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    Teddy Abrams
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                                         Reaching back to its rich history of commissioning new works, the Louisville Orchestra presents the world premiere of a symphony by composer Sebastian Chang for this Thursday's Coffee Concert and Friday evening's performance in the Classics Series. Juxtaposing the old and new, Music Director Teddy Abrams will conduct the new work as well as Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 1. It's been a busy January for Abrams, who most recently led the San Francisco Orchestra in Franz Liszt's "Hexameron" for six pianos as part of the 70th birthday celebration of his mentor, SFO Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. Earlier this month, he also served as co-director of the GardenMusic Festival in Miami with his Sixth Floor Trio partners, Johnny Teyssier and Harrison Hollingsworth.

    Sebastian Chang got an early start on his career as a pianist and composer. At age nine, he performed one of his own compositions on piano with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and his later compositions have been performed around the world. Chang, from Orange County, California, has degrees in music composition from the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Southern California. His new symphony follows a traditional four-movement framework and includes a waltz. According to his program notes, "The work retains fidelity to traditional concepts of musical structure and organization, but the broadening of the harmonic world of neoclassicism, most clearly represented by works by mid‐period Stravinsky or Prokofiev’s own Classical Symphony, proved to me to be a necessary expansion of the symphony’s harmonic organization." It will be interesting to listen for echoes of Chang's forerunners in this piece, just as one clearly hears the influence of Beethoven in Brahms' Symphony No. 1, which famously took him over 14 years to compose. 

    It's exciting to hear the Louisville Orchestra premiere a new work, something they became famous for in the 1950s when the orchestra, under Robert Whitney, won a Rockefeller Grant to commission new music on an epic scale. In over 400 world premieres, the orchestra commissioned and recorded works by Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, William Schuman, and many other 20-century masters. Anyone who wants to catch up on this fascinating history should watch the film, Music Makes a City.  You can also watch the original web series, Music Makes a City Now, which chronicles Teddy Abrams' inaugural season as music director.

    Tickets for the shows (10:30 a.m. on Jan. 29 and 8 p.m. on Jan. 30) are available online or by calling the Kentucky Center Box Office at 1.800.775.7777.

    [Photo Credit: Teddy Abrams by Sam English; Sebastian Chang, courtesy of the Louisville Orchestra]

    Watch Episode 5, Music Makes a City Now, "Big Fiddle":

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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