Over its 26-year history, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has often played works by Philip Glass. On Feb. 27, it'll perform two of his pieces in front of the renowned contemporary composer in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Eighty-six members of the orchestra and guest performers, along with their conductor, will be making LPO’s debut in the fabled concert hall for the season-long celebration of Glass’ 80th birthday. Glass is expected to be in attendance.
The program also will be performed this weekend for New Orleans audiences, Feb. 22 and 24 at the Orpheum Theater.
LPO music director Carlos Miguel Prieto conducts all three concerts.
The LPO will perform three pieces, including Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas’ “La Noche de los Mayas” (Night of the Mayas), showcasing a wide array of exotic percussion instruments dating back to the Mayan Empire.
Both pieces in the second half of the program are original Glass compositions. “Days and Nights in Rocinha” (1997) is a tribute to a densely populated barrio in Rio de Janeiro, and “Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists” (2000) features principal timpanists, Jim Atwood of the LPO and Paul Yancich of the Cleveland Orchestra, playing 14 drums between them.
“Needless to say, we’re elated. We’re all very excited,” LPO CEO James William Boyd said. “This has been two years in the making. The community has come out in full support through our fundraising campaign, so the tour is completely sponsored and paid for.”
Iberia Bank is sponsoring the tour.
Boyd said this will be the first tour undertaken with the LPO, adding that members of the orchestra did some “side by sides” with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra after Hurricane Katrina when local musicians were scattered around the country.
“Other orchestras were very kind and they did fundraising events to help out the LPO back then, but this is the first time we’ve been able to go to New York preplanned and prepared, as opposed to what happened 12 years ago,” he said.
For Prieto, this is neither his first time in Carnegie Hall nor his first time conducting the Revueltas piece, but make no mistake — he's excited about the upcoming milestone event.
“It’s really a pristine acoustical space,” he said. “It’s a space that has so much musical history, so for me, it’s kind of a coronation of our work of a dozen years in New Orleans.
“The orchestra means so much to New Orleans, especially considering what it went through after Katrina. So to have them featured in Carnegie Hall is a very symbolic achievement — a celebration of the heroism of the musicians that should be a reflection, not only of the work the orchestra has done, but also of the city in the classical music vein.”
Prieto, who has conducted “The Night of the Mayas” in Glass’ presence, described the work as “a very energetic and poetic piece that reflects the imagination and fantasy of the Mayan people.” He has personally overseen the construction details of replicas of the piece’s Mayan-style percussion instruments, based on models from an anthropology museum in Mexico City, including a conch shell, which is played like a brass instrument.
Atwood, as one of the two featured soloists on the “Timpani Concerto,” said he is more “intensely focused” than nervous about the upcoming concerts. “I’m not an excitable person, but this is quite an event,” Atwood said.
A member of the LPO and its predecessor, the New Orleans Symphony, since 1988, Atwood is also the orchestra’s president. Over those years, he said he has “grown accustomed to playing a supportive role in the back of the orchestra” although he has soloed on the “Timpani Concerto” on other occasions.
"My instrument is not normally a solo instrument,” he said. “It’s an amazing thing that they have a timpani concerto they want to do in Carnegie Hall and the other amazing thing is that I get to play it there at this stage of my career.
“This is quite an honor for me."
There will be preconcert talks one hour prior to both Orpheum performances.
“The Big Easy to the Big Apple”
WHAT: The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra plays its Carnegie Hall concert in New Orleans.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 and 24
WHERE: Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans