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Bard's Fisher Center Presents American Symphony Orchestra Concerts in the Acoustically Superb Sosnoff Theater on April 25 and 26

Program Includes Works by Samuel Barber, Jean Sibelius, and Richard Strauss

Mark Primoff

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents the finale of the popular American Symphony Orchestra Fisher Center 2007–08 series on Friday, April 25, and Saturday, April 26. The concerts, “Barber, Sibelius, Strauss,” begin at 8:00 p.m. in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater. A preconcert talk by Richard Wilson, composer in residence with the ASO, begins at 6:45 p.m. Individual tickets are $20, $30, and $35.

The series features the American Symphony Orchestra, which is orchestra in residence at the Fisher Center and is conducted by music director Leon Botstein. Of their performance in last year’s Bard Music Festival, the New York Times wrote, “. . . the [American Symphony] orchestra, superbly responsive to Mr. Botstein’s driven interpretation, sounded exceptional.”

The program includes Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915, with soloist Chanel Wood, soprano, a winner of the 2007 Bard Conservatory Concerto Competition. Peter Laki, visiting associate professor of music at Bard, writes: “The popularity of Knoxville is due, in part, to Barber’s uncomplicated musical idiom, his straightforward text setting, and the nostalgic feelings it inevitably evokes in listeners, who, like Barber himself, were reminded of their own childhoods.” The great American soprano Leontyne Price, a prominent interpreter of the work, noted, “As a Southerner, it expresses everything I know about my roots and about my mama and father . . . my hometown . . . You can smell the South in it.”

Violinist Erica Kiesewetter is the featured artist for the performance of Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47. Leading Sibelius biographer Erik Tawaststjerna writes of Sibelius, “Naturally in his imagination he identifies himself with the soloist in the Violin Concerto and this may well explain something of its nostalgia and romantic intensity.” Laki says “nostalgia and romantic intensity” are “indeed key words if one wishes to describe the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Written in the first years of the 20th century, it looks back to the great Romantic concertos of the 19th.”

Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30, closes the program. Based upon Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Laki writes, the “book basically relates a spiritual journey undertaken by the solitary thinker Zarathustra, a journey whose stages encompass all human emotions and areas of endeavor. Strauss was attracted to the idea of evolution contained in Nietzsche’s book, and by the image of the solitary prophet who contemplates the world and desires to achieve a mystical union with it and with God.” Laki adds, “Strauss probably would never have come upon the famous first 20 bars of Also sprach Zarathustra—one of the most sensational openings in the symphonic literature—if he had not been thinking of Nietzsche’s cosmic visions.” Christopher Gibbs, James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Music at Bard, remarks that “the 20 bars of this passage were put to great use by filmmaker Stanley Kubrick in his 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Advance discount tickets are offered to any student under the age of 25 with a valid full-time student ID through High 5 Tickets to the Arts (in addition to the $5 student rush tickets available for purchase in person on the day of events). To purchase $5 tickets in advance, visit ( or call the High 5 Hotline at 212-445-8587. Upon purchasing the tickets through High 5, students receive a voucher to be redeemed at the Fisher Center box office on the day of the event (limit two tickets per student, with one ticket allowed for use by an accompanying adult).

For tickets to these and other Fisher Center programs, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit the Fisher Center box office at



About the Performers:

The American Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski. It is the resident orchestra of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, where it performs to capacity audiences in a winter concert series as well as in the summer for SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival. As part of Lincoln Center Presents Great Performers, the orchestra performs thematically organized concerts at Avery Fisher Hall, linking music to the visual arts, literature, politics, and history, often in collaboration with museums and other cultural institutions. With its bold programming, innovative presentation, and commitment to music education, the orchestra seeks to make great music a relevant, accessible, and enjoyable experience for all kinds of listeners.

In addition to its main subscription series at Lincoln Center, the American Symphony Orchestra performs in Classics Declassified, a lecture/concert series with audience interaction at Peter Norton Symphony Space. Its music education programs extend through New York, New Jersey, and Long Island.

The American Symphony Orchestra has toured extensively and made numerous recordings and broadcasts. Its most recent recording is of music by Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands in a special tribute album to legendary American music patron Francis Goelet, issued by New World Records. The orchestra also recorded music of Ernst von Dohnányi for Bridge Records. Its acclaimed recording of Richard Strauss’s opera Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt was released in 2003 by Telarc. This recording joins the American Symphony’s recording of Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae, also from Telarc. Other recordings with Leon Botstein include Franz Schubert: Orchestrated on the Koch International label, with works by Joachim, Mottl, and Webern; and, on the Vanguard Classics label, Johannes Brahms’s Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11 (1860). The American Symphony Orchestra inaugurated São Paolo’s new concert hall and has made several tours of Asia and Europe. It also has a long history of appearing in charitable and public benefits for such organizations as Sha’are Tzedek Hospital, the Jerusalem Foundation, and PBS. In October 2006 the orchestra performed in an outdoor production of Peer Gynt in Central Park with the cast of the Peer Gynt Festival of Norway.

Leon Botstein is music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the radio orchestra of Israel. Radio broadcasts of Botstein’s concerts with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra may be heard in syndication throughout the United States. He is also the founder and coartistic director of the Bard Music Festival.

This season includes the release of Paul Dukas’s opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue, recorded for Telarc with the BBC Symphony (and conducted in 2005 by Botstein at New York City Opera). Also soon to be released is Bruno Walter’s Symphony No. 1 with NDR–Hamburg. Botstein also recently conducted the BBC Symphony in a gala concert on Armistice Day at the Royal Albert Hall, of which a live recording will soon be released. In 2008 he will lead the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in another U.S. tour, this time of the West Coast.

His recording with the London Symphony Orchestra of Gavriil Popov’s epic Symphony No. 1 and Shostakovich’s Theme and Variations, Op. 3, received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Another recording, Chausson’s opera Le roi Arthus with the BBC Symphony for Telarc, was released to rave reviews. Other acclaimed recordings include two discs: music by Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands for New World Records; and music by Ernst von Dohnányi for Bridge Records, both with the American Symphony Orchestra. Botstein has also conducted the London Symphony on a prestigious series of recordings for Telarc, which includes Liszt’s Dante Symphony and Tasso; Glière’s Symphony No. 3, “Il’ya Murometz”; and with the London Philharmonic, Max Reger’s Böcklin Tone Poems and Romantic Suite; Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra; music of Karol Szymanowski; symphonies of Karl Amadeus Hartmann; Dohnányi’s D-minor Symphony; and Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony in the Schalk edition.With the American Symphony Orchestra and also for Telarc, he has recorded live performances of two operas by Richard Strauss: Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt and Die Liebe der Danae with Lauren Flanigan, both of which received critical acclaim.

Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. For his contributions to music he has received the award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Harvard University’s prestigious Centennial Award, as well as the Cross of Honor, First Class from the government of Austria. He was invited by former Secretary General Kofi Annan to address the United Nations on the topic “Why Music Matters.” Since 1975 he has been president of Bard College.

Violinist Erica Kiesewetter is concertmaster of the American Symphony Orchestra, Stamford Symphony, Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, Opera Orchestra of New York, Long Island Philharmonic, and New York Pops with Skitch Henderson. An avid chamber musician, she is the former first violinist of the Colorado and Dakota Quartets and for 14 years was the violinist of the Leonardo Trio. Her summers are spent at the OK Mozart and Bard Music Festivals. Kiesewetter was educated at the Juilliard School and now teaches at Columbia University, where she is the violinist of the newly formed Columbia Synfonietta.

Chanel Wood’s “gleaming soprano” (The New Yorker) has been heard in an increasingly diverse repertory. She has appeared with the Boston Pops in both their holiday concerts and “A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim.” In 2007 she made her Carnegie Hall debut singing “Sun, Moon and Star,” commissioned in conjunction with the 2007 Carnegie Hall Osvaldo Golijov / Dawn Upshaw Workshop for Composers and Singers. On the opera stage, she has been heard as Nightingale in the world premiere performance of A Bird in Your Ear at the Fisher Center; as Die Erste Gespielen in Bard Summerscape’s Der Zwerg; as Helene in Hindemith’s There and Back at Tanglewood Music Center; and as Die Schleppträgerin in a concert version of Elektra, conducted by James Levine. She has collaborated on several chamber pieces, including Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5, Chansons madécasses, and The Wanderer and His Shadow, a new composition by Lawrence Kramer. Wood’s upcoming engagements include a performance with the Columbia Festival Orchestra.

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The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts

Credit: Peter Aaron/Esto

Conductor Leon Botstein, music director, American Symphony Orchestra

Credit: Steve Sherman

Erica Kiesewetter, violin   Chanel Wood, soprano



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This event was last updated on 04-28-2008