Preview takes a quick trip around the globe, and discovers a wonderfully diverse selection of performances to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. The Los Angeles Philharmonic goes Latin, the San Francisco Symphony hosts a masquerade ball, the New York Philharmonic opts for comedy, the London Symphony Orchestra goes to the movies, the Mariinsky Opera celebrates 200 years of Verdi – and the Vienna Philharmonic heralds the arrival of the New Year with its traditional concert of Strauss favourites.
Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles extends an invitation to celebrate New Year’s Eve in true carnival style – with legendary Brazilian producer, composer, keyboardist and vocalist, Sergio Mendes, accompanied by singer and percussionist, Sheila E, a troupe of Brazilian dancers – and a carnival-style cocktail party.
One of the most internationally successful Brazilian artists of all time, Sergio Mendes has been delighting the world with his own sophisticated mix of bossa nova and samba over the past five decades, shooting to international stardom with his album Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. More recently, in 2012, Mendes received his first Oscar® nomination in the music category for his contribution to the score of the animated 3-D feature film, Rio, of which he was executive music producer. He’ll be providing the music for the sequel, Rio 2, as well, due for release in the US in April 2014.
Sergio Mendes is joined for this celebratory concert by one of the most talented percussionist/drummers in the world, Sheila E, daughter of jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo – who’ll be in San Francisco, appearing at the SFJazz Center’s New Year’s Eve bash. Having performed and/or recorded with some of the greatest names in jazz, Sheila has also appeared at the Oscars with Placido Domingo, served as musical director for names such as Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé Knowles, and Prince, and is soon to follow Marvin Gaye on his final world tour.
San Francisco Symphony is set to add some sparkle to New Year’s Eve with its traditional Masquerade Ball. Corks will pop, glasses will fizz, and British conductor Michael Francis will once again lead the Symphony in a confection of delights from Franz Lehár, Strauss the younger, Gershwin, Lerner and Lowe, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash. Guests will dance the night away on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall, in true 1930s style, to the music of the Peter Mintun Orchestra.
Michael Francis, a great favourite with San Francisco audiences, is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. Earlier this year, Decca Classics released Valentina Lisitsa’s sensational recordings of the four Rachmaninoff piano concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, on which Michael conducted the London Symphony Orchestra. This is his third New Year’s Eve appearance with the San Francisco Symphony, and special guest artists include Grammy® Award winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and baritone Kelly Markgraf, in a concert which will be broadcast live on KDFC, the Bay Area’s classical music radio station, and streamed round the world on www.kdfc.com.
The New York Philharmonic, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert, will be joined at Lincoln Center for its New Year’s Eve Gala Concert by musical humorists Igudesman and Joo in their Philharmonic debut – with a special guest appearance by violinist Joshua Bell.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as “The kings of classical music comedy”, violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo throw tradition to the winds with their unique and hilarious combination of classics, comedy, popular culture and fun, from which there’ll be no escape for conductor Alan Gilbert or the musicians of the Philharmonic. Rachmaninoff, Johan Strauss II, Mozart and even the James Bond theme feature in the programme which includes the world premiere of Ring in the Classics, written by Igudesman and Joo for Alan Gilbert who’ll apparently be placed firmly in the spotlight.
Over to London, where the Royal Albert Hall invites you to celebrate the New Year in style, as it opens its doors for the first time for an end-of-year event. On the programme is an exclusive UK premiere, The Artist – Live in Concert. Recalling the golden days of the Hollywood silent film, the multi-award winning French film The Artist will be screened in high-definition, with the soundtrack performed live by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ernst Van Tiel. The special guest pianist is Ludovic Bource, Oscar-winning composer of the score for what has become the most decorated French film in history.
Set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, The Artist was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards ®, it won five – including Best Director (the first French film ever to win this award), Best Picture and Best Original Score. It was also nominated for six Golden Globe Awards – winning three – and securing seven of the 12 BAFTAs for which it was nominated.
In celebration of the Verdi bi-centennial in 2013, St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre rounds off the year with the premiere of a new production, by Pier Luigi Pizzi, of one of Verdi’s most loved operas, Il trovatore. The performance takes place in Mariinsky II, the city’s spectacular new theatre located alongside the historic 1860 Mariinsky Theatre and the 2006 Concert Hall, forming part of a unique cultural complex.
With overall musical direction by Valery Gergiev, conductor Mikhail Sinkevich leads the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in this production which features soprano Tatiana Serjan as Leonora, and mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Azucena.
Stage director and costume designer, Pier Luigi Pizzi, is one of Italy’s most respected opera directors, who has worked on Il trovatore several times before. Referring to Il trovatore as “an icon of Verdian melodrama”, he says: “The perfection of the opera’s musical form, its engaging subject, the vivid choral fragments and the incredible beauty of the melodies allow Verdi to convey human passions to as great a degree as possible: love, hate, jealousy, revenge, death…”.
Finally, to Vienna, where – true to tradition – the Vienna Philharmonic will once more delight music lovers the world over, as it heralds the New Year with a joyful concert of music from the repertoire of members of the Strauss family and their contemporaries.
These New Year concerts had their origins during a dark period of Austria’s history – the early years of the Second World War – and were conceived for local audiences, to remind them of happier times, and to provide a source of hope for the future. Through its interpretation of the masterworks of this genre of music, the members of the Vienna Philharmonic – as musical ambassadors of Austria – send a New Year’s greeting to people all round the world, in the spirit of hope, friendship and peace.
The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, and the Vienna Philharmonic considered it appropriate to invite the Argentine-born Israeli pianist, conductor and peace activist, Daniel Barenboim, to lead the orchestra in its first concert of the year. During an illustrious career spanning six decades, Barenboim’s list of achievements has been nothing short of spectacular, but perhaps the one closest to his heart is the establishment – with Edward Said – of the West-Eastern Divan, an orchestra which has brought together Israeli and Arab musicians, providing them with total equality in defiance of the fierce political divides of the Middle East.
This, the 74th annual New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic, features the music of Eduard Strauss, Josef Strauss, Johann Strauss Snr, Johann Strauss Jr, Josef Hellmesberger Jr, Richard Strauss, Joseph Lanner and Leo Delibes, and will be broadcast live or time-delayed in over 80 countries around the world on New Year’s Day. It will also be recorded live by Sony Classical for release on January 13.
Wherever in the world you are, Preview sends every good wish for 2014. May it bring peace and joy to you all.