Thursday, February 23, 2006

World-Class Orchestras To Visit John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts And Celebrate Classical Musical Modernism

American orchestras and audiences are finally coming to terms with twentieth century musical modernism -- as the visits of three world-class orchestras to the John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C., this March and April shows. While some uninformed pundits still maintain that 21st century orchestras are museums mired in the 18th and 19th centuries, an examination of actual orchestral programming -- in the United States, Europe, and Asia -- shows that most orchestra programs now focus largely on classic works from the 20th century and new works from the 21st centuries, with usually only part or all the second half of programs reserved for the beloved warhorse classic European works of the 19th century.

The John F. Kennedy for the Performing Arts, and presenting organization the Washington Performing Arts Society, appear no longer to be dictating to the great orchestras of America and the world what works they can program before the Nation's Capital's previously quite conservative classical music audiences. Here are the programs for the next three guest "Great Orchestras" to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:

March 11, 2006
Boston Symphony Orchestra
James Levine, music director
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano

R. Strauss Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks
Peter Lieberson Neruda Songs
Elliott Carter Three Illusions for Orchestra
Beethoven Symphony #7

March 27, 2006
London Philharmonic
Kurt Masur, music director
Sergey Khachatryan, violin

Britten Simple Symphony
Khachaturian Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky Symphony #5

April 22, 2006
San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, music director
Celena Shafer, soprano

Debussy Jeux
Berg Lulu Suite
Mahler Adagio from Symphony #10
Wagner Siegfried's Rhine Journey from Gotterdammerung


And the Kennedy Center's own, near world-class National Symphony Orchestra is also exhibiting some strong -- though also uneven -- programming in this, its 75th Anniversary Season. Three weeks ago the orchestra gave the world premiere of Roberto Sierra's beautiful Missa Latina: Missa Pro Pax (Mass for Peace), and this weekend, starting tonight, the National Symphony will unveil another anniversary world premiere and another fairly well constructed program:

February 23 to 25, 2006
National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.)
Leonard Slatkin, music director
Midori, violin

Mozart Symphony No. 38 "Prague"
Schwantner Morning's Embrace (World Premiere)
Hindemith Concert Music for Brass and Strings, Op. 50
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Richard Freed's expert program notes to this concert are available here:


Washington area parents and students reading this should note that the Kennedy Center is offering special $10 student tickets to the Friday-only National Symphony Orchestra concert, subject to availability (which shouldn't really be a problem since the NSO always plays to empty seats -- especially in Winter). Please read the fine print on this Kennedy Center link closely:

Singapore's new Performing Arts Center, locally known as "the Durian".

Photo credit: With thanks.


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