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Conductor and Music Director candidate Morihiko Nakahara shares a collection of recordings on his #SpotifySaturdays playlist a week prior to his appearance with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra on March 12, 2022. Nakahara conducts a program of Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps, Bright Sheng’s Wild Swan Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra, and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 at the Michigan Theater.

Lili Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps
Yan Pascal Tortelier, BBC Philharmonic

“What a perfect concert opener, even though the Michigan weather might not be quite ready for spring yet when we perform this piece. Lili Boulanger died before her 25th birthday, and this was the last piece she completed and exhibits some brilliantly colorful orchestration highlighted by seamless solos darting from one instrument (or section) to the next within the orchestra. Later in this playlist, you can also listen to another masterful miniature, Nocturne for violin and piano, composed when Boulanger was 18 years old.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances, Op. 45: III. Lento assai – Allegro vivace
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Philadelphia Orchestra

We will be exploring the Romantic depths of Rachmaninoff’s epic Symphony No. 2 at this concert. He is rightfully remembered and beloved for his sweeping melodies, and we will be basking in so many of them throughout the symphony. At the same time, I hope to highlight the powerful yet evocative (and at times spooky) qualities of his orchestration, as you can also hear in his Symphonic Dances. (Between you and me, if I had to pick a favorite piece by Rachmaninoff, it would be this one.)

Bright Sheng: Wild Swan Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet: I. Andante (Live)
Chad Hoopes, Keith Robinson, Richard O’Neill, Romie de Guise-Langlois, Soovin Kim

Bright Sheng’s Wild Swan is a reworking of an earlier work entitled “Concertino for Clarinet and String Quartet.” I love how he came up with this new title – he attended a performance of the original version at Tanglewood which he describes as “an equal experience of both the beautiful and the untamed.” Spotify only has recordings of the original version, and I was elated to find this live performance featuring my wonderful UMass colleague Romie de Guise-Langlois.

Igor Stravinsky: Fireworks, Op. 4
Seiji Ozawa, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Rachmaninoff apparently loved Stravinsky’s early ballets, on one occasion tearfully calling the glorious finale to The Firebird as “real Russia.” They both lived in Los Angeles in the early 1940s. Upon learning how much Stravinsky liked honey at a dinner party they both attended, Rachmaninoff famously and awkwardly showed up to the Stravinsky residence unannounced with a large jar of honey in the middle of the night. Stravinsky composed Fireworks in 1908, the year Rachmaninoff completed his Symphony No. 2. One can hear contrasting aesthetics in these works.

Reena Esmail: Teen Murti

Studying and preparing Bright Sheng’s Wild Swan has been a pure joy. It also led me to look back on other fantastic composers and their works that I have been fortunate to conduct recently, including this virtuoso string orchestra piece by Reena Esmail who incorporates Hindustani musical traditions in her works.

Béla Fleck: Juno Concerto: Movement III – Live
Béla Fleck, Colorado Symphony, José Luis Gómez

Some of my favorite musical memories include collaborating with Bela Fleck on a few occasions. In 2016, the South Carolina Philharmonic (where I have served as music director since 2008) along with orchestras of Colorado, Louisville, and Canton commissioned and performed his “Juno Concerto.” I’m inspired and energized by Bela’s effortless virtuosity and incredible sense of groove.

Astor Piazzolla: Concierto para bandoneón: I. Allegro marcato
Josep Pons, Orquestra De Cambra Teatre Lliure, Pablo Mainetti

Quincy Jones: Soul Bossa Nova
Quincy Jones

What do these two musicians have in common? They both studied with Nadia Boulanger – Lili’s older sister and one of the most influential composition teachers of the 20th century! Also, Piazzolla’s Bandoneon Concerto is a fun gem to program and conduct. (Is it okay to admit that I came to Quincy Jones’ genius through Austin Powers?).”