John Axelrod

September 21-22, 2017
El Triunfo
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: Brahms: Double Concerto, Symphony 1

Why start the season with Brahms, why is Brahms important and why do I love Brahms so much?  Brahms is absolutely core repertoire.  It may be that the 3 B's first included Berlioz, but with respect to Germanic music, according to Hans von Bülow, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms reign supreme.  And as much as I love the music of Berlioz, Brahms offers greater comfort to my psyche and speaks to my musical soul.

I recorded the Brahms Beloved CD's with my Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano, Giuseppe Verdi, because the orchestra played Brahms symphonies every season since its inception (which coincidentally was the same as the ROSS).  To emphasize the Beloved theme, I included lieder by Clara Schumann, sung by 4 different vocalists to portray Clara and to relate to the choice of symphonies and the lifelong love Brahms felt towards her.

For the ROSS, Brahms Beloved is about giving love to his symphonies and concerti and sharing that with our public.  For the opening concerts of the season, Brahms Symphony 1 is featured in a program called The Triumph.  The ROSS starts the season triumphantly with great momentum after ending last season with political, public and critical success.  The ROSS is now more confident in its sound and proud of our place in society.  The Double Concerto on the program is a symbolic representation of the dyadic nature of a relationship.  The triumph is not only in the music, but in the marriage of orchestra and audience.  It took three years for the ROSS to arrive at this moment of communal love, but like the long 21 year gestation of Brahms' 1st symphony, all good things come to those who wait. The best is yet to come.  For the rest of the season, the joy of Brahms will be our barometer and provide a great bounty for our public and our musicians.

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October 2, 2017
Location: Gran Teatro la Fenice, Venice
Program: Schumann Piano Concerto, Brahms Symphony 1

As a lover of all things venetian, as a conductor of the Filarmonica della Fenice since many years, as a home owner in Venice, and as the president of CultureALL association which has both projects and patrons in Venice,  I am thrilled to contribute to the welfare of the Orchestra Filarmonica del Gran Teatro La Fenice and to offer a concert to the citizens and students of Venice and the Veneto. Schumann's Piano Concerto with Brahms 1st Symphony is as welcoming a program as one can get. As Gloria Campaner's Warner Classics CD to be recorded is entitled HOME, I feel very much at home to make this concert for Venice.

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October 5-6, 8, 2017
Resurrection and Transfiguration
Location: Auditorium di Milano
Program: Takemitsu: Death and Resurrection Strauss: Tod und Verklärung Mahler: Sinfonia n. 1

I am deeply honored to have served for 6 years as the Principal Guest Conductor of LaVerdi, and eternally grateful to the public in Milano for its faithful support.  It has been my privilege to make music with the great musicians of LaVerdi and to have contributed to the glorious history of this orchestra.

My final program has a symbolic intention:  resurrection and transfiguration are indeed key words.

Mahler, Strauss and Takemitsu were among many composers inspired by the metaphysical questions of life and death. Music itself is a microcosm of this experience. With every breath, sound lives, then dies so that another sound may inevitably follow. And after the music ends, the experience lives on in resonance and memory.

The cycle of life and death brings change and opportunity.  LaVerdi now continues with a new music director and I am focused in Seville, UNESCO's 1st City of  Music, as both CEO and Artistic and Musical Director.   But I will never forget the precious musical and meaningful moments we have shared.  LaVerdi will always be in my heart.  Grazie mille tutti.

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October 19-21, 2017
Russian Rollercoaster
Location: Groningen, Netherlands, Noord Nederlands Orkest
Program: Glinka: Overture Ruslan und Ludmila Shostakovich: Cello Concert no 1 Ligeti: Mysteries from the Macabre Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances

Making my debut with the North Netherlands Orchestra, this majority Russian program is filled with marvelous music.  Daniel Müller- Schott rejoins me after our Sevilla concert for the Shostakovich cello concerto 1, and the fabulously talented soprano Sara Hershkowitz mesmerizes with Ligeti’s macabre mysteries.  Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances and Glinka are the core pieces that anchor this unique concert.

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November 2-4, 2017
Berio and Bernstein are Back in Town!
Location: Auditorium Rai “A. Toscanini”
Program: Berio Sinfonia, Bernstein: Divertimento, Fancy Free

Berio and Bernstein.  Two giants of 20th century music.  Linked by the premiere of the Berio Sinfonia, sung by the Swingle Singers and commissioned for the 125th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic where Bernstein was Music Director from and to whom the work is dedicated.

I continue performing Bernstein’s music with my longtime good friends at the OSN della RAI, anticipating the Bernstein at 100 Centennial in 2018 with a 2017 look forward. The Swingle Singers (now the Swingles) continue to perform Sinfonia as its 50th anniversary approaches. Bernstein’s delightful Divertimento and his fanciful Fancy Free Ballet add to the kaleidoscope of ideas that are intellectually playful and viscerally powerful.

Bernstein states in the text version of his Norton Lecutres in 1973 that Sinfonia was “representative of the new direction classical music was taking after the pessimistic decade of the sixties.”  This concert, with the dichotomy of Berio’s neurotic humor with Bernstein’s passionate humanism helps define the anxiety of the 21st century.

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November 19, 21, 23, 28, 2017
La Traviata
Location: Opera di Firenze
Program: Verdi: La Traviata

The quintessential Italian opera by arguably the greatest Italian composer, la Traviata is beloved worldwide and a milestone of the operatic repertory.  To conduct this masterwork with my dear friends of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Opera di Firenze is an honor and privilege.  This romantic and tragic tale of the courtesan Violetta, her love for Alfredo, and the moral restrictions on their lives, (and on Verdi’s as well), continues to speak directly to our human nature and reflects the complicated webs we weave.  The story, based on Dumas’ La Dame aux Camélias, is music which perfectly balances the coloratura filigree and baritone verismo, the lyrical and the dramatic, also engages the listener in ways few operas have been able to achieve.  Its power is that we experience  true moral strength and the enduring belief in the transforming, redeeming power of love. As the famous “Libiamo” invites: I’ll drink to that!

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December 1-3, 3017
The Stars of Star Wars!
Location: Het Concertgebeouw, Amsterdam
Program: John Williams, Gustav Holst, Richard Wagner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Igor Stravinsky, etc....

In what I consider to be probably the greatest concert hall in the world (my respect to all others), the Concertgebeouw, this promises to be one of the highlights of my season.  I have always loved film music, having been the Music Director of Hollywood in Vienna from 2009-2011.  Here I lead the Netherlands Philharmonic on a musical journey to a galaxy, far, far away… John Williams’ music from Star Wars is arguably the most successful film score of all time.  It has its roots in the Viennese opulent orchestrations of Strauss and Korngold, the narrative rhythms of Holst’s The Planets, the flgiht of Wagner's Valkyrie, the militarism modalities of Shostakovich’s symphonies and the primal violence of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. This concert portrays the influences on and the impact of John Williams.  This is a home run concert program, with intellectual curiosity and outright entertainment at its best.  Certain to sell out, get your tickets now!

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December 8-9, 2017
Unfinished Business
Location: Sala Joaquin Turina, Sevilla
Program: LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN/BARRY COOPER: Sinfonía nº 10, en Mi bemol mayor FRANZ SCHUBERT: Sinfonía en Si menor, D. 759 "Incompleta" FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN: Sinfonía nº 45, en Fa sostenido menor "De los adioses"

Unfinished business indeed.  Each work has its own farewell.  To close the 2017 year, this program is a musical testimony to the power of ideas. What remains unsaid may be more potent that what was.  While Barry Cooper’s reconstruction of Beethoven’s sketches for what might have been a 10th symphony is a novelty, it is in the innocence of Beethoven’s even numbered intention that suggests that the firebrand after the Ode to Joy was nostalgic in his old age. Schubert’s famous Unvollendete is a testimony to the genius of this lyrical composer whose tragic life itself remained unfinished.  For who was considered the most prolific composer of all time despite his early demise, what might have been is as important as what might be said.  Berio’s Rendering is in fact an essay on such a dream.  And finally, Haydn’s intruiging Farewell Symphony, the Abschied, which dictates that at the end, one by one, the players blow out the candles on their music racks and leave the room.“No more,” says Haydn’s manuscript. Echoes of Mahler’s own unfinished 10th Symphony are considered. The conductor and concertmaster are the only ones left to ruminate on the meaning of life.  As 2017 comes to a close, life begins anew for 2018, with more Haydn and Mahler’s 1st lurking in the new year…..

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December 14-15, 2017
Hungarian Holidays
Location: El Palacio Euskalduna
Program: F. Liszt/Doppler: Rapsodia húngara nº 6 en Re mayor, S. 359 Wlad Marhulets: Concierto para clarinete klezmer B. Bartók: Concierto para orquesta

As the holidays approach, I find myself happier to have a good glass of Tokaji wine, that ancient amber hued drink, than eggnog.  Somehow, the spices of the holidays are more seductive than the slumber that comes from eating too much and waiting out the snow.  What is needed is some Klezmer chutzpah with David Krakauer and a little Hungarian dance to warm the body.  Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody 6 and Bartok’s Concerto for orchestra are just the recipe.  Returning to my friends in Bilbao, this concert will be a fresh reminder of those linguistic and rhythmical roots in the languages of Basque and Hungarian, both considered agglutinative, non-indo european languages.  While I know the Txakoli wine from the region, the question is whether the Tokaji also goes well with pintxo from Basque?  If the language is as convincing as music, then I would say:  Bai!

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