July 28, 2017

A World Premiere Legacy

“It’s pretty special when you can communicate with a high-level composer like that,” said Jonathan Boen, the Festival’s principal horn.

He’s talking about the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis, who delivered the final version of Legacy, a Concerto for Horn, Strings, Harp and Percussion to the Grant Park Music Festival in June. Legacy, a co-commission by the Festival and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, will receive its world premiere on August 11 with Carlos Kalmar conducting the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago. It will next be performed in Liverpool in October.

As Kernis worked on the piece, he would send sections of his music to both Boen and Timothy Jackson, principal horn in Liverpool, to review. He needed to learn about his horn players’ endurance, their pacing and range, and made accommodations, when necessary.

“It’s a real stamina piece— very technical with a wide range,” said Boen, who is spending his days rehearsing on his own before Kernis comes to town. Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra have a longstanding association with Kernis’ music. The orchestra recorded Kernis’ Sarabanda in Memoriam in 2006, and a Kernis compilation CD that included the orchestral showpiece Too Hot Toccata, Symphony in Waves and Newly Drawn Sky in 2008.

“I’m very proud, being a South American-born, Austrian conductor to have been called one of the biggest champions for American music in the U.S.,” said Kalmar. Audiences have seen the Festival’s growing commitment to commissioning new works over the past few years. Bringing original pieces to life presents real challenges for a summer music festival that only has two or three days of rehearsal for each program it presents.

“Yet, here we are with one of the best horn players in the world, an amazing orchestra and one of the most interesting composers in America doing a world premiere in Chicago,” said Kalmar. “We can’t wait."

As for Kernis, he’s dedicated Legacy to Barack Obama for the qualities he modeled throughout his presidency. How fitting that this world premiere will take place adjacent to the park where Obama addressed the nation following his election in 2008—a place we knew as the original home of the Grant Park Music Festival.

See the world premiere of Legacy on August 11 and 12, as part of the Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony program. Order a One Night Pass today.