Tag Archives: Carnegie Hall

From the Magazine: This Month in Symphony History – March 2014 Issue

From the Houston Symphony Magazine:
The article below includes extended content from the article of the same title featured in the March 2014 magazine.

Centennial Article
The Houston Symphony Visits New York

The Houston Symphony Magazine’s trip down memory lane stops in New York at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall where the Symphony made its debuts. March is significant to Carnegie Hall because it was in this month in 1889 that Andrew Carnegie organized the Music Hall Company of New York when he purchased nine parcels of land along 7th Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets. Architect William Burnet Tuthill was hired in July, and the Music Hall opened in 1891.

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall

Since the Hall was built prior to required structural steel construction, its walls are primarily brick and masonry. Carnegie Hall’s exterior Italian Renaissance design showcases the era’s eclectic architectural taste; Tuthill focused on simple, elegant style elements and created an exceptional acoustic setting.

The Houston Symphony made its New York debut, led by Conductor Sir John Barbirolli (Giovanni Battista Barbirolli) on March 3, 1964, at Lincoln Center in honor of its 50th anniversary season. The program included: Berlioz’ Corsair Overture, Tone Poem in Summer Garden by Delius, Symphony No. 6 by Vaughan Williams and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. Harold C. Schonberg of the New York Times called the Vaughn Williams piece “a combination of savagery, modality and folk music. It has its share of moving melodies, and the long phrases given to the tenor saxophone in the third movement make the dubious instrument actually sound noble. It is the bleak last movement, though, that grips the imagination as much as any symphonic movement composed this symphony. With the playing he drew from his orchestra, Sir John is welcome anytime.”

Maestro Barbirolli

Maestro Barbirolli

The following year on March 11, 1965, Barbirolli led the 94-person orchestra in its first of 16 performances at Carnegie Hall. This festival emerged when Carnegie Hall’s prime tenant, the New York Philharmonic, moved to its own hall, Lincoln Center, in 1960; executive director Julius Bloom brainstormed events to fill empty dates.

The Symphony appeared at the International Festival of Visiting Orchestras at Carnegie Hall alongside several other orchestras, including the Vienna Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic of London, the Toronto Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The festival’s program included: Weber’s Euryanthe Overture, Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme, (Enigma), Sibelius’ Lemminkainen Suite The Swan of Tuonela and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5. New York Times reporter Theodore Strongin said the Symphony’s performance of Weber’s Euryanthe “was played with ease and affection and . . . a great hit with the audience.”

Barbirolli waiting to board the plane for the1965 tour

Barbirolli waiting to board the plane for the1965 tour

On March 25 and 26, 1966, Barbirolli and the Houston Symphony returned for a spring East Coast Tour that included 19 cities. According to the Texas State Historical Association, Barbirolli continued to build an enthusiastic audience by including a fair amount of modern music in his programs. The eastern seaboard tour, which included Washington D.C., garnered unanimously good reviews, rating the Symphony among the major orchestras of the country. When the Houston Symphony returned from this particular tour, the audience shared a renewed enthusiasm for the orchestra. Barbirolli led an annual spring tour until the end of his term in 1967.

Conductor Lawrence Foster continued the Carnegie Hall performance streak on March 19. 1973—a month after Luciano Pavarotti premiered at the historic venue. Conductor Christoph Eschenbach, who is often credited for enhancing the orchestra’s national and international presence, led the Houston Symphony in Washington D.C. and New York on March 3, 1991, the year that Carnegie Hall celebrated its 100th anniversary. Eschenbach, and the Symphony returned to the Hall on March 5, 1998. on the Shell 1998 U.S. Tour.

For more information on these musicians and others, stop by the box office or Symphony Store to buy a copy of the new Houston Symphony commemorative book, Houston Symphony: Celebrating a Century.

See more articles like this in the Houston Symphony Magazine, available before each Houston Symphony concert at Jones Hall. Or click here to see our magazine archives.

Posted in 13-14 Season, Classical, Conductors and Musicians, History Archives, Houston Symphony Magazine, Tour | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Julie Thayer, French Horn, Shares Her Thoughts and Photos from Carnegie Hall

Julie Thayer, French Horn, Houston Symphony, shares her personal thoughts and photographs from her time in New York. The Houston Symphony recently played Carnegie Hall to open the 2012 Spring for Music Festival.

New York City, musically speaking, is like a Saharan Desert watering hole. It draws life and vitality to it with magnetic force and gives much needed cultural sustenance to all who visit. As musicians, we are always eager to renew our sources of inspiration and going on tour is a sure way to do that! Playing in Carnegie Hall is an experience in and of itself; the Hall seems to have it’s own energy, like a pendulum suspended in midair waiting to be let go. It’s such an amazing feeling to be a part of that space and to contribute our performance to the building’s collective of memory. The orchestra played beautifully, perhaps harnessing some of our extra adrenaline to exceed even our own expectations. I believe we created a lot of positive momentum, which I know we will keep building in these weeks leading to our next adventure: Moscow! Thanks to everyone here in Houston who helped make our trip possible– performing in New York is certainly exciting, but nothing beats our hometown audience 🙂 -Julie Thayer, French Horn, Houston Symphony

Houston Symphony Horns

Houston Symphony Horns L-R: Philip Stanton, Bill VerMuelen (Principal), Brian Thomas, Nancy Goodearl and Julie Thayer

Frank Huang and Julie Thayer

Frank Huang (Concertmaster) and Julie Thayer (Horn)

Elise Wagner, Julie Thayer and Debbie Levy Strauss

Elise Wagner (Bassoon), Julie Thayer (Horn) and Debbie Levy Strauss

NYC at Night

NYC at Night

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A Photo Journey of Houston Symphony’s Spring for Music Performance at Carnegie Hall

On Monday May 7, 2012, Houston Symphony had the distinct honor of opening the 2012 Spring for Music Festival. We performed a highly acclaimed concert entitled Two Faces of Shostakovich. The concert featured Shostakovich’s Anti-Formalist Rayok juxtaposed with Symphony No. 11 in G minor, Opus 103 (The Year 1905). Listen to the recorded WQXR broadcast of the performance here. Scroll down to view a photo journey of this exciting day!

Brinton Smith

Brinton Averil Smith, Principal Cello, getting ready to head to rehearsal

Adam Dinitz

Adam Dinitz, Oboe and English Horn, found the Spring for Music poster featuring Maestro Graf outside of Carnegie Hall before rehearsal

Maestro Graf and Houston Symphony Rehearse

Maestro Graf and Houston Symphony rehearse on stage before opening Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall

Mayor Parker

Mayor Annise Parker, Mary Lou Falcone (founder of M.L. Falcone Public Relations and publicity and media relations manager for Spring for Music), and First Lady Kathy Hubbard on stage together at Carnegie Hall!

Brinton Smith Rehearsing

Brinton Averil Smith, Principal Cello, working in some extra rehearsal time on stage before the show

Mark Hanson

Houston Symphony CEO Mark Hanson listening in on the rehearsal

Holly Cassard, Mark Hanson, Aurelie Desmarais

Houston Symphony staffers Holly Cassard (Manager, Communications), Mark Hanson (Executive Director/CEO), and Aurelie Desmarais (Senior Director, Artistic Planning) getting excited for the concert!

Mayor Parker and Elliott Forrest

Elliott Forrest (Radio Host with WQXR) and Mayor Parker

Stage before musicians

The stage at Carnegie Hall before Houston Symphony enters

Full Stage

Houston Symphony takes the stage and the crowd goes wild!

Maestro Graf

Maestro Hans Graf gives a speech at the reception following our successful concert at Carnegie Hall!

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Music Inspires! Announcing the 2011-2012 Houston Symphony Season

From left, Eric Larson, double bass, Kiju Joh, violin and Kevin Dvorak, cello

On Sunday morning, the Houston Symphony announced its upcoming 2011-12 season of Classical, Pops and Family concerts.  In line with the Symphony’s mission, enriching concerts fill each weekend with inspiration and bring innovative, first-class performances to the extensive cultural scene in Houston.  Dynamic guest artists, Music Director Hans Graf and Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski will collaborate with the 85 members of the Houston Symphony in performances that span many musical genres and four centuries of composition.  Highlights include season-opening performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; a three-week-long tribute to Rachmaninoff; Orbit – An HD Odyssey, the sequel to the internationally renowned Planets project; ACCESS, a new concert format for today’s ever-evolving audience and appearances by many talented conductors, some of whom are vying to be the Houston Symphony’s next music director, following the end of Hans Graf’s successful tenure in 2013.

Inspiring Music

Music Director Hans Graf

Stellar Artists, Beloved Repertoire
As always, the Houston Symphony brings powerful programming to the fourth largest city in the country.  Under the direction of Music Director Hans Graf, the 2011-12 season will open with two performances of the inspirational “Ode to Joy” Beethoven Symphony No. 9 on September 9 and 10, 2011, and will close with dramatic performances of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff on May 17-20, 2012.  These concerts, along with many others during the season, will also feature the talented Houston Symphony Chorus under the direction of Charles Hausmann.  In addition, the Symphony will showcase a feast of classical offerings including Elgar’s Enigma Variations; a special commissioned work by Pierre Jalbert of Rice University that will honor the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy;  Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik; and Berg’s Violin Concerto featuring the Symphony’s concertmaster, Frank Huang.

Violinist Hilary Hahn

Many friends of the Houston Symphony will be returning to Jones Hall including violinists James Ehnes and Hilary Hahn, soprano and Houston Grand Opera Studio alum, Albina Shagimuratova, and extraordinary pianists André Watts, Olga Kern and Emanuel Ax.

Debuting artists are in abundance in 2011-12.  The Symphony welcomes cellist Daniel Mueller-Schott, percussionist Colin Currie, violinist Chloe Hanslip, and guest conductors David Afkham, Gilbert Varga, Christoph Koenig, Edward Gardner, Jakub Hrůša, John Storgårds, Vasily Petrenko, Alexander Shelley, and Pablo Heras-Casado.

“The upcoming season demonstrates the impressive breadth of the Houston Symphony,” said Graf.  “We will welcome back to Houston some of the world’s most accomplished guest artists, some young talent just bursting onto the scene and, as always, we offer a bounty of music that will stimulate, excite, entertain and hopefully inspire you.  I am looking forward to it!”

Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Orbit – An HD Odyssey
Orbit – An HD Odyssey is coming!  Following the success of The Planets – An HD Odyssey, with glowing reviews, sell-out concerts, a well-received UK tour, and a best-selling DVD/Blu-ray disc, the sequel is being launched.  The Houston Symphony has once again commissioned producer/director Duncan Copp to create an out-of-this-world, high-definition film to accompany a live orchestral performance by the Houston Symphony.  Orbit – An HD Odyssey will focus on planet Earth.  Featuring John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, high-definition images from NASA’s shuttle missions, the International Space Station and satellites orbiting Earth will be spun together to tell an awe-inspiring story of our home planet’s land, sea and sky.  The world-premiere performance of this Symphony Special concert will occur on February 18, 2012.

Christoph Eschenbach will return in December to conduct Mahler's 5th Symphony.

Christoph Eschenbach
Former Houston Symphony Music Director, Christoph Eschenbach, will return to Jones Hall on December 6 for a one-night-only, Symphony Special performance with the musicians of the Houston Symphony.   Eschenbach returns to the podium, for the first time since February 2002, to lead the Houston Symphony in Mahler’s momentous Symphony No. 5.

Rachmaninoff Festival
It will be a month full of Rachmaninoff programming in January 2012 for a three-weekend concert extravaganza called “Rach Fest.” Included in the line-up will be all four Rachmaninoff piano concertos, performed by celebrated young pianist and 2010 Gilmore Artist Award winner, Kirill Gerstein, who will be serving as an artist in residence during the festival.  Rachmaninoff, a virtuoso pianist in his own right, wrote hugely demanding music for the keyboard.  Gerstein’s performance of all four, knuckle-busting concertos in three weeks will be amazing to behold. Interestingly, Houston has a special relationship with Gerstein.  In his early years as a fresh face in the industry, he was embraced by the Houston Symphony as a guest soloist.  Then, in the days before his most recent appearance with the Houston Symphony in January 2010, Gerstein received the news that he had been awarded the prestigious piano prize, the Gilmore Artist Award.

A New Concert Experience

Houston Symphony patrons’ yearning for a deeper connection to music and musicians inspired the creation of a new interactive concert series for 2011-12.  Along with the aid of celebrity guest host, Miles Hoffman of National Public Radio fame, the ACCESS Series is designed to be a highly accessible and informative approach to a symphony concert.  The concerts, a collection of three Friday evenings, will begin an hour earlier at 7:00 p.m. and will be shorter in length (approximately 80 minutes) with no intermission.  As ACCESS host, Mr. Hoffman will bring an interactive spin to the performances such as interviewing artists, conductors, orchestra members or discussing repertoire throughout the concerts.  In addition to the music, a pre-concert cocktail party is planned for each night along with post-concert question-and-answer sessions.

“With the ACCESS series, we are aiming to attract both new and current audiences who are eager to know more about the music being performed and the musicians involved,” said Mark Hanson, Houston Symphony Executive Director and CEO of the Houston Symphony.  “Our host, Miles Hoffman, will engage and excite anyone who loves great music!  This series is tangible proof of the Houston Symphony’s commitment to innovation, experimentation, and engagement.”

Even More Music!

Idina Menzel, known for her roles as Elphaba in Wicked and Maureen in Rent, as well as from TV's Glee, will perform with the Symphony in October.

The Pops season continues to provide the “Music You Know, Music You Love” in 2011-12.  Kicking off the year on September 2-4 will be “Viva Italia!”, an evening of iconic Italian hits like music from The Godfather and Jersey Boys, La Traviata and “Nessun Dorma!,”– all performed by Poperazzi, a pop-opera vocal trio from Las Vegas.  Glee fans and Baby Boomers alike will delight in several shows.  Idina Menzel, star of Broadway’s Rent, Wicked and TV’s Glee, debuts with the Houston Symphony on October 14-16.  “Live and Let Die:  The Music of Paul McCartney” comes to Jones Hall with Michael Krajewski conducting on November 4-6 along with a “Tribute to John Denver” on April 5-7, 2012.  Also in April, “Cole Porter’s Great American Songbook” will entertain audiences with song classics from Broadway and Hollywood.  Likewise, movie music will be the star of another concert weekend in January 2012.  “The Best of Williams and Spielberg” will showcase the Houston Symphony and Krajewski performing epic music from Stephen Spielberg and John Williams’ films.  Bowfire! will electrify the stage in March 2012 with their virtuosi fiddle players  who play a wide spectrum of musical genres with a show including choreography, dramatic lighting, set design and costumes.  The dance-inducing Latin music group, Tiempo Libre, will close the Pops season in May 2012 with their Cuban flair and fusion of classical music and Afro-Cuban rhythms.

“I invite you to experience these incomparable musical evenings featuring tributes to Paul McCartney, John Denver and Cole Porter, journeys to Cuba and Italy, and salutes Hollywood and Broadway. You’ll hear the music you love performed by one of America’s finest orchestras – your very own Houston Symphony! Come and join us for the fun. I’ll see you there,” said Krajewski.

Associate Conductor Robert Franz

Houston Symphony Associate Conductor, Robert Franz, has created another captivating season of family offerings.  Fairy tales, The Little Mermaid and Houston Astros’ Milo Hamilton are all part of the 2011-12 Weatherford Family Concert Series.  Families can enjoy an engaging, entertaining experience full of wonderful orchestral music on four Saturday mornings during the season. “Once Upon A Dream:  Princes & Princesses” will kick-off the Family series on October 15 with music by composers featuring brave princes and beautiful princesses.  “The Night Before Christmas” will be the Family holiday concert on December 3, and the “Music of Little Mermaid” will delight audiences on March 10, 2012.  Rounding out the four-concert series will be “Perfect Pitch:  Music of Baseball” on April 28, 2012, where the Houston Astros’ announcer and Hall of Fame award-winner, Milo Hamilton, will narrate Casey at the Bat.

“I love putting these concerts together for our family audiences,” said Franz.  “As a fairly new uncle, these concerts are an extension of the time that my niece and I spend dancing and singing together…on a bit of a larger scale! But don’t be misled; these concerts are as much for parents and grandparents as they are for kids. The fact that all generations in a family can enjoy the Houston Symphony together makes these concerts very special.”

Houston Symphony On The Road

Return to Carnegie Hall
The Houston Symphony has been invited back to Carnegie Hall to participate in the 2012 Spring for Music Festival.  With a tag line of “Uncommon Concerts for $25”, the festival is a new and innovative collection of concerts featuring North American symphony and chamber orchestras with a focus on unique programming at affordable prices.  The Houston Symphony will kick-off the 2012 festival with the first performance on May 7, 2012.  The week-long event is designed to allow chosen orchestras to showcase their artistic philosophies through distinctive and creative programming in one of the world’s most competitive musical environments, Carnegie Hall.  The 2012 festival will mark Spring for Music’s second festival; May 2011 will be the inaugural run.

Expanding the Symphony’s Footprint in Houston

Sugar Land Series
In 2011-12, the Symphony is setting-up shop in Sugar Land in bustling Fort Bend County for a series of three concerts on Thursday evenings beginning at 8:00 p.m.  The first two concerts in this new Sugar Land series will feature the Houston Symphony and Chorus in performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Handel’s Messiah.  The third series performance will be presented in the new ACCESS format – an informative and interactive approach to a symphony concert hosted by Miles Hoffman of National Public Radio fame. The location will be the high-tech, multi-functional, and easy-access performance facilities at Sugar Land Baptist Church on Highway 59.

Looking Ahead

Music Director Search
The Houston Symphony’s 2011-12 season will mark the second year in its search for a new music director.  As previously announced in October 2009, Hans Graf will end his tenure at the end of the 2012-13 season as the longest serving music director in the organization’s history.  In January 2010, the Symphony formed a committee of musicians, staff, board members and community leaders to begin the search for a replacement.  Among the many guest conductors who visit Jones Hall each season, there are possible music director candidates who are being assessed for their musical leadership, on-stage charisma and communication abilities.

Special Note for Current Houston Symphony Subscribers:

Guess what? You can already renew for the 2011-2012 season! Please click here for more information, and here to view the Classical Season Brochure.

Posted in Classical, Conductors and Musicians, Houston Symphony Chorus, Pops, Specials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going Lady Gaga Over Summer Concert Tickets

So as many of you have probably heard, dance-pop superstar Lady Gaga’s July 25th performance at the Toyota Center sold out within…hours, I think.  It’s no secret then that Houstonians are gaga over the 23-year-old singer/songwriter with a flair for theatrics.  Not to worry, though, since the famed artist added another date on July 26th for an extension of the Houston portion of her “Monster’s Ball Tour.”

But what of fanatics are clamoring for Houston Symphony tickets?  I know what you’re thinking…”C’mon, that doesn’t happen with a Symphony concert,” you say.  Well, although we haven’t yet had a sell-out a la Gaga, I’d say the Symphony’s experienced its share of a ‘Gaga Effect’ of sorts this season.

Our four sold-out January performances of The Planets—An HD Odyssey (and praised performance in New York’s Carnegie Hall) resulted in a series of concerts to be unmatched in the Symphony’s history.  And it’s these performances that have inspired the addition of a fifth concert this summer (only a week before Gaga’s concert, in fact.  Hey, nothing prevents you from catching two concerts in two weeks, right?!)  Be sure to attend The Planets—An HD Odyssey plus Star Wars this summer for a taste of what Houston concert-goers have dubbed a true hit, with the addition of all-time favorite John Williams music from the legendary Star Wars movies.

In fact, we’ve just announced our 2010 “Symphony Summer in the City” concert series, which will also feature Distant Worlds: music from FINAL FANTASY.  Within hours of the announcement, Final Fantasy fans were on our site clamoring to get the best tickets in the house, together with an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity with composer Nobuo Uematsu.  I think I may smell a sell-out.  Houston – let’s make it happen!

But back to Lady Gaga.  If you’re a fan, you’ll enjoy an interesting synergy with our third “Symphony Summer in the City” concert.  Gaga nicked her name from Queen’s song “Radio Gaga,” and has gained inspiration from the British rock band described as giving the greatest live performances ever.  You’ll not want to miss the Houston Symphony performing The Music of Queen on July 22.

Hear singer Brody Dolyniuk, who captures the sound and essence of Freddie Mercury, while the full orchestra and a rock band provide the power and harmony for a complete concert experience, including concert lighting and sound. This concert will feature music from albums such as Classic Queen, A Night at the Opera, Sheer Heart Attack, Jazz, News of the World, A Kind of Magic, The Works.

Houston, when was the last time you went ‘Lady Gaga’ over concert tickets?  We want to hear about it.  Leave a comment to share your story, and the writer of the best comment will win two tickets to their choice of one of our July concerts.

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