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YPO Tours Eastern Europe

NEC's YPO Travels to Eastern Europe, June 14--24.

Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor Benjamin Zander to Tour Mahler Ninth Symphony in Eastern Europe, June 14—24

Performances in Vienna’s Musikverein, Prague’s Dvorak Hall Honor Mahler Centennial

Piano Wunderkind George Li to Perform Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto

In tribute to the centennial of Gustav Mahler’s death, New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra will tour Eastern Europe for 10 days, June 14—24, under the direction of conductor Benjamin Zander.  At the centerpiece of this Mahler Journey will be performances of Mahler’s last completed symphony, the Ninth, in locations closely associated with the composer. The Ninth, which makes fierce demands on both the virtuosity and expressive depth of any orchestra, is seldom attempted by high school aged musicians so the YPO’s performances should be standouts among the many Mahler concerts in Europe this season. Also on the programs will be the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with 15-year old wunderkind pianist George Li and the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations with YPO Principal Cellist Jonah Ellsworth.

Among the highlights of the tour will be concerts in Vienna at the Musikverein (June 23) and, in Prague, at Dvořák Hall in the Rudolfinum (June 16)—both cities that figured importantly in the career of Gustav Mahler. Other stops will be the Jihlava Mahler Festival (in the town where Mahler spent his childhood), the Litomysl Smetana Festival in the Czech Republic, and the Bratislava Summer Festival. 

The senior orchestra in NEC’s Preparatory School, the YPO is comprised of highly talented young musicians aged 12—18 and is widely recognized as one of the finest youth orchestras in the world.  Conductor Benjamin Zander has directed the ensemble for 32 years, regularly leading triumphant performances of the most demanding works in the orchestral literature including Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, the Mahler Symphonies No. 1 and 5,  Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, and Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.

A well known Mahler advocate, Zander has made critically admired recordings of the symphonies (the projected complete series now includes Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9) with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra on the Telarc label. Each symphony is accompanied by a discussion disc in which the conductor explicates the work with musical examples. Zander’s recording of the Symphony No. 5 received the 2002 Vienna Critics Award for Best Recording of 2001.  Besides leading the YPO and guest conducting around the world, Zander is founding Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he has held since 1979.


Now 15 and a student of Wha Kyung Byun at NEC’s Preparatory School, pianist George Li has been astonishing audiences since early childhood with the brilliance, expressivity, and maturity of his performances. In 2010, he won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York City for which he was awarded three years of professional management and debut concerts in New York, Washington D.C., China, and Boston.  Earlier that year, he also won the inaugural Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition during which he performed with the Cleveland Orchestra under Jahja Ling.  He has appeared as soloist with the Xiamen Philharmonic in China, the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela, the Boston, Brooklyn, and Spartanburg (SC) Philharmonic Orchestras, the Miami, Princeton, Albany, and Lexington Symphonies, the Nordic Chamber Orchestra in Sweden, and with I Solisti di Perugia in Italy. He will be soloist in the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 at the concerts in Vienna, Prague, and Litomysl. George is a sophomore at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts. For more information about George, check out his website.

Jonah Ellsworth, YPO Principal Cellist, will appear as soloist in the Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations, June 19 in the Hall of Slovak Radio as part of the Bratislava Summer Festival.  Jonah, 16, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he attends Cambridge Rindge and Latin School as a junior. He started playing the cello at the age of 5, and now studies with Natasha Brofsky at NEC’s Preparatory School. He appeared on From the Top at Carnegie Hall on PBS when he was 13, as well as twice on From the Top’s NPR radio show. He and pianist George Li, as well as YPO violinist Momo Wong, are members of the Vivace Trio at NEC, coached by Prep Chamber Music chair Laura Blustein.

Kick-off Concert

The YPO will perform a Mahler Journey kick-off concert, June 3 at 8 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall.  On the program are the Mahler Ninth and Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations with cellist Jonah Ellsworth. Tickets are $12; $7 for students and seniors; free with NEC i.d. WGBH members are 2 for 1 with i.d. To order, call the Jordan Hall Box Office at 617-585-1260.

Tour Schedule

Thu 16 June Prague, Dvorak Hall of Rudolfinum
7.30pm concert.
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 with George Li, piano
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Fri 17 June  Litomysl Smetana Festival, Courtyard of Litomysl Chateau
7pm concert.
Ravel: La Valse
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 with George Li, piano
Dvorak: “New World” Symphony

Sun 19 June  Bratislava Summer Festival, Hall of Slovak Radio
7pm concert
Ravel: La Valse
Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations with Jonah Ellsworth, cello
Dvorak: “New World” Symphony

Mon 20 June  Jihlava Mahler Festival, Jihlava House of Culture, 
6 pm concert
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Wed 22 June  Krems an der Donau in Lower Austria, Dominican Church  
7 pm concert
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Thu 23 June  Vienna, Musikverein  
7:30 pm concert
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 with George Li, piano
Mahler: Symphony No. 9

For further information, check the NEC Website or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122.  NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. Pierce Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory 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 Collaboration Programs, 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 and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic 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
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115