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Christopher Rouse: Organ Concerto Premieres in Philadelphia

(October 2016)

RouseCREDITJeffreyHerman.jpg Rouse’s Organ Concerto receives its debut performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra and celebrated organist Paul Jacobs, who performs the piece on the country’s largest mechanical-action concert hall organ.

Christopher Rouse’s Organ Concerto will receive its world premiere on November 17 in a performance featuring Grammy Award–winning organ soloist Paul Jacobs with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin (with additional performances on November 18–19). The concert celebrates the 10th anniversary of the 7,000-pipe Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall; the instrument ranks as the largest mechanical-action concert hall organ in the United States. Paul Jacobs—praised by The Washington Post as "one of the great living virtuosos" and by The Economist as "America’s leading organ performer—will also perform the new work at Walt Disney Concert Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and David Robertson on April 20, and at The Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra and Gustavo Gimeno on May 11. The piece was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Music Director; the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director; and the National Symphony Orchestra, Christoph Eschenbach, Music Director.

Rouse’s concertos and symphonies often do not follow the standard three- or four-movement classical form; however in this instance, the composer states that he found this more traditional format to be the right choice for his 20-minute Organ Concerto, which comprises a fast first movement (Allegro non troppo), a slow second movement (Lento), and a Presto finale. The work is not attached to any specific programmatic content, but Rouse asserts that he is "always trying to express emotional states." Additionally, he describes the piece as exploring a range of tonal and dissonant sound worlds, and that "the concerto is intended to show off what the organ—and, of course, the soloist—are capable of." The concerto was written for and dedicated to Paul Jacobs.

The Organ Concerto is the first of two major world premieres from Rouse this season: On February 10–12, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will debut his much-anticipated Symphony No. 5 with Jaap van Zweden conducting. The new work draws inspiration from Beethoven’s own Fifth Symphony, with recognizable motifs embedded in Rouse’s music, and is being programmed alongside Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto. The Fifth Symphony will also be presented by its co-commissioners, the Nashville Symphony and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Earlier this year saw the Dacapo Records release of Rouse’s Symphonies 3 and 4, Odna Zhizn, and Prospero’s Rooms by the New York Philharmonic under Alan Gilbert; the CD was listed as one of NPR’s best recordings of 2016. (Click here to listen to NPR’s interview with Rouse.)


>  Further information on Work: Organ Concerto

Photo: Jeffrey Herman

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