New Century Chamber Orchestra Celebrates Tenth Anniversary
Decade will be marked with a performance of classic Beatles tunes
When the San Francisco-based New Century Chamber Orchestra—one of the pioneers in the conductorless orchestra movement—first announced it would be celebrating ten years of world-class music making with a late March performance of all 17 songs from the classic Beatles album Abbey Road (arranged by the likes of Brazilian pop-jazz songmeister Deodato and minimalist Terry Riley), well, no one was really all that surprised. After all, ever since 1992, when violist Wieslaw Pogorzelski and cellist Miriam Perkoff founded the 17-member group, the somewhat unpredictable ensemble has made a habit of testing all boundaries. Though one has to admit that "Octopus’ Garden" and "Mean Mr. Mustard" represent a pretty serious test of those boundaries.
What did come as a shock, however, was NCCO's revelation that it would be bringing in—wait for it—a conductor to direct the anniversary gala concert. And not just any conductor. On June 7, Sir Simon Rattle, chief conductor and artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, will join NCCO at the extravaganza at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.
So why did a conductorless orchestra agree to come together with Sir Simon?
"It's just a huge, huge honor for us to work with him," explains Christa Bennion Feeny, music director of the NCCO. "Simon Rattle is one of the greatest conductors in the world today. So, that's why we decided to go against our usual policy of not using a conductor. And, really, who could blame us?"
She does point out that one of the pieces NCCO will be doing with Rattle—Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht—will also be performed in May in the group's traditionally unconductored manner. "That," says Feeny, "may be an interesting thing for some people to experience."
To which we can only say, let it be.