According to 2015 data collected by the League of American Orchestras, less than 10% of symphony orchestra music directors in the United States are women, yet the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra will open its 39th season with a woman on the podium.
Maestra Holly Mathieson takes the stage on Saturday, October 15, 2016, at 7:30PM for a powerful and passionate program featuring Beethoven's Third Symphony (
Eroica / "The Heroic"), along with the Sibelius Violin Concerto and Ives' popular work,
The Unanswered Question. Mathieson is the first of five conductor candidates applying for the IPO's music director position vacated by Maestro David Danzmayr in May 2016.
The New Zealand-born Mathieson was recently named Assistant Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (a post also previously held by Maestro Danzmayr). In addition, Mathieson serves as the Resident Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland Junior Orchestra, the founder and Artistic Director of the Horizont Musik-Kollektiv (Berlin) and recently joined the performance faculty at Goldsmiths University in London. In March of 2016, Holly Mathieson was named one of New Zealand's 50 Women of Achievement. The list celebrates New Zealand women who, through their work make a significant impact on the lives and rights of other women. Mathieson was honored for persevering in a career which has historically been overwhelmingly male-dominated and for her support and championing of other women in leadership roles in the arts.
During the summer of 2015, Holly Mathieson was selected by the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra music director search committee as one of five candidates to be given a guest conducting appearance this season from a field of 175+ highly qualified applicants from across the globe. Next spring, at the end of the season, the IPO board anticipates finalizing the appointment of the new music director, who will open the IPO's 40th season in October 2017.
Joining Mathieson and the orchestra on stage for Opening Night is acclaimed Serbian-Italian violinist Stefan Milenkovich, who will perform the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Interestingly, although Sibelius dreamt of becoming a violin virtuoso and was in a unique position to write for the instrument, he only ever composed a single violin concerto. However, while the solo was initially criticized as overpowering the orchestra itself, it ultimately reveals the violin's voice with imagination and artistry, perfect for Milenkovich who is known for both his amazing technical abilities and lyrical style. Funding for Mr. Milenkovich was provided by grants from the Wadsworth Family Cultural Arts Endowment and the Danny and Tricia Simpson Family Fund at The Community Foundation of Will County.
Like the concerto, Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 has a story to it, as well. Music historians agree that Beethoven intended to write a symphony honoring Napolean Bonaparte and his fight against the political establishment. However, upon learning that Bonaparte had appointed himself emperor, Beethoven reportedly tore up the title page and instead chose the name:
Sinfonia eroica or "Heroic Symphony." In addition, this masterpiece was composed at one of the lowest points of Beethoven's life when he struggled with increasing deafness and thoughts of suicide. To produce a symphony of such power and depth was no doubt a heroic act in and of itself.
Opening Night 2016 takes place at Governors State University Center for Performing Arts, 1 University Parkway in University Park on Saturday, October 15, and is sponsored by Bimba. The concert begins at 7:30PM, and Maestra Mathieson will offer a pre-concert talk on the evening's program from 6:30-7:00PM in the auditorium. Tickets start at $25 in advance; students of all ages are $5 with ID. For more details or to order visit ipomusic.org or call 708.481.7774.