American Symphony Orchestra Brings THIS ENGLAND to Carnegie Hall, 1/31
Perhaps the greatest disservice ever done to English music was its dismissal by the modernist composer Elizabeth Lutyens as "cowpat music". That statement was a hangover of a common perception from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that, despite the country's power and reputation, it wasn't actually very good at producing interesting music. But World War One marked the beginning of a new explosion of creative energy, one that saw exciting modern composers pour into England's concert halls, reaching across the sea to America, even to Hollywood. "This England" from Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra brings this England to Carnegie Hall.
An apocalyptic vision of the future begins the concert, with Arthur Bliss's admired score to the film version of HG Wells' sci-fi cult classic The Shape Of Things To Come. Next comes the imaginative (and very rarely heard) tour-de-force piano and orchestra work Phantasm by Frank Bridge (with pianist Piers Lane), the adored teacher of Benjamin Britten, a fascinating exploration of new soundscapes. A literal creative eruption closes the first half, in the boisterous but beautifully crafted shape of Robert Simpson's Volcano. And the second half is given to what Leon Botstein has called, simply, "one of the great symphonies of the twentieth century", William Walton's Symphony No 2.
The mix is made perhaps more interesting by the fact that the first three of these composers are almost never heard in America today, and the fourth is now generally better-known for his iconic film scores (especially the three Laurence Olivier Shakespeare films, starting with Henry V) than his many classical works. Botstein dismisses the whims of fashion: "Except for Walton maybe none of the names are very well-known, but they were once very (famous) and very highly-regarded". And part of a line of creativity in English music that stretches to today and influences their British creative heirs, proof of which might be seen in the New York Times's recent list of modern operas that will surely last - seven out of the 13 named are by British composers.
$25 / $35 / $50 and subscriptions are available at americansymphony.org and by phone at 212-868-9276. Tickets are also available at CarnegieHall.org, at the Carnegie box office, or by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The Conductor's Notes Q&A at 7pm in Stern Auditorium is free with concert ticket
ABOUT Leon Botstein
Leon Botstein recently celebrated his 20th year as Music Director and Principal Conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. He is also co-Artistic Director of the Summerscape and Bard Music Festivals at Bard College, where Mr. Botstein has been President since 1975. In addition he is also Conductor Laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, where he served as Music Director from 2003-2011. The New York Times recently said of him, "When it comes to ambitious, fearless orchestral programming, there is Leon Botstein...and then there is everyone else."
Mr. Botstein leads an active schedule as a guest conductor all over the world, and can be heard on numerous recordings. He has just returned from Venezuela and Japan where he conducted the Sinfónica Juvenil de Caracas, the first non-Venezuelan conductor invited by El Sistema to conduct on a tour. Many of his live performances with the American Symphony Orchestra are available for download online. The Los Angeles Times called this summer's Los Angeles Philharmonic performance under Mr. Botstein "the all-around most compelling performance of anything I've heard all summer at the Bowl."
Highly regarded as a music historian, Mr. Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. Last year he was invited to give the prestigious Tanner Lectures in Berkeley, CA. For his contributions to music he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University's prestigious Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class from the government of Austria. In 2009 he received Carnegie Foundation's Academic Leadership Award, and in 2011 was inducted into the American Philosophical Society. He is also the 2012 recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award for the Elevation of Music in Society. In 2013, following in the footsteps of Sir John Barbirolli, Otto Klemperer, and others, Mr. Botstein received the Bruckner Society's Julio Kilenyi Medal of Honor for his interpretations of that composer's music.
ABOUT American Symphony Orchestra
The American Symphony Orchestra was founded 50 years ago by Leopold Stokowski, with the avowed intention of making orchestral music accessible and affordable for everyone. Under Music Director Leon Botstein, Stokowski's mission is not only intact but thrives. And beyond that, the ASO has become a pioneer in what The Wall Street Journal called "a new concept in orchestras," presenting concerts curated around various themes drawn from the visual arts, literature, politics, and history, and unearthing rarely-performed masterworks for well-deserved revival. These concerts are performed in the Vanguard Series at Carnegie Hall.
The orchestra also gives the celebrated concert series Classics Declassified at Peter Norton Symphony Space, and regularly performs at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, where it appears in a winter subscription series as well as Bard's annual SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival. In 2010, the ASO became the resident orchestra of The Collegiate Chorale, performing regularly in the Chorale's New York concert series. The orchestra has made several tours of Asia and Europe, and has performed in countless benefits for organizations including the Jerusalem Foundation and PBS.
Many of the world's most accomplished soloists have performed with the ASO, among them Yo-Yo Ma, Deborah Voigt and Sarah Chang. In addition to CDs released by the Telarc, New World, Bridge, Koch, and Vanguard labels, many live performances by the American Symphony are now available for digital download. In many cases, these are the only existing recordings of some of the rare works that have been rediscovered in ASO performances.