September 23, 2019

On September 27 the Louisville Orchestra (LO) launches its sixth season under the galvanizing leadership of Teddy Abrams, variously described as “an unstoppable force” (Arts-Louisville), the “next Leonard Bernstein” (WQXR), and “the orchestra’s great young hope” (Wall Street Journal). Crowned by Decca Gold’s upcoming release of The Order of Nature, a genre-bending new symphonic suite created and recorded with My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, the characteristically adventurous 2019–20 lineup combines music by no fewer than 18 living composers, innovative approaches to the classics, thoughtfully curated thematic programming, interdisciplinary collaborations with local artists and institutions, guest appearances by a stellar array of conductors and soloists, and a debut at Louisville’s state-of-the-art new performance space. As San Francisco Classical Voice observes, under Abrams’s leadership, the LO has become a “a model for other orchestras, large and small, across the country.”

Highlighting the history and vitality of Louisville, the 2019-20 Classics season opens with a focus on some of today’s most influential young artists and an account of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, whose composition was informed by a Louisville musicologist (Sep 28). The annual Festival of American Music continues to celebrate the orchestra’s hometown, with performances by the renowned gospel virtuosos of the city’s St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir (Feb 22) and local avant-garde jazz saxophonist Jacob Duncan (March 14). October 18 brings the eagerly anticipated release of The Order of Nature; violins that survived the Holocaust anchor a special Jewish-themed program in collaboration with the touring exhibit “Violins of Hope” and the Louisville Ballet (Oct 26); an evening of atmospheric water-themed music includes recent works by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Luther Adams and Emmy Award-winner Garth Neustadter (Oct 12); and the Music Director and orchestra offer an illuminating deconstruction of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony in the popular “Teddy Talks” series (Jan 18). After making their debut at the newly opened Paristown Hall this fall (Nov 2), Abrams and the LO return to the forward-looking performance space for programs featuring Gabriel Kahane (Jan 10), a dramatization of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale by puppet master David Bridel (March 6), and The Blue Hour, a group composition by Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw and Sarah Kirkland Snider (April 24). Paired with Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, it is also The Blue Hour that helps draw the orchestra’s season to a thrilling close (April 25).

Cross-genre collaboration: The Order of Nature on Decca Gold, Oct 18

In September 2017, the Louisville Orchestra went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Traditional Chart with the release of All In. Marking the ensemble’s first new recording in almost three decades and its first for Decca Gold, this featured Unified Field, an original orchestral composition by the multi-talented Music Director himself. Now, two years later, the orchestra looks forward to the release on October 18 of The Order of Nature, its next album for the same label. Captured live, in a single take, at last year’s Festival of American Music, it represents a cross-genre collaboration between Abrams and singer-songwriter Jim James, frontman of Grammy-nominated Louisville rock group My Morning Jacket. Abrams and James first worked together on Float Rumble Rest, a tribute to the late boxing legend and Louisville native Muhammad Ali, which was scored for piano and electric guitar. By contrast, The Order of Nature is a large-scale symphonic suite combining original, evocative songs by James – “one of rock music’s most powerful singers and one of its most fearless sonic architects” (Rolling Stone) – with the cinematic scope of Abrams’s most potent orchestral writing.

To create their suite, the two drew inspiration from the absence of hate they found in nature. James says:

“Nature doesn’t know how to hate. Humans are part of nature obviously, but why do we have this thing called hatred and how do we get rid of it? We’re fighting nature and thinking we can prevail over nature, but we’re killing each other and killing the planet.”

He adds: “It was also inspiring to hear what Teddy wrote. I really enjoyed just giving him this seed of a song and just watching it flower.” Click to hear the suite’s opening song, Set It To Song. Abrams and James discuss their process further in “Collaboration,” the first episode of a three-part mini-documentary series about the making of The Order of Nature.

Opening Night: “From the New World”

Abrams and the orchestra launch the 2019-20 Signature Classics season with a program that celebrates today’s vibrant music scene while also engaging the LO’s remarkable past. This features solo appearances by three influential young musicians, all of whom were named, like Abrams himself, among WQXR’s “19 for 19” artists to watch this year: mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, who joins the orchestra for favorites by Bizet, Saint-Saëns and Gershwin; violinist Elena Urioste, who makes her Louisville debut with an account of Ravel’s Tzigane; and violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, who reprises her “breathtaking” (Broadcast Music) interpretation of Orchard in Fog (2018), the concerto composed for her by Emmy-winner Adam Schoenberg. The program concludes with Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony (“From the New World”), a work first conceived just days after the composer read an article in which Louisville musicologist Mildred Hill made the case for African American spirituals as the basis for a distinctly American style (Sep 28).

Like almost all concerts in the Classics season, Opening Night will be preceded the previous morning by a related event in the affordably priced Coffee Series. Also led by Abrams, this pairs Dvořák’s masterpiece with three Louisville originals: works commissioned and premiered by the orchestra from Lutosławski, Ibert and LO founder Robert Whitney (Sep 27).

Also this fall: “Violins of Hope” and “From the Sea”

Abrams leads the orchestra in two further Signature Classics concerts this fall, each preceded by a related event in the Coffee Series. “From the Sea” (Oct 12) couples two beloved ocean-themed classics from Europe before the wars – Sibelius’s The Oceanides and Debussy’s La Mer – with two recent American evocations of natural water. The first of these, John Luther Adams’s Become River, is one of the composer’s series of landscape-inspired pieces that also includes his 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winner, Become Ocean, while the second, Seaborne, was written by young Emmy-winning TV and film composer Garth Neustadter for the Percussion Collective. The celebrated ensemble joins the orchestra for the first performance of the work in its fully orchestrated form, to the accompaniment of stunning film footage from Hawaii.

There follows a special program themed to “Violins of Hope” (Oct 26), a traveling exhibition of instruments played by Jewish violinists before and during the Holocaust, now painstakingly restored by Israeli violinmaker Amnon Weinstein as a tribute to the dead. Marking the end of the exhibit’s ten days on view at Louisville’s Frazier History Museum, members of the orchestra will give voice to these rare instruments, with LO Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz – a “master craftsman” who coaxes “magnificent sounds and spine-tingling notes out of his instrument” (Arts-Louisville) – as soloist in three pieces from John Williams’s score to Schindler’s List. Also on the program are From the Diary of Anne Frank by Abrams’s mentor Michael Tilson Thomas; Paul Schoenfield’s Klezmer Rondos No. 2, featuring LO Principal Flutist Kathleen Karr; and a collaboration with the Louisville Ballet and its resident choreographer Andrea Schermoly on Judith, A Choreographic Poem. Conceived as a “dance concerto” and originally commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra from Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Schuman and iconic choreographer Martha Graham, this dramatizes the biblical story of Judith, who saved the besieged Jewish city of Bethulia by seducing and beheading Assyrian invader Holofernes.

Next spring: 5th Festival of American Music, “Teddy Talks” and more

Spring brings the fifth edition of the annual Festival of American Music, which continues to celebrate the glorious diversity of new and recent homegrown composition. First, Abrams and the orchestra join Grammy-winning soul-funk organist Cory Henry and the local gospel virtuosos of the St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir for a program featuring Duke Ellington’s Three Black Kings (Feb 22). Two weeks later, the festival pairs a new work by avant-garde jazz composer and Louisville native Jacob Duncan, who joins the orchestra as saxophone soloist, with Mason Bates’s Art of War, a symphony about soldiers, weapons and the collision of civilizations (March 14). When the National Symphony Orchestra premiered Art of War at Washington’s Kennedy Center last year, the Washington Post confessed: “I’ve seldom seen an NSO audience quite so excited about a new work.” Both Duncan’s and Bates’s works will also receive preview performances in the Coffee Series (March 13).

Now entering its third season, “Teddy Talks” – a program reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein’s 1950s “Omnibus” series – also returns next year. Speaking to Abrams’s commitment to audience engagement and accessibility, the program provides a platform for him to give audiences a window into the composer’s mind, entertainingly deconstructing a piece of music before reassembling it in a full orchestral performance. Following the Music Director’s exposition of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, which made “a good case against the decline of classical music” and left Arts-Louisvilleabsolutely enthralled,” the subject of 2019-20’s “Teddy Talks” is Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (Jan 18), with a Coffee Concert preview the previous day (Jan 17).

Paristown Hall debut

Besides presenting its Classics Season, the Louisville Orchestra looks forward to making its debut at the city’s newest performance space this fall, with a special program titled “Teddy’s Soundcheck” (Nov 2; details TBA). A 28,000-square-foot venue designed to host up to 2,000 standing patrons, Old Forester’s Paristown Hall opened this past July with millennial audiences in mind. For their next Paristown appearance, Abrams and the orchestra join forces with Gabriel Kahane, “one of the finest, most searching songwriters of the day” (New Yorker), to perform newly orchestrated versions of songs from the singer-songwriter’s hit album Book of Travelers, which he describes as “a plea for empathy” (Jan 10). The orchestra returns to Paristown under Abrams’s leadership for a performance of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, as brought to life with a cast of life-size puppets by David Bridel, “one of the most inventive, scholarly, and vastly challenging voices on the current theatrical scene” (Los Angeles Times). Titled “The Devil’s Tale,” this third Paristown program also features Hiraeth by Sarah Kirkland Snider, whom the Philadelphia Inquirer calls a “significant voice on the American music landscape” (March 6). For their final Paristown date of the season, Abrams conducts The Blue Hour. Set to texts by American poet Carolyn Forché, this milestone group composition draws on the talents of a who’s who of today’s most noteworthy female composers, who include some of the LO’s favorite past collaborators: Snider, Louisville native Rachel Grimes, Puerto Rico-born Angélica Negrón, Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova, who joins the orchestra for the performance (April 24).

There will be multiple further opportunities to catch both the Kahane collaboration (Jan 8–11) and A Soldier’s Tale (March 4–7) in the orchestra’s innovative Music Without Borders series, which takes the ensemble into non-traditional neighborhood venues, including community centers, places of worship, and schools. Similarly, Abrams and the LO look forward to reprising The Blue Hour for their final, season-closing concert in the Classics Series, when it shares the program with Bartók’s last and most enduringly popular orchestral work, the masterful Concerto for Orchestra (April 25).

Guest conductors: Parameswaran, Cox, Hotoda and Lefkowitz

Further enriching the season, the orchestra performs three Classics programs with a trio of guest conductors, each of whom helms a related Coffee concert the preceding day. Vinay Parameswaran, Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and former Associate Conductor of the Nashville Symphony, conducts Anna Clyne’s Night Ferry (2012) and Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, with LO principal cellist Nicholas Finch as soloist (Nov 23). Roderick Cox, winner of the 2018 Sir George Solti Conducting Award and former Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, leads the world premiere of Emotive Transformations by James Lee III, “a composer who has what it takes. And has a future” (Baltimore Sun) alongside Brahms’s Third Symphony and Grieg’s Piano Concerto featuring Bulgarian pianist Anna Petrova (Feb 1). Rei Hotoda, Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic, couples Missy Mazzoli’s River Rouge Transfiguration (2013) with the Second Symphony by Rachmaninoff and the Eighth by Beethoven, whose 250th birthday celebrations fall next year (April 11). Finally, to complete the Louisville Orchestra’s 2019-20 lineup, versatile concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz exchanges his violin for a baton, taking the podium for works by Haydn, Brahms and Mendelssohn at multiple alternative city venues in the Music Without Borders series (Oct 30–Nov 8).

Click here for a complete schedule of the Louisville Orchestra’s 2019-20 season.

About the Louisville Orchestra

Established in 1937 through the combined efforts of Louisville mayor Charles Farnsley and conductor Robert Whitney, the Louisville Orchestra is a cornerstone of the Louisville arts community. With the launch of First Edition Recordings in 1947, it became the first American orchestra to own a recording label. Six years later it received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record, and premiere music by living composers, thereby earning a place on the international circuit and an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually to a North American orchestra. Continuing its commitment to new music, the Louisville Orchestra has earned 19 ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and was also awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing its historic First Edition Recordings collections. Over the years, the orchestra has performed for prestigious events at the White House, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Mexico City. The feature-length, Gramophone Award-winning documentary Music Makes A City (2010) chronicles the Louisville Orchestra’s founding years, and in spring 2018, Teddy Abrams and the orchestra were profiled on the popular television program CBS Sunday Morning.

High-resolution photos are available here.

www.louisvilleorchestra.org
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Louisville Orchestra: 2019-20 season
Except where noted, all concerts take place at 8pm at the Kentucky Center for the Arts

Sep 27 at 11am
Coffee Series
“From the New World”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
LUTOSŁAWSKI: Fanfare for Louisville
IBERT: Louisville Concerto
WHITNEY: Concertino
DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)

Sep 28
Signature Classics Series
“From the New World”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; Elena Urioste, violin; J’Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano
ADAM SCHOENBERG: Orchard in Fog
BIZET: “Habanera” from Carmen
GERSHWIN: “My Man’s Gone Now” from Porgy and Bess
SAINT-SAËNS: “Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila
RAVEL: Tzigane
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”)

Oct 3–5 at 7:30pm
Music Without Borders Series
“Classical Cornerstones”
The Jeffersonian (Oct 3)
St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church (Oct 4)
Ogle Center at IUS (Oct 5)
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Gabriel Lefkowitz, violin
STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto
MOZART: Symphony No. 40

Oct 11 at 11am
Coffee Series
“From the Sea”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With the Percussion Collective
SIBELIUS: The Oceanides
GARTH NEUSTADTER: Seaborne (first performance of fully orchestrated version)
DEBUSSY: La Mer 

Oct 12
Signature Classics Series
“From the Sea”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With the Percussion Collective
SIBELIUS: The Oceanides
GARTH NEUSTADTER: Seaborne
JOHN LUTHER ADAMS: Become River
DEBUSSY: La Mer

Oct 25 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Violins of Hope”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Kathleen Karr, flute; Gabriel Lefkowitz, violin; Catherine Blades, narrator
PAUL SCHOENFIELD: Klezmer Rondos No.2
JOHN WILLIAMS: Three pieces from Schindler’s List
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: From the Diary of Anne Frank

Oct 26
Signature Classics Series
“Violins of Hope”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Andrea Schermoly, choreographer; Dancers of the Louisville Ballet; Kathleen Karr, flute; Gabriel Lefkowitz, violin; Catherine Blades, narrator
PAUL SCHOENFIELD: Klezmer Rondos No.2
WILLIAM SCHUMAN: Judith, A Choreographic Poem
JOHN WILLIAMS: Three pieces from Schindler’s List
MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS: From the Diary of Anne Frank

Oct 30–Nov 8 at 7:30pm
Music Without Borders Series
“Haydn’s Surprise”
Adath Jeshurun (Oct 30)
St. Francis in the Fields (Nov 1)
The Temple (Nov 6)
The Jeffersonian (Nov 7)
Ogle Center at IUS (Nov 8)
Gabriel Lefkowitz, conductor
MENDELSSOHN: Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 21
HAYDN: Symphony No. 94 (“Surprise”)
BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn

Nov 2
Louisville Orchestra Series
“Teddy’s Soundcheck”
Paristown Hall (debut)
Program TBA

Nov 22 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Don Quixote + Other Journeys”
Vinay Parameswaran, guest conductor
With Nicholas Finch, cello
ANNA CLYNE: Night Ferry
R. STRAUSS: Don Quixote

Nov 23
Signature Classics Series
“Don Quixote & Other Journeys”
Vinay Parameswaran, guest conductor
With Nicholas Finch, cello
MENDELSSOHN: The Hebrides (“Fingal’s Cave Overture”)
ANNA CLYNE: Night Ferry
R. STRAUSS: Don Quixote

Jan 8–11 at 7:30pm
Music Without Borders Series
“Book of Travelers”
TBD (Jan 8)
The Temple (Jan 9)
Paristown (Jan 10)
Ogle Center (Jan 11)
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Gabriel Kahane, vocalist
GABRIEL KAHANE: Pattern of the Rail
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 (“Rhenish”)

Jan 10
Louisville Orchestra Series
“Gabriel Kahane at the Louisville Orchestra”
Paristown Hall
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Gabriel Kahane, vocalist
GABRIEL KAHANE: Pattern of the Rail
GABRIEL KAHANE: Empire Liquor Mart

Jan 17 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Mahler’s Fifth”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5 

Jan 18
Signature Classics Series
“Teddy Talks Mahler”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

Jan 31 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Brahms’ Third”
Roderick Cox, guest conductor
With Anna Petrova, piano
GRIEG: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3

Feb 1
Signature Classics Series
“Brahms’ Third”
Roderick Cox, guest conductor
With Anna Petrova, piano
JAMES LEE III: Emotive Transformations (world premiere)
GRIEG: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 3 

Feb 22
Signature Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 1: Gospel at the Symphony”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Cory Henry, organ; St. Stephen Baptist Church Choir
ELLINGTON: Three Black Kings
Gospel selections with orchestra TBA

March 4–7 at 7:30pm
Music Without Borders Series
“A Soldier’s Tale”
TBD (March 4)
The Jeffersonian (March 5)
Ogle Center (March 7)
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With David Bridel, puppeteer
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: Hiraeth
RAVEL: Le tombeau de Couperin
STRAVINSKY: A Soldier’s Tale (“L’histoire du Soldat”)

March 6
Louisville Orchestra Series
“The Devil’s Tale”
Paristown Hall
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With David Bridel, puppeteer
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: Hiraeth
RAVEL: Le tombeau de Couperin
STRAVINSKY: A Soldier’s Tale (“L’histoire du Soldat”)

March 13 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Festival of American Music”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Jacob Duncan, saxophone
MASON BATES: Art of War
JACOB DUNCAN: TBD

March 14
Signature Classics Series
“Festival of American Music 2”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Jacob Duncan, saxophone
MASON BATES: Art of War
JACOB DUNCAN: TBD

April 10 at 11am
Coffee Series
“Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony”
Rei Hotoda, guest conductor
RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 

April 11
Signature Classics Series
“Beethoven & Rachmaninoff”
Rei Hotoda, guest conductor
MISSY MAZZOLI: River Rouge Transfiguration
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8
RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2

April 24
Louisville Orchestra Series
“The Blue Hour”
Paristown Hall
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Shara Nova, mezzo-soprano
RACHEL GRIMES, ANGÉLICA NEGRÓN, SHARA NOVA, CAROLINE SHAW and SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: The Blue Hour

April 25
Signature Classics Series
“Concerto for Orchestra”
Teddy Abrams, conductor
With Shara Nova, mezzo-soprano
RACHEL GRIMES, ANGÉLICA NEGRÓN, SHARA NOVA, CAROLINE SHAW and SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER: The Blue Hour
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

All dates, programs, and artists are subject to change.

The Signature Classics Series is made possible by the generous support of the Brown-Forman Corporation.

The Coffee Series is made possible by the generous support of Hilliard Lyons.

The Music Without Borders Series is made possible by the generous support of the Republic Bank.

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© 21C Media Group, September 2019