Press Room

Nov 19: Marin Alsop Expands Vast, Award-Winning Discography with New Hindemith Collection for Naxos, Marking Her First Recording as Chief Conductor of Vienna RSO

Marin Alsop (photo: Theresa Wey)

November 19 brings the U.S. release of Marin Alsop’s new Hindemith collection for Naxos, which marks the MacArthur Award-winner’s first recording as Chief Conductor of Austria’s ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra. Capturing her interpretations of the German modernist’s “Mathis der Maler” Symphony, Nusch-Nuschi-Tänze and progressive one-act opera Sancta Susanna, the album represents the most recent addition to Alsop’s already extensive and distinguished discography, which has been recognized with BBC Music “Album of the Year” and Emmy nominations as well as Grammy, Classical BRIT and Gramophone awards. Alsop discusses the new recording and her prodigious back catalogue in an upcoming Naxos podcast, scheduled for release on November 26. To pre-order the new album, click here.

Alsop became the first woman to helm a major Austrian orchestra in fall 2019, when she inaugurated her tenure as Chief Conductor of the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony. From their first concert, which opened the ensemble’s landmark 50th anniversary season, it was clear that between the two “the chemistry seem[ed] right” (Wiener Zeitung). As Online Merker would marvel:

“Alsop was absolutely convincing. The ORF RSO orchestra shone as a collective and in all solo challenges! One had the impression that the chemistry between the orchestra and the boss was 100% right. … The first woman at the head of the orchestra approaches the works and thus the artistic task with open ears, an open heart and a keen mind. The cheers signaled: To many more great concerts!”

Now, for the first time, this special rapport has been captured on disc. Fittingly, for their collective album debut, Alsop and the orchestra have turned once again to Paul Hindemith, whose music featured in the first program of her tenure. It was the German composer’s discovery of Expressionist poetry and drama that inspired his early triptych of one-act operas, all written a full century ago this year. Depicting a convent’s descent into sexual frenzy, the third of these was his first masterpiece, Sancta Susanna (1921), whose religious and erotic symbolism scandalized its initial audiences. Alsop and the orchestra are joined on the recording by Lithuanian soprano Ausrine Stundyte in the title role, with contralto Renée Morloc as Sister Klementia, as for their live performance, when Der Standard reported:

“It was no coincidence that Marin Alsop placed Paul Hindemith’s Sancta Susanna at the end of her inaugural concert as chief conductor of the Vienna RSO. As virtuosic as she was experienced, the American awakened the passions in the score of the one-act play, premiered in 1921, to sounding life. Religious feelings of love that are wedded with carnal lust in an unholy way: Alsop knows how to depict both, contemplation and eruption, intimacy and expression. The art of controlled ecstasy.”

On their new recording, the central opera of Hindemith’s triptych, Das Nusch-Nuschi (1921), is represented by a dance suite that emphasizes its roots in Myanma comedy, and the album is completed by the composer’s “Mathis der Maler” Symphony (1934). A later composition, this is one of his best-known orchestral works, and forms the basis of his subsequent opera of the same name. While the symphony’s movements each represent one of the three panels of the Isenheim Altarpiece, an elaborate Christian artwork by Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald, they also offer a musical illustration of Hindemith’s own struggles as a so-called “degenerate artist” in Nazi Germany. Alsop explains:

“Hindemith is a challenging composer to program, so these pieces are only rarely performed. Bernstein asked me to conduct the ‘Mathis der Maler’ Symphony at Tanglewood, and working on it with him was a very special experience. I’ve also included a piece from Hindemith’s short operatic trilogy, Sancta Susanna: it’s a feminist take on religion, and is very unique. It was important to me to program this for my first performance as Chief Conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2019; I really wanted to make a statement.”

About recording Hindemith’s music with the Vienna RSO, she adds:

“I love the recording process because it pushes me as an artist to try to get the best results in the fastest time. It’s a great experience for an orchestra – it moves the players to a new level, and puts everyone on their game to get to that goal. There’s nothing like recording to get a hundred people to focus intensely!”

Click here to hear an excerpt from her new Naxos recording of Hindemith’s Nusch-Nuschi-Tänz.

No stranger to the recording process, Alsop has already amassed a discography of more than 200 titles. As one of the foremost exponents of music by her mentor, Leonard Bernstein, she recorded the American composer’s complete orchestral works with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Bournemouth and São Paulo, three of those with which she formerly served as Music Director; recently re-released by Naxos as an eight-volume set, the cycle features a number of “definitive performances” (New York Times), “some of which seem better than the composer’s own” (San Francisco Classical Voice). Most recently, last month LSO Live released Alsop’s live account of Bernstein’s satirical operetta Candide. Featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with Leonardo Capalbo, Jane Archibald, Anne Sofie von Otter and Sir Thomas Allen heading a starry cast, the performance was captured at concerts celebrating the composer’s 2018 centennial.

Spanning almost three decades, Alsop’s vast and award-winning recorded legacy also includes such repertory staples as complete Naxos symphonic cycles of both Prokofiev, recorded with the São Paulo Symphony (OSESP), and Brahms, recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra; in Gramophone’s recent round-up of recordings of the great German late-Romantic’s Third Symphony, the magazine dubbed Alsop “one of its most sure-footed contemporary interpreters,” characterizing hers as “the most accomplished Brahms Third of the new century.” During her outstanding 14-year tenure as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony, Alsop recorded works ranging from the symphonies of Mahler and Dvořák to those of Mark O’Connor and Kevin Puts, and from Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue to John Corigliano’s “Red Violin” Concerto. A longtime champion of contemporary American music, other highlights of her expansive back catalogue include music by John Adams, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Michael Hersch and Aaron Jay Kernis, as well as symphonic works by seminal early jazz pioneer James P. Johnson, recorded with Concordia, the orchestra she founded to showcase 20th-century American music. Other ensembles with which she has recorded over the years include the Britten-Pears Orchestra, Colorado Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and String Fever, a group founded, once again, by Alsop herself. Meanwhile listeners can also look forward to upcoming Naxos releases of a Henze compilation and a complete Schumann symphonic cycle, both recorded, like the Hindemith, with the Vienna RSO.

Live fall performances in São Paulo, Berlin & Miami

In live performance this fall, Alsop returns to Brazil’s São Paulo Symphony, where she serves as Conductor of Honour, for a pair of programs: the first featuring Gabriela Montero in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto (Nov 11–13) and the second themed to the Amazon River (Nov 18–20). Next, with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Alsop conducts Barber’s First Symphony and Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Sheku Kanneh-Mason (Dec 5), before concluding the year in Miami, where she leads the New World Symphony in the U.S. premiere of a new edition of Gershwin’s F-major Piano Concerto, with Aaron Diehl as soloist (Dec 10–12).

Alsop recently reunited with the Vienna RSO for the Opening Night of the Wien Modern festival, which presented world premieres by Christian Ofenbauer, whose Das Satyrspiel 2019/20 was a Vienna RSO/Wien Modern commission; Thomas Wally, whose Utopia I: Strange Loops featured Selina Ott as trumpet soloist; and Andrea Sodomka, with whose Visual Composition the concert drew to a close.

Newly named as the 2021-22 Harman/Eisner Artist-in-Residence of the Aspen Institute Arts Program, Alsop also took part in a livestreamed conversation with 2020-21 Harman/Eisner Artist-in-Residence Oskar Eustis, the Artistic Director of New York’s Public Theater, in the Aspen Institute’s “Conversations with Great Leaders, In Memory of Preston Robert Tisch” series; the discussion is still available for viewing on demand here.

Click here to download high-resolution photos.

Marin Alsop: upcoming engagements

Nov 11–13
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo Symphony (OSESP)
Soloist – Gabriela Montero, piano
TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Gabriela Montero, piano)

Nov 18–20
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo Symphony (OSESP)
Amazon-themed program

Dec 5
Berlin, Germany
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
ELGAR: Cello Concerto in E minor (with Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello)
BARBER: Symphony No. 1
RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2

Dec 10–12
Miami, FL
New World Symphony
GERSHWIN: Piano Concerto in F (U.S. premiere of new edition; with Aaron Diehl, piano)

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© 21C Media Group, November 2021


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