Boston Symphony Releases New CD Of Recent Commissions On Friday
Fresh from its two Grammy Award wins last February, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has added another CD to its extensive discography: recent Boston Symphony Orchestra commissions of works by American composers Timo Andres, Eric Nathan, Sean Shepherd, and George Tsontakis. BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons leads the Boston Symphony Orchestra in recordings made live at Symphony Hall from February 2016 through February 2018.
Since becoming music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in 2014, Andris Nelsons has continued the BSO's nearly 140-year tradition of commissioning and performing new works. American composers figured prominently in the early decades, and with the arrival of music director Serge Koussevitzky in 1924, a new generation, beginning with Aaron Copland, gained an unrivaled champion. Since then, the BSO has commissioned dozens of Americans, including Elliott Carter, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, Betsy Jolas, Bright Sheng, and Augusta Read Thomas, to name a few.
Timo Andres' Everything Happens So Much and Eric Nathan's the space of a door were both commissioned in conjunction with a miniature Johannes Brahms festival at Symphony Hall in November 2016. Recognized at an early age as a powerfully creative pianist, Timo Andres (b. 1985) was immersed in classical repertoire but also gained notice for compelling performances of his own compositions. He grew up in Connecticut and attended Yale University. He was a TMC Fellow in 2006, and he has worked with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Metropolis Ensemble, and New World Symphony, along with such musicians as Gabriel Kahane and Sarah Goldfeather, curating recital programs ranging from pop to high modernism.
A trumpet player and proficient pianist, Eric Nathan (b. 1983) attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and was also a Tanglewood Music Center Composition Fellow (2010); he holds degrees from Yale, Indiana, and Cornell universities. The BSO commissioned his Why Old Places Matter for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and he has worked with musicians of the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and many others. Nathan often finds inspiration in literature, visual art, and historic places. the space of a door (the title is from Samuel Beckett) was spurred by his first visit to the Providence Athenaeum, near Brown University where Nathan is on the faculty.
The Reno, Nevada-born Sean Shepherd (b. 1979) wrote Express Abstractionism in 2017 on a joint commission from the BSO and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, celebrating the two orchestras' innovative partnership. The BSO premiered the piece in February 2018. Shepherd studied at Indiana University and earned graduate degrees in composition at the Juilliard School and Cornell University, where he worked with Steven Stucky. He was a TMC Fellow in 2005. Shepherd's music has been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Cleveland Orchestra, and Reno Philharmonic, among others. Express Abstractionism was inspired by five artists: the American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976); the German Gerhard Richter (b. 1932); the Russian-born Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and the American Lee Krasner (1908-1984), both for the third movement; and the Dutch-born Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). Shepherd used their diverse artistic techniques as analogies to the layering, stretching, stacking, or tiling of musical ideas.
George Tsontakis' Sonnets (Tone Poems for English Horn and Orchestra) was commissioned by the BSO to showcase its longtime English horn player Robert Sheena, and with the idea that the piece be tied to concerts marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Born into a Cretan Greek family in Astoria, Queens, New York City, Tsontakis (b. 1951) studied classical violin as a child and with composers Hugo Weisgall at New York's Queens College, Roger Sessions at Juilliard, and Franco Donatoni. Tsontakis has served as composer-in-residence at Bard College and the Aspen Music Festival. An accomplished conductor, he has worked with ensembles throughout the U.S. Among other honors, he received the Grawemeyer Award for his Violin Concerto No. 2.
Scheduled for release by Naxos on Friday, November 8 (available at https://naxos.lnk.to/BSOComm), the album joins two other Boston Symphony Orchestra CDs issued earlier this year. A Myrios Classics recording of the Busoni Piano Concerto, featuring pianist Kirill Gerstein, conductor Sakari Oramo, and the men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus came out in March. In February, the Boston Symphony and conductor Andris Nelsons continued their critically-acclaimed Under Stalin's Shadow series on Deutsche Grammophon with the release of Shostakovich Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7, together with the composer's Suite from the Incidental Music to King Lear and the Festive Overture. The new double-disc set follows the 2018 release of a pairing of Shostakovich's Fourth and Eleventh Symphonies, which won the Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album (Classical) categories at the 2019 Grammy Awards. This critically lauded project of recording the complete 15 symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich was also honored with a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, 9, and Suite from Hamlet, as well as a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for the Tenth Symphony and the Passacaglia from the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.