Major debuts and welcome returns mark James Feddeck’s 2016-17 season. The conductor will explore a vast span of repertoire over its course, embracing everything from Brahms symphonies to recent works by Gerald Barry, Anders Nilsson and Sean Shepherd. His busy itinerary of international guest conducting dates includes significant UK debuts and reengagements. Feddeck is set to conduct the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for the first time on Wednesday 11 & Thursday 12 January, opening with Brahms’s Tragic Overture and joining Alexei Volodin in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2 before turning to Sibelius’ Symphony No.5. He will partner James Ehnes in Barber’s Violin Concerto and perform John Harbison’s Remembering Gatsby and Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2 for his debut with the BBC Philharmonic at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Saturday 1 April. Other debut dates include three concerts with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra – the latest addition to Feddeck’s growing list of major American engagements – and his first appearances with the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, the Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie, Orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
James Feddeck underlines the importance of creating concert programmes that grab and hold their audiences. “I am so fortunate to be able to explore such a wide range of works with an almost equally wide range of symphony orchestras this season,” he notes. “It’s so important to me, whenever possible, to include something unusual in every programme. I believe we owe that to our audiences, not to confront them with things they don’t like but rather to present works that may come as a surprise to many. This season I will conduct several contemporary compositions, a number of unknown pieces and also perform unfamiliar scores by well-known composers. Of course each orchestra and every community of concertgoers has its own tastes and preferences. But you really can’t go wrong if you give them great music, whether it’s familiar or not.”
The conductor charts truly unfamiliar repertoire territory in his new recording of works by Georg Schumann, which was made by Deutschlandradio Kultur to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the German composer’s birth in 1866. The recording will be released on the CPO label. The album, made with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, comprises the world premiere recording of Schumann’s Symphony No.1 and the first modern recordings of two of his overtures. “Schumann was a very important figure as director of the Berlin Sing-Akademie, who had contact with many of the major composers and performers of his long lifetime,” notes James Feddeck. “I had heard some of his choral music but knew nothing of his orchestral works. The Symphony, which used to be played quite often, is virtually unknown today. After playing it through for the first time, the orchestra and I were astonished to discover such an amazing, powerful piece. I can’t wait to hear how others respond to this extraordinary music and hope this important recording will reignite interest in Schumann’s work.”
Feddeck’s determination to build compelling programmes is boldly stated in the repertoire for his professional debut in Vienna on Friday 21 October. Feddeck last appeared in the Austrian capital in 2012 as Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, during his four-year term as Franz Welser-Möst’s assistant at the Cleveland Orchestra. He will direct the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien in concert at Vienna’s Konzerthaus, setting Schoenberg’s Theme and Variations Op.43b in company with John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony. Schoenberg, responding to a suggestion from his publisher, originally conceived his work in 1942 for wind band, in part to attract the large American market for the medium. Its complexity, however, was such that he decided the following year to create a second version for symphony orchestra. Adams’s single-movement, high-energy symphony arose in 2007 from the composer’s third opera Doctor Atomic, a dramatic reflection on the world’s first atomic bomb and those who developed it. The concert’s second half is devoted to Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major, with Elisabeth Leonskaja as soloist.
“We don’t hear the Schoenberg often enough,” comments James Feddeck. “It’s a wonderful piece, strikingly inventive and romantic, very rich in instrumental colours and highly virtuosic. I suggested several works as its companion and the orchestra really took to the idea of the Doctor Atomic Symphony. Adams’s music is so powerfully descriptive and conveys the emotional conflicts of scientists making truly remarkable discoveries while realising what those discoveries would mean to the world. I am excited to be able to present that piece as part of a bold juxtaposition of works.”
British critics were generous in their praise for James Feddeck’s short-notice debuts with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in April 2014 and the Hallé nine months later. “Musicians of this calibre are gold dust,” observed the Herald, while the Guardian described him as “a conductor to watch”. He returns to work with the RSNO in Edinburgh on Wednesday 5 April and Glasgow on Thursday 6 May, opening with Brahms’s setting of Schiller’s Nänie for choir and orchestra and surveying Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.3 in company with Alice Sara Ott. Their programme’s second half couples Gerald Barry’s Humiliated and Insulted for choir and orchestra with Brahms’s Symphony No.3. The conductor will direct the Hallé at Bridgewater Hall on Wednesday 17, Thursday 18 & Sunday 21 May and at King George’s Hall in Blackburn on Friday 19 May, performing Vltava from Smetana’s symphonic poem Má vlast, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No.2 with Géza Anda Competition winner Andrew Tyson, and Dvořák’s Symphony No.6.
James Feddeck makes his second visit to The Hague for a concert with the Residentie Orkest on Friday 7 October. Their programme opens with the Variations and Fugue on a theme of Johann Kuhnau by Hendrik Andriessen, a spirited work from 1935 for string orchestra that made its young composer’s name. Polish-born soprano Aga Mikolaj joins the orchestra in Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs before Feddeck explores César Franck’s Symphony in D minor, one of the great landmarks of Late Romantic music.
The careful process of blending and balancing repertoire, fundamental to James Feddeck’s artistic outlook, can be heard in the programmes for his debut performances with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra. The former, to be given on Thursday 15 September as part of the Norwegian Organ Festival, marks the conductor’s debut in Norway with the world premiere of Nils Henrik Asheim’s Sudden Landscapes for organ and orchestra, offered in company with Alexander Guilmant’s Organ Symphony No.1 and César Franck’s symphonic poem Les Eolides. Feddeck makes his Aalborg Symphony Orchestra debut with two concerts, one in Aalborg on Thursday 10 November, the other presented the following evening as part of the Copenhagen International Organ Festival. The programme includes Guilmant’s Organ Symphony No.1 and Charles Tournemire’s Poème for organ and orchestra of 1910. The conductor has chosen to frame the two organ works with Ravel’s orchestration of Debussy’s Danse and Messiaen’s L'ascension, originally written as four meditations for orchestra. “I always try to promote the organ,” he observes. “So many concert halls contain wonderful organs that we hardly ever hear. And, as an organist, it feels like a mission to show what the instrument can do. I’m personally delighted this season to have opportunities to programme these fine works for organ and orchestra.”
Following the success of his debut with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in 2015, James Feddeck returns to Dublin on Friday 18 November to perform a programme rooted in the world of late Romanticism. The concert’s first half comprises the Prelude to Act I of Wagner’s Parsifal and Strauss’s Four Last Songs with Orla Boylan as soloist. The evening concludes with Bruckner’s Symphony No.6, the latest instance of Feddeck’s profound commitment to the composer’s music. “I had a wonderful time with the RTÉ musicians last season and the orchestra invited me back,” he recalls. “I was delighted when they agreed to perform Bruckner Six. This follows on from the Bruckner Eight I did with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra last year and Bruckner Nine with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra last April. I feel a tremendous connection to Bruckner, to his idea of sound, vision of musical architecture and conception of time. I’m strongly drawn to his music.”
Other highlights of James Feddeck’s 2016-17 season include a visit to northern Sweden for his debut with the NorrlandsOperan Symphony Orchestra on Thursday 24 November. They will perform the intriguing combination of Sibelius’ Valse triste and Brahms’s Symphony No.4 with the Symphony No.3 ‘Orfeus & Eurydyke’, created in 2015 by Swedish composer Anders Nilsson. He travels to the United States soon after to prepare for an all-Beethoven programme with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra on Friday 2 & Sunday 4 December, including the Coriolan Overture, Symphony No.1 and the ‘Eroica’ Symphony, and follows his Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra debut next January with debut concerts with the Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie in Chemnitz (18 & 19 January) and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (26, 27 & 28 January). The conductor’s schedule also contains a programme of British music with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra (17, 18 & 19 February), works by Sean Shepherd, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (9 & 11 March), his debut on tour with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (16-21 June), and debut concerts with Milan’s Orchestra I Pomeriggi Musicali (23 & 25 March) and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (24 June).