John Axelrod

July 14-15, 2018
Bernstein at 100 and the Pacific Music Festival
Location: Sapporo, Japan
Program: Bernstein Symphony 1 "Jeremiah," Mahler Blumine, Mahler Rückert Lieder, Tchaikovsky Symphony 4

Returning for the Bernstein at 100 to the Pacific Music Festval in Sapporo, the same festival founded by Lenny, is more than an honor and privliege.  It is destiny.   Once again, upon the inviation of Music Director Valery Gergiev, I find myself making music with not only some of the world's best young professioanl musicians, but also the worldl's best, with winds, brass and percussion soloists from the Berlin Philharmonic and strings from the Vienna Philahrmonic, including the esteemed Rainer Küchl, Concertmaster of the Vienna Philhamonic.


This program, with my dear friend Rinat Shaham, is a Bernsteinfest, with his great symphony, which I've performed often wtih Rinat, most recently in Sevilla, and his lieder, with Blumine, and the "I Want It" Tchaikovsky 4.  Thank you Lenny for making it all possible.

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August 31, 2018
Location: Tokyo Metropolitan Theater
Program: Bernstein: Candide Overture/Danzon, Gershwin; Rhapsody in Blue, Turina Danzas Fantasticas, Marquez Danzon 2, DeFalla Danse Espagnole, Ginastera Malambo, Shionoya Spanish Watlz

Returning for the 3rd year as the Music Director of the NHK Jazz at the Metropolitan Theater is the summer highlight every year, especially in this Bernstein at 100 year.   Featuring his brilliant Candide Overture (a reminder of my Candide in La Scala in 2007) and his Danzon, we dance the night away in a Latin influenced program, including Bernstein's Danzon from Fancy Free,  and some of Sevilla with Turina's Danzas Fantasticas, with Marquez's dynamic Danzon 2, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with jazz  legend and my dear friend Salt Shionoya, playing also his Spanish Waltz.  We end this Fiesta with Ginastera's Malambo from Estancia.  What a perfect way to end the summer and to get ready for more Spanish music in Sevilla!

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September 13-14, 2018
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: Bernstein Symphony 3 "Kaddish," Samuel Zyman "Seferad"

As a student of Lenny’s, and as the Artistic and Musical Director of the Real Orquesta Sinfonica de Sevilla, it evidently means a great deal, as I have programmed more performances of Bernstein’s music during the 2018 anniversary than any other Spanish orchestra, making Sevilla the Spanish epicenter of the Bernstein at 100 celebrations.  I remain one of his strongest advocates, and, like many of my colleagues, I have come of age under the influence of this great man and his music.   We make our most meaningful statement with the Symphony 3, Kaddish, with the text of international statesman, Auschwitz survivor and my surrogate father, Samuel Pisar, who was inspired after 9/11 and with whom I premiered his text in 2003 and subsequently performed around the world.   Since his passing, we now perform with his wife, my dear Judith Pisar and his daughter, my dear Leah Pisar.  Together we will once again resonate Sam’s words and Bernstein’s celestial music as we did recently in Milan.  On the program is the world premiere of Samuel Zyman’s "Seferad," a guitar concerto about the Sefardim diaspora, composed for my dearest friend and brother, Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey, Spain’s best guitarist.  This historic program, in collaboration with CultureALL, Tres Cultras Foundation and the Aladdin Project, starts the ROSS season with a statement.  The all mankind can be brothers: Hinei ma tov…Oseh Shalom bimromav….

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September 24, 2018
Bernstein at 100 at LaScala with the Filarmonica della Scala
Location: Teatro alla Scala, Milano
Program: Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story/Divertimento, Berio Sinfonia/Ritirata notturna di Madrid

After the extraordinary success of the Berio Sinfonia with the Swingles in Torino, we make an encore performance at Teatro alla Scala, with the Filarmonica della Scala, in a program celebrating the Bernstein at 100 Centennial.  Bernstein is the dedicatee of the Berio, permiered by the composer with the Swingle Swingers in 1969 with the New York Philharmonic.  Bernstein states in the text version of his Charles Eliot Norton lectures from 1973 that Sinfonia was representative of the new direction classical music was taking after the pessimistic decade of the sixties.  It is an omnophonic atmosphere of spoken word, harmony and sound effects that gave impetus for composers to seek new sonic inspiration.  Berio’s Ritirata notturna di Madrid  starts the program.

It is obvious then to return to Bernstein for the 2nd half, with his eternal Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and his humorous Divertimento, inspired with his Marching Band finale by Charles Ives’ music, which, gave the name to his Norton Lectures, the Unanswered Question.  What is the answer then?  Not only Yes, as Bernstein said, but  this:  Connect the dots.

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October 1, 2018
What is Heaven? Bernstein and Mahler
Location:  Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Program: Bernstein Chichester Psalms/Mahler Symphony 4, with Chen Reiss

After Bernstein one logically thinks of Mahler.  To have both on a program is always a joy, as it was in Seville.  In this case, Chichester Psalms, this hymn to heavenly brotherhood and Mahler’s Heavenly Life have many connections between them.  I am grateful to the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra for inviting me to share in this wonderful program.

Of course the sleigh bells at the beginning set a charming atmosphere, as does the devilish scordatura violin solo in the scherzo.   But for me, it is the ending, the song of angels in Heaven, rewarding the listener and providing a sonic soundtrack for what childish fun Heaven might actually be, at least in our minds.  I am also in great admiration of what is certainly his most chamber music symphony, without trombone or tuba.  In fact, the reduced version of the symphony for chamber ensemble is quite effective.  Mahler's 4th was the 1st of the symphonies I conducted as a Music Director of OrchestraX in 1998 in Houston and has remained among my favorite works of all the repertoire.

I am particularly happy to work with Chen Reiss.  I met her in Vienna, as she sang Pamina for Die Zauberflöte.  Her voice is the ideal, especially for Mahler's 4th, and her personality is gracious and inspiring as is her angelic beauty.   We are very fortunate to have her perform with us.  This is sure to be not only a heavenly program, but something a memory to last forever.

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November 9/10 & 16/17, 2018
Emperor and Age of Anxiety in Palermo
Location: Teatro Polteama Garibaldi, Palermo
Program: Beethoven Lenore Overture 3, Concerto 5 'Emperor" with Beatrice Rana, Schumann Symphony 3 & Bernstein Symphony 2 "Age of Anxiety" with Emanuele Arciuli, Shostakovich Symphony 8

Beatrice Rana and Emanuele Arciuli are two of today’s most exciting pianists.  Together we spend two weeks in fascinating Palermo performing Beethoven and Bernstein, with Schumann 3 and Shostakovich 8 as the foundations for this autumn serenade in Sicily with the Orchestra Sinfonica Siciliana.

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December 1-2, 2018
West Side Story the Film
Location: Da Roma, Antwerp
Program: Bernstein West Side Story, the Film with Orchestra

Probably the one work of Bernstein that captured my imagination more than any other is West Side Story, as seen and heard on film.  This extraordinary, Academy award winning film is the epitome of Bernstein’s musical theater success, and defined American music making for a generation and beyond.  During this Centennial Bernstein at 100 celebration, I finally get to do something I have always wanted:  To conduct the score to the film.  Finally, in Antwerp, I have that chance.  Don’t miss this chance to be cool and come hear and watch: somehow, somewhere…..

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December 7-10, 2018
Bernstein's MASS
Location: Tonhalle, Düsseldorf
Program: Bernstein's MASS, JUBILANT SYKES, Baritone

As said on the Lisinksi website:  “Few composers capture their time and become the iconic voice of their age,” conductor John Mauceri said, referring to one of America's most prominent composers, pianists and conductors Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990). He was popular and famous as a conductor, pianist and composer. He was the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic for eleven years. He often played solo parts of the concert literature, while conducting the accompanying orchestras at the same time. He composed ballet, film and theatre music, operas, chamber and solo music imbued with elements of jazz, blues, rock, pop, cabaret, Jewish music, classical music and its modern-age techniques, under the influence of composers such as Copland, Stravinsky, Milhaud, Gershwin and Blitzstein. Some of his works, especially the globally popular West Side Story, bridged the gap between classical and popular music; the same could be said for his Mass. Bernstein wrote it in 1971 at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy, in memory of the killed American President J. F. Kennedy. It premiered at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. Born to Russian-Jewish parents, a social liberal and activist, he surprised with his choice – to compose a musical theatre work based on the Roman Catholic Mass. Bernstein added his own ideas and texts written by Stephen Schwartz to the Latin Mass model, raising the issue of faith crisis and cultural breakdown of the post-Kennedy era, burdened with the nightmare of the Vietnam War. Although the beginning of Mass is intertwined with elements of resignation and hopelessness, the end carries the message of peace and faith that will bring the good - both within and outside man. That message of hope will be brought to the Dusseldorf audience by numerous choir singers and soloists, the Dusseldorf Symphony Orchestra and Musikverein Choir, with children's Choir under world-renowned conductor John Axelrod.

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December 20-21, 2018
Pasion por Pushkin
Location: Teatro de la Maestranza, Sevilla
Program: Music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Lyadov, Prokofiev, Mussourgsky and Glinka

Pushkin is the passion for this program.  With my wife Anastasia reading Tatyana's letter from Onegin, and many works based on or in homage to Pushkin, the ROSS and I end the year with not only a unique program based on the music and literature theme, but also, featuring our wonderful soloist Tatiana Postnikova, playing the beloved Rachmaninov Rhapsody on the Theme from Paganini, and Guy Braunstein's transcription of Lensky's Aria from Eugene Onegin, featuring Vicent Morello, but we will also play the annual holiday favorite: The Nutcracker.  This is a family, feel good program, perfect for the Winter season.

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December 15, 2018
Beethoven Piano Concerti in Venezia
Location: Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, Venezia
Program: Beethoven Piano Concerto 2 and 5 "Emperor"

In cooperation with CultureALL Association and the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, I am deligthed to conduct the closing concert of the Beethoven Concerto Cycle, with the 2nd concerto, with LEONARDO VERONA, and 5th "Emperor," with GABRIELE MARIA VIANELLO MIRABELLO. Venice is my home from home, where my heart is, and after many years of making music in Venice, I finally have the chance to work with these marvelous young musicians from the Conservatory.  Viva Venezia!  Bravo Beethoven!

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December 31, 2018
Bernstein on Broadway
Location: Hyogo Performing Arts Center, Japan
Program: Bernstein and the Music of Broadway

December 31, Hyogo Performing Arts Center

In the Hyogo Performing Arts Center, near Osaka, the Bernstein at 100 Centennial comes to a close with a broadway spectacular!  Featuring the music from Candide, On the Town, and West Side Story, and including hits from Rodgers and Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, and more, this is a marvelous, melodious way to end this most musical year of Bernstein.  I always believed 2018 was a year of destiny with Bernstein.  It was, of course.  But the greatest celebration of 2018 was marrying my bride Anastasia and the birth of our son Max.  As Candide goes: It is the best of all possible worlds!

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