In this week’s Postcard, Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa writes ‘home’ from Florida

Greetings SFGC Friends from Orlando, Florida! And no, I am not riding rollercoasters here, as tempting as that is. I am here with conductor Eric Jacobsen, who will share the stage with many of our own singers in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center in April with his Brooklyn-based orchestra, The Knights. But this weekend he is leading his “other” orchestra – yes, Eric is the conductor of two orchestras in two totally separate parts of the country! – the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.

I’m here because I get to hear Eric conduct the world premiere of a new piece I wrote called “Drama/Self-Pity,” on a concert that otherwise has piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, played by the inimitable pianist Emanuel Ax.

SFGC AD Lisa Bielawa meets Conductor and SFGC Collaborator Eric Jacobsen’s “other” orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, in rehearsal last night.
SFGC AD Lisa Bielawa meets Conductor and SFGC Collaborator Eric Jacobsen’s “other” orchestra, the Orlando Philharmonic, in rehearsal last night.

You may be wondering, “What’s a brand-new piece with a goofy title doing on a concert with two great Classical piano concertos?” It’s a good question, on the face of it – but it turns out that Eric’s new artistic leadership here (this is his second season as Music Director) is built around these kinds of mash-ups. Listen to him talk about his philosophy of artistic programming in this video the OPO made to introduce their audience to their new Director:

Which of these four ‘pillars’ of inspiration – Classics; Intimacy; Living Composers; and Heroes – do you feel most passionate about as a listener? Does his speech make you want to come hear this orchestra, and watch him conduct? Who are your “Heroes”? His invitation to bring me and my new piece there is part of the third pillar, of course, and I can feel the excitement among the entire OPO community around the fact that they are helping bring a new piece into the world. Eric’s vision of creating new works in Orlando that can go on into the world fills the community here with pride – in their orchestra but also in their city. What role does a cultural institution play in the life of a city? Is it similar to the role that a sports team plays, for example?

For my part, it’s the life of cities that gave rise to my piece, “Drama/Self-Pity,” in the first place. And I also had my own philosophy about how my piece could cohabit with Mozart and Beethoven on this concert – you can read more about that here in this fun article from Orlando Weekly. Centuries may come between these iconic composers’ music and mine, but things like humor, drama and, yes, self-pity, are timeless. Can you think of any Classical music that could bear this same title? Do you hear Self-Pity in, say, this aria of Mozart’s?

And would you say that Beethoven has a tendency to be a little Dramatic at times too? Listen to Emanuel Ax talk to this young pianist about a passage in one of Beethoven’s piano concertos that he feels is actually meant to be funny – not taken quite so seriously, “…so it sounds really weird!”

Let’s hope we make some really weird sounds together this weekend! It’s been great fun so far, and now I can’t wait to hear it all unfold.

See you all soon!


Lisa Bielawa