In 1934, shortly after the Nazis came to power, the composer Paul Hindemith set to work on an opera about Matthias Grünewald, a Renaissance painter who lived during the German Peasants’ War. At the crux of this historical opera is a timely question: what is an artist’s responsibility in an age of political and social upheaval? Should one continue to pursue one’s art as before, providing solace through beautiful things? Or is it better to abandon the pretense of aesthetic autonomy and use art to advocate for justice?
There are compelling arguments for both positions, but perhaps it is possible to take the best from both worlds. Music has the ability to ennoble and uplift—both through its sheer beauty or expressive power, and also when it speaks directly to the pressing issues of the day. We at The Chelsea Symphony were fortunate to experience both sides of music’s power last year. In the spring, we launched an ambitious new outreach initiative in partnership with the NYC Department of Correction, becoming the first orchestra to present programming at Rikers Island Correctional Facility. Having the opportunity to connect with inmates through Mozart and the Star Wars soundtrack was a transformative experience for many of us. And over the course of our 2016-17 season, Flight Paths, we celebrated the musical contributions of visitors and immigrants to the United States.
In the same spirit of social mindfulness, we are proud to present our 2017-18 season, Sea Change. Our performances this year showcase music inspired by the natural world, from beloved classics (Debussy’s La Mer, Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons) to compelling contemporary works that advocate for environmental protection. For our outdoorsy listeners, our regular concert series are paired with walking tours—covering all five boroughs—presented by NYC Wild! and urban naturalist Keith Michael. The spring of 2018 features an exciting new collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, culminating in a special Earth Day event in the Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. And we will continue our work with the underserved population at Rikers Island.
As always, we are committed to promoting the work of dynamic emerging musicians. The season features five world premieres written especially for TCS, and for the fourth straight year, we are delighted to sponsor a composition contest for early-career musicians in partnership with acclaimed conductor and composer Gerard Schwarz. Every concert will showcase The Chelsea Symphony’s unique collaborative structure, with our musicians rotating as featured soloists, composers, and conductors.
On a lighter note, you can continue to watch for TCS musicians in the Amazon Original Series Mozart in the Jungle. Season 4 of the Golden Globe-winning series is scheduled for release this fall.
Thank you for your support of The Chelsea Symphony, and we hope you will join us often this season!
Matthew Aubin and Mark Seto