The Louisville Orchestra (LO) and its galvanizing Music Director Teddy Abrams – now in his eighth season at the orchestra’s helm and recently named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year for 2022 – have had a banner spring by any measure. The orchestra’s groundbreaking community engagement initiatives have been given unprecedented momentum by recent announcements of a $4.3M appropriation from the state of Kentucky for the resumption of a statewide touring program and a grant from the Mellon Foundation to facilitate the new Creators Corps initiative for composers that begins next season. Two innovative concert programs also remain in the season: the first concert in a multi-season series called “Reclaimed Treasures” that explores confluences and influences in Black and Jewish music, and a Louisville Orchestra-commissioned world premiere from rising young Louisville composer KiMani Bridges on a program with the world premiere of Adam Schoenberg’s Automation, a technologically adventurous double concerto featuring cellist Yves Dhar and his holographic cello-playing counterpart, AGNES, as well as the debut in an orchestral setting of a futuristic instrument called the halldorophone.
Newly Announced Statewide Touring Program
The orchestra learned in March that it will be receiving a $4.3M appropriation from the Kentucky General Assembly to resume an annual statewide touring program. This appropriation is an unprecedented commitment from the state, allowing the orchestra to visit every region of the Commonwealth of Kentucky over two years, beginning in 2023.
Including multiple tours by the full Louisville Orchestra, as well as strategic engagement of local ensembles and artists across the next two concert seasons, the statewide project will launch a new era of deep community partnerships, carrying the LO’s dedication to building creative communities to cities and towns across Kentucky. Participation in all touring activities, including tickets to all performances, will be free.
Creators Corps
Another of Abrams’s inspirations is the newly announced Louisville Orchestra Creators Corps, which completely transcends traditional commissioning and composer-in-residence paradigms with a radically new model for collaborating with symphony orchestras in the 21st century. Each year in the spring, the orchestra will select three creators to move to Louisville for the upcoming season and live in the Shelby neighborhood for at least 30 weeks, serving as staff members with an annual salary of $40,000health insurancehousing, and a custom-built studio workspace. Throughout their residencies, they will compose new works to be performed by the orchestra, participate in educational and community engagement activities, and be active, engaged citizens of their neighborhood. The program has been funded by a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation and by individual donors. Applications for the 2022-23 season are due by May 2, and the three finalists will be publicly announced in mid-June. The residency begins September 1.
Reclaimed Treasures: Connections Between Black and Jewish Music (April 30)
For the season’s penultimate program, Abrams and the orchestra give a performance exploring the commonalities between Black and Jewish music, the first in a projected multi-season series. Featured on the concert is violinist Julia Noone, assistant concertmaster of the Louisville Orchestra, performing Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s D-major Violin Concerto. Also on the program is the Louisville Orchestra-commissioned Notturno (from 1954) by Ernst Toch, who, like Korngold, fled his native Austria after the rise of the Nazis but whose fame did not survive his transplantation to the U.S. Crowning the program, the Louisville Chamber Choir and soloists to be announced perform the spectacular oratorio The Ordering of Moses by R. Nathaniel Dett, one of the first conservatory-trained Black musicians in the U.S. Descended from escaped slaves, he studied at Oberlin Conservatory and with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France, before earning his Master of Music degree from Eastman and becoming a touring pianist and renowned choir director. The oratorio, considered his greatest work, was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony during the May Festival in 1937 and broadcast nationwide, which may have marked the first network broadcast of a major work by a Black composer; unfortunately, the broadcast was interrupted two-thirds of the way through for an unknown reason, speculated to be listener complaints.
Fantastique: KiMani Bridges and Adam Schoenberg world premieres (May 13–14)
The orchestra’s season finale features STATiC, a Louisville Orchestra-commissioned world premiere by KiMani Bridges, a freshman at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and winner of several young composer competitions, including the 2020 G. Schirmer Prize, established to recognize students in Missy Mazzoli and Ellen Reid’s Luna Composition Lab (May 14 only). Also on the program is the world premiere of Automation by Adam Schoenberg, an Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated composer who has twice ranked among the top 10 most performed living composers in the U.S. The work explores the musical implications of machine learning and the degree to which human musical expression can survive digital mediation, and features cellist Yves Dhar – praised for his “richly textured sounds” (New York Times) and “technically and interpretatively outstanding” playing (Strad Magazine). Automation is perhaps best described as a double concerto for two cellos, but the work involves electronics and visual projections, the second cellist is a hologram the creators have dubbed AGNES (Automatic Generator Network for Excellent Songs), and it plays music that was written by an AI algorithm. Adding yet another unique element to the mix, Dhar doubles on a futuristic instrument called the halldorophone, a drone-like electro-acoustic instrument that produces distortion, frequency beats, feedback, and rich overtones and the building of which was commissioned for this performance. A video trailer for Automation can be seen here. The season finale program is completed by Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. The Schoenberg and select movements of the Berlioz will also be performed at a Coffee Series concert on May 13 at 11am.
About the Louisville Orchestra
Established in 1937 through the combined efforts of Louisville mayor Charles Farnsley and conductor Robert Whitney, the Louisville Orchestra is a cornerstone of the Louisville arts community. With the launch of First Edition Recordings in 1947, it became the first American orchestra to own a recording label. Six years later it received a Rockefeller grant of $500,000 to commission, record, and premiere music by living composers, thereby earning a place on the international circuit. In 2001, the Louisville Orchestra received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Excellence in Educational Programming, presented annually to a North American orchestra. Continuing its commitment to new music, the Louisville Orchestra has earned 19 ASCAP awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and was also awarded large grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the National Endowment for the Arts, both for the purpose of producing, manufacturing and marketing its historic First Edition Recordings collections. Over the years, the orchestra has performed for prestigious events at the White House, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and on tour in Mexico City, and their last two albums for the Decca Gold label, All In (2017) and The Order of Nature (2019) – the latter launched with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon – both topped the Billboard Classical and Crossover charts. The feature-length, Gramophone Award-winning documentary Music Makes a City (2010) chronicles the Louisville Orchestra’s founding years, and, in spring 2018, Teddy Abrams and the orchestra were profiled on the popular television program CBS Sunday Morning.