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Schumann & Elgar’s Enigma

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Schumann & Elgar’s Enigma

Friday, March 15—Sunday, March 17, 2024

Friday, March 15—Sunday, March 17, 2024
Orchestra Hall
2 hours
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Pianist Inon Barnatan brings “uncommon sensitivity” (The New Yorker) to everything he plays, including Schumann’s only piano concerto, a work inspired and premiered by the composer’s wife, Clara. Elgar’s Enigma Variations is a series of heartfelt impressions of dear friends, each movement as breathtaking as the last. The program begins with William Walton’s exhilarating musical escapade.

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Program

WILLIAM WALTON
Scapino, A Comedy Overture
ROBERT SCHUMANN
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
EDWARD ELGAR
Enigma Variations, Op. 36

Artists

Juanjo Mena

Juanjo Mena began his conducting career in his native Spain as Artistic Director of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra in 1999. His uncommon talent was soon recognized internationally with appointments as Principal Guest Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic and Chief Guest Conductor of the Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. In 2011 he was named Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, which he led for seven seasons, taking the orchestra on tours of Europe and Asia and conducting annual televised concerts at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. His BBC tenure featured, notably, “thrilling” (The Guardian) performances of Bruckner Symphonies, a cycle of Schubert Symphonies and set new standards for the interpretation of Spanish and South American repertoire. He currently holds the position of Principal Conductor of the Cincinnati May Festival, the longest running choral festival in North America, served by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

A sought-after guest conductor, Mena has led Europe’s top ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, London Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the Dresden Philharmonic, among others. He also appears regularly with all the major orchestras in his native Spain. Following his North American debut with the Baltimore Symphony in 2004, he has conducted most of the continent’s leading orchestras. They include the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, National Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Montreal Symphony, and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. In Asia, he is a regular guest conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.

Mena kicks off the 2022-2023 season with a Carnegie Hall gala concert, leading the Teatro Real Orchestra (the Royal Opera of Madrid) in its historic Carnegie Hall debut. The concert follows Mena’s recent triumphant performances at Madrid’s Teatro Real, with a new production of Arthur Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake paired with Debussy’s La damoiselle élue staged in June 2022. Other guest performances this season include his debut with the Dallas Symphony and the Czech Philharmonic and returns to the Minnesota Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony, Lucerne Symphony, Dresden Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Danish National Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, and the Spanish National Orchestra. May 2023 marks Mena’s final performances as Principal Conductor of the May Festival, concluding his pivotal six-year tenure at the organization during which he has expanded commissioning of new works and put the community at the heart of the Festival. The Cincinnati May Festival’s 150th Anniversary program will culminate with Mena leading Mahler’s 8th Symphony.

Mena’s operatic work includes Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, Richard Strauss’ SalomeElektraAriadne auf Naxos, Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung as well as productions of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in Genoa, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Lausanne, and Beethoven’s Fidelio and Britten’s Billy Budd in Bilbao.

His latest release of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 6 with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos has been described by The Classical Review as “intensely musical,” “impressive,” and with a “spectacular sound.” Mena’s rich discography with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos also includes an acclaimed Gabriel Pierné release selected as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Weber Symphonies, Ginastera’s orchestral works to mark the composer’s centenary, and new reference recordings of largely overlooked Spanish repertoire including Arriaga’s orchestral pieces, works by Albéniz, Montsalvatge, and Turina, as well as three discs of works by Manuel de Falla featuring his opera La Vida Breve. In 2012 Mena recorded Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony with the Bergen Philharmonic for the Hyperion label, a disc said to “utterly redefine the terms under which past/current/future Turangalîlas need to be judged” (Gramophone).

Mena studied conducting with Sergiu Celibidache following his musical education at the Madrid Royal Conservatory where he was mentored by Carmelo Bernaola and Enrique García Asensio. In 2016, he was awarded the Spanish National Music Award. He lives with his family in his native Basque Country.

Inon Barnatan

“One of the most admired pianists of his generation” (New York Times), Inon Barnatan has received universal acclaim for his “uncommon sensitivity” (The New Yorker), “impeccable musicality and phrasing” (Le Figaro), and his stature as “a true poet of the keyboard: refined, searching, unfailingly communicative” (The Evening Standard). A multifaceted musician, Barnatan is equally celebrated as soloist, curator and collaborator.

As a soloist, Barnatan is a regular performer with many of the world’s foremost orchestras and conductors. He was the inaugural Artist-in-Association of the New York Philharmonic from 2014-2017, and has played with the BBC Symphony for the BBC Proms, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and most major orchestras in the US, as well as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra Symphony, and the London, Helsinki, Hong Kong, and Royal Stockholm Philharmonics. He performed a complete Beethoven concerto cycle in Marseilles; Copland’s Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas in San Francisco and at Carnegie Hall; and multiple U.S. tours with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, playing and conducting from the keyboard. With the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, Barnatan played Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto on New Year’s Eve, followed by a Midwest tour that culminated in Chicago, and a return to the BBC Proms in summer 2018.

Equally at home as a curator and chamber musician, Barnatan is Music Director of La Jolla Music Society Summerfest in California, one of leading music festivals in the country. He regularly collaborates with world-class partners such as Renée Fleming and Alisa Weilerstein, and plays at major chamber music festivals including, Seattle, Santa Fe, and Spoleto USA. Barnatan was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Bowers Program (formerly CMS Two) from 2006 to 2009, and continues to perform with CMS in New York and on tour. His passion for contemporary music has resulted in commissions and performances of many living composers, including premieres of new works by Thomas Adès, Sebastian Currier, Avner Dorman, Alan Fletcher, Joseph Hallman, Alasdair Nicolson, Andrew Norman, and Matthias Pintscher, among others.

Barnatan’s 2022-2023 season highlights include concerto performances in the US with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Princeton Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and internationally with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Auckland Philharmonia, and Philharmonie Zuidnederland. Barnatan will give solo recitals in London, Kansas City, Aspen, and Santa Fe, and play chamber music at festivals through the US. Barnatan will also tour North America with Les Violons du Roy, performing concertos by CPE Bach and Shostakovich.

Recent highlights include return performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the London Philharmonic, debuts with the Liverpool Philharmonic and Montreal Symphony orchestras, and a recreation of Beethoven’s legendary 1808 concert, which featured the world premieres of his Fourth Piano Concerto, Choral Fantasy, and Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony. Barnatan gave solo recitals at Boston’s Celebrity Series, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, and London’s Southbank Centre, and made his debut at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. Chamber music highlights included tours with Renée Fleming, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, the Calidore Quartet, violinist Sergey Khachatryan, and percussionist Colin Currie. As Artistic Director of the La Jolla Music Society SummerFest, Barnatan has collaborated with Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, visionary director and visual artist Doug Fitch, the Mark Morris Dance Group, Garrick Ohlsson, Augustin Hadelich, Caroline Shaw, Carter Brey, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and more.

A recent addition to Barnatan’s acclaimed discography is a two-volume set of Beethoven’s complete piano concertos, recorded with Alan Gilbert and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Pentatone. In its review, BBC Music Magazine wrote “The central strength of this first installment of Inon Barnatan’s piano concertos cycle is that, time and again, it puts you in touch with that feeling of ongoing wonderment.” In 2021 he released his Time-Traveler Suite album on Pentatone, a program that merged Baroque movements by Bach, Handel, Rameau and Couperin with movements by Ravel, Ligeti, Barber and Thomas Adès, culminating in Brahms’ Variations on a theme by Handel. He has also released a live recording of Messiaen’s 90-minute masterpiece Des canyons aux étoiles (“From the Canyons to the Stars”), in which he played the exceptionally challenging solo piano part at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In 2015 he released Rachmaninov & Chopin: Cello Sonatas on Decca Classics with Alisa Weilerstein, earning rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. His solo recording of Schubert’s late piano sonatas on Avie won praise from such publications as Gramophone and BBC Music, while his account of the great A-major Sonata (D. 959) was chosen by BBC Radio 3 as one of the all-time best recordings of the piece. His 2012 album, Darknesse Visible, debuted in the Top 25 on the Billboard Traditional Classical chart, and was named BBC Music’s “Instrumentalist CD of the Month” and won a coveted place on the New York Times’ “Best of 2012” list. He made his solo recording debut with a Schubert album, released by Bridge Records in 2006, that prompted Gramophone to hail him as “a born Schubertian.”

Born in Tel Aviv in 1979, Barnatan started playing the piano at the age of three, when his parents discovered his perfect pitch, and made his orchestral debut at eleven. His musical education connects him to some of the 20th century’s most illustrious pianists and teachers: he studied first with Professor Victor Derevianko, a student of the Russian master Heinrich Neuhaus, before moving to London in 1997 to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Christopher Elton and Maria Curcio, a student of the legendary Artur Schnabel. The late Leon Fleisher was also an influential teacher and mentor. 

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