Greetings from the Principal Conductor Designate
I’d like to offer you a very warm welcome to the 2017 May Festival, and to take this opportunity to say how happy and excited I am to be joining the May Festival family.
Last October, coinciding with my nomination as the new Principal Conductor of the May Festival from 2018, I had the opportunity to share with you the special experience of conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. It was during that week that I began to get a clear sense of what choral music means to Cincinnati; I was immersed in the quality, commitment and superb preparation of the May Festival Chorus and the virtuosity and precision of the Cincinnati Symphony—together they are a force to be reckoned with. Your own warmth, support and emotions were also transmitted to me, when faced with our performances of one of the great masterpieces of the symphonic choral repertoire. Having lived this experience, I couldn’t wait to assume my new responsibility with you, and with the greater Cincinnati community.
The 2017 May Festival has its own challenge of taking place in the Taft Theatre for exciting reasons that we are all aware of. I hope you will join me in thanking the staff of the Taft Theatre for welcoming us into such a beautiful space, and I have no doubt that the May Festival Chorus, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and all this year’s visiting artists will bring you some of the most beautiful choral music at the highest level.
The Festival opens with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the baton of Markus Stenz. It’s a sheer “Ode to Joy,” proclaiming that the dreams of all humankind will join together as one. I fully support the Festival’s commitment to the performance of contemporary music; this year sees the May Festival premiere of Walter Braunfels’ Te Deum, the German composer’s spiritual Photo: Michael Novakjourney upon his return from the front line in the First World War.
Together with Gerard McBurney, the Festival’s first ever Creative Partner, we invite you to dream with two beautiful programs, one with music by Vaughan Williams and Mendelssohn’s evocative A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the other with Elgar’s mighty The Dream of Gerontius. These concerts are led by two young, talented British conductors, Matthew Halls and Michael Francis.
This year’s concert at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, an event which always forms a special part of our Festival, will once again feature the May Festival Youth Chorus as well as the Chamber Choir singing works from Palestrina, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bach, Viadana and Jakob Handl. It will be a joy to hear this music in such spiritual surroundings, thoughtfully conducted by Robert Porco and James Bagwell. And as the Festival closes with another great choral masterpiece, Bach’s Mass in B minor, it’s an opportunity for the Chorus and the CSO to work with Harry Bicket in performing one of the true pinnacle works in the choral repertoire.
It goes without saying that we will welcome singers of the highest level who specialize in this very repertoire, and together with the superb May Festival Chorus, always impeccably prepared by Robert Porco, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, with whom I felt at home from the first time I worked with them, we have a great Festival ahead of us.
I’m sorry I can’t be with you this year; unfortunately my existing commitments made it impossible for me to attend, but I’m pleased to tell you that plans are already well under way for next year, my first as Principal Conductor, and I look forward to our future collaborations. I very much hope you will enjoy the Festival!