Reflected in this program are Alsop’s fortitude as a visionary and leader, her respect for the value of building relationships, and her regard for the depth of talent seated within her beloved Festival Orchestra. She kicks off our second weekend with a work by long-time assistant principal oboist of the Orchestra, Alexander Miller, a Juilliard-trained performer and self-taught composer. Miller’s Scherzo Crypto was described by the San Antonio Express as “a wild, nutty, propulsive, intensely rhythmic piece…though a quiet, mysterious midsection showcases the strings and woodwinds.” The first time Alsop conducted Grammy Award-winning composer Jennifer Higdon’s music was at the Cabrillo Festival in 2001, and it was the beginning of an enduring and fruitful relationship. The Washington Post called Higdon “a savvy, sensitive composer with a keen ear, an innate sense of form and a generous dash of pure esprit.” Higdon won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto, which receives its West Coast premiere tonight when concertmaster Justin Bruns comes center stage as soloist. Pulitzer officials described the concerto as “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.” At 39 years old, Mason Bates was recently appointed the Kennedy Center’s first ever composer-in-residence, and has had five works performed previously at Cabrillo. In 2016 Alsop brings Bates back to perform in his work, The B-Sides, a symphony in five movements for orchestra and electronica. San Francisco Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman praised it as “a characteristically colorful and puckish score from a composer whose cheerful disregard for stylistic boundaries is a godsend.” Of this work, Bates wrote “I had often imagined a suite of concise, off-kilter symphonic pieces that would incorporate the grooves and theatrics of electronica in a highly focused manner. So, like the forgotten bands from the flipside of an old piece of vinyl, The B-Sides offers brief landings on a variety of peculiar planets, unified by a focus on fluorescent orchestral sonorities and the morphing rhythms of electronica.”
Photo credits from top left: Justin Bruns (rr jones), Mason Bates (Lydia Danmiller), Jennifer Higdon (J. Henry Fair), Alexander Miller.