Pianist Lara Downes and Essayist Adam Gopnik
in New York Stories
An evening of music and conversation about New York City:
its anthems, atmosphere, and ambitions
“Loving attention to mood and color, and a gift for telling stories in a tightly compressed form.”
– The New York Times on Lara Downes
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 8pm (Doors open at 7:30pm)
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space | 2537 Broadway, New York, NY
Tickets: $35/$25 (seniors/students), children under 12 free at 212.864.5400 or www.symphonyspace.org
New York, NY – The pianist Lara Downes and the essayist Adam Gopnik come together to make an evening of music about New York City – its anthems, its atmosphere, its ambitions – on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 8pm in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Peter Norton Symphony Space (2537 Broadway). From Gershwin to Joplin, and from William Grant Still to Kurt Weill, Downes will play the music she thinks best captures the special spirit of the city, while Gopnik will speak his mind – and read from the masters – about what Manhattan means. Together they promise a special evening of city conversation and cross-talk, both in notes and in words. This is a presentation of the Impromptu! Classical Music Recital Series at Peter Norton Symphony Space presented by The Drozdoff Society and SH Acoustics.
Throughout the evening, Lara Downes, laureate of the 2016 Sphinx Organization Medal of Excellence award, and described as a “a delightful artist with a unique blend of musicianship and showmanship” by NPR, will perform Lukas Foss’ For Lenny, Variation on New York, New York; Morton Gould’s American Caprice; Lou Harrison’s New York Waltzes; William Grant Still’s Blues from Lenox Avenue; Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars (arr. Jed Distler); Vladimir Drozdoff’s Elegy; Scott Joplin’s Wall Street Rag; Dana Suesse’s Manhattan; and George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue. Lara’s next album, America Again, will be released in October 2016 on the Grammy Award-winning Sono Luminus label.
Known for her eclectic presentations of the piano repertoire – from iconic favorites to newly-commissioned works – Lara Downes’ performances bridge musical genres and traditions, and engage a wide range of audiences with what San Francisco Classical Voice has called “an elegant example of how accessibility and a breezy relevance can exist, organically, in a classical music concert.” Born in San Francisco and raised in Europe, Downes’ musical outlook reflects the diversity of her personal heritage and extensive travels. Her interest in connecting music to a wide and inclusive breadth of human experience mines her own mixed African American and Eastern European background and the impressions of her transatlantic adventures to produce a unique range of creative projects, from an exploration of the music of Jewish composers in exile to a centenary tribute to Billie Holiday, from an intimate portrait of the marriage of Robert and Clara Schumann to a sweeping look at the musical breakthroughs of the American 20th Century.
Adam Gopnik has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1986. During his tenure at the magazine, he has written fiction, humor, book reviews, profiles, and reported pieces from abroad. He was the magazine’s art critic from 1987-1995, and the Paris correspondent from 1995-2000. From 2000 to 2005, he wrote a journal about New York life. His books, ranging from essay collections about Paris and food to children’s novels, include “Paris to the Moon,” “The King in the Window,” “Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York,” “Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life,” “The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food,” and “Winter: Five Windows on the Season.” Gopnik has three National Magazine awards, for essays and for criticism, and also the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. In March of 2013, Gopnik was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.
More about Lara Downes:
Lara Downes’ European training under Hans Graf and Rudolf Buchbinder led to early debuts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall London, the Vienna Konzerthaus and the Salle Gaveau Paris, and her eclectic career takes her regularly to diverse stages ranging from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to Le Poisson Rouge and Zinc Bar. Recent performances include San Francisco Performances, the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, Portland Piano International and the University of Washington World Series, among many others. Her musical collaborations include partnerships with a range of artists including cellist Zuill Bailey, the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, composers Benny Golson, Mohammed Fairouz, David Sanford, Daniel Felsenfeld and Daniel Bernard Roumain, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove.
Lara’s solo recordings have met tremendous critical and popular acclaim. Exiles’ Café (Steinway & Sons, 2013) topped the bestseller charts and was called “ravishing” by Fanfare magazine. Some Other Time (Steinway & Sons, 2014), a duo recording with cellist Zuill Bailey, debuted in the Billboard Top 10 and was called “luscious, moody and dreamy” by the The New York Times. Her recent chart-topping release, A Billie Holiday Songbook, has been embraced by both jazz and classical critics and listeners, and was called “possibly the most intriguing Holiday tribute” of this centenary year by Jazz Weekly.
Lara’s live performances and recordings are heard regularly on national radio programs with features including NPR Music, Marketplace, Performance Today, Sirius XM Symphony Hall, WNYC’s New Sounds, and WFMT’s Impromptu. Lara is the producer and host of The Green Room, a radio show about the lives of classical musicians, distributed nationally by the WFMT Network. Her writing has been published in Listen Magazine, The Rumpus, Arts Journal and San Francisco Classical Voice. She is the founder and director of The Artist Sessions, a pop-up concert series featuring international soloists and ensembles at the forward edges of classical music. Lara Downes is a Steinway Concert and Recording Artist.
More about Adam Gopnik:
Adam Gopnik lectures widely, and, in 2011, delivered the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Massey Lectures. In addition to his work as a writer, Adam has been an active lecturer. He has given lectures and readings in almost every major American city, and some smaller ones, too, from Jackson, Mississippi to Seattle, Washington. In addition to the Massey series, his more formal and extended lectures have included the New York Public Library/Oxford University Press lectures in New York; the Phillips Lecture in Washington and the Whitney Lecture in New York, and the Shapiro Lectures at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In 2006, he also hosted and presented an hour-long film about New York, “Lighting Up New York,” for the BBC in London.
In the past five years, Gopnik has engaged in many musical projects, working both as a lyricist and libretto writer. With the composer David Shire he has written both book and lyrics for the musical comedy TABLE, to be produced in 2016 by the Long Wharf theater under the direction of Gordon Edelstein. He wrote the libretto for Nico Muhly’s oratorio “Sentences”, which premiered in London at the Barbican in June of 2015. Other projects include collaborating on a one-woman show for the soprano Melissa Errico, “Sing The Silence”, which debuted in November of 2015 at the Public Theater in New York, and included new songs co-written with David Shire, Scott Frankel, and Peter Mills. Future projects include a new musical with Scott Frankel.
He has won the National Magazine Award for Essays and for Criticism three times, as well as the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting, and the Canadian National Magazine Award Gold Medal for arts writing. His work has been anthologized many times, in “Best American Essays”, “Best American Travel Writing,” “Best American Sports Writing,” “Best American Food Writing,” and “Best American Spiritual Writing.” In March of 2013, Gopnik was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Republic. Two months later, he received an honoris causa from McGill University. He lives in New York with his wife, filmmaker Martha Parker, and their two children, Luke Auden and Olivia Esme Claire.
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