With only one season as the music director
of the Brooklyn Philharmonic under his belt, 32-year-old conductor
Michael Christie is already leaving an indelible mark on the
Following Robert Spano’s departure at the end of the 2004 season,
the Brooklyn Philharmonic was in a state of flux: 2005, in which
several conductors came and went, was essentially a run of "try-outs."
And Christie, who at the time had just finished his four-year
tenure as artistic director and chief conductor of Australia’s
Queensland Orchestra, got the job after leading the Brooklynites
in April 2005.
From the start, Christie began molding the orchestra in his vision:
his youthful enthusiasm and his passion for all forms of music
have been largely responsible for getting Brooklyn Philharmonic
audiences buzzing again.
In announcing the orchestra’s upcoming season at the foot of
the Brooklyn Bridge at the always splendid (scenically and gastronomically)
River Cafe last month, Christie eagerly discussed the four mainstage
concerts taking place at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House from
February through May 2007, as well as mentioning the many – and
always expanding – community outreach programs the orchestra
is involved in, not only throughout its eponymous borough but
also the rest of New York City.
Christie announced that he had added "more performances
to our season because we want the orchestra to play together
As part of that initiative, the exciting new series, "BP
Presents," debuts with two genre-busting concerts at the
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, "hosted" by Christie.
On Feb. 1, "Four Scored" presents a quartet of female
vocalists – Laurie Anderson, Nellie McKay, Joan Osborne and Suzanne
Vega – who will each perform her tunes with various ensembles
featuring members of the Philharmonic. On March 9, "Antony
and the Johnsons" features the orchestral debut of this
acclaimed vocal group.
The Brooklyn Philharmonic’s 53rd mainstage season – subtitled
"The Sound of Brooklyn" – begins Feb. 3 with the program
"Earth Awakened," in which Christie leads the orchestra
in works that touch on the mysteriousness of Mother Nature and
mankind’s primal instincts. Opening this evening are two compositions
by Australia’s own Peter Sculthorpe: "Earth Cry," which
features William Barton playing a wind instrument indigenous
to the Aborigine people, the didgeridoo; and "Mangrove."
At the press conference, Christie shared that this will be a
reunion of sorts with Barton, an Aboriginal musician, with whom
he had collaborated on a recording of Sculthorpe’s music, "Song
of Sea and Sky," with the Queensland Orchestra.
The concert ends with Igor Stravinsky’s still-shattering exploration
of an ancient pagan ritual, the ballet "The Rite of Spring,"
which will be danced by Manhattan-based nicholasleichterdance
to Nicholas Leichter’s world-premiere choreography.
This performance is part of a three-year project with nicholasleichterdance
featuring Stravinsky ballets, explained Christie. Future seasons
will feature "Petrushka" and "The Firebird."
The program that Christie conducts March 10, "Bridge to
the Beyond," connects two works by the current "hot"
classical composer, Argentina’s Osvaldo Golijov – a new orchestration
of his chamber-music piece "Dreams and Prayers of Isaac
the Blind," featuring clarinetist David Krakauer, and "Last
Round," inspired by the Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla
– with Gustav Mahler, whose Symphony No. 1 in D Major remains
a celebratory achievement, even in light of the eight masterpieces
that followed in that genre before his untimely death in 1911
at age 50.
The music director sits out the third concert of the season,
"KRONOS + COSMOS," on April 21. Guest conductor Stefan
Asbury leads the orchestra in Ralph Vaughan William’s indescribably
haunting "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis," then
welcomes the Kronos Quartet onstage for the local premiere of
Manhattan-based composer Julia Wolfe’s "My Beautiful Scream,"
which was written expressly for the Kronos foursome.
Climaxing this concert is not only Gustav Holst’s explosive –
and enduring – "The Planets," but also another New
York premiere: the accompanying video footage for "The Planets"
is from NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which should
re-energize an overfamiliar repertory piece.
Returning to the podium for the final concert of the 2007 season
– "The Ride to Redemption" on May 12 – maestro Christie
once again demonstrates how he is bringing new blood to Brooklyn
Philharmonic programming: this concert marks the beginning of
a three-year initiative by the orchestra to partner with the
highly regarded avant-garde Ridge Theater (which has performed
at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave festival), to explore
one faith-based musical work through what’s being described as
"a theatrical film staging."
For this concert, Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, subtitled
"Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" – which became that rarity
of rarities, a true classical smash hit, in 1993 after it was
featured in Peter Weir’s film "Fearless" and was released
in a celebrated recording featuring soprano Dawn Upshaw – will
be staged, through Ridge Theater’s unique visuals, with allusions
to the tragic events following Hitler’s invasion of Poland to
spark World War II.
Also on the bill for this season-ending celebration are two more
jubilant works: Paul Hindemith’s "Mathis der Maler"
symphony and Mozart’s aptly titled "Exsultate jubilate."
Soprano Nathalie Paulin will sing the Gorecki and Mozart works.
In addition to outlining this quartet of compelling and original
programs this coming season by an orchestra clearly on the rise,
Christie also discussed the community partnerships and music
education programs in which the Brooklyn Philharmonic is involved,
including the ongoing "Music Off the Walls" concerts
at the Brooklyn Museum, free "Music Off the Shelves"
chamber-music concerts at the Brooklyn Public Library, and free
"Music in the Sanctuaries" concerts in various houses
of worship throughout the borough.
– with Lisa J. Curtis
Brooklyn Philharmonic concerts begin
Feb. 1, 2007. Tickets for subscription performances are $60,
$55, $40, $20 and $10 for students and may be purchased by calling
BAM Ticket Services at (718) 636-4100. Multi-buy discounts are
available by calling the Brooklyn Philharmonic at (718) 488-5913.