Ra, Mackey, and Tchaikovsky

Curtis Symphony Orchestra | March 9, 2024 3:00 p.m.

Electrifying Virtuosity

Renowned conductor Robert Spano leads the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in a remarkable program featuring two exhilarating world premieres and a late-Romantic era classic. The afternoon opens with a newly commissioned work by James Ra. Praised by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “a composer to watch,” Mr. Ra’s compositions have been described as “coursing with adrenaline-pumping energy” (Star Ledger). Te Deum takes inspiration from one of his mother’s favorite hymns, and is “an ode to the innocence, simplicity, and sincerity of a time lost.” 

The program continues with the world premiere of GRAMMY Award-winning Curtis composition faculty member Steven Mackey’s Aluminum Flowers, a concerto for solo electric guitar and orchestra. This eagerly anticipated new work features the jaw-dropping virtuosity of polymath guitarist and acclaimed Curtis alumna JIJI, praised by the Washington Post as “one of the 21 composers/performers who sound like tomorrow.” Aluminum Flowers traces the history of the guitar from the 600-year-old Spanish vihuela to contemporary pop, rock, blues, and jazz electric styles. The afternoon concludes with Tchaikovsky’s impassioned, intensely personal Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (“Pathétique”)

This concert runs approximately 2 hours, including one intermission.

View the program book.

JAMES RA (’04) Te Deum

(world premiere)

STEVEN MACKEY Aluminum Flowers, for solo electric guitar and orchestra

(world premiere)

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 (“Pathétique”)
  • March 9, 2024
  • 3:00 p.m.
  • Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center
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  • Robert Spano (Conducting ’85)—conductor, pianist, composer, and teacher—is known worldwide for the intensity of his artistry and distinctive communicative abilities. After twenty seasons as music director, he continues his association with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as music director laureate. He has served as music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 2011 and begins an initial three-year term as music director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in August 2022, currently acting as music director designate.

    For the 2021–22 season, Mr. Spano will continue with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, sharing the role of artistic advisor with principal guest conductor Donald Runnicles. Highlights include an opening night program of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and “Emperor” Concerto with Garrick Ohlsson.

    The 2018–19 season featured Mr. Spano’s highly-acclaimed Metropolitan Opera debut, leading the U.S. premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie, and the conclusion of the ASO’s two-year “LB/LB” celebration commemorating Leonard Bernstein and Ludwig van Beethoven. Recent concert highlights include several world premiere performances including Bruce Dessner’s Voy a Dormir at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s; George Tsontakis’s Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Dimitrios Skyllas’s Kyrie eleison with the BBC Symphony Orchestra; Jennifer Higdon’s Tuba Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Matthew Ricketts’s Melodia, For Piano and Orchestra at the Aspen Music Festival; and Miserere by ASO bassist Michael Kurth.

    Guest engagements have included the Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Minnesota orchestras; New York and Los Angeles philharmonics; and the San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and New World symphonies, among many others. Internationally, Mr. Spano has led the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, Wroclaw Philharmonic, the Saito Kinen Orchestra, and the Melbourne and Sydney symphonies. His opera performances include Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and Seattle Opera.

    With a discography of recordings for Telarc, Deutsche Grammophon, and ASO Media, Mr. Spano has garnered four Grammy™ Awards and eight nominations with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He is on faculty at Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin. Mr. Spano is a recipient of the Georgia Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities and is one of two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

  • Through her impeccable musicianship, compelling stage presence, and commitment to commissioning and performing new musical works, JIJI Kim (Guitar ’15) has solidified her reputation as a top 21st century guitarist. In 2021, The Washington Post selected JIJI as “one of the 21 composers/performers who sound like tomorrow,” and The Kansas City Star recently described her as “a graceful and nuanced player.” In recent seasons, JIJI has presented solo recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall; Lincoln Center; 92nd Street Y; Caramoor; Green Music Center; and the National Art Gallery, among other distinguished venues. Her performances have been featured on PBS (On Stage at Curtis), NPR’s From the Top, WHYY-TV, FOX 4-TV, Munchies (the Vice Channel), The Not So Late Show (Channel 6, Kansas), and Hong Kong broadcast station RTHK’s The Works. In 2016, she became the first guitarist in 30 years to secure first prize in the Concert Artists Guild Competition.

    JIJI has premiered solo and chamber works by a diverse range of musical artists, including Michael Gilbertson, Hilary Purrington, Shelley Washington, Kate Moore, Chris Rountree, Gulli Bjornsson, Molly Joyce, and Paul Lansky. In 2023, JIJI will release UNBOUND, the culmination of a multiyear commissioning and recording project. A sought-after and versatile collaborator, JIJI’s recent chamber and ensemble performances include appearances with the New York Philharmonic’s Nightcap Series; Cuarteto Latinoamericano; the Verona Quartet; Wildup; Duo Linu; and soprano Molly Netter, among others. During the 2022–23 season, JIJI will make her San Francisco Performances debut at Herbst Theater.

    JIJI has also gained a reputation as a sought-after concerto soloist. Recent appearances include performances with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; the Augusta Symphony; the Duluth Symphony Orchestra; Sinfonietta Riga; New West Symphony; New York Youth Symphony; American Composers Orchestra; Southwest Michigan Symphony; Kansas City Symphony; and more. Equally fluent in classical and contemporary genres, her interpretation of Joaquin Rodrigo’s landmark Concierto de Aranjuez has enthralled audiences across the country, and her premieres of new guitar concertos continue to break new ground. Over the last five years alone, JIJI has premiered three major concertos by composers Natalie Dietterich (LIGHT, BELOVED, 2018), Hilary Purrington (Harp of Nerves, 2019), and Krists Auznieks (Apvārsnis Kamolā, 2021).

    A committed educator, JIJI joined the Arizona State University’s School of Music, Dance and Theater faculty as Assistant Professor of Guitar in 2018. She is also a visiting artist and adjunct faculty member at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where she will begin as Associate Professor of Music in Guitar in August 2023. She has presented master classes and workshops extensively, including at the Peabody Institute, Eastman School of Music, Yale University, and Dublin’s National Concert Hall, among many others.

    Learn more about JIJI.

  • 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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