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New concerto honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverend Andrew Young
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Reverend Andrew Young
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From the Mountaintop,” a new clarinet concerto composed by Richard Danielpour, premiered this weekend at the Perelman Theater with Orchestra 2001. Co-commissioned by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra 2001, the concerto was written for clarinet soloist Anthony McGill, principle with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Premiering two days before Martin Luther King Day, the concerto, according to billholabmusic.com, is a tribute to the civil rights leader, “written as a series of musical essays and remembrances of the period.”

Conducted by artistic director James Freeman, the concerto was reminiscent of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with echoes of Bernstein, wrapped around with McGill’s gorgeous, velvety sound.

The program notes described Danielpour as drawing inspiration for the work from a meeting with the Reverend Andrew Young. Young, a former mayor of Atlanta, was an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King and was with the civil rights leader when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Danielpour envisioned the concerto “in which the clarinetist is a pastor and the orchestra is his congregation. I imagined it to be a telling of the story of that last year of Dr. King’s life.” Danielpour dedicated “From the Mountaintop” to Reverend Young.

Orchestra 2001, as ensemble-in-residence at Swarthmore College, will be giving a second performance of the concerto at the college on January 26 at 3pm.