Listen & Do #2: Program-As-Personality

Google ChromeScreenSnapz032This is an example of a program that perfectly expresses the personality of the orchestra playing it – the Edmonton Symphony. It was one of the most popular (and most fun) programs of the 2012 Spring For Music festival. And it was built around new music – in this case a first half of commissions by the Edmonton Symphony of Canadian composers. The second half was the big, showy First Symphony by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu.

  • Music director William Eddins has been committed to new music through a serious composer-in-residence program and commissioned works. The first half of the program presents three composers from that initiative, all of high contrast.
  • This is an orchestra that is capable of wide ranging musical styles, and it is particularly evident in Allan Gilliland’s Dreaming of the Masters III, a work that under other circumstances might have been programmed as part of a pops program. By presenting it in a serious context, with a marvelous soloist and performed so compellingly demonstrated the breadth of the orchestra’s style. Trumpet soloist Jens Lindemann entertained as he moved around the stage interacting with different sections of the orchestra.
  • This is an orchestra and conductor that searches for unusual repertoire. The Martinu symphonies are rarely performed and the First is a big, lush and glorious tapestry of sound. This was its first performance in Carnegie Hall in about 50 years.

You can listen to a short excerpt of each piece below for a flavor of the works. To hear the entire program, listen to the live broadcast from Carnegie Hall at the bottom of this post. There is also a list of the program below the recordings in which the names of the composers and performers are linked so you can read more about them. Finally, there’s a stream of an interview of Edmonton Symphony music director William Eddins talking about this program.

Robert Rival Lullaby
A quiet opening – as Allan Kozinn wrote in the New York Times: “gentle textures and flowing themes occasionally yield surprising harmonic turns and briskly changing meters.”

John Estacio  Triple Concerto
A piece of contrasts – one moment highly complex textures immediately followed by long, flowing lyrical lines. A heroic piece that expresses a yearning melodic sweep.

Allan Gilliland Dreaming of Masters III
This was written for pops concerts and takes a tour of several jazz styles, including swing and Latin. It shows off the personable trumpet soloist Jens Lindemann, and the orchestra, which is completely comfortable playng in this style.

Bohuslav Martinu Symphony No. 1
The First Symphony was written in 1942, right after the composer had moved to the US. It’s big, sweeping and expressive, optimistic even, even while World War II raged in Europe.


Here’s a recording of the live performance of this program at Carnegie Hall:

William Eddins, music director
Tuesday, May 8, 2012, Carnegie Hall

ROBERT RIVAL Lullaby (US premiere)*
JOHN ESTACIO Triple Concerto (US premiere)*
Angela Cheng, piano
Juliette Kang, violin
Denise Djokic, cello
ALLAN GILLILAND  Dreaming of the Masters III (US premiere)*
Jens Lindemann, trumpet


New York Times review of this performance

More Information?
Want to add more information about any of the performers, composers or recordings related to this program? Add it to the S4MU wiki page.

Class Discussion Here
Does this program work for you? Would you have been inclined to attend this concert, given that none of the pieces is familiar? This is an attractive and entertaining program – but because it doesn’t have any big names or familiar pieces, how do you make an audience for it? The orchestra performed in specially-designed shirts made for the occasion. They fit the character of the program and occasion, but do you care about things like this? Add your voice below.


  1. Its sort of a challenge to boldly buy a ticket for a work you have never heard before. But wasn’t that essentially how concerts went in the old days? Everything used to be a new work, and there were hardly any major gimmicks to get people excited. I really would not have cared about the shirts, even if they were special. I mean, there may be perks, like the chance to meet the composers and have discussions. Otherwise, you try and grab attention of the young concert goers who will have the work grow on them in years to come.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Sometimes what makes going to a concert fun is that you don’t know what to expect. When none of the pieces are ‘big names’ then you have no idea what the concert will be like. That can make for an interesting experience. While it can be interesting to go to a concert and know all the pieces and know exactly what to expect, it can be equally interesting to go to a concert and have no idea what will happen and whether or not you’ll like the pieces that you will hear.

  3. Sometimes you go to a concert not because you know the pieces or the composer, but because you trust the conductor or the ochestra, or the hall.

  4. Anthony L says:

    Well as far as the t-shirts, it wouldn’t matter. I was actually drawn in to these pieces. Having never heard them before they still drew me in. Jens Lindermann was brilliant on the trumpet and it did seem as those the orchestra was right at home backing that performance.

  5. I liked it, but it may be because I don’t usually listen to orchestral music. Alan Gilliland’s piece sounded fun and I was able to get into it immediately. Since this concert sounds kind of odd or quirky, it may be the type of concert that will attract young people that don’t usually listen to this type of music (like me) but who might be interested. The shirts seem to contribute to a quirky atmosphere so maybe subconsciously it has an affect on the audience, livening them up a little more and contributing to a sense of communal fun in a small but meaningful way.

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