Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins Will Lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Performances of AMERICAN LIFE

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Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins Will Lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Performances of AMERICAN LIFE

On November 15 and 16, Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins will lead the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) in performances of American Life, a concert celebrating the music of five African-American composers: Adolphus Hailstork, James Lee III, Florence Price, William Grant Still, and Duke Ellington.

Historically, the symphonic compositions of African-American composers have been undervalued and sometimes even lost. Florence Price (1887-1953) represents a good example. Life as an African-American classical composer was difficult during her era-not to mention life as a female composer-yet, Price overcame both obstacles and received a fair amount of recognition during her lifetime. Price's Piano Concerto in One Movement (circa 1934) achieved success after premiering in Chicago. But the original orchestral score was lost after her death and not reconstructed until the early 2000s by music scholars. Since then, Price's compositions have steadily re-entered the classical repertoire, and the CSO is proud to present her Piano Concerto on Friday, November 15, and Saturday, November 16, under the baton of Maestro Wilkins.

Swiss pianist Louis Schwizgebel will perform the concerto with the CSO in its re-orchestrated form.

"I find that Florence Price's music has great charm and is powerful in communicating profound sentiments," says Schwizgebel. "She creates melodies that you hear once, love, and that stay in your head."

American Life will also feature the work of contemporary classical American composers Adolphus Hailstork and James Lee III. Hailstork's An American Port of Call, muses on a modern American port city (Norfolk, Virginia), while Lee's Sukkot Through Orion's Nebula finds sublimity in the stars and makes comparisons between the ancient Israelite's flight out of Egypt and enslaved African Americans escaping from slavery.

The works of William Grant Still and Duke Ellington are more aligned with the Harlem Renaissance, the cultural movement centered in New York of the 1920s and 30s. Their orchestral styles are infused with the jazz rhythms of the period. American Life will feature Still's Symphony No. 1, Afro-American Symphony, and Ellington's Harlem.


American Life

Friday, November 15, 2019 | 11 am | Music Hall

Saturday, November 16, 2019 | 8 pm | Music Hall


ADOLPHUS HAILSTORK: An American Port of Call

James Lee III: Sukkot Through Orion's Nebula

PRICE: Piano Concerto

STILL: Symphony No. 1, Afro-American Symphony


Devoted to promoting a life-long enthusiasm for music, Thomas Wilkins brings energy and commitment to audiences of all ages. He is hailed as a master at communicating and connecting with audiences. Currently, Maestro Wilkins is Music Director of the Omaha Symphony; a position he has held since 2005. Additionally, he is Principal Conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Boston Symphony's Artistic Advisor in Education and Community Engagement, and holds Indiana University's Henry A. Upper Chair of Orchestral Conducting. A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Wilkins is a graduate of the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.

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