John Axelrod

July 14-15, 2018
Bernstein at 100 and the Pacific Music Festival
Location: Sapporo, Japan
Program: Bernstein Symphony 1 "Jeremiah," Mahler Blumine, Mahler Rückert Lieder, Tchaikovsky Symphony 4

Returning for the Bernstein at 100 to the Pacific Music Festval in Sapporo, the same festival founded by Lenny, is more than an honor and privliege.  It is destiny.   Once again, upon the inviation of Music Director Valery Gergiev, I find myself making music with not only some of the world's best young professioanl musicians, but also the worldl's best, with winds, brass and percussion soloists from the Berlin Philharmonic and strings from the Vienna Philahrmonic, including the esteemed Rainer Küchl, Concertmaster of the Vienna Philhamonic.


This program, with my dear friend Rinat Shaham, is a Bernsteinfest, with his great symphony, which I've performed often wtih Rinat, most recently in Sevilla, and his lieder, with Blumine, and the "I Want It" Tchaikovsky 4.  Thank you Lenny for making it all possible.

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August 31, 2018
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Theater
Program: Bernstein: Candide Overture/Danzon, Gershwin; Rhapsody in Blue, Turina Danzas Fantasticas, Marquez Danzon 2, DeFalla Danse Espagnole, Ginastera Malambo, Shionoya Spanish Watlz

Returning for the 3rd year as the Music Director of the NHK Jazz at the Metropolitan Theater is the summer highlight every year, especially in this Bernstein at 100 year.   Featuring his brilliant Candide Overture (a reminder of my Candide in La Scala in 2007) and his Danzon, we dance the night away in a Latin influenced program, including Bernstein's Danzon from Fancy Free,  and some of Sevilla with Turina's Danzas Fantasticas, with Marquez's dynamic Danzon 2, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with jazz  legend and my dear friend Salt Shionoya, playing also his Spanish Waltz.  We end this Fiesta with Ginastera's Malambo from Estancia.  What a perfect way to end the summer and to get ready for more Spanish music in Sevilla!

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September4, 2018
Location: Stavinsky Hall, Montreux with EPOS
Program: Beethoven Symphony 6 "Pastoral," Beethoven Piano Concerto 4, Mahler Blumine

The European Philharmonic of Switzerland, founded by alumni of the Gustav Mahler Jugend Orchester, are the cream of the crop, featuring the new generation of music professionals and those already performing in the best orchestras around the world.  This program, one of the major events of the Septembre Musical in Montreux, is an outstanding demonstration of this world class quality as not only a festival orchestra, but an orchestra that defines musical excellence in every performance they give.  I feel a part of something very special, and I am grateful to Danilo Pia and Tobias Richter for their invitation to make not only my favorite Beethoven symphony and his concerto 4 with Marc-André Hamelin, but to perform again so close to my home in Switzerland.

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September 13-14, 2018
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: Bernstein Symphony 3 "Kaddish," Samuel Zyman "Seferad"

As a student of Lenny’s, and as the Artistic and Musical Director of the Real Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla, it evidently means a great deal, as I have programmed more performances of Bernstein’s music during the 2018 anniversary than any other Spanish orchestra, making Sevilla the Spanish epicenter of the Bernstein at 100 celebrations.  I remain one of his strongest advocates, and, like many of my colleagues, I have come of age under the influence of this great man and his music.   We make our most meaningful statement with the Symphony 3, Kaddish, with the text of international statesman, Auschwitz survivor and my surrogate father, Samuel Pisar, who was inspired after 9/11 and with whom I premiered his text in 2003 and subsequently performed around the world.   Since his passing, we now perform with his wife, my dear Judith Pisar and his daughter, my dear Leah Pisar.  Together we will once again resonate Sam’s words and Bernstein’s celestial music as we did recently in Milan.  On the program is the world premiere of Samuel Zyman’s "Seferad," a guitar concerto about the Sefardim diaspora, composed for my dearest friend and brother, Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey, Spain’s best guitarist.  This historic program, in collaboration with CultureALL, Tres Cultras Foundation and the Aladdin Project, starts the ROSS season with a statement.  The all mankind can be brothers: Hinei ma tov…Oseh Shalom bimromav….

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September 24, 2018
Bernstein at 100 at LaScala with the Filarmonica della Scala
Location: Teatro alla Scala, Milano
Program: Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story/Divertimento, Berio Sinfonia/Ritirata notturna di Madrid

After the extraordinary success of the Berio Sinfonia with the Swingles in Torino, we make an encore performance at Teatro alla Scala, with the Filarmonica della Scala, in a program celebrating the Bernstein at 100 Centennial.  Bernstein is the dedicatee of the Berio, permiered by the composer with the Swingle Swingers in 1969 with the New York Philharmonic.  Bernstein states in the text version of his Charles Eliot Norton lectures from 1973 that Sinfonia was representative of the new direction classical music was taking after the pessimistic decade of the sixties.  It is an omnophonic atmosphere of spoken word, harmony and sound effects that gave impetus for composers to seek new sonic inspiration.  Berio’s Ritirata notturna di Madrid  starts the program.

It is obvious then to return to Bernstein for the 2nd half, with his eternal Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and his humorous Divertimento, inspired with his Marching Band finale by Charles Ives’ music, which, gave the name to his Norton Lectures, the Unanswered Question.  What is the answer then?  Not only Yes, as Bernstein said, but  this:  Connect the dots.

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October 1, 2018
What is Heaven? Bernstein and Mahler
Location:  Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Program: Bernstein Chichester Psalms/Mahler Symphony 4, with Chen Reiss

After Bernstein one logically thinks of Mahler.  To have both on a program is always a joy, as it was in Seville.  In this case, Chichester Psalms, this hymn to heavenly brotherhood and Mahler’s Heavenly Life have many connections between them.  I am grateful to the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra for inviting me to share in this wonderful program.

Of course the sleigh bells at the beginning set a charming atmosphere, as does the devilish scordatura violin solo in the scherzo.   But for me, it is the ending, the song of angels in Heaven, rewarding the listener and providing a sonic soundtrack for what childish fun Heaven might actually be, at least in our minds.  I am also in great admiration of what is certainly his most chamber music symphony, without trombone or tuba.  In fact, the reduced version of the symphony for chamber ensemble is quite effective.  Mahler's 4th was the 1st of the symphonies I conducted as a Music Director of OrchestraX in 1998 in Houston and has remained among my favorite works of all the repertoire.

I am particularly happy to work with Chen Reiss.  I met her in Vienna, as she sang Pamina for Die Zauberflöte.  Her voice is the ideal, especially for Mahler's 4th, and her personality is gracious and inspiring as is her angelic beauty.   We are very fortunate to have her perform with us.  This is sure to be not only a heavenly program, but something a memory to last forever.

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October 4-5, 2018
Lorca y Latino
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: Music of Revueltas, Montero, Bernstein, Gershwin and Marquez

My dear friend, Gabriela Montero, an important humanitarian helping the people of her country, the best imrproviser in the world and a wonderful person in heart and soul, makes the Spanish premiere of her Latin Concerto with the ROSS in a program connected to our Music and Written Word theme of the season, in this program dedicated to Lorca.  His influence on the Latin culture is immeasurable.  We support her concerto with works by Latin and American composers also influenced by Latin culture:  Marquez, Gershwin and Bernstein. This homage to Lorca will be the prologue to a season of literary and musical inspirations! Muchas gracias, Gaby!

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October 18/20, 2018
Bernstein's MASS
Location: Lisinski Concert Hall, Zagreb

As said on the Lisinksi website:  “Few composers capture their time and become the iconic voice of their age,” conductor John Mauceri said, referring to one of America's most prominent composers, pianists and conductors Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990). He was popular and famous as a conductor, pianist and composer. He was the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic for eleven years. He often played solo parts of the concert literature, while conducting the accompanying orchestras at the same time. He composed ballet, film and theatre music, operas, chamber and solo music imbued with elements of jazz, blues, rock, pop, cabaret, Jewish music, classical music and its modern-age techniques, under the influence of composers such as Copland, Stravinsky, Milhaud, Gershwin and Blitzstein. Some of his works, especially the globally popular West Side Story, bridged the gap between classical and popular music; the same could be said for his Mass. Bernstein wrote it in 1971 at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy, in memory of the killed American President J. F. Kennedy. It premiered at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. Born to Russian-Jewish parents, a social liberal and activist, he surprised with his choice – to compose a musical theatre work based on the Roman Catholic Mass. Bernstein added his own ideas and texts written by Stephen Schwartz to the Latin Mass model, raising the issue of faith crisis and cultural breakdown of the post-Kennedy era, burdened with the nightmare of the Vietnam War. Although the beginning of Mass is intertwined with elements of resignation and hopelessness, the end carries the message of peace and faith that will bring the good - both within and outside man. That message of hope will be brought to the Zagreb audience by numerous choir singers and soloists, the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Choir, with a guest appearance by the West German Radio (WDR) Children's Choir under world-renowned conductor John Axelrod.

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October 31, 2018
Vacchi and Prokofiev
Location: Teatro Petruzzelli, Bari
Program: Prokofiev Symphony 5, Vacchi, Cello Concerto Premiere with Enrico Dindo

After sharing Don Quixote together, my dear friend Enrico Dindo and I continue our theatrical collaboration in Bari with our my long time muse Fabio Facchi’s new cello concerto.  I premiered two works by Fabio in Bari, and this may be his best.  Pairing with Prokofiev’s genius 5th symphony places Fabio’s new work in the canon of the classical repertoire.  This is not a concert to scare anyone on Halloween, but to bring out the inner child, fascinated with the universe of sounds and colors.  What better place to do this than in the city where Santa Claus is interned?

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November 9/10 & 16/17, 2018
Emperor and Age of Anxiety in Palermo
Location: Teatro Polteama Garibaldi, Palermo
Program: Beethoven Lenore Overture 3, Concerto 5 'Emperor" with Beatrice Rana, Schumann Symphony 3 & Bernstein Symphony 2 "Age of Anxiety" with Emanuele Arciuli, Shostakovich Symphony 8

Beatrice Rana and Emanuele Arciuli are two of today’s most exciting pianists.  Together we spend two weeks in fascinating Palermo performing Beethoven and Bernstein, with Schumann 3 and Shostakovich 8 as the foundations for this autumn serenade in Sicily with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana.

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