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Louisville Orchestra Joins Forces with Louisville Ballet to Premiere New Music and Choreography in First Full Co-Production (March 4 & 5)

In an unprecedented collaboration, on March 4 and 5 the Louisville Orchestra joins forces with the Louisville Ballet for “Spring Collaboration,” which marks their first full co-production together. Comprising three fully-staged ballets, all with original choreography by Princess Grace and Choo-San Goh Award-winner Adam Hougland, the program showcases the world premiere of Hougland’s reinvention of Stravinsky’s seminal ballet Petrouchka, alongside his Cold Virtues, set to the music of Philip Glass, and the world premiere of Unified Fields, a new ballet with original music by Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra’s multi-talented Music Director. Now in the second season of his tenure, it was Abrams whose galvanizing leadership jumpstarted the orchestra’s current creative resurgence; as the young conductor puts it, “We want people to sit up and say, ‘Look what they are doing in Louisville!’” Click here to see a video preview of “Spring Collaboration.”

Founded in 1952, the Louisville Ballet is one of the nation’s leading regional ballet companies. With a repertoire of more than 150 works and more than 70 world premiere presentations to date, its productions are attended by more than 100,000 people each season. Adam Hougland, named “a man to watch” by the Telegraph (UK), has created seven critically acclaimed works for the company, including an adaptation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for guest star Wendy Whelan. Under new leadership since last season’s appointment of former Australian Ballet principal dancer Robert Curran as Artistic and Executive Director, Louisville Ballet is now, like the orchestra, enjoying a period of artistic and economic renewal.

Adam Hougland (photo: courtesy of the Louisville Ballet)

Adam Hougland (photo: courtesy of the Louisville Ballet)

Although the Louisville Orchestra has frequently accompanied Louisville Ballet productions, the two have never previously joined forces in equal partnership. When Abrams and Robert Curran first met, there was, Curran recalls, “a true meeting of the minds from the beginning.” As he explains:

“We both agreed instantly that artistic collaboration, both locally and nationally, is critical to growing all art forms. I knew almost as soon as I arrived in Louisville, that the company should engage with the orchestra in a true partnership, and how lucky for us all that Teddy came to the table with the same idea. This groundbreaking production is really an amazing way to start.”


Robert Curran (photo: courtesy of the Louisville Ballet)

Robert Curran (photo: courtesy of the Louisville Ballet)

Requiring such grand-scale forces that regional companies only rarely attempt to produce it in its entirety, Petrouchka – one of the three early ballets that first catapulted Stravinsky to fame – was perfect for their purposes. Created expressly for the upcoming collaboration, Hougland’s new choreography offers an original take on the Russian master’s rhythmically propulsive, folk-imbued masterpiece.

Petrouchka crowns a program that opens with the world premiere of Teddy Abrams’s own ballet, Unified Field, once again featuring new choreography from Hougland. Dubbed “a triple threat and then some in the classical music world” (San Francisco Chronicle), in addition to conducting, curating, and performing, the Music Director is also an award-winning composer whose music has been showcased by both the New World Symphony and Louisville Orchestra.  He comments:

“The new ballet that I’ve composed, Unified Field, is essentially a short symphony. The title reflects the philosophy that, like the theoretical concept of all of nature’s fundamental forces being interconnected, music has an inherent universality that allows for communication regardless of its style or provenance. The piece transitions from neo-Romanticism to funk to blues to bluegrass using core motives that attempt to unify and bind the work together. The short movements use structures that Bach or Mozart commonly employed: sonata form, dances, rondos, and even a passacaglia. I hope this work demonstrates this broad and inclusive philosophy – an approach that we embrace each day at the Louisville Orchestra.”

Rounding out the program is Hougland’s Cold Virtues (2003), a Louisville Ballet commission that the San Francisco Chronicle calls “engrossing to the end.” It is set to Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto, which will be heard in an arrangement for alto saxophone that was approved by the composer himself. The adaptation is the work of two-time Grammy-nominee Amy Dickson, who made history as the first saxophonist and the first Australian to win a Classic Brit Award, and who joins the Louisville Orchestra as saxophone soloist. As Abrams says,

“Amy is an extraordinary saxophone player and has done this arrangement for the instrument that Philip Glass has actually authorized. There aren’t a lot of saxophone players who can pull it off, but Amy is able to ‘circular breathe.’ Glass’s signature is that driving, perpetual motion, and Amy is able to achieve that through this advanced technique. A violinist doesn’t need to stop the bow, but a sax player would typically need to draw a breath. Like a string player, she is able to be continuous, never stopping the sound. And how often do you get to see a saxophone concerto?”

Click here to see a video of Cold Virtues.

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No stranger to mounting grand-scale productions, the orchestra scored the latest in a string of recent triumphs with its season-opening presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s MASS. With Abrams conducting a cast of hundreds that included Grammy-nominated baritone Jubilant Sykes and a chorus drawn from the local community, Louisville’s ambitious production prompted Arts-Louisville to marvel:

“This was by far, the most entertaining, emotionally moving, and evocative performance I have ever seen by the Louisville Orchestra. … The audience was packed. And they loved it.”

Abrams-leads-Jubilant-Sykes-the-Louisville-Orchestra-and-others-in-Bernstein’s-MASS (photo: courtesy of the Louisville Orchestra)

(photo: courtesy of the Louisville Orchestra)


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 20th-century 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 recently 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 collection. 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.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Louisville Orchestra: upcoming performances

All concerts take place at Whitney Hall under the leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams.

March 4 & 5 (three performances of full program)
“Louisville Orchestra & Louisville Ballet: Spring Collaboration”
A co-production with the Louisville Ballet
All three works feature original choreography by Adam Hougland
Teddy Abrams: Unified Fields (world premiere of new music and choreography)
Philip Glass: Violin Concerto (Cold Virtues) arranged for alto saxophone (with Amy Dickson, alto saxophone)
Stravinsky: Petrouchka (world premiere of new choreography)

March 25 & 26
“Festival of American Music I”
American songs used in the music of Charles Ives
Ives: Thanksgiving and Forefather’s Day
Prima (arr. Abrams): Sing, Sing, Sing
Copland: Clarinet Concerto (with Teddy Abrams, clarinet)
Antheil: A Jazz Symphony
Meredith Monk: Songs of Ascension
Steve Reich: Three Movements for Orchestra

April 8 & 9
“Festival of American Music II”
John Adams: Harmonielehre, movement I
Mason Bates: Mothership
Chase Morrin: Piano Concerto (world premiere; with Chase Morrin, piano)
Copland: Symphony No. 3

April 29 & 30
“Béla Fleck”
Mancini: Theme from Peter Gunn
Béla Fleck: The Impostor (with Béla Fleck, banjo)
Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

© 21C Media Group, February 2016












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