The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra showcased the arrival of its thirteenth music director, Louis Langrée, with a series of special activities. In November 2012, the One City, One Symphony initiative presented Maestro Langrée as the music director designate in performances of Schoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. After that initial success, funding was secured for a multimedia project in August. According to delegate Paul Frankenfeld, the series of two concerts, called LumenoCity, took place outdoors in Washington Park, just across the street from Cincinnati Music Hall, and featured a light show projected onto the front of the hall behind the orchestra. The free performances drew over 35,000 audience members who watched the CSO collaborate with members of the Cincinnati May Festival, the Cincinnati Opera, and the Cincinnati Ballet. As designed, everything generated great public interest for Mr. Langrée’s inaugural three weeks of concerts as music director in November. The first week’s concerts featured Dr. Maya Angelou, who narrated Copland’s Lincoln Portrait (premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1942), and the ensemble Eighth Blackbird, which was featured in a piece composed by Jennifer Higdon. The second week presented this season’s One City, One Symphony project, with Mozart’s Davide Penitente and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The third week’s concerts included Gershwin’s An American in Paris and music of Ravel, resulting in near-sellout crowds. Having recently purchased a home in Cincinnati and with plans to move his family to the city next year, Louis Langrée has shown genuine affection for the city and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Without a doubt, it has been a successful start to his tenure as music director.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra celebrated Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday in a big way, with a performance of the Requiem Mass heard worldwide, both live and streamed, by an estimated audience of 61,000 in the first three days. The October 10 concert, perfromed for a sold-out audience at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall by the CSO under its music director, Riccardo Muti, also featured the 150-voice-strong Chicago Symphony Chorus and soloists Tatiana Serjan (soprano), Daniela Barcellona (mezzo-soprano), Mario Zeffiri (tenor), and Ildar Abdrazakov (bass). The Requiem had special significance for the celebration, as it was also on the program for Muti’s debut as the orchestra’s music director designate in 2009, with the same male soloists.
The concert was beamed by satellite to local viewers of free simulcasts on Pritzker Pavilion’s 40′ by 22 1/2′ outdoor LED screen (in downtown’s Millennium Park) and at Benito Juarez Community Academy (in the Pilsen neighborhood). This was the first time the CSO streamed any concert live on its own website, and the webcast will be available for on-demand viewing there for one year. The webcast was carried live on more than 30 websites worldwide, including in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, the Canary Islands, Spain, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
Last fall, the Grand Rapids Symphony began a partnership with Spectrum Health, West Michigan’s largest employer. GRS violinist Diane McElfish Helle organized the project, called the Music for Health Initiative: Music, Brain & Body, in collaboration with Spectrum Health’s Music Therapy department. Pairs of GRS musicians perform in active music therapy sessions designed to bring live music into health care settings. The program aims to enhance movement, communication, and cognitive functioning of residential, long-term-care, and sub-acute patients at Spectrum’s Neuro Rehabilitation facility. GRS musicians participate in the Music for Health Initiative with optional services. The one- year pilot program is funded by a grant from Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation.
On June 21, 2013, the Houston Symphony performed at Miller Outdoor Theatre, exactly 100 years after its first concert. The performance, carried live on KTRK Channel 13, was preceded by a half-hour special dedicated to the Symphony’s history, garnering more than one million impressions in the Houston media market. For its centennial season, the Houston Symphony has assembled an extraordinary group of guest artists. First and foremost is the 36-year-old, Columbian-born and Vienna-trained conductor, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the Symphony’s music director designate. Opening night featured Renée Fleming. Other guests include Joshua Bell, Midori, Gil Shaham, Sigourney Weaver, trumpeter Chris Botti, Megan Hilty (of NBC’s Smash), composer John Adams, and conductors Hannu Lintu, Peter Oundjian, and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. John Williams and Yo-Yo Ma will perform Williams’ Cello Concerto together, and Christoph Eschenbach will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”). Houston delegate Christopher Neal reports that, in its 100th year, the Houston Symphony is connected to the people of Houston more than ever, performing more than 350 concerts for 300,000 people annually. For the past three years, it has achieved a record-breaking annual fund, increased ticket revenue, and balanced budgets.