James Conlon Conducts at 2014 Spring For Music Festival at Carnegie Hall Tonight
James Conlon, Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival since 1979, conducts the May Festival Chorus and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra tonight, May 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium during the fourth and final installment of the Spring For Music festival. The centerpiece of the Carnegie Hall program is the New York premiere of The Ordering of Moses, a work by Robert Nathaniel Dett that received its world premiere at the 1937 May Festival, performed by a chorus of 350 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by Eugene Goosens. Mr. Conlon will open the program with John Adams' Harmonium.
Tickets priced from $12.50 to $25 are available online at www.carnegiehall.org, by phone from CarnegieCharge at (212) 247-7800, or in person at the Carnegie Hall box office at 57th Street and 7th Avenue. For more information about Spring For Music, visit www.springformusic.com.
The Ordering of Moses is an oratorio that weaves the story of Moses leading the Jews to freedom with African-American spirituals and is one of Mr. Dett's most praised choral works. The 1937 world premiere performance was broadcast live nationwide via NBC radio, in what was likely the first network classical music broadcast of a major work by a black composer, although only about three-quarters of the work was heard. Near the end of the broadcast the announcer apologized and interrupted the music due to "previous commitments." However, it has been suggested that the program was abruptly ended due to objections of the work because of Mr. Dett's heritage. Despite the obstacles and limited options of the time, Mr. Dett became one of the most successful black composers, known for combining folk songs and spirituals with music of the European Romantic style.
Harmonium is a 20th-century American work for chorus and orchestra by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams. Exploring themes of love, death, and the intensity of sexual longing and ecstasy, Harmonium comprises three movements that are settings of complete poems by Emily Dickenson and John Donne, and is considered a key composition in Mr. Adams' minimalist period.
One of today's most versatile and respected conductors, Mr. Conlon has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire. He has been music director of Los Angeles Opera since 2006, music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 2005, and music director of America's oldest choral festival, the Cincinnati May Festival since 1979, where he has provided the artistic leadership for more May Festivals than any other music director in the festival's 141-year history and holds a place among the longest-tenured music directors of any major classical music institution in the United States. This season, Mr. Conlon's North American guest-conducting engagements include leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, and Montreal Symphony.
Mr. Conlon recently completed a three-year homage to Benjamin Britten in observation of the 2013 centenary of the composer's birth, conducting his symphonic and choral works and six of his operas across the U.S. and Europe. In Los Angeles he spearheaded "Britten 100/LA: A Celebration," a year-long, city-wide festival that featured performances, conferences, and exhibitions.
In an effort to raise awareness of the significance of the lesser-known works of composers silenced by the Nazi regime, Mr. Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of this music. In recognition for his efforts in championing these works, he received the 2013 Roger E. Joseph Prize from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; the 2012 Cohon Award in the "Creative Arts" field; the 2007 Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); and, in 1999, the Zemlinsky Prize-awarded only once before-for his efforts in bringing the composer's music to international attention. His work on behalf of suppressed composers has led to the creation of The OREL Foundation, a resource on the topic for music lovers, students, musicians and scholars.
Mr. Conlon's extensive discography and videography can be found on the EMI, Erato, Capriccio, Decca and Sony Classical labels. He has won two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording for the LA Opera recording of Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. He holds several Honorary Doctorates and has received many awards. Mr. Conlon was named Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and in 2002, he received France's highest distinction from then President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac: the Légion d'Honneur.