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CLASSICS: FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN MUSIC: The Literary Influence

Literature has ever laid its influence on composers.

The words of essayist, novelist, and civil rights activist James Baldwin are brought to life in the deeply moving demand for justice by the Emmy-award-winning composer Joel Thompson. Best known for his largest work to date, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, Thompson is finding new listeners around the world. Leonard Bernstein, influenced by poet W. H. Auden’s work of the same title, explored existentialism in the modern world. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 explores the seven ages of Man with the piano soloist as the protagonist.  In addition, one of the new Creator Corps members will be tasked with writing a new work inspired by literature to premiere at this concert.

Sebastian Chang‘s first major performance as a piano soloist was in his own composition Concertino for Piano and Orchestra with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra at the age of 9. Sebastian obtained his B.M. in Composition from the Curtis Institute of Music & an M.M. in Composition from the University of Southern California. Chang is a regular collaborator with the Louisville Orchestra as an orchestral pianist and for many special events.

Concert Program:
Joel THOMPSON: To Awaken the Sleeper
A World Premiere piece commissioned from the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps
Leonard BERNSTEIN:  Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”

Teddy Abrams, conductor
Sebastian Chang, piano

CLASSICS: FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN MUSIC: Journeys of Faith

Creating music to honor her family, Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth (winner of the 2022 Grawemeyer Award) was inspired by the multi-ethnic origins of her grandfather to create a musical river of sound. Her “Masaot” – Hebrew for “journey” — traces his life, and explores her own identity, through time and multiple homelands while maintaining a heart of faith.

Whether contemplating or cursing the Almighty, Leonard Bernstein’s lifelong battle with faith took a devastating blow with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His Kaddish Symphony is dedicated to the memory of JFK, his friend, and President. Even now, 60 years later, the work’s exploration of faith, the elusive concept of peace, and bringing forward Woman as the narrator who challenges God all speak as loudly today as ever. With no obvious religious component, Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony continues to be a prayer for mankind.

Concert Programs:
A World premiere piece commissioned from the Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps
Olga NEUWIRTH:  Masaot/Clocks Without Hands
Leonard BERNSTEIN:  Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish”

Teddy Abrams, conductor
Louisville Chamber Choir
Children’s Chorus
TBD, soprano

COFFEE: FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN MUSIC: The Literary Influence

Literature has ever laid its influence on composers.

The words of essayist, novelist, and civil rights activist James Baldwin are brought to life in the deeply moving demand for justice by the Emmy-award-winning composer Joel Thompson. Best known for his largest work to date, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, Thompson is finding new listeners around the world. Leonard Bernstein, influenced by poet W. H Auden’s work of the same title, explored existentialism in the modern world. Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 explores the seven ages of Man with the piano soloist as the protagonist.  In addition, one of the new Creator Corps members will be tasked with writing a new work inspired by literature to premiere at this concert.

Sebastian Chang‘s first major performance as a piano soloist was in his own composition Concertino for Piano and Orchestra with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra at the age of 9. Sebastian obtained his B.M. in Composition from the Curtis Institute of Music & an M.M. in Composition from the University of Southern California. Chang is a regular collaborator with the Louisville Orchestra as an orchestral pianist and for many special events.

Concert Program:
Joel THOMPSON: To Awaken The Sleeper (LO co-commission)
Leonard BERNSTEIN:  Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”

Teddy Abrams, conductor
Sebastian Chang, piano

FESTIVAL OF LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC 2: PROGRAM NOTE

During a 1932 trip to Mexico, Aaron Copland visited a popular dance hall in Mexico City called El Salón México. Fascinated by watching the locals and listening to the band, he sought out collections of Mexican folk music, adapting their tunes into a colorful orchestral score. Alive with the stomping rhythms and brilliant colors that inspired him, El Salón México has become a popular curtain-raiser.

Gabriela Lena Frank is a one-woman cultural melting pot who has frequently drawn on her part-Peruvian heritage for musical inspiration. Her Concerto Cusqueño combines a Peruvian melody with a fragment by Benjamin Britten. She has written: “Concertino Cusqueño melds together two brief musical ideas: The first few notes of a religious tune, ‘Ccollanan María,’ from Cusco (the original capital of the Inca empire with the simple timpani motif from the opening of Britten’s elegant Violin Concerto. I am able to spin an entire work from these two ideas, designating a prominent role to the four-string principal players (with a bow to the piccolo/bass clarinet duo and, yes, the timpanist).”

Danzón is a popular Cuban dance of 19th-century origin. For Danzón No.2, Arturo Márquez was inspired by friends who are professional ballroom dancers. Popular Mexican tunes and catchy rhythms course through this music, which is Márquez’s nostalgic salute to a genre still treasured by the older generation.

The Louisville Orchestra commissioned Mexico’s José Pablo Moncayo to write Cumbres in 1953. The title, which means “Summits,” suggests the views from a Mexican mountaintop: a panoramic vista of Mexican landscape and culture. Moncayo’s score captures the character and jagged pulse of Mexican folk music adapted to a traditional symphony orchestra. The effect is upbeat and electrifying.

George Gershwin’s Cuban Overture is a sassy foot-tapping score. He had vacationed in 1930s Havana with a group of high-rolling friends. Decades before Fidel Castro took over, the Cuban capital was a vibrant party city. Known as “the Paris of the Caribbean,” Havana was extremely popular with Americans during Prohibition. In this irresistible overture, Gershwin captured the glamour and excitement of Old Cuba.

Daniel Catán’s opera Florencia en el Amazonas has the distinction of being the first opera in Spanish commissioned by a major American company.  Featuring a libretto inspired by the revered Latin-American author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the work premiered in October 1996. Portraying the story of Florencia Grimaldi, a glamorous diva who travels the Amazon in search of a long-lost lover, the lush and romantic music and orchestration of the opera are key to the growing popularity of the work.

Festival of Latin American Music 1: Program Note

Brazil’s most celebrated composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, composed Alvorada na Floresta Tropical [Dawn in a Tropical Rainforest] in 1953 for the Louisville Orchestra. Though much of his formal musical education took place in Paris, Villa-Lobos always asserted that he had learned music “from a bird in the jungles of Brazil, not from academics.”  At the time of Alvorada’s premiere, he wrote: “A dawn, in any tropical forest of Brazil, is for me an overture of colors accompanied by the magic singing and chirping of the tropical birds, and also by howls, squeals, evocations and the exotic and barbaric dances of the native Indians. . . . The themes of this work are original and they are treated in the scales of certain Brazilian Indians.

 

Cuban-American Dafnis Prieto has a multi-faceted career as a drummer, composer, bandleader, and educator. This weekend we experience his latest work, Tentación, a multi-media piece for singer-dancers, percussion, several jazz instruments, piano, and orchestral strings. Prieto has written: “Tentación is a love story, or better said an imaginary love story driven by the powerful law of attraction. The seductive quality that makes us dream for a better and happy future inside and around ourselves, diving into a vast range of feelings and emotions. This story involves many sides of an imaginary ‘but at the same time’ real relationship, the sweet, the bitter, the similarities, the differences, the conversations, the advice, the challenges, the suggestions, the ups and downs. It involves real senses caused by the imaginary state of willing, of dreaming, and desire. The music reflects in sounds and lyrics two words – real and imaginary – i.e. the real,  provoked by the imaginary state.

 

Angélica Negrón has carved a unique niche for herself in new music. Classically trained as a violinist, she now performs as a singer and accordionist with Balún, an electro-acoustic pop band. Her latest work, Fractal Isles, is a Louisville Orchestra commission. It combines electronica and bird callers in addition to a full orchestra. Collectively, they create a vivid minimalist shimmer reflecting on themes of exoticism, invasion, and the construction of otherness. Her composer’s note states: “Fractal Isles is meant to be seen and heard in saturated colored pieces of glass, enclosed in a tube and through a prismatic lens that repeats its inflection, looking back at itself and inevitably getting lost from the outside in the fantasy of what’s inside.”

 

A 20th-century musical icon, Leonard Bernstein rocketed to international acclaim in November 1943 when, at the last minute, he took over the podium of the New York Philharmonic for an ailing Bruno Walter. Bernstein was already establishing a reputation as a noteworthy composer of both classical and popular stage works. His greatest stage success was West Side Story (1957), a modern interpretation of the Romeo and Juliet story set in the barrios of New York. Bernstein crafted his Symphonic Dances from West Side Story the same year, seamlessly navigating the musical’s instrumental segments. Latin rhythms connect this score to the dance, punctuated by an expanded percussion section. Both American and Puerto Rican, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances plant a New World persona on a European form. Sixty-five years after West Side Story opened, this music still thrills listeners.

FRI 11 MAR at 11AM: FESTIVAL OF LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC 2

FRI 11 MAR at 11AM • Kentucky Center • A dazzling concert showcasing the variety and sophistication of music of Latin American composers and those inspired by the vibrant cultures of Central and South America.

Aaron COPLAND:  El Salón Mexico
Gabriela Lena FRANK:  Concertino Cusqueño
José Pablo MONCAYO: Cumbres  (First Edition Louisville Orchestra commission)
Clarice ASSAD:  Nhanderú
Arturo MARQUÉZ:  Danzón No. 2
George GERSHWIN:  Cuban Overture
CONCERT TALK at 10AM — Hosted by Daniel Gilliam from 90.5 WUOL, we present a free, pre-concert discussion about the upcoming performance featuring LO Bassoonist Francisco Joubert Bernard. Come early for coffee and a 30-minute conversation in Whitney Hall.

TEDDY ABRAMS, conductor


SERIES SPONSORED BY BAIRD

MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM

SAT 5 MAR at 8PM: FESTIVAL OF LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC 1


SAT 5 MAR at 8PM • Kentucky Center • The color, passion, and rhythmic energy of Latin music explode with these brilliant works. New works and a First Edition commission celebrate the trailblazing spirit of the LO. We welcome the timba band, People of the Earth.

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS:  Alvorada na floresta tropical, (“Dawn in a Tropical Forest”), (First Edition Louisville Orchestra commission)
Dafnis PRIETO:  Tentación (“Temptation”) — Concerto for People of Earth and String Orchestra (world premiere, LO co-commission)
Angélica NEGRÓN:  Fractal Isle (world premiere, LO commission)
Leonard BERNSTEIN:  Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

CONCERT TALK at 6:45PM — Hosted by Daniel Gilliam from 90.5 WUOL, we present a free, pre-concert discussion about the upcoming performance featuring composer Dafnis Prieto. Come early for a 30-minute conversation in Whitney Hall.

TEDDY ABRAMS, conductor
PEOPLE OF EARTH


SERIES SPONSORED BY THE BROWN-FORMAN FOUNDATION
COMMISSIONING SPONSOR:  RABBIT HOLE DISTILLERY

MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM

SAT 12 MAR: FESTIVAL OF LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC 2

SAT 12 MAR at 8PM • Kentucky Center •  A dazzling concert showcasing the variety and sophistication of music of Latin American composers and those inspired by the vibrant cultures of the Americas.

Aaron COPLAND:  El Salón Mexico
Gabriela Lena FRANK:  Concertino Cusqueño
José Pablo MONCAYO: Cumbres  (First Edition Louisville Orchestra commission)
Arturo MARQUÉZ:  Danzón No. 2
Daniel CATÁN          Suite from Florencia en el Amazonas
1. En el muelle (On the Pier)
2. Arcadio
3. La tormenta (The Storm)
4. Amanecer (Sunrise)
5. Paula
6. Aria final de Florencia (Florencia’s Farewell)
George GERSHWIN:  Cuban Overture

CONCERT TALK at 6:45PM — Hosted by Daniel Gilliam from 90.5 WUOL, we present a free, pre-concert discussion about the upcoming performance featuring LO Bassoonist Francisco Joubert Bernard. Come early for coffee and a 30-minute conversation in Whitney Hall.

TEDDY ABRAMS, conductor


SERIES SPONSORED BY THE BROWN-FORMAN FOUNDATION

FRI 4 MAR at 11AM: FESTIVAL OF LATIN AMERICAN MUSIC 1

FRI 4 MAR at 11AM • Kentucky Center •The color, passion, and rhythmic energy of Latin music explodes with these brilliant works. New works and a First Edition commission celebrate the trailblazing spirit of the LO. We welcome the salsa band, People of the Earth.

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS: Alvorada na floresta tropical  (“Dawn in a Tropical Forest”)
Dafnis PRIETO:  Tentación (“Temptation”) — Concerto for People of Earth and String Orchestra (world premiere, LO co-commission)
Angélica NEGRÓN:  Fractal Isles (world premiere, LO commission)
Leonard BERNSTEIN:  Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
CONCERT TALK at 10AM — Hosted by Daniel Gilliam from 90.5 WUOL, we present a free, pre-concert discussion about the upcoming performance featuring composer Dafnis Prieto. Come early for coffee and a 30-minute conversation in Whitney Hall.

TEDDY ABRAMS, conductor
PEOPLE OF EARTH


SERIES SPONSORED BY BAIRD
COMMISSIONS SPONSORED BY RABBIT HOLE DISTILLERY

CONCERT SPONSORED BY MCGRIFF and by HEAVEN HILL DISTILLERY

MORE ABOUT THIS PROGRAM

ABOUT THE FESTIVAL

People of Earth, a dynamic Latin timba ensemble based in New York City, appears with Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra in Whitney Hall on March 4 and 5, in a highlight of Part I of the orchestra’s two-concert Festival of Latin American Music. Part II continues March 11-12, in a festival that sweeps across the Caribbean and through the hemisphere on a tour of the music of the Americas.

Together, the two concerts premiere three new compositions commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra, and two commissioned and premiered by the Louisville Orchestra more than 50 years ago under the baton of symphony founder Robert Whitney.

Besides the new, there’s also the familiar, with the March 4-5 concerts featuring Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances,” from “West Side Story,” and the March 11-12 concerts capped with the “Cuban Overture,” by George Gershwin.

A lot of sounds, and it’s all got rhythm.

“We’re bringing together all kinds of perspectives on Latin Music, from traditional to jazz, fusion and concert music as we celebrate this culture,” says Abrams. “The rhythms and textures that bring energy and light to Latin Music will be on display at these shows — and I’m so excited to bring these performers and this music to Louisville audiences.”

The People of Earth is a band of singers, dancers, horns, and percussion infusing the many beats and dance rhythms of Cuba and the Caribbean — all perking with the symphony’s strings. Abrams says the blend, “blurs the lines of salsa club and concert hall.

“We had the extraordinary opportunity to commission a new work from Dafnis Prieto, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” fellow, and multi-Grammy-winning Cuban composer and performer,” says Abrams. “He agreed to write a piece that redefines the concept of soloist,” with the People of Earth timba band taking center stage.

Prieto says his “Tentacion” (Temptation) explores the many sides of a relationship in “an imaginary love story driven by the powerful law of attraction.”

Abrams notes that the Festival’s new commissions re-affirm the Louisville Orchestra’s association with Latin Music. Many of the hundreds of works premiered and recorded by the symphony on its First Edition label a half-century ago were created by musicians of international fame, including Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil’s most famous composer. His “Alvorada na Floresta Tropical” (Dawn in a Tropical Rainforest) premiered in Louisville in1953.

Though classically trained in Paris, Villa-Lobos always asserted he learned his music “from a bird in the jungles of Brazil, not from academics.” For the premiere, Villa-Lobos explained, “A dawn, in any tropical forest of Brazil, is for me an overture of colors accompanied by the magic singing and chirping of tropical birds — and also by the howls, squeals, evocations and the exotic barbaric dances of the native Indians.” Villa Lobos adapted the tonal scales of indigenous Brazilians into his composition. The piece is programmed for Saturday, Mar. 5 only.

Later in March, Abrams has programmed Joaquin Rodrigo’s guitar “Concierto de Aranjuez” into the Louisville Orchestra’s “Music Without Borders” series, Mar. 24, 25 and 26, at The Temple, The Jeffersonian, and the Ogle Center, respectively. Stephen Mattingly is the featured guitarist.

CONCERT LINKS TO LEARN MORE

Festival of Latin American Music #1
Friday, March 4 at 11AM at Kentucky Center
Saturday, March 5 at 8PM at Kentucky Center

Festival of Latin American Music #2
Friday, March 11 at 11AM at Kentucky Center
Saturday, March 12 at 8PM at Kentucky Center

Concierto de Aranjuez
Thursday, March 24 at 7:30PM at The Temple
Friday, March 25 at 7:30PM at The Jeffersonian
Saturday, March 26 at 7:30PM at The Ogle Center at IUS