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Bard College Conservatory Orchestra in Concert with Dawn Upshaw and Melvin Chen at the Fisher Center, April 4

Mark Primoff
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Bard College Conservatory Orchestra will perform on Sunday, April 4, at 3:00 p.m. in the Sosnoff Theater of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts as part of the “Conservatory Sundays” series at Bard College. The matinée concert features solo performances by soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Melvin Chen. Leon Botstein will conduct the Conservatory Orchestra, which includes the Conservatory’s first graduating class of musicians as well as Conservatory faculty. The program, which the Conservatory Orchestra will be performing in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on the following Saturday, presents In the South (Alassio), Op. 50 by Edward Elgar (1857–1934); Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Orchestra (1990) by George Perle (1915–2009), with Melvin Chen on piano; and Symphony No. 4 in G Major by Gustav Mahler (1860–1911), sung by Dawn Upshaw. The Boston Globe writes, “Dawn Upshaw is one of the most significant and dramatically moving singers before the public today, and right now she is unmistakably in her prime.” The suggested ticket prices for “Conservatory Sundays” are $20, $15, and $5; proceeds from the program benefit the Scholarship Fund of The Bard College Conservatory of Music. For reservations and information, contact the box office at 845-758-7900, or go to

“The program—a tribute to the traditions of modernism—pays homage to George Perle, who died last year,” says Leon Botstein, music director of the American Symphony Orchestra and president of Bard College. “It also provides an opportunity for us to honor Dawn Upshaw, artistic director of the Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program, and to display the skills of our Conservatory Orchestra musicians.”

The program opens with Elgar’s rarely heard concert overture In the South, in which he uses the full forces of the orchestra to create a highly personal and evocative account of the Italian countryside and people. In honor of George Perle, who died last year at the age of 93, the orchestra performs, with pianist Melvin Chen, Perle’s lyrical, witty, and colorful Piano Concerto No. 1 from 1990. The orchestra is joined by soprano Dawn Upshaw to perform Mahler’s joyous Fourth Symphony, which leaves the turmoil of the world behind and celebrates the delights of the “heavenly life.”

Robert Martin, director of the Bard Conservatory, adds, “With this performance we celebrate an important milestone—the graduation of our first entering class, all of whom have earned both bachelor of music and bachelor of arts degrees. We are proud of what they have accomplished, and grateful to our superb faculty.”

A native of Tennessee, pianist Melvin Chen is recognized as an important young artist, having received acclaim for performances throughout the United States and abroad. As a soloist and chamber musician he has performed at major venues throughout the United States, Canada, and Asia. In recent seasons Mr. Chen’s concerts have included two solo recitals at Weill Recital Hall, concerto performances with the American Symphony Orchestra, Marin Symphony, Springfield Symphony, and the Paducah Symphony, along with numerous solo and chamber music appearances internationally and in the United States. His performances have been featured on radio and television stations around the globe, including KBS television and radio in Korea, NHK television in Japan, and NPR in the United States. Mr. Chen completed a doctorate in chemistry from Harvard University, and also holds a double master’s degree from The Juilliard School in piano and violin. At Juilliard, he was the recipient of the U.S. Department of Education Jacob Javits Fellowship, as well as the William Petschek Piano Scholarship and the Ruth D. Rosenman Memorial Scholarship. Previously, he attended Yale University, receiving a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and physics. He is on the piano faculty of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, where he is associate director, and previously served on the piano faculty at the Yale School of Music. He is also the artistic director of the chamber music program at the Hotchkiss Summer Portals.

Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming, communicative power of music, Dawn Upshaw has achieved worldwide celebrity as a singer of opera and concert repertoire ranging from the sacred works of Bach to the freshest sounds of today. Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles (Pamina, Ilia, Susanna, Despina) as well as modern works by Stravinsky, Poulenc, and Messiaen. From Salzburg, Paris, and Glyndebourne to the Metropolitan Opera, where she began her career in 1984 and has since made nearly 300 appearances, Upshaw has also championed many new works created for her, including The Great Gatsby by John Harbison; L’amour de loin and La passion de Simone by Kaija Saariaho; John Adams’s nativity oratorio El Niño; and Osvaldo Golijov’s chamber opera Ainadamar and song cycle Ayre. In 2007, Upshaw was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” grant, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A four-time Grammy Award winner, she is featured on more than 50 recordings, including the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki. She holds honorary doctorate degrees from Yale University, Manhattan School of Music, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Allegheny College. Upshaw is artistic director of The Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program.

Leon Botstein is music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO), the radio orchestra of Israel. He is also the founder and coartistic director of the Bard Music Festival. Since 1975 he has been president of Bard College, where he is also Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities. Last season, Mr. Botstein toured the West Coast with the JSO. He also appeared with the BBC Symphony at Royal Albert Hall to conduct John Foulds’s A World Requiem, recorded live and released by Chandos. Other recent releases include Paul Dukas’s opera Ariane et Barbe-bleue with the BBC Symphony (Telarc), and Bruno Walter’s Symphony No. 1 with NDR–Hamburg (CPO). He has made a number of recordings of works by Chausson, Liszt, Bruckner, Bartók, Szymanowski and others for such labels as Telarc, New World Records, Bridge, Koch, and Arabesque. With the ASO he has recorded Richard Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt, and Die Liebe der Danae with Lauren Flanigan; and music by Copland, Sessions, Perle, and Rands, among others. His recording with the London Symphony Orchestra of Popov’s Symphony No. 1 received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Orchestral Performance. Among the orchestras he has conducted are the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, NDR–Hannover, and Budapest Festival Orchestra. Mr. Botstein is the editor of The Musical Quarterly and the author of numerous articles and books. For his contributions to music and the arts, he received the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art, and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as Harvard University’s prestigious Centennial Award.

Now in its fifth year, the Conservatory’s five-year undergraduate program is guided by the principle that musicians should be broadly educated in the liberal arts and sciences to achieve their greatest potential. While training and studying for the bachelor of music degree with world class musicians and teachers and performing in state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Frank Gehry–designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Conservatory students also pursue a bachelor of arts degree at Bard, one of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Robert Martin serves as director of the Conservatory, Melvin Chen as associate director.

In 2006, artistic director Dawn Upshaw and head of program Kayo Iwama launched the Graduate Vocal Arts Program, a two-year master of music degree within the Conservatory. Course work extends from standard repertory to new music, alongside training in acting, core seminars that provide historical and cultural perspectives, analytical tools, and performance skills for vocal and operatic performance at the highest levels. The students—only eight are admitted each year—have performed at Weill Recital Hall, Zankel Hall, and at Bard’s Fisher Center in recitals and as soloists with the American Symphony Orchestra. The students offered world premiere performances of David Bruce’s opera A Bird in Your Ear, Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt, David T. Little’s Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera; and twice participated in Composing Song Professional Training Workshops led by Dawn Upshaw and composer Osvaldo Golijov in collaboration with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. Alumni/ae have distinguished themselves in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Los Angeles Opera Young Artists Program, and as prizewinners at a host of other national and international vocal competitions.


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This event was last updated on 03-23-2010