Press Room

Marin Alsop: Bernstein triumph and upcoming engagements

Marin Alsop’s link with Leonard Bernstein – which dates back to her
childhood, when she attended his New York Philharmonic “Young People’s
Concerts”, and continued when she was his student at Tanglewood – was
underscored with the half-dozen jubilantly received performances of his
MASS that she conducted in Baltimore, Washington, and New York in October. MASS
– a key component of New York’s citywide “Best of All Possible Worlds”
Bernstein festival – was performed by Ms. Alsop’s own Baltimore
Symphony Orchestra and an enormous cast, both at Carnegie Hall and at
the majestic United Palace Theater, uptown in Washington Heights. Ms.
Alsop’s rendition of MASS drew sellout crowds and ecstatic reviews, in New York, at home in Baltimore, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

According to the Washington Post,

Under Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop’s disciplined baton, the seldom-revived MASS re-emerged as the moving and visionary piece it’s always been – arguably the best thing Bernstein ever wrote.

Likewise, the Baltimore Sun
paid tribute to the way Ms. Alsop “led about 250 performers in an
energetically staged presentation of the work … that revealed total
commitment to Bernstein’s deeply personal exploration of religion,
individuality, and community.”

“In many ways this was the most musically disciplined and sharply defined performance of MASS I’ve ever heard,” noted Peter G. Davis for Musical America, a week after delivering a full-page article about the work in the New York Times. He continued:

takes a special sort of conductor to integrate the various styles that
fly by here, but Alsop seemed to command them all, defining them
through her ability to manage the tricky rhythmic pulses, lightning
changes in mood, often unexpected melodic directions. The Baltimore
Symphony, now her home orchestra, picked up on her cues flawlessly and
knit the entire 100-minute piece into one seamless package.

The Washington Post’s chief music critic, Anne Midgette, a confessed lifelong fan of MASS, wrote:

wasn’t prepared for the whole thing to be so visceral [or] so
exuberant… . Alsop did a wonderful job of capturing the work’s spirit,
with an eye on the populism that informs the piece. … I have never seen
a contemporary work greeted with so much excitement as the audience on
October 17 demonstrated.

Returning to
Washington on November 17, Ms. Alsop will deliver a luncheon address at
the National Press Club. She will share her vision for the uniquely
powerful role that the arts can play in contemporary education, and
challenge leaders in business, philanthropic, and arts organizations
nationwide to stimulate a collaborative movement, leveraging arts-based
education programs to encourage positive social change in our
communities, as well as innovation and creativity among tomorrow’s
leaders. The speech will be broadcast live on C-SPAN radio and TV, and on XM Satellite Radio.

Marin Alsop also earned a nod from the New York Times early in the month for a guest-stint with the New York Philharmonic, conducting Bartók’s Wooden Prince
suite (not played by the Philharmonic in 21 years) and Dvorák’s
perennially popular “New World” symphony. Her Dvorák was compared
favorably with other performances given by the orchestra:

slightly looser, more spontaneous account Ms. Alsop drew from the
Philharmonic was a fresh change. … The musicians played vibrantly and
seemed relaxed, as if a hip substitute teacher had taken over for their
taskmaster. Ms. Alsop [led an] arresting account of Bartok’s Suite from
The Wooden Prince … [that was] blazing [and] visceral… . In
the prologue, with its eerie high-pitched strings and trolling bass
lines, Ms. Alsop captured the mix of the primordial and the cosmic.

recent recording of the Dvorák has also won a garland of raves. The
disc, Alsop’s first on Naxos with the Baltimore Symphony, is also the
first of three that Naxos will record in Maryland’s “Charm City” with
the BSO and its music director.

After a quick trip to
England, where she’ll conduct her former band, the Bournemouth Symphony
Orchestra, in a pair of concerts of Shostakovich, Gershwin, and
Prokofiev, and the London Symphony Orchestra, in a Dvorák/Bartók
combination similar to that with the New York Philharmonic, Marin Alsop
returns to Washington in the wake of the presidential election, to
speak at a National Press Club lunch.

Three of the
half-dozen Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concerts that remain on Ms.
Alsop’s 2008 calendar will give Baltimoreans an introduction to “a
gospel Messiah” – a version of Handel’s most popular oratorio performed
with a gospel choir, a jazz band, and other modern accoutrements. She
has led this version – “Too Hot to Handel” – all over the country, and
introduces it to Baltimore with these holiday performances. On December
19 and 20 she also leads the Colorado Symphony in “Too Hot to Handel”.

Los Angeles welcomes Marin Alsop back to Walt Disney hall and the LA
Philharmonic for three concerts of Brahms, on December 12, 13, and 14.
Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider joins her for the violin concerto at
all three.

November 12, 14: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Shostakovich: Tahiti-Trot
Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F (Jean-Yves Thibaudet)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5

November 13: London Symphony Orchestra (Barbican Hall)
Bartók: The Wooden Prince (suite)
Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 2 (Jean-Yves Thibaudet)
Dvorák: Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

November 17 (12:30 pm): Speaker at National Press Club (Washington, DC)

November 21, 23: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3
Rouse: Concerto for Orchestra
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”

November 22: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Passion of Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique”

December 4, 5, 6: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
TOO HOT TO HANDEL: The Gospel Messiah

December 12, 13, 14: Los Angeles Philharmonic
Brahms: “Tragic” Overture
Brahms: Violin Concerto (Nikolaj Znaider)
Brahms: Symphony No. 1

December 19, 20: Colorado Symphony Orchestra

TOO HOT TO HANDEL: The Gospel Messiah
with Lillias White, Vaneese Thomas, Thomas Young

Return to Press Room