South Florida Symphony Orchestra Announces First Masterworks Concert Of 2024

Concert spotlights trailblazing female african american composers plus a Bach premiere and Brahms.

By: Dec. 15, 2023
South Florida Symphony Orchestra Announces First Masterworks Concert Of 2024
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South Florida Symphony Orchestra Announces First Masterworks Concert Of 2024

In advance of Black History Month, South Florida Symphony Orchestra (SFSO), led by Music Director Sebrina María Alfonso, will present an adventurous program illuminating two prominent African American female composers – Florence Price, the first Black woman to have a composition performed by a major orchestra and Jessie Montgomery, whose Rounds for solo piano and orchestra is currently nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. Award-winning pianist Awadagin Pratt will accompany SFSO for its premiere of Montgomery's new piano concerto and Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 4. The program is anchored by Brahm's lyrically sweeping Symphony No. 1.

All concerts are at 7:30 p.m. and take place on January 17 at The Parker (707 NE 8th St); January 18 at Temple Israel of Greater Miami (137 NE 19th St.); and January 20 at the Tennessee Williams Theatre at The College of the Florida Keys. A pre-concert chat illuminating the works and composers will take place 30 minutes prior to the concert at The Parker, only, with Dr. Alan Mason.

“As we open our first concert of the new year, I am thrilled to present a diverse array of works, composers, and performers that highlight the true beauty of what classical music is and what it can be – an avenue for enlightenment, joy, discovery, and togetherness," said Maestra Alfonso. "Florence Price and Jessie Montgomery are two incredible glass ceiling-shattering women whose music I can't wait to share with our audiences, and Awadagin Pratt is simply an artist of uncompromising talent. Couple this with Brahms' gorgeous Symphony No. 1, and I think we have a program that will delight and inspire music lovers across all spectrums. It is certainly a concert for the musically inquisitive.”

Award-winning pianist Awadagin Pratt joins SFSO for Jessie Montgomery's Rounds. Rounds is the opening track on Pratt's 2023 release STILLPOINT, which explores the truth and beauty found within T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, named by NPR as one of the 10 Best Classical Albums of 2023. For SFSO's premiere of Johann Sebastian Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 4, (originally for harpsichord) Pratt will perform the sprightly work created in 1738. It's a shimmering work that scholars believe may have once been a concerto for oboe, given the exceptional lyrical melodies for the soloist, but one will never truly know.

Since winning the prestigious Naumburg International Piano Competition in 1992 and receiving a 1994 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Pratt has received international acclaim for delivering “forceful, imaginative, and precisely tinted” performances (Washington Post) and is hailed as “one of the great and distinctive American pianists and conductors of our time” (WGBH). He has performed across six continents with the Boston and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, the New York Philharmonic, and many others; solo recitals at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center. Between performances at the piano, Pratt also maintains a bustling conducting career. He is professor of piano at the San Francisco Conservatory. He remains the only graduate of the Peabody Institute (where he studied alongside SFSO's Maestra Alfonso) to earn performance certificates in three areas — violin, piano, and conducting — and has received the Distinguished Alumni award from Johns Hopkins University and honorary doctorates from Illinois Wesleyan University, Susquehanna University, and the Boston Conservatory.

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. A recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation and the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, Montgomery weaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness. Her composition Rounds for solo piano and orchestra was commissioned by Awadagin Pratt and is based on exacting tensions from T.S. Eliot's poem “Burnt Norton” which would later become the first of his “Four Quartets.” Rounds is nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and The Washington Post stated of the work, “Rounds” was something of a revelation, and a reinforcement of Montgomery's reliably vital voice as a composer.”

Florence Price was the first African American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra - the Chicago Symphony's performance at the 1933 World's Fair — the Century of Progress Exposition. Price composed over 300 works: four symphonies, four concertos, as well as choral works, art songs, chamber music and music for solo instruments. SFSO will pay homage to this unsung hero with its premiere performance of her Andante Moderato, a piece from a string quartet that fuses Price's fluency with African American spirituals with Western musical forms.

Rounding out SFSO's Masterworks program is a performance of Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Brahms, himself, declared that the symphony, from sketches to finishing touches, took 21 years, from 1855 to 1876. The premiere of this symphony, conducted by the composer's friend Felix Otto Dessoff, took place in 1876, in Karlsruhe, then in the Grand Duchy of Baden.

Following its highly acclaimed 25th anniversary season, including sold-out shows and a celebrated performance accompanying award-winning alt-rock indie vocalist Natalie Merchant, South Florida's largest symphonic orchestra is continuing its musical journey of excellence inspiring audiences of all ages.

Upcoming concerts include masterworks from Bernstein, Schubert, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and more, Including another SFSO premiere, Elllen Taaffe Zwilich's Clarinet Concerto. SFSO will also host a 200thanniversary celebration of Beethoven's magnificent Symphony No. 9 on March 3 at Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Additional popular music performances including Maestra Alfonso conducting SFSO in a live performance of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone In Concert on April 5 and 6 and Classical Mystery Tour: A Symphonic Tribute to The Beatles on May 11, both at Broward Center for the Performing Arts (separately ticketed events).

Season subscriptions and single show tickets are on sale now. Single tickets begin at $15 in Fort Lauderdale and $25 in Miami and Key West and are on sale now. Tickets may be purchased by visiting southfloridasymphony.org/2023-24-season or by calling (954) 522-8445. Subscribers receive a 20% discount off single ticket prices and have access to the best seats in the house. Flexible ticket packages are also available.

For additional information, visit southfloridasymphony.org, call (954) 522-8445 or email info@southfloridasymphony.org.




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