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After Launching Philharmonia Post in London (Oct 19), Marin Alsop Remembers Penderecki with Black Mask in Poland, Leads European Premiere of “Gospel Messiah” in London & Conducts Fully-Staged New Candide in Vienna

(October 2023) — This week, MacArthur award-winner Marin Alsop launches her four-year appointment as Principal Guest Conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with an all-American program at the Royal Festival Hall (Oct 19). In her first season as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, she leads the ensemble in a rare concert performance of Krzysztof Penderecki’s opera The Black Mask, to commemorate the late composer’s 90th birthday (Nov 23). With the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, where she is now in her fifth season as Chief Conductor, Alsop leads a fully-staged new production of Candide by her late mentor Leonard Bernstein (Jan 17–Feb 3), and, with the BBC Concert Orchestra & Symphony Chorus, she leads the European premiere of “Too Hot to Handel,” her gospel-inspired reimagining of the Baroque composer’s Messiah (Dec 7). The December concert marks her return to London’s Royal Albert Hall after making history last month, as both the first woman and the first American to guest conduct a third Last Night of the BBC Proms. This took place a full decade after her record-breaking achievement in 2013, when – as has just been recognized by the Guinness World Records – Alsop became the first woman ever to conduct a “Last Night” in the festival’s long history.

Launching new Philharmonia appointment (Oct 19)

After one of her previous appearances with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, The Times of London marveled: “Alsop whipped up the excitement right to the end.” Now the conductor kicks off her four-season appointment as the ensemble’s Principal Guest Conductor with an all-American program on October 19. This opens with the Drums Overture by James P. Johnson, the stride piano pioneer whose hit songs included “The Charleston,” and whose symphonic music Alsop has played a significant part in rediscovering, recording and championing. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man will be heard alongside Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, a work dedicated to the conductor, as well as three 20th-century staples: Barber’s First Symphony, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and “Three Dance Episodes” from Bernstein’s On the Town. A former protégé of Bernstein’s, Alsop is widely recognized as one of the foremost exponents of his music.

Rare performance of The Black Mask for Penderecki’s 90th birthday (Nov 23)

The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR), Poland’s first independent radio symphony orchestra, makes its home in the city of Katowice. NOSPR has enjoyed close relationships with Poland’s preeminent contemporary composers, including the late Krzysztof Penderecki, who led the orchestra in multiple performances and recordings of his music before his death in 2020. Now, as a highpoint of Alsop’s inaugural season as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of NOSPR, she and the orchestra honor the composer’s 90th birthday with a rare concert performance of his opera The Black Mask. Drawing on Penderecki’s “wide and potent musical vocabulary, which ranges from raw-edged dissonance to a supercharged lyricism” (Washington Post), the seldom-programmed opera tells a story of murder, plague, blackmail and religious conflict that can be understood as “a brutal and complex parable for our times” (BachTrack). The upcoming performance will be recorded for future release and features the NFM Choir and a large cast of soloists, headed by tenor Tadeusz Szlenkier, sopranos Yeree Suh and Joanna Kędzior, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, under Alsop’s leadership (Nov 23).

The concert is one of Alsop’s five fall and winter collaborations with the orchestra. After launching their partnership last month with the second Szymanowski International Competition Concert, followed by a pairing of Beethoven and Hindemith, she and the orchestra reunite for a festive program that concludes with Schumann’s Third Symphony (Dec 14) and for Gabriela Montero’s “Latin” Piano Concerto, with the composer herself as soloist (Feb 9).

New Candide with Vienna RSO (Jan 17–Feb 3)

Alsop has been credited with recording many “definitive performances” (New York Times) of Bernstein’s orchestral works, and her live account of his satirical operetta Candide, captured with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, is arguably “the best of all possible Candide recordings” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Now in her fifth season as Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Vienna RSO), she leads the orchestra and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir in a new production of the operetta by American director Lydia Steier, whose “stupendous” Berlin Philharmonic staging of Die Frau ohne Schatten recently scored a five-star review in the Financial Times. Featuring video by Momme Hinrichs, costumes by Ursula Kudrna, and lighting by Elana Siberski, the Vienna RSO’s Candide will star tenor Matthew Newlin in the title role, soprano Nikola Hillebrand as Cunegonde, baritone James Newby as Maximilian, baritone Ben McAteer as Dr. Pangloss and tenor Vincent Glander as Voltaire (Jan 17–Feb 3). During this nine-performance run at the Theater an der Wien, Alsop will also join the orchestra for symphonies by Bernstein, Shostakovich (Jan 24) and Mahler (Jan 29).

European premiere of “Too Hot to Handel” at London’s Albert Hall (Dec 7)

It is three decades since Alsop first premiered “Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah” at New York’s Lincoln Center in 1993. With an original concept by the conductor herself and musical arrangements by Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson, the production infuses Handel’s iconic oratorio with jazz, gospel, R&B, soul and pop. Alsop explains:

“The melodies are the same and the text is the same. What’s different about it is the feel, the orchestration, and harmonic additions, but the basic DNA of the piece is identical to Handel’s intent. That was very important to me.”

“Too Hot to Handel” is already a seasonal fixture in the U.S. After a rendition with the Baltimore Symphony at Carnegie Hall, the New York Times reported: “You could hardly have wished for a livelier performance or for a better leader than Ms. Alsop, the rare symphonic conductor entirely at ease in vernacular idioms.” Now “Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah” makes its European premiere in London, where Alsop conducts the BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, London Adventist Chorale and vocal soloists Zwakele Tshabalala and Vanessa Haynes in a festive holiday performance at the Royal Albert Hall (Dec 7).

Recent “Last Night of the Proms” & Guinness World Records success

“Too Hot to Handel” marks Alsop’s first appearance at the Albert Hall since her historic leadership last month of the Last Night of the 2023 BBC Proms. Steeped in tradition, the event has sometimes been as controversial as it is iconic. Under Alsop’s baton, however, this year’s concert found favor on both sides of the ideological aisle; the left-leaning Guardian considered it emblematic of “a different, more hopeful kind of patriotism,” while the right-leaning Telegraph pronounced it “an unapologetically good time.” The September concert took place a full decade after Alsop made history in 2013 as the first woman ever to conduct a Last Night of the Proms. Ten years later, this record-breaking event has now finally been officially recognized by the Guinness World Records.

Returns to DC, Baltimore, Colorado, Dublin & São Paulo

Alsop’s remaining fall and winter engagements include the U.S. premiere of Roxanna Panufnik’s Coronation Sanctus with the Choral Arts Society of Washington at the Kennedy Center (Nov 8); an evening of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Christopher Rouse with Dublin’s National Symphony Orchestra (Dec 1); and returns to three of the orchestras that she previously served as Music Director. With the Baltimore Symphony she showcases the Time for Three string trio in Kevin Puts’s Contact (Feb 15–18), and with both Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony (Nov 2–5) and Denver’s Colorado Symphony (Feb 23–25), she features Anna Clyne’s cello concerto DANCE, with its dedicatee, Inbal Segev, as soloist. Alsop’s premiere recording of the work with Segev and the London Philharmonic Orchestra was an instant success, topping the Amazon Classical Concertos chart and inspiring glowing praise from The Guardian, BBC Radio 3 and other outlets; DANCE’s opening movement was named among NPR Music’s “Favorite Songs of 2020,” receiving nine million listens on Spotify.

Spring highlights

In addition to collaborations with Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (March 6–8), Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra (May 31–June 2), Paris’s Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France (June 7) and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (June 14), Alsop’s spring highlights will include her house debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where she leads a fully-staged new production of El Niño by John Adams (April 23–May 17). By way of an upbeat to the opera, Alsop’s new recording of the American composer’s orchestral music, made with the Vienna RSO, will be released by Naxos on April 5.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Marin Alsop: upcoming engagements
Oct 19
London, England
Royal Festival Hall
Philharmonia Orchestra
“Let Freedom Ring: Celebrating the Sounds of America”: opening concert
JOHNSON: Drums Overture
BARBER: Symphony No. 1 in One Movement
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man
Joan TOWER: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
BERNSTEIN: Three Dance Episodes from On the Town
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue (with Marcus Roberts Trio)

Nov 2–5
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo Symphony (OSESP)
Carlos SIMON: Amen!
Anna CLYNE: DANCE (with Inbal Segev, cello)
PROKOFIEV: Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet

Nov 8
Washington, D.C.
Kennedy Center
Choral Arts Society of Washington
HANDEL: Zadok the Priest
WALTON: Coronation Te Deum
BRITTEN: Suite on English Folk Tunes
Roxanna PANUFNIK: Coronation Sanctus
WALTON: Belshazzar’s Feast

Nov 23
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
PENDERECKI: The Black Mask

Dec 1
Dublin, Ireland
National Symphony Orchestra
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3
Christopher ROUSE: Concerto for Flute (with Emer McDonough, flute)
STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring

Dec 7
London, England
Royal Albert Hall
BBC Concert Orchestra
“Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah
HANDEL (arr. Bob Christianson & Gary Anderson): Gospel Messiah (European premiere)
(with BBC Symphony Chorus; London Adventist Chorale; Zwakele Tshabalala & Vanessa Haynes, vocal soloists)

Dec 14
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
COLERIDGE-TAYLOR: Christmas Overture
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on Greensleeves
James MACMILLAN: Concerto for percussion and orchestra, “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” (with Colin Currie, drums)
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3

Jan 17, 19, 21, 23, 26, 28, 30; Feb 1 & 3
Vienna, Austria
Theater an der Wien
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra

Jan 24
Vienna, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
BERNSTEIN: Overture to Candide
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5

Jan 29
Vienna, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
DEBUSSY: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
RAVEL: Shéhérazade
MAHLER: Symphony No. 4

Feb 9
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
SPISAK: Allegro de Voiron for orchestra
Gabriela MONTERO: Piano Concerto No. 1, “Latin” (with Gabriela Montero, piano)
R. STRAUSS: Ein Heldenleben

Feb 15–18: concerts with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Feb 15 & 18: Baltimore, MD

Feb 16: College Park, MD

Feb 17: North Bethesda, MD
HAYDN: Symphony No. 59, “Fire”
Kevin PUTS: Contact (with Time for Three, string trio)
STRAUSS: Don Juan [Feb 15, 16 & 18 only] RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2

Feb 23–25
Denver, CO
Colorado Symphony Orchestra
Anna CLYNE: Dance for Cello and Orchestra (with Inbal Segev, cello)
Reena ESMAIL: See Me
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9, “Choral” (with Colorado Symphony Chorus)

March 1
Baltimore, MD
Peabody Symphony Orchestra
[Details TBC]

March 6–8: concerts with Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

March 6 & 7: Geneva, Switzerland

March 8: location TBD
John ADAMS: Fearful Symmetries
GERSHWIN (orch. Ferde Grofé): Rhapsody in Blue (with Alexander Malofeev, piano)
COPLAND: Fanfare for the Common Man
Joan TOWER: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
BARBER: Symphony No. 1 in One Movement

March 15
Vienna, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
MAHLER: Symphony No. 9

March 21
Vienna, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Hannah EISENDLE: new work (world premiere)
Aureliano CATTANEO: Not alone we fly for violin and orchestra (European premiere; with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin)
Roxanna PANUFNIK: Two Composers, Four Hands
Sir James MACMILLAN: Woman of the Apocalypse

April 23, 27; May 1, 4, 8, 11 & 17
New York, NY
Metropolitan Opera (debut)
John ADAMS: El Niño

April 26 & 28
Baltimore, MD
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Carlos SIMON: Amen!
IVES: Symphony No. 2
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2 (with Yunchan Lim, piano)

May 23
New York, NY
Lincoln Center (Alice Tully Hall)
Juilliard School Orchestra
Hilary PURRINGTON: new work (world premiere)
BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra

May 31; June 1 & 2: concerts with NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra

May 31: Hamburg, Germany (Hamburg International Music Festival)

June 1 & 2: locations TBD
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3
Sir James MACMILLAN: Saxophone Concerto (with Jess Gillam, saxophone)
PROKOFIEV: “Romeo and Juliet” Suites

June 7
Paris, France
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Jessie MONTGOMERY: Strum for strings
GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto (with Marc-André Hamelin, piano)
BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra

June 14
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Jessie MONTGOMERY: Strum for strings
John ADAMS: Fearful Symmetries
BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra

June 20
Katowice, Poland
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
Mahler: Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”)
(with Polish National Youth Choir; Janai Brugger, soprano; Gerhild Romberger, mezzo-soprano)

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© 21C Media Group, October 2023


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