John Axelrod, conductor and pianist, has done many innovative projects. But this time, Axelrod does what no classical conductor has done before. In a 1953 Metallic Green 1/2 ton Chevy Truck, courtesy of Blacktop Candy’s, Axelrod will drive the historic Route 66 while promoting Brahms Beloved, Vol. 2. Why? Axelrod combines in a unique way two legendary paths: one through a mythical love story in classical music, and one through the mythical road of America.
Released by Telarc on July 22, Brahms Beloved Vol. 2, the 2nd of Axelrod’s acclaimed recorded cycle, features Symphonies 1 and 3, performed by the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, and Clara Schumann lieder sung by legendary soprano Dame Felicity Lott and Lieder specialist Wolfgang Holzmair. Route 66, the iconic “Mother Road,” starts in Chicago and ends at Santa Monica, California. Axelrod will play his CD, write daily blogs for classical website Sinfini Music at www.sinfinimusic.com, make interviews with local radio stations, and share social media updates on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Some of the legendary Hotel+Motels to be visited during the John Axelrod Brahms Beloved Route 66 Tour include:
Palmer House, Hilton, Chicago, IL.- Aug 7-8
The State House Inn, Springfield, IL- Aug 9
The Alexander Hotel, Indianapolis, IN. (Monster Truck Nationals)- Aug 10
Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon, MO.- Aug 11
Ambassador Hotel, Tulsa, OK.- Aug 12
Ambassador Magnuson Grand Hotel, Amarillo, TX.- Aug 13
Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM.- Aug 14
El-Rancho Hotel, Gallup, NM.- Aug 15
La Posada Hotel & Gardens, Winslow, AZ.- Aug 16
Wigwam Hotel, San Bernardino, CA. - Aug 17
Following the arrival in Santa Monica on August 17, the tour will continue up the California coastline on Route 1 to San Francisco, ending the tour on August 20.
Why Route 66?
“As a Texan, I have grown up with the myth of the West and the history of Route 66,” says Axelrod. “This drive is a great way for me to share my love of Brahms’s music with the many people I will meet. I think most will know his music and be open to hear my message that Brahms is for everyone. Most of all, especially as I work mostly in Europe, it is an opportunity for me to reconnect with my own country, to feel that optimism of possibility that made Route 66 so iconic. I will be getting a kick in a 53’ Chevy truck in the heat of August, but I’ll also be playing my Brahms mix on Route 66.”
Route 66 is one of the essential icons of America, both for Americans and for people abroad. It represents a multitude of ideas: freedom, migration West, and the loneliness of the American heartland.
The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people around the world. Running between Chicago and Los Angeles, “over two thousand miles all the way” in the words of the popular R&B anthem, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes. If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”
But perhaps the most compelling reason to follow Route 66 is to experience the road’s ingrained time line of contemporary America. Before it was called Route 66, and long before it was even paved in 1926, this corridor was traversed by the National Old Trails Highway, one of the country’s first transcontinental highways. Many immigrants, particularly Germans and Irish, populated the towns along the Old Trails. For three decades before and after World War II, Route 66 earned the title “Main Street of America” because it wound through small towns across the Midwest and Southwest, lined by hundreds of cafés, motels, gas stations, and tourist attractions.
During the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of farm families, displaced from the Dust Bowl, made their way west along Route 66 to California, following what John Steinbeck called “The Mother Road” in his vivid portrait, The Grapes of Wrath. After World War II, many thousands more expressed their upward mobility by leaving the industrial East, bound for good jobs in the suburban idyll of Southern California—again following Route 66, which came to embody the demographic shift from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt.
Later representations of the road were a little more upbeat. Probably most famous is musician Bobby Troup's eponymous tribute song, which enjoined listeners to "get their kicks on Route 66". A TV show in the 1960s, also called "Route 66", featured two young men exploring America's highways. Although Jack Kerouac only mentions 66 briefly in his book On the Road, it acquired something of the aura of Beatnik cross-country driving.
In the 1980s, the aging highway was decommissioned. Much of its stretch had been overlaid or routed around by broader, newer interstate highways. But the embedded idea of Route 66 refuses to die – as demonstrated by the 2006 Disney/Pixar movie Cars – and millions of kicks-seekers continue to follow the remnants of the road from Chicago to Los Angeles to this day. And now John Axelrod take Brahms on the road.
Axelrod Drives Route 66
Departing Chicago, Axelrod heads southwest through several small, scenic towns and communities. Springfield, IL, home and resting place of the sixteenth U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, is a natural first layover. Grab a classic bite at the 1950s-styled Charlie Parker’s Diner, tour the Illinois State Capitol or visit the historic Abraham Lincoln home, office or tomb. Then, after a short off route diversion to the Monster Truck Nationals in Indianapolis, it’s on to St. Louis to journey to the top of the Gateway Arch, the nation’s highest monument soaring 630 feet over St. Louis. Next, a side-trip to Branson, Missouri may be on the agenda.
Get Your Kicks on a Route 66 Road Trip
On the Arkansas River, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains awaits Tulsa, Oklahoma—the state’s cultural and arts center. Axelrod will drive Route 66 to beautiful Elk City, OK home of the National Route 66 Museum and an area replete with museums, state parks, wildlife refuges and historic sites. Route 66 takes Axelrod to his next stop in Tucumcari, New Mexico—a small city frozen in time and highlighted in the 1946 hit “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” He spends the night in the newly renovated, totally retro 1940’s Blue Swallow Motel before heading on to Santa Fe—another center for great American art, culture and architecture.
Travel Like A Star
Axelrod will then then roll into Gallup, NM, which was a 1940s and 50s hotspot for filming Hollywood Westerns. Stay at the Historic El Rancho Hotel—just like Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Katharine Hepburn—among many others. He will enjoy a night in beautiful Flagstaff, Arizona before traveling to Williams, AZ—by way of the Grand Canyon—one of the 7 natural wonders of the world! Then it is time to relax, play some games and enjoy world-class dining on a side-trip to Las Vegas, before driving to San Bernardino, California—where the site of the world’s first McDonald’s now hosts a Route 66 museum. Also, just an hour west of San Bernardino is the oldest operating McDonald’s in the world, unchanged since 1953.
The Sunset Strip
Axelrod’s final destination takes in the array of sites, celebrity attractions and the famous Sunset Strip in Hollywood before arriving at the historic end location of the Santa Monica Pier. At the pier Axelrod will enjoy some great seafood, enjoy a classic egg cream or phosphate, and ride the ferris wheel.
John Axelrod’s Brahms Beloved, Vol. 2
Axelrod returns to the podium and the piano to complete his acclaimed cycle of Brahms symphonies and Clara Schumann songs --
joined for this volume by legendary soprano Dame Felicity Lott and Lieder specialist Wolfgang Holzmair
The second and final volume of “Brahms Beloved”, in which conductor John Axelrod pairs the Brahms symphonies (in this set, the First and the Third) with songs by his muse, Clara Schumann, will be released by Telarc on June 17, 2014. Volume 1 inspired healthy debate among Brahmsians as to how deeply enmeshed the presence of Clara is in the songs of the man who always had a love for her, and this volume takes the discussion further with a fascinating booklet essay by Jan Swafford, author of the standard-reference Brahms biography.
Keeping with the idea of using different voice-types for each ‘set’ of Clara’s songs, the better to explore the notion of different sides of their composer’s character, this volume introduces our two final “Claras,” the great Lieder singers Dame Felicity Lott and, for the more masculine side of Clara, Wolfgang Holzmair. The orchestra is again the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, of which John Axelrod is Principal Conductor, and Axelrod once more does double-duty as conductor and pianist.
In his forthcoming review of this album, music critic and Brahms specialist Jerry Dubins is as enthusiastic about this issue as he was about its predecessor. “Axelrod has already proven himself a master of Brahms with his previous release...Here, from the very first downbeat, one senses the shaping of a performance by a master builder. Nor does the performance lack for sheer beauty of playing by the Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi Orchestra – listen to the sinuous violin lines...the sylvan woodwind exchanges...the blazing brass in the grand finale [of the First]...Add to this Michael Fine’s and Wolf-Dieter Karwatky’s magnificent recorded sound...and you have a pair of Brahms symphonies for the ages."
Praise for Brahms Beloved, Volume 1
“Compelling performances of music that captures all the passion of
Brahms and Clara’s relationship” Classic FM (UK)
“John Axelrod presents the Brahms Symphonies with just straightforward, forceful playing. He allows his musicians to breath, to enrich the music with lovely colors, deep lyricism and some particularly interesting contrasts. That said, this rather unusual Brahms is unusually coupled with 10 beautiful Clara Schumann songs, ravishingly sung by Nicole Cabell and Indra Thomas.”
Remy Franck, Pizzicato
“John Axelrod’s Brahms is great and all his own. “Brahms Beloved” permits us to see deeply into the composer’s character. I don’t think anybody who loves Brahms can afford to be without it—
it’s that good.”
Dave Saemann, Fanfare
“Experienced in all repertoire, John Axelrod conducts a very classy and masterful Brahms. Refusing interpretive fads and "tics" of conductors, his Brahms moves with a natural feeling for its form and architecture, conducted with a high competence and artistic intelligence.”
Pierre-Jean Tribot, ResMusica
John Axelrod is Principal Conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since 2011 and has been Music Director of the Orchestra National des Pays de la Loire in France and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Theater in Switzerland. A former pupil of Leonard Bernstein, he is one of today’s most internationally in- demand conductors. Recent recordings include a much-praised Berlioz and Ravel disc with Veronique Gens (winner of ResMusic CD of the Year) for Ondine Classics (which led respected US broadcaster Tom Manoff to write, “Just when I was beginning to worry about the future of classical music, I’m discovering new great conductors like John Axelrod), “French Impressions” (winner of 2012 ICMA Best Concerto Performance with Orchestra) and “American Serenade” (“5 stars” – Diapason) with violinist Rachel Kolly d’Alba (Warner Classics), and Gorecki’s Third Symphony with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian for Sony Classical. He has conducted other leading orchestras and opera houses around the world, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, and has conducted the Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Teatro di San Carlo in Naples and premiered Bernstein’s Candide at Theatre du Châtelet and Teatro alla Scala.
Dame Felicity Lott has appeared at all the great opera houses of the world: Vienna, Milan, Paris, Brussels, Munich, Hamburg, Dresden, Berlin, New York and Chicago. Felicity is well known as a concert artist, working with all the great conductors and orchestras. Wolfgang Holzmair was born in Vöcklabruck, Austria, and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and Dramatic Art with Hilde Rössel-Majdan (voice) and Erik Werba (lied). He performs in recital throughout the world in collaboration with leading accompanists and pianists of our time.
The Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi was founded in 1993 by Vladimir Delman, and music directors, conductors emeritus and principal guest conductors have included Riccardo Chailly, Carlo Maria Giulini, Xian Zhang, Rudolf Barshai, Helmut Rilling and Wayne Marshall. The orchestra’s recordings have won success and awards, including a Gramophone Award, Classic FM People’s Choice, the Choc de l’Annee and, in 2010, the Grammy (for “Verismo Arias” with Renee Fleming).