Show artwork for BIGNAMINI & BRANFORD
Classical

BIGNAMINI & BRANFORD

BIGNAMINI & BRANFORD

Saturday, November 13—Sunday, November 14

Saturday, November 13—Sunday, November 14
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

DSO Music Director Jader Bignamini welcomes three-time Grammy Award winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis, for a program exploring American music. The 1930s saw composers such as George Gershwin giving their take on folk music in works such as Porgy and Bess. Meanwhile, the Paradise Valley thrived as the entertainment center of the Black Bottom neighborhood. This era in Detroit’s history serves as the inspiration for a world premiere from composer Jeff Scott.

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Program

AARON COPLAND
El Salón México
JOHN ADAMS
Concerto for Saxophone and Orchestra
JEFF SCOTT
Paradise Valley Serenade (World Premiere)
GEORGE GERSHWIN/orch. BENNETT
Porgy and Bess: Symphonic Picture

Artists

Jader Bignamini

conductor

Jader Bignamini was introduced as the 18th music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in January 2020, commencing with the 2020-2021 season. He kicked off his tenure as DSO Music Director with the launch of DSO Digital Concerts in September 2020, conducting works by Copland, Puccini, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Georges. His infectious passion and artistic excellence set the tone for the season ahead, creating extraordinary music and establishing a close relationship with the orchestra. A jazz aficionado, he has immersed himself in Detroit’s rich jazz culture and the influences of American music.

In December, Jader returned to Detroit to lead a triumphant performance of Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst, Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”. He will return in May 2021 to conduct four programs including performances with violinist Midori and pianist Orli Shaham.

A native of Crema, Italy, Jader studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and began his career as a musician (clarinet) with Orchestra Sinfonica La Verdi in Milan, later serving as the group’s resident conductor. Captivated by the operatic arias of legends like Mahler and Tchaikovsky, Jader explored their complexity and power, puzzling out the role that each instrument played in creating a larger-than-life sound. When he conducted his first professional concert at the age of 28, it didn’t feel like a departure, but an arrival.

In the years since, Jader has conducted some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras and opera companies in venues across the globe including working with Riccardo Chailly on concerts of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony in 2013 and his concert debut at La Scala in 2015 for the opening season of La Verdi Orchestra. Recent highlights include debuts with the Houston, Dallas, and Minnesota symphonies; Osaka Philharmonic and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo; with the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, and Dutch National Opera (Madama Butterfly); Bayerische Staatsoper (La Traviata); I Puritani in Montpellier for the Festival of Radio France; Traviata in Tokyo directed by Sofia Coppola; return engagements with Oper Frankfurt (La forza del destino) and Santa Fe Opera (La Bohème); Manon Lescaut at the Bolshoi; Traviata, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot at Arena of Verona; Il Trovatoreand Aida at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera; Madama Butterfly, I Puritani, and Manon Lescaut at Teatro Massimo in Palermo; Simon Boccanegra and La Forza del Destino at the Verdi Festival in Parma; Ciro in Babilonia at Rossini Opera Festival and La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Elisir d’amore at La Fenice in Venice.

When Jader leads an orchestra in symphonic repertoire, he conducts without a score, preferring to make direct eye contact with the musicians. He conducts from the heart, forging a profound connection with his musicians that shines through both onstage and off. He both embodies and exudes the excellence and enthusiasm that has long distinguished the DSO’s artistry.

Branford Marsalis

saxophone

Growing up in the rich environment of New Orleans as the oldest son of pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis, Branford was drawn to music along with siblings Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason. His first instrument, the clarinet, gave way to the alto and then the tenor and soprano saxophones when the teenage Branford began working in local bands. A growing fascination with jazz as he entered college gave him the basic tools to obtain his first major jobs, with trumpet legend Clark Terry and alongside Wynton in Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers. When the brothers left to form the Wynton Marsalis Quintet, the world of uncompromising acoustic jazz was invigorated. Branford formed his own quartet in 1986 and, with a few minor interruptions in the early years, has sustained the unit as his primary means of expression. Known for the telepathic communication among its uncommonly consistent personnel, its deep book of original music replete with expressive melodies and provocative forms, and an unrivaled spirit in both live and recorded performances, the Branford Marsalis Quartet has long been recognized as the standard to which other ensembles of its kind must be measured.

Branford has not confined his music to the quartet context, however. Classical music inhabits a growing portion of Branford’s musical universe. A frequent soloist with classical ensembles, Branford has become increasingly sought after as a featured soloist with such acclaimed orchestras as the Chicago, Detroit, Düsseldorf, and North Carolina Symphonies and the Boston Pops, with a growing repertoire that includes compositions by Debussy, Glazunov, Ibert, Mahler, Milhaud, Rorem and Vaughn Williams.

Under the direction of conductor Gil Jardim, Branford Marsalis and members of the Philharmonia Brasileira toured the United States in the fall of 2008, performing works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, arranged for solo saxophone and orchestra. This project commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the revered Brazilian composer’s death.

Making his first appearance with the New York Philharmonic in the summer of 2010, Marsalis was again invited to join them as soloist in their 2010‐2011 concert series where he unequivocally demonstrated his versatility and prowess, bringing “a gracious poise and supple tone… and an insouciant swagger” (New York Times) to the repertoire.

In 2013, Branford served as Creative Director for the Ascent Series of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra which included two week-long residencies as well as a number of concerts with the CSO.

Once again partnering with an esteemed ensemble for a tour of the United States, Branford joined the highly celebrated Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia in Marsalis “Well-Tempered” on a 20-city US tour in the fall of 2014, performing Baroque masterpieces by Albinoni, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and others.

Raising the bar yet again, Branford took on the challenging Saxophone Concerto by composer John Adams, performing the piece with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Edwin Outwater, in October 2015.

To begin 2016, Branford traveled to Germany for a concert with the prestigious Bayerische Staatsoper at the National Theatre in Munich performing an array of selections including Ter Velduis’ Tallahatchie Concerto.

He then returned to Asia twice in the spring of 2016, first for his debut collaboration with the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, followed by a trip to Kuala Lumpur where he performed two concerts with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra at the Petronas Twin Towers. 

The fall of 2016 saw Branford returning to his home state of Louisiana where he was invited to be a guest soloist with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, presenting works by John Williams and Heitor Villa Lobos.

Broadway has also welcomed Branford’s contributions. His initial effort, original music for a revival of August Wilson’s Fences, garnered a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music in a Play and a Tony nomination for Best Original Score Written for the Theater. Branford also provided music for The Mountaintop, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, and served as musical curator for the 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun. Branford’s screen credits include the original music for Mo’ Better Blues and acting roles in School Daze and Throw Momma from the Train.

Branford formed the Marsalis Music label in 2002, and under his direction it has documented his own music, talented new stars such as Miguel Zenón, and un-heralded older masters including one of Branford’s teachers, the late Alvin Batiste. Branford has also shared his knowledge as an educator, forming extended teaching relationships at Michigan State, San Francisco State and North Carolina Central Universities and conducting workshops at sites throughout the United States and the world.

As for other public stages, Branford spent a period touring with Sting, collaborated with the Grateful Dead and Bruce Hornsby, served as Musical Director of The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno and hosted National Public Radio’s widely syndicated Jazz Set. The range and quality of these diverse activities established Branford as a familiar presence beyond the worlds of jazz and classical music, while his efforts to help heal and rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina mark him as an artist with an uncommonly effective social vision. Together with Harry Connick, Jr. and New Orleans Habitat for Humanity, Branford conceived and helped to realize The Musicians’ Village, a community in the Upper Ninth Ward that provides homes to the displaced families of musicians and other local residents. At the heart of The Musicians’ Village stands the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a community center dedicated to preserving the rich New Orleans musical legacy containing state-of-the art spaces for performance, instruction and recording.

Some might gauge Branford Marsalis’s success by his numerous awards, including three Grammys and (together with his father and brothers) his citation as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. To Branford, however, these are only way stations along what continues to be one of the most fascinating and rewarding journeys in the world of music.

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Supported by the feathery touch of Faulkner’s brushes, the concluding note of each phrase emerged from the bell of Marsalis horn like a poppy’s bloom rendered in time-lapse photography. ”

—Andrew Gilbert, San Francisco Classical Voice
Gabriel Prokofiev Saxophone Concerto with Branford Marsalis
Artwork for Orchestra Hall
Presented at
Orchestra Hall
3711 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI
Venue Information

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