Sunday, September 11, 2011

Peoria Journal Star: 'ARTSplus: Challenges forge guest conductor's resolve'

[James DePreist]

Maestro James DePreist (b. 1936) is profiled at He also has his own website, On July 17, 2011 AfriClassical posted: “ James DePreist Conducts Peoria Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven & Mahler Sept. 17.” Today we present an excerpt from another article by Gary Panetta on the conductor and his interpretation of Mahler's Third Symphony:

By Gary Panetta
Posted Sep 11, 2011
PEORIA — “James DePreist, who will lead the Peoria Symphony Orchestra Saturday in the finale of Mahler's Third Symphony, is heir to an aristocracy of talent and to one of the most tangled and nationally embarrassing episodes in U.S. cultural history. A respected conductor with an international reputation who once counted Leonard Bernstein among his mentors, DePreist was encouraged in his career by his aunt, the great opera singer Marian Anderson - the 'voice of a century,' according to conductor Arturo Toscanini.

“In 1939, Anderson was infamously denied the honor of singing in Washington, D.C.'s Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. But with the help of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson instead performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday of the same year. Anderson's persistence and personal dignity were always a source of inspiration for DePreist, who had many challenges of his own to overcome - an early bout with polio, which left him unable to walk, and, in later years, a kidney transplant.

“Such experiences, perhaps, inform DePreist's reading of the final movement from Mahler's Third Symphony - one segment of a much longer piece, which employs a chorus, German folk poetry and excerpts from Friedrich Nietzsche's 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra,' which is, above all, about human self-assertion in the face of hopelessness.

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