Opening-night program reflects Boughton’s vision
Two years ago, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra introduced audiences to “three ascendant American instrumentalists,” as I wrote in the October 2011 issue of The Arts Paper. One of those “new generation artists,” as the orchestra dubbed them at the time, was violinist Chad Hoopes.
William Boughton, the NHSO’s music director, told The Arts Paper at the time that “as an American orchestra … one of our roles … is the support of American composers and American artists.”
Hoopes, Boughton said at the time, is “already on the world platform at the tender age of 17.” Having won the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition at age 13, Hoopes invigorated the Woolsey Hall audience with his performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, immediately after which the NHSO engaged him for this season’s opening-night concert.
“Literally, we engaged him backstage,” Elaine Carroll, the NHSO’s executive director, said in July.
On Oct. 3, Hoopes will join the orchestra for a performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64.
In July, Boughton described Hoopes as a “brilliant young violinist” and reiterated what he said two years ago about the responsibility he feels to support “American composers and American artists.”
The orchestra’s opening night concert will begin with Rex Tremendae Majestatis, a 2008 fanfare by Yale School of Music faculty member Christopher Theofanidis for organ, brass, and percussion that will showcase the Newberry Memorial Organ, whose home is Woolsey Hall.
“The Newberry organ is very imposing” to see and hear, Boughton said.
Talking in general terms about putting together a concert program, Boughton said, “It’s important to combine something new with something old.” Doing so, and including on a program a performance by a dynamic young soloist like Hoopes, “generates enormous excitement within the orchestra and the audience.”
Rounding out this season’s opening-night program will be a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, a work that had its premiere in November 1888, in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the composer on the podium.
Boughton said his job, in programming the season’s repertoire, is “like a chef putting a meal together … over a whole year.”
Of particular interest to him is “the constant development of the orchestra,” he said. Having recorded the music of William Walton in 2010 (for the NHSO’s first commercial recording in 30 years), and having worked on new music by recent composer-in-residence Augusta Read Thomas, among others, Boughton said the ensemble’s musicians “know the sound world that they’re operating in.”
Boughton and the NHSO plan to release a second recording of Walton’s music in early 2014 (as part of the ongoing William Walton Project with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library), as well as a CD of music by Thomas and Ravel—a program the orchestra will perform in February.
Boughton said that a combination of compelling repertoire and reasonable ticket prices has “attracted a different group of people” to the orchestra’s Woolsey Hall concerts—not subscribers but those who buy tickets to individual performances. While many performing arts organizations around the country have struggled to maintain their subscriber bases, Boughton said “more young people are coming to the (NHSO’s) concerts” than had previously. That, of course, is a good thing, and it’s not surprising.
Carroll said Boughton is “always putting the audience at the center of his thoughts.” And that has helped local concertgoers trust the organization’s programming choices. Including in concert programs the works’ durations, for example, is a way of letting audience members know how long they can expect the performance of an unfamiliar piece of music to last.
Another audience-development initiative the organization launched recently was its “KidTix” program, through which people younger than 18 get into concerts for free with an adult ticketholder.
“That could be a transformative experience for someone,” Carroll pointed out.
In a January 2012 New Haven Independent news story, I paraphrased Laura Adam, the NHSO’s education director, as saying that “an orchestra’s success is inextricably linked to the connection the organization has with its audience. In part, that means developing informed listeners and educating people, from the ‘cradle to the grave,’ about orchestral music.”
This past spring, the organization welcomed artist-in-residence Daniel Bernard Roumain, a “hip-hop violinist” to whom thousands of students throughout Connecticut were introduced during his residency. And while Carroll said there was “a little bit of trepidation” among the orchestra’s core audience members in terms of Roumain’s music, many of those concertgoers thanked her afterward for introducing them to a previously unfamiliar artist.
Boughton is quick to point out that a music director is not a curator, and that the composer is the “lifeblood of our art form.”
And thanks to Boughton, Carroll, and the NHSO’s musicians, composers like Roumain, Walton, Thomas, and Theofanidis—along with ascendant performers like Hoopes—are no longer unfamiliar to local audiences.
Visit newhavensymphony.org for information about the upcoming season.