John Axelrod






December 15, 17-18
Rhapsody for the People
Location: Auditorium di Milano, LaVerdi
Program: Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue (soloist Giuseppe Albanese)/ Gershwin Porgy and Bess (Bennett version)

As always, holidays are for good cheer, and which American composer with rhythm and swing always brings a smile to the face?  Here are two hints:  Porgy and Bess and Rhapsody in Blue?  George Gershwin, of course, the composer of the people.  As I wrote in my book, Wie Großartige Musik Ensteht/henschel (or the ebook English version: The Symphony Orchestra in Crisis/naxos):  Popular music aside, Gershwin was just as serious as any other composer. And his distinctively American sound became global in its appeal. But he also did something no one else at this point was able to do. He spoke to the street. Gershwin is quoted as saying: ‘True music must repeat the thought and inspirations of the people and the time. My people are Americans and my time is today.’

 

Though this will be in Milano with laVerdi and its wonderful choir, 2016 holidays will be for the people of our time, swinging and singing.  We’re on our way!

 

Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue (soloist Giuseppe Albanese)

pause

Gershwin Porgy and Bess (Bennett version)



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January 4, 2017
Silver and Gold: New Year's Gala Concert
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: FRANZ LEHÁR: Oro y Plata, Vals, Op. 79 * JOHANN STRAUSS: Vida de Artista, Op. 316 JOHANN STRAUSS: El Barón Gitano, Obertura PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: El Cascanueces, Suite nº 1, Vals de las Flores, Op. 71A PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Polonesa PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Vals RICHARD STRAUSS: El Caballero de la Rosa, Suite, TrV 227, Op. 59

Ring in the New Year in Sevilla with another fantastic concert of waltzes and dances.  The ROSS and I continue our devotion to Strauss Tone with Rosenkavalier Suite, and of course, a New Year’s concert cannot be complete without Johann Strauss.  An Artist’s Life and Gypsy Baron Overture set the mood.  But it is the Silver and Gold waltz of Lehar and Tchaikovsky’s immortal waltzes from the Nutcracker and Eugene Onegin that will make this New Year glimmer and shine with the promise of a beautiful year ahead.

 

TEATRO DE LA MAESTRANZA

Miércoles 4 - Enero 2017, 20:30 h

FRANZ LEHÁR: Oro y Plata, Vals, Op. 79 *

JOHANN STRAUSS: Vida de Artista, Op. 316

JOHANN STRAUSS: El Barón Gitano, Obertura

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: El Cascanueces, Suite nº 1, Vals de las Flores, Op. 71A

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Polonesa

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Vals

RICHARD STRAUSS: El Caballero de la Rosa, Suite, TrV 227, Op. 59

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: El Cascanueces, Suite nº 1, Vals de las Flores, Op. 71A

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Polonesa

PIOTR ILICH CHAIKOVSKI: Eugene Onegin, Vals

RICHARD STRAUSS: El Caballero de la Rosa, Suite, TrV 227, Op. 59



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January 10-11, 2017
Heimat_Klänge
Location: Konzerthaus Dortmund
Program: Zoltan Kodaly: Tänze aus Galanta- Frigyes Hidas: Konzert für Oboe und Orchester -- Bela Bartok: Konzert für Orchester Bis: Franz Liszt: Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 2

At last, I am able to return to the fabulous Konzerthaus Dortmund, and debut with the Philharmoniker with a fascinating and difficult program of Hungarian bravura.  Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra is among the great masterpieces of the 20th centuryI.  Kodaly’s frenetic and stylish Dances of Galanta will raise the roof.  Included on the program is the Hidas oboe concerto, with the internationally famous soloist from the Berlin Philharmonic, Albrecht Mayer.  This is certainly an exceptional concert of virtuosity and sheer will power! Grab your dancing shoes and meet Albrecht and I for a good bottle of HungarianTokaj!

 

Dortmund Philharmoniker

Konzerthaus Dortmund

Zoltan Kodaly: Tänze aus Galanta

Frigyes Hidas: Konzert für Oboe und Orchester

--

Bela Bartok: Konzert für Orchester

Bis:

Franz Liszt: Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 2



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January 28, 2018
A Musical Maghreb: Verlorene Herzen - Verlorene Schätze
Location: WDR Funkhaus, Köln
Program: Works by Fazil Say and Film Music by Steiner, Rosza, Jarre, Williams

I am happy to return to the WDR Funkhaus Orchester and remake the Muscial Maghreb theme with the German premiere of the work I premiered in Sevilla by Fazil Say, his “Grand Bazaar,” itself the embodiment of spices, toxins and perfumes.  The flavors of the Ottoman Empire, which gave its lasting influence on Al - Andaluz can be literally tasted in this music portraying the marketplace of Istanbul. Mozart may be the most famous composer to write about a harem.  But Fazil’s violin concerto “1001 Nights in a Harem,” which I commissioned and recorded in Lucerne has become one of the most performed pieces in the world since its premiere.  I am particularly happy to play it again. “Play it again, Sam”-We know that line from Casablanca, and the Max Steiner’s celebrated score will be played again with other great film classics based on the theme of the Maghreb, from Rosza’s Sahara Suite and Jarre's masterpiece, Lawrence of Arabia, and, of course, John Williams’ Raiders of the Lost Ark!  Since I was Music Director of Hollywood in Vienna with the ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra, it makes sense to share some of that experience and repertoire with the WDR audience.


- Fazil Say: "Grand Bazaar" (German Premiere)

- Fazil Say: Violin Concerto  “1001 Nights in a Harem”

- Max Steiner: Casablanca Suite

- Miklos Rosza: Sahara, Suite

- Maurice Jarre: Lawrence of Arabia Suite

- John Williams: Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark



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February 9, 2017
Hats Off, Gentlemen, A Genius!
Location: Teatro LAC, Lugano
Program: CHOPIN Piano Concerto n. 1 (sol. Jan Lisiecki) SCHUMANN Symphony n. 2

These words, "Hats off, gentlemen, a genius!", so famously said by Robert Schumann, were used to describe the music of Frederic Chopin, in this case when he heard the "La ci darem la mano variations" from Mozart's "Don Giovanni".  In a dialogue between his imaginary muses, Florestan, Eusebius and Maestro Raro, Schumann makes the case for Chopin's music in quite theatrical flair.  Perhaps he identified with the complicated psychology of both Mozart and his philandering hero. No doubt Chopin, ever so fragile, revealed his own emotional panorama through his music to Schumann. The first concerto of Chopin is equally expressive of his sensitivities, particularly in the second movement. Schumann's own bipolar psyche is so potently revealed in the third movement of his second symphony. In the cases of these three composers we enter the realm of their soul not only their musical minds. Fortunately, the award-winning Polish pianist Jan Lisiecki will be our soloist on the stage to give that authentic source of Chopin's cultural roots. And Mozart always casts his musical shadow over Schumann's sensational symphony.



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February 17, 2017
A Midwinter Night's Dream
Location: Opera di Firenze
Program: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Ein Sommernachtstraum (A Midsummer Night's Dream) op. 61 for soloists, choir and orchestra / Robert Schumann Symphony n. 3 in E-flat major op. 97 Rhenish

Probably one of the most popular songs in the world: it is the Wedding March from A Midsummer Night's Dream by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, composed in 1842 as incidental music and became fashionable a few years later when it was performed at the wedding of Princess Victoria with Prince Frederick William of Prussia. The solemnity of the wedding march goes well with the Rhenish symphony, perhaps the most beloved of the four of Robert Schumann, who went at the beginning of the fourth movement the caption 'accompanying a solemn ceremony. As always, I feel at home making music with my friends of the Orchestra and Choir of  Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.



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February 23-24, 2017
Dance of An Angel
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza , Sevilla
Program: EMILIO ARAGÓN: La flor más grande del mundo * ALBAN BERG: Concierto para violín JÖRG WIDMANN: Con brío, Obertura de concierto para orquesta ** LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Sinfonía nº 7, en La mayor, Op. 92

How special it is to feature our Concertino Paçalin Pavaci in this remarkable program linking Berg and his tender concerto for Violin, written "in memory of an angel" and dedicated to the daughter of Alma Mahler and Gropius, wtih the work of Emilio Aragon, which was part of a national social initiative and features handicapped and down snydrome children playing and dancing.  The "Apootheosis of the Dance," as Wagner described Beethoven's 7th Symphony, echoes man in movement.  Widmann's Con Brio, receiving its Spanish premiere, evolves Beethoven's symphony, and 8th, into an explosive essay on Beethoven's lasting influence on the muscial spirit of dance.



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March 9, 2017
Wild Nights
Location: Concert Hall of the SP, Bratislava
Program: Britten, Four Interludes from Peter Grimes Sibelius, Violin Concerto (soloist Ilya Gringolts) John Adams, Harmonium (with choir)

In a fascinating program filled with many firsts, I make my debut in Bratislava conducting the venerable Slovakian Philharmonic and choir. The first choral work that really kept me up all night when I first heard it is John Adams' major choral work, based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson and John Donne.  With this composition, Adams broke the mould of minimalism and voice a unique sound, both mystical and ecstatic.  Wild Nights, the last of three featured poems, reaches the musical climax of the synergy between love and the maternal, fertile yet temperamental sea.  Britten's Sea interludes hark to the percussive articulations of Adam's music.  I recall the final concert of my mentor Bernstein in Tanglewood.  The Britten was one of the last works he conducted.  And the original version of Sibelius' most famous work, his violin concerto, is a first for me and for most audiences, as the revised version is most often performed.  Ilya Grigolts brings the stamp of authenticity in his performance.



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March 17, 2017
Tragic in Belgrade
Location: BPO Hall, Belgrade
Program: Mahler Symphony 6 "Tragic"

Mahler's 6th Symphony is a painful reminder of human frailty.  The Tragedy of life's bittersweetness cannot be more intensely described than in Mahler's sprawling cosmos of sound, fated to be judged by a hammer blow of destiny.  The musical challenges are at the limit for the orchestra. Each time I enter the Mahlerian universe I hear Lenny over my shoulder, reminding me to go to the extremes, and to penetrate my own psyche in examining the deeper questions that life poses.   I am honored to explore this symphony again with what is described as Serbia's cult orchestra, the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra.  Cult orchestra?  Never has tragedy seemed so appealing.



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March 23-25, 2017
RAI FANTASTICO
Location: Auditorium Toscanini, Torino
Program: Turina Danzas Fantasticas Stravinsky Scherzo Fantastique Berlioz Symphonie Fantatistique

Three ways to say Fantastic! to my longtime friends at the RAI Orchestra in Torino.  The truffles may be over by March, but the music will be just as delicious.  The musical context of three versions of fantastical fantasy is a tour de force for the orchestra.   Turina's dances allow me to bring some of Sevilla to Torino.  And while Stravinsky's Scherzo can fantastically describe the buzzing of bees in dazzling orchestration, Berlioz' obsessive portrait of himself and his love-sick hallucinations, can sting with its Dies Irae and witches cackle.  This is a concert worth all its fantastic hyperbole.



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April 8-9, 2017
American Pastorale
Location: Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo
Program: Honneger: Pastorale d'Ete Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No. 3, op. 61, Ben Beilman, Violin Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 , Op. 68 "Pastorale"

My deepest gratitude to JoAnn Falletta, who invited me to her prestigious orchestra to make my only American appearance this season.  One of my favorite pairings is Honegger's Pastorale with Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Its a charming and delicate work that lingers like an afternoon summer breeze.  While Beethoven’s Pastoral is considered the first romantic symphony in its expressions of feelings rather than descriptions of natural events, I delve deeper into understanding the nature of his personal psychology, and the loss of his hearing.  These 5 movements of the Pastorale correspond to the 5 stages of less according to Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her seminal book: On Death and Dying.  These are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness and acceptance.  Though not in this particular order, it is possible to listen to each movement corresponding to these human psychic emotions.  In my theory: Denial, sadness, bargaining, anger and acceptance.  The 2nd movement, Scene am Bach, with bird calls and slurred phrases conjure up the pain of not being able to hear the birdcalls.  The Stürm is indeed angers, the Why Me? cry only to be extinguished by the sunlight, the metaphor for acceptance and resolution.




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April 20-21, 2017
Universal Brotherhood
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: GABRIEL PRÓKOFIEV: Beethoven 9 Symphonic remix / LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Sinfonía nº 9, en Re menor, Op. 125

After hearing much about young Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of the leading same named Soviet composer, and then upon viewing Gabriel's much celebrated Concerto for Turntable and Orchestra, I was inspired to propose a commission applying his exploration of technology and topicality to the most famous work of all:  Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  As the ROSS and I continue our Beethoven cycle, this one work statnds better to the tests of time because it resonates as music of our collective humanity, not only the composition of one genius setting music to another's words.  There is something visceral to see how one simple melody in the Ode to Joy can exemplify the totality of an englightened, inclusive, non zero sum formula for mankind.  In the 21st century, there is another permanent relationship added to the equation amoung Brothers and Sisters.  It is Computers.  We are not quite yet to the predicted point before Artificial Intelligence takes over humanity.  Until then, Gabriel has shown how the union between electronical remix, with digital samplers and electronic percussive pads, and acoustic, organic instruments can create something alltogether new, a hyyrbid of the past and future, all within a collective frame of mutual cooperation.  The ideal community.   Indeed, humans and machines have never sounded so good.  When I premiered the work in France in 2011, I was overwhelmed by the audience's reaction, a multi-generational standing ovation of 10 minutes.  With Gabriel, our composer in residence, the ROSS, its superb choir, and a cast of soloists, including the immensely talented Wallis Giunta, who will appear later this season in Weill's 7 Deadly Sins, and Soprano Laura Claycomb, who sang Cunegonde for my Candide production at Maggio Musicale, and WIllard White, the legendary bass, with whom I made Mahagonny in Rome, this concert will be an unforgetttable moment in the history of classical music in Sevilla. Indeed, one big family- real and aritficial, but all very happy.



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April 20-21, 2017
Universal Brotherhood
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: GABRIEL PRÓKOFIEV: Beethoven 9 Symphonic remix / LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN: Sinfonía nº 9, en Re menor, Op. 125

After hearing much about young Gabriel Prokofiev, grandson of the leading same named Soviet composer, and then upon viewing Gabriel's much celebrated Concerto for Turntable and Orchestra, I was inspired to propose a commission applying his exploration of technology and topicality to the most famous work of all:  Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  As the ROSS and I continue our Beethoven cycle, this one work statnds better to the tests of time because it resonates as music of our collective humanity, not only the composition of one genius setting music to another's words.  There is something visceral to see how one simple melody in the Ode to Joy can exemplify the totality of an englightened, inclusive, non zero sum formula for mankind.  In the 21st century, there is another permanent relationship added to the equation amoung Brothers and Sisters.  It is Computers.  We are not quite yet to the predicted point before Artificial Intelligence takes over humanity.  Until then, Gabriel has shown how the union between electronical remix, with digital samplers and electronic percussive pads, and acoustic, organic instruments can create something alltogether new, a hyyrbid of the past and future, all within a collective frame of mutual cooperation.  The ideal community.   Indeed, humans and machines have never sounded so good.  When I premiered the work in France in 2011, I was overwhelmed by the audience's reaction, a multi-generational standing ovation of 10 minutes.  With Gabriel, our composer in residence, the ROSS, its superb choir, and a cast of soloists, including the immensely talented Wallis Giunta, who will appear later this season in Weill's 7 Deadly Sins, and Soprano Laura Claycomb, who sang Cunegonde for my Candide production at Maggio Musicale, and WIllard White, the legendary bass, with whom I made Mahagonny in Rome, this concert will be an unforgetttable moment in the history of classical music in Sevilla. Indeed, one big family- real and aritficial, but all very happy.



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April 28, 2017
Nuevo Mundo
Location: el Auditorio y Palacio de Congresos de Castellón, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana.
Program: Barber: Adagio para cuerdas Piazolla: Aconcagua, concierto para bandoneón y orquesta, Dvorák: Sinfonía del Nuevo Mundo

Another debut, this time with the Orquesta de la Comunitat Valenciana in the Auditorio de Castellon, in a program that highlights the New World, north and south and influence on the composer's voice and the tragedies of these continents.  Terrorism, War, Occupation, Slavery: The American histories are not only about freedom and democracy.  The Barber Adagio, itself a piece of music from a string quartet, has become a symbolic memorial against war and intolerance, having been featured in the soundtrack to the movie Platoon and most famously as a musical prayer after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Piazzolla's Acongagua, his famous bandoneon concerto, is a masterpiece of tango in symphonic form.  Based on the name of the highest mountain in South America, it was the summit of Piazzolla's virtuosic composing for the Badoneon, while at the same time, simple in a 'Melancolico Final' statement to end the piece.  It was Piazzolla doing it his way, injecting the Tango when needed, finding his own voice the rest of the time.  Dvorak's New World Symphony needs little introduction, but it too is a strike of individuality and topicality.  Influenced by Native American and African-American songs and spirituals, the piece echos the melancholy of native and imposed people on this land and their strong story of survival.  The music ends in an American optimism, yet a final chord in fermata, sustained in color by the oboes in diminuendo, hints of the question mark that comes when a man takes from another what does not belong to him:  Land, freedom and dignity.



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