Orpheus Chamber Orchestra & Lisiecki
Date of EventTuesday, 21. 5. 2019 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 21.40
Event placeRudolfinum – Dvořák Hall
Price400 - 1 500 CZK
- Jessie Montgomery: Records from a Vanishing City
- Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25
- Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Symphony No. 4 in A major Op. 90 “Italian”
- Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
- Jan Lisiecki - piano
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The majority of world-class orchestras, including chamber ensembles, are associated with an eminent conductor who shapes their sound and determines the direction they will take. Only a handful of orchestras have established themselves without this leading figure to guide them. The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is unquestionably one of them. It’ll be close on five decades since a group of New York musicians decided to launch a collective in which the intimacy and warmth characteristic of chamber ensembles merge with the rich sound of a large orchestra.
The orchestra has performed without a conductor since its inception and rotates musical leadership roles for each work. It strives to perform a diverse repertoire through collaboration and open dialogue. The players have commissioned around four dozen works and have made more than seventy recordings for which they have been variously awarded – including a Grammy for Shadow Dances – Stravinsky Miniatures, released by Deutsche Grammophon. Orpheus has always highlighted the social aspect of music, an example being their Music and Wellness programme aimed at members of the community who are not able to attend concerts due to medical or logistical challenges. Particular focus is given to people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and also to their carers. The orchestra has performed at the Prague Spring on five occasions; the first time was in 1988.
Young Canadian pianist of Polish origin Jan Lisiecki made a big impact on his audience when he debuted at the Prague Spring in 2017. A reviewer for Hudební rozhledy wrote at the time: “The evening rapidly gathered momentum: young Jan Lisiecki, just 22 years of age, was superb in Schumann’s piano concerto. His solid, strong and resonant touch and his wholesome expression were supplely transformed – the stunning, temperamental coda of the first movement became the inner world of the free movement’s private lyricism, imparted simply and naturally, and the eager foray of the joyful march-like cadences in the Finale crowned what was an extremely impressive performance. The dynamic depth of this young man’s keystrokes is remarkable; he is moreover adept at swiftly conjuring up a pianissimo from every piano, and steeling his fortes into fortissimos.”
The concert will open with the Czech premiere of a work commissioned by the orchestra, Records from a Vanishing City by young American composer Jessie Montgomery. This is a highly personal piece for Orpheus, as it depicts the ambience of “their” city. The average European is given a taste of the atmosphere of New York’s Manhattan in the filmed version of the musical West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, set on the west side of the island in the mid-1950s. Montgomery was born in 1981 on its southern tip, known as the Lower East Side. The contrasts, stimuli and vivid inspiration of this locality are interwoven into its past when, in addition to the local white and coloured inhabitants, the area attracted immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Ukraine and Germany; New York’s largest Jewish community lived here as well, later joined by Asian migrants and people of other nationalities. The composer based her work on her recollections of the music that surrounded her as she was growing up: “Latin-American jazz, alternative rock, Western classical, avant-garde jazz, poetry, and Caribbean dance music, to name a few.”
The idea to bring the Czech premiere of the piece by Jessie Montgomery together with two works by Felix Mendelssohn has its justification. Young Felix also came under the influence of the cultural environment of the Berlin of his youth, whose artistic and musical elite frequented the Mendelssohn family home. As was still the custom in the early 19th century, 21-year-old Felix set out on a trip to Italy to expand his horizons. It was in Rome that he sketched his Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 25, and he completed it in Munich during a stopover on his return journey, where it was performed for the first time in the presence of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Mendelssohn’s sojourn in Italy also gave rise to his Symphony No. 4, which thus acquired the name “Italian”. Mendelssohn stated that the work was inspired by his recollections of the ruins he saw, the paintings by Italian masters and the natural surroundings; it was not, however, meant as an illustration of specific landmarks, but was instead the result of an endeavour to convey the moods of Italy through music.