Dutoit Leads Philly Orchestra For Three Concerts 3/12-14
Philadelphia Orchestra Chief Conductor and Artistic Adviser Charles Dutoit leads the Orchestra in three concerts in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center celebrating the influence of African-American culture on classical music (March 12-14). The program features Milhaud's jazz-inspired The Creation of the World; George Walker's 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning work Lilacs for voice and orchestra, with tenor Russell Thomas as soloist in its first Philadelphia Orchestra performances; Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, a work for which the late, great contralto Marian Anderson was known, with Philadelphia-native bass-baritone Eric Owens as soloist; and Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor ("From the New World"). Mr. Dutoit also leads the Orchestra in the same program at New York's Carnegie Hall (March 17) as part of Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy, a citywide festival presented by Carnegie Hall and curated by renowned soprano Jessye Norman.
During a lecture tour in the United States in 1922, French-born composer Darius Milhaud had experienced jazz bands firsthand in the nightclubs of Harlem. In his memoirs, the composer wrote of the experience: "The music I heard was absolutely different from anything I had ever heard before and was a revelation to me." The effect on his own music can be heard in the ballet he composed the next year: The Creation of the World.
George Walker's 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning Lilacs for voice and orchestra consists of four songs set to verses 1, 2, 3, and 13 of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd." The poem, an elegy to fallen president Abraham Lincoln, is one of the most frequently set poems in the English language. Born in 1922 to parents of West Indian heritage, Mr. Walker has been a trailblazer throughout his illustrious career. He became the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1945, earning Artist Diplomas in piano and composition. With his debut performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra (also in 1945), he became one of the first black musicians to appear as soloist with the Orchestra. He was also the first black composer to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The composer's works, which number more than 90, have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States and by many in England and other countries. More than sixty years into his career, Mr. Walker continues to compose. The Philadelphia Orchestra will give the world premiere performances of his Violin Concerto, with the composer's son Gregory Walker as soloist, in December 2009.
One of Gustav Mahler's early masterpieces, Songs of a Wayfarer was written from 1883 to 1885 as a declaration of love for Johanna Richter, a principal singer at the Kassel court theater. The song cycle chronicles the journey of a broken-hearted wanderer. The work has been programmed in honor of the legendary contralto Marian Anderson. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Ms. Anderson was known for her performances of this work. Bass-baritone Eric Owens, also a Philadelphia-native and recipient of the Kennedy Center's Marian Anderson Award, is soloist for these performances.
By the time Antonín Dvořák came to the United States in 1892, he was already well-known for a compositional style that absorbed and assimilated elements of folk music with traditional classical style. When the composer's Symphony No. 9 in E minor ("From the New World"), received its premiere performance at New York's Carnegie Hall in December 1893, it was an instant success with both audiences and critics alike. The work drew inspiration from the African-American spirituals that the composer had studied during his years in the United States. The most striking reference can be found in the famous flute melody from symphony's first movement, which bears a strong resemblance to the famous spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
Honor! A Celebration of the African-American Cultural Legacy
Honor! A Celebration of the African-American Cultural Legacy salutes the enduring vitality, influence, and creativity of African American culture through a collection of concerts and special events in New York City that have been curated by internationally-renowned soprano Jessye Norman. This Carnegie Hall festival, presented in March 2009, has been designed to celebrate African-American music and its influence worldwide, and pay tribute to pioneering artists who forged the path for succeeding generations. Through partnerships with New York cultural institutions, including the legendary Apollo Theater and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Honor! engages with diverse audiences and provides a showcase for African-American music in its many genres: classical, gospel, Spirituals, contemporary popular music, blues, and jazz, offering close to 20 events, including concerts, recitals, lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, and educational programs at Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and other venues throughout New York City.
About the Artists
A Philadelphia native, American bass-baritone Eric Owens has carved a unique place in the contemporary opera world as both a champion of new music and a powerful interpreter of classic works. During the 2008-09 season, Mr. Owens made his Metropolitan Opera debut in John Adams's Doctor Atomic; he also makes his New York recital debut in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in April. Additional season highlights include the September 2008 Nonesuch Records release of Adams's A Flowering Tree, performances as Sarastro in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute in December and January, and scenes from Strauss's Elektra and Die Frau ohne Schatten with Christine Brewer and the Atlanta Symphony under Donald Runnicles. Mr. Owens began his music training at the age of six as a pianist, followed by formal oboe study at age 11 under Lloyd Shorter of the Delaware Symphony and Louis Rosenblatt of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Mr. Owens later studied voice while an undergraduate at Temple University and then as a graduate student at the Curtis Institute of Music. He currently studies with Armen Boyajian.
Tenor Russell Thomas, a Miami native, is quickly establishing himself as one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene, most recently as the First-Prize winner of the Competizione dell'Opera in Dresden. Mr. Thomas's current projects include Tamino in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera, his debut as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi's Rigoletto with the Arizona Opera, and the Steuermann in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman with Atlanta Opera. Recently Mr. Thomas reprised his role of the Prince for John Adams's A Flowering Tree in Tokyo, with upcoming performances of this role taking place in New York, Los Angeles, and Perth. An alumnus of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program of the Metropolitan Opera, he was also a member of Seattle Opera Young Artist Program, a Roger R. Hinkley artist at Florida Grand Opera, a GerdiNe Young Artist with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, an apprentice at the Sarasota Opera, and he has participated in the Marlboro Music Festival. Mr. Thomas holds a Bachelor's Degree of Music in Performance from the New World School of the Arts.
Chief conductor and artistic adviser of The Philadelphia Orchestra, beginning in September 2008, as well as artistic director and principal conductor of the Royal Philharmonic, beginning in 2009, Charles Dutoit regularly collaborates with the world's leading orchestras. Since his debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1980, Mr. Dutoit has been invited each season to conduct all the major orchestras of the United States, including those of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. He has also performed regularly with all the great orchestras of Europe, including the Berlin Philharmonic and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, as well as the Israel Philharmonic and the major orchestras of Japan, South America, and Australia. Mr. Dutoit has recorded extensively for Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Philips, CBS, Erato, and other labels with American, European, and Japanese orchestras. His more than 170 recordings, half of them with the Montreal Symphony, have garnered more than 40 awards and distinctions.
Since 1990 Mr. Dutoit has been artistic director and principal conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra's summer festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Between 1990 and 1999, he also directed the Orchestra's summer series at the Mann Center, and led them in a series of distinctive recordings. From 1991 to 2001, he was music director of the Orchestre National de France. In 1996 he was appointed principal conductor, and in 1998 music director, of the NHK Symphony in Tokyo. For 25 years (1977 to 2002), Mr. Dutoit was artistic director of the Montreal Symphony.
When still in his early 20s, Mr. Dutoit was invited by Herbert von Karajan to lead the Vienna State Opera. Mr. Dutoit has since conducted regularly at Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. He also led productions at the Los Angeles Music Center Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
Mr. Dutoit holds honorary doctorates from McGill University, the University of Montreal, and Université Laval. In 1982 he was named Musician of the Year by the Canadian Music Council; in 1988 the same organization awarded him the Canadian Music Council Medal. In 1991 Mr. Dutoit was made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Philadelphia. In 1994 the Canadian Conference of the Arts awarded him their Diploma of Honour. In 1995 the government of Québec named him Grand Officier de l'Ordre National du Québec, and in 1996 the government of France made him Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has also been invested as an Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada, the country's highest award of merit. Mr. Dutoit was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and his musical training took him to Geneva, Siena, Venice, and Tanglewood, where he worked with Charles Munch.
A globetrotter motivated by his passion for history and archaeology, political science, art, and architecture, Mr. Dutoit has traveled and visited all the nations of the world. He maintains residences in Switzerland, Paris, Montreal, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo.
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Founded in 1900, The Philadelphia Orchestra has distinguished itself as one of the leading orchestras in the world through a century of acclaimed performances, historic international tours, best-selling recordings, and its unprecedented record of innovation in recording technologies and outreach. The Orchestra has maintained an unparalleled unity in artistic leadership with only seven music directors throughout its history: Fritz Scheel (1900-07), Carl Pohlig (1907-12), Leopold Stokowski (1912-41), Eugene Ormandy (1936-80), Riccardo Muti (1980-92), Wolfgang Sawallisch (1993-2003), and Christoph Eschenbach (2003-08).
This rich tradition is carried on by Charles Dutoit, who was appointed chief conductor and artistic adviser of The Philadelphia Orchestra from the 2008-09 season through the 2011-12 season. Mr. Dutoit has a long-standing relationship with the Orchestra, having made his debut with the ensemble in 1980. Highlights of his first season include the Opening Night Concert, featuring pianist Martha Argerich; performances of Berlioz's Romeo and Juliet and Requiem, part of Mr. Dutoit's four-year focus on the works of that composer; the U.S. premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Concerto grosso No. 1 for three cellos, part of the Orchestra's celebration of Mr. Penderecki's 75th birthday; and Honegger's Symphony No. 3 ("Liturgical"). During his tenure, Mr. Dutoit will also focus on the music of the Ballets Russes, beginning in the 2008-09 season with performances of Stravinsky's complete music to The Firebird.
Recent Philadelphia Orchestra highlights include the opening of the Orchestra's Online Music Store, www.thephiladelphiaorchestra.com; regular broadcasts on NPR; a series of critically acclaimed recordings led by Mr. Eschenbach and released in partnership with Ondine Records; and a $125 million endowment campaign.
The Philadelphia Orchestra annually touches the lives of more than one million music lovers worldwide through its performances, publications, recordings, and broadcasts. The Orchestra presents a subscription season in Philadelphia each year from September to May, in addition to education and community partnership programs, and appears annually at Carnegie Hall. Its summer schedule includes an outdoor series at Philadelphia's Mann Center for the Performing Arts, free Neighborhood Concerts, and residencies at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York.
For more information about The Philadelphia Orchestra please visit www.philorch.org.