It was nearly teatime in London, where he lives, when Timothy Redmond spoke to the Journal by phone last week. Earl Grey is his favorite.
Redmond, who was named the Winston-Salem Symphony’s fifth full-time music director in May, will conduct his first concerts in that role next weekend.
He will fly into Charlotte on Monday to be here for meetings, rehearsals and a Music Lover’s luncheon on Oct. 25. He’ll conduct the symphony at 3 p.m. on Oct. 27 and 7:30 on Oct. 29, after which, he’ll fly back to London just long enough to change planes for Malta where he’s going to conduct an opera.
Such is the life of a globetrotting impresario.
“There’s the satisfaction in making things happen, of getting successfully from Point A to Point B,” Redmond said.
E. Merritt Vale, president and chief executive of the symphony said, “Tim has already brought incredible energy and enthusiasm to the symphony, and we can’t wait to share that with the community. ... It is going to be a rousing program of music. ...”
“The program moves from Mozart’s transcendent ‘Haffner’ Symphony to Higdon’s contemporary masterpiece as well as Haydn’s astonishing depiction of the moment before creation,” Redmond said. “And as if that were not enough, the concerts will end with Stravinsky’s provocative ‘Rite of Spring.’”
Most of the coming Winston-Salem Symphony Classics Series program was selected before Redmond was hired, but he got to add one piece of his own selection.
“I’ve made just a few tweaks,” he said. He chose “The Representation of Chaos,” the overture to Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation,” because, he said, it hints at what will occur just over 200 years later in Igor Stravinsky’s revolutionary “The Rite of Spring,” the piece that will close the program.
“It’s all about context,” Redmond said. “In every era, people try to push the envelope. It was Haydn who developed the orchestra and was important to the development of chamber music.”
The Haydn piece, which is about six minutes long, portrays the moment of chaos that precedes God’s creation of the earth. It contains some rhythmic figures that foreshadow Stravinsky and seem unusual for what is typically expected in classical music.
Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” was created as a ballet and first presented in 1913 in Paris by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Stravinsky’s primitive, percussive music combined with daring choreography by the dancer Vaslav Nijinski’s created a sensation, a scandal — and it was wildly popular.
“It’s very raw. There is something primitive about it that we all recognize,” Redmond said. “Every Hollywood composer uses something similar to scare us or make us uneasy.
“Stravinsky unleashed rhythm in a new way. ... If you hear any piece of rock music, the drumbeat is what drives it. Stravinsky sets up a rhythm, and he then changes it. He keeps disturbing us.”
Legend has it that the 1913 production caused riots in the theater, although that was not documented until 10 years later.
“But within a year of its debut, it was a completely standard and celebrated work,” Redmond said. “I chose the Haydn, because I thought it would be fun to think about how people in the 1700s thought about chaos, the idea of trying to work that out in music.
“Haydn was the most extraordinary innovator. ‘The Representation of Chaos’ hints at Modernism. I wanted to show that Stravinsky wasn’t the first revolutionary composer.”
Another of Stravinsky’s collaborators on “The Rite of Spring” ballet was Nicholas Roerich, a painter, writer, archaeologist and philosopher. Roerich not only designed the costumes and scenery, which harked back to ancient Russia, but also brought Stravinsky the story from Russian folklore.
“Because of the story, you can take your listeners on a journey,” Redmond said. “Roerich was an unbelievable man. Stravinsky discovered him through Roerich’s work on Borodin’s ‘Prince Igor.’ Stravinsky loved the primitive art that Roerich had rediscovered in Russia.”
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov influenced Stravinsky’s early works such as “The Firebird,” and after his wild innovation in “The Rite of Spring,” Stravinsky took a sharp turn into Neoclassical style with works such as “Soldier’s Tale.”
“There isn’t a sequel to ‘Rite of Spring,’” Redmond said. “He transforms music, but then he turns Neoclassical.”
The concert will open with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, the “Haffner” Symphony, swinging back again to the 18th century before fast-forwarding to a contemporary work, the “Low Brass Concerto,” by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon.
A brass quartet, composed of members of the symphony, will perform as guest artists for Higdon’s piece: Brian French and David Wulfeck on the trombone, Erik Salzwedel on the bass trombone, and Matt Ransom on the tuba.
“It’s a very clever idea to write for the low brass instruments,” Redmond said. These instruments are always present in the symphony orchestra, but they rarely get the spotlight. “It’s a pretty new piece (2017) and has had a lot of performances.”