Virginia Symphony launches tenure of Music Director Eric Jacobsen with December concerts

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Virginia Symphony Orchestra Music Director Eric Jacobsen. He’s shown at the Plaza Live, a venue of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, where he is also music director. Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel

“Eric Jacobsen, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, makes his debut this week with concerts at three Hampton Roads venues and with Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer Branford Marsalis,” writes Saleen Martin in Wednesday’s (12/1) Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA). “The performances will be at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News Thursday, Chrysler Hall in Norfolk Friday and the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach Sunday…. Jacobsen, whose tenure with VSO started July 1, … also serves as music director for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra…. Jacobsen will open with Mozart’s overture to ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and [conduct works by] Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler and London-based composer Sally Beamish. Beamish’s pieces [“Under the Wing of the Rock” and “The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone’] were written for saxophone and orchestra, and she and Marsalis have worked together. Beamish will attend the local concerts and sit in on recording sessions for a CD slated for a 2022 release. Marsalis is part of the Branford Marsalis Quartet, which was formed in 1986. He is well known for his renditions of Claude Debussy, Mahler and Ralph Vaughan Williams and his collaborations with the Grateful Dead and Sting.”

December 2, 2021

Colorado Symphony to unveil portrait of longtime double bassist Charles Burrell, now 101

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“The Colorado Symphony will unveil a portrait of longtime bass player Charles Burrell in Boettcher Hall on … December 4,” writes Claire Duncombe in Monday’s (11/29) Westword (Denver, CO). “The portrait will join paintings of former music directors Marin Alsop, Jeffrey Kahane and Andrew Little…. In 1949, he became the first Black musician to receive a permanent contract with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, which became the Colorado Symphony in 1990. The now-101-year-old retired from the Colorado Symphony in 1999…. Burrell had dreams of attending college to become a music teacher, but when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Navy and performed with an all-Black band…. [Later, at] Wayne State University … he was told he would never find work as a Black music teacher. In the late ’40s, Burrell left for Denver, where he has family ties. Through happenstance, he met John Van Buskirk, the Denver Symphony’s principal bassist, on a streetcar. Buskirk urged Burrell to audition for the orchestra, and he was hired in 1949.… After playing with the Denver Symphony for ten years, Burrell … was the first Black person hired to play for the San Francisco Symphony. In 1965, Burrell returned to the Denver Symphony.”

December 2, 2021

Bay Area holiday programs by San Francisco Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Symphony San Jose, more

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“With in-person events back on Bay Area stages, the classical music scene is feeling the love this holiday season. December brings concerts, operas, recitals and more,” writes Georgia Rowe in Tuesday’s (11/30) Mercury News (San Jose, CA). “The San Francisco Symphony has a full schedule of events in Davies Symphony Hall this month, including two ‘Messiah’ performances … a ‘Merry-Achi Christmas,’ … ‘Holiday Gaiety’ with Peaches Christ and friends … and … ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King,’ … starring … actor Alan Cumming narrating E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story …featuring excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s iconic score…. This month brings [J.S. Bach’s] ‘Christmas Oratorio’ in four performances by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra…. Each year, ‘Carols in the California’ attracts music lovers of all ages, [a concert and] singalong performed by Symphony San Jose’s brass ensemble and the Symphony San Jose Chorale…. The Choral Project … and the San Jose Chamber Orchestra … are teaming up for … ‘Winter’s Gifts: Stars’ [featuring] the world premiere of ‘The Singing Bowl’ by [Choral Project artistic director Daniel] Hughes; works by Ola Gjeilo, Henry Mollicone, and Randall Thompson round out the program.” Choral groups performing include Chanticleer, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, San Francisco Opera Chorus, and American Bach Soloists.

December 2, 2021

Nézet-Séguin to take four-week conducting break in January

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“Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Metropolitan Opera’s music director, will not conduct, as planned, a revival of Mozart’s ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ in January, the company announced,” writes Zachary Woolfe in Monday’s (11/29) New York Times. “Nézet-Séguin will be ‘taking a brief, almost four-week sabbatical from all conducting duties commencing Dec. 19,’ the Met said, and quoted him as adding, ‘This short break will allow time for me to re-energize as we return in the new year …’ The Philadelphia Orchestra, of which Nézet-Séguin is also music director, announced that Xian Zhang would take over his scheduled concerts on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, but said that his time off would not affect his appearance with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall on Jan. 11, nor two subsequent weeks of subscription concerts in Philadelphia in January. Nézet-Séguin … is currently in the midst of leading the Met’s run of Matthew Aucoin and Sarah Ruhl’s ‘Eurydice.’ … He conducts Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ at the Met from Thursday through Dec. 18, as well as a new production of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ that opens on Feb. 28. For the ‘Figaro’ run, which opens on Jan. 8, Nézet-Séguin will be replaced by Daniele Rustioni … and … Gareth Morrell.”

December 2, 2021

Opinion: Diversifying orchestras’ percussion sections

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“Classical percussion students in their formative years require a unique trifecta of physical practice space, a robust instrument budget, and access to multiple teachers who specialize in different instruments—all of which demands some degree of financial privilege,” writes Donna Lee Davidson, an orchestral percussionist and jazz vibraphonist, in Tuesday’s (11/30) icareifyoulisten. “Because of the … personal wealth and resources needed to be competitive, it should be no mystery why the field of professional orchestral percussionists is mostly white…. This is where programs geared towards providing resources for students come into play,” such as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Talent Development Program, the Chicago Music Pathways Initiative, and Merit School of Music. “Diversifying the orchestral percussion field doesn’t begin with addressing the equity of professional auditions, but rather, the pathway of getting to the audition at all…. Attending a conservatory can be a crucial gateway for underprivileged percussionists to have access to these resources…. Interlochen Center for the Arts’ summer music camp was the only time of year I was able to consistently practice quality percussion instruments. Until tenth grade, I had to learn what I could during the summer and hang on as best as I could during the school year.”

December 2, 2021

Obituary: Composer Alvin Lucier, 90

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“Alvin Lucier, the groundbreaking American composer and educator, died Wednesday at his home in Middletown, Conn. after a long illness. He was 90,” writes Lars Gotrich in Wednesday’s (12/1) National Public Radio. “Lucier changed the way we think about sound through monumental works like I Am Sitting in a Room and Music on a Long Thin Wire.… [In] 1965 … Lucier premiered his new way of thinking…. Edmond Dewan, a physicist who designed a brainwave control device, offered his instrument to experiment. With electrodes attached to Lucier and connected to timpani, gongs, bass and snare drums, Music for Solo Performer was the result—a marriage of science and sound generated from Lucier’s own alpha brain waves…. Shortly thereafter, Lucier formed the Sonic Arts Union with Robert Ashley, David Behrman and Gordon Mumma. The … collective existed to share innovations in tape music and music technology.… I Am Sitting in a Room—first recorded at Brandeis in 1969 … is a study in resonance, decay and time…. He installed solar sound systems, wrote solos for acoustic performers and orchestras, scoped radio signals, vibrated the strings of a piano and reworked gamelan instruments for loudspeakers…. For his 90th birthday in May, the Issue Project Room presented a virtual performance of I Am Sitting in a Room with 90 performers, including Lucier.”

December 2, 2021

New York Philharmonic and John Jay College of Criminal Justice examine Handel’s investment in transatlantic slave trade

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On Friday, December 3 at 1:45 p.m., the New York Philharmonic and John Jay College of Criminal Justice will co-present The Unanswered Questions: Handel and the Royal African Company, a panel discussion exploring how audiences may or may not separate a work of art from the morality of its creator. The discussion focuses on George Frideric Handel and his involvement with the transatlantic slave trade through the Royal African Company. The discussion precedes the Philharmonic’s performances of Handel’s Messiah later in December. The conversation will be livestreamed on Facebook. The panelists are Handel scholar and professor emeritus at MIT Ellen Harris; ethnomusicologist and Juilliard professor Fredara Hadley; composer, vocalist, and experimental librettist Imani Uzuri; and Philharmonic Vice President of Artistic Planning Patrick Castillo. WQXR host Terrance McKnight will moderate. The Unanswered Questions is a new series created by the New York Philharmonic in partnership with John Jay, using Philharmonic artistic initiatives to examine broader social issues. The series was launched in October with a conversation on how and why artists and institutions raise awareness of issues in the criminal justice system, complementing performances of Anthony Davis’s You Have the Right To Remain Silent.

 

December 2, 2021

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Miami University of Ohio announce brass institute for young musicians

Industry Buzz

In 2022, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will launch the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Brass Institute, in collaboration with Miami University of Ohio. The institute—directed by CSO Associate Principal Trumpet and Miami University Adjunct Professor of Trumpet Doug Lindsay—will offer two intensive, high-level instruction programs for advanced students of brass instruments, led by musicians from the CSO brass section and Miami University brass faculty. The institute will take place from June 6 to 13, 2022 at Miami University’s Oxford campus. The institute will comprise the High School Scholars Program, designed for advanced high school brass players from southwestern Ohio, northern Kentucky, and east-central Indiana; and the pre-professional Orchestral Training Fellowship, designed to prepare brass players ages 18 to 28 to audition for positions in orchestras. “Our goal is to provide access to instruction at the highest level,” said Lindsay in a press release. “This is how we prepare young players for success.” For more information, click here.

December 2, 2021