In June 2008 Henry Fogel retired as President & CEO of the League of American Orchestras. He led a distinguished career in orchestra management at the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra and President & CEO for 18 years of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Throughout his tenure at all of these institutions but particularly at the League, he showed an amazing generosity of spirit, traveling around the country providing assistance and services to hundreds of orchestras large and small.
As a thank you to Henry for his amazing service, the Board of Directors of the League pooled together resources to commission a work in his honor, one that would celebrate Henry’s devotion to the vitality of American orchestras. The steering committee for this project, of which I am chair, decided to aim high. We made a dream list of the hottest composers in the world today and were incredibly fortunate that our first choice, Osvaldo Golijov, readily agreed.
As soon as Osvaldo was announced, the commission sold itself. Orchestras large and small – from Chicago to St. Louis to Atlanta to Glens Falls, NY – immediately signed up and we quickly reached our quota of 36 orchestras, all committing to perform the piece between now and June 2012. In fact, next week, our own Mei-Ann Chen leads the second performance at the New England Conservatory before it makes its way to the Detroit Symphony. Locally, thanks to the incredible generosity of Phyllis and Paul Berz, we were able to secure the world premiere of this performance.
The piece is titled Sidereus which is a celestial term. As of the publication date of Overture Magazine, Osvaldo was still hard at work, so there is not much else to put in writing about the work. As you listen to these premiere performances, perhaps you can imagine how the piece should be described to future orchestras. One thing we do know is that the instrumentation is deliberately small – double winds and brass, two percussionists, harp, piano and a modest string section. This is so this work can be performed by as many American orchestras as possible – chamber orchestras, university orchestras, and community orchestras. With a little luck and lots of performances already lined up, Sidereus will be part of the orchestral canon for years to come.
© Ryan Fleur, Memphis Symphony