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Baltimore Symphony to Perform World Premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Guitar Concerto, 1/9 & 12

Related: Baltimore Symphony, Jonathan Leshnoff, Guitar Concerto
Baltimore Symphony to Perform World Premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff's Guitar Concerto, 1/9 & 12
Jonathan Leshnoff. Photo by Katya Chilingiri.

On the heels of Baltimore-based composer Jonathan Leshnoff's Carnegie Hall debut and five-city tour of the song cycle "Monica Songs" in October 2013, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO), led by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop, performs the world premiere of his Guitar Concerto on January 9 & 12, 2014 at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. The work features acclaimed guitarist and fellow Baltimorean Manuel Barrueco.

Named by The Washington Post as one of the "gifted young composers" of this generation, Leshnoff is a leader of contemporary American lyricism. His compositions have earned international acclaim for their accessible melodies, structural complexity and weighty themes.

The BSO premiered Leshnoff's Starburst in 2010, which garnered critical acclaim, overwhelming audience response and 15 additional performances with eight other orchestras. This success prompted BSO Music Director Marin Alsop and the BSO to commission Leshnoff to write a concerto for Baltimore's world-renowned guitar virtuoso and Peabody Institute faculty member Manuel Barrueco. Additional commissioners include Spain's Orquestra Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias and its music director Rossen Milanov, the Nashville Symphony and music director Giancarlo Guerrero; and the Reno Philharmonic and music director Laura Jackson.

"This is a work that is born in Baltimore," said Leshnoff. "Manuel was remarkably generous and patient working through ideas with me. It really helped that we lived in the same city to create this work in such close collaboration."

Balancing the subtle sound of a guitar with a full symphony orchestra is challenging. Leshnoff achieved balance by slightly amplifying the guitar and taking extreme care with the orchestration. Rarely does the guitar play with the full ensemble. The work is structured in the traditional three movements. The first movement, with its angular, irregular rhythms and rapid pace is witty and very virtuosic for the soloist. The slow, adagio second movement is inspired by the idea of humility. It is titled with the sixth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, "vav"-a letter associated with humility. It is fitting to have the demure tones of the guitar paired with a small ensemble of only strings, harp and two bowed vibraphones for this very introspective movement. In sharp contrast, the third movement bounces along with a pulse evocative of a Latin dance.

"While the Guitar Concerto explores a wide variety of emotions, it is the work's slower second movement that has particular resonance for me. As an Orthodox Jew, I am devoted to and intrigued by the tenants of the Jewish mystical tradition. This tradition teaches that humility is among the central components of the spiritual world and instructs us to remove our idea of 'self' from our human perspective. The more we can get ourselves out of the way, the more we start to see the bigger picture of all that comprises our vast universe. This idea is depicted quite poignantly in the second movement, in which the orchestration thins out to let the soul of the quiet guitar sing."

"It is a great pleasure to be part of this new guitar concerto written by Jonathan Leshnoff. Jonathan has created an exciting piece with great rhythmic drive and beautiful melodies, in the process exploiting the guitar to its fullest. I am very much looking forward to what promises to be a very exciting premiere."

"Jonathan Leshnoff has something genuine, fresh and compelling to say through his music," said BSO Music Director Marin Alsop. "I am looking forward to conducting the BSO and legendary guitarist Manuel Barrueco in Leshnoff's new Guitar Concerto."

Jonathan Leshnoff, composer: Named by the Washington Post as one of the "gifted young composers" of this generation, Jonathan Leshnoff is a leader of contemporary American lyricism. His compositions have earned international acclaim for their accessible melodies, structural complexity and weighty themes.

The New Jersey-born and Baltimore-based composer's works have been performed by an array of classical music's most celebrated stars, including Jessica Rivera, Gil and Orli Shaham, Robert Spano, Jeffrey Khaner and an upcoming premiere with Manuel Barrueco. His works have been performed by orchestras around the world, including the Baltimore, Philadelphia, Asturias, Atlanta, Kansas City, Buffalo, Santa Barbara, Tucson, Amarillo, Fort Wayne, Memphis, Harrisburg, Fairfax and Columbus symphony orchestras, as well as by the IRIS Orchestra, Concert Opera de Toulon, Kyoto Orchestras, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

The 2013-2014 season begans with the five-city tour of Leshnoff's new song cycle Monica Songs, featuring soprano Jessica Rivera and the legendary music director/pianist Robert Spano as the accompanist. The tour culminated with Leshnoff's Carnegie Hall debut on October 29, 2013. In January 2014, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Marin Alsop debuts his Guitar Concerto, featuring fellow Baltimorean Manuel Barrueco. Barrueco will also perform the guitar concerto in May 2014 in Oviedo, Spain with the Asturias Symphony, under the baton of Andrew Grams, as well as with the Nashville Symphony, under the baton of Giancarlo Guerrero. In March 2014, Leshnoff collaborates with Robert Spano once again, but this time with Spano at the podium leading the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Leshnoff's flute concerto, featuring Jeffrey Kahner. The season closes in May 2014 with a new work for viola, choir and orchestra based on the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, performed by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic under the direction of Andrew Constantine.

Jonathan Leshnoff has released three albums to date, all on the Naxos American Classics label. His recording of Violin Concerto, performed by Charles Wetherbee with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, led by Markand Thakar, was selected among Naxos' Top 40 CDs of 2009. Other Naxos releases feature his Symphony No. 1, conducted by Michael Stern with the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, along with Leshnoff's chamber music.

Jonathan Leshnoff's music has been lauded by Strings magazine as "distinct from anything else that's out there," and by the Memphis Commercial Appeal as "a fluid, thoughtful work, superbly textured and unafraid to be intellectual," and by the Baltimore Sun as "remarkably assured, cohesively constructed and radiantly lyrical." The New York Times concluded in a concert review that "the afternoon's keenest discovery was Mr. Leshnoff."

Leshnoff's catalogue includes four string quartets, two oratorios, seven concerti, trios, a string sextet, two symphonies and numerous solo and chamber works. Current projects include a third symphony and a clarinet concerto. Leshnoff is a Professor of Music at Towson University and a composer-in-residence with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. For more information, visit www.JonathanLeshnoff.com.

Marin Alsop, conductor: Marin Alsop is an inspiring and powerful voice in the international music scene, a music director of vision and distinction who passionately believes that "music has the power to change lives." She is recognized across the world for her innovative approach to programming and for her deep commitment to education and to the development of audiences of all ages.

Marin Alsop made history with her appointment as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). With her inaugural concerts in September 2007, she became the first woman to head a major American orchestra. She also holds the title of conductor emeritus at the Bournemouth Symphony in the United Kingdom, where she served as the principal conductor from 2002-2008.

Her success as the BSO's music director has garnered national and international attention for her innovative programming and artistry. Additionally, her success was recognized when, in 2013, her tenure was extended to the 2020-2021 season. Alsop took up the post of chief conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra in 2012, where she steers the orchestra in its artistic and creative programming, recording ventures and its education and outreach activities.

In the summer of 2013, Maestra Alsop served her 22nd season as music director of the acclaimed Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California. Musical America, which named Maestra Alsop the 2009 Conductor of the Year, has said, "[Marin Alsop] connects to the public as few conductors today can."

Manuel Barrueco, guitar: Grammy-nominated Manuel Barrueco is internationally recognized as one of the most important guitarists of our time. His unique artistry has been described as that of a superb instrumentalist and a superior and elegant musician, possessing a seductive sound and uncommon lyrical gifts.

His career is dedicated to bringing the guitar to the main musical centers of the world. Over three decades of concertizing, he has performed across the United States from the New World Symphony in Miami to the Seattle Symphony, and from the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic to New York's Lincoln Center. He has appeared with prestigious orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, in the American premiere of Toru Takemitsu's To The Edge of Dream. He also appears regularly with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and with San Francisco Performances.

Barrueco's 2013-2014 season includes recitals in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, and Holland, and he will also tour the United States with the Casals Quartet, premiering a new work written for him and string quartet by Roberto Sierra. Other scheduled performances include concertos with the Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo (OSESP) in Brazil; the Asturias Symphony Orchestra in Spain; the Florida Orchestra; the Dayton Philharmonic; and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he will premiere a new concerto written for him by composer Jonathan Leshnoff. In addition to concertizing, he is on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, and an artist-in-residence for the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico and the University of Alicante, Spain.

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