Monday, March 2, 2009

Philadelphia Orchestra Performs George Walker's 'Lilacs' March 12-14

[Photo Courtesy of George Walker]
Monday, March 2, 2009; Posted: 03:03 PM – by BWW News Desk
Philadelphia Orchestra Chief Conductor and Artistic Adviser Charles Dutoit leads the Orchestra in three concerts in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center celebrating the influence of African-American culture on classical music (March 12-14). The program features Milhaud's jazz-inspired The Creation of the World; George Walker's 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning work Lilacs for voice and orchestra, with tenor Russell Thomas as soloist in its first Philadelphia Orchestra performances; Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, a work for which the late, great contralto Marian Anderson was known, with Philadelphia-native bass-baritone Eric Owens as soloist; and Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor ('From the New World'). Mr. Dutoit also leads the Orchestra in the same program at New York's Carnegie Hall (March 17) as part of Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy, a citywide festival presented by Carnegie Hall and curated by renowned soprano Jessye Norman.”

George Walker's 1996 Pulitzer Prize-winning Lilacs for voice and orchestra consists of four songs set to verses 1, 2, 3, and 13 of Walt Whitman's 'When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd.' The poem, an elegy to fallen president Abraham Lincoln, is one of the most frequently set poems in the English language. Born in 1922 to parents of West Indian heritage, Mr. Walker has been a trailblazer throughout his illustrious career. He became the first black graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1945, earning Artist Diplomas in piano and composition. With his debut performance with The Philadelphia Orchestra (also in 1945), he became one of the first black musicians to appear as soloist with the Orchestra. He was also the first black composer to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The composer's works, which number more than 90, have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States and by many in England and other countries. More than sixty years into his career, Mr. Walker continues to compose. The Philadelphia Orchestra will give the world premiere performances of his Violin Concerto, with the composer's son Gregory Walker as soloist, in December 2009.” [Full Post]  [George Walker is profiled at, where a Works List by Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma can be found]

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