’s juxtaposition between low and high. Brief, lyrical, legato statements are given in lower voicing and answered immediately from higher, all the while underlaid with the churning staccato harmonic progressions that provide much of this movement’s forward momentum. Dark, sinewy legato figures are interrupted time and again by brief, bold, staccato interjections that spring forth and dominate for mere moments before the steady lyrical figures resume their implacable procession towards the movement’s inevitable conclusion.

The Andante moderato comes next, beginning with a stately, lugubrious passage from the horns that will be the primary figure moving through this movement. In a modified sonata form, missing only the development section of what would be expected of a traditional sonata, this movement draws on a compositional technique familiar to the listener from the preceding movement, the interruption of long, connected lines with more detached declarations. Harmonic progression is much more the progenitor of energy in this movement than it was in the first, but Brahms still capitalizes on the technique of underscoring this melodic, legato content with churning, detached accompaniment that continually reaffirms the existence of tension that presages much more work to be done before a satisfactory conclusion can be reached in this work.

The third movement, Allegro giocoso, Brahms wrote last. The seriousness and weight of all other movements of the symphony progress through their musical ideas with clear respect to their forms. While the lyrical and melodic content might not be exceedingly lengthy, seemingly organic counterpoint and masterful orchestration abound. This movement evokes a Scherzo, however, flaunts its form from the first instant. It lacks the trio section of a traditional Scherzo, and is instead in a modified sonata form like its preceding movements. It is also written in duple meter, as opposed to a Scherzo’s usual triple meter. Four primary musical themes are heard in the opening section. These are the themes upon which this movement is built throughout, appearing from the first with contrapuntal inversion before the theme returns later with the voicing mirrored and the inversion now becoming the primary idea. This movement overflows with an ebullient verve and joy only hinted at in the other movements, and its energetic drive is reminiscent of the folk dances which Brahms also seemed to have a special love for.

The bold Allegro energico e passionato movement that ends the work takes on the form of a passacaglia, a form that can almost exclusively be found only outside of the confines of a symphonic work. The first eight pitches, uttered with considerable gravity by the winds alone with the first addition of trombones in the entire work, are the structure of the passacaglia on which the remainder of the work is written. The melody of this melancholy chorale is a slight adaptation of a line from a Bach cantata, reading “All my days which pass in suffering God ends at last in joy.” Despite the warmth of the rest of the symphony, this tragic theme is driven home time and again throughout the variations that follow its initial statement. References to Movements I and III appear occasionally throughout these variations, almost as remembrances of brighter, happier times, though that assessment itself may be more along the programmatic vein than Brahms himself intended. The work ends in a minor key, the only of Brahms symphonies to do so.


Dr. Jungho Kim has established an outstanding reputation over the past two decades for his superb musicality and leadership on the podium. He has conducted numerous orchestras around the world including the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, Savaria Symphony Orchestra and Dohnanyi Orchestra Budafok in Hungary, Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, and Buffalo Philharmonic. After successfully leading the Augustana University Orchestra, Kim has served as the Director of Orchestra at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music at Kent State University. He was recently named Music Director and Conductor of the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra as well as the Tuscarawas Philharmonic.

Following his first professional three-year position as a section violinist at Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra in Korea, Kim went on to earn two master’s degrees in violin performance and orchestral conducting from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. It was the renowned conductor Maestra Xian Zhang—Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and La Verdi Orchestra Sinfonica in Milan, Italy—who offered Kim the position as Associate Conductor of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra.

Kim completed the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Eastman School of Music under the guidance of Maestro Neil Varon. He served as the assistant conductor of the Rochester Philharmonic and was awarded the Walter Hagen Conducting Prize during his doctoral studies. Along with the opportunities he has had to study with world famous artists, such as Maestro Kurt Masur and Pinchas Zukerman, his most meaningful successes in life have been meeting his wife, violinist Dr. Eunho Kim, and raising their two boys, Teo and Juno, as well as their dog, Kobi.

Andrew Willis

Pianist Andrew Willis explores the historical development of keyboard instruments and their performance practice, maintaining a commitment to the study, performance, and teaching of the widest possible range of repertoire. Keenly interested in the history of the piano, he contributes frequently to conferences, festivals, and concert series. He is a past president of the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society and a Trustee of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies, for whose International Fortepiano Competition he served as a juror.

As Covington Distinguished Professor of Music in the UNC Greensboro School of Music, Willis teaches performance on instruments ranging from harpsichord to modern piano. He directed the biennial UNCG Focus on Piano Literature for over a decade and recently inaugurated a student Historical Performance Consort. For the Albany, Bridge, Claves, Centaur, and CRI labels he has recorded solo and ensemble music of three centuries on pianos linked historically to the chosen repertoire. His recording of Op. 106 for the first complete Beethoven sonata cycle on period instruments was hailed by The New York Times as “a ‘Hammerklavier’ of rare stature.”

Willis received the D.M.A. in Historical Performance from Cornell University, where he studied fortepiano with Malcolm Bilson, the M.M. in Accompanying and Chamber Music from Temple University under George Sementovsky and Lambert Orkis, and the B.M. in Piano from The Curtis Institute of Music, where his mentor was Mieczyslaw Horszowski.