Press Room

Louisville Orchestra launches bright new era under new Music Director Teddy Abrams (Sep 6)

When audience members take their seats in the Whitney Hall on September 6 for the opening gala of the Louisville Orchestra’s 2014-15 season, they will be helping to write a fresh and exciting new chapter of the orchestra’s history. With a new leadership team in place, headed by the dynamic new Music Director Teddy Abrams and Executive Director Andrew Kipe, together with positive financial results posted for 2013-14, and a local community galvanized by the orchestra’s upward trajectory and its plans to take music out into the city, the season promises to put Louisville back on America’s musical map.

The gala concert also serves to introduce the audience to the multi-talented new Music Director, Teddy Abrams, the driving force behind the orchestra’s artistic renewal. Trained by Michael Tilson Thomas, David Zinman, and others at Curtis Institute of Music and the Aspen Music Festival – at both of which he was the youngest conducting student – Abrams’s conducting credentials are impeccable. The 27-year-old’s previous appointments include a term as Assistant Conductor to Leonard Slatkin at the Detroit Symphony. As Slatkin recalls, “In two years, Teddy learned pretty much everything you need to know to enter the professional workplace arena as a music director.”

An accomplished clarinetist and pianist, Abrams is also an award-winning composer, and his new work Overture in Sonata Form will be performed at the opening gala, alongside Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”). He is also a passionate educator who has taught in schools across America, and he developed a successful series, Education Concerts, with the New World Symphony in 2009. In Detroit he set up a music and lecture series, and, as Slatkin expains, “He talked to people who literally had no interest in music and made them understand it.” As well as this strong sense of advocacy for music, Abrams brings vision and ambition to his new role, as he indicates:

“I’m going all-in with my commitment to Louisville – both the orchestra and the city – and I truly believe that we can soon become a leader in the cultural world through artistic experimentation and growth, and by reimagining and expanding the ways in which we interact with our community.”

Such a vision can only be fulfilled with strong support, and for that Abrams has the full commitment of Executive Director Andrew Kipe. Kipe came directly from the Phoenix Symphony, where he successfully restructured the organization and greatly improved its financial position. Having joined the Louisville management team within the past year, Kipe has already been able to report an operational surplus for Louisville’s 2013-14 season. He describes the atmosphere within the group:

“What is most exciting and encouraging to me after just my first nine months here is how the entire Louisville Orchestra family – including the staff, musicians, board, and audience – has so eagerly accepted this very new direction in which the orchestra is heading. There’s an overwhelming feeling of hope and optimism.”

Fundamental to Abrams’s vision is innovation – a philosophy that has been at the heart of the orchestra’s mission since its foundation in 1937. The orchestra has always had a reputation for commissioning new music and for interesting programs, having won 19 ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music and the 2001 Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming. This aspect is key to its future as well as its past, with the season program including two premieres as well as performances of modern music performed alongside repertory staples. Teddy Abrams explains the importance of such programming:

“There is a wonderful spirit of innovation that has long been the defining characteristic of the Louisville Orchestra, and we’d like to build upon that legacy. We’re excited about redefining and expanding what an orchestra can and should be. We want to stop looking at ourselves just as an institution that presents concerts and become an institution that connects people through incredible shared musical experiences.

These shared experiences will often take place outside the concert hall. In the Neighborhood Series “Music Without Borders,” Abrams leads favorite classics of the repertoire in churches and a synagogue around the city. The Magic of Music Adult Education Series offers community members the chance to learn about the season’s music and artists in more intimate venues such as clubs and restaurants. Composer’s Corner is an even cozier gathering, with groups of ten people invited into private homes to discover the works of the great composers. During the opening week of the season, Teddy Abrams will meet the public and perform around the city, and there will be a free concert at Iroquois Park on September 14. Even local restaurants are involved in the welcoming celebrations, offering special orchestra-themed menus for the week.

This close relationship with the local community has always been part of the orchestra’s success, and is especially vital in its renewal, as Andrew Kipe acknowledges: “We’re now able to experiment with new ways to present orchestral music and engage the Louisville community, including changing how we program our concerts and beginning new programs like our Neighborhood Series, which will get the orchestra out of the concert hall and into parts of Louisville where live orchestral music was previously a rarity.  The core of our work is always going to be focused on creating exceptional orchestral music, but the scope of what this orchestra can do and what it’s going to mean to the community is going to change dramatically.

Apart from the opening-night gala, musical highlights throughout the season include the world premiere of Sebastian Chang’s Classical Symphony, contrasted with Haydn’s Symphony No. 43 and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 (Jan 29 & 30); a performance of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons juxtaposed with Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, the Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme by Lully and On the Guarding of the Heart by Djuro Zivkovic, which won the 2014 Grawemeyer Award (March 7); and a performance by Time for Three, a hugely popular trio whose music spans every genre, along with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and The Cowboys Overture by John Williams (April 23 & 25).


Louisville Orchestra: 2014-15 season


Except where noted, all concerts take place at Whitney Hall under the leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams.


Sep 6

“Fanfara – Teddy Abrams”

Teddy Abrams: “Overture in Sonata Form”

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”)


Sep 14

Free concert at Iroquois Amphitheater

Copland: “Buckaroo Holiday” from Rodeo

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67

I. Allegro con brio

Abrams: “Overture in Sonata Form”

Barber: Adagio for Strings

Ives: The Circus Band

Williams: E.T: Adventures on Earth              

Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, op. 49


Sep 25 & 26

“Gershwin & Copland”

Richard Rodgers: Overture to Oklahoma!

Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins (with Storm Large, soprano)

George Gershwin: New York Rhapsody (with Kevin Cole, piano)

Aaron Copland: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo


Oct 16 & 17

“Carmina burana”

With University of Louisville Choral Department, Kent Hatteberg, chorusmaster

Charles Ives: The Unanswered Question

Carl Orff, arr. Teddy Abrams: Medieval Dance from Carmina burana

Thomas Tallis: Spem in alium

W. A. Mozart: Vesperae solennes de confessore, V. “Laudate Dominum”

Caroline Shaw: Oculi Mei

Jeremy Kittel: Big Fiddle

Carl Orff: Carmina burana (with Celena Shafer, soprano; Javier Abreu, tenor; Hugh Russell, baritone)


Nov 6 & 8

“Sibelius Violin Concerto”

With Jorge Mester, Music Director Emeritus

Jean Sibelius: Finlandia

Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor (with Elmar Oliveira, violin)

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”)


Jan 15 & 16

“Chu-Fang Huang Plays Mozart”

With Jorge Mester, Music Director Emeritus

Maurice Ravel: Mother Goose Suite

W.A. Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 18 (“Paradis”) (with Chu-Fang Huang, piano)

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 6


Jan 29 & 30

“Brahms Symphony No. 1”

Sebastian Chang: Classical Symphony (world premiere)

Franz Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 43 (“Mercury”)

Johannes Brahms: Symphony No. 1


Feb 21

“Enigma Variations”

Brown Theatre

With Jorge Mester, Music Director Emeritus

William Schuman: New England Triptych

Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat (with Julian Schwarz, cello)

Edward Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme for Orchestra (“Enigma”), Op. 36


March 7

“Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’”

Brown Theatre

Jean Baptiste Lully: Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme

Djuro Zivkovic: On the Guarding of the Heart

Maurice Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons


April 9 & 10

“Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’”

With Jorge Mester, Music Director Emeritus

Hector Berlioz: Le carnaval romain

Serge Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Robert Thies, piano)

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”)


April 23 & 25

“Beethoven’s Fifth”

John Williams: The Cowboys Overture

Time for Three: Selections TBA (with Time for Three)

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5

© 21C Media Group, August 2014

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