On Friday, Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts will hosts the Australian Chamber Orchestra and soprano Dawn Upshaw for a concert of classic chamber works and arrangements, and a new work written specifically for the award-winning soprano and chamber orchestra from Down Under.
Internationally renowned for inspired programming and the rapturous response of audiences and critics, the Australian Chamber Orchestra is a product of Australia’s vibrant, adventurous and enquiring spirit. In performances around Australia, around the world and on many recordings, the ACO entertains with a repertoire spanning six centuries, and a vitality and virtuosity unmatched by other ensembles. According to the Los Angeles Times, the ensemble has, “raw, high-spirited, rhythmically propulsive energy …”.
The featured piece on the tour is Grammy-winning composer Maria Schneider’s “Winter Morning Walks,” composed for Upshaw and the ACO. The work saw its world premiere last summer at the Ojai Festival. It is inspired by poetry by poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Ted Kooser, whose winter morning walks during his cancer treatments led to a series of postcards to a friend in which he transforms common things and daily events into well-timed and expertly sculpted poems.
The Norton Center program also will include works by Dmitri Shostakovich (“Elegy and Polka”), Robert Schumann (“Mondnacht”), Franz Schubert (“Geheimes,” “Un poco andante,” and “Der Tod und das Madchen”), and Edvard Grieg (String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 27).
“This concert is a coup for Central Kentucky for a number of reasons,” said Norton Center for the Arts Executive director Steve Hoffman. “First, the Australian Chamber Orchestra has to be one of the most dynamic groups to hear and to see live. Second, the return of Dawn Upshaw to Newlin Hall promises to be a crowd pleaser with her warmth towards audiences and musical command.
“Finally, the Norton Center is honored to share that Maria Schneider, acclaimed composer of the program’s featured work, is scheduled to attend this Kentucky debut performance. This will be a concert not to be missed.”
The ACO was founded in 1975, and every year since, this ensemble presents performances of the highest standard to audiences around the world, including 10,000 subscribers across Australia. Its unique artistic style encompasses not only the masterworks of the classical repertoire, but innovative cross-artform projects and a vigorous commissioning program.
Australian musician Richard Tognetti was appointed as artistic director and lead violin in 1989 and under his inspiring leadership, the ACO has performed as a flexible and versatile ‘ensemble of soloists’, on modern and period instruments, as a small chamber group, a small symphony orchestra, and as an electro-acoustic collective. In a nod to past traditions, only the cellists are seated — the resulting sense of energy and individuality is one of the most commented-upon elements of an ACO concert experience.
Regular international tours to Asia, Europe and the USA have drawn outstanding reviews for the ACO’s performances at many of the world’s prestigious concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Vienna’s Musikverein, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center.
The ACO is renowned for collaborating with artists from diverse genres, including singers Tim Freedman, Neil Finn, Katie Noonan, Paul Capsis, Danny Spooner and Barry Humphries and visual artists Michael Leunig, Bill Henson, Shaun Tan and Jon Frank.
The ACO has made acclaimed recordings for labels including ABC Classics, Sony, Channel Classics, Hyperion, EMI and Chandos and currently has a recording contract with BIS. Highlights include the three-time ARIA Award-winning Bach recordings and Vivaldi Concertos with Emmanuel Pahud. The ACO appears in the television series Classical Destinations II and the multi-award-winning film Musica Surfica.
About Richard Tognetti, artistic director and lead violinist of the ACO
Australian violinist, conductor and composer, Tognetti has established an international reputation for his compelling performances and artistic individualism. He studied at the Sydney Conservatorium with Alice Waten, in his home town of Wollongong with William Primrose, and at the Berne Conservatory (Switzerland) with Igor Ozim, where he was awarded the Tschumi Prize as the top graduate soloist in 1989.
Later that year he was appointed leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and subsequently became Artistic Director.
Tognetti performs on period, modern and electric instruments. His numerous arrangements, compositions and transcriptions have expanded the chamber orchestra repertoire and been performed throughout the world.
As director or soloist, Tognetti has appeared with the Handel & Haydn Society (Boston), Hong Kong Philharmonic, Camerata Salzburg,Tapiola Sinfonietta, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Nordic Chamber Orchestra and the Australian symphony orchestras. He conducted Mozart's Mitridate for the Sydney Festival and gave the Australian premiere of Ligeti’s Violin Concerto with the Sydney Symphony.
About Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Joining a rare natural warmth with a fierce commitment to the transforming communicative power of music, 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 ability to reach to the heart of music and text has earned her both the devotion of an exceptionally diverse audience, and the awards and distinctions accorded to only the most distinguished of artists.
In 2007, she was named a Fellow of the MacArthur Foundation, the first vocal artist to be awarded the five-year “genius” prize, and in 2008 she was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
Her acclaimed performances on the opera stage comprise the great Mozart roles 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 also has championed numerous new works created for her, including “The Great Gatsby” by John Harbison; the Grawemeyer Award-winning opera, “L’Amour de Loin” and oratorio “La Passion de Simone” by Kaija Saariaho; John Adams’ Nativity oratorio “El Niño”; and Osvaldo Golijov’s chamber opera “Ainadamar” and song cycle “Ayre.”
With the Australian Chamber Orchestra, she concludes her 2011-12 season with an eight-city tour featuring jazz composer Maria Schneider’s new work “Winter Morning Walks,” scheduled for recording in May 2012, following the tour’s final performance at Carnegie Hall.
The Norton Center will present the Australian Chamber Orchestra featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw on at 8 p.m. Friday in Newlin Hall. Tickets, $33-$65, can be purchased on the web at www.NortonCenter.com or by calling the box office at (877) 448-7469.