Berlioz, Ortiz, and Barber

Curtis Symphony Orchestra | January 27, 2024 3:00 p.m.

A Celebration of Orchestral Splendor

Acclaimed conductor Michael Stern (‘86) leads the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in an afternoon of extraordinary emotional contrasts. The program opens with the Philadelphia premiere of Latin GRAMMY-nominated composer Gabriela Ortiz’s kaleidoscopic Kauyumari (“The Blue Deer”) under the baton of first-year student Benoit Gauthier, Curtis’s Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow. A rhythmic tour-de-force, this thrilling work follows the hoofed blue spiritual guide of the Huichol people of Mexico on a peyote-fueled journey through the invisible world as they communicate with their ancestors, heal the wounds of the soul, and serve as guardians of the planet.  

The concert continues with legendary 20th-century composer and Curtis alumnus Samuel Barber’s (’34) soaring First Symphony (in One Movement)—a muscular, lyrical work that packs a powerful wallop within the span of twenty minutes, condensing the dramatic intensity, delicacy, and sweeping grandeur of a traditional four-movement symphony into one.

The afternoon concludes with one of the repertoire’s most popular and influential symphonies, Hector Berlioz’s astonishing Symphonie fantastique. Revolutionary at the time of its 1830 Paris premiere, not only for its innovative orchestration but for its groundbreaking programmatic nature—telling an entire story across five movements—this extraordinary psychological self-portrait conjures up a dark tale of unrequited love and opium-laced hallucinations. One artist’s self-destructive obsession with a woman leads him to a sumptuous 19th-century ball; a rustic countryside on a summer night, right before a thunderous storm; a harrowing march to the scaffold; and a diabolical witches’ sabbath full of ghosts, sorcerers, and terrifying monsters. 

View the program book.

This performance will run approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes including a 20 minute intermission.

BARBER First Symphony (In One Movement), Op. 9
BERLIOZ Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
  • January 27, 2024
  • 3:00 p.m.
  • Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
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  • Michael Stern (Conducting ’86) is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, studying under the noted conductor and scholar Max Rudolf. Stern co-edited the third edition of Rudolf’s famous textbook, The Grammar of Conducting, and also edited a volume of Rudolf’s collected writings and correspondence. He is also a graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a degree in American history.

  • Benoit Gauthier, from Baie-Comeau, Quebec, entered the Curtis Institute of Music in 2023 and studies conducting with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. All students at Curtis receive merit-based, full-tuition scholarships, and Mr. Gauthier is the Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellow.

    Mr. Gauthier began his studies at the École de musique du Côte-Nord, where he studied classical singing, guitar, saxophone, flute, violin, viola, and cello. He earned a certificate in orchestral conducting under Gilles Auger from the Conservatoire de musique et d’art dramatique du Québec and completed his flute studies with Jacinthe Forand and Richard Lapointe.

    Mr. Gauthier is the founder, conductor, and artistic director of the Orchestre symphonique de la Côte-Nord. He created the orchestra to provide his native region with a professional-level cultural experience. In 2023, he created two colorful youth shows: L’histoire d’un casse-noisette (The Story of a Nutcracker) and Babar et quelques autres notes (Babar and some other notes), the latter inspired by the work of composer François Poulenc and currently on tour in Quebec. He has benefited from the mentorship of composer and conductor Bramwell Tovey. Mr. Gauthier has conducted the Orchestre symphonique de Québec and the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, in addition to participating in the Berlin Opera Academy as an assistant conductor. Since 2021, he has been a member of the Orchestral Conducting Academy of the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal under the direction of Yannick Nézet Séguin.

  • Acclaimed for its “otherworldly ensemble and professional level of sophistication” (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra offers a dynamic showcase of tomorrow’s exceptional young talent. Each year the 100 extraordinary musicians of the orchestra work with internationally renowned conductors, including Osmo Vänskä, Vladimir Jurowski, Marin Alsop, Simon Rattle, Robert Spano, and Yannick Nézet Séguin, who also mentors the early-career conductors who hold Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellowships. This professional training has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in America’s leading orchestras, as well as esteemed orchestral, opera, and chamber ensembles around the world.

Special Thanks

Orchestral concerts are supported by the Jack Wolgin Curtis Orchestral Concerts Endowment Fund.

Guest conductor appearances for each Curtis Symphony Orchestra performance are made possible by the Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser Chair in Conducting Studies. 

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