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This Sunday (Sep 18), Louisville Orchestra & Galvanizing Young Music Director Teddy Abrams Launch Third Season Together with Free Classics Kickoff Concert at Iroquois Amphitheatre

This Sunday (Sep 18), the Louisville Orchestra and its galvanizing young Music Director Teddy Abrams launch their third season together before an audience of thousands at the Iroquois Amphitheatre, with a free Classics Kickoff concert that showcases the diverse spectrum of homegrown talent in Louisville, from classical to pop, hiphop and beyond. Highlighted by a world premiere, their characteristically eclectic program inaugurates an ambitious lineup of commissions, premieres, grand-scale productions, favorite masterworks, and cross-genre collaborations. Other fall highlights include an account of Mahler’s mighty “Resurrection” Symphony; a sold-out performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and a celebration of “Shakespeare In Music” to accompany Louisville’s historic First Folio exhibition. As Time magazine recently put it, “A genre-defying orchestra in Louisville? Believe it. The locals do.”

Free Classics Kickoff Concert
An extraordinary commitment to local community has been an article of faith for the orchestra since Abrams – the “energetic young maestro” (New York Times) who at just 29 is the youngest Music Director of a major American orchestra – began his tenure there two years ago. This is reflected in his programming for the season-launching free Classics Kickoff concert, which boasts no fewer than six homegrown compositions. Its centerpiece is the world premiere of The Bluegrass by Louisville native Noah Sarota, the Hollywood composer whose credits include Steven Spielberg’s five-season TNT series Falling Skies. Sarota explains:

The Bluegrass was written for the Louisville Orchestra and its musicians as a tribute to the city. The inspiration of the composition is somewhat broad, ranging from memories to images and the landscape of Kentucky itself.”

The concert also marks the first time that The Believer by Carly Johnson and Go Outside by Justin Paul Lewis will be performed with orchestra. Chosen from among the 86 talented hopefuls who submitted applications on Instagram, Louisville natives Johnson and Lewis are the winners of #SingForTheCity, the international singer-songwriter competition that Abrams and the orchestra launched last season to further their mission of giving the community a voice in Louisville’s musical life. (The two winners were originally scheduled to perform their songs with the orchestra at an open-air event last summer, but this unfortunately had to be canceled due to dangerous weather conditions.) Also being debuted with orchestra is Let It Go by Louisville rapper-producer Dr. Dundiff, as performed by singer-songwriter Otis Junior, and the local pop scene will be further represented when the orchestra performs “One Big Holiday” – a hit for the city’s psychedelic alt-rockers My Morning Jacket – in an original arrangement by Abrams himself. To round out the Louisville-centric portion of the program, the versatile composer-conductor leads an account of his own Fiddling for strings.

Abrams and the orchestra are equally committed to championing new American composition, to which end their program includes “Warehouse Medicine from The B-Sides by Heinz Medal-winner Mason Bates, the nation’s second most-performed living orchestral composer, and the iconic march from John Williams’s Grammy Award-winning score to Superman. The latter is one of five works at Classics Kickoff that offers a preview of the season to come; like Abrams’s Fiddling, excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances and the fourth movement from his “New World” Symphony, Williams’s March may be heard again in Louisville’s subsequent 2016-17 lineup. Meanwhile, to complete the Classics Kickoff program, Abrams leads a pair of contrasting, if comparably patriotic, classical favorites: Sibelius’s stirring tone poem Finlandia and the foot-stomping “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo, Copland’s quintessential celebration of the American West.

Fall highlights: Mahler 2, Yo-Yo Ma, and Shakespeare
In one of the Music Director’s key innovations, the Louisville Orchestra now presents an ambitious, immersive community collaboration at the start of each season. Drawing on extensive local reinforcements, this year’s offering will be Mahler’s monumental Second Symphony, the “Resurrection,” on October 8. Besides employing huge orchestral forces – the score calls for unusually numerous woodwinds and percussion, ten trumpets and horns, and “the largest possible contingent of strings” – the performance will feature choir, organ, and two stellar vocal soloists: soprano Celena Shafer and mezzo J’nai Bridges. This major production follows on the heels of 2014’s powerhouse performance of Carmina Burana, which drew on a local cast of hundreds and  “offer[ed] incontrovertible proof that Abrams [was] leading the Louisville Orchestra into the next great leg of its journey” (Arts-Louisville), and last fall’s presentation of Leonard Bernstein’s colossal Mass, in which some 240 musicians – baritone Jubilant Sykes among them – joined forces for a performance that Abrams “endowed … with coherence, humanity, and winning theatricality” (Wall Street Journal). You can discover more about the Louisville Orchestra’s presentation of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with its podcast episode “Concerts in Context: Mahler 2,” hosted by Director of Education Deanna Hoying.

Marking the first of a number of high-profile concerto collaborations in the coming season, in a sold-out event on October 30, Abrams and the orchestra undertake Elgar’s beloved Cello Concerto with the peerless Yo-Yo Ma, a recent Kennedy Center honoree who consistently pushes the boundaries of musical communication. Their wide-ranging program also includes the world premiere of Grand Passacaglia Fanfare, a new Louisville commission from contemporary Californian composer Sebastian Chang (b. 1988), whose numerous honors include five ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Last winter the Louisville Orchestra commissioned and premiered Chang’s Classical Symphony, in “performances [that] were full of care and musicality, led by Abrams who didn’t just lead the music, but understood it.” As WUOL’s review continued, “The Whitney Hall audiences were genuinely thrilled, giving Chang a warm, enthusiastic welcome.”

Under Abrams’s auspices, the orchestra has embarked on interdisciplinary collaborations with a variety of local institutions, including the Louisville Ballet and the Center for Interfaith Relations. To commemorate this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library has organized a tour of the Bard’s First Folio of 1623 – the historic first collected edition of his plays – to all 50 U.S. states, as well as to Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. In honor of the First Folio display at Louisville’s Frazier History Museum, on November 18 and 19 Abrams and the orchestra present a celebration of “Shakespeare in Music,” comprising excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, Berlioz’s “symphonie dramatique” Roméo et Juliette, and Debussy’s incidental music to Le roi Lear.

Spring highlights: Second Festival of American Music and more
Louisville’s rich and heterogeneous programming continues in the new year, crowned by the orchestra’s second annual Festival of American Music (April 15, 28 & 29). Another of Abrams’s signature initiatives, it was the inaugural edition of the festival this past spring that prompted Arts-Louisville to conclude: “The orchestra, specifically this orchestra, is a living, breathing, evolving, and relevant art form.” The two-part 2017 festival will combine programs led by guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, one of the great champions of new American composition and a key mentor to Abrams, and by the Louisville Music Director himself, who looks forward to premiering his own new composition Muhammad Ali Portrait in tribute to the late legendary Louisville boxer.

Spring highlights also see Grammy Award-winning young German violinist Augustin Hadelich join Abrams and the orchestra for Britten’s elegiac Violin Concerto on an English-themed program that closes with selections from Walton’s audacious Façade (March 31; April 1). And a further collaboration with community partners is the “Classic Film and Music” event (Feb 25), presented in conjunction with the new film initiatives at Louisville’s recently renovated and reopened Speed Art Museum. An account of Debussy’s Jeux will accompany the world premiere of a new baseball documentary from filmmaker Dennis Scholl, in partnership with another local institution, the Louisville Slugger Museum. The program will also include a live orchestral performance of Abrams’s original score – a pastiche compiled from contemporary canonical selections – to Eisenstein’s pioneering silent masterpiece of the Soviet era, Battleship Potemkin.

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 collections. 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. More information is available at the orchestra’s newly redesigned website.

High-resolution photos are available here.


Louisville Orchestra: 2016-17 season

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

Sep 18
Iroquois Amphitheatre
DVOŘÁK: Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, No. 1
NOAH SOROTA: The Bluegrass (world premiere)
MASON BATES: “Warehouse Medicine” from The B-Sides
PROKOFIEV: Excerpts from Romeo and Juliet
DR. DUNDIFF: Let it Go
JUSTIN PAUL LEWIS (#SingForTheCity winner): “Go Outside”
CARLY JOHNSON (#SingForTheCity winner): “The Believer”
SIBELIUS: Finlandia
MY MORNING JACKET (arr. Abrams): “One Big Holiday”
JOHN WILLIAMS: March from Superman
DVOŘÁK: Movement 4 from Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”
COPLAND: “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo

Oct 8
MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor (“Resurrection”)
Celena Shafer, soprano
J’nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano (LO debut)
Kent Hatteberg, chorusmaster

Oct 21, 22
DVOŘÁK: Slavonic Dances (Nos. 1, 7, 8)
DVOŘÁK: Cello Concerto (with Amit Peled, cello)
DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 7
Donato Cabrera, conductor

Oct 30
Concert with Yo-Yo Ma
ELGAR: Cello Concerto (with Yo-Yo Ma, cello)
SEBASTIAN CHANG: Grand Passacaglia Fanfare (world premiere)
BACH: Prelude from Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor (arr. Abrams)
PIAZZOLA: Libertango
DVOŘÁK: Movement 4 from Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”

Nov 18, 19
PROKOFIEV: Selected excerpts from Romeo and Juliet
DEBUSSY: Movement 1 from Le roi Lear
BERLIOZ: “Queen Mab Scherzo” from Roméo et Juliette

Jan 13, 14, 2017
DEBUSSY:  Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun
MOZART: Sinfonia concertante
BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2
Soloists from the Louisville Orchestra: Julia Noone, violin; Jack Griffin, viola
Vladimir Kulenovic, conductor

Jan 27, 28
ALEXANDER ZHURBIN: Currents (Louisville premiere)
RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 3 (with Andrew Tyson, piano)
SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 11

Feb 25
TEDDY ABRAMS: original pastiche score for Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin

March 10, 11
HAYDN: Introduction to The Creation
Selections (with Jubilant Sykes, baritone)

March 25
Program TBA

March 31, April 1
BRITTEN: Violin Concerto (with Augustin Hadelich, violin)
WALTON: Selections from Façade 1 and 2
NICO MUHLY: So To Speak (After Thomas Tallis)

April 15
“Festival of American Music 1: American Journey”
JOHN ADAMS: Short Ride in a Fast Machine
GERSHWIN: An American in Paris
COPLAND: Billy the Kid
Michael Tilson Thomas, guest conductor

April 28, 29
“Festival of American Music 2: All Concertos”
ANDREW NORMAN: Split (with Andrew Hsu, piano)
TEDDY ABRAMS: Muhammad Ali Portrait (world premiere)
BARBER: Violin Concerto (soloist TBA)
JOHN ADAMS: Absolute Jest (featuring the LO String Quartet)

All dates, programs, and artists are subject to change.



© 21C Media Group, September 2016


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