National Symphony returns to recording arena with Eschenbach, American program
Yes, I know the classical music recording industry died, like, 10 or 20 years ago. But tell that to all the companies that keep releasing products . Or the orchestras that keep getting back into the act after a hiatus.
Latest case in point: the National Symphony Orchestra, led by its new music director Christoph Eschenbach, is about to make its first recording in a decade, launching a relationship with the Finnish Ondine label.
The recording will be done during live concerts at the Kennedy Center commemorating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration; the NSO performances are Saturday through Monday. The release date for the CD is already set: May 31.
The program includes Peter Lieberson’s "Remembering JFK (An American Elegy)," with Richard Dreyfuss as narrator. The first performance of this NSO commission will be given Thursday with Morgan Freeman narrating, part of a multi-genre, long-sold-out celebration of Kennedy's presidency.
Filling out the Ondine disc will be Leonard Bernstein's
Eschenbach has been a featured artist on the Ondine label for some time; his nearly 20 releases include performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris, among others. The conductor's first NSO recording project is partly supported by the NEA.
Giving this new product extra appeal is a bonus disc that will contain excerpts from the NSO's concert on Jan.19, 1961, in Constitution Hall given in honor of the president-to-be. The program, at the request of the Kennedys, offered a good deal of American fare. Howard Mitchell led the orchestra in such works as Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (with the fabulous Earl Wild as soloist), a choral piece by Randall Thompson and an NSO commission for the Inaugural Concert, John La Montaine’s Overture "From Sea to Shining Sea."
As longtime Washingtonians are fond of recalling in detail, the city was hit with a whopper snowstorm on Jan. 19, 1961. Naturally, that caused a lot of problems for the concert -- latecomers, including the Kennedys; various no-shows (the concertmaster never made it, nor did now legendary violinist Mischa Elman, who was to have been a soloist) -- but the old on-with-the-show spirit prevailed.
The concert was aired by the Mutual Broadcasting Network, and it will be very cool, thanks to the NSO/Ondine partnership, to hear some of that historic broadcast 50 years later.
PHOTO (by Margot Schulman) COURTESY OF NSO