Jeannette Sorrell Makes National Symphony Orchestra Debut With Handel's MESSIAH

Jeannette Sorrell, recognized as one of today's most creative early music conductors, will make her subscription debut conducting the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) with four performances of Handel's Messiah, December 14 through December 17. Joined by four gifted soloists and the University of Maryland Concert Choir under the direction of Edward Maclary, Sorrell will lead the NSO in her fresh perspective that highlights the theatrical, spiritual, and musical storytelling of Handel's classic oratorio.

"Although I have conducted more than 60 performances of this piece, I am still thrilled every year by the honor of leading this two-and-a-half-hour spiritual journey," says Sorrell. "And I still discover amazing new things in the piece, every year."

In these concerts with the NSO, Sorrell interprets Handel's Messiah as a theatrical and spiritual journey. Drawing on Messiah's genesis as a theatrical oratorio presented with singers who were known more for their acting ability than their vocal gifts, Sorrell approaches the work as a masterpiece of musical storytelling. With a finely detailed reading of the score, Sorrell hopes to show the universal appeal of Messiah.

Sorrell continues, "Handel's Messiah reaches out to us as human beings who are striving to understand who we are, and 'why the nations rage so furiously.'"

Sorrell is joined by four accomplished soloists: British soprano Sophie Daneman (Les Arts Florissants, Bavarian State Opera, Opéra de Lausanne, Maggio Musicale di Fiorentino), American mezzo-soprano Ann McMahon Quintero(Washington National Opera, Boston Baroque, Columbus Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic), American tenor Karim Sulayman (New York City Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Aldeburgh Festival, International Bach Festival), and German bass-baritone Christian Immler (Berlin Konzerthaus, Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, Gulbenkian Orchestra). Sorrell will also conduct the University of Maryland Concert Choir, the symphonic choir of the University of Maryland School of Music under the direction of Edward Maclary and a regular collaborator with the NSO.

The four performances of Handel's Messiah conducted by Jeannette Sorrell in her NSO subscription debut will take place on December 14 at 7:00 PM, December 15 and 16 at 8:00 PM, and December 17 at 1:00 PM in the festively decorated Concert Hall at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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Handel's Messiah

Conducted by Jeannette Sorrell

National Symphony Orchestra

University of Maryland Choir

Edward Maclary, Director

Sophie Daneman, soprano

Ann McMahon Quintero, mezzo-soprano

Karim Sulayman, tenor

Christian Immler, bass-baritone

Thursday, December 14, 2017, 7:00 PM

Friday, December 15, 2017, 8:00 PM

Saturday, December 16, 2017, 8:00 PM

Sunday, December 17, 2017, 1:00 PM


Jeannette Sorrell is recognized internationally as one of today's most creative early-music conductors. She has been credited by the U.K.'s BBC Music Magazine for forging "a vibrant, life-affirming approach to the re-making of early music... a seductive vision of musical authenticity."

Hailed as "one of the world's finest Baroque specialists" (St Louis Dispatch), Sorrell was one of the youngest students ever accepted to the prestigious conducting courses of the Aspen and the Tanglewood music festivals. She studied conducting under Robert Spano, Roger Norrington and Leonard Bernstein, and harpsichord with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. She won both First Prize and the Audience Choice Award in the 1991 Spivey International Harpsichord Competition, competing against over 70 harpsichordists from Europe, Israel, the U.S., and the Soviet Union.

Sorrell founded Apollo's Fire in 1992. Since then, she and the ensemble have built one of the largest audiences of any baroque orchestra in North America. She has led AF in sold-out concerts at London's BBC Proms and London's Wigmore Hall, Madrid's Royal Theatre (Teatro Real), the Grand Théâtre de l'Opéra in Bordeaux, the Aldeburgh Festival (UK), the Tanglewood Festival, Boston's Early Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Library of Congress, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), among others.

As a guest conductor, Sorrell has worked with many of the leading American symphony orchestras and is represented by Columbia Artists Management (CAMI). In December she will make her Kennedy Center debut conducting the National Symphony in performances of Handel's Messiah. Her 2013 debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as conductor and soloist in the complete Brandenburg Concertos was met with standing ovations every night, and hailed as "an especially joyous occasion" (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review). The same occurred with her recent debut with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, where the Twin Cities Pioneer Press wrote, "Other masters of the [baroque] style have been paying visits, but none has summoned up as much energy, enthusiasm and excitement from the orchestra as Sorrell." She has also appeared as conductor or conductor/soloist with the Utah Symphony (twice), New World Symphony (Miami), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony, Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), and has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra as guest keyboard artist.

Sorrell and Apollo's Fire have released 25 commercial CDs, of which seven have been bestsellers on the Billboard classical chart. Her recordings include the complete Brandenburg Concerti and harpsichord concerti of Bach (with Sorrell as harpsichord soloist and director), which was praised by the London Times as "a swaggering version... brilliantly played by Sorrell." She has also released four discs of Mozart, and was hailed as "a near-perfect Mozartian" by Fanfare Record Magazine. Other recordings include Handel's Messiah, the Monteverdi Vespers and four creative crossover projects: Come to the River - An Early American Gathering (Billboard Classical #9, 2011); Sacrum Mysterium- A Celtic Christmas Vespers (Billboard Classical #11, 2012); Sugarloaf Mountain - An Appalachian Gathering (Billboard Classical #5, 2015); and Sephardic Journey - Wanderings of the Spanish Jews (Billboard World Music Chart #2 and Billboard Classical #5, Feb. 2016).

Sorrell has attracted national attention and awards for creative programming. She holds an Artist Diploma from Oberlin Conservatory, and honorary doctorate from Case Western University, two special awards from the National Endowment for the Arts for her work on early American music, and an award from the American Musicological Society, and two different awards from the Cleveland Arts Prize. Passionate about guiding the next generation of performers, Ms. Sorrell has led many baroque projects for students at Oberlin Conservatory and is a frequent guest coach at the Cleveland Institute of Music.


The 2017-2018 season marks the National Symphony Orchestra's 87th season, and Gianandrea Noseda's first as its music director. The Italian conductor serves as the Orchestra's seventh music director, joining the NSO's legacy of such distinguished leaders as Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Antal Dorati, Howard Mitchell, and Hans Kindler. Its artistic leadership also includes Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and Artistic Advisor Ben Folds.

Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has always been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986, the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has performed a full season of subscription concerts since the Center opened in 1971. The 96-member NSO regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including official holiday celebrations through its regularly televised appearances for Capitol Concerts, and local radio broadcasts on Classical WETA 90.9FM, making the NSO one of the most-heard orchestras in the country.

The Orchestra performs approximately 150 concerts each year, including classical and popular concerts at the Kennedy Center, at Wolf Trap in the summer, and on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol; chamber music performances in the Terrace Theater, on the Millennium Stage, and at theaters around D.C. It has a distinguished history of touring, and an extensive education program, with a range of offerings for families and children ages three and up.

Additionally, the NSO's community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood, which comprises a week of approximately 50 performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other neighborhood venues, and Sound Health, a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its affiliated organizations. Career development opportunities for young musicians include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program and its acclaimed Summer Music Institute.

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