Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicago Broadway World: 'Chicago Sinfonietta Bids Farewell to Founder Paul Freeman'

[Paul Freeman conducting Chicago Sinfonietta]

Maestro Paul Freeman, who founded the Chicago Sinfonietta 24 years ago, takes the podium as Music Director for the final time for the last concert of the Sinfonietta's 2010-2011 season, titled Women in Classical Music. Joining Maestro Freeman as guest conductor for the program will be Chicago Sinfonietta Music Director Designate Mei-Ann Chen. The Chicago Sinfonietta presents Women in Classical Music Sunday, May 22 at 2:30 pm at Lund Auditorium of Dominican University, 7900 W. Division Street in River Forest, and Monday, May 23 at 7:30 pm at Orchestra Hall of Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

"'This momentous occasion in the Sinfonietta's history is indeed a bittersweet one. With these final two concerts, we say goodbye to our beloved Founder Paul Freeman and celebrate the arrival of our brilliant new Music Director, Maestro Mei-Ann Chen,' said Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsch. The Women in Classical Music concert celebrates the influence of female conductors, composers and musicians. The Monday, May 23 program opens with a five-minute video tribute to Maestro Freeman, including a greeting by Yo-Yo Ma. The concert will be broadcast live by WFMT 98.7 FM beginning at 7:30 pm. Fifth Third Bank, the concert's principal sponsor, has generously agreed to sponsor the live broadcast that will stream nationwide on the web.

“Maestro Freeman opens the program, conducting selections from Alberto Ginastera's Danzas Del Ballet Estancia, op.8a, a work inspired by José Hernández's Argentinean nationalist poem Martín Fierro. This piece was chosen by Freeman for his final concert because of his great love of the work. Following this work will be an historic 'passing of the baton' moment, as Freeman not only passes the podium duties to Chen for most of the remainder of the concert, but also symbolically passes stewardship of the Chicago Sinfonietta to her as well.”

“Paul Freeman founded the Chicago Sinfonietta in 1987 with the mission to increase diversity in classical music. Since then, he has built Chicago's premier mid-sized orchestra into the 'nation's most diverse symphony orchestra,' championing the work of conductors, musicians and composers of all racial and gender minorities. In 1996 Freeman was named Music Director of the Czech National Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague; there he unearthed and recorded forgotten works by early Czech composers and also brought a range of American music to European audiences. In the early 2000s, he launched a new African Heritage Symphonic Series of recordings on the Cedille label, with an album of works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still and the Nigerian-born composer Fela Sowande.

"Throughout his career Maestro Freeman has been recognized as one of the first major African-American conductors to make a mark in the symphonic world, exemplifying his ability to break through the 'color barrier.' He has conducted more than 100 orchestras in 28 countries and has made more than 200 recordings, performing music ranging from the mainstream European repertory to completely unfamiliar pieces by composers from a great variety of backgrounds. Freeman will remain Music Director Emeritus following his retirement from the Chicago Sinfonietta.” [Maestro Paul Freeman (b. 1936) is profiled at along with Composers Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), William Grant Still (1895-1978) and Fela Sowande (1905-1987)]

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