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One Final Stop Before Music Hall: Europe

Meghan Berneking


French violinist Renaud Capuçon will join the CSO as soloist for performances of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in San Sebastian, Santander, Eindhoven and Utrecht.

Hot on the heels of the Orchestra’s return from a six-concert tour of Asia in March, and in the final weeks as the musicians and the public eagerly await the grand opening of Music Hall, the CSO will spend three weeks traversing Europe, performing as Cincinnati’s ambassador in some of the world’s most revered concert halls. This European festival tour will include 11 performances in six countries, during which the CSO will perform iconic works by American composers, as well as symphonic repertoire with which the CSO and Music Director Louis Langrée have developed a rich musical relationship over the years.

The tour kicks off with two of the world’s most prestigious classical music festivals: the Edinburgh International Festival (Usher Hall, August 25) and the BBC Proms (Royal Albert Hall, August 27). The festival’s respective announcements earlier this spring turned heads toward Cincinnati, and the CSO’s performance at the Proms was named a top ten “unmissable” prom by the widely read classical music industry commentator Norman Lebrecht. Both festival programs feature Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront and Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Both Bernstein and Copland developed robust relationships with the CSO, conducting the Orchestra on several occasions. The CSO performed the world premiere of Lincoln Portrait in 1942 during the height of World War II; 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of the work’s premiere.

InIn Edinburgh, the CSO will also perform Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, representing Cincinnati’s strong German heritage. The Proms program (Prom 58) will feature Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, which Mr. Langrée and the CSO performed at Lincoln Center in January 2016—an appearance The New York Times called “feisty, colorful and well played.”

The Orchestra then travels to Spain for two performances at San Sebastian’s Palacio de Congresso del Kursaal (August 29–30) and one in Santander at the Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria (August 31). The first program in San Sebastian features the aforementioned works by Bernstein, Copland and Tchaikovsky. For the second program, the CSO opens with John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, followed by Bruch’s beloved Violin Concerto No. 1 featuring soloist Renaud Capuçon, a frequent collaborator of Mr. Langrée and the CSO. The program concludes with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, a work inspired by the composer’s time in the United States, but rich in the music of his homeland. The Santander program consists of the works by John Adams and Bruch, as well as Brahms’ Symphony No. 1.

The next country on the itinerary is the Netherlands, where the CSO will perform at the Muziekgebouw in Eindhoven (September 3). The program will include Bernstein’s Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (again featuring Renaud Capuçon) and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. The next day, the CSO travels to Utrecht for a performance of the same program at the Tivoli Vredenburg.

On September 5, the Orchestra will perform at Queen Elizabeth Hall in Antwerp, Belgium. Bernstein’s Suite and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 bookend the program, with Gershwin’s An American in Paris in the middle.

The CSO will perform its final three tour concerts in Paris at La Seine Musicale. The first performance on September 8 will feature Bernstein’s Suite and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. In addition, acclaimed French actor Lambert Wilson will narrate Copland’s Lincoln Portrait in French. On September 9, the Orchestra closes out its tour with a pair of concerts (one in the afternoon and a second in the evening) including Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 and the official world premiere performance of a new critical edition of Gershwin’s An American in Paris. It will be a unique experience of Gershwin’s beloved work—a work by an American composer, inspired by Paris, performed in Paris by an American orchestra led by a French conductor.

The CSO and Mr. Langrée have been working with scholars leading up to the world premiere of this new edition of An American in Paris. The CSO’s performances of the work at the Taft Theatre earlier this year were test performances of the new critical edition, as will be the performance in Belgium on September 5. The edition was prepared by Professor Mark Clague, Director of the ‑Gershwin Initiative at the University of Michigan. The most significant update to this edition is the tuning of the taxi horns. The new Critical Edition proposes that the letters (A, B, C, D) on Gershwin’s original handwritten score refer to labels of the horns themselves, not their actual pitches. This edition uses A-flat, B-flat, high D and low A, as heard in a 1929 recording supervised by Gershwin himself. Gershwin’s original orchestration has been fully restored, featuring its evocation of a 1920’s jazz reed section in which three musicians perform on eight different saxophones, including a unique soprano saxophone trio. This return to Gershwin’s original An American in Paris is more transparent and angular, more evocative of 20th-century modernism and Roaring Twenties Jazz. The CSO’s own connection to the piece goes back to March 1929 when Gershwin himself was present for a performance by the Orchestra in Cincinnati under the baton of Fritz Reiner.

Once again, the CSO has demonstrated that it is determined for greatness by taking advantage of this time of venue transition to share Cincinnati’s distinct orchestral sound with audiences around the globe, thus elevating the city’s stature as a vibrant cultural destination.