Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

NY Phil Presents SUMMERTIME CLASSICS Conducted by Bramwell Tovey, Now thru 7/7

The New York Philharmonic will present its tenth season of Summertime Classics, today, July 3-7, 2013, featuring five themed concerts with Bramwell Tovey, who has been the host and conductor of the series since its founding in 2004.

The first program, July 3-4, titled "Star- Spangled Celebration," will feature the New York Philharmonic and the United States Coast Guard Band (in its Philharmonic debut), conducted by Captain Kenneth W. Megan, performing works by Sousa, Copland, and Bernstein. The concert will also feature the World Premiere of the orchestral version of Bramwell Tovey's The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret for Trombone and Orchestra, with Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi as soloist. The second program, July 5-7, titled "The Planets," will include works inspired by space and travel composed by John Adams, Offenbach, and Josef Strauss. The centerpiece of these concerts is featuring Holst's iconic work accompanied by a screening of high-definition images from modern space exploration, produced by Duncan Copp in cooperation with NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. In its review of The Planets - An HD Odyssey, The New York Times praised the sophisticated combination of music and imagery, noting: "Photographs from rovers and satellites, radar images and computer-generated graphics were combined to give the audience the impression of circling individual planets and sometimes flying over their awesomely barren landscapes."

A musician of striking versatility, Grammy-winning conductor Bramwell Tovey is acknowledged around the world for his artistic depth and his warm, charismatic personality on the podium. Mr. Tovey's career as a conductor is enhanced by his work as a composer and pianist, lending him remarkable musical perspective. His tenures as music director with the Vancouver Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic, and Winnipeg Symphony orchestras have been characterized by his expertise in operatic, choral, British, and contemporary repertoire.

Mr. Tovey, who is entering his 13th season as music director of the Vancouver Symphony and continues as founding host and conductor of the New York Philharmonic's Summertime Classics series, also continues his association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. In 2008, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic co-commissioned him to write a new work, Urban Runway, which the New York Philharmonic premiered on Summertime Classics that year and which was subsequently programmed by a number of orchestras in the United States and Canada. Mr. Tovey has worked as guest conductor with orchestras in the U.S. and Europe including the London Philharmonic, London Symphony, and Frankfurt Radio orchestras. In North America, he has made guest appearances with the orchestras of Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, and Montreal as well as ongoing performances with the Toronto Symphony, which commissioned and premiered his trumpet concerto in 2009 as a preview of his first full-length opera, The Inventor, premiered in Calgary in 2011. In 2011 he returned to The Philadelphia Orchestra for its summer series in Saratoga, New York, and made debuts with The Cleveland Orchestra (where he returns again this summer) and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to which he returned in the winter of 2012 and will revisit this summer. He will also tour the West Coast with the Vancouver Symphony in the winter of 2013.

Bramwell Tovey's honors included a fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, honorary doctorates from the universities of Winnipeg, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Kwantlen University College, as well as a Royal Conservatory of Music Fellowship in Toronto. In 1999 Mr. Tovey received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction, a Canadian prize awarded to artists for outstanding contributions in the performing arts.

Joseph Alessi was appointed the New York Philharmonic's Principal Trombone, the Gurnee f. and Marjorie L. Hart Chair, in the spring of 1985. He began musical studies with his father, Joseph Alessi, Sr., as a high school student in California, and was a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony before continuing his musical training at The Curtis Institute of Music. Prior to joining the Philharmonic, Mr. Alessi was second trombone of The Philadelphia Orchestra for four seasons, and principal trombone of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for one season. He has performed as guest principal trombonist with the London Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, led by Pierre Boulez.

Mr. Alessi is an active soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. In April 1990 he made his New York Philharmonic solo debut, performing Creston's Fantasy for Trombone, and in 1992 premiered Christopher Rouse's Pulitzer Prize-winning Trombone Concerto with the Philharmonic, which commissioned the work for its 150th anniversary celebration. He has been a guest soloist with the National Repertory Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, Mannheim National Theater Orchestra, National Symphony of Taiwan, and the Hague Philharmonic, among others. He is a founding member of the Summit Brass ensemble at the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute in Tempe, Arizona. In 2002 Mr. Alessi was awarded an International Trombone Association Award for his contributions to the world of trombone music and trombone playing.

Mr. Alessi is currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School; his students occupy posts with major symphony orchestras in the U.S. and internationally. He has performed as soloist with several leading concert bands, including the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, U.S. Army Band ("Pershing's Own"), and the U.S. Marine Band ("The President's Own"). Mr. Alessi's discography includes many releases on the Summit record label, including Trombonastics Fandango (with New York Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Philip Smith) and conductor/composer Bramwell Tovey's Urban Cabaret. Joseph Alessi's recording of George Crumb's Starchild on the Bridge record label won a Grammy Award for 1999-2000.

The United States Coast Guard Band is the premier band representing the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security. The 55-member ensemble has performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. The Band has a rich history of performing internationally, and was the first American military band to perform in the former Soviet Union, with concerts in Leningrad and the surrounding area in 1989. In 2008 the Coast Guard Band became the first premier American military band to perform a concert tour of Japan, and the Band toured Taiwan in July 2011.

Based at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the Coast Guard Band frequently appears in Washington, D.C., at presidential and cabinet level functions on formal and informal occasions. Historic events include National Christmas Tree lighting ceremonies, the American Bicentennial Celebration with President Gerald Ford, World War II Fiftieth Anniversary events in England, and Inaugural celebrations for every President since Herbert Hoover. Guest artists who have appeared with the Coast Guard Band include Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Elizabeth Futral, Roberta Flack, Shirley Jones, Gregory Peck, Lucie Arnaz, Willard Scott, Walter Cronkite, John Amos, Bill Watrous, Dale Clevenger, Slide Hampton, Cecil Bridgewater, Chris Vadala, David Shifrin, and Philip Smith.

The United States Coast Guard Band was organized in March 1925 with the assistance of Lt. Charles Benter, leader of the United States Navy Band; Walter Damrosch, Music Director of the New York Symphony (which merged with the New York Philharmonic in 1928 to form today's New York Philharmonic); and John Philip Sousa, former director of the United States Marine Band. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed congressional legislation resulting in the Coast Guard Band becoming the permanent, official musical representative of the nation's oldest continuous seagoing service. This event also established the Coast Guard Band as one of the country's premier service bands. These performances mark the U.S. Coast Guard Band's New York Philharmonic debut.


Program I, "Star-Spangled Celebration" (July 3-4, 2013)
Aaron Copland's ballet Rodeo is a celebration of the American West. Set in the Texas of 1900, it tells of a tomboyish cowgirl who is caught in a classic romantic triangle with a handsome, dashing wrangler and a comical, charming champion roper. The score achieves a distinctly American flavor through its incorporation of American subject matter (the rodeo), music (cowboy tunes), and dance (the hoe-down). Following the work's highly successful premiere in 1942, Copland devised a suite of the work for larger orchestral forces, keeping the central scenes of the ballet intact. Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo remains one of Copland's best-known works. The New York Philharmonic's first complete performance of the Four Dance Episodes was in April 1960, led by Leonard Bernstein; the most recent was in July 2008, led by Bramwell Tovey.

Bramwell Tovey wrote The Lincoln Tunnel Cabaret in 2006 for New York Philharmonic Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi. In the liner notes to a recording of the piece, Tovey writes: "The listener might imagine that Joe, who commutes daily from New Jersey to Manhattan in his stylish open-top sports car, gets stuck in traffic at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel and decides to get out his 'horn' (as he calls it) and entertain the disgruntled crowd. In New York, anything can happen.... Under a cocktail of jazz and minimalism, motives from the opening of the work provide the main musical material. The soloist is put through many virtuosic hoops until a final cadenza brings the piece full circle. Like all traffic jams, this one seems to disperse quickly for no apparent reason." These concerts mark the World Premiere of the orchestral version of this work.

Leonard Bernstein's "comic operetta" Candide premiered on Broadway in 1956. The production flopped, but the music was highly praised, and the original cast album became a cult hit. Seventeen years later a new production, with a new libretto, fared better. With Bernstein becoming Music Director in 1958, music from Candide has become a New York Philharmonic staple. This is the premiere of Clare Grundman's Candide Suite, arranged for band.

John Philip Sousa composed songs, suites, dances, and several notable operettas, but he is best known for his band marches, which earned him the nickname "The March King." Within the strictures of the traditional quickstep march, Sousa was able to create a striking diversity of character and effect, and his 135 marches are remarkable for their variety and melodic invention. With their rousing energy and patriotic titles, Sousa's marches are quintessential Americana. Inspired by the phrase "A sudden thought strikes me; let us swear eternal friendship," Sousa composed Hands Across the Sea to express the U.S.'s friendship with its allies abroad, and The Glory of the Yankee Navy is based on material from the 1909 musical comedy The Yankee Girl. The program also features The Liberty Bell march, well known to many as the theme music for Monty Python's Flying Circus. The New York Symphony (which merged with the New York Philharmonic in 1928 to form today's New York Philharmonic) first performed marches by Sousa in June 1901 in Philadelphia, conducted by Walter Damrosch. Sousa marches were last performed by the Philharmonic in July 2012 during Summertime Classics.

Program II, "The Planets" (July 5-7, 2013)
John Adams's Short Ride in a Fast Machine is a celebration of that American invention and innovation, the automobile. The work conveys the exhilaration of a passenger in a very fast sports car, and the unbounded rhythmic energy and kaleidoscopic color are what "drive" the work. The insistent, perpetual motion of the percussion and winds thrust the movement forward, while the strings and brass engage in percussive and increasingly frenzied exclamations. The Philharmonic first performed the piece in September 1991, conducted by Kurt Masur. Its most recent performance was in July 2004, led by Bramwell Tovey.

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) is an opéra-féerie - a French genre of opera or opéra-ballet based on fairy tales - by Jacques Offenbach. It was loosely based on Jules Verne's novel From the Earth to the Moon. The "Ballet of the Snowflakes" at the end of Act III sparked the popularity of snow dances, the most famous example of which is in The Nutcracker. This is the Philharmonic's first performance of any music from the overall work.

Austrian composer Josef Strauss was the son of Johann Strauss I and the brother of Johann Strauss II. In true Strauss form, he wrote many waltzes, including Music of the Spheres. Critics consider it one of his finest works, showing skillful and colorful orchestration as well as harmonic inventiveness that could have fueled efforts outside the waltz form so closely linked to his family heritage. Erich Kleiber conducted the Philharmonic's first performance in November 1930, and Franz Allers, the most recent, in June 1961.

Gustav Holst struggled for many years to build a career as a composer, and it was only with the premiere of The Planets that he gained popular success. Based on Holst's understanding of astrology, the work is a highly descriptive tour of the heavens, evoking the distinctive attributes assigned to each planet - Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune - in colorful character sketches. "Mars" so forcefully evoked the terrors of war that listeners at an informal performance in 1918 were certain that the music depicted World War I, although Holst had completed the section before the war began. In this program, the Philharmonic performs the piece accompanied by a screening of The Planets - An HD Odyssey, a high-definition film commissioned by the Houston Symphony and created by filmmaker Duncan Copp in cooperation with NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratories that features images from modern space exploration, including photographs from rovers and satellites, created explicitly to accompany the Holst work. The Planets was first performed by the New York Philharmonic in December 1921, conducted by Albert Coates, and was most recently performed in February 2004, led by Lorin Maazel.

Tickets for Summertime Classics start at $45. All tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (212) 875-5656, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may also be purchased at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office. The Box Office opens at 10:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and at noon on Sunday. On performance evenings, the Box Office closes one-half hour after performance time; other evenings it closes at 6:00 p.m. A limited number of $13.50 tickets for select concerts may be available through the Internet for students within 10 days of the performance, or in person the day of. Valid identification is required. To determine ticket availability, call the Philharmonic's Customer Relations Department at (212) 875-5656. [Ticket prices subject to change.]

Pictured: Bramwell Tovey and the New York Philharmonic. Photo Credit: Chris Lee.

Related Articles
Vote Now for the Best of the Decade Awards

More Hot Stories For You