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The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts Presents the Opening Concert in the 2008–2009 American Symphony Orchestra Series

September Program Features Works by Tower, Beethoven, Strauss in Fisher Center's Acoustically Superb Sosnoff Theater

Eleanor Davis
Percussion soloist Jonathan Haas will perform Joan Tower’s Strike Zones with the American Symphony Orchestra, Leon Botstein, conductor. At Bard’s Fisher Center, October 26 – 28.

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents the opening concert of the 2008–2009 season of the popular American Symphony Orchestra Fisher Center series, Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20 at 8:00 p.m. in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater. A preconcert talk by Richard Wilson, composer in residence with the ASO, begins at 6:45 p.m. Individual tickets are $20, $30, and $35. A subscription to the three-concert series is $80 per person, and is available until Tuesday, September 9. Call 845-758-7900 or visit the Fisher Center website at for further information.

 In the first program in the series, on Friday, September 19 and Saturday, September 20, the American Symphony Orchestra celebrates the three-time Grammy Awardwinning composer and Bard Professor of Music Joan Tower in a program of her work, Strike Zones, with percussion soloists Jonathan Haas and Simon Boyar. The program continues with Strauss’s Four Last Songs with soprano Twyla Robinson, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8, and Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration.
Hailed as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time” in the New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower celebrates her 70th birthday in September. Tower has been Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College since 1972, and was the first woman to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990. Of her composition, Strike Zones, Tower says, “The real significance of the title is that most percussion instruments are struck and in this work I give each instrument (or group of instruments) a ‘zone’ of timbre that explores the various ‘DNA’ properties of those instruments. The percussionist travels across the front of the stage to stop at each of these ‘zones’.”

Christopher Gibbs, James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music, comments, “Although written at a difficult time in his life Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is one of his most ingenious works … and is shorter, lighter, and far more good-humored than its imposing neighbors, the restless Seventh and the towering Ninth. The two final works on the program span Richard Strauss’s creative life. He wrote Death and

Transfiguration at the age of 25 and the Four Last Songs, his final compositions, 60 years later, just before his death at age 85. Strauss had a lifelong love affair with the soprano voice and gave no more moving tribute than in these last songs.”

The series features the American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by music director Leon Botstein. Of their performance as the resident orchestra of the Bard Music Festival, the New York Times wrote, “. . . the [American Symphony] orchestra, superbly responsive to Mr. Botstein’s driven interpretation, sounded exceptional.”
“Tsontakis, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Revueltas” highlights those composers in the second program of the series, on Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7. Works include Mendelssohn’s overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Revueltas’s La noche de los mayas, Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter,” and Clair de Lune by Bard’s Distinguished Composer in Residence George Tsontakis.

The final concerts of the 2007–2008 series, “Wilson, Shostakovich, Brahms,” are presented on Friday, April 17, and Saturday, April 18. Featured works are Wilson’s “The Cello Has Many Secrets,” Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and Brahms’s Symphony No. 3.


American Symphony Orchestra

The American Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski. Its music director and principal conductor is Leon Botstein. As part of Lincoln Center Presents Great Performers at Avery Fisher Hall, the American Symphony has pioneered the performance of thematically organized concerts, linking music to the visual arts, literature, politics, and history. In addition, the American Symphony Orchestra performs in a lecture/concert series with audience interaction called Classics Declassified at Peter Norton Symphony Space. It is also the resident orchestra of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College. There ASO maintains a winter season and also performs in Bard’s annual SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival. ASO’s music education programs are presented as numerous high schools through New York, New Jersey, and Long Island.

 Among the American Symphony’s recent recordings are music by Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands for New World Records, and music of Ernst von Dohnányi for Bridge Records. Its recording of Richard Strauss’s opera Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt and of Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae were made for Telarc. Other recordings with Leon Botstein include Franz Schubert: Orchestrated on the Koch International label, with works by Joachim, Mottl, and Webern, and, on the Vanguard Classics label, Johannes Brahms’s Serenade No. 1 in D major, Op. 11 (1860). The American Symphony inaugurated São Paolo’s new concert hall and has made several tours of Asia and Europe. It has performed with the Peer Gynt Theater Company of Norway in Central Park, and has a long history of appearing in charitable and public benefits for such organizations as Sha’are Zedek Hospital, the Jerusalem Foundation, and PBS. 

The American Symphony Orchestra has had an illustrious history of music directors and guest conductors. Succeeding Leopold Stokowski, who directed the Orchestra from 1962 to 1972, were Kazuyoshi Akiyama (197378), Sergiu Comissiona (197882), Moshe Atzmon and Guiseppe Patane (co-directors 198284), John Mauceri (198587), and Catherine Comet (199092). Notable guest conductors have included Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Aaron Copland, Morton Gould, Aram Khachaturian, James Levine, André Previn, Yehudi Menuhin, James de Preist, Gunther Schuller, Leonard Slatkin, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Sir William Walton.


Leon Botstein, Conductor

 Leon Botstein is music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the radio orchestra of Israel. Radio broadcasts of Mr. Botstein’s concerts with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra may be heard in syndication throughout the United States. He is also the founder and co-artistic director of the Bard Music Festival. Since 1975 he has been president of Bard College in New York.

Last season, a recording of Leon Botstein conducting John Foulds’s A World Requiem was released by Chandos from a live performance at Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Symphony. Paul Dukas’s opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue with the BBC Symphony was released by Telarc. (This opera was conducted by Leon Botstein with the American Symphony Orchestra in 1999 and with New York City Opera in 2005.) Soon to be released is Bruno Walter’s Symphony No. 1 with NDRHamburg on the CPO label. This season, Mr. Botstein leads the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra a tour of the U.S. West Coast (following 2006’s triumphant tour of the East Coast); and opens the Leipzig Bach Festival with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah to commemorate the composer’s bicentennial.

 In addition to a demanding schedule as a guest conductor, Leon Botstein has also made a number of prestigious recordings of works by Chausson, Copland, Sessions, Perle, Dohnanyi, Liszt, Bruckner, Bartók, Hartmann, Reger, Glière, and Szymanowski for such labels as Telarc, New World Records, Bridge, Koch, and Arabeseque. With the American Symphony Orchestra he has recorded live performances of two operas by Richard Strauss: Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt and Die Liebe der Danae with Lauren Flanigan; a recording of Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Randsman; and discs of Dohnányi, Brahms, and Joachim, among others. His recording with the London Symphony Orchestra of Gavriil Popov’s epic Symphony No. 1 and Shostakovich’s Theme and Variations, Op. 3 received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Among the orchestras with which he had performed are BBC Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, NDRHamburg, NDRHannover, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Bamberg, Bern, Duesseldorf, and Teatro Real Madrid.

Mr. Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. For his contributions to music he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s prestigious Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class, from the government of Austria. In 2004 he was invited by former Secretary General Kofi Annan to address the U.N. on the topic “Why Music Matters.”

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This event was last updated on 09-25-2008