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BMOP Begins 25th Anniversary Season With Organ Concert Next Month

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This concert marks the first time BMOP has dedicated a concert to the organ in its quarter-century history.

BMOP Begins 25th Anniversary Season With Organ Concert Next Month

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, begins its quarter-century season with a free, one-night- only organ spectacular. This special event kicks off with a pre-concert reception honoring composers, musicians, supporters, and friends who have contributed to BMOP's success over the past 25 years. The ambitious program features two massive organ concertos by Stephen Paulus and Joseph Jongen, alongside works by J.S. Bach (as arranged by Edward Elgar) and Olivier Messiaen, to be performed by America's leading organist Paul Jacobs on Symphony Hall's G. Donald Harrison-designed Aeolian-Skinner organ, Opus 1134 (built in 1947, renovated in 2004 by Foley-Baker).

Celebrating the orchestra's return to Symphony Hall after nearly two decades, this concert marks the first time BMOP has dedicated a concert to the organ in its quarter-century history. "On behalf of the musicians as well as both the artistic and administrative staff, I cannot overstate how exhilarated BMOP feels to be back!" exclaimed Gil Rose, Conductor and Artistic Director of BMOP. "What better way to begin this new chapter than to focus on the neglected canon of organ works? Rarely do concertgoers experience the marvelous tradition of music for organ and orchestra. We hope everyone will be convinced to love the grandeur and colors of this extraordinary 'King of Instruments.' We are pleased to dedicate this concert in memory of Ellis L. Phillips III, a longtime BMOP Board member and founding supporter of the organization."

"It will be a pleasure to join the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Gil Rose for a performance of two magnetic organ concerti," said Paul Jacobs. "These riveting works by Paulus and Jongen manifest the uncommon poetry and power of the pipe organ, which I love sharing with audiences."

Written in 1926 (premiered Brussels 1928, US Premiere 1935 at Carnegie Hall), Joseph Jongen's (1873-1953) tour de force Symphonie Concertante is the Belgian composer's grandest work and considered one of the greatest organ works of the 20th century. An unquestionable masterpiece, it requires an organist with superhuman capabilities. As Jongen's friend Eugène Ysaÿe pointed out, the Symphonie Concertante might better be called a symphony for two orchestras, since "the role you assign to the King of Instruments and its abundant resources ... is not limited or restricted; it is clearly a second orchestra that enriches the first."

The Grand Concerto (commissioned and premiered 2004 by the Dallas Symphony) is one of more than 450 compositions by the late Stephen Paulus (1949-2014). According to Paulus, the Grand Concerto is representative of his overall style in its use of melodic material "sometimes in short strands and at other times in long arches," in "the interplay of different key juxtapositions and sometimes sudden changes or unusual combinations," and in its "rhythmic and kinetic energy in forward-moving phrases." Jacobs, who has performed this piece several times, stated, "some composers find the organ daunting - understandably so - and will avoid writing for it altogether. But Stephen was someone who embraced the instrument, understood it, and composed very beautifully for it."

J.S. Bach (1685-1750) composed Fantasia and Fugue in C Minor for pipe organ in the 1720s. Two hundred years later, in 1921, British composer Sir Edward Elgar created an arrangement using a rich palette of orchestral color. The result is an intense, multilayered, and visceral work that was centuries in the making. Prominent 20th-century French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) is known for his unique compositional style greatly influenced by his Catholic faith. L'Ascension (The Ascension) is no exception to the composer's popular, distinct style, and is the most famous of Messiaen's early orchestral scores. He had in 1931 been appointed organist at L'Eglise de la Trinité, and by 1935 an organ version of L'Ascension had been finished. The composer described the work as Four Symphonic Meditations: 1) Majesty of Christ praying that His Father should glorify Him, 2) Serene Alleluias from a soul longing for Heaven, 3) Alleluia on the Trumpet, Alleluia on the Cymbal, and 4) Prayer from Christ ascending towards His Father.

BMOP's 25th-anniversary season will include the release of its 100th album on its independent label BMOP/sound, a special Carnegie Hall concert in New York City in Spring 2023, the launch of a five-year initiative with Odyssey Opera to perform and record opera by Black composers starting with the June 2022 New England premiere of X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X by Anthony Davis, and more exciting happenings to be announced soon.

The recipient of Gramophone Magazine's 2021 Special Achievement Award, BMOP has been applauded for a 25-year commitment to resurrecting forgotten works and casting a spotlight on rarely performed composers. "Much of the most interesting work is being done by groups led by the conductor Gil Rose, whose Boston Modern Orchestra Project continues to shine in overlooked music." (Gramophone). According to The Wall Street Journal, "BMOP has long been neutral ground in contemporary music's style wars, offering itself as a safe haven for, and champion of, virtually every ism, and every genre- and era- mixing hybrid that composers' imaginations have wrought."


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