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Marin Alsop’s Summer: Five CSO Programs & “Breaking Barriers” at Ravinia; Philharmonia & Salzburg Debuts; Plus Aspen, BBC Proms & More

Marin Alsop (photo: Nancy Horowitz)

(May 2022)—Drawing on her skills as both “a formidable musician and a powerful communicator” (New York Times), MacArthur award-winning conductor Marin Alsop looks forward to a full transatlantic summer. In the States, she serves as conductor and Jury Chairperson of the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (June 14–18), helms the Opening Night concert of the Aspen Music Festival (July 1), and continues her ongoing tenure as Chief Conductor and Curator of the Ravinia Festival with five Chicago Symphony concerts and the first annual “Breaking Barriers” festival, devoted to “Women on the Podium” (July 15–31). She bookends these U.S. dates with a pair of London engagements, making her Philharmonia Orchestra debut with a concert at the Royal Festival Hall (May 19) and a masterclass for women conductors (May 18), before returning to lead the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in its first appearance at the BBC Proms (Aug 13). Now in her third season as the Austrian ensemble’s Chief Conductor, it is also with the Vienna RSO that she makes her eagerly anticipated Salzburg Festival debut (Aug 9).

Ravinia: five CSO programs & “Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium”

In February 2020, Alsop was appointed to an expressly created new position, becoming the first Chief Conductor and Curator in the 117-year history of Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. After launching her tenure last summer, she returns to conduct five programs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), whose summer residency has been hosted by Ravinia since 1936. As one of the most active change agents in elevating under-represented artists and a leading “ambassador for classical music in the 21st century” (Financial Times), Alsop has used her Ravinia platform to amplify the voices of women and people of color, and this season – drawing inspiration from Chicago Symphony Chorus founder, Margaret Hillis, whose 100th anniversary fell last year – she also dedicates the inaugural “Breaking Barriers” festival to celebrating “Women on the Podium.”

Her Opening Night CSO program presents Stewart Goodyear, “one of the best pianists of his generation” (Philadelphia Inquirer), in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, alongside Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade and the Study for Orchestra by Julia Perry, whose music marries the composer’s European training and African American heritage (July 15). Following 2020’s “Global Ode to Joy,” the project Alsop spearheaded in collaboration with YouTube and Google Arts & Culture to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, she leads the CSO in a bucolic pairing of the master composer’s “Pastoral” Symphony with An Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss, to the accompaniment of projected images (July 17). Next, Tony- and Grammy-winning vocalist Leslie Odom Jr., best known for creating the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton, makes his CSO debut under Alsop’s leadership with a special gala evening of Broadway, film and original music (July 24).

The final two concerts of Alsop’s Ravinia residency fall during their three-day focus on “Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium.” The first of these celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship, which Alsop founded in 2002 to promote and nurture the careers of her fellow female conductors. Bookended by her accounts of her own arrangement of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite and Source Code by Sphinx Medal of Excellence-winner and CSO composer-in-residence Jessie Montgomery, who considers Alsop “an incredible supporter” of her work (Financial Times), the program showcases current Taki fellow Anna Duczmal-Mróz and former Taki fellows Laura Jackson and Jeri Lynne Johnson in Michael Daugherty’s Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra (July 29).

Alsop concludes her residency with a festive coupling of Osvaldo Golijov’s Rose of the Winds, for which she and the CSO will be joined by members of the famed Silkroad Ensemble, with Symphony No. 3 (“Kaddish”), featuring soprano Janai Brugger and narrator Jaye Ladymore, by her late mentor, Leonard Bernstein (July 30). As his last protégé and one of the foremost exponents of his music, it was Alsop who directed Ravinia’s multi-season celebration of the Bernstein centennial. Recorded with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Bournemouth and São Paulo, her complete cycle of the American composer’s orchestral works features a number of “definitive performances” (New York Times), “some of which seem better than the composer’s own” (San Francisco Classical Voice).

Other highlights of “Breaking Barriers” include a female business leaders’ panel, a symposium on “Forging Paths for Women Conductors” and a screening of The Conductor (2021) by filmmaker Bernadette Wegenstein. Offering “a riveting, dynamic portrait” (Bay Area Reporter) of Alsop herself, the documentary has been recognized with the Naples International Film Festival’s 2021 Focus on the Arts Award.

Cliburn, Aspen and NOI+F

The first of Alsop’s U.S. engagements is at the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas, where she not only conducts all four final-round concerto concerts with the Fort Worth Symphony, but also chairs the jury to select the gold, silver and bronze medal-winners (June 14–18).

Currently drawing on her wealth of experience as an artist and thought leader to engage in critical discussions about key social and civic issues as the 2021-22 Harman/Eisner Artist-in-Residence of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, Alsop returns to the Aspen Music Festival to lead the Aspen Chamber Symphony. Their program combines Music for Strings, Trumpets, and Percussion by Poland’s Grażyna Bacewicz; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with American jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker; Victory Stride by seminal jazz composer James Price Johnson, whose symphonic music the conductor has played a significant part in rediscovering, recording and championing; a special arrangement of the Ukrainian national anthem; and Barber’s First Symphony (July 1). Made 21 years ago, Alsop’s recording of the single-movement symphony may be heard on her very first Naxos album, described just this year as “a must-have” (San Francisco Classical Voice); as Gramophone wrote at the time of its release:

“In its unhurried authority, big heart and epic thrust, it’s the kind of interpretation one could have imagined from Bernstein himself in his NYPO heyday. … That she is a musician of outstanding gifts is amply reinforced.”

Appointed in 2020 as the first Music Director of the National Orchestral Institute + Festival (NOI+F), a program of the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Alsop also conducts multiple concerts with the NOI+F Philharmonic while in the States (June 23 & 25).


London: Philharmonia debut and BBC Proms

Alsop opens her summer at the helm of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. After joining the ensemble for a women’s conducting masterclass at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (May 18), she heads across the Southbank Centre to make her concert debut with the orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall (May 19). There she conducts Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, Britten’s Violin Concerto with Arabella Steinbacher, and Jessie Montgomery’s Strum – a work that, with the BBC Scottish Symphony, she “shaped … with a lightning bolt of energy running through it, a gloriously optimistic opening to their concert” (The Times of London).

Named 2021 Classical Woman of the Year by American Public Media’s Performance Today, Alsop has consistently shattered glass ceilings throughout her career. Nine years ago, she made history as the first female conductor of the “Last Night of the Proms,” and she is the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America, Britain and Austria, where she is now in her third season as Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, recently extending her contract through 2025. It is in this capacity that she returns to the storied London festival to direct the orchestra’s BBC Proms debut (Aug 13). After opening with Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite and Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto, with Gramophone Award-winner Benjamin Grosvenor as soloist, she and the orchestra give the UK premiere of Heliosis, a Vienna RSO commission from young Austrian composer Hannah Eisendle. They conclude their program with Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, of which Alsop drew “some wonderfully sensitive, silky playing from her Baltimore players” in her “meticulous live recording” for Naxos with the Baltimore Symphony (The Guardian).

Austrian dates with Vienna RSO: Salzburg debut and more

Two further concerts with the Vienna RSO complete Alsop’s summer lineup. In the Austrian capital, they premiere a new work by leading Austrian spectral composer Georg Friedrich Haas alongside Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Silence and Reversal and two works by John Adams: his Grammy-winning City Noir and Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance, written as a farewell gift to Alsop after her quarter-century as Music Director of California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music (June 2). She and the orchestra then reunite to make her Salzburg Festival debut with a program of Ligeti, Janáček and Haas, this time represented by his Concerto Grosso No. 1 (Aug 9).

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Marin Alsop: summer 2022 engagements

May 18
London, England
Southbank Centre (Queen Elizabeth Hall)
Philharmonia Orchestra
“Women’s Conducting Masterclass with Marin Alsop”

May 19
London, England
Southbank Centre (Royal Festival Hall)
Philharmonia Orchestra (debut)
Jessie MONTGOMERY: Strum
BRITTEN: Violin Concerto (with Arabella Steinbacher, violin)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 5

June 2
Vienna, Austria
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
John ADAMS: Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance (from Girls of the Golden West)
Bernd Alois ZIMMERMANN: Silence and Reversal
Georg Friedrich HAAS: new work (world premiere)
John ADAMS: City Noir

June 14, 15, 17 & 18
Fort Worth, TX
Cliburn Competition (Jury Chairperson)

June 23 & 25
College Park, MD
National Orchestral Institute

July 1
Aspen, CO
Aspen Music Festival
Aspen Chamber Symphony / Matthew Whitaker
VERBYTSKY/Kim HARTQUIST: Shche ne vmerla Ukrayina (“Ukraine has not yet perished”)
BACEWICZ: Music for Strings, Trumpets, and Percussion
BARBER: Symphony No. 1
GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue
JOHNSON, arr. Nicholas Hersh: Victory Stride

July 15, 16, 17, 22, 24, 29 & 30
Highland Park, IL
Ravinia Festival
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

July 15
CSO Opening Night: “Tchaikovsky with Marin Alsop and Stewart Goodyear”
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
PERRY: Study for Orchestra
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Stewart Goodyear, piano)

July 17
“Alpine and Pastoral Symphonies with Marin Alsop and the CSO”
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”
STRAUSS: An Alpine Symphony (with projected images)

July 24
“Leslie Odom Jr. with Marin Alsop and the CSO”
Broadway, film and original music

July 29 & 30
“Breaking Barriers: Women on the Podium”
July 29: Panel: women business leaders
July 29: CSO concert, led by Alsop with Anna Duczmal-Mróz, Laura Jackson & Jeri Lynne Johnson
Jessie MONTGOMERY: Source Code
Michael DAUGHERTY: Time Machine for Three Conductors and Orchestra
PROKOFIEV, arr. Alsop: Romeo and Juliet Suite
July 30: “Forging Paths for Women Conductors” symposium
July 30: screening of The Conductor
July 30: CSO concert, led by Alsop
Osvaldo GOLIJOV: Rose of the Winds
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 3 (“Kaddish”)
with Silkroad Ensemble musicians, soprano Janai Brugger & narrator Jaye Ladymore

Aug 9
Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg Festival (debut)
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Georg Friedrich HAAS: Concerto Grosso Nr. 1
LIGETI: Concert românesc
JANÁČEK: Sinfonietta

Aug 13
London, England
BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (Proms debut)
BARTÓK: The Miraculous Mandarin Suite
PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Benjamin Grosvenor, piano)
Hannah EISENDLE: Heliosis (UK premiere)
DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 7

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