The Orchestra Now Slays a Monster


“‘Movie music without the movie’ is how Emmanuel Koh, a violist in The Orchestra Now (TŌN), described Reinhold Glière’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Ilya Muromets,’ Op. 42. This international ensemble of distinguished Master’s degree students in residence at Bard College tackled the giant symphony in a concert at Carnegie Hall Friday night entitled ‘Russian Evolution: From Rimsky-Korsakov to Glière,’ and emerged victorious.

Lasting well more than 70 minutes, and calling for enormous forces (three bassoons plus contrabassoon, eight horns, two harps, etc.), the piece provided a healthy opportunity for the young musicians of TŌN to dig their teeth into a work of Bruckner-like proportions, and they clearly enjoyed indulging in this musically extravagant undertaking.

The horns are called upon to do athletic things, and they, in particular, played with rhythmic verve in their many wide leaping outcries. . . . The tone painting also includes lots of nature-inspired effects in the high woodwinds, chirping birdsong, and TŌN’s woodwind section excelled. ” —Brian Taylor

Photo by David DeNee

Tan Dun Brings Nature’s Secrets to The Orchestra Now


“The Orchestra Now gives hope. Founded in 2015 by Leon Botstein, TŌN is comprised of Master’s Degree students at Bard College, and can be found performing all over the city, including at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and Metropolitan Museum of Art — sometimes for free. Like the student orchestra at Tanglewood, and Miami’s New World Symphony, they’re capable of just about anything, and more than their professional counterparts, they really exude a personal love of music. And they rise to the occasion of encountering international stars like Tan Dun.

TŌN’s winds play with a dark, mellow timbre, rounded intonation, and a keen blend. The strings have a honey-like sheen and the violin section displays more rhythmic vitality than many orchestras. They sound terrific.

Underscoring the group’s educational underpinnings, it’s terrific how TŌN’s musicians are encouraged to contribute to the program notes, and to speak to the audience to introduce the repertoire. Their enthusiasm for the material, and their craft, is palpable. The concert concluded with an fervent reading of Ottorino Respighi’s early-twentieth-century four movement tone poem The Pines of Rome. As the first orchestral work to utilize an electronic recording (the third movement ends with a recording of the nightingale, as specified by the composer), it’s a fitting pairing with Dun’s Secret of Wind and Birds. The off-stage trumpet solo in the second movement was played with warm lyricism by Anita Tóth, and the third movement’s clarinet solo masterfully played by Viktor Tóth.” —Brian Taylor

Chopin and Delacroix: How Romanticism Grapples With Past and Present

The Epoch Times

“Artist Eugène Delacroix, whose work is currently featured at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a leader in the French Romantic school. On Nov. 18, visitors are invited to explore his work in depth with the addition of Frédéric Chopin’s music and a lecture presented by conductor Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now, in the museum’s ongoing “Sight and Sound” series.

‘The making of art was indispensably essential to their life. It was related to their politics, to their person, and they believed it was a powerful medium, whether painting or music, in the world they lived. Something we don’t believe today,’ Botstein said.” —Catherine Yang

Artwork: Eugène Delacroix, (French, 1798–1863). Collision of Arab Horsemen (detail), 1833/34. Oil on canvas. 31 11/16 × 39 9/16 in. (80.5 × 100.5 cm). Private collection

Brahms & Elgar Sing at Bard

The Millbrook Independent

“The Orchestra Now under the baton of Leon Botstein opened its new season with the Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms and Symphony No. 1 by Edward Elgar. Not being familiar with the latter, I had no expectations, yet was pleasantly surprised. Yet I was even more heartily surprised by the introductory piece by Joseph Joachim, ably introduced by the lead clarinetist for the piece, Micah Candiotti-Pacheco.

Written at the age of 21, Hamlet Overture (1853) runs for only 16 minutes, yet it delivers a powerful dramatic experience. This offers some wonderful horn composition and arrangements as the horns appear to be the voice of Hamlet. The wonder of this presentation is that the horns, usually such an extroverted instrument, manage to come across as introverted instruments, which is something that Botstein expertly extracted. The horns expire with Hamlet’s last breath and the diminuendo trailing of the elegiac strings achieve memorable pathos. This was antique gem that the orchestra played with crisp éclat, making it shine like new.” —Kevin T. McEneaney

Photo by Matt Dine

The Promethean Enigmas

“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


“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


“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

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