Leon Botstein Leads Orchestra in Russian Evolution: From Rimsky-Korsakov to Glière

New York, New York, November 26, 2018 — The Orchestra Now (TŌN) begins its fourth season at Carnegie Hall with a concert titled Russian Evolution: From Rimsky-Korsakov to Glière on Friday, December 14 at 7:30 pm.  The program focuses on the drama of Russian music and will also be performed at The Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College on Wednesday, December 12 at 7:00 pm.

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote much of his first symphony while serving in the Russian navy, and actually appeared onstage in uniform at the work’s 1865 premiere. Many Russian folk and oriental melodies can be heard in the piece, and nationalists dubbed it the “First Russian Symphony.” Reinhold Glière’s expansive Symphony No. 3, Ilya Muromets, is based on the life of one of Russia’s most famous mythical heroes. Highly respected for his values, he is the only such character to have been canonized by Russia’s Orthodox Church. Glière was a true believer in the pre-revolutionary national Russian school and hence, his embrace of traditional forms made him a favorite of Soviet authorities.

With this concert, Leon Botstein highlights the search for a true, nationalist style in Russian symphonic music, one with an aesthetic that incorporated folk or oriental themes or that was based on legends and folk heroes. The works performed at the evening’s concert by these two composers illustrate how Russian music evolved along those lines from the time of Rimsky’s first symphony (1865) to the time of Glière’s third (1911).

Russian Evolution: From Rimsky-Korsakov to Glière
Carnegie Hall Series, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Friday December 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm
Leon Botstein, conductor
Rimsky-Korsakov: Symphony No. 1
Reinhold Glière: Symphony No. 3, Ilya Muromets

TŌN will next appear at Carnegie Hall with Botstein conducting the U.S. premieres of Joachim Raff’s Psalm 130: De Profundis and Lera Auerbach’s De Profundis (Violin Concerto No. 3) with internationally acclaimed violinist Vadim Repin on May 2, 2019.  For details of upcoming 2018-19 season concerts, please click here.

Tickets start at $25, and may be purchased online at, by calling CarnegieCharge at 212.247.7800, or in person at the Carnegie Hall box office at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.

The Orchestra Now
The Orchestra Now (TŌN) is a group of more than 60 vibrant young musicians from 14 different countries around the globe: the United States, Bulgaria, China, France, Hungary, Malaysia, Mongolia, Peru, Poland, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Venezuela. All share a mission to make orchestral music relevant to 21st-century audiences. Hand-picked from hundreds of applicants from the world’s leading conservatories—including The Juilliard School, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Royal Conservatory of Brussels, and the Curtis Institute of Music—the members of TŌN are not only rousing audiences with their critically acclaimed performances, but also enlightening curious minds by presenting on-stage introductions and demonstrations at concerts, offering program notes written from the musicians’ perspective, and connecting with patrons through one-on-one discussions during intermissions. To date, members of TŌN have earned positions with orchestras across the United States and in Europe. Some play regularly with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Baltimore Symphony.

Conductor, educator, and music historian Leon Botstein founded TŌN in 2015 as a master’s degree program at Bard College, where he also serves as president. The Orchestra is in residence at Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, offering multiple concerts there each season as well as participating in the annual Bard Music Festival. The Orchestra also performs numerous concert series at major venues in New York, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as a schedule of free performances across New York City boroughs. TŌN has collaborated with many distinguished conductors, including Fabio Luisi, Neeme Järvi, Gerard Schwarz, and JoAnn Falletta.

For upcoming activities and more detailed information about the musicians, visit

Leon Botstein
Leon Botstein brings a renowned career as both a conductor and educator to his role as music director of The Orchestra Now. He has been music director of the American Symphony Orchestra since 1992, artistic co-director of Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival since their creation, and president of Bard College since 1975. He was the music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 2003–2011 and is now conductor laureate. This year he has assumed artistic directorship of Campus Grafenegg and Grafenegg Academy in Austria. Mr. Botstein is also a frequent guest conductor with orchestras around the globe, has made numerous recordings, and is a prolific author and music historian. He is the editor of the prestigious The Musical Quarterly and has received many honors for his contributions to music. More info online at

Press Contacts:
Pascal Nadon
Pascal Nadon Communications
Phone: 646.234.7088

Mark Primoff
Associate Vice President of Communications
Bard College
Phone: 845.758.7412

Hear TŌN on “Performance Today”

The Orchestra Now will once again be featured on America’s most popular classical music radio program, Performance Today, this Wednesday, November 14, with our performance of Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral . Listen online starting at 9 AM Wednesday. Hudson Valley residents can also tune in to WMHT-FM 89.1 or WRHV-FM 88.7 at 8 PM Wednesday evening.

To keep up on all of TŌN’s radio appearances, visit the Watch & Listen page on this website and click on “Radio Schedule.”


William Grant Still’s Afro-American Symphony

The Afro-American Symphony is not a tone picture of the “New Negro.” It portrays that class of American Negroes who still cling to the old standards and traditions; those sons of the soil who differ, but little, if at all, from their forebears of antebellum days.

These are an humble people. Their wants are few and are generally childlike. Theirs are lives of utter simplicity. Therefore no complex or elaborate scheme of harmonization would prove befitting in a musical picture of them. ‘Tis only the simpler harmonies, such as those employed, that can accurately portray them.

From the hearts of these people sprang Blues, plaintive songs reminiscent of African tribal chants. I do not hesitate to assert that Blues are more purely Negroid in character than very many Spirituals. And I have employed as the basic theme of the symphony a melody in the Blues style. This theme appears in each movement.

–William Grant Still, 1931

I think there are a wide range of interpretations that could be read into it. I really had no program in mind. I wanted, above all, to write music that would be recognizable as being in the idiom employed [by the American Negro] or recognized, I should say, as that of the American Negro. It was the object that I desired most of all.

–William Grant Still, 1964

Ives’ Decoration Day from the Holidays Symphony

Notes by TŌN percussionist William Kaufman

The Composer
Ives is best remembered for his touching depictions of life in the northeast United States. He was born and raised in Connecticut, and worked at a life insurance agency in New York City. His father was a reputable bandmaster during the Civil War, which is apparent with a close listening to Ives’ work. Ives’ music is recognizable by the way in which he incorporated variations on patriotic melodies that serve as a grounding force amid a clustering cacophony of crossing rhythms and melodic dissonances. His genius is unique and unreplicable.

The Story
Decoration Day is the second movement in his work A Symphony: New England Holidays, which served as a collection of childhood memories from growing up in post-Civil War New England. Decoration Day takes listeners along for the observation of the holiday now known as Memorial Day. In the Postface to Decoration Day, Ives writes about celebrating the holiday with the townspeople as he remembers it from his childhood. The people gather together in the village with flowers and fill the Town Hall “with the Spring’s harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies.” Then the parade is formed with military personnel, horses, and the fire brigade. There is a slow and somber march to the cemetery, where the graves are decorated. The march back to town is more lively, “though, to many a soldier, the somber thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band”. After the final march, Ives recalls, there is a noticeable silence that concludes the piece.

A Personal Connection
I have a personal connection with Charles Ives’ music because I was raised in a small town very near to his hometown of Danbury. I recall our Memorial Day ceremonies, and Ives’ description of the people congregating in the town center with flowers and flags is a familiar image for me. I actually marched in the Memorial Day parade playing snare drum as a young music student and a member of the school band. It is a pleasure to present this brilliant and deeply heartfelt work of Charles Ives with The Orchestra Now this season.

Copland’s Lincoln Portrait

Notes by TŌN flutist Matthew Ross

The Commission
In 1942, conductor Andre Kostelanetz commissioned a “gallery of musical portraits” from three of the most preeminent American composers of the time. He requested works that reflect “the qualities of courage, dignity, strength, simplicity, and humor which are so characteristic of the American people.” Along with works by Virgil Thomson (depicting Fiorello H. La Guardia and Dorothy Parker) and Jerome Kern (Mark Twain), Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait was a result of this commission. The piece was premiered to rave reviews.

Copland’s Instructions
In writing Lincoln Portrait, Copland noticed parallels between his present-day and that of Lincoln in the sense of the emergence of a nation. Both were dealing with the devastation of war and the search for identity that inevitably comes with it. Copland chose to use original text to frame Lincoln’s own words, extracting from an 1862 State of the Union Address, the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, and the Gettysburg Address. He includes a note for the speaker on the first page of the score, discouraging the use of “undue emphasis in the delivery of Lincoln’s words,” and says that they are to be read “simply and directly, without a trace of exaggerated sentiment.” The focus needs to be on the complete “sincerity of manner” and not on acting ability. Copland recognized that Lincoln’s poignant words held all the dramatic implication necessary for the affect to be felt by the audience.

Copland’s Americana Style
Lincoln Portrait is a prime example of Copland’s distinct Americana style. He first started developing his idea of the “American sound” after hearing the Library of Congress’ newly released recordings of American folk music in 1936. Most of these recordings were extremely simplistic, using only a guitar or banjo to accompany a solo voice. Copland’s first explicit reflection of these recordings is Billy the Kid, a ballet written in 1938. Lincoln Portrait employs all of the same musical devices, most notably his frequent use of the intervals of a fourth and fifth (like the tuning of guitar and banjo strings) and his inclusion of folk song. In the case of Lincoln Portrait, he chose to include the ballad “On Springfield Mountain” and Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races.” Copland hoped these musical quotes would adequately represent the gentleness and simplicity of Lincoln’s personality.