Music Choices Most Eclectic

The New York Times

“Perhaps only a figure with repertoire tastes as idiosyncratically intellectual as the conductor and Bard College president Leon Botstein would found a new ensemble called The Orchestra Now and perform such rarely heard composers as Frank Martin and Anton Rubinstein. Under the direction of Mr. Botstein and his expansive musical palate, the programming of this new orchestra echoes that of the storied American Symphony Orchestra but is populated with a young group of students who attend Bard and play regularly in New York City.

Now in its third season, The Orchestra Now will perform an intriguing program at Carnegie on Thursday that includes Bartók’s classic “Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion, and Orchestra” with soloists Anna Polonsky and Peter Serkin, but also two substantive curiosities: the Turkish composer Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s snarling Fourth Symphony, and László Lajtha’s Symphony No. 7, a colorfully stirring commemoration of the suppressed 1956 Hungarian Revolution.” —William Robin

Photo by David DeNee

TŌN Romps With Weber and Mahler

The Millbrook Independent

“Carl Maria von Weber’s Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Orchestra still holds pride of place in the clarinet repertoire due to its wit, elegance, and superior writing for the clarinet, Weber’s favorite wind instrument. Elias Rodriguez, winner of TŌN’s 2017 Concerto Competition, played this dramatic and demanding piece with fierce finesse and casual aplomb.

Rodriguez handled the virtuoso dynamics of this piece with smooth acrobatic tone that exuded passion, beauty, and spanking, joking mischief, as this near-operatic program story demanded romance, successful courting, an objector to the marriage, and the objector being ejected from the wedding reception with a finale full of delirious merriment. Rodriguez was articulate, genial, and humorous in his introduction to this classic gem that appears to have dancing legs in any century.

Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony offers a musical feast. If you wish to show off the talents of an orchestra, this is the masterpiece for the whole orchestra to aspire to. Leon Botstein successfully drew out the cheerful optimism of the rather orgasmic Allegro with brass blazing, bells ringing, and strings sweeping. Mahler’s Seventh is simply a breathtaking epic for all ages and the TŌN Orchestra delivered a powerful, memorable performance. I would have not missed this truly Olympic symphony for all the muscular Olympics of the world.” —Kevin T. McEneaney

Photo by David DeNee

The Promethean Enigmas

ConcertoNet.com

“Never in its three years of existence have the young musicians of The Orchestra Now sounded more vibrant, rarely has a vocal soloist been as convincing and expressive as the Canadian baritone Tyler Duncan. Yet this afternoon at The Metropolitan Museum of Art belonged solely to Leon Botstein.

. . . After the intermission, The Orchestra Now and the young Tyler Duncan got to work. Perhaps to the artists it was not a seamless performance, but in the audience, I was so stunned by hearing this live—with such an expressive baritone—that masterly was the only adjective.

Mr. Botstein was obviously so confident with Tyler Duncan’s work that he could devote himself entirely to the ensemble. The brass, the great bass drums, the toyshop winds and the best string ensemble I’ve heard from this group was not only a satisfying performance by The Orchestra Now, but a ravishing performance which balanced on the cusp of Shostakovich’s “Immortality”” —Harry Rolnick

Photo by David DeNee

Exhausted by Harmony, Schoenberg Found Atonality

The New York Times

“At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the conductor Leon Botstein discussed Schoenberg’s “Erwartung” (“Expectation”), a one-act monodrama for soprano and orchestra, written in 1909, and led The Orchestra Now, an ensemble from Bard College (where Mr. Botstein is the president), and the soprano Kirsten Chambers in excerpts from the piece to illustrate his points.

Mr. Botstein began by describing both “Erwartung” and the paintings of Munch (the subject of a major exhibition at the museum’s Met Breuer space) as works of Expressionism. The Expressionists rejected conventional reality, he said, believing that individuals, including artists, create their own.

Calling “Erwartung” the “first Freudian opera,” Mr. Botstein played excerpts to illustrate the work’s restless, sometimes rootless harmonic language, the skittish interplay of contrapuntal lines, the composer’s use of recurring motifs and the tormented emotional cast of the music. He drew rich, expressive playing from the orchestra, and Ms. Chambers’s bright lyric soprano lent fragile innocence to her portrayal of the desperate Woman.” – Anthony Tommasini

Photo by David DeNee

Met Museum’s ‘Sight and Sound’ series returns with Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now

amNewYork

“Most New Yorkers have seen “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, even if it was just on a poster in an angsty teen’s bedroom. Now The Metropolitan Museum of Art wants you to hear the spectral painting.

On Dec. 3, The Orchestra Now (TŌN) will kick off its third season of “Sight & Sound” concerts at the museum by pairing a discussion of Munch’s work with a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s “Erwartung,” a one-act monodrama about a disoriented, possibly delusional, woman (soprano Kirsten Chambers) searching for her lover in a forest.

There are “integral connections” between the Norwegian painter and the Austrian composer, according to TŌN music director Leon Botstein. It is those links, “between art and music, between the visual and the auditory,” which drive this unique series.” – Cory Oldweiler

Photo by David DeNee

Don’t Miss The Orchestra Now

HuffPost

“On the musical engagement front, don’t miss The Orchestra Now (TŌN). Its noble aim is to make orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences, led by renowned conductor Leon Botstein.

The musicians are handpicked from the world’s leading conservatories and their performances, as evidenced by their recent Carnegie Hall rendition of Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho Suite,” “Symphony No. 1” and Erich Korngold’s “Symphony in F. Sharp,” was dramatic and intense. TŌN is an opportunity to see talented musicians early in their careers.

What’s so impressive about the accomplished TŌN is its variety — upcoming concerts include Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Shostakovich’s “Michelangelo” — and occasional free concerts at Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.” – Fern Siegel

Photo by David DeNee

The Visual Artists Who Inspired Brahms

The New Yorker

“Amid the cultural turmoil of late-nineteenth-century Europe—driven, most powerfully, by the revolutionary operas of Richard Wagner—Johannes Brahms continued to explore the early-nineteenth-century musical genres perfected by Beethoven: the symphony, the sonata, and the concerto, forms in which the composer used craftsmanship to transform pure emotion into musical structure. Brahms did keep up with the trends of his time, of course, if only to be familiar with the kinds of music he positioned his own works against. But his keen interest in the visual art of his day is less well known—an aspect of his creativity that Leon Botstein will explore with The Orchestra Now (TŌN) in their latest concert at the Metropolitan Museum, “Sight and Sound: Brahms, Menzel, and Klinger” (Jan. 29).” – Russell Platt

Leon Botstein Adds Grafenegg Festival

Musical America

“Known for his penchant for clever and unusual programs, both as music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and as artistic director of the summer festivals of Bard College, of which he is president, Botstein recently launched a new training orchestra called The Orchestra Now (TŌN), which will undoubtedly play a part in his new job at Grafenegg.

In a brief phone interview, he described his primary function there as creating innovative, thematic programs and events for rising artists, including members of TŌN, as well as European Union Youth Orchestra members and graduates, and integrating those programs with the larger festival. He also plans to explore the intersection of music with other disciplines and with the culture at large. His first summer will focus on the immediate post-war years and the new nationalism, including the emergence of Russian as well as American composers during that time frame.” – Susan Elliot

 

Exploring The Orchestra Now For Free

Cool Hunting

The Orchestra Now, an assembling of multi-national musicians, warrants attention for two reasons. It’s a graduate training orchestra of 37 young musicians—a part of Bard College’s master’s degree program, founded in the fall of 2015 by conductor and music historian Leon Botstein. Further, this orchestra brings resonance to classical pieces we’ve all heard in some way or another, infused in pop culture, to the stage and lets a new audience (and a new generation) experience it first-hand. They also frequently perform free of charge, providing an entry point for anyone interested, but uncertain or without the budget to splash around on tickets for a performance.

The Orchestra Now alleviates many barriers. Each concert pairs well-known works with music drawn from the vast underperformed repertoire of classical music. There’s an educational element to it, but excitement and experience stand at the forefront. This isn’t a preservation unit, it’s a blending of the past and the future—and many of the musicians will go on to play for some of the best orchestras around the globe.” – David Graver

Photo by David DeNee

Bard College launches training orchestra, TŌN

Musical America

“TŌN is a three-year, tuition-free, masters-degree program to be directed by Bard College President, Leon Botstein, also a conductor and music historian. According to Botstein, TŌN’s members are “forward-thinking artists who intend to redefine what it means to be an orchestra.” They will be learning how to “curate repertoire that engages concertgoers, sparks new ideas, and attracts new audiences,” he says.” – Susan Elliott