Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Press Release

MSO Matches Mozart Symphonies with Stravinsky at the Pabst

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announces two concerts performed on back to back weekends at the Pabst Theater highlighting the works of Mozart.

By - Mar 8th, 2016 01:53 pm

MILWAUKEE, WIS. 03/08/2016– The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announces two concerts performed on back to back weekends at the Pabst Theater highlighting the works of Mozart. Mozart + More features guest conductor Ben Gernon and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan on March 31, April 1, and 2. Mozart’s “Jupiter” features guest conductor Courtney Lewis on April 8, 9 and 10.

Mozart + More will open and close with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 31 in D major, “Paris,” and Symphony No. 29 in A major. The concert also includes Igor Stravinsky’s Symphony in C and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33.

The Mozart’s “Jupiter” program also includes two symphonies by Mozart: Symphony No. 28 in C major, and Symphony No. 41 in C major, “Jupiter”. Separating the two Mozart works will be Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet, Apollon musagete.


Symphony No. 31 in D major, K. 300a (297), “Paris” by Mozart: Mozart’s “Paris” Symphony was one of his favorites and was a work he frequently used when seeking to impress a new audience. Set in D major, that most brilliant of orchestral keys, it was fashioned for the largest orchestra (at least 55 musicians) for which Mozart had yet composed. It also marked the first time the master used clarinets in a symphony. Written for the Concert Spirituel, organized by Joseph Legros, the work was well-received at its June 18, 1778 premiere and repeated several times in the weeks that followed. After the first performance, Mozart later wrote, “I went off to the Palais Royale, where I had a large ice, and said the rosary as I had vowed to do.”

His father Leopold had insisted that Mozart go to Paris and that his mother accompany him—to keep an eye on him. Apparently, the 22-year-old could not be trusted to behave himself in La ville lumière alone. The sunny time of the premiere performances of the “Paris” Symphony was clouded by a most tragic event: Maria Anna Mozart fell ill and, on July 3, 1778, died. The son then had to face the hard task of assuring the father that he’d had a tremendous success while at the same moment breaking the news of the death of Frau Mozart. Mozart remained in Paris for the remainder of the summer until, in late August his father summoned him back to Salzburg to take up a new post as court organist.

Symphony in C by Stravinsky: In the late 1930s, Igor Stravinsky was a Russian expatriate living in Paris when he received a commission from Mrs. Robert Woods Bliss to write a symphony to celebrate the 50th concert season (1940-41) of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The first two movements were composed in Europe, but by September 1939, shortly after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, he embarked for the United States on his fourth, and ultimately longest, visit to North America. After landing in New York on September 30, he went straight to Harvard University where he delivered, in French, six talks on the poetics of music (later published as the famed Norton Lectures). The third movement was penned during this time, the fourth in Hollywood the following summer. The composer conducted the CSO in the work’s premiere, on November 7, 1940.

The British music critic Paul Griffiths warns us that “…the ‘in C’ part of the title needs to be treated with suspicion. Whatever C the symphony is in, it is not straightforward C major… It is a symphony not in but against C major. C major is the springboard from which it makes its dive…” Scored for standard orchestra and set in the four traditional movements (opening allegro, slow movement, scherzo, allegro finale), this is Stravinsky in his finest neo-classical habiliments.

Variations on a Rococo Theme by Tchaikovsky: Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo” Variations dates from December 1876, following closely on the heels of his symphonic fantasy Francesca da Rimini. That piece, with its torrential and tortured emotional outpourings, is in stark contrast to the order and calm of the Variations. This delightfully crafted music displays the elegance of an 18th-century divertimento, and is the closest the composer ever came to writing a cello concerto.

Music historian David Brown has suggested that, whereas Stravinsky, in his neoclassical works, sought self-discovery by subjecting styles from the past to his Russian flair for creative caricature, Tchaikovsky’s focus on the 18th century was the opposite: a means of psychological escape. At this time in his life—at age 36—he was already preparing for what ultimately would be a disastrous marriage, in a desperate attempt to gain release from his homosexuality and its accompanying bitter self-hatred.

Symphony No. 29 in A major, K 186a by Mozart: Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 marks a turning point in his development. In this coming-of-age work, an extraordinarily gifted 18-year-old begins to emerge as a great composer. One reason for this metamorphosis might be his exposure to Franz Joseph Haydn’s latest music, particularly several string quartets. Mozart and his father Leopold had recently spent time in Vienna, presumably—but unsuccessfully—seeking to secure a post for the young man. Set in A major, a key the master would later use for several operatic love duets (e.g., Susanna and Count Almaviva, Zerlina and Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi and Ferrando), the symphony is modestly scored for two oboes, two horns, and strings. Mozart felicitously combines a cozy chamber music style with devil-may-care excitement.

Symphony No. 28 in C major, K. 189k (200) by Mozart: Mozart’s Symphony No. 28 is lighter in style than two or three of his earlier C major symphonies. Those, like this one, use trumpets and drums—but they tend to be more serious, more ceremonial, than the work at hand. Here, we find at times a comic atmosphere not unlike buffo passages in his operas. The textures are somewhat transparent, the thematic ideas are “neatly argued,” and the first and last movements “seemingly related to one another,” stated musicologist Stanley Sadie. The symphony most likely dates from November 1774, when Mozart was 18 years old and still living in provincial Salzburg. However it is possible that the work was composed in 1773 because the year is illegible on the autograph manuscript.

Apollon musagète by Stravinsky: Stravinsky’s 1928 ballet Apollon musagete (“Apollo, leader of the muses”) occupies a different sound world than the large-orchestra ballets he wrote prior to WWI—The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. Here, the scoring is for string orchestra (richly sonorous, with divided cellos) and the composer’s neo-classical approach is more economical and austere.

Apollon musagete was commissioned by that great patron of the arts, Chicago-born Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, for a contemporary music festival at the Library of Congress. She stipulated that the ballet should require only six dancers and last half an hour; the choice of subject matter was left to the composer. Stravinsky pounced on a topic that had fascinated him for a long time: Apollo, leader of the muses. For these purposes, he chose three of the nine: Calliope– personification of poetry and rhythm, Polyhymnia- representing mime, and Terpsichore- dance.

Symphony No. 41 in C major, K. 551, “Jupiter” by Mozart: Mozart’s last, longest, and most complex symphony dates from the summer of 1788, a miraculous time when—despite money woes, health concerns, personal grief (the death of his six-month-old daughter, Theresia, on June 29), and declining professional status—the 32-year-old master also penned Symphonies 39 and 40. In the earlier part of the year, he had composed various dances, some piano pieces, a few songs, the “Coronation” Piano Concerto (K. 537) and three new items for the Viennese premiere of Don Giovanni.

Apparently, the idea of nicknaming Mozart’s last symphony after the most powerful of the Roman gods came from Johann Peter Salomon, a London impresario. At least that’s what Mozart’s son Franz Xavier told the publisher Vincent Novello, according to the latter’s diary. The title first appeared in print for a performance in Edinburgh on October 20, 1819. The nickname itself suggests that the “Jupiter” Symphony, a few years after its composition, was already perceived as the height of symphonic music.


Ben Gernon studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he held the Conducting Fellowship. In 2013 he won the internationally acclaimed Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award. He was appointed a Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2013.14 and returns to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in August 2016. He made his BBC Proms debut in the 2014 season, conducting the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The 2015.16 season sees Ben Gernon working with all the major London and BBC orchestras including débuts with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg Symphony for Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Milwaukee Symphony.  He continues his warm relationships with the LPO and LSO and returns to Scottish Chamber Orchestra for a tour of Scotland and recordings of music by Peter Maxwell Davies.

Narek Hakhnazaryan was awarded the Gold Medal at the 2011 XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition, the most prestigious prize given to a cellist. Hailed a “seasoned phenom” by the Washington Post, and praised for his “intense focus and expressive artistry” by The New York Times,  Hakhnazaryan has since established himself as one of the finest cellists of his generation. In 2014, he was invited to join the prestigious BBC New Generation Artists scheme. Hakhnazaryan has played with some of the world’s finest orchestras including the Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony and Mariinsky orchestras, Filarmonica della Scala Milan and Orchestre National de Toulouse, and with conductors such as Gergiev, Valcuha, Koopman, van Zweden, Sokhiev, Neemi Järvi, Spivakov, Pletnev, Robertson, and Belohlávek. In chamber and duo recitals he has performed in halls such as Zankel Hall (Carnegie Hall), Salle Pleyel Paris, Wigmore Hall, Berlin Konzerthaus, Vienna Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Oji Hall Tokyo, Jordan Hall (Boston) and at the Aspen, Ravinia, Tivoli, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, City of London and Verbier Festivals.

Courtney Lewis has established himself as one of his generation’s most talented conductors. The 2015.16 season marks his first as Music Director of the Jacksonville Symphony. Lewis also continues his tenure as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Previous appointments have included Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he made his subscription debut in the 2011.12 season, and Dudamel Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he debuted in 2011. From 2008 to 2014, Courtney Lewis was the music director of Boston’s acclaimed Discovery Ensemble, a chamber orchestra dedicated not only to giving concerts of contemporary and established repertoire at the highest level of musical and technical excellence, but also bringing live music into the least privileged parts of Boston with workshops in local schools. Lewis made his major American orchestral debut in November 2008 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and has since appeared with the Atlanta Symphony, Washington National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Houston Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and Ulster Orchestra, among others. In the 2015.16 season he will make his subscription debuts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Royal Flemish Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony, and Colorado Symphony, return to the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, and assist Thomas Adès at the Salzburg Festival for the world première of Adès’s opera The Exterminating Angel. Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Lewis read music at the University of Cambridge during which time he studied composition with Robin Holloway and clarinet with Dame Thea King. After completing a master’s degree with a focus on the late music of György Ligeti, he attended the Royal Northern College of Music, where his teachers included Sir Mark Elder and Clark Rundell.

* Photos of the artists can be found on their websites.


Mozart + More

Ben Gernon, conductor

Narek Hakhnazaryan, cello

The Pabst Theater (144 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Thursday, March 31 | 7:30 p.m.

Meet the Music| 6:30 p.m.

Friday, April 1 | 8:00 p.m.

Meet the Music| 7:00 p.m.

Talkback | Immediately following performance

Saturday, April 2 | 8:00 p.m.

Meet the Music| 7:00 p.m.

Mozart’s “Jupiter”

Courtney Lewis, conductor

The Pabst Theater (144 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Friday, April 8 | 8:00 p.m.

Meet the Music| 7:00 p.m.

Talkback | Immediately following performance

Saturday, April 9 | 8:00 p.m.

Meet the Music| 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, April 10 | 2:30 p.m.

Tickets range from $20-$110. Group rates are available. For more information, please call 414.291.7605 or visit

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Edo de Waart, is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. Now in his seventh season with the MSO, Maestro de Waart has led sold-out concerts, elicited critical acclaim, and conducted a celebrated performance at Carnegie Hall on May 11, 2012. The MSO’s full-time professional musicians perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee.

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