November 28, 2012

BSO Principal Horn James Sommerville to Conduct NEC’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Feb. 12

Performance Marks Sommerville’s First Orchestral Conducting Gig in Boston

Event Part of NEC Prep Presents—a Gift of Free Concerts to City of Boston

In his first full-length orchestral conducting performance in Boston, James Sommerville will lead the NEC Youth Philharmonic Orchestra in its second concert of the season, Feb. 12 at 8 pm in NEC’s Jordan Hall. Principal Horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1998, Sommerville replaces the previously announced Marcelo Lehninger who withdrew because of a scheduling conflict. Sommerville, who is Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Hamilton, Ontario and a frequent guest conductor with other Canadian orchestras, will lead a program that features Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and the Ravel Piano concerto in G with pianist Hannah Byun, a senior at the Walnut Hill School who studies with Wha Kyung Byun.

The YPO performance, which also includes Jennifer Higdon’s symphonic work, blue cathedral, is part of NEC Prep Presents, a series of 11 free concerts by senior Preparatory School ensembles. The performances are a gift to the City of Boston to express the Conservatory’s gratitude for community support of its Campus Redevelopment Plan. The YPO is the senior-most orchestra in the Preparatory School, with stellar young players aged 12—18. Other ensembles participating include the NEC Youth Symphony, Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble, NEC Youth Jazz Orchestra, and Youth Chorale.

“I'm really looking forward to working with the YPO!” said Sommerville, who also teaches horn students at NEC, Boston University, and the Tanglewood Music Center. “It's always thrilling to be on stage with tomorrow's artists, the musicians who will lead our orchestras in the decades to come. I have had a few opportunities to work with some of the YPO players recently, and their contagious enthusiasm and obvious talent are incredibly energizing. This program will give them a lot of chances to show their stuff - all three pieces are filled with amazing solo turns, grand sonorities, and moments of great beauty. I think the relationship between the BSO and the YPO is one that should be nourished, and I am thrilled to be a part of that as well.”

Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral was commissioned and first performed by the Curtis Institute of Music in 2000 to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary. Higdon, who teaches at Curtis, wrote the piece in memory of her late brother Andrew Blue. It depicts a floating glass cathedral in which the composer wished “to create the sensation of contemplation and quiet peace at the beginning, moving towards the feeling of celebration and ecstatic expansion of the soul.”  The work features extensive solos for clarinet (Andrew Blue’s instrument) and flute (Jennifer’s instrument).  blue cathedral  has become one of the most frequently performed contemporary orchestral works and has received more than 400 performances worldwide since its premiere.

Now in his sixth year in the Hamilton Philharmonic position, Sommerville has been enjoying a growing conducting career with recent critically acclaimed appearances with Symphony Nova Scotia, the Edmonton Symphony, l’Orchestre Symphonique du Québec and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

His glittering 25-year career as a horn soloist has seen triumphs with major orchestras throughout North America and Europe. His Juno Award-winning disc of the Mozart Horn Concertos with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra has been widely praised; other award-winning solo recordings include the Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings, and Britten’s Canticle.

Sommerville has recorded chamber music for the Deutsche Grammophon, Telarc, CBC, Summit, and Marquis labels. He has premiered chamber and solo music by many composers, including Christos Hatzis and Gyorgy Ligeti.  In 2007, he premiered Elliott Carter’s Horn Concerto, which was commissioned for him by the Boston Symphony, Sommerville also tours as a member of Osvaldo Golijov’s Andalucian Dogs. When he isn’t performing, conducting or teaching, Sommerville can be found racing triathlons, or in his kitchen.

To read an interview with Sommerville about conducting and being conducted, click here.

For further information on this concert and others in NEC Prep Presents, check the NEC Website.  


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115