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

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

Sibelius 7 and What’s Difficult in Music

Courtney Lewis

I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting friends and family in New York, London, Salzburg and Belfast. It’s been wonderful catching up with their news, and also sharing mine, much of which has been about what we’ve been doing in Jacksonville. Invariably, everyone asks what the first concert of the New Year is. It’s a program that looks quite straightforward … Read More

Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel

Courtney Lewis

I’ve been in New York for the past week, auditioning singers for an opera and conducting at the Juilliard School. The city is gearing up for the holidays, with enticing displays appearing in the grand shop fronts of Fifth Avenue, and a sickly stream of canned musak beginning to percolate every public space. Thankfully our musical offerings at the Jacksonville … Read More

Elgar and “The Dream of Gerontius”

Courtney Lewis

The season is underway, and we’re getting ready for a weekend of concerts that feature a piece especially close to my heart. I doubt many of you know it since it’s rarely played outside the British Isles, yet it contains music that offers some of the concert hall’s deepest spiritual experiences. I’d like to spend this column telling you a … Read More