Don Giovanni remains timeless, centuries later

Courtney Lewis

Mozart described his masterpiece Don Giovanni as an opera buffa: a comedy. Yet the work bristles with the political issues of the day, see-sawing between farce and deep seriousness. The Don Juan myth first appeared in European literature in 1630, when Tirso de Molina published The Trickster of Seville, a tale of an irresistibly handsome aristocrat who spends his days … Read More

Holidays are the time for waltzes

Courtney Lewis

The air is a getting crisper this week, and as we finish off the Thanksgiving turkey and begin to think about December, I’m reminded of one of my favourite holiday traditions. Every New Year’s Eve and Day the Vienna Philharmonic performs a concert of waltzes and polkas in the beautiful Grosser Saal of the Musikverein. The New Year’s Day concert … Read More

My Heros: Rattle, Abbado and Davis

Courtney Lewis

During our formative years, musicians are molded by many influences. Obviously our teachers hold enormous sway, taking on the role of musical parents by establishing the basics of instrumental technique while introducing repertoire at the right time. But like any artist we are often influenced just as much, if not more, by professionals, we may not know. The people we … Read More

A Massive Hope for the Future: Elgar’s First Symphony

Courtney Lewis

Next weekend we perform a masterpiece that is among those closest to my heart, Edward Elgar’s First Symphony. Its premiere in 1908 was probably the greatest success of Elgar’s career. His best friend and publisher, August Jaeger, described the scene at the first London performance: “I never in all my experience saw the like. The hall was packed…the atmosphere was electric…after … Read More

A Letter from London (and Nielsen 4)

Courtney Lewis

Yesterday I arrived in damp and blustery London, which, despite the gloom and ghastly weather is full of the irrepressible cheer of Christmastime. There is something about dusk descending at 4 pm – or even of being soaked by the spray of a passing double-decker bus whilst walking to a carol service – that makes the Yuletide spirit all the … Read More

Concert Weeks are Jam-Packed!

Courtney Lewis

When newcomers attend the Symphony they often ask me, “How many weeks ago did you start rehearsing for the concert?” The answer usually elicits a look of astonishment, especially if the performance is on a Thursday: “We started on Tuesday morning!” A Masterworks concert is preceded by four or five rehearsals, all within a single week. The musicians’ schedules are … Read More

White-Hot Conviction Propels Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony

Courtney Lewis

Last year I made the decision to take a break from conducting over the summer of 2017. The previous few seasons had been exhausting as I flew constantly back and forth between New York, Jacksonville and other cities. A conductor’s primary task is to inspire orchestras and I was aware that the well from which such inspiration is drawn was … Read More

Jumping Off a Cliff – The First Time with a Masterpiece

Courtney Lewis

Last week we ended the Jacksonville Symphony’s Masterworks series with three performances of Mahler’s soul-stirring Second Symphony. It was a thrilling way to end an ambitious season. Throughout the week’s rehearsals, I was inspired by just how much fun the musicians were having playing this great music: at his best Mahler seems to understand exactly what it means to be … Read More

Musical Chairs: Why Orchestras Sit the Way They Do

Courtney Lewis

One of the questions I’m asked most often is why the string sections of the Jacksonville Symphony sometimes change where they sit between pieces in a concert. Loyal symphony goers will remember that when I arrived in Jacksonville, we adopted two new positions for the string instruments. Your previous music director, Fabio Mechetti, preferred the common arrangement of first violins, … Read More

An Exciting Season Awaits Symphony Fans

Courtney Lewis

This week, we announced the Jacksonville Symphony’s 2017-18 season, and you may have read about the new five-year contract signed with our musicians earlier this month. We’re increasing musicians’ salaries to levels that match our peers, adding six full-time musicians to the orchestra, and increasing the orchestra’s season from 35 to 38 weeks. Last season, we increased our classical weekends … Read More