MSO pro­gram will ‘send a mes­sage’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Jon W. Sparks

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

The cre­ation of the pro­gram for Satur­day night’s Mem­phis Sym­phony Or­ches­tra con­cert was a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort, says guest con­duc­tor Alas­tair Willis.

But it is, in fact, very much a re­flec­tion of his sen­si­bil­i­ties as he makes his de­but with the MSO. This is also an au­di­tion of sorts for the 38-year-old for­mer as­so­ciate con­duc­tor of the Seat­tle Sym­phony, who is one of three candidates be­ing con­sid­ered to re­place David Loebel as con­duc­tor and mu­sic di­rec­tor for the MSO.

The start­ing point for de­ter­min­ing the pro­gram was the guest soloist, mezzo-so­prano Ma­ri­etta Simp­son, who has ap­peared with some of the world’s top or­ches­tras and con­duc­tors.

“She was of­fer­ing a few pieces I could choose from,” Willis says, and the de­ci­sion was made to per­form Mahler’s “Ruck­ert Lieder.” “So we needed to build a pro­gram around that.”

Willis talked to some MSO play­ers last De­cem­ber when he first came to visit, and he checked out past pro­grams.

“They hadn’t done much Brahms in the last few years, so it seemed that a Brahms sym­phony would be a good idea. It was just a ques­tion of which one, and I chose the First Sym­phony — a good place to start and a won­der­ful way for all of us to get to know each other very quickly.” That left the open­ing num­ber to be de­cided. “I wanted to send a mes­sage straight­away of big­ger in­ten­tions,” he says, to give every­one a sense of what it might be like if his stay were to be­come per­ma­nent. “I looked for a com­poser that had some con­nec­tion with the com­mu­nity.”

As it hap­pens, the con­tem­po­rary com­poser Jen­nifer Hig­don grew up out­side of Knoxville. Her tone poem “blue cathe­dral” will have its first Mem­phis per­for­mance Satur­day al­though it has been done fre­quently else­where since its pre­miere in 2000.

“Her roots are in Ten­nessee and she is one of the fore­most com­posers alive to­day,” Willis says. “I’m ex­cited to see what the au­di­ence is go­ing to make of it and what the or­ches­tra is go­ing to make of it.”

Willis will dis­cuss the pro­gram at a pre-con­cert talk at 7:15 p.m. on the mez­za­nine west level of the Can­non Cen­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.