Esa-Pekka Salonen to Conduct Davies's FOREST, Stravinsky's FUNERAL SONG & Strauss's ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA
The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct the New York Philharmonic in the U.S. Premiere of Tansy Davies's Forest: a concerto for four horns - co-commissioned by the Philharmonic with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Warsaw Autumn Festival - featuring Richard Watkins, Katy Woolley, Nigel Black, and Michael Thompson, all in their Philharmonic debuts; the New York Premiere of Stravinsky's recently rediscovered Funeral Song; and Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra. The performances will take place on Thursday, April 27, 2017, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m.; they will perform the same program at Long Island University's Tilles Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, April 28 at 8:00 p.m.
The soloists who workshopped Tansy Davies's Forest with the composer and gave its World Premiere will reprise it in these performances, at the invitation of the previously announced soloists: Philharmonic Principal Horn Philip Myers and Philharmonic hornists R. Allen Spanjer, Leelanee Sterrett, and Howard Wall. The soloists are current and former members of London's Philharmonia Orchestra, of which Esa-Pekka Salonen is principal conductor and artistic advisor. In its review of the World Premiere, Classical Source wrote that the work "stole the show" and that Ms. Davies "has composed a tension-filled and incident-packed piece that goes beyond the potential showmanship of the title; indeed it is deep and thought-provoking. No praise is too great for the horn-players." The New York Premiere of Stravinsky's Funeral Song replaces the previously announced Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 2.
The program marks the first time the Philharmonic has performed a work by Tansy Davies. Mr. Salonen initiated the commission upon listening to music by the British composer and learning that, like him, she had studied both the French horn and composition. Forest: a concerto for four horns is dedicated to Mr. Salonen.
"Nature is hugely important in all of my pieces, but particularly so for the concerto for horns," said Tansy Davies. "I wanted to follow a train of thought that was connected to the horn and its origins in the forest. So for me, walking around the forest was just the obvious thing to do. As a longtime fan of Esa-Pekka Salonen I was absolutely thrilled when he got in contact. I'm very excited about working with the New York Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen. I feel sure that this, my next big adventure, will be transformative, challenging, and rewarding, in equal measure."
Stravinsky's Funeral Song was premiered at the 1909 memorial for his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, shortly after which the score disappeared. It was discovered at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 2015 and had its first performance in more than a century in December 2016, with Valery Gergiev leading the Mariinsky Orchestra in St. Petersburg; more than 30 performances in 17 countries are planned for 2017 and beyond. The Times wrote of the U.K. Premiere of Funeral Song, in which Esa-Pekka Salonen led London's Philharmonia Orchestra: "It was exquisitely played here. ... At the end, Salonen gently hugged the score, visibly moved."
Esa-Pekka Salonen - The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic - is principal conductor and artistic advisor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was music director from 1992 until 2009. The 2016-17 season is his first of five as artist-in-association of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. Mr. Salonen is also artistic director and co-founder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, now in its 14th year, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea. In the 2016-17 season Mr. Salonen conducts the premieres of a piano concerto by Haukur Tómasson, Forest: a concerto for four horns by Tansy Davies (and reprises the work in its U.S. Premiere with the New York Philharmonic), and Stravinsky's newly rediscovered Funeral Song, thought to have been lost in the Russian Revolution. With the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mr. Salonen co-curates the Reykjavík Festival, bringing Iceland's contemporary music scene together with the orchestra for four days. At Carnegie Hall he conducts three concerts with The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, which he led in Richard Strauss's Elektra, one of the most critically praised productions of The Met's 2015-16 season. Esa-Pekka Salonen's compositions combine intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. Mr. Salonen has expanded the role of New York Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence to fuse performance and curating with composition: in the 2016-17 season the Orchestra gives the New York Premiere of his new Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist, and performs it with Mr. Ma on the EUROPE / SPRING 2017 tour; and gives the New York Premiere of Mr. Salonen's Wing on Wing, which was written for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's inaugural season at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and includes recordings of Southern California's plainfin midshipman fish and distorted samples of Mr. Gehry's voice. The Cello Concerto was given its World Premiere in March 2017 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mr. Salonen. Mr. Salonen and the Philharmonia continue their groundbreaking experimentation with how to present music with a digital takeover of the Southbank Centre, featuring the first major virtual-reality production from a U.K. symphony orchestra, as well as the Philharmonia's award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, which have allowed people all over the world to conduct, play, and step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections. Mr. Salonen also drove the development of a much-hailed app for iPad, The Orchestra, which allows the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works. He also serves as an advisor to the Sync Project, a global initiative to harness the power of music for human health. Esa-Pekka Salonen made his New York Philharmonic debut in December 1986 leading works by Castiglioni, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, and Nielsen; he most recently conducted the Orchestra in Circle Map, a program celebrating the works of Kaija Saariaho presented by Park Avenue Armory.
Richard Watkins was the Philharmonia Orchestra's principal horn for 12 years, and is currently a member of the Nash Ensemble and a founding member of London Winds. He has appeared at many of the world's most prestigious venues in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., and has worked with conductors including Carlo Maria Giulini, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Slatkin, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Vasily Petrenko, Andrew Davis, and Mark Elder. Mr. Watkins has a long association with Aldeburgh Music, first performing Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with Peter Pears in 1983. Since then he appears regularly as soloist and recitalist, performing concertos by Colin Matthews and Oliver Knussen, and Britten's works for solo horn, the Serenade, and Canticles. Mr. Watkins coaches and gives master classes at the Britten-Pears School, recorded Britten's Serenade with Allan Clayton and Aldeburgh Strings, and directed the inaugural Britten-Pears Brass Week. In recital, he performs with singers including John Mark Ainsley, Ian Bostridge, and Mark Padmore, and with pianists Barry Douglas, Julius Drake, Paul Lewis, Roger Vignoles, and Ian Brown. Mr. Watkins has premiered concertos by Maxwell-Davies, Nigel Osborne, Magnus Lindberg, Dominic Muldowney, Nicola LeFanu, and Colin and David Matthews. Recent premieres include Colin Matthews's Horn Concerto and trio; horn quintets by James MacMillan, David Matthews, and Mark-Anthony Turnage; and horn trios by Huw Watkins, Alexander Goehr, and Gerald Barry. He has recorded the Mozart, Arnold, Glière, Smyth, and Matthews horn concertos; Mozart's Sinfonia concertante; and chamber works by Schumann, Schubert, and Poulenc. Recent releases include the Britten Canticles with Mark Padmore (Wigmore Live), Alexander Goehr's Horn Trio (NMC), Edward Gregson's Horn Concerto with the BBC Philharmonic (Chandos), and Sea-Eagle, featuring works by British composers composed for Mr. Watkins (NMC). Richard Watkins holds the Dennis Brain Chair of Horn Playing at the Royal Academy of Music, where he is also a Fellow.
Katy Woolley was appointed principal horn of the Philharmonia Orchestra at age 22, having previously been awarded the third horn position while she was still a student. Having first appeared as a soloist with the Philharmonia while still studying at the Royal College of Music, she now enjoys a blossoming solo career, performing works by the likes of Richard Strauss, Mozart, and Britten. Most recently with the Philharmonia in London, she has performed Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto No. 2 led by Tugan Sokhiev and the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings with tenor Mark Padmore, led by Vasily Petrenko. Born in Exeter, Katy Woolley began playing horn at age ten and studied with Sue Dent and, later, Simon Rayner of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Ms. Woolley graduated from the Royal College of Music with a first class degree and was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal by HRH The Prince of Wales. She served as principal horn in the European Union Youth Orchestra for two years and undertook further study at Universität der Künste in Berlin with Christian-Friedrich Dallmann. Katy Woolley is a professor of horn at both the Royal Academy of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.