Category Archives: Orchestra

Review: Violinist Beilman debuts with ASO; Spano leads on Adams’ energetic “Harmonielehre” [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 3 Mar 2017 for ArtsATL.com

Violinist Benjamin Beilman and ASO music director Robert Spano. (credit: Jeff Roffman)

Violinist Benjamin Beilman and ASO music director Robert Spano. (credit: Jeff Roffman)

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of music by Theofanidis, Sibelius and Adams, led by music director Robert Spano with violinist Benjamin Beilman as featured soloist. …
READ MORE on ArtsATL

Stephen Mulligan tapped as new assistant conductor of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

NEWS | 30 NOV 2016

Stephen Mulligan (photo: Melody Evans, 2015)

Stephen Mulligan will join the ASO as its new assistant conductor in the fall of 2017.  (photo: Melody Evans, 2015)

ATLANTA, Georgia — On Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 29, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced that it has named Stephen Mulligan as its new assistant conductor. The two-year contract begins with the 2017-’18 season, and includes an option for a third year. As part of his new position with the ASO, Mulligan will also serve as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Mulligan replaces Joseph Young, who in 2014 became the first African-American to hold the post with the ASO, as well as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. •

Note to Readers: A longer, more detailed news article by Scott Freeman can be found on ArtsATL.

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and St. Philip’s Schola celebrate St. Cecila with works by Purcell and Handel

by Mark Gresham | 20 NOV 2016

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip's Cathedral Schola perform Purcell's "Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day."

Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, St. Philip’s Cathedral Schola perform Purcell’s “Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day.” (photo: Mark Gresham)

On Saturday evening, November 19, at The Episcopal Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, led by artistic director Julie Andrijeski, in collaboration with the Schola of the Cathedral of St. Philip, directed by Dale Adelmann, and the Friends of Cathedral Music, presented a concert of music for St. Cecilia’s Day by Henry Purcell and George Frideric Handel. Featured vocal soloists were soprano Teresa Wakim, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Thomas Cooley and baritone Mischa Bouvier. The program is scheduled to be repeated on Sunday, November 20 at 4:00 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, Georgia.

In Anglican, Catholic and eastern Orthodox churchs the feast day of St. Cecilia is observed on November 22 each year. Public concerts of music in her honor, scheduled around that date, have been common in London since the 1683, when the first was organized by the Musical Society of London.

Saturday’s program consisted of what are perhaps the two best known examples of Baroque music which celebrate St. Cecilia, the patroness saint of music and musicians: Henry Purcell’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day (1692) and G.F. Handel’s Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1739).

Both works began with orchestral introductions. In the “Symphony” which began Purcell’s work, the orchestra seemed to have difficulty finding a consensus with regard to the music’s pulse. One wondered whether there might have been difficulty hearing left to right across the space between the cathedral’s transepts. By contrast, after intermission, the “Overture” to Handel’s ode was was secure, the ensemble much tighter and more sharply defined. That held true for the rest of the work.

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

Henry Purcell (engraving by R. White)

The ringing sound of the Cathedral Schola, with a roster of 34 singers, filled the space easily in the louder homophonic passages without overextending. Like the instrumental intros of the orchestra, the contrapuntal singing was more clearly defined in the Handel, with the Schola’s polyphonic choral skills most exuberantly displayed in its busy, energetic finale.

Of the guest vocal soloists, only Wakim and Cooley sang in both works. Wakim did better and sang more extensively in the Handel, where she demonstrated an amiably clear and liquid soprano tone. Cooley’s appealingly lyrical tenor was also more prominently displayed in the Handel, although there were fine moments in the Purcell as well.

George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner

George Frideric Handel (portrait by Balthasar Denner. 1733)

The others sang in the Purcell ode. Bouvier, with his deep-toned baritone voice, was the most prominent among them in that work, consistently heard well against the orchestra. Mosley’s flute-like countertenor was suited to style but translucent enough to nearly disappear in the texture at times in context of the Cathdral’s resonant acoustics — a notable exception being in a trio (“With that sublime Celestial Lay”) between himself, Cooley and Bouvier, who lightened up a little to better balance with his higher-voiced colleagues. Although uncredited in the program, bass Timothy Gunter stepped out of the ranks of the chorus for a credible duo with Bouvier near the work’s end (“Let these among themselves contest”).

The goal of “period” groups like Atlanta Baroque Orchestra is to present such music, through “historical performance practice,” in a way that Handel and Purcell might have heard it performed in their own day, on original or replicated instruments of the era. It was good to have an opportunity to hear and compare these St. Cecilia odes performed from that perspective by the ABO, the Cathedral Schola and their guest soloists. •

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra releases Leshnoff CD

NEWS | 19 NOV 2016

ATLANTA, Georgia — On Friday, Nov. 18, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra released its latest recording, entitled Jonathan Leshnoff: Zohar & Symphony No. 2 “Inner Space” — the orchestra’s eighth release on its in-house record label, ASO Media, distributed by Naxos of America.

The recording features the orchestra, chorus, music director Robert Spano, director of choruses Norman Mackenzie, soprano Jessica Rivera and baritone Nmon Ford.

In a press release from the ASO, Leshnoff’s music is described as drawing upon the composer’s “religious faith and belief about music’s unique ability to transport us to places that would otherwise be impossible to go. The authentic Jewish mystical schools outline in great length the spiritual architecture of the universe and its interaction with G-d and mankind. It is within those systems that Leshnoff draws his inspiration. These works are part of Leshnoff’s 10-piece multi-year meta-project which parallels the fundamental building blocks of Jewish spiritual thought.”

The digital release is now available for download on iTunes and the physical release may be ordered online via www.aso.org/asomedia or Amazon.

The ASO Media label is one of the many hallmarks of Robert Spano’s 16-year tenure with the Orchestra, and the production team includes longtime Atlanta Symphony Orchestra collaborators Elaine Martone and Michael Bishop.

To date, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and its recordings have won 27 GRAMMY Awards. •

Julie Coucheron brings a natural insight to Grieg’s Piano Concerto

by Mark Gresham | 16 NOV 2016

Julie Coucheron

Julie Coucheron

On Tuesday, November 15, the DeKalb Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of music by Wagner, Brahms and Grieg, led by DSO music director Fyodor Cherniavsky, with pianist Julie Coucheron as featured solo artist. The concert took place at the Marvin Cole Auditorium on Georgia State University’s Perimeter College Clarkston Campus.

The featured work, and final, of the evening was Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. It is that work which is the object of this brief review. Currently on the faculty of Kennesaw State University, northwest of Atlanta, pianist Julie Coucheron is well known by area audiences for her exquisite solo, duo and chamber music performances. She has performed in concert to audiences world-wide. Nevertheless, this was the first time Ms Couchron has performed a piano concerto with an Atlanta area orchestra.

When the overly-famous opening of Grieg’s concerto is performed with genuine character, as it was Tuesday night, you know it bodes extremely well for the rest of the concerto Coucheron did not disappoint with her well-stenciled, bold, yet often singingly lyrical performance. It was especially good to hear a native Norwegian pianist offer intuitive insight into the style of the rural halling folk-dance which inspired the concerto’s final movement. Too often it gets played with a kind of Hungarian gypsy flavor as if conjured by Brahms. Hearing the difference under Coucheron’s hands was a delight.

It was also the finest playing of the evening by Cherniavsky and the DeKalb Symphony Orchestra, which had offered up Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin and the Symphony No. 2 of Johannes Brahms in the first half of the program Cherniavsky proved an able accompanist in the Grieg, drawing the best from his orchestra in the collaboration with Coucheron. •

The DeKalb Symphony Orchestra

The DeKalb Symphony Orchestra

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

ASO rings in the summer with an all-American theme at Verizon Amphiteatre

by Mark Gresham | 17 JUN 2016, Alpharetta, GA

Stand and deliver: Joseph Young and the ASO invited the audience to join in on "The Star Spangled Banner." (credit: Chris Eason Photography)

Stand and deliver: Joseph Young and the ASO invited the audience to join in on “The Star Spangled Banner.” (credit: Chris Eason Photography)

On Thursday evening, June 16, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed an all-American outdoor summer concert at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in the north suburban city if Alpharetta, led by assistant conductor Joseph Young.

As is expected with such American-themed seasonal concerts, the ASO opened with “The Star Spangled Banner,” with audience standing and joining in. That was followed by the first of several selections by John Williams to be heard in the course of the evening, “The Cowboys Overture” — music from the classic 1972 John Wayne western, The Cowboys.

On a humorous note, the ASO performed a novelty piece by Leroy Anderson, “The Typewriter,” with percussionist Michael Cebulski as soloist, playing an old-fashioned manual typewriter. Then came another
Anderson number, “Fiddle Faddle,” serving as a showpiece for the strings.

“Fly Forward,” the final movement of Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto featured assistant concertmaster Justin Bruns in a vigorous tour de force performance.

Aaron Copland’s “Three Dance Episodes from Rodeo” offered up a rousing conclusion to the program’s first half.

After intermission, the sun had essentially gone down and it was dark enough to finally see the live video mix projected on the large screens on either side of the stage. The daylight brightness essentially washed out the video during the first half. Air temperature also cooled to a more manageable level, helping relieve both audience and the musicians on stage, where it was much hotter.

The program’s second half opened with a number frequently heard in the ASO’s parks and open-air concerts: Morton Gould’s “American Suite,” a fantasia on the tune “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” That was paired with another Gould piece, the “Pavanne” from is Second American Symphonette, replete with jazzy elements and a walking bass line.

More jazz influences came with “Duke Ellington Medley,” a clutch of Ellington tunes arranged by Calvin Custer, and a similarly assembled group of elections from Leonard Bernstein’s music for West Side Story, arranged by Jack Mason, added some Latin flavor to the mix as well.

More Copland was in store with “Variations o a Shaker Melody” from his ballet Appalachian Spring, then two more film score excerpts from Williams: “The Flight to Neverland” from Hook and and audience favorite,“Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back. The program closed out on a patriotic theme with Samuel A. Ward’s “America the Beautiful” and John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Young and the ASO gave a consistently assured performance overall supported by rather well balanced audio mixing in the necessary amplification required by the large venue, which has a total capacity of 12,000 between fixed stadium seating, tables and open lawn combined.

This coming Thursday, June 23, Young and the ASO will present another outdoor concert, this time a free performance at 7:30pm in the open Oak Hill quadrant of Piedmont Park in midtown Atlanta. The program will feature music by Beethoven, Rossini, John Williams, Chris Brubeck and James Brown.

Fractured Atlas LogoThis post was made possible in part by funds from Fractured Atlas. Donations supporting the Fractured Atlas “Mark Gresham” project may be made online by clicking the linked logo on the right. Fractured Atlas is a 501(c)(3) public charity; all donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Review: Led by guest conductor Storgårds with pianist Ingrid Fliter, ASO performs Chopin, Rachmaninoff [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 13 Mar 2015

Ingrid Fliter made her reputation as a stand-out interpreter of Chopin. (Photo by Sussie Ahlburg)

On Thursday evening at Symphony Hall the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed a concert of music by Nielsen, Chopin and Rachmaninoff, led by guest conductor John…
READ MORE on ArtsATL

Review: Runnicles, O’Connor guide ASO through Mahler to the best performance of the year [ArtsATL]

by Mark Gresham | 6 Mar 2015

It was Runnicles’ first performance of the season with the ASO. (Photo by Jeff Roffman)

On Thursday the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra — led by principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles and featuring mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor — performed a concert of music…
READ MORE on ArtsATL