Bramwell Tovey conducts jazz-age-inspired pairing of Gershwin and Hindemith for debut as the R.I. Philharmonic Orchestra’s new conductor, October 19-20

Bramwell Tovey conducts jazz-age-inspired pairing of Gershwin and Hindemith for debut as the R.I. Philharmonic Orchestra’s new conductor, October 19-20

Jazz pianist Aaron Diehl joins Tovey and the Orchestra on
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm

Newly appointed Artistic Advisor and conductor Bramwell Tovey joins the RI Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Aaron Diehl for an evening of Gershwin and Hindemith. The program explores the two composers’ reaction to the jazz music of the 1930s. Tovey did not select the program—he will spearhead the orchestra’s programming beginning in 2019-20—but he is excited to put his own stamp on it. He will be joined by jazz virtuoso Aaron Diehl, on piano. By sheer coincidence, the two performed Rhapsody in Blue together with the L.A. Philharmonic just weeks ago at the Hollywood Bowl.

The concert includes Gershwin’s Cuban Overture Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber, as well as Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm Variations with Diehl on piano. The TACO Classical Concert is on Saturday, October 20, 8 p.m. The Amica Rush Hour Concert is on Friday, October 19, 6:30 p.m.

“This concert explores the influence of jazz on American-based composers of classical music in the 1930s and 40s, as demonstrated by Hindemith and Gershwin–two respected contemporaries who incorporated jazz into their music with wildly different results. Tovey is a master of presenting Hindemith as well as Gershwin and is an exceptional jazz and classical pianist in his own right. We are fortunate he was able to take on this program and having Aaron Diehl as the pianist makes it even more special. I expect they’ll both have a surprise or two for us. Maestro Tovey is excited about beginning to connect with our Orchestra and audience in his new role, and the Orchestra members are very much looking forward to their first concert with him since his appointment.”

David Beauchesne, Executive Director
R.I. Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School

***At a Glance***

Rhapsody in Blue
TACO Classical Concert
Saturday, October 20, 8 p.m.

Maestro Bramwell Tovey, Artistic Advisor
Aaron Diehl, piano
GERSHWIN: Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm Variations
HINDEMITH: Kammermusik No.1 and Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber

Rhapsody in Blue
Amica Rush Hour concert
Friday, October 19, 6:30 p.m.

Maestro Bramwell Tovey, Artistic Advisor
GERSHWIN: Cuban Overture, Rhapsody in Blue and I Got Rhythm Variations
HINDEMITH: Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber

About Bramwell Tovey, Artistic Advisor

“Leonard Bernstein called him a hero, John Adams sang his praises, and the accolades continue to pile up.…A conductor and composer renowned not just for his musical brilliance but also his great rapport with audiences, Tovey is a fierce cultural advocate and finessed cultural ambassador.”

Toronto Globe and Mail

Grammy- and Juno-award winning conductor and composer Bramwell Tovey is the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School’s Artistic Advisor; Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra; and Director of Orchestra and Conducting Studies at Boston University’s School of Music.

Following an exceptional 18-year tenure as Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Tovey is now the orchestra’s Music Director Emeritus. Under his leadership, the VSO toured China, Asia, Canada and the United States. His innovations included the establishment of the VSO School of Music, an annual festival of contemporary music and the VSO Orchestral Institute, a summer orchestral training program for young musicians held in Whistler, British Columbia.

During 2018-19, his guest appearances include the Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Indianapolis and Toronto symphonies and a special Christmas program with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In January, he will return to the Winnipeg Symphony’s New Music Festival, which he initiated while Music Director there.

Tovey won a 2003 Juno Award for Best Classical Composition for his choral and brass work Requiem for a Charred Skull and a 2007 Grammy for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for a VSO recording of violin concertos by Barber, Korngold and Walton with violinist James Ehnes. His 2017 song cycle, Ancestral Voices written for acclaimed Kwagiulth mezzo-soprano Marion Newman addresses the issue of Reconciliation. His trumpet concerto, Songs of the Paradise Saloon, was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony and performed in 2014 by Alison Balsom with the LA Philharmonic, the Philadelphia and the London Philharmonic orchestras. A recording of his opera, The Inventor, commissioned by Calgary Opera, features the original cast and the VSO. His Concerto for Orchestra to commemorate the VSO’s centenary, and a new violin concerto for James Ehnes commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa, will both receive their world premieres in spring 2019.

In 2013, Tovey was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for services to music. Since 2006, he has been artistic director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain. In 2013, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for services to music. Since 2006, he has been artistic director of the National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain.

About Aaron Diehl, pianist

Aaron Diehl is one of the most sought-after jazz virtuosos, consistently playing with what the New York Times described as “melodic precision, harmonic erudition and elegant restraint.” Recent performance highlights include serving as music director for the Jazz at Lincoln Center New Orleans Songbook concert series, appearing in the New York premiere of Etudes by Philip Glass at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, collaborating with the Spanish flamenco guitarist Dani De Morón in Flamenco Meets Jazz (produced by Savannah Music Festival and Flamenco Festival) and touring the United States and Europe with Grammy-nominated jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Ms. Salvant and the Aaron Diehl Trio, which features Mr. Diehl, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Lawrence Leathers, have performed at Walt Disney Hall, Jazz in Marciac, Newport Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, Ronnie Scott’s and La Cigale. His second album on Mack Avenue Records, called Space, Time, Continuum, emphasizes the artistic collaborations among generations. The album includes performances by NEA Jazz master Benny Golson on tenor saxophone and Duke Ellington Orchestra alumnus Joe Temperley, a baritone saxophonist. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he studied with Kenny Barron, Eric Reed and Oxana Yablonskaya.

About the concert: stories behind the music


Gershwin: Cuban Overture
Vacation discovery
: In early 1932, George Gershwin spent a short holiday in Cuba. While there, he heard a great deal of native music. Rhumba bands even serenaded him under his hotel window. The trip gave him a new idea for a symphonic composition based on Cuban dance rhythms (notably the rhumba) and employing native percussion instruments.
Listen for this: Composed as a four-section form, the first section is rhythmically charged and festive. The second is slower and seductive. In the third, the theme integrates a Spanish scale with Gershwin’s characteristic “blue” notes. (We might think of this as “an American in Cuba” theme.) In the closing section, the opening material returns to propel the overture to a bustling climax.

Rhapsody in Blue
Persuaded to compose: Toward the end of 1923, fashionable band leader Paul Whiteman told Gershwin of his plans to mount a concert of jazz and jazz-inspired music early the next year. At the time, Gershwin may have casually mentioned an interest in composing a piece for piano and orchestra, but he was busy completing the score to the musical Sweet Little Devil and gave the matter no further thought for the moment. So, it came as a surprise when the New York Herald Tribune on January 4, 1924, announced that the Whiteman concert (now scheduled for February 12) would include a “jazz concerto” by Gershwin. Gershwin called Whiteman, who succeeded in convincing the composer to commit himself to the concert.
Listen for this: The immediate and lasting popularity of Rhapsody in Blue was nothing less than phenomenal. Two years after its premiere, Gershwin reworked the score for symphony orchestra. That is the version we hear today. The audience raved and so did most of the critics:

. . . It [the music] also revealed a genuine melodic gift and a piquant and individual harmonic sense to lend significance to its rhythmic ingenuity. . . . Mr. Gershwin will bear watching; he may yet bring jazz out of the kitchen.

Deems Taylor

Variations on I Got Rhythm
Holiday creation
: Gershwin’s piano variations on the famous song were composed mostly during a winter vacation in Florida in 1933. Ostensibly, this was also a trip to the South to collect local color to inspire the composer to begin composing Porgy and Bess. He spent three weeks at work on the Variations in Palm Beach, returning to New York early in January. There he quickly orchestrated his new piece in time for an all-Gershwin tour beginning in mid-February. The finishing touch was the dedication, “To my brother Ira.”
Listen for this: When Gershwin later performed the Variations on the radio, he gave his listeners this brief but inimitable description of it:

After the introduction by the orchestra, the piano plays the theme rather simply. The first variation is a very complicated rhythmic pattern played by the piano while the orchestra takes the theme. The next variation is in waltz time. The third is a Chinese variation in which I imitate Chinese flutes played out of tune, as they always are. Next the piano plays the rhythmic variation in which the left hand plays the melody upside down and the right hand plays it straight, on the theory that you shouldn’t let one hand know what the other is doing. Then comes the finale.

PAUL HINDEMITH (1895-1963)

Hindemith Kammermusik No.1 (Op. 24, No.1)
Youthful composer: Most of us are accustomed to the style of Paul Hindemith’s most familiar compositions of the 1930s-1950s. Among the most important music of this period was Hindemith’s series of three Kammermusik (chamber music) works for chamber orchestra. The first of these was composed in 1922. Its four relatively short contrasting movements give us important insight into the young, developing composer. Listen for this: The rapid background music at times becomes more important than the melodies. In fact, sometimes (especially when the piano is featured) melodies are nearly indistinguishable. Hammered percussion captures our attention much of the time until a solo trumpet brings the work to a rather crazy close.

Hindemith: Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber
Well known: In 1940, the year Hindemith settled in the United States, he began work on a group of sketches for a ballet that Léonide Massine was to have choreographed. However, choreographer and composer had a falling out, and Hindemith pulled out of the project. Three years later, the composer formed his sketches into the Symphonic Metamorphosis. The new work, which became one of Hindemith’s most popular orchestral works, was premiered in January 1944 by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, receiving immediate critical acclaim. In his review, Olin Downes proclaimed Hindemith’s piece to be “one of the most entertaining scores that he has thus far given us, a real jeu d’esprit by a great master of his medium in a singularly happy mood.”
Listen for this: The rakish Allegro, with which the work opens, features the large woodwind section by pitting it against the brass or strings. A Turandot Scherzo movement follows. The theme for this came from a Weber overture, but its chinoiserie betrays its Asian origin sifted through an 18th-century transcription, where Weber discovered it. Eight variations lead to a climax, but Hindemith cannot resist adding a fugue—at first for brass, then woodwinds, then percussion, and finally full orchestra.

Buy Tickets

Tickets start at $15 (including all fees), and can be purchased online at, in person from the R.I. Philharmonic Orchestra Box Office in East Providence, or by phone 401.248.7000 (Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., closed Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 8). On day of concerts only, tickets are also available at The VETS Box Office (Friday, 3:30 p.m.–showtime; Saturday, 4 p.m.-showtime). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

%d bloggers like this: