Gershwin’s Unexpected Inspiration Behind ‘An American in Paris’
On Sunday, November 12, the Akropolis Reed Quintet will open its debut UMS recital with George Gershwin’s An American in Paris arranged by saxophonist Raaf Hekkema. University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance professor Mark Clague, also director of the U-M Gershwin Initiative, shares some background on the composer’s unexpected inspiration behind this iconic work:
Paris in the 1920s served as a kind of spiritual home for American art, especially for music as New World composers required a refuge from the pervasive influence of the German masters. Yet, the essential inspiration for George Gershwin’s tone poem An American in Paris was not the Eiffel Tower, but New York City’s Hudson River. In January 1928, Gershwin began work on an “orchestral ballet” starting with a melody he had sketched out nearly two years earlier on a trip to Paris. Contemplating this snippet which he had labeled “Very Parisienne,” Gershwin looked out from his home on 103rd Street toward the Hudson. “I love that river,” Gershwin later reported, “and I thought of how often I had been homesick for a sight of it, and then the idea struck me—An American in Paris, homesickness, the blues.” He continued to work on the piece while visiting Europe that summer.
Overall, Gershwin’s tone poem follows a three-part ABA structure in which an intrepid American traveler revels in the dizzying soundscape of Paris, is overcome by memories of home, struggles to recover, and finally triumphs over his homesickness, enthusiastically returning to the sights. Gershwin later offered this succinct program to the work:
This piece describes an American’s visit to the gay and beautiful city of Paris. We see him sauntering down the Champs Elysées, walking stick in hand, tilted straw hat, drinking in the sights, and other things as well. We see the effect of the French wine, which makes him homesick for America. And that’s where the blue[s] begins…. He finally emerges from his stupor to realize once again that he is in the gay city of Paree, listening to the taxi-horns, the noise of the boulevards, and the music of the can-can, and thinking, “Home is swell! But after all, this is Paris—so let’s go!”
In 1928, of course, the sale of alcohol was illegal in the U.S, but not in Europe. In a letter preserved in the Library of Congress, Gershwin endorses the use of An American in Paris for an anti-prohibition concert!
The piece not only captures Gershwin’s personal experiences in France, but here the composer uncovers a new depth of artistry. His early success with Tin Pan Alley songs and Broadway shows made him both hugely popular and wealthy, yet classical composers and critics remained skeptical of his aspirations to write serious music. Many dismissed works such as Rhapsody in Blue (1924) as untutored. Written just four years later, An American in Paris exhibits Gershwin’s trademark popular appeal, yet musically it is a one-movement symphony, as closely related to the economical construction of Beethoven as to the jazz stylings of Fletcher Henderson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. The musical building blocks of Gershwin’s tone poem are small motives that could only be imagined for instruments. These are repeated and passed from one voice to another in a rich tapestry of counterpoint. Gershwin’s motives represent everything from laughing passersby and taxicabs (a three-note motif featuring real car horns) to drunken tourists stumbling down the street and a brisk walking tune to accompany a stroll along Paris’s romantic Left Bank.
You may hear the colorful influence of French composers such as Claude Debussy and Les Six that Gershwin was consciously trying to evoke, as well as a bit of J. S. Bach’s famous “Air” in the bluesy “homesick” trumpet theme. The reed quintet arrangement by Raaf Hekkema of the Calefax Reed Quintet captures all the excitement, reverie, jazzy verve, and storytelling drama of Gershwin’s full orchestra original.
Listeners curious to know more might pick up Howard Pollock’s monumental study George Gershwin: His Life and Work or Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music by U-M Professor Emeritus Richard Crawford. Fans of An American in Paris, in particular, might also want to rent the MGM film of the same title. It won the 1951 Oscar for Best Picture and features Gene Kelly, pianist Oscar Levant, and love interest Leslie Caron in bringing the story of Gershwin’s musical poem to life. The movie influenced a recent Broadway show.
Hear the Akropolis Reed Quintet perform An American in Paris, Sunday, November 12, 2023 in Rackham Auditorium.
Introducing Anthony Feimster, Flint Artist in Residence
UMS is pleased to welcome Anthony Feimster, better known by his stage name Feimstro, as this season’s UM-Flint Artist in Residence. Feimster is a Flint-based pianist, vocalist, and composer who hopes to use his residency to collaborate with musicians and other artists to create new work. On Friday, November 3, Feimster will release an acoustic version of his 2022 album, Nina, recorded in live performance in early October, that takes inspiration from legendary singer/songwriter Nina Simone.
UMS Learning and Engagement student staff member Schnadè Saintïl recently interviewed Feimster about his influences, his community, and his artistry:
How would you describe your musical sound and its influences? How has the city of Flint influenced you?
It originated from gospel roots coming from the blues and growing up in church. And Ray Charles is my greatest inspiration for a plethora of reasons. He comes from hard knocks, is a pianist, sings and plays at the same time — very soulful, very bluesy, very churchy. The musicians in my city definitely inspired me growing up. On the album cover of Nina are the names of Sidney Oliver, Rufus Ferguson, Sam Doans, Adam Bearyman, and Mike Mobley. They had a huge impact on me because they introduced me to artists outside of gospel industries.
Sydney Oliver is more of a father figure to me. He’s the one who cultivated this idea of who James Taylor is and who Steely Dan is. When I was growing up, I said, “Man, what is this stuff he got me listening to?” And now that I’m older, I just can’t get away from it. So he’s the largest influence all my life, hands down.
Why have you chosen Nina Simone for the spotlight on this project?
Listening to a lot of Nina Simone, I came across a lot of videos that inspired me. She had me thinking, “I want to speak boldly. I want to speak my mind.” I wanted to say things on this project that were really dear to me at the time. She was clever. She was a statement artist. I want to exemplify that in my writing like Nina. She was so much of herself that it makes you think about who you are. I want to be a statement writer. I want to be clever in my writings, like Nina, and it was a way to pay homage to her.
Why are you recording a live version of the album when you have a polished studio recording?
Live performance touches the soul. There are things that you can capture in live performances that you can’t capture in the studio. That’s why a lot more people are trying to get more people in the studio so they can record that moment. Having piano and vocals leaves room for more creativity — for example in not having bass, I have to create a rhythm myself, figuring out an alternative to the bassline.
Ultimately, the piano album was an effort to create an intimate space with my fans and those who have been supporting me nonstop since I’ve started this journey. This is my way of saying thank you, by inviting a small group into this process. I’m going to create something for you. I’m going to live in this moment for you.
Who do you make music for?
I make music for myself and for the listener who enjoys live music, who enjoys a good show. I know it sounds weird, but I make music for the world, man. If I had everybody’s attention in the world right now, I would probably sing a song. And my goal is to reach the hearts of those who will accept being true to myself and seeing what I grasp from that area. I know a lot of times we spend a lot of time on who’s your fan base, what’s the age limit, who are you going after? Anywhere from the age of eight and 80; if you like raw beautiful soul music, that’s who I am going for.
Could you make a five-song playlist for someone to ease into your music?
“Roll with My Baby” – Ray Charles
“I’m Black And I’m Proud” – James Brown
“Shine” – Robert Glasper
“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” – PJ Morton
“Shower the People” – James Taylor
How did you hear about UMS and this residency? How is it advancing you and your work?
I heard about UMS through my bassist, John Hammons. I applied and ever since then UMS has been a great help, bringing awareness to some of the things that are happening in the community. They’ve been a great help financially to solidify some of the things to make possible, such as this piano album. I am looking forward to having creative conversations with students and artists in an upcoming event called Piano Paint. It began as something I did on Instagram during quarantine, where I took online art and I created music from scratch based upon the art. So, I’m excited about the artist dialogues that we’re going to be having with the students. Personally, there’s a lot of different things that I’m looking forward to, especially in the new year, with me coming out with my album, them playing a huge role in helping me and assisting me with space and conversation and funding. This residency couldn’t have come at a greater time. And for that, I plan on helping the programs that are attached to UMS with education, artists, information, knowledge, performance, composition, wherever it may be. I’m excited to give back as well to that. UMS has been more than a blessing to me.
You’re releasing this new album on Bandcamp, an untraditional route. Not being signed to a label, is being an independent artist a status you want to keep?
I think staying independent is the goal right now. The way business is working, in 3 years of streams I’ve made around $160. With that knowledge, I do notice that I can make more money doing live shows. I can make more money by releasing my album on platforms such as Bandcamp.
I do believe that being independent is a harder role, don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot more work because you don’t have the backing of the labels and the things that they provide, A&R rep marketing, etc., but you can build yourself a team, and do things your own way. Over time, if the numbers are right, if everything lines up and the contracts are right, I wouldn’t mind signing to a label after I’ve already established myself independently, maybe, but I think independence is my current goal for the sake of freedom.
If you were a Nina song right now, what would you be?
“Seasons,” because I’m in a season of my life where things are happening that I didn’t expect to happen. Some of those things are horrible and are absolutely great. I’m taking time to balance out life, marriage, ministry, and a lot of different avenues. I’m reminded that seasons may not come, and the leaves may not fall at all. Some of the leaves in certain seasons just don’t, may not fall, who knows.
Is there anything upcoming you have coming up?
If the people could follow me on Bandcamp, as we are releasing the Nina Piano album there on November 3, 2023. I’ll also be releasing some visuals from that live recording every week. If you want to get to know me, check out my linktree.com; it has everything from new music to what I’m doing now, to events coming up, my calendar, and ways we can connect. In May, I’ll be releasing a new album entitled This Ain’t No Joke. And that whole concept is amazing in itself. But, for now, follow me everywhere at Feimstro on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Join Us for Our Wide-Ranging Jazz Series
We invite you to join us next season for our 2022/23 Jazz Series — to live the moment and be reminded once again just how special it is to experience incredible live performances together.
We look forward to sharing performances by jazz masters at the forefront of the genre, including Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Diehl, Maria Schneider, and Cecile McLorin Salvant.
Packages start at just $190 for all five performances and as a subscriber, your concert-going experience will be made easy with perks like:
- Access to the best seats at the best prices, before individual tickets go on sale to the general public
- Risk-free ticket returns, refunds, and exchanges
- Installment billing and payroll deduction options
- Free parking when you buy at least six events
- Great discounts on all UMS events all year long!
Listen to our Jazz Series Playlist on Apple Music or Spotify:
Friday, October 14 // 8 pm
Wynton Marsalis’s All Rise combines a symphony orchestra, a jazz orchestra, and a chorus in a 12-movement arc built on the structure of the Blues, moving from uplifting and energetic to dark and distressing, and finally to Marsalis’s vision of the “togetherness and ascendance” of humanity.
Residency Sponsors: Elaine and Peter Schwetizer
Supporting Sponsor: Anthony Reffells and Jay and Christine Zelenock and the Zelenock Family
Sunday, October 16 // 4 pm
Since 1988, Wynton Marsalis has led the 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which simultaneously honors the rich heritage of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong while presenting a stunning variety of new works. Following Friday’s performance of All Rise, the group returns in its big band format for an afternoon of jazz.
Residency Sponsors: Elaine and Peter Schwetizer
Supporting Sponsor: Anthony Reffells and Jay and Christine Zelenock and the Zelenock Family
Friday, January 27 // 8 pm
This performance showcases Diehl’s fluency in both classical repertoire and dynamic jazz improvisation. He and his trio explore the connections between J.S. Bach’s counterpoint and the vocabulary of bebop, interspersing solo sections from The Well-Tempered Clavier with music by jazz composers such as Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, and Diehl himself.
Permanently Endowed Support: Helmut F. and Candis J. Stern Endowment Fund
Saturday, March 11 // 8 pm
“Maria Schneider is a national treasure,” proclaims National Public Radio. The 2019 NEA Jazz Master, 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist (for her 2020 album Data Lords), and seven-time Grammy winner brings her 18-member collective to Hill Auditorium for their long-awaited UMS debut.
Friday, April 14 // 8 pm
A UMS favorite since her 2017 debut, Cécile McLorin Salvant continues to defy expectations with her genre-obliterating virtuosity. The singer, composer, and visual artist has a passion for storytelling and finding the connections between blues, folk traditions from around the world, theater, jazz, and Baroque music.
Supporting Sponsors: Peter Toogood and Hanna Song
Ann Arbor History: Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock in Hill Auditorium
We are devastated that Chick Corea, one of the most prolific jazz greats of our time, passed away on Tuesday, February 9, 2021. UMS first presented Chick in 1994 at the Power Center, and most recently in 2019 as part of his ‘Trilogy’ tour with Christian McBride and Brian Blade. In addition to his seven UMS appearances spanning nearly three decades, Chick’s remarkable discography of nearly 90 albums includes a special connection to Ann Arbor and Hill Auditorium.
On Thursday, April 16, 2015, UMS presented An Evening with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock at Hill Auditorium. Two “nested” grand pianos with their lids removed adorned the stage at Hill Auditorium as a sold-out audience eagerly anticipated the forthcoming music. Some audience members in attendance may have remembered that this was not the first time that Chick and Herbie appeared alone together on the Hill stage; one would have to dive back to a winter night in February 1978 that ultimately resulted in side four of the now-classic album, An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert.
Please enjoy revisiting this musical gem of Ann Arbor history:
In 1978, jazz legends Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock were brought to Ann Arbor by Eclipse Jazz, a University of Michigan student group that existed from 1975 to 1987. Eclipse brought world-class jazz musicians to Ann Arbor for concerts, lectures, and workshops, and presented such greats as Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon, Sun Ra, Oscar Peterson, Mary Lou Williams, Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
We asked Lee Berry, former director of Eclipse Jazz and current Chief Development Officer at the Michigan Theater, to tell us all about the epic concert.
Hancock and Corea’s first show together at Hill Auditorium was scheduled for January 26, 1978, a date that might ring some bells for those who were university students during this time, because it was also known as the Great Blizzard of 1978. The University shut down due to snow that day.
Says Berry, “I think we learned that school was being cancelled, and then they called and said that [Herbie and Chick] couldn’t get out of New York.” The only reschedule date that worked for the musicians, Eclipse, and Hill Auditorium was February 26, 1978. The sold-out performance was to occur that day during the day time. Still, most of the 4177 ticket holders showed up, and, as Berry puts it, “it was a beautiful, beautiful show.”
The encore of that Hill Auditorium performance is side four of An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea: In Concert, an album that Berry describes as a departure from the electric keyboard and fusion style of jazz that Corea and Hancock were known for before that album, and as a return to the acoustic piano and older, more collaborative style of playing that is the kind of jazz that has survived and is still thriving today. The recording, featuring two jazz greats changing the course of jazz’s future, was a moment in history. As Berry remembers, “Not too long after is when Wynton [Marsalis] came out, maybe ’81, and it was like old-school was back. This was kind of like a link between those two periods.”
For further reading:
Joyce DiDonato Sings “Silent Night”
“My hope is that in silence, we can find peace. And in that peace, we might be able to ignite some light and hope. Wishing you a deep sense of peace as we go into the New Year.” —JoyceDiDonato
Enjoy this very special arrangement of “Silent Night” performed by Joyce DiDonato and Àlex Garrobé. Joyce’s #SingForToday series is co-produced by UMS and Princeton University Concerts.
Listening Parties with Spektral Quartet & Tarek Yamani
On two consecutive evenings, the Spektral Quartet and Tarek Yamani opened up their creative process as they began their UMS Digital Artist Residency together. They shared music with each other — and our audiences — that has shaped their artistic backgrounds and formed their artistic identities.
Enjoy both listening party experiences on demand below, as well as our accompanying playlist on Apple Music & Spotify:
The Many Faces of the String Quartet
Thomas Adès, Arcadiana, Op 12 (1994)
III. Auf dem Wasser zu singen
Performers: Danish String Quartet
Album: ADÈS / NØRGÅRD / ABRAHAMSEN
Released on ECM Records, 2016
Available on: Spotify | Apple Music
Christopher Trapani, Isolario: Book of Known Islands
Book II: Mamoiada (2019)
Performers: Spektral Quartet w/ Max Bruckert, electronics
Live Concert Performance
Available on: Vimeo
On Both Sides of the Quarter-Tone
Al Qorbi Nasnas
Performer: Abu Bakr Salem
Available on: YouTube
Rashiq Al Qad
Performer: Ensemble Morkos
Album: Cedre – Arabo-Andalusian Muwashah
Available on: YouTube
Huseini Saz Eseri
Performer: Goksel Baktagir (qanun) with Yurdal Tokcan (oud), Ozer Arkun (violin), Baki Kemanci (keman)
Album: Sounds from the Ocean
Released: Hayalgibi Müzik Yapım, 2000
Available on: Spotify | Apple Music | YouTube
#UMSplaylists: Chamber Arts (yMusic Takeover)
Listen Now on
In advance of their November 1 performance, yMusic has “taken over” UMS’s Chamber Arts playlist with works of their own discography, including collaborations with Paul Simon, Ben Folds, and Regina Spektor.
Hear the virtuosity and variety of sounds, ensembles, and works by composers featured in UMS’s Chamber Arts Series. This playlist updates with new tracks regularly, so be sure to follow/subscribe on your preferred streaming service!
Daniel Hope on ‘The Four Seasons’ and Max Richter’s ‘Vivaldi Recomposed’
Violinist Daniel Hope shares thoughts on Vivaldi’s masterpiece and its modern new take before his upcoming performance with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra on November 16.
I first experienced Vivaldi as a toddler at Yehudi Menuhin’s festival in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1975…
One day I heard what I thought was birdsong coming from the stage. It was the opening solo of “La Primavera” from The Four Seasons. It had such an electrifying effect that I still call it my “Vivaldi Spring.” How was it possible to conjure up so vivid, so natural a sound, with just a violin?
In 1723 Vivaldi set about writing a series of works he boldly titled “Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’invenzione” (The trial of harmony and invention), Opus 8. It consists of 12 concerti, seven of which — “Spring,” “Summer,” “Autumn” and “Winter” (which make up The Four Seasons), “Pleasure,” “The Hunt” and “Storm at Sea” — paint astonishingly vivid, vibrant scenes. In “Storm at Sea,” Vivaldi reached a new level of virtuosity, pushing technical mastery to the limit as the violinist’s fingers leap and shriek across the fingerboard, recalling troubled waters.
In the score, each of the four seasons are prefaced by four sonnets, possibly Vivaldi’s own, that establish each concerto as a musical image of that season. At the top of every movement, Vivaldi gives us a written description of what we are about to hear. These range from “the blazing sun’s relentless heat, men and flocks are sweltering” (Summer) to peasant celebrations (Autumn) in which “the cup of Bacchus flows freely, and many find their relief in deep slumber.” Images of warmth and wine are wonderfully intertwined. When the faithful hound “barks” in the slow movement of “Spring,” we experience it just as clearly as the patter of raindrops on the roof in the largo of “Winter.” No composer of the time got music to sing, speak and depict quite like this.
Today The Four Seasons, with more than 1,000 available recordings, are being reimagined…
Astor Piazzolla, Uri Caine, Philip Glass and others have all created their own versions. In Spring 2012, I received an enigmatic call from the British composer Max Richter, who said he wanted to “recompose” The Four Seasons for me. His problem, he explained, was not with the music, but how we have treated it. We are subjected to it in supermarkets, elevators or when a caller puts you on hold. Like many of us, he was deeply fond of the “Seasons” but felt a degree of irritation at the music’s ubiquity. He told me that because Vivaldi’s music is made up of regular patterns, it has affinities with the seriality of contemporary postminimalism, one style in which he composes. Therefore, he said, the moment seemed ideal to reimagine a new way of hearing it.
I had always shied away from recording Vivaldi’s original. There are simply too many other versions already out there. But Mr. Richter’s reworking meant listening again to what is constantly new in a piece we think we are hearing when, really, we just blank it out. In fact, working with Vivaldi Recomposed since 2012 inspired me to finally record The Four Seasons last year! In this program with UMS on November 16, pairing Vivaldi’s original with Max Richter’s brilliant new take, I feel both works inform and reflect on each other to create fresh and exciting connections.
— Daniel Hope
Remembering Jessye Norman | Playlist
The entire UMS family is deeply saddened to learn that Jessye Norman, legendary American soprano, five time Grammy Award winner, National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors recipient, and University of Michigan alumna, who passed away on September 30, 2019 in New York at age 74.
We honor Norman’s 39-year performance history in Ann Arbor with a playlist of 10 signature recordings of works she performed with UMS, between her first appearance in 1973 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and her final Hill Auditorium recital in 2012.
Listen now on your preferred streaming service:
An Interview with Paul Neubauer, viola
A 33-year history with UMS…
Violist Paul Neubauer is set to make his seventh UMS appearance since 1986 with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center on October 11. 21st Century Artist Intern Karalyn Schubring recently interviewed the distinguished musician about his history with the ensemble and his memories of performing in Ann Arbor.
How did you you first came to play with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center?
“While I was a member of the New York Philharmonic, I was invited to take part in a CMS tour — which included a stop in Ann Arbor! After I left the Philharmonic, I joined CMS as a regular member. I have had countless memorable experiences in my time as part of this esteemed ensemble. Over the years, it has been amazing to study and perform interesting repertoire together around the world, during ‘Live from Lincoln Center’ broadcasts, and of course in our home at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.”
CMS operates under a “collective” model, where different artists from their large, star-studded roster come together to play depending on the needs of each concert. What is it like to play with different collaborators all the time?
“I have been playing chamber music with hundreds of different collaborators since I started playing the viola. Everyone you work with adds to your knowledge of music as well as your own personal musical history and growth.”
The first time you came to Ann Arbor with CMS was in 1986, and this will be your sixth time back since then. Do you have favorite artists that you’ve worked with in Ann Arbor?
“Some of the programs I’ve been part of in Ann Arbor include two of my favorite singers, Anne Sofie von Otter and Heidi Grant Murphy. I also see some of my wonderful long time collaborators like violinist Ani Kavafian and cellist Fred Sherry.”
This season’s program, which features 13 CMS artists, celebrates composers who have contributed to our idea of the “American” sound in the 20th century, including Copland, Bernstein, Dvořák, and his student, Harry Burleigh. Is there anything about this program you’re excited to share with us?
“This is all great music and it looks like a wonderful combination of pieces. The Dvořák Viola Quintet is one of my favorite chamber works. This is sometimes called Dvořák’s ‘American’ Quintet since he wrote it during his stay in Spillville, Iowa, and you might hear an influence of Bohemian and American folk music in the work.”
What’s an important life lesson you’ve learned from playing chamber music?
“You always are working to be the best diplomat as possible when you are working with other players.”
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Ann Arbor, or whenever you’re on tour?
“Ann Arbor is of course a vibrant and exciting college town, but when you are on tour, you rarely have time to get the full flavor of a city. The usual routine is to arrive the morning of the concert, head to the hotel and try to sleep or relax, then head to the hall for a rehearsal and concert. But more often than not, there’s a party or dinner where we might celebrate the evenings performance. Maybe this visit, I’ll have more time to enjoy Ann Arbor!”
Interview conducted by University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance composition major Karalyn Schubring, who spent Summer 2019 in New York City working with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as part of her 21st Century Artist Internship.
Carl Grapentine’s Sports & Music Playlist (Spotify and Apple Music)
More than 100,000 fans are about to be welcomed home to “The Big House” by the beloved, booming voice of Carl Grapentine, who has been the Michigan Marching Band announcer since 1970 and the official game announcer for Michigan Football since 2006.
Grapentine is also an alumnus of the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and was a host of Chicago’s WFMT-FM classical radio for 33 years. To celebrate the start of a new season at Michigan Stadium, he’s combined his expertise to curate a playlist of sports-inspired classical works and film scores. Choose your preferred streaming service and learn more about each track below:
About the Music
Arthur Honegger’s musical depiction of a rugby match, composed in 1928 and filled with energy and power.
Mozart “Kegelstatt” Trio,
According to the autograph score, Mozart wrote this delightful trio while playing a game of skittles (a pub game related to bowling) at a local Kegelstatt—a skittles parlor.
John Williams “The Quidditch Match” from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
In the first match of the season, Harry caught the golden snitch giving Gryffindor a thrilling victory. Final score: Gryffindor 170—Slytherin 60.
Arnaud Bugler’s Dream
The French composer Leo Arnaud wrote this for a 1958 recording. But it’s forever associated with the Olympic games ever since ABC began using it for its 1968 Olympics coverage.
R. Strauss Olympic Hymn
Richard Strauss had a complicated relationship with the Third Reich. He composed this for the opening of the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin — the games we remember for Jesse Owens’s heroics.
Suk Towards a New Life
Did you know that the Olympic games once included competition in music composition? This was the silver medal winner (no gold was awarded) at the 1932 games in Los Angeles.
American composer Michael Torke wrote this in 1994 on a commission from the Atlanta Committee for the Olympics. Premiered by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, it was also played at the opening of the 1996 games in Atlanta.
Puccini “Nessun dorma” from the opera Turandot
When the 1990 World Cup final was played in Rome, three soccer fans — Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Jose Carreras — joined forces to give an outdoor concert. Thus, the worldwide phenomenon of The Three Tenors was born. And the BBC used this aria with its climactic “Vincero” (“I will win”) for its World Cup coverage.
Sousa The National Game
John Philip Sousa was an avid baseball fan. He wrote this march for the 50th anniversary of the National League in 1926.
Horner Soundtrack to Field of Dreams
James Horner’s evocative score for the 1989 film starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, and James Earl Jones.
Randy Newman “Wrigley Field” from The Natural
Randy Newman’s sometimes “Copland-esque” score for the 1984 film starring Robert Redford and Glenn Close.
This ballet by Claude Debussy begins with three characters searching for a lost tennis ball. It was written for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. The premiere took place in Paris in May of 1913, two weeks before the premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Elbel The Victors
Composed in 1898 by Michigan student Louis Elbel, in celebration of Michigan’s 12-11 victory over the University of Chicago giving Michigan the Western Conference championship. Hence, “Champions of the West.” The first public performance was given by John Philip Sousa’s band in Ann Arbor in 1899.
11 Virtuoso Pianists to Know in 2019
UMS’s 2019/20 season welcomes back legendary classical and jazz pianists to Ann Arbor, and introduces incredible new talent to our stages. Enjoy listening to our guest artists on our ‘Piano Virtuosos’ playlist, and learn more their upcoming appearances below.
1. Emanuel Ax
In his seventh UMS appearance since 1978, the esteemed pianist joins violinist Leonidas Kavakos and cello superstar Yo-Yo Ma for an evening of Beethoven Trios.
2. Chick Corea
The jazz piano legend brings together bass powerhouse Christian McBride and drum master Brian Blade for a special concert that revisits their acclaimed Trilogy album.
3. Aaron Diehl
The virtuosic jazz pianist joines forces with vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, both returning to Ann Arbor for two intimate sets in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre. The program features the Great American Songbook, among other compositions growing from that tradition and history.
4. Hélène Grimaud
Renowned French pianist Hélène Grimaud makes her UMS solo recital debut, performing music from her latest album, Memory, featuring works by Debussy, Chopin, Satie, Schumann, Sylvestrov, and Rachmaninoff.
5. Benjamin Grosvenor
“Benjamin Grosvenor may well be the most remarkable young pianist of our time,” according to Gramophone Magazine. The electrifying 27 year-old British virtuoso makes his UMS debut this Spring.
6. Isata Kanneh-Mason
The Royal Academy of Music postgraduate and multiple prizewinning pianist has had a stellar year in 2019, with a new album from Decca, and an international touring schedule alongside her brother, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
7. Martin Katz
“The gold standard of accompanists” (The New York Times) returns to UMS for a special two-night program, bringing Hugo Wolf’s 53 songs set to the poetry of Eduard Mörike to life alongside four singers in this season’s What’s in a Song.
8. Denis Matsuev
One of most prominent pianists of his generation, Denis Matsuev returns for his third recital and sixth UMS performance in a program of virtuosic works by Liszt and Tchaikovsky.
9. Anne-Marie McDermott
Adding to a 25+ year career as an concert pianist and recording artist, McDermott has championed artistic leadership roles with the Bravo! Vail and Ocean Reef Music Festivals. She joins the New York Philharmonic String Quartet in recital this season.
10. Cédric Tiberghien
An exceptional chamber music collaborator, Tiberghien joins soprano Julia Bullock in the premiere of Zauberland (Magic Land) — a music/theater story of migration from war-torn Syria staged by Katie Mitchell, featuring Schumann’s Dichterliebe performed alongside 16 new songs by Bernard Foccroulle.
11. Tarek Yamani
The Beirut-born pianist and composer taught himself jazz at the age of 19, and brings his Trio to Ann Arbor — fusing the genres of African-American jazz and classical Arabic music.
#UMSplaylists: Classical New Releases
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing (July 20, 1969), launch into the UMS Rewind archives with 10 moon-inspired works performed over the course of our 140+ year history.
Listen to our ‘Moon Tunes’ playlist on your preferred music service, and discover their respective programs below:
Pianist Vladimir de Pachmann performs Beethoven’s famed Moonlight Sonata, the work’s first of many times appearing on a UMS presentation. The sonata has been on numerous recital programs by legendary pianists, including Rudolf Serkin, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Alfred Brendel, and Ursula Oppens.
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Finnish composer and conductor Ossi Elokas leads the Polytech Chorus of Finland in his own work, titled “Kuutamolla” (Moonlight).
Italian lyric soprano Renata Tebaldi sings “O luna che fa’lume” (Oh moon that makes light) by Vincenzo Davico in her Hill Auditorium recital.
Tebaldi also performed Bellini’s “Vaga luna che inargenti” arietta in her 1959 recital, which was featured again on programs by Luciano Pavarotti in 1976 and by Cecilia Bartoli in 1995.
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The Nekrasov Russian Folk Orchestra performs Variations on the theme of the Russian Folk Song “Shining Moon” — a work that was presented again 10 years later in 1989 with the Osipov Balalaika Orchestra of Moscow.
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American baritone Thomas Hampson sings “Look Down Fair Moon” by Charles Naginski.
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Percussionist Evelyn Glennie and The King’s Singers present Return of the Moon by composer Peter Klatzow.
Jazz legend Bill Frisell and his New Quartet perform an arrangement of Henry Mancini’s beloved “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Schoenberg’s famously dark melodrama Pierrot lunaire is performed for the first time in UMS’s history, with soprano Lucy Shelton. The work has only been presented once again, 10 years later in 2009.
Broadway legend Audra McDonald performs “Stars and the Moon” by Jason Robert Brown, in her first of seven UMS appearances.
Introducing UMS Playlists on Apple Music and Spotify
Open your ears to new listening experiences:
Presenting our global artists featured in the 2019/20 ‘Traditions & Crosscurrents’ series.
Fall in love with solo works performed by classical and jazz pianists who appear in UMS’s 2019/20 season.
Discover the virtuosity and variety of sounds, ensembles, and works by composers featured in UMS’s Chamber Arts series.
- A celebration of young composers by yMusic, featuring works by Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, Andrew Norman, and other luminaries
- Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who makes his Ann Arbor debut this Fall
- Max Richter’s global chart-topping “recomposition” of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons
UMS presents modern jazz masters this season, whose collaborations and unique sound push the ever-evolving genre into new sonic territory.
- Brooklyn based jazz/funk collective Snarky Puppy opens the season with music from their new album, Immigrance
- Tarek Yamani brings his hypnotic fusion of American jazz and Arabic tarab in his UMS debut
- Multiple Grammy Award winning Chick Corea Trilogy joined by an all-star lineup
- UMS favorites Cécile McLorin Salvant and Aaron Diehl join forces in two sets, improvising on the Great American Songbook
Sign up for UMS’s weekly newsletter to get notified about new playlist updates and releases. In addition to “guest list” takeovers, UMS will have dynamic playlists that update regularly with new tracks, including:
A preview of upcoming performances at UMS, updated the beginning of each month during the concert season.
Be adventurous. Open your mind and ears to bold new works — in a safe space to listen.
Celebrating 140+ years of UMS’s history presenting legendary artists on the University of Michigan’s great stages.