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American Symphony Orchestra

September 17, 2022 at 7:00 pm

Continuing a partnership forgedin the wake of COVID-19, the American Symphony Orchestra will present a full orchestra concert to celebrate its 60th Anniversary. The orchestra was founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski with the mission of providing music within the means of everyone. Music Director Leon Botstein expanded that mission when he joined the ASO in 1992, creating thematic concerts that explore music from the perspective of the visual arts, literature, religion, and history, and reviving rarely performed works that audiences would otherwise never have a chance to hear performed live. On September 17, 2022, the ASO will present a program by composers who have influenced the artistic landscape of New York and works that were inspired by our city.

The program opens with Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, a piece he took from his incidental music to Irwin Shaw’s short-lived play by the same name. The drama’s plot focused on two brothers who took conflicting life paths; one pursued success in business, while the other aspired to playing the trumpet. American composer Louise Talma’s Full Circle, written for pianist Sahan Arzruni and conductor Robert Black in 1985, is constructed in one movement with contrasting sections that revert to the opening of the piece. A teacher at Hunter College for more than 50 years, she was the first woman awarded back-to-back Guggenheims in 1946 and 1947, and the first woman elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1974.

William Grant Still rose to prominence in distinguished music circles when Jim Crow laws pervaded American history, an accomplishment few Black composers of the time could match. His many firsts include the first Black American to conduct a major American orchestra, the first to have a symphony performed by a leading orchestra, and the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company. In Still’s own description of his symphonic tone poem, he says “Darker America, as its title suggests, is representative of the American Negro… and is intended to suggest the triumph of a people over their sorrows through fervent prayer.” The work premiered at New York’s Aeolian Hall in 1926. Jacob Druckman’s Nor Spell Nor Charm is a quote from a song he wrote for his friend, American mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, and is dedicated to her. His numerous connections to New York include professorships at Juilliard, Bard College, and Yale; as well as composer-in-residence for the Aspen Festival, Tanglewood, and the New York Philharmonic.

The program closes with Mahler's Bach Suite, an arrangement of music from Bach's Orchestral Suites Nos. 2 and 3. Mahler puts his own imaginative stamp on the master's music, giving it a symphony-like structure and expanding the role of the continuo keyboard. 

Picnic Performances presented by Bank of America showcases live and in-person music, dance, and theater events produced in partnership with a diverse and storied lineup of New York City’s performing arts institutions. All performances are free to the public and designed to be enjoyed casually – no tickets required—with ample seating available and free picnic blankets to borrow. 
People sit on the lawn in Bryant Park with bands on the stage for Bryant Park's Emerging Music Festival.

Borrow a picnic blanket or chair – or bring your own. Bryant Park blankets and chairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Attendees may bring their own food or purchase from on-site food and beverage vendors near the Lawn. At most performances, attendees can purchase food from a rotating line-up of local NYC vendors curated by Hester Street Fair. At all performances, Stout NYC offers cheese and charcuterie boards as well as a selection of beer, wine, frosé, and non-alcoholic beverages for purchase.

Performances are cancelled when it is unsafe to be outdoors. In some cases, the Lawn may be too wet to open but the performance may continue. Follow @bryantparknyc for day-of event updates.

COVID-19 vaccinations and masks are not currently required but Bryant Park will continue to monitor and follow updated New York City and New York State COVID-19 guidelines throughout the summer as necessary.