HOUSTON (June 7, 2012) – Only seven days into the start of its 99th season, the Houston Symphony has boarded a plane to Moscow, Russia for its second international tour in the last two years. The tour arrives at a fine hour for the organization that is simultaneously celebrating a tremendously successful 2011-2012 season that ended on May 31. In addition to offering fresh and innovative programming during the 2011-2012 season, the organization achieved a record-breaking Annual Fund for the second consecutive year to help qualify for a $1 million challenge grant from the Houston Endowment. The organization is also proud to announce that it is projecting a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 season (Fiscal Year 2012).
Touring Momentum: From Carnegie Hall to Moscow
Fresh from its 16th appearance in New York City’s Carnegie Hall last month, the Houston Symphony has headed to Moscow, Russia. The 87-member orchestra, led by music director Hans Graf, has been invited to perform at the Festival of the World’s Symphony Orchestras at Column Hall in the House of Unions on June 8 and 9, 2012. The Houston Symphony will be the first-ever American orchestra to participate in the festival, which is known as the highlight of the Moscow musical season. Performing two separate concert programs, June 8th will feature Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, "Prague" and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 and June 9th includes John Adams’ Doctor Atomic Symphony and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905.” The concerts will be streamed live online at 10:00 a.m. US Central Time on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9. Listeners can tune in by logging onto Houston Public Radio KUHA Classical 91.7’s website:
The Houston Symphony has a direct, historical connection to the Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in America. In March 1958, the Houston Symphony, led by the Symphony’s music director from 1955-61, Leopold Stokowski, performed the North American premiere of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 just 5 months after its premiere in Russia, and created the first commercial recording of the work in April 1958.
Hans Graf's connection with Russian repertoire is even more significant as a result of his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the revered Maestro Arvid Jansons. In addition to the musical connection, Maestro Graf also shares personal connections with Russia as his wife, Margarita, is Russian, and he speaks the Russian language fluently. The Moscow performances mark the orchestra’s second fully-funded tour in 2012, following a critically and financially successful tour to New York’s Carnegie Hall in May 2012.
“It is a great joy to be on tour with the orchestra twice in one month, and to such significant places,” stated Maestro Graf. “Touring is a vital part of any great orchestra's life, and not only is it a great motivational and emotional event for us musicians, but it also heightens and maintains the national and international standing and reputation of our orchestra and our city.”
Annual Fund Success Topped Off By Houston Endowment Grant
These tours come on the heels of the organization’s paramount fundraising success. For two consecutive years, the organization has achieved a record-breaking Annual Fund. With the Symphony’s Fiscal Year ending on May 31, the organization secured more than $9.2 million in contributions from over 5,500 donors. These accomplishments qualify the Houston Symphony for the second of two back-to-back challenge grants issued by Houston Endowment in April 2010, which required the orchestra in FY12 to reach an Annual Fund goal of $9 million, expand its donor base beyond 5,000 and meet the FY12 budget goals defined in its ambitious five-year financial plan covering FY11 through FY16. The success in funds raised for the Annual Fund represents a 9.3% increase on the Symphony’s FY11 results. Just as importantly, the number of donors who contributed increased by 27%. In total, the Houston Symphony raised more than $11.2 million in support of its annual operations in FY12, representing a 15% increase in funds raised over FY11 results. This figure is inclusive of events, special projects and underwriting support for the May 2012 tour to Carnegie Hall.
"The Houston Symphony continues to make impressive progress on its five-year sustainability plan," said Ann B. Stern, president of Houston Endowment. "The Houston Symphony is one of Houston's great cultural assets. Houston Endowment commends the Symphony's leadership for their ongoing stewardship of this exceptional resource and for embracing the challenge of ensuring that it will not only survive, but thrive in the years to come."
“I’ve been enormously gratified by our success over the past two years under the leadership of Executive Director/CEO Mark Hanson and Music Director Hans Graf,” stated Bobby Tudor, Immediate Past President of the Houston Symphony Society, whose successful three year tenure concluded on May 31, 2012. “Our fundraising achievements, both this fiscal year and in FY11, are proof that the Houston community believes in the need for an energetic world-class city to have a world-class Symphony orchestra. Houston Endowment’s two-year challenge provided the Houston Symphony with the impetus to kick-start, re-invigorate and energize our fundraising. Its leadership commitment has been integral to our success.”
2011-2012, A Banner Year: Artistic Progression and A Balanced Budget
Due to the fiscal successes of this year, the Symphony is projecting a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2012. This is a result of strong ticket sales, the record-setting Annual Fund, Symphony League events and other contributed income that supported milestone artistic projects and the organization’s extensive education and outreach initiatives.
"I am enormously proud of our collective artistic and financial achievements this past season," said Mark C. Hanson, Executive Director/CEO of the Houston Symphony. "Inspired by our incredible performances and effective education programs, the Houston community has responded in such a generous and meaningful manner. The entire Houston Symphony family wishes to express our deepest appreciation to our loyal audience and donor base for making all of this possible."
In the 2011-2012 season, the Houston Symphony realized a number of performance achievements demonstrating the organization’s commitment to artistic excellence, innovation, education and community access, including:
• The world premiere of Orbit-An HD Odyssey, the second installment of the Houston Symphony’s groundbreaking multi-media series. The Planets-An HD Odyssey and Orbit-An HD Odyssey pair live symphonic performances with high-resolution films created from images sourced from NASA.
• The launch of a new three-concert series at Sugar Land Baptist Church. This series expands the orchestra’s geographic footprint throughout the Houston region.
• The launch of ACCESS, a new three-concert series designed to appeal to new audiences. It incorporates a concert host to provide musical commentary from the stage, an earlier start time, and a post-concert question & answer session with the artists.
• A three-week festival entitled “RachFest!” celebrating the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff, during which celebrated pianist Kirill Gerstein performed all four Rachmaninoff piano concertos.
• An artistically adventurous program entitled Two Faces of Shostakovich, which contrasts the Anti-Formalist Rayok, Shostakovich’s satirical commentary on Stalin’s suppressive regime, with his 11thSymphony, a piece accepted by the party and representing the “public” face of Shostakovich. The orchestra performed the program twice at Jones Hall in Houston, once at Carnegie Hall in New York, and will perform the 11th Symphony at Column Hall in Moscow, Russia.
• The Dewhurst Student Concerts brought more than almost 34,000 students from 238 schools across 21 school districts to Jones Hall.
• Pops concerts featuring principal pops conductor Michael Krajewski and guest stars ranging from Idina Menzel to Cuban sensation Tiempo Libre.
• Family concerts featuring “The Night Before Christmas” and “Perfect Pitch: Music of Baseball.”
• The launch of Symphony Scouts, a new, interactive early childhood development program
• Musicians of the orchestra offered almost 100 free performances for over 11,000 Houstonians at schools, nursing homes, hospitals, community centers and shelters through the Houston Symphony Community Connections program.
Looking Forward to a New Century
The Houston Symphony’s recent artistic and financial achievements propel the institution towards its upcoming centennial season in 2013-2014. Planning for this milestone season, which will include several high-profile concerts and celebratory events, is actively underway with more than 150 volunteers currently participating in the planning process.
Throughout the 2012-2013 Season, the Symphony is celebrating the farewell season of Music Director Hans Graf. After twelve years of exemplary leadership, Graf will step down in May 2013 as the organization’s longest serving music director in its nearly 100-year history. Concerts will highlight the talents of the 87-member orchestra and 200-member chorus along with many special guest artists in performances that span Graf’s most revered composers and musical genres.
• A Brahms Festival will be the focus of the first three subscription weekends. Similar to the 2011-2012 season’s RachFest, the Best of Brahms will take an in-depth look at many of Brahms’ works including his four symphonies, two piano concertos, the double concerto for violin and cello and the German Requiem.
• Lang Lang will make a rare appearance for a full weekend of subscription concerts on October 18, 20, 21, 2012.
• Alban Berg’s tragic opera, Wozzeck, will be conducted by Hans Graf. Less than a century old,Wozzeck is still considered groundbreaking, and it is rare to experience a live performance.
• Maestro Hans Graf’s Farewell Weekend, May 17-18, 2013, will include Mahler Symphony No. 2,Resurrection, featuring the orchestra, Houston Symphony Chorus and two vocal soloists.
• Commitment to innovation will continue with the ACCESS series and three Sugar Land Series concert performances.
• Fan favorite Associate Principal Conductor Robert Franz has programmed the 2012-2013 Family Series to kick-off with Wands and Batons: The Music of Harry Potter and More followed by a Hip Hoppin’ Nutcracker on December 8. In the spring, Franz will lead Aladdin and the Arabian Nights andDinosaurs!, an earth shaking concert including music from Jurassic Park and a special focus on the Symphony’s percussion section.
• Pops programs will showcase the orchestra with quality entertainment including the world premiere of Sixties Hits with The Midtown Men, the return of the eclectic and inspiring Pink Martini and a performance of Bernstein’s full score of West Side Story, performed with live HD film.
• The Symphony is progressing on their search for a successor to Hans Graf. The search has been quietly underway since early 2010 and will continue next season. Among the many guest conductors who visit Jones Hall each season, there are possible music director candidates who are being assessed for their musical leadership, on-stage charisma and communication abilities by a committee of musicians, staff, board members and community leaders.
About the Houston Symphony
During the 2012-13 Season, the Houston Symphony will be in its 99th year as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring and recording activities. Under the artistic leadership of Hans Graf, one of the orchestra’s longest serving music directors, the Symphony has established a reputation for innovative, powerful performances. With its Centennial Celebration on the horizon in 2013-14, the Houston Symphony is one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas whose inaugural performance was held at The Majestic Theater in downtown Houston on June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of over $25 million, the full-time ensemble of 87 professional musicians is the largest performing arts organization in Houston, presenting more than 280 concerts for 300,000 people annually. For tickets and more information, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575.
Contact Claire Studdard at Houston Symphony