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Chris Brubeck, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, will perform his Trombone Concerto and debut a new work commissioned by the orchestra in March. Photo courtesy of the NHSO.

Chris Brubeck, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s artist-in-residence, will perform his Trombone Concerto and debut a new work commissioned by the orchestra in March. Photo courtesy of the NHSO.

This story appears in the September Season Preview Issue of The Arts Paper. Read more about fall programs at popular New Haven venues such as Firehouse 12, Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre & Shubert Theater online here.

The theme of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s 2014-15 season, “tradition and innovation,” is one that could easily be used to describe the organization’s recent history. In addition to programming such beloved an iconic works as Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 – works the NHSO performed (the concerto with Russian pianist Ilya Yakushev) to conclude the 2013-14 season – the organization has, under the artistic leadership of its music director, William Boughton, championed what is happening in this country today as much as it has celebrated the repertoire given to us by the European masters.

“The symphony has gone through this major transformation with William Boughton,” NHSO Executive Director Elaine Carroll said, pointing out that “we’ve actually presented six world premieres in five years.” The orchestra has also recorded two CDs and earned a prestigious ASCAP award for “adventurous programming.”

This season, the NHSO, which in January will celebrate the 120th anniversary of its first performance, will introduce audiences to new Principal Pops Conductor Chelsea Tipton, and to composer and jazz musician Chris Brubeck, the latter through an artist residency made possible with a grant from New Music USA – a funding stream that recently helped bring composers-in-residence Augusta Read Thomas and Jin Hi Kim, and artist-in-residence Daniel Bernard Roumain, to New Haven.

“The name Brubeck,” Boughton pointed out, “is synonymous in America with jazz.”

In March, the NHSO will present a program of works by Bernstein, Duke Ellington, and Brubeck – including the latter’s Trombone Concerto, which he’ll perform with the orchestra; a piece called Ansel Adams: America, which he composed with his father, Dave Brubeck; and the premiere of a work commissioned by the NHSO (with a grant from the Fromm Foundation) that will feature a quintet of advanced high-school-age jazz musicians.

The work commissioned from Brubeck, Boughton said, “gives opportunities to outstanding young Connecticut players and brings the orchestra to a completely new audience.”

“Chris’ ability to communicate with young people is fantastic,” Boughton said.

The above-mentioned program will be performed at the Shubert Theater and accompanied by an engaging multimedia component. The NHSO will perform two other concert programs at the Shubert during the upcoming season.

In addition to the premiere of the piece commissioned from Brubeck, the NHSO will introduce the local community to Yale School of Music faculty member Christopher Theofanidis’ oratorio Virtue, a work the orchestra co-commissioned with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (Virginia) and the Adrian Symphony Orchestra (Michigan).

Boughton described Virtue as “an extraordinary work” that “fits perfectly with the orchestra’s vision” – that vision being “to celebrate our classical music heritage, enriched through new American compositions,” according to the NHSO’s website.

Virtue, which is based on Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum and features soprano Tony Arnold, will be presented on a program that also includes a semi-staged performance (with the Yale Opera and the Elm City Girls Choir) of Puccini’s once-act opera Suor Angelica at St. Mary’s Church.

“The whole of that program is based on morality,” Boughton explained.

And just as performances of Theofanidis’ Virtue and Puccini’s Suor Angelica will be enhanced by the surroundings at St. Mary’s Church, the programs the NHSO will present at the Shubert Theater will help audiences see the orchestra in a different light.

“The whole of the multimedia element with classical music helps break down elitisms, stigmas, all the things that traditionally surround symphony orchestras … people saying, ‘That’s not for us,’” Boughton said. “It’s finding a way in.”

David Brensilver

This story appears in the September Season Preview Issue of The Arts Paper. Read more about fall programs at popular New Haven venues such as Firehouse 12, Long Wharf Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre & Shubert Theater online here.

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