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Acclaimed conductor Bramwell Tovey (photo by James Kline)
Clef Notes Chicagoland Journal for the Arts
Grammy and Juno award-winning conductor and composer Bramwell Tovey will make his return to Symphony Center this January to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in subscription concerts. The program includes Ives’ Variations on “America,” Still’s In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and songs by American composers Ives, Copland, Damrosch, Daugherty and Corigliano with celebrated baritone Thomas Hampson as soloist. The collection of songs on the program offers a poignant and vivid survey of American culture and history and connects to the CSOA’s season-long programming, "A Time for Reflection—A Message of Peace." The concerts take place January 10, 11 and 12 at Symphony Center. Tovey will also lead the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in a concert on January 15 in a program of works by Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Tchaikovsky.
The program opens with Ives’ Variations on “America,” a work that features the daring and unexpected musical language of a quintessentially American composer. The series of variations on the familiar patriotic tune “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was originally written during the composer’s days as a church organist and later arranged for orchestra by composer William Schuman. The patriotic spirit is also present in William Grant Still’s In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, an orchestral work composed to honor the service of soldiers who served in World War II. A special focus of the program is a selection of American songs that capture the innocence and the turmoil of the American cultural landscape across different moments in the country’s history. Several of Copland’s Old American Songs, Ives’ “At The River” from the song cycle Five Songs and Corigliano’s “One Sweet Morning” from a song cycle of the same name that commemorates the September 11 attacks are among a set that also features songs informed by stories of soldiers and war time by Damrosch and Daugherty. The program concludes with Elgar’s Enigma Variations. The composer, who dedicated the work to “my friends pictured within,” created a series of musical sketches, full of warmth, humor and melancholy that suggest the personalities of his closest friends.
Bramwell Tovey is the Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra. Following a stellar 18-year tenure as Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony, he now returns as the orchestra's Music Director Emeritus. In 2003, Tovey won the Juno Award for Best Classical Composition for his choral and brass work, Requiem for a Charred Skull. He was the recipient of the Oskar Morawetz 2015 Prize for Excellence in Music Performance. In 2013, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the Order of Canada for services to music. Since 2006, he has been Artistic Director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain. In 2017, he joined the faculty of Boston University where he teaches conducting and oversees the University’s orchestra program.
Thomas Hampson, known as one of America’s foremost baritones, has received many honors and awards for his captivating artistry and cultural leadership. Honored as a Metropolitan Opera Guild “Met Mastersinger” and inducted into both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Gramophone’s “Hall of Fame,” Hampson is one of the most respected and innovative musicians of our time. He has received countless awards, and enjoys a singular international career as an opera singer, recording artist and “ambassador of song,” maintaining an active interest in research, education, musical outreach and technology.
Tickets for all CSOA-presented concerts can be purchased by phone at 800‑223‑7114 or 312-294‑3000; online at cso.org, or at the Symphony Center box office: 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60604.