Music Director Andrew Grams to Lead ESO Premiere of Tributes Violin Concerto by Chicago-Area Composer James M. Stephenson on November 4 & 5

11.01.2017

ESO Music Director Andrew Grams will lead the ESO premiere of Chicago-area composer James M. Stephenson’s Tributes Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, featuring violinist Jennifer Frautschi, for whom the piece was written, on concerts November 4 and 5 at Hemmens Cultural Center, Elgin.  Stephenson explains, “Tributes is a conscious nod to all of the people who have contributed to the creation of this work-composers and soloists, past and present, who have written or performed timeless and inspiring violin concertos. …[Like]Louis Armstrong, who every day would ‘compose’ improvised solos of incomparable form and structure. The second movement is based entirely on his spontaneous solo (scat-singing) from a 1920s recording of ‘Hotter Than That’, when he was just in his mid-20s.” Ms. Frautschi last appeared with the ESO in January 2013 in a program that held Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. The concerts also include Beethoven’s 7th symphony, an instant hit when first performed in 1813, and the ESO premiere of Aaron Copland’s Our Town, composed for the 1940 film of the same name. The performance of Our Town is dedicated to Elgin native and composer Daniel Brewbaker, who died May 14, 2017. Andrew Grams will lead Pre-Concert Chats with Mr. Stephenson at both concerts. Saturday concertgoers are invited after the performance to Mingle with the Musicians at Bennigan’s Elgin. Beethoven 7 concert tickets start at $30. Student tickets are $12. Valet or free parking. For more information, visit ElginSymphony.Org or 847-888-4000.

Leading American orchestras, instrumentalists, and wind ensembles around the world have performed the music of Chicago-based composer James M. Stephenson, both to critical acclaim and the delight of audiences.  The Boston Herald raved about “straightforward, unabashedly beautiful sounds,” suggesting “Stephenson deserves to be heard again and again!”  A formal sense of melody and tonality characterize his music, each embedded in a contemporary soundscape.  These qualities, coupled with the composer’s keen ability to write to each occasion, have led to a steady stream of commissions and ongoing projects.

In 2017, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and Riccardo Muti commissioned Jim to compose a bass trombone concerto for the CSO’s own Charles Vernon, to be premiered in June of 2019.  A second bass trombone concerto received its orchestral premiere with the St. Louis Symphony and soloist Gerry Pagano, in 2017. “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band commissioned a symphony (the composer’s second in this genre) and gave the work its premiere in 2016 at the prestigious Midwest Clinic, and subsequently recorded the work.  Additionally, Compose Yourself!, Stephenson’s landmark young-audience work has now been performed over 300 times since its creation in 2002, engaging children in New Zealand and Canada and across the U.S. Additional premieres include Carnegie Hall in May, 2017 (Chamber Music Charleston) and in the summer, 2017, a Music Academy of the West premiere of “Martha Uncaged” – with the composer conducting – and a west-coast premiere of his violin concerto at the famed Cabrillo Music Festival. The 2017-18 season will see a new “Low brass concerto” with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä. The Devil’s Tale (2013), a sequel to Stravinsky’s famous “Soldier’s Tale” has become a highlight of Stephenson’s extensive chamber music output, having already garnered much critical praise for its recent recording (“a most remarkable work” – Fanfare Magazine) and numerous performances, including at noteworthy venues such as Ravinia and Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

James M. Stephenson came late to his full-time composing career, having first earned a degree from the New England Conservatory in trumpet performance, and then going on to perform 17 seasons in the Naples Philharmonic in Florida.  As such, the composer is largely self-taught, making his voice truly individual and his life’s work all the more remarkable.  Colleagues and friends encouraged his earliest efforts and enthusiasm followed from all directions.  As his catalog grew, so did his reputation.  That catalog now boasts concertos and sonatas for nearly every instrument, earning him the moniker “The Concerto King” from Chicago Symphony clarinetist John Yeh.  The vast majority of those compositions came through commissions by and for major symphony principal players, in Chicago, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Washington DC, St. Louis, Oregon, Milwaukee, and Dallas, among others.  A major break came from the Minnesota Commissioning Club, which led to two works (violin concertos) receiving premieres in 2012—by Jennifer Frautschi with the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä and by Alex Kerr with the Rhode Island Philharmonic under Larry Rachleff.  Other international soloists for whom Stephenson has composed include saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter Rex Richardson, whose concerto has been performed on five continents.  With such prolific output, Stephenson’s music is well represented in recordings.  Nearly all of his solo brass works (over 50) have been professionally recorded, and in total, his extensive catalog for all instruments can be heard on over 30 CDs.

James Stephenson is also a highly sought-after arranger and conductor, rounding out his constantly busy schedule.  His arrangements have been performed/recorded/broadcast by virtually every major orchestra in the country, including the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Pops, New York Pops and more.  On the podium, Stephenson has led orchestras in Chattanooga, Bozeman, Charleston, Ft. Myers, Modesto, and Wyoming, in addition to numerous concert bands.  With the Lake Forest Symphony, near his Illinois home, he has not only conducted but also has served for seven years as Composer-in-Residence.

Jim originally hails from the Greater Chicago area, as does his wife Sally.  In 2007 the couple, along with their four children, returned to the region to pursue the life they now share. To learn more, visitcomposerjim.com.

Two-time GRAMMY nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient Jennifer Frautschi has garnered worldwide acclaim as an adventurous musician with a remarkably wide-ranging repertoire. As the Chicago Tribune noted, “violinist Jennifer Frautschi is molding a career with smart interpretations of both warhorses and rarities.”  Equally at home in the classic and contemporary repertoire, her recent seasons have featured innumerable performances and recordings of works ranging from Brahms and Schumann to Berg and Schoenberg.  She has also had the privilege of premiering several new works composed for her by prominent composers of today.

 

Ms. Frautschi has appeared as soloist with Pierre Boulez and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Christoph Eschenbach and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, and at Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.  Selected by Carnegie Hall for its Distinctive Debuts series, she made her New York recital debut in 2004.  As part of the European Concert Hall Organization’s Rising Stars series, Ms. Frautschi also made debuts that year at ten of Europe’s most celebrated concert venues, including the Salzburg Mozarteum, Vienna Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, La Cité de la Musique in Paris, and Brussels’ Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie.  She has also been heard in recital at the Ravinia Festival, La Jolla Chamber Music Society, Washington’s Phillips Collection, Boston’s Gardner Museum, Beijing’s Imperial Garden, Monnaie Opera in Brussels, La Chaux des Fonds in Switzerland, and San Miguel de Allende Festival in Mexico.

 

Born in Pasadena, California, Ms. Frautschi began the violin at age three. She was a student of Robert Lipsett at the Colburn School for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles. She also attended Harvard, the New England Conservatory of Music, and The Juilliard School, where she studied with Robert Mann. She performs on a 1722 Antonio Stradivarius violin known as the “ex-Cadiz,” on generous loan to her from a private American foundation.

 

With a unique combination of intensity, enthusiasm and technical clarity, American conductor Andrew Grams has steadily built a reputation for his dynamic concerts and long-term orchestra building.  He is the winner of 2015 Conductor of the Year from the Illinois Council of Orchestras and has led orchestras throughout the United States including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The Dallas Symphony, and the Houston Symphony.  Mr. Grams served as Assistant Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra from 2004-2007 where he worked under the guidance of Franz Welser-Möst, and has since returned for several engagements.

 

Andrew Grams, now in his 5th ESO season, became music director of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra after an international search. His charismatic conducting and easy accessibility have made him a favorite of Elgin Symphony audiences.  He has extended his contract with the ESO through 2021. With a unique combination of intensity, enthusiasm and technical clarity, Mr. Grams has steadily built a reputation for his dynamic concerts and long-term orchestra building. He has led orchestras throughout the United States including The Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The Dallas Symphony, and the Houston Symphony.  A frequent traveler, Mr. Grams has worked extensively with orchestras abroad, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Orchester der Beethovenhalle Bonn, BBC Symphony Orchestra London, Sydney Symphony, Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras, and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In 2015-16, Mr. Grams led a Gershwin festival with the Orquestra Simfoica de Barcelona before returning to Australia to work with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Western Australia Symphony Orchestra. This season, Mr. Grams is conducting the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic, the Tulsa, Santa Rosa, Kalamazoo, and Omaha Symphony Orchestras, and Residentie Orchestra in The Hague, Netherlands.

 

Born in Severn, Maryland, Mr. Grams began studying the violin when he was eight years old. In 1999 he received a Bachelor of Music in Violin Performance from The Juilliard School, and in 2003 he received a conducting degree from the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller. He was selected to spend the summer of 2003 studying with David Zinman, Murry Sidlin and Michael Stern at the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen and returned to that program again in 2004. Mr. Grams served as Assistant Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra from 2004-2007 where he worked under the guidance of Franz Welser-Möst, and has since returned for several engagements.

 

As an accomplished violinist, Mr. Grams was a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra from 1998-2004, serving as acting associate principal second violin in 2002 and 2004.  Additionally, he has performed with ensembles including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New Jersey Symphony. To learn more about Andrew Grams, visit andrewgrams.com and https://www.instagram.com/andrewhgrams/

 

Now in its 67th season, the Elgin Symphony Orchestra (ESO) offers programming unmatched for an entertaining, informative and relaxing cultural experience. The ESO has won Illinois Professional Orchestra of the Year an unprecedented four times – in 1988, 1999, 2005 and 2016. The ESO strives to create an enjoyable entertainment experience that goes beyond the magnificent music performed by some of the best musicians in the region. There is accessible, free parking around the Hemmens Cultural Center and valet service available. Before concerts, area musicians often perform in the lobby, and patrons can buy drinks at the bar and purchase gifts at the Elgin Symphony League Boutique. Pre-concert chats are given by Andrew Grams, guest artists and others one hour before most performances, and Saturday night patrons are invited after concerts to Mingle with the Musicians at area restaurants.  In addition, free Listeners Club discussions presented by music historian Jim Kendros are offered in Geneva and Elgin on Wednesdays before ESO Classics Series concert weekends. Flex passes are available for purchase so that you can choose your concerts at a later date based on your own schedule. And if a patron can’t make a concert, the ESO offers free exchanges to subscribers and to single ticket buyers for a small fee. The Elgin Symphony Orchestra is a world-class orchestra providing quality musical explorations that are entertaining, hassle-free and conveniently located close to home in the western suburbs. The ESO-Transforming the Symphony Experience.

Media Contact:
Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
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(800) 217-5362 or (847) 695-7540