Louisville Orchestra Broadcasts

Teddy Abrams

The Louisville Orchestra broadcasts are coming to Classical 90.5, with select concerts on Thursdays at 8pm, starting May 19, 2016.

We’ll post details about upcoming broadcasts on our Louisville Orchestra page.

Louisville Civic Orchestra

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The oldest, continuously performing orchestra in Louisville is reviving an old moniker. What started as the Young Hebrew Men’s Association symphony in 1915, merged with the Louisville Civic Arts Association in 1930, a group that is also an immediate predecessor to the Louisville Orchestra. Over the years the Louisville Civic Orchestra (LCO) has undergone a series of name changes, the most well-known being the JCC Orchestra, but for the past few years has been embracing one of its original titles.

Now directed by Jason Raff, the all-volunteer orchestra is performing on Friday, April 29th, 2016, with Louisville Orchestra cellist Nicholas Finch. Daniel Gilliam talks with Raff about the history of the group and this weekend’s concert.

Review: Mester’s Final Concerts with the Louisville Orchestra Colorful and Lyrical


(Photo credit: Louisville Orchestra)

The first Louisville Orchestra concert of 2016 also represented Jorge Mester’s penultimate concert as director emeritus of the Louisville Orchestra. Before the concert, Brad Broecker (LO CEO 2006-2009), who was crucial in securing the Maestro’s return to Louisville as music director following several tumultuous years, honored Mester’s two terms as music director.

Though Mester’s earliest and longest term in Louisville centered around the ground-breaking First Edition recordings, his last statement in official capacity was reserved and thoughtful: pairing the beloved Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff with Bohuslav Martinů’s imaginative Symphony No. 6 (Zoltan Kolday’s Dances of Galánta will be added to the Saturday evening concert).

If you’re unsure of Martinů’s legitimacy, a quick look at his musical pedigree should dissuade any doubt: Mozart taught Ignaz von Seyfried, who taught Brahms. Brahms mentored Dvorak who taught Josef Suk, who was Martinů’s first and only composition teacher. Martinů was a professional violinist for most of his career, only turning to composition seriously in his thirties and writing his six symphonies in his fifties, after emigrating to America. Add to this over a dozen ballet scores, over a dozen operas and hundreds of solo and chamber works, Martinů’s output reaches the 400 mark, and legitimacy, quickly.

Martinů’s sixth symphony, subtitled Fantasies symphoniques (“Fantastical symphonies”), was written after his recovery from a serious head injury in the early 1950s. He had taken a four year hiatus from his fifth symphony (first recorded by the Louisville Orchestra), and returned to the symphonic genre with a new idea – a free-form, fantasy for orchestra. This stream-of-consciousness approach wasn’t new to music, but for a neo-classicalite like Martinů, not adhering to formulaic rigor was atypical.

Despite this lack of structure, the sixth symphony does return to familiar motives, most notably a whirling, curtain of sound heard at the beginning (reminiscent of insect buzzing), and a cryptic, four-note motive, first announced by the principal cello. Martinů’s symphony is colorful and rhythmically challenging. The latter only caused some minor problems for the orchestra, but the former suited the orchestra well. Strings were biting and also lyrical, woodwinds pristine and balanced, and the brass gave an impeccable performance. This symphony also gives you the rare treat of seeing tubist John DiCesare use a mute — you can’t miss it.

Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, like Martinů’s sixth symphony, was born out of recovery. For Rachmaninoff, in the form of recovery from severe depression and self-doubt after a tepid reception to his first symphony. For a modern audience, this concerto is one of the most enjoyed of Rachmaninoff’s. It bears all the hallmarks of a Rachmaninoff: undulating piano arpeggios under long, velvety melodies; tender and intimate solo passages; and athletic runs up and down the keyboard.

Soloist William Wolfram is a towering figure, broad shouldered and standing at around 6 foot, 5 inches (Rachmaninoff was just as tall). The adjectives “nimble” or “agile” wouldn’t typically describe someone like Wolfram, but his calm demeanour gave him the physical freedom to glide effortlessly across the keyboard. Wolfram is a decisive player, often pensive, with little showmanship. For the orchestra’s part, the long, lush melodies that permeate Rachmaninoff’s score felt natural and sincere.

Guest concertmaster Phillip Palermo, from the Indianapolis Symphony, joined the orchestra for Friday’s concert, and returns for the Saturday evening concert, which will also include Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galánta.

Audio: Teddy Abrams and Jubilant Sykes on Bernstein’s Mass

Jubilant Sykes at WUOL

Leonard Bernstein composed Mass for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and commissioned by Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy. It was controversial at the time, taking the form of a Roman Catholic mass and interweaving new texts from Bernstein, Stephen Schwarz and even Paul Simon. Mass, a gigantic theatrical work, is an amalgamation of musical styles, from rock to blues to atonal. Jubilant Sykes, Grammy-nominated for his recording of Bernstein’s Mass with the Baltimore Symphony, is singing the role of Celebrant in the Louisville Orchestra‘s performance, with Teddy Abrams conducting, this Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Both stopped by Classical 90.5 to talk with Daniel Gilliam about this complex and challenging work.

(Related: listen to a panel discussion on Bernstein’s Mass, moderated by Daniel Gilliam, with panelists Teddy Abrams, Cantor David Lipp and Father David Sanchez. Presented by the Center for Interfaith Relations and the Louisville Orchestra)

Teddy with Jubilant

Panel Discussion: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass

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Join Daniel Gilliam as he moderates a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Interfaith Relations and the Louisville Orchestra on Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” and its spiritual implications. Panelists will include Louisville Orchestra Music Director Teddy Abrams, Cantor David Lipp from Adath Jeshurun and Father David Sanchez of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Butchertown.

September 17, 2015 at 5:30pm at the Mary Anderson Room, Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. This event is at capacity.