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The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts Presents The American Symphony Orchestra,  April 17 and 18

April Concert Includes Works by Richard Wilson,
Dmitrii Shostakovich, and Johannes Brahms

Eleanor Davis
Leon Botstein conducts the ASO.

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents the third concert of the 2008–2009 season of the popular American Symphony Orchestra Fisher Center Series, Friday, April 17 and Saturday, April 18 at 8:00 p.m. in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater.

“Wilson, Shostakovich, Brahms” includes the world premiere of The Cello Has Many Secrets (2008) by Richard Wilson; Dmitrii Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77 (1948); and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90 (1883). Featured soloists for the concert are Mary Nessinger, mezzo-sopranoSophie Shao, cello; and  Fangyue He, violin. A preconcert talk by Richard Wilson, composer in residence with the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO), begins at 6:45 p.m. Music director Leon Botstein will conduct the program. Of the ASO’s performance as the resident orchestra of the Bard Music Festival, the New York Times wrote, “The orchestra, superbly responsive to Mr. Botstein’s driven interpretation, sounded exceptional.”

Individual tickets are $20, $30, and $35. Call 845-758-7900 or visit the Fisher Center website at for further information.

About the Program:


In the spring of 2005, when Richard Wilson was preparing to write a cello concerto for Sophie Shao and the American Symphony Orchestra, he attended a reading by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945) at Vassar College. The experience prompted him to change his original plan and include a vocal part in the work, resulting in an innovative and intriguing mixture of genres in The Cello Has Many Secrets. Zagajewski’s poem “Cello” provides an obvious link between the instrumental and the vocal layers of Wilson’s new piece; it also gave the work its title.

In 1948, Dmitrii Shostakovich was working on a violin concerto for David Oistrakh, with whom he had appeared in recitals since the 1930s. At that time the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party lashed out at Shostakovich, accusing him of “formalism.” The Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77 could not possibly be performed in such a political climate. The piece remained in a drawer for seven years, but, during the thaw following Stalin’s death, the premiere was finally able to take place on October 29, 1955. At this point, the work was given a new opus number, 99, to create the false impression that it had just been finished; clearly, the original opus number, 77, should be used.

Johannes Brahms wrote Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90, in 1883, the year of Richard Wagner’s death. Brahms and Wagner represented two opposite camps in German music, and their followers fought endless ideological battles with one another. Brahms had a deep respect for his alleged antagonist, who was 20 years his senior. Wagnerian echoes can often be felt in Brahms’s music, and in the Third Symphony in particular. The most obvious, but by no means the only, sign of Wagner’s influence is the symphony’s opening as a kind of leitmotiv, returning at the end of the last movement, where its character is completely transformed.


About the Performers:


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

Last season, a recording of a live performance of Botstein conducting the BBC Symphony in John Foulds’s A World Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall was released by Chandos. 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 NDR–Hamburg on the CPO label. In fall 2008, Botstein led the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra on a tour of the U.S. West Coast (following 2006’s triumphant tour of the East Coast), and this spring he 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, Botstein has also made a number of prestigious recordings of works by Chausson, Copland, Sessions, Perle, Dohnányi, 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 Rands; and discs of Dohnanyi, 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 has performed are the BBC Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, NDR–Hamburg, NDR–Hannover, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Bamberg, Bern, Düsseldorf, and Teatro Real Madrid.

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.

 Violinist Fangyue He was born in Shanghai, China, in 1987. She began studying the violin at the age of 4. From 1996 to 2005 she studied with Professors Jiyang Zhao and Chenxing Huang in both the primary and middle schools affiliated with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 2001 she won fourth prize in the seventh National Violin Competition and was selected to participate in the Morningside Music Bridge program in Canada. The next year she also attended the Perlman Music Program in Shanghai and performed with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Orchestra in the United States. She enrolled in the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in the fall of 2005, studying with Professor Shisheng Zheng. In fall 2006 she came to The Bard College Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Ida Kavafian. Her academic major at Bard is Italian studies. In the summers of 2007 and 2008she was a fellow at Tanglewood Music Center, one of the world’s most important training grounds for young musicians. She won the Bard Conservatory’s 2007 Concerto Competition, resulting in her current engagements with the American Symphony Orchestra. 

Mezzo-soprano Mary Nessinger has been heard in concert and recital throughout the United States and Europe, and is rapidly gaining attention for her critically acclaimed performances of some of the last century’s most dynamic works and for her astute interpretations of standard repertoire. She has appeared in the finest venues in America and around the world. Of recent performances, the New York Times has praised her “remarkable fluidity and beauty of tone,” and described her interpretive skills as “a tour de force of characterization”; the New Yorker has heralded her “exacting musicianship and quiet dignity (which) have made her a fixture of the New York scene.” Nessinger has devoted herself to the performance of new music, working with some of today’s brightest and most innovative composers, including John Harbison, Earl Kim, Lee Hyla, George Crumb, Simon Bainbridge, Michael Ruszczynski, and Ezra Sims. She studied at the Eastman School with Seth McCoy and Jan DeGaetani, and in New York with Chloe Owen.

Cellist Sophie Shao earned her B.A. from Yale University and her M.M. from Yale School of Music. In 1996 she was the recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and in 2001 and 2002 she won top prizes at both the Rostropovich International Cello Competition and the XII International Tchaikovsky Competition. She has performed as a soloist with many orchestras, including the Abilene Philharmonic, Erie Symphony, Houston Symphony, and Russian State Academic Symphony Cappella, among others. Her festival appearances include Caramoor, Marlboro, Music from Angel Fire, Ravinia, and Sarasota. From 1998 to 2000 she was a member of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society Two, a group developed for outstanding young performers.

The American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) 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 ASO 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 the American Symphony performs a winter concert series as well as in Bard’s annual SummerScape Festival and the Bard Music Festival. Its music education programs are presented at numerous high schools throughout New York, New Jersey, and Long Island.

Among the ASO’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. The ASO 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 ASO has an illustrious history of music directors and guest conductors. Succeeding Leopold Stokowski, who directed the orchestra from 1962 to 1972, were Kazuyoshi Akiyama (1973–78), Sergiu Comissiona (1978–82), Moshe Atzmon and Guiseppe Patane (codirectors, 1982–84), John Mauceri (1985–87), and Catherine Comet (1990–92). 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. 

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This event was last updated on 06-25-2009