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15 January 2023 @ 16:00

Dennis Russell Davies is considered a leading conductor of American music. In this concert, together with the MDR Symphony Orchestra and a total of nearly 200 performers, he presents three very personal works by composers who shaped 20th-century U.S. music. Decoration Day is the day on which the fallen are commemorated and their graves decorated in the USA. In the orchestral piece of the same name, Charles Ives processes his memories of the procession of his father's marching band to the cemetery and back to town.

In his work The Wound-Dresser, John Adams sets to music a famous poem by Walt Witman, in which he describes the sorrowful reality of the American Civil War in a military hospital and opposes the heroization of war. Thomas Hampson passionately champions this work and its message. He also takes on the role of narrator in Leonard Bernstein's symphony "Kaddish." This large-scale, moving work is dedicated to John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated shortly before its premiere. It represents Bernstein's personal Kaddish - a prayer for the dead in which he simultaneously deals with Jewish tradition, but also with doubts of faith.

Although death, suffering and loss are lamented in all three works, they retain a typically American, optimistic underlying tone. Not least, they evoke the healing power of music and community - and the community that can also come about through a successful concert.

The concert will also take place at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg:
Wed 11 JAN 2023, 8 pm



Impulse to the concert: Dennis Russell Davies

Charles Ives (1874-1954)
Decoration Day from A Symphony: New England Holidays (1913)

John Adams (*1947)
The Wound-Dresser for baritone and orchestra (1988)

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)
Symphony No. 3 "Kaddish" (1963)


MDR Symphony Orchestra
MDR Radio Choir
MDR Children's Choir Leipzig
Sarah Wegener, soprano
Thomas Hampson, baritone/narrator
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor



Dennis Russell Davies


Dennis Russell Davies was born in Ohio in 1944 and studied piano and conducting at New York's Juilliard School. He began his career in 1972 as principal conductor of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Since the 1980s, he has worked primarily in German-speaking countries, serving as GMD in Stuttgart and Bonn. He was chief conductor of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra for many years. From 2002 to 2017 he was principal conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz and from 2009 to 2016 of the Basel Symphony Orchestra. Since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, he has been principal conductor of the Filharmonie Brno; in September 2020, Davies took over the post of principal conductor at the MDR Symphony Orchestra for four years.

During his career, he has conducted the most prestigious orchestras in North America and Europe, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala Milano. After his debut at the Bayreuth Festival (1978 to 1980), he made guest appearances with a diverse opera repertoire at the Salzburg Festival, the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Vienna State Opera, among others.

In a career spanning more than 50 years, Dennis Russell Davies has left a lasting mark on "his" orchestras, among other things by opening them up to modernity and new audiences, but also by constantly working on the core symphonic repertoire. He became involved early on with composers such as Philip Glass, Aaron Copland, Luciano Berio, John Cage, Hans Werner Henze, Leonard Bernstein, Gija Kantscheli, Arvo Pärt, Manfred Trojahn, Thomas Larcher, Chen Yi, and Laurie Anderson. In 1977, he co-founded the American Composers Orchestra, which he directed for 25 years. Through numerous composition commissions that he set in motion, he helped write the music history of the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition, he has devoted himself to the great symphonic repertoire: Shostakovich, Beethoven, Mahler as well as Anton Bruckner, whose symphonies he has recorded in all versions. His discography also includes complete recordings of the symphonies of Joseph Haydn, Philip Glass and Arthur Honegger, as well as the great ballet music of Igor Stravinsky - both in the versions for orchestra and for piano four hands.

In addition to conducting, Davies devotes himself to chamber music and is active as a pianist. Since 2003 he has been playing together as a duo with his wife Maki Namekawa. Both have produced numerous CDs and give highly successful guest performances at home and abroad.


Thomas Hampson

Baritone & narrator

U.S. baritone Thomas Hampson enjoys a unique international career as an opera, concert, and lieder singer. Long considered one of the most innovative and multi-faceted musicians of our time, his operatic repertoire includes more than 80 roles and his discography contains over 170 albums, many of which have won prestigious awards such as the Grammy Award, the Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque.

Among the highlights of the 2021/2022 season will be Hampson's return to the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino as Don Alfonso in Mozart's Così fan tutte. At Zurich Opera House, he creates the role of Jan Vermeer in the world premiere of Stefan Wirth's Girl with a Pearl Earring. He also sings the title role in Rufus Wainwright's Hadrian at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

On the concert stage, Hampson can be heard with the Oslo Philharmonic and cellist Sol Gabetta under the baton of Klaus Mäkelä, as well as performing with the Wiener Akademie Orchestra, Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Klangforum Wien, Orchestre national de Lyon and Prague Symphony Orchestra, among many others.

Together with Luca Pisaroni, Hampson presents the "No Tenors Allowed"programme in Moscow, and next summer his programme "Song of America" can be heard at the Turku Music Festival. Hampson gives recitals with Martin Haselböck at the Dresden Philharmonic, as well as with Christian Schmitt at the Tonhalle Zurich and with Wolfram Rieger at the Alte Kirche and Künstlerhaus Boswil. He sings songs by Gustav Mahler with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the baton of Karina Canellakis and appears at the International Brucknerfest Linz 2021.

Together with Dr. Louise Toppin, Hampson curated the programme "Song of America: A Celebration of Black Music," which was presented at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg as part of the International Music Festival Hamburg. At the Verbier Festival, Hampson performed with Daniel Hope and Wolfram Rieger and gave master classes to Verbier Festival Academy participants. He returned to the Pierre Boulez Hall as Artistic Curator of the "Schubert Week" of the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin and directs the International Opera Workshop Waiblingen with Dan Ettinger and Melanie Diener.

Hampson is an honorary professor at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Heidelberg and an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In addition to several honorary doctorates, he holds the title of Kammersänger of the Vienna State Opera and was appointed Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. In 2017, Thomas Hampson and Wolfram Rieger were jointly awarded the Hugo Wolf Medal of the International Hugo Wolf Academy. Hampson is co-founder and artistic director of the Lied Akademie Heidelberg, and with the Hampsong Foundation, founded in 2003, he is committed to intercultural dialogue and understanding through the medium of the art of song. His master classes are broadcast online by, the Manhattan School of Music and the Hampsong Foundation.


Sarah Wegener


There is no debating her ability. Wegener has an impeccable voice fit, colors encompassing the entire ambitus, splendid volume that remains round even at higher volumes, and a perfect legato. Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Sarah Wegener permeates every part with captivating intensity. With her warm timbre, she evoked enthusiasm with Strauss' Orchestra Songs under Mariss Jansons and Vladimir Jurowski and Mahler's 8th Symphony under Kirill Petrenko, Eliahu Inbaland Kent Nagano, among others, as well as with her programme War and Peace, spun around works by Handel and Purcell. Her "wonderfully luminous voice, as powerful as it is rich in color" (FAZ), as heard on her highly acclaimed CDs Into the Deepest Sea and Zueignung , proves her to be a song interpreter of the first order.

This remarkable versatility is accompanied by great consistency in her collaborations with musical partners, among whom she counts conductors such as Kent Nagano, Emilio Pomàrico, Peter Rundel, Tõnu Kaljuste, Heinz Holliger, Sylvain Cambreling and Frieder Bernius. She has given concerts and recitals at the Salzburg Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Rheingau Music Festival, the Festival de Lanaudière, the Chigiana International Festival, the Handel Festival Halle, the Suntory Hall, the Konzerthaus Berlin, the Tonhalle Zurich, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Philharmonie de Paris and the Royal Festival Hall London. Opera engagements have taken her to the Royal Opera House London, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna Festival and the Tongyeong Festival in South Korea.

Equally appreciated as an interpreter of the classical and romantic repertoire as well as contemporary compositions, Sarah Wegener's recent seasons have included Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri (Jérémie Rhorer and Le Cercle de l'Harmonie), Dvořák's Stabat Mater (Philippe Herreweghe, Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, Collegium Vocale Gent), Henze's Raft of the Medusa (ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna, Cornelius Meister), Penderecki's St. Luke Passion (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Kent Nagano), Beethoven's Missa solemnis (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Manze), and Schoenberg's Six Orchestral Songs in Saarbrücken. In addition, she premiered numerous works by Georg Friedrich Haas, including the opera Bluthaus - for the main role of Nadja she was nominated as Singer of the Year by Opernwelt magazine in 2011. In 2021 she made her debut as Freia in Wagner's Rheingold in Cologne and Amsterdam with Concerto Köln and Kent Nagano.

The 2022/23 season begins for Sarah Wegener as the Countess in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Blaibach Konzerthaus. She can be heard in Strauss' Four Last Songs in the fall with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra under Jacek Kaspszyk and with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Zubin Mehta. Another highlight is Mahler's Symphony No. 8 at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. She also performs Mahler's Das Klagende Lied in Porto, Bernstein's Kaddish with the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Dennis Russel Davies at the Gewandhaus Leipzig, Elbphilharmonie and Philharmonie Berlin, works by Berg and Holliger with the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and songs by Alma Mahler with the Brandenburg State Orchestra. In June 2023 she will sing Widmann's ARCHE under Kent Nagano at the Elbphilharmonie.

Sarah Wegener's discography includes recordings of Boesmans' Trakl-Lieder, Korngold's Die stumme Serenade, Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, as well as Rossini's Petite Messe solennelle and works by György Kurtág, Elliott Carter and by and with Heinz Holliger. She received a nomination for Singer of the Year at OPUS Klassik 2019 for her recording of Jörg Widmann's work Drittes Labyrinth, the solo part of which the composer dedicated to her. Her second Lied CD with Götz Payer, released in 2021 and focusing on Richard Strauss, was also nominated at OPUS Klassik. A recording of Lieder arranged by B.A. Zimmermann with the WDR Symphony Orchestra will soon be released by WERGO.

The British-German soprano, who is also a trained double bassist, studied singing with Prof. Jaeger-Böhm in Stuttgart and in master classes with Dame Gwyneth Jones and Renée Morloc.




The MDR-Sinfonieorchester is Germany's oldest radio orchestra and, two years before its centennial in 2024, continues to uphold the principles of its time of origin: it brings cultural education and musical entertainment to the people, live or over the "airwaves"; it reflects the creative spirit of Central Germany, represented by composers such as Bach, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Schumann, Liszt and Weill. It cultivates musical traditions and the music of the present; the latest music and cross-genre concert formats are as much a part of the program as lively performances of the traditional repertoire.

As the radio orchestra of the region, the MDR-Sinfonieorchester maintains its presence outside the musical centers of Central Germany. The production of exceptional repertoire for radio programs as well as digital formats, especially in the field of education, is increasingly part of the orchestra's tasks, as is the recording of film music. Soundtrack productions include the music for the series "Sense8" by Lilly and Lana Wachowski, for Tom Tykwer's films "Cloud Atlas," "Hologram for a King" and his series "Babylon Berlin. In addition, the MDR\-Sinfonieorchester (with the MDR Children's Choir) has recorded the music for the Kika series "Beutolomäus", and for ARTE the music for the silent films "Prince Achmed", "New Year's Eve" and "Mr. Radio".

The very different personalities who have been at the helm of the MDR-Sinfonieorchester as principal conductors - including Kristjan Järvi, Jun Märkl, Fabio Luisi, Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Herbert Kegel, Hermann Abendroth - have shaped the orchestra's versatility. Since summer 2020, Dennis Russell Davies has been principal conductor and, as an experienced orchestra educator and accomplished program planner, shapes the orchestra's offbeat repertoire culture.

Among the many guest conductors who have recently led the MDR-Sinfonieorchester are. Krzysztof Urbański, Stefan Asbury, Alain Altinoglu, Roberto Abbado, Bertrand de Billy, James Gaffigan, Neeme Järvi, Michail Jurowski, Kristiina Poska, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Markus Stenz, Frank Strobel, Karl-Heinz Steffens, Robert Trevino, Jan Willem de Vriend, Kazuki Yamada, Simone Young, Lothar Zagrosek, as well as conductors of the younger generation such as Ariane Matiakh, Anja Bihlmaier, Duncan Ward, Nicholas Carter and Klaus Mäkelä. Guest artists such as Julia Fischer, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Alexander Toradze, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Pekka Kuusisto, Gabriela Montero, Nils Mönkemeyer, Antoine Tamestit and Nicolas Altstaedt shaped the programs. Wolfgang Muthspiel, Francesco Tristano, Stefano Bollani, Bryce Dessner, Hauschka, Max Richter and Anoushka Shankar added important color with their concerts.

As the radio orchestra of the region, the MDR-Sinfonieorchester maintains its presence outside the musical centers of Central Germany, giving concerts in places from Altenburg to Zeulenroda. Guest appearances in the 2022/23 season will also take it to the Philharmonie Berlin, the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Ludwigsburg and Leipzig's twin city Brno.




January 15, 2023
Event categories:


Philharmonie Berlin - Great Hall
Philharmonie Berlin, Great Hall
Berlin, Germany

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