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American Symphony Orchestra returns to Carnegie Hall

The American Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1962 by conducting legend Leopold Stokowski and led since 1992 by its music director, Leon Botstein, will relocate back to its original home, New York’s Carnegie Hall, beginning with its 2010-11 season.  Inspired by the orchestra’s mission to showcase “concerts of great music within the means of everyone,” the move back to the orchestra’s original venue complements the successful audience-development initiative instituted by the ASO this season that will continue in the orchestra’s new home: all tickets to its 2010-11 season at Carnegie Hall will remain at $25 for all seats, for all performances.  With the appeal of eminently affordable tickets, the ASO’s celebrated thematically-organized programming, and Carnegie Hall’s status as the world’s pre-eminent concert hall, Botstein and the orchestra have provided music lovers with more reasons than ever to discover and explore the unjustly neglected masterpieces that define the singular ASO concert experience.

Leon Botstein comments:  “The American Symphony Orchestra was born in Carnegie Hall and we are very excited to be returning there.  It was through the generosity of Nat Leventhal [the former president of Lincoln Center] that the orchestra moved to Lincoln Center, but we thought it was time for a change.  Carnegie Hall is a great hall, and I think we will stand out in a constructive way there with our programming.  We are grateful to Lincoln Center for their support over these many exciting years of performing there.”

Stan Stokowski, a son of ASO’s founder, Leopold Stokowski, and a member of the ASO board of directors, added: “It is gratifying to see the orchestra my father founded back in the great hall where it first performed and lived for much of its illustrious history. I remember my father really appreciated Carnegie Hall as a place to perform.  Welcome home, American Symphony.”

The American Symphony Orchestra has, under Botstein’s leadership, gained increasing renown as a pioneer in the area of thematic programming.  Both in live performances and on recordings, the ASO has presented numerous U.S. premieres of lesser-known masterpieces, often triggering broader interest in worthy works in need of determined advocacy.  For example, the ASO’s premiere of Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleue during the 1998-99 season resulted in the opera’s staging by New York City Opera in 2005, and then its recording by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Similarly, the American opera house revivals of Richard Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena and Die Liebe der Danae were influenced by the ASO’s already having championed the works in 1998 and 2000.

New York magazine named the ASO’s annual concert series “one of the best-programmed music series in New York City,” with veteran critic Peter G. Davis observing, “Trust Botstein to tweak every American Symphony Orchestra concert program with some intriguing discoveries from the past, all thematically related.”  The New York Times has called Botstein “a champion of neglected works,” while the New Yorker declared, “Leon Botstein goes where other conductors fear to tread.”

Before the start of the current season, the American Symphony Orchestra further expanded its efforts to attract new and younger listeners into the concert hall by announcing that all tickets for the ASO’s concerts would be sold for $25.  That effort resulted in increased sales as well as substantial media attention including TV coverage for Botstein and the orchestra on NY-1:

The American Symphony Orchestra’s first concert was held in the main auditorium at Carnegie Hall on October 15, 1962.  Stokowski led the ensemble in a program featuring his own arrangements of the Star-Spangled Banner and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, as well as a selection from Gabrieli’s Sacrae symphoniae, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist Susan Starr, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6.  Beginning in the 1993-94 season, Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” series presented the orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, where it continues its current season with a program entitled “An American Biography: The Music of Henry Cowell” on January 29, 2010.  Besides its concerts at Lincoln Center this season, the ASO is also exploring Beethoven’s nine symphonies in its popular “Classics Declassified” series at Symphony Space.  In summer 2010, the ASO returns to Bard College in the Hudson Valley for its annual residency at the Bard SummerScape Festival and Bard Music Festival, which will focus on “Berg and His World.”  The ASO’s 2010-11 season will open at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, October 6, 2010.  Subscriptions will go on sale in spring 2010 and single tickets in summer 2010; full details will follow in the forthcoming season release.


About the American Symphony Orchestra

The American Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski.  Under the music direction of Leon Botstein since 1992, the American Symphony has pioneered the performance of thematically organized concerts, linking music to the visual arts, literature, politics, and history.  The orchestra also performs in a lecture/concert series with audience interaction called “Classics Declassified” at Peter Norton Symphony Space.  The ASO is the resident orchestra of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, where it performs an annual concert series as well as in Bard’s annual SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival.  The ASO maintains an award-winning music education program, which is presented at numerous high schools through New York, New Jersey, and Long Island.

Among the American Symphony’s recent recordings are music by Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands for New World Records, and music by Dohnányi for Bridge Records.  The orchestra’s recordings of Richard Strauss’s opera Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt and of Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae were made for Telarc.  Other recordings with Leon Botstein include Franz Schubert: Orchestrated on the Koch International label, with works by Joachim, Mottl, and Webern, and, on the Vanguard Classics label, Johannes Brahms’s Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11 (1860).  The American Symphony inaugurated São Paulo’s new concert hall and has made several tours of Asia and Europe.  It has performed with the Peer Gynt Theater Company of Norway in Central Park, and has a long history of appearing in charitable and public benefits for such organizations as Sha’are Zedek Hospital, the Jerusalem Foundation, and PBS.

The American Symphony Orchestra has had an illustrious history of music directors and guest conductors.  Succeeding Leopold Stokowski, who directed the orchestra from 1962 to 1972, were Kazuyoshi Akiyama (1973-78), Sergiu Comissiona (1978-82), Moshe Atzmon and Giuseppe Patane (co-directors 1982-84), John Mauceri (1985-87), and Catherine Comet (1990-92).  Notable guest conductors have included Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Aaron Copland, Morton Gould, Aram Khachaturian, James Levine, André Previn, Yehudi Menuhin, James DePreist, Gunther Schuller, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Sir William Walton.

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© 21C Media Group, November 2009

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