Published on March 23rd, 2022

Classics V: From the Mountaintop to the River includes three compositions that tell stories of struggle and inspiration. Clarinetist Anthony McGill is the guest soloist for the concert on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at 7:30 pm.

Composer Richard Danielpour was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and his final speech delivered the night before his death to write From the Mountaintop. The work is filled with the vivid sadness and happiness, prayerfulness, joy and pain felt during the Civil Rights Movement as well as victims of injustice around the world. Of the concerti he’s written, it’s among Danielpour’s favorites.

Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic—and the orchestra’s first African American principal player—is the guest soloist. Hailed by The New York Times for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character, McGill is also an ardent advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in classical music.

“It’s a real journey,” said McGill about From the Mountaintop. “It’s very exciting at the beginning. Then you go on an emotional roller coaster. At times, it’s so unbelievably sad … at other times, it’s grand and tragic sounding. And then the ending is devastatingly beautiful.”

Danielpour imagined the clarinet as a minister and the orchestra his congregation, incorporating numerous call and response phrases to tell the story.

“The piece feels very liturgical. When you see [McGill], he has the same sort of energy that you would encounter in a Southern Baptist church,” said Danielpour. “I told Anthony, ‘You’re the only guy who can do this—I won’t write it if you won’t do it!’ ”

Vivian Fung’s Prayer opens the program. Inspired by a chant from composer Hildegard von Bingen, this piece is Fung’s personal commentary on the extraordinary conditions she faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Under no other circumstance … have I worn my heart on my sleeve as transparently as I have with this piece,” states Fung. “In times of crisis and peril, we have but the reliance of faith—from the profound faith in humanity, faith in love, and faith that we will persevere and get through this with dignity, to the mundane faith that I would complete the piece within the extraordinary conditions that faced me.”

Closing out the program is Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 “Rhenish.” Criticized in his earlier orchestral works for clumsy handling of the orchestra, his third symphony silenced his critics and demonstrated his brilliance as a composer.

“I find such beauty, genius and spirituality in Schumann’s work, most especially in the great ‘Rhenish’, ” comments Symphony Tacoma Music Director Sarah Ioannides. “The impressive response to the people, the land, the river and the incredible architecture of Cologne’s cathedral marks this symphony with a signature of what I consider his greatest work. Like Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral,’ it falls into the rare selection of compositions that follow a five-movement structure. It is hard to imagine that Schumann struggled with schizophrenia—often the sad case of such great creativity and genius.”


Watch our 2020 interview with Anthony McGill and Richard Danielpour >