(WASHINGTON D.C.)—The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and Music Director Gianandrea Noseda announce plans to release recordings of American composer George Walker’s five sinfonias on the NSO’s own label, with recordings available at all digital retailers and streaming services.
The first release, on June 24, 2022, features Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4, with subsequent releases scheduled through 2024. The five digital audio releases will be accompanied by music videos on digital services, along with interviews and behind-the-scenes content featured across social media platforms.
The cycle of digital releases will culminate in a bespoke album, which will be available on SACD with stereo and HD 5.0 surround sound.
The story behind the cycle
In January 2022, the National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Gianandrea Noseda began performing and recording the complete cycle of George Walker’s sinfonias, in celebration of the composer’s 100th birthday. Remembering and honoring the music of George Walker is particularly special for the NSO given the mutual connection to Washington, D.C.
“The sinfonias of George Walker have been an extraordinary musical discovery for me,” said Gianandrea Noseda. “They are concise in expression, rigorous in structure, and they have their own unique sound world. I am certain that the performances we are giving will result in recordings which confirm that George Walker is one of the great composers of recent times.”
George Walker’s son, violinist Gregory Walker, speaks of the value of releasing all five sinfonias in succession: “The National Symphony Orchestra’s unprecedented digital recording cycle offers an opportunity to experience my father’s compositional evolution in context for the first time. The committed artistry of Maestro Noseda and the musicians make a compelling argument for this music’s enduring significance.”
NSO will launch the cycle of recordings with Walker’s Sinfonia No. 4 on June 24, 2022, with a visual album on Apple Music as part of the platform’s monthly Classical Live playlist. Following this, the full audio album will be released on all digital services on July 8, 2022.
Later in the year, NSO will release Walker’s Sinfonia No. 1 album on October 14, 2022, followed by a visual album on Apple Music on October 28, 2022.
Sinfonias 2, 3 and 5 will be released throughout 2023 and 2024, with a physical album available at the conclusion of the cycle of digital releases.
About George Walker
“George Walker, is an American composer of genius, one who repeatedly reveals his affinity for elegant structures. We now have the opportunity to experience this quality and deepen our appreciation for Walker’s writing through this very special recording cycle of his five sinfonias.”
– Mickey Thomas Terry Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Howard University
A native of Washington, D.C., George Walker (1922-2018) was a child prodigy. He enrolled in Oberlin Conservatory at age 14 and received his bachelor of music degree with highest honors at the age of 18. He subsequently studied piano with Rudolf Serkin and composition with Rosario Scalero at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he became the first Black student to receive the Artist Diploma (in both piano and composition, 1945). This accomplishment marked the beginning of a steady procession of “firsts” that followed Walker throughout his career. That same year, Walker’s New York debut in Town Hall, sponsored by Efrem Zimbalist and his wife, made him the first Black instrumentalist to play a recital in that hall. As the winner of the Philadelphia Youth Auditions, Walker also became the first Black soloist to perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. In 1950, under the aegis of National Concert Artists, he became the first Black instrumentalist to obtain major concert management. And in 1956, he became the first Black student to receive the Doctor of Musical Arts degree (in piano) from the Eastman School of Music.
Walker was the recipient of several fellowships and awards, among them a Fulbright in 1957 that enabled him to study at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, where he was a student of Nadia Boulanger and Robert Casadesus. Other fellowships include the John Hay Whitney Fellowship (1958), two Guggenheim Fellowships (1969 and 1987), three Rockefeller Fellowships (1971, 1972, and 1975), and two Koussevitzky Fellowships (1988 and 1998). He was also the recipient of the Harvey Gaul Prize (1963) and the Rhea Sosland Chamber Music Award (1967). Perhaps most significantly, Walker holds the distinction of being the first Black composer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music (April 1996), for his composition Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra.
About Gianandrea Noseda
Gianandrea Noseda is one of the world’s most sought-after conductors, equally recognized for his artistry in both the concert hall and opera house. Noseda’s artistic leadership has inspired the NSO and in 2019, he and the National Symphony Orchestra earned rave reviews for their first concerts together at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. The 2019–2020 season saw their artistic partnership continue to flourish with the launch of a new NSO recording label distributed by LSO Live for which Noseda also records as principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
This season, Noseda began his tenure as General Music Director of the Zurich Opera House where he will lead new productions of Il trovatore and Das Rheingold, as well as revivals of Falstaff and Tristan und Isolde. The centerpiece of his tenure in Zurich will be a new Ring Cycle.
Noseda has conducted the most important orchestras and at the leading opera houses and festivals including the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Edinburgh Festival, La Scala, Munich Philharmonic, Met Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, NHK Symphony, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Philadelphia Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Royal Opera House (UK), Salzburg Festival, Verbier Festival, Vienna Philharmonic, Vienna State Opera, and Vienna Symphony.
From 2007 until 2018, Noseda served as Music Director of Italy’s Teatro Regio Torino where he ushered in a transformative era for the company matched with international acclaim for its productions, tours, recordings, and film projects. His leadership resulted in a golden era for this opera house. Other institutions where he has had significant roles include the BBC Gianandrea Noseda Conductor 9 Philharmonic, which he led from 2002–2011; Principal Guest Conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra from 2011–2020; the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where the Victor de Sabata Chair was created for him as principal guest conductor from 2010–2014; and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, which appointed him its first-ever foreign principal guest conductor in 1997, a position he held for a decade. He served as Artistic Director of the Stresa Festival from 2000–2020. He was also Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic from 1999 to 2003; Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI from 2003 to 2006; and Principal Conductor of the Cadaqués Orchestra from 1994 to 2020.
Noseda’s intense recording activity counts more than 60 CDs, many of which have been celebrated by critics and received awards.
Gianandrea Noseda’s cherished relationship with the Metropolitan Opera dates back to 2002. At the Met he has conducted 13 operas and nearly 100 performances mainly new productions. Many of his critically acclaimed performances have been broadcast on radio, Met Live in HD, and released as DVDs.
A native of Milan, Noseda is Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, marking his contribution to the artistic life of Italy. He has been honored as Musical America’s Conductor of the Year (2015) and International Opera Awards Conductor of the Year (2016). In December 2016, he was privileged to conduct the Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm.
About the National Symphony Orchestra
The 2021–2022 season marks the National Symphony Orchestra’s 90th anniversary, and Gianandrea Noseda’s fifth season as its music director. The Italian conductor serves as the Orchestra’s seventh music director, joining the NSO’s legacy of such distinguished leaders as Christoph Eschenbach, Leonard Slatkin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Antal Doráti, Howard Mitchell, and Hans Kindler. Its artistic leadership also includes Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke and Artistic Advisor Ben Folds.
Since assuming the leadership of the NSO, Gianandrea Noseda has brought a renewed sense of energy and focus to the orchestra, which has resulted in wide-ranging recognition from local, national, and international publications, increases in subscription and single ticket sales, and the expansion of the Orchestra’s reach through live streamed concerts and recordings. The New York Times called the NSO and Noseda’s 2019 Carnegie Hall appearance “spectacular,” while the Washington Post wrote that “There’s a certain flair going on at the National Symphony Orchestra,” consistently reinforcing that this artistic partnership continues to gain momentum. 2019 also marked Gianandrea Noseda’s first recording with the NSO of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 and Copland’s Billy the Kid, released in 2019 on the NSO’s new label, distributed by LSO Live.
Founded in 1931, the Orchestra has always been committed to artistic excellence and music education. In 1986, the National Symphony became an artistic affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where it has performed a full season of subscription concerts since the Center opened in 1971. The 96-member NSO regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including official holiday celebrations through its regularly televised appearances on PBS on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol for Capital Concerts, live-streamed performances from the Kennedy Center Concert Hall on medici.tv, and local radio broadcasts on Classical WETA 90.9FM, making the NSO one of the most-heard orchestras in the country.
Additionally, the NSO’s community engagement projects are nationally recognized, including NSO In Your Neighborhood, an annual week of approximately 50 performances in schools, churches, community centers, and other unexpected venues; Notes of Honor, which offers free performances for active, veteran, prior service, and retired members of the military and their families; and Sound Health, a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its affiliated organizations. Career development opportunities for young musicians include the NSO Youth Fellowship Program and its acclaimed, tuition-free Summer Music Institute.
The National Symphony Orchestra label was launched in 2020 and saw its first release, Dvořàk’s Symphony No. 9, debut at number 4 in the Billboard Traditional Classical Chart. Recordings on the NSO label are released in collaboration with LSO Live and distributed physically in the U.S., U.K., France and Benelux by [PIAS], who also handle worldwide digital distribution. For a full list of distributors, please visit: www.lsolive.co.uk/distribution.