He's composed dozens of scores for TV and film, including the music for the current New Orleans-shot hit "Green Book." He's written four operas, two violin concertos, three piano concertos and “tons of chamber music.”
You'd think Jay Weigel had done it all.
But now, Weigel will hear the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra premiere his “New Orleans Concerto for Orchestra" at the Orpheum Theatre on Thursday night. The concert will reprise Friday at First Baptist Church in Covington. LPO music director Carlos Miguel Prieto will conduct both performances.
“This will be a first for me,” said Weigel, who headed the Contemporary Arts Center for 17 years. “Doing a composition for the LPO was one of the things I wanted to do when I left the CAC. I wanted to do something to reintroduce myself to the classical community, and now I’m finally getting that chance.”
Weigel’s 20-minute, five-section concerto will lead off the evenings’ programs.
“I told Carlos I wanted to write a concerto for the orchestra with no soloists,” Weigel said. “Everybody in every section is a soloist. They have their moments in the piece to be in the forefront. No fancy, poetic name: just a straight-up concerto. And he and I were on the same page with it.”
“It flows as a (continuous) tone poem,” Weigel said. “The sections alternate between a slower moving, ethereal kind of sound that hopefully, at times, harkens to some of the scales and melodies that will be heard as coming from New Orleans. I didn’t take a borrowed melody or anything like that. I just used musical vocabulary from the New Orleans musical styles.”
Born and raised in New Orleans, Weigel, 59, attended De la Salle High School and played upright bass. While taking bass lessons, he developed an interest in composing for orchestra, and one of his compositions was performed and recorded by the New Orleans Civic Symphony. “It helped me get into grad school at USC (University of Southern California),” Weigel said.
Since leaving the CAC, Weigel, 59, has composed 10 film and TV scores for the megastar producer and director Tyler Perry, a fellow New Orleanian. And for three years, he worked as an orchestrator for another local icon, Terence Blanchard, on films produced by Spike Lee in the late 1990s.
Among Weigel’s more than 50 film score credits are “Midnight Special,” “Our Brand is Crisis” and “Green Lantern” for Warner Bros., and “The Other Woman” and “The Best of Me” for HBO Productions, in addition to numerous independent films and documentaries. Among his most recent: “Green Book,” recipient of the 2018 New Orleans Film Festival audience award for Best Spotlight Film.
The New Orleans concerto is a native son's tribute to his hometown.
"It doesn’t break into Dixieland or brass band or other (indigenous) styles, but it’s informed by that music in its ambience," Weigel said.
"And then those sections are divided with sections that are very percussive and very rhythmic and there’s a lot of alternating rhythms,” he continued. “Historically, New Orleans was one of the most special places for drumming because of Congo Square. The percussion in a lot of the faster sections has a lot to do. There’s a bass drum and a lot of vibraphone and harp.”
Weigel's concerto will be followed by guest soloist Anne-Marie McDermott performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major. The second half of the program will be Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s best-known work, “Pictures at an Exhibition.”
McDermott, who has performed in New Orleans several times, most recently on a Mozart concerto in January 2017, will once again be playing on a piano she helped the LPO select. Her repertoire includes all five of Beethoven’s piano concerti, and she termed the second concerto her favorite among them.
“I think this piece sounds as fresh today as when it was written,” McDermott said. “There’s not one wasted note in this piece. Every note really matters and makes sense. The first movement is a little aristocratic and useful. The second movement is very transcendent and profound; very slow. And then the third movement is very lighthearted and humorous. This concerto is a real journey.”
Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” began as a cycle of piano pieces in 1874 and reached full maturity as a 40-minute orchestral work composed by Maurice Ravel nearly half a century later. It has since become one of the most widely performed works in the standard orchestral repertoire.
There will be a preconcert talk one hour prior to the performance.
Pictures at an Exhibition
WHAT: Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performances of works by Mussorgsky, Beethoven and Jay Weigel
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, Orpheum Theater, 129 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans; and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, First Baptist Church, 16333 La. 1085, Covington
TICKETS: $20-$140 New Orleans; $20-$55 Covington.
INFO: (504) 523-6530. lpomusic.com