Press Room

American Symphony Orchestra’s 2010-11 season


Under founder Leopold Stokowski, the American Symphony Orchestra performed its debut season at Carnegie Hall in 1962. The ASO returns to its original home with the 2010-11 season, a six-concert series that kicks off in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage on October 6. The orchestra’s 48th season opens with a characteristically distinctive program revolving around James Joyce and his iconic influence (with the ASO giving the U.S. premiere of Mátyás Seiber’s cantata Ulysses) and his musical inspirations (including George Antheil’s futurist Ballet Mécanique). This season will also see Leon Botstein conduct – in his 18th season as ASO music director – Albéric Magnard’s 1909 opera Bérénice and the U.S. premiere of Paul Dessau’s Passover choral work Haggadah shel Pesach. The ASO series at Carnegie Hall will also include thematic programs titled “Music and the Bible”, “Before and After the Spanish Civil War”, and “American Harmonies: The Music of Walter Piston”.

Lauded for what the New York Times has called “justly acclaimed thematic programming,” the ASO presents concerts covering a wide range of undeservedly neglected repertoire, including many U.S. premieres, some challenging and others accessible, by composers both familiar and virtually unknown. New York magazine called the ASO’s seasons “one of the best-programmed series in the city,” while The New Yorker declared, “Leon Botstein goes where other conductors fear to tread.” As he has done for several seasons, Leon Botstein will continue to give pre-concert lectures himself, free for ticket-holders at Carnegie Hall.

Violinist Daniel Hope, who gave the U.S. premiere of Hermann Suter’s 1924 Violin Concerto with the ASO in 2008, said in an interview:

“Leon Botstein has made a name for himself and the ASO, championing works that – with a little help, a little encouragement, a little exploration and a dedicated performance – can be presented to the public as unheard masterpieces. Putting such music in the context of a story – as the ASO has done with its thematic titles, pre-concert lectures, chats with the audience and extensive program notes – is the best way to engage the audience. And, in a sense, when the orchestra is playing something for the first time and the audience is hearing it for the first time, we’re getting another, unique story: We’re witnessing the birth of an interpretation.”


Program details for the ASO’s 2010-11 Carnegie Hall season:

“James Joyce.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010, 8 p.m.
Music played a significant if understated role in the consciousness of James Joyce. Joyce deeply admired some of the composers of his time such as George Antheil and Othmar Schoeck, and the subtle music in Joyce’s own work was not lost on these composers either.  Based on perhaps the most iconic novel of the last century, the Ulysses cantata of Mátyás Seiber receives its U.S premiere.

George Antheil (1900-59): Ballet Mécanique (1953)
Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957): Lebendig Begraben, Op. 40 (1926) (U.S. premiere)
Mátyás Seiber (1905-60): Ulysses (1947) (U.S. premiere)                                                           


“Music and the Bible”
Tuesday, November 2, 2010, 8 p.m.
In the 19th century, Europe experienced a wave of religious resurgence.  This program explores the re-emergence of the sacred oratorio and how the tradition of communal singing aided religion in binding a community plagued by economic turmoil and epidemic disease.  This is a rare opportunity to experience major works by Fanny Mendelssohn (sister of Felix), and Louis Spohr, thought by his contemporaries to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Mozart and Beethoven.

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-47): Musik für die Toten der Cholera-Epidemie (1831)
Louis Spohr (1784-1859) Die letzten Dinge (1826)                                                                                   

Albéric Magnard: Bérénice
Sunday, January 30, 2011, 2 p.m. 
ASO continues its series of great 19th-century French operas with the last opera of Albéric Magnard, considered by many to be the best of the French Wagnerian operas. Bérénice tells the story of the tragic love affair between the Queen of Judea and Titus, heir to the Roman Empire.  A study in contrasts between East and West, romantic and classic, passion and rationalism, woman and man, Bérénice is a dramatic tour de force that was far ahead of its time; indeed, its musical innovations have been said to anticipate Berg’s Wozzeck.
Albéric Magnard (1865-1914): Bérénice (1909)                                              


“Before and After the Spanish Civil War”
Friday, February 25, 2011, 8 p.m.
The Spanish Civil War was the defining event for Spain during the last century, and for some it was “the last great cause”.   From 1936 to 1939, nations watched with foreboding and sympathized with both sides in a bloody conflict that heralded World War II that was soon to follow. This program gives listeners the chance to explore through the music of Spanish composers writing before and after the war the impact of Spain’s devastating transition from the freedoms of the Second Republic to the fascism of dictator Francisco Franco.

JOAQUÍN TURINA (1882-1949): Sinfonía sevillana, Op. 23. (1920)             
ROBERTO GERHARD (1896-1970): Don Quixote (1940-41, 1947-49)               
MANUEL DE FALLA (1876-1946): Homenajes (1941)                                          
ROBERTO GERHARD: Pedrelliana (En memoria) (1941) and Symphony No. 4, “New York” (1967/68)               

“American Harmonies: The Music of Walter Piston”
Tuesday, March 29, 2011, 8 p.m.
Walter Piston had a profound impact on 20th-century American music, with his seminal textbooks on harmony and orchestration still in use today. Although his influence can be heard in the works of the generation of composers he trained, Piston’s own music is too rarely found on the concert stage.  The ASO offers a unique chance to hear the work of this largely self-taught “composer’s composer” in a program that features – among other works – two of his award-winning symphonies. 
WALTER PISTON (1894-1976):
Toccata (1948)                                                                       
Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1937); Blair McMillen, piano
Symphony No. 2 (1943)           
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1939); Miranda Cuckson, violin           
Symphony No. 4 (1950)                       

“Passover in Exile”
Thursday, April 21, 2011, 8 p.m. 
The Haggadah is the sacred text recounting the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt and their wanderings in the desert.  For centuries, the reading of the Haggadah at Passover has been a poignant reminder of the Jewish Diaspora—the dispersal of Jews around the world.  The text was particularly meaningful for the German Jewish composer Paul Dessau. He wrote his grand choral work Haggadah shel Pesach in 1935, while in exile in Paris.  Suppressed for decades, this amazing work will be given its U.S. premiere.
Paul Dessau (1894-1979): Haggadah shel Pesach (1934/61) (U.S. premiere)           



Subscription and Ticket Information

Full subscriptions are available through the ASO by calling (212) 868-9ASO, Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on September 8, 2010 and can be purchased through, at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, or by calling CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800.

About the American Symphony Orchestra

The American Symphony Orchestra was founded in New York by the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski. The ASO’s first concert was held in the main auditorium at Carnegie Hall on October 15, 1962, with the 80-year-old Stokowski leading the orchestra 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.

Under the music direction of Leon Botstein since 1992, the ASO has gained increasing renown as a pioneer in the area 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 the Peter Norton Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The ASO is the resident orchestra of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in the Hudson Valley; it performs an annual concert series there, as well as in Bard’s annual SummerScape Festival and in 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.

Starting with the 1993-94 season, Lincoln Center’s “Great Performers” series presented the ASO at Avery Fisher Hall, where the orchestra continues its current season with a February 24th program titled “After the Thaw,” devoted to Soviet composers in the post-Stalin era. Besides its concerts at Lincoln Center this season, the ASO has also been exploring Beethoven’s nine symphonies in the “Classics Declassified” series at New York’s Symphony Space, with performances of the Third Symphony on Feb. 7, the Fourth on April 25 and the Fifth on April 27. In summer 2010, the ASO returns to Bard College for its annual residency at the Bard SummerScape Festival and Bard Music Festival, which will focus this season on “Berg and His World.” The 2010-11 season will see the ASO return to Carnegie Hall, with its Carnegie series beginning Wednesday, October 6, 2010. Full subscriptions are available through the ASO by calling (212) 868-9ASO, Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Single tickets will go on sale to the general public on September 8, 2010 and can be purchased through or at the Carnegie Hall Box Office.

Both in live performances and on recordings, the ASO has presented numerous U.S. premieres of lesser-known compositions, often triggering broader interest in worthy works in need of determined advocacy. The ASO’s premiere of Dukas’s opera 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. The American opera house revivals of Richard Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena and Die Liebe der Danae were similarly influenced by the ASO’s having championed the works in 1998 and 2000.

Last season, the ASO expanded its efforts to attract new and younger listeners into the concert hall by pricing all tickets at $25. The effort resulted in increased sales, as well as substantial media attention — including TV coverage for Botstein and the orchestra on NY-1:

Among the ASO’s recent recordings with Leon Botstein is music by Copland, Sessions, Perle and Rands for New World Records, as well as works by Dohnányi for Bridge Records. For Telarc, the orchestra recorded Richard Strauss’s operas Die ägyptische Helena (with Deborah Voigt) and Die Liebe der Danae. Other recordings with Leon Botstein include Franz Schubert: Orchestrated on the Koch International label (featuring arrangements by Joachim, Mottl and Webern) and, for Vanguard Classics, Brahms’s Serenade No. 1. The ASO inaugurated São Paulo’s new concert hall and has made several tours of Asia and Europe. The orchestra has performed with the Peer Gynt Theater Company of Norway in Central Park, and it 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 ASO has an illustrious legacy 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). Leon Botstein became music director with the 1992-93 season. 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 William Walton.

The American Symphony Orchestra’s 2010-11 season and programs are made possible, in part, through support from National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.  Additional support is provided by Atlantic Philanthropies, Bay and Paul Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, GG Group, Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, HBO, Carroll, Guido, & Groffman, LLP, DuBose & Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund, Faith Golding Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie Samuels Foundation, Open Society Institute, Per Annum, Inc., Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Solon E. Summerfield Foundation, The David and Sylvia Teitelbaum Fund, and The Winston Foundation.

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© 21C Media Group, January 2010 

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