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Beethoven's Eighth & Simon's Trombone Concerto

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Beethoven's Eighth & Simon's Trombone Concerto

Friday, May 5—Sunday, May 7, 2023

Friday, May 5—Sunday, May 7, 2023
Orchestra Hall
2 hours

Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony is one of his most jovial works, and contains some of the composer’s cleverest musical humor as well as bouncy dance rhythms with unexpected accents. Principal Trombone Kenneth Thompkins performs the world premiere of a concerto written for him by Carlos Simon, based on Underground Railroad conductor William Still’s account of the hardships and struggles of the enslaved seeking freedom at any cost. The program opens with Brahms’ imaginative variations on a majestic theme.

Program

JOHANNES BRAHMS
Variations on a Theme by Haydn
CARLOS SIMON
Trombone Concerto (World Premiere)
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Symphony No. 8

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.

Kenneth Thompkins

Principal Trombone

Kenneth Thompkins was appointed Principal Trombone of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by Neeme Järvi. Prior to this appointment, he held positions in the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Florida Orchestra and performed with the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. A former participant in the Detroit Symphony’s African American Fellowship Program, he has been a mentor to several Orchestra Fellows over the years.

Kenneth has been invited to perform and conduct master classes at many music schools, including the Curtis Institute of Music, Mannes College, the University of Michigan, and Interlochen Arts Academy. An active chamber musician, Kenneth performs frequently in recital and is a member of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings. Kenneth has performed concertos with both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and New World Symphony.

Kenneth has toured Europe with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and has also performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He can be heard on recordings by Detroit Chamber Winds, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His solo trombone recording; Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals features the music of Alec Wilder, Philip Wharton, Stephen A. Taylor and William Grant Still. Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals is the winner of The American Prize in Instrumental Performance, 2018-19. He has also contributed a chapter to The Brass Player's Cookbook: Creative Recipes for a Successful Performance.

Kenneth received his bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, where he studied with the late Frank Crisafulli of the Chicago Symphony, and a Master of Music degree from Temple University, where he studied with Eric Carlson of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

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Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn – Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin (excerpt)

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