Bringing in Spring: An Interview with ESO Artistic Advisor Michael Stern

Bringing in Spring: An Interview with ESO Artistic Advisor Michael Stern
Image credit: Todd Rosenberg

By Micha Poworoznik 

“There are so many magical moments in this concert, it’s impossible to name all of them,” says ESO Artistic Advisor Michael Stern, on his upcoming appearance conducting Spring with Copland & Schumann: Musical Awakenings next month. 

Experiencing this performance will surely brighten your spirits with a unique concert dedicated to the sounds of spring featuring music by beloved composers Aaron Copland, Robert Schumann, and Sergei Prokofiev. “When I thought about putting Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony together on one program, I loved the idea of bringing together two great works in different but wonderful ways, by the hope and freshness of spring – never a bad idea in the middle of an Edmonton winter!” says Stern. “The almost mystical opening of Copland’s ballet, the arching song of love with one of the most irrepressible endings ever in the Schumann, and Robert Uchida’s virtuosity in Prokofiev’s marvelous original Violin Concerto No. 2,” are all elements to look forward to, Stern adds. 

“I have always thought that what distinguishes a truly original and creative composer is when their music sounds like it could have been conceived by no one else – when in just a few bars, the creative voice is instantly recognizable,” says Stern about American composer Aaron Copland. “He went dutifully to Paris to study when he was in his twenties. But beginning in the 1930s, Copland increasingly realized that America’s true musical identity did not need to emulate old world traditions or models. In its openness, jazz inspired freshness, optimism, and radical rhythmic and melodic vitality, his music came to embody in a real way the 'American Sound.'” 

In a similar vein, Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony, which was composed a century prior to Copland’s Appalachian Spring, also contained elements of newness. “Schumann’s first try at a symphony was similarly original, forward thinking, and fresh. He too changed the course of the music of his time,” says Stern. “The vitality and individual abandon of this music was something utterly new. When I perform this work, I always keep in mind two things: The first is that this symphony is a young person’s music, full of promise, excitement, and the hope of spring and a life ahead. Secondly, I remember that Schumann was, above all, one of the great songwriters of his time.” 

What will surprise the audience the most? “I think many will find some music on this program familiar, and some other parts very new,” says Stern. “But I think the most surprising will be how easily the music gets into their consciousness and their emotions, and how quickly time flies as this music takes hold of us. There is so much variety and energy in this program, and it reminds us again of the power that great music has in making us connect with ourselves and feel the world around us with open ears and open hearts.” 

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear three incredible works conducted by ESO Artistic Advisor Michael Stern from February 10-12. Tickets are selling fast! Get yours here or by calling the Box Office at 780.428.1414.

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