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Teddy Abrams Leads Oregon’s Britt Festival Orchestra Season (July 26–Aug 11), Featuring New Commission from Christopher Cerrone, Outdoor-Themed Classics & Stellar Guest Artists
The Britt Festival Orchestra announces its 2019 summer season, anchoring Oregon’s Britt Music and Arts Festival with three weeks of exhilarating open-air programming in the scenic Rogue Valley, also home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Under the galvanizing leadership of Music Director Teddy Abrams, the 2019 season features a compelling combination of beloved staples of the repertoire and cutting-edge, twenty-first century compositions. The season-opening concert is highlighted by a new Britt co-commission from Christopher Cerrone with soloists Third Coast Percussion, and features the conducting debut of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, who will be in residence this season as the Composer/Conductor Fellow. Three solo concertos dispersed throughout the summer showcase violinist Augustin Hadelich, cellist Oliver Herbert, and pianist George Li. An ecology-themed concert called “The Rising Seas,” highlighted by John Luther Adams’s prescient work Become Ocean, crowns a series of pieces celebrating nature throughout the season, punctuated by cornerstones of the orchestral literature from Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy and Sibelius. Finally, a new score for Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet silent film classic Battleship Potemkin, drawing from some of the greatest moments in classical music, brings the season to a close. The 2019 Britt Orchestra Season runs from July 26 to August 11. Click here for tickets and more information.
It is the young Music Director’s creative vision that helps set Britt’s programming apart. As he explains:
“The 2019 Britt Festival Orchestra season reflects our vision of presenting unique, creative projects and showcasing our world-class orchestra in diverse repertoire. This is a particularly special summer for the Festival – we are adding a new series of Tuesday performances that provide a platform for experimentation and community programming. This brings our total number of full-orchestra concerts to nine over the three-week run of the festival, and allows us to define the Britt Hill as a venue with constant musical activities, appealing to audiences of all backgrounds and musical interests.
“Our signature ‘Composer-Conductor Fellowship’ program continues in its third year, with a commission from last year’s fellow, Christopher Cerrone, and featuring the conducting debut of this season’s fellow, Caroline Shaw. Both fellows are world-renowned composers who come to Britt to experiment with conducting! We are also presenting exceptional soloists like Augustin Hadelich, George Li, and Oliver Herbert, and we will perform a specially-created score for Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, featuring over 30 works of great orchestral repertoire woven into a live film score. I can’t wait to get back to the Rogue Valley and make music with our wonderful orchestra in our beautiful venue and our gem of a town.”
Composer/Conductor Fellowship: Christopher Cerrone and Caroline Shaw
Last season, Abrams created an innovative, one-of-a-kind Composer/Conductor Fellowship, a program in which a noted American composer is brought to Oregon each summer to study conducting with him and then write a commissioned work, providing the fellows not only with exposure but also a unique hands-on opportunity to work directly with the musicians for whom they will be composing. The first fellow was Rome Prize-winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist Christopher Cerrone; his piece Will There Be Singing was heard last season, and he also conducted Beethoven’s Egmont overture, under Abrams’s tutelage. Cerrone’s subsequently commissioned work will be heard in the season-opening concert this summer, featuring Chicago-based percussion ensemble Third Coast Percussion – a quartet with “technical precision, palpable groove, and outstanding sound” (Time Out New York) – as soloists. That concert opens with the overture from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which will be conducted by this season’s recipient of the Composer/Conductor Fellowship, Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw. Shaw’s work The Mountain That Loved a Bird will be performed this summer on a soon-to-be-announced Tuesday concert series, and she, in turn, will be commissioned to compose a new piece to be performed by the orchestra in 2020.
At 34, violinist Augustin Hadelich has established himself as one of the most in-demand violinists in the world. Named “2018 Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America, he has performed with every major orchestra in the U.S., many on numerous occasions, as well as an ever-growing number of orchestras in the UK, Europe, and Asia. He uses his phenomenal technique, soulful approach, and beauty of tone in the service of an adventurous repertoire from Mozart to Ligeti and beyond. With the Britt Festival Orchestra, on August 9, he performs Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, his 2017 recording of which, with Vasily Petrenko leading the London Philharmonic Orchestra, moved BR-Klassik to report: "Augustin Hadelich is compelling in his mastery of the instrument and in his impeccable and consummate violin playing. He lacks nothing of graceful ease or virtuosic power - an irresistible mixture.”
On July 28, fast-rising young star cellist Oliver Herbert joins the Britt Festival Orchestra for a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto. Though Elgar’s masterwork was hampered by a disastrously under-rehearsed premiere and was slow to catch on in its day, an iconic recording by Jacqueline du Pré in the 1960s restored the contemplative concerto to its rightful place as a staple of the repertoire. Herbert, who at the age of 17 won first prize and the Pablo Casals Prize at the prestigious Irving M. Klein International String Competition, as well as a top prize and special prize at the 2018 Witold Lutosławski International Cello Competition, also recently made debuts with the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Warsaw Philharmonic.
Praised by the Washington Post for combining “staggering technical prowess, a sense of command and depth of expression,” Chinese-American pianist George Li is another young musician of exceptional virtuosity and refinement who joins the orchestra on August 2 for Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. Since winning the Silver Medal at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition, Li has rapidly established a major international reputation and performs regularly with some of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. An exclusive Warner Classics recording artist, his debut recital album was recorded live at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and released in October 2017.
Orchestral Staples, Outdoor Themes and a Special Screening Event
The natural beauty of the al fresco surroundings is one of the outstanding features of the Britt Festival Orchestra experience. Abrams says:
“There is something really remarkable about hearing music in this hillside venue that accommodates around 2,200 people. Immediately, listeners discover there is no barrier with the orchestra. You really feel like you are submerged in nature, with the audience looking down in a natural amphitheater. Everyone feels like they are right up close to the orchestra, and no one feels like they are at the back of a big lawn.”
The conductor honors that setting this summer with a series of beloved outdoor-themed works from the classical canon. Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony shares the bill with the Elgar concerto (July 28), and the Tchaikovsky concerto is accompanied by Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps (One Spring Morning) and Anna Clyne’s Abstractions (Aug 9). Clyne’s five-movement work is inspired by five paintings, three of which – “Marble Moon,” “Seascape” and “The River” – evoke the natural world. Even Sibelius’s Second Symphony (Aug 2) and Brahms’s Third Symphony (July 26), with their lush, expansive melodies and horn calls, might have been tailored to the outdoor setting. On August 4, the outdoor motif becomes a call to action, with an ecology-themed concert called “The Rising Seas” comprising Debussy’s La Mer and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Become Ocean by John Luther Adams. As Adams says of his inspiration:
“If you stop and think about the oceanic dimension of music, there’s this implication of immersion. We came from the ocean, and we’re going back to the ocean, right? We’re made up mostly of water, and life on earth first emerged from the seas. And with the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising sea levels, we may become ocean sooner than we imagine.”
Finally, for the season finale concert, the orchestra performs a new score for Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet silent film classic Battleship Potemkin, drawing from some of the greatest moments in classical music from composers including Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Debussy, Janacek, Mahler, Holst, and more. Named the greatest film in history at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, Battleship Potemkin is still universally acclaimed, and has influenced generations of filmmakers since its 1925 release.
Innovation and Community Engagement
Teddy Abrams has been Music Director of the Britt Orchestra since 2014, and recently extended his contract with the ensemble through 2023. His spirit of innovation and community engagement is everywhere evident, whether it be in a pub crawl with the orchestra playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in bars throughout the region, by programming music that addresses critical local issues like homelessness, or through outreach activities in local high schools. In the summer of 2016 he led the orchestra in the world-premiere performance of a Britt Music and Arts Festival commission to mark the centennial of America’s National Park Service: composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Michael Gordon’s Natural History. The performance took place at Oregon’s breathtaking Crater Lake, a site sacred to the local Klamath Tribes that was the inspiration for Gordon’s work; it not only featured the 40 members of the orchestra, a 70-voice choir, and 30 brass players and percussionists, but also a Klamath family drum group known as the Steiger Butte Singers, with several members of the Klamath Tribal Council in attendance. This once-in-a-lifetime event was captured on disc by Cantaloupe Music and subsequently chronicled in the Emmy-nominated documentary Symphony for Nature: The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake, directed by Anne Flatté and co-produced by Owsley Brown Presents and the Britt Music and Arts Festival. The irrepressibly energetic Abrams is also in the midst of his fifth season at the helm of the Louisville Orchestra, where his hallmarks of innovation and community engagement have been similarly transformative. As NPR Music advises, “to help boost interest in classical music, look no further than Teddy Abrams.”
About the Britt Orchestra and Britt Music & Arts Festival
Founded in 1963, the Britt Orchestra brings together 90 professional musicians from across the United States for three weeks of open-air performances each summer. Forming the heart of the annual Britt Music & Arts Festival, the Britt Orchestra Season takes place in Jacksonville, Oregon, less than half an hour’s drive from the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The festival was the brainchild of Portland conductor John Trudeau and musician Sam McKinney, who came to southern Oregon in search of the perfect location. When they discovered the superb natural acoustics and stunning views of Britt Park – the former hillside estate of Jacksonville pioneer Peter Britt, a Swiss-born photographer who became one of Oregon’s most celebrated citizens – they knew that they had found it. In 1963, with a small chamber orchestra on a makeshift stage, the first summer outdoor music festival in the Pacific Northwest was born.
Since its grassroots beginnings, the non-profit organization has grown from a two-week chamber festival to a multi-disciplinary summer-long concert series with year-round education and engagement programs too. Constructed 40 years ago, the 2,200-capacity Britt Pavilion enables Britt to present world-class artists while maintaining the intimacy for which it is known.
Tickets will go on sale to the public online and at the box office Friday, January 25 at 10:00 a.m. There is not a member pre-sale for Britt Festival Orchestra concerts.
The Tuesday series will be announced Thursday, February 7.
Click here to download high-resolution photos.
Britt Orchestra 2019 Season
Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville, OR
All concerts start at 8:00pm and are conducted by Music Director Teddy Abrams.
Fri, July 26
“Opening Night: Among the Trees with Third Coast Percussion”
Mozart: The Magic Flute Overture (conducted by Caroline Shaw)
Christopher Cerrone: Britt co-commissioned work (Third Coast Percussion, soloists)
Brahms: Symphony No. 3 in F
Sun, July 28
“Beethoven & Elgar”
Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F (“Pastoral”)
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor (Oliver Herbert, cello)
Fri, Aug 2
“Rachmaninoff & Sibelius”
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor (George Li, piano)
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D
Sun, Aug 4
“The Rising Seas”
Debussy: La Mer
John Luther Adams: Become Ocean
Fri, Aug 9
“Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto”
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Lili Boulanger: D'un matin de printemps (One Spring Morning)
Anna Clyne: Abstractions
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D (Augustin Hadelich, violin)
Sun, Aug 11
“Closing Night: Britt Orchestra Spectacular”
A new score to the silent film Battleship Potemkin, featuring some of the greatest moments in classical music, including Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Debussy, Janacek, Mahler, Holst, and more
Premium reserved $45; standard reserved $25; lawn $20; child/student lawn $10
Tickets may be purchased online at https://tickets.brittfest.org/ or from the Britt Box Office by calling (800) 882-7488 or visiting 216 West Main Street, Medford, OR.
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© 21C Media Group, January 2019