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Leon Botstein and ASO perform Cowell program this Friday

On Friday, January 29, Music Director Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra turn their attention to the pioneering American composer Henry Cowell in a concert titled “An American Biography: The Music of Henry Cowell”. A true American original, Cowell helped to create a modernist American music not derivative of Europe, a music that tapped homegrown sounds even as it embraced influences from Asia. Yet during Cowell’s lifetime and after, his compositions have lived in the shadows, for reasons that often have little to do with the music but instead tend to reflect on the composer’s personal life – most notoriously his arrest and subsequent four-year imprisonment on a “morals” charge for sex with a consenting adult man.  In this concert, the ASO turns the focus back on Cowell’s music in a varied program that includes local premieres of two of Cowell’s works.

Leon Botstein explains why he has chosen to spotlight the work of this musical innovator whose compositions rarely get an airing in American concert halls. 

“Cowell’s career and music have consistently tripped the wires of all of these negative attitudes. As a result, for the last 50 years, his music was deprived of the hearing it deserved except in a small community of devoted advocates. More exposure is necessary to permit a reasonable assessment of the worth of his many compositions. Only after repeated performances can we as performers and listeners decide which works we prefer and which seem more persuasive than others. . .  That is what makes Cowell the perfect subject for the mission of the American Symphony.”

Click here for more concert details and for more information about Henry Cowell.

Maestro Botstein’s pre-concert talks, which he began delivering last season starting 75 minutes before each concert, provide added insight into the rich and unusual programming that characterizes ASO’s Lincoln Center series. His illuminating talk on the music of Henry Cowell starts at 6:45 pm in Avery Fisher Hall, shortly before the concert program.

All tickets to the ASO’s Lincoln Center concerts are just $25 and are available by calling (212) 868-9276 (9ASO) or visiting All ticket sales are final.

The American Symphony Orchestra’s 2009-2010 concert season is made possible, in part, by support from individuals, private institutions and government agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as GG Group, Inc., and The Henry and Sidney Cowell Estate.   


Friday, January 29, 8:00 pm
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center
An American Biography: The Music of Henry Cowell
Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 3 (1944)
Atlantis (1926-31) New York premiere  
Variations for Orchestra (1956/59)  
Symphony No. 2, “Anthropos” (1938)
Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra* (1962)
Symphony No. 11, “Seven Rituals of Music” (1953) New York City premiere  
American Symphony Orchestra
*Robert Bonfiglio, harmonica
Leon Botstein, conductor

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© 21C Media Group, January 2010

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