The Concertgebouworkest devotes the whole of this coming weekend to Made in America – music written by Americans or composed in the United States. The three concerts of the Made in America weekend are conducted by Susanna Mälkki, Stéphane Denève and Klaus Mäkelä respectively, with soloists Leila Josefowicz on Saturday evening, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor on Sunday afternoon and Calogero Palermo on Sunday evening. These events will all be streamed online from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
This celebration of music from America starts on Friday, 28th January at 8.00 pm (CET), with a series of chamber performances by musicians of the Concertgebouw, a brief interview with artistic director Ulrike Niehoff, and a pub quiz, hosted in English, by Belgian actor and television personality Thomas Vanderveken – who will also be introducing each of the concerts. Audiences around the world can watch and listen without taking part in the quiz, but for those who’d like to participate, details can be found on the Concertgebouworkest website.
Saturday’s concert is led by Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki, whom the San Francisco Chronicle says “…. can invest anything she touches with persuasive grandeur”. Now in her sixth season as Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestra Mälkki is also Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and makes her debut at Carnegie Hall this season, conducting the New York Philharmonic.
The performance on Saturday opens with A Short Piece for Orchestra by Julia Perry, the African American composer known for incorporating into her works the folk music of her youth. Widely acclaimed in the United States, Julia Perry has had her music performed by many notable orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic.
This is followed by John Adams’ Violin Concerto, with violinist Leila Josefowicz as guest artist. This concerto is described by the Boston Globe as having “the qualities of intelligence, craftsmanship, and quirkiness that have always marked the composer and his work”, and the Guardian says that “It also demonstrates the way Adams has so successfully reinvented the traditional concerto form in his own eclectic image”.
It’s an extremely difficult work to perform, one which few violinists are capable of doing, but Josefowicz is not only a passionate supporter of contemporary work, but has the requisite skill, and the courage to take on a challenge such as this concerto. (See more)
The concert ends with Charles Ives’ Symphony No 2, a work characterised by references to melodies such as Camptown Races and popular songs from Ives’ youth in New England, but also to Beethoven’s Symphony No 5 and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde.
Susanna Mälkki leads the Concertgebouworkest in a programme of works by Perry, Adams and Ives, with soloist Leila Josefowicz, in an online concert on Saturday, 29th January, at 8.00 pm (CET). For details on how to access the stream, see the Concertgebouworkest website.
On Sunday afternoon, Stéphane Denève takes to the podium of the Concertgebouw with a programme of famous film music. Currently Music Director of the St Louis Symphony Orchestra – a position which he will retain until the 2025-26 season – Maestro Denève will, from September 2023, also become Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra.
The programme opens with Jennifer Higdon’s Blue Cathedral and Peter Lieberson’s moving Neruda Songs, sung by Grammy® Award-winning mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor. Praised by The Scotsman for her “….remarkable richness and darkness of tone, but also her sheer range and suppleness of expression”, Kelley O’Connor had the title role of The Gospel According to the Other Mary written for her by John Adams. Ms O’Connor has since performed the work in concert and in the fully staged production by Peter Sellars.
The concert then moves to Alfred Newman’s 20th Century Fox Fanfare, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s The Sea Hawk, selections from Bernard Herrmann’s music for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and music from John Williams, without whom no programme of film music would be complete. Featured Williams pieces are from ET: Adventures on Earth and Star Wars.
Stéphane Denève leads the Concertgebouworkest and mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor in a programme of film music, on Sunday, 30th January, at 2.15 pm (CET). Details on how to stream the concert can be found on the Concertgebouworkest website.
Sunday evening’s concert – a programme of music by Julia Wolfe, Aaron Copland and Antonín Dvořák – is led by Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä.
Klaus Mäkelä is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. He became Artistic Advisor of the Orchestre de Paris at the start of the 2020-21 season, and was appointed Music Director last September. Following a performance led by Maestro Mäkelä, The Times wrote: “Here was something truly special: a conductor who revelled in freshly imagining each sound”.
Julia Wolfe – recipient of a 2015 Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” – has written a number of works for strings. Her Fountain of Youth – which has its Dutch premiere in this concert – was commissioned by the New World Symphony, with additional support from Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. The work was premiered in April 2019 by the New World Symphony, led by Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, who is also Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony.
Aaron Copland wrote his Clarinet Concerto in 1947-48, following a request by jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman to compose a work for him. The first part of this two-movement concerto is regarded as one of Copland’s most lyrical and melodious creations, and is separated from the more jazzy second part by a cadenza for the soloist. Copland was featured in the TV series Keeping Score by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony.
The soloist in this Clarinet Concerto is multi-award-winning clarinetist Calogero Palermo, Principal Clarinet of the Concertgebouworkest – a role which he has also held in the Orchestra del Teatro V. Bellini in Catania, the Orchestra del Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and in the Orchestre National de France in Paris. Also known for his numerous solo appearances, Mr Palermo has for many years been a member of the Quintetto di fiati Santa Cecilia – Concertgebouw. (See more)
Antonín Dvořák wrote his Symphony No 9 From the New World in New York, where he’d gone in 1892 to take up the role of director of the National Conservatory of Music. He found New York exciting and colourful, and – inspired by the characteristics of Afro-American songs – used these to create new themes for the symphony which arguably became his most successful internationally. The work was premiered at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 16th December, 1893, with Anton Seidl conducting the New York Philharmonic.
Klaus Mäkelä leads the Concertgebouworkest in works by Dvořák, Wolfe and Copland, with clarinet soloist Calogero Palermo, on Sunday, 30th January, at 8.00 pm (CET). For details on streaming this concert, see the Concertgebouworkest website.
All recordings of both orchestral and chamber music will remain available until 6th February.
Information sourced from:
Concertgebouworkest programme notes