Angel Gil-Ordóñez

Mexican Revolution

This season’s PostClassical immersion experience explores how Mexican Revolutionaries such as the composer Silvestre Revueltas and the painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera became agents of social and political change—and inspired Americans such as Aaron Copland, Paul Strand, and John Steinbeck.


Hear Mexico’s iconic Eugenia León sing songs from the Mexican Revolution. See the great Mexican film Redes (1936) with Silvestre Revueltas’ searing score performed live by a 50-piece orchestra and unforgettable cinematography by Paul Strand. American film director Martin Scorsese says of Redes, “A very special film . . . Strand brought his camera eye, . . . Zinnemann brought his tremendous sensitivity to actors, . .  . and with his score Revueltas gave the film a terrific majesty and grandeur.”

7:30 pm (pre-concert presentation at 6:30 pm)
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park)
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
Tickets: $10-$35 or 301.405.ARTS (2787)

To see excerpts from Redes, view video below.

Redes from Paul Strand en México on Vimeo.


John Steinbeck’s Mexico, Saturday April 5, 2014 at 10:30 am at the Mexican Cultural Institute
Free admission. For reservations e-mail   This season’s PostClassical Book Club event features the Marlon Brando film Viva Zapata (1952), scripted by Steinbeck. The assigned book is John Steinbeck’s Zapata.

Conference: Redes and Revolution
Friday April 11, 2014 from 1 to 6 pm at McNeir Hall
(Georgetown University)
Free admission. For reservations e-mail

Revueltas and Mexican Identity
Wednesday May 7, 2014 at 6:45 pm at the Mexican Cultural Institute
A multi-media presentation by the pre-eminent Revueltas scholar Roberto Kolb.
Free admission. For reservations e-mail

The Gala Dinner
Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 7 pm
Generously hosted by the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States celebrating the economic and cultural ties between Mexico and the United States and the Tenth Anniversary of PostClassical Ensemble.


Special funding for this concert was generously furnished by AHMSA International, Inc., Chevron Corporation, the Embassy of Mexico-Mexican Cultural Institute, Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, Emerging America, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Conaculta, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and MARPAT Foundation.

Mexico-United States Cultural Gala Dinner with Eugenia León

Mexican Festival Gala Dinner
with Eugenia León and PostClassical Ensemble
hosted by the Ambassador of Mexico
to the United States

Thursday, May 8, 2014
7 pm
at the Mexican Cultural Institute
2829 16th St. NW Washington DC 20009


Sponsor tables will be available at $10,000 and $7500. Tables of 10 are also available at $5000. Individual tickets are available at $1000, $750 and $500. Total seating is limited to 100 persons.

Black Tie. Complementary Valet parking.


On Thursday, May 8, 2014, at 7:00 PM, Eduardo Medina-Mora, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, will host a Gala Dinner at the Mexican Cultural Institute celebrating the many important economic, social and cultural ties between Mexico and the United States and also PostClassical Ensemble’s Tenth Anniversary.

The internationally famous singer, “Eugenia León, The Voice of Mexico”, will perform live at the Gala.

The Gala also coincides with the recording of a new PostClassical Ensemble DVD recording of the film Redes with music by Silvestre Revueltas.

During the evening, The “PCE Medici Award” will be given by the Ambassador to Mr. Alonso Ancira, chairman of Altos Hornos de México, one of Mexico’s largest steel and mining companies, in honor of his distinguished philanthropic support of Mexican and American cultural activities.  Mr. Ancira is supporting PCE with a gift of $100,000 towards the production of the Redes DVD recording.

All proceeds of the Gala will go to support PostClassical Ensemble in recognition of its Tenth Anniversary.

This event will take place during PostClassical Ensemble’s weeklong Mexican Festival. The crowning performance of this Festival will be performed at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 10 at which Mexico’s iconic Eugenia León sings songs from the Mexican Revolution as part of a multi-media presentation combining music by Revueltas with murals, paintings, and photographs. The second half of this unique program presents Mexican film masterpiece Redes (1936) with Silvestre Revueltas’ searing score performed live by a 50-piece orchestra and unforgettable cinematography by Paul Strand. Pre-Concert Presentation with Roberto Kolb at 6:30 pm at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Maryland.


Special funding for this concert was generously furnished by AHMSA International, Inc., Chevron Corporation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Conaculta, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, MARPAT Foundation, the Embassy of Mexico-Mexican Cultural Institute, Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos, and Emerging America.

PCE Announces Its 2013-2014 Season

At DUMBARTON Concerts:
In 2013-14, PCE becomes ENSEMBLE-IN-RESIDENCE at Dumbarton Concerts—performing in Dumbarton Church (3133 Dumbarton St. NW), an intimate setting with ideal acoustics.
Tickets: and box office at 202-965-2000.

Tales from the Vienna Woods
Sat., Nov. 16, 2013, at 8 pm
Johann Strauss’s most beloved waltzes in a variety of scintillating transformations—including a chamber orchestra version of The Emperor Waltz as lovingly transcribed by Arnold Schoenberg, and Adolf Schulz-Evler’s spectacular solo piano paraphrase of The Blue Danube as performed by Benjamin Pasternack. Also: Soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot sings “Vilja” from Lehar’s The Merry Widow­—plus surprises galore.

Related Event:
“The Operetta Spirit” at the Austrian Cultural Forum
(3524 International Court NW), Nov. 7, 7:30 pm—with soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot, pianist
Vera Danchenko Stern, and Ernst Lubitsch’s 1934 film of The Merry Widow. Free Admission.

Scenes from Childhood
Sat., Feb. 22, 2014, at 8 pm
A seraphic evening radiant with childhood innocence: the sublime Siegfried Idyll and a little-known nursery song, both composed by Wagner for his infant son; the Washington National Catherdal’s Choir of Boys and Girls in Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and “In Paradisum” from Fauré’s Requiem.

Related Event:
Tony Palmer’s Benjamin Britten film biography Nocturne, with commentary by Tony Palmer and live music by PCE—at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, date TBA

Sat., May 10, 2014
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park)
Hear Mexico’s famous Eugenia León sing songs from the Mexican Revolution. See the great Mexican film Redes (1936) with Silvestre Revueltas’s searing score performed live by a 50-piece orchestra. A multi-media exploration of how Mexico’s artists powered social and political change.

SAVE THE DATE! May 8, 2014
Mexico–United States Cultural Gala Dinner with Eugenia León
Celebrating the important cultural and economic ties binding two great nations, and celebrating PostClassical Ensemble’s Tenth Anniversary. Special surprise guests! For more information, call 202-677-5773.

Related events at Mexican Cultural Institute and Georgetown University TBA

Also of interest to PCE patrons:
“Rouben Mamoulian and the Art of Musical Film”
Sat., Sept. 28. and Sun., Sept. 29, 2013, at The National Galley of Art

A film retrospective linked to Joseph Horowitz’s new book “On My Way”—The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin, and “Porgy and Bess.”

Download the PCE 2013-14 season press release.

Dvorak and Burleigh at Ellington – The Georgetowner

By John Blee

When Antonin Dvorak, Czech-born, came to America he had as his assistant the African American composer, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh would have an influence on Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” composed in 1893, through introducing him to African American spirituals. A concert at Duke Ellington School of the Arts played by students from Ellington and Georgetown University will present music by Dvorak and Burleigh at Ellington conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez of the PostClassical Ensemble.

Speaking with Gil-Ordóñez, who also teaches at Georgetown University, about the upcoming concert I asked him about the collaboration and what he enjoyed the most about it. He replied, “the Duke Ellington students are younger than those of the Georgetown Orchestra students. You would think there would be less maturity in their approach to this music. Not the case. From the first rehearsal they had the same level of commitment and understanding than the Georgetown students. When I work with an orchestra I don’t make any difference between professionals, students or amateurs. There are only good or bad orchestras.”

I asked him as well about the Dvorak story in America. Gil-Ordóñez emphasized that it was “fascinating, Dvorak arrives in New York and feels immediately attached to the African American spirituals and to the dances and chants of the Native Americans. All this transpires in the ‘New World Symphony.’ Even without an explanation of this, when you play the work as an American you recognize yourself in it.”


A co-presentation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Georgetown University, and PostClassical Ensemble.

Friday, April 19, 2013, at 7:30 pm
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
3500 R St. NW
Washington, DC
Tickets: $15

Purchase Tickets

Free admission for students from Georgetown University and Duke Ellington School with school ID, but reservations are recommended.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts Chorus
Conducted by Steven Allen.

The combined orchestras of Duke Ellington School of the Arts Orchestra and Georgetown University.
Conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez

Harry T. Burleigh and Plantation Song – a choral concert with commentary and a visual presentation

Dvorak’s New World Symphony – a symphonic concert with commentary and a visual presentationThis unique program explores Dvorak’s prophecy that American music would ultimately be founded upon “Negro melodies.” Dvorak’s African-American assistant Harry T. Burleigh pioneered in bringing spirituals into the concert hall. Dvorak’s New World Symphony pioneered in infusing concert music with the riches of African-American and Native American culture.

The visual presentation applied to the Largo and Scherzo of the New World Symphony (co-created by PCE Artistic Director Joe Horowitz) culls pertinent text from Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha (which Dvorak acknowledged as an inspiration), as well as iconic American paintings by Frederic Church, Albert Biestadt, Frederick Remington, and George Catlin.

Dvorak’s gifts to American music highlighted at University of Maryland – The Washington Post

By Stephen Brookes, click here to read the entire article

“When the ensemble then turned to the 1895 “American Suite,” it wasn’t as if a breath of fresh of air had swept into the hall — it was more like a bracing gale. Exuberant, unfettered, almost cinematic in its rich colors and heady sweep of ideas, the work seemed to explode with vitality and a sense of freedom and infinite possibility. Much of that was due to superb playing by the ensemble itself — led with fluidity and precision by music director Angel Gil-Ordóñez — but the music itself proved that Dvorak was no mere borrower of indigenous melodies: He had grasped the frontier mentality of America itself.

The real focus of the evening, though, was the premiere of a bold new work called “Hiawatha Melodrama,” put together by music historian Michael Beckerman and PostClassical artistic director Joseph Horowitz. Combining music from the “New World” symphony, the “American Suite” and the Violin Sonatina with a truncated version of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha,” it suggests what Dvorak might have written if he’d completed a planned vocal work based on the epic poem. . . . Musically seamless, it built to a stirring climax and showcased Dvorak’s extraordinary gift for tone-painting.”


Dvořák and America: Editior’s Pick for March – The Washington Post

The PostClassical Ensemble culminates its Dvorak festival with a performance of a reconstituted version of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” an inspiration for Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. At the Dekelboum Concert Hall. More information on The Washington Post’s website.

Interpreting Shostakovich

Joseph Horowitz

PostClassical Ensemble’s month-long “Interpreting Shostakovich” festival, in DC, began with a screening of Grigori Kozintsev’s 1970 film version of King Lear, with music by Shostakovich and Boris Pasternak’s Shakespeare translation. If ever there was a film that cannot be viewed at home in TV, this is it. On the wide screen of the National Gallery of Art’s film auditorium, and a superb sound system, Kozinstev’s Lear was the most powerful Shakespeare experience I can recall, on stage or screen.

In the course of a long and interesting post-film discussion, an audience member praised Kozintsev for his fidelity to Shakespeare. But I do not find the film Shakespearean. Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov is an obvious point of inspiration. Like Boris, the Kozintsev Lear is in equal measure personal and epic. Lear himself – his repentance, sorrow, and death — is Boris. Mussorgsky’s truth-telling Holy Fool is Lear’s Fool. But Shakespeare’s play contains nothing like the film’s vast wastelands – rock and dirt and sullen skies – or its huddled or processional human hordes, a complex mass protagonist at once powerful, dangerous, and pathetic. No less than Mussorgsky, Shostakovich underlines the magnitude of the terrain and its strewn inhabitants. Serendipitously, late Shakespeare here mates with late Shostakovich: a musical idiom as spare and dissonant as the imagery and action at hand.

“Shostakovich and film” was one focus of our festival. Its featured participants included the Shostakovich scholar Solomon Volkov, who in his book Shostakovich and Stalin explores the Soviet dictator’s hands-on management of Soviet film, and speculates that Shostakovich’s usefulness as a film composer insured his survival. The festival booklet included a seminal essay, by Peter Rollberg and Roy Guenther (both of George Washington University), arguing the importance of Shostakovich’s film scores as a fresh and vital topic, notwithstanding the composer’s own denigration of this component of his creative output.

The National Gallery of Art showed three other Shostakovich-scored films, including – at the opposite extreme from Lear – Joris Ivens’ 1954 documentary Song of the Rivers, in which workers of the world unite for more than 90 minutes. Shostakovich’s potboiler music includes a proletarian song (words by Bertolt Brecht) in the style of Eisler, performed by Paul Robeson.

We also showed Tony Palmer’s 1988 film adaptation of Volkov’s Testimony: The Memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, starring Ben Kingsley as the harrowed composer. Both Palmer and Volkov were on hand to comment. The film concludes with a fantasy: Stalin posthumously visits the dying Shostakovich and claims, “you needed me.” Shostakovich, in the book Testimony, admits no such thing; he treats Stalin with hatred and contempt as a bloodthirsty philistine. But Volkov agrees with Palmer’s Stalin. Stalin, in Volkov’s view, was a master propagandist who stage-managed the sensational success of Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony in the West.

The festival’s music was supplied by violinist Dmitri Berlinski, the cellist Andrei Tchekmazov, the pianist George Vatchnadze, and PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordonez. Rudolf Barshai’s string orchestra transcription of Shostakovich’s Eighth String Quartet was unforgettably reshaped by Gil-Ordonez as a Brucknerian essay in sorrowful breadth and repose – a reading in which the Washington Post’s Stephen Brookes plausibly found “unearthly luminosity.”

An ongoing debate, permeating the festival, questioned whether such iconic Shostakovich creations as the Eighth Quartet are necessarily to be understood and experienced in the context of the Stalinist conditions that imposed their morbidity. I am old enough to remember a time when Shostakovich was widely perceived in the West as a composer whose precocious genius was distorted and diluted by Soviet aesthetic dictates. (The New York Times obituary called him a loyal Communist.) After that, conventional wisdom – influenced by Testimony – shifted toward an appreciation of Shostakovich as a subversive chronicler of Soviet suffering, an ironist whose double meanings were endlessly exhumed. In Volkov’s view, such readings as Gil-Ordonez’s in DC (which he called “better than Barshai”) suggest a new chapter in Shostakovich reception history, canonizing the composer with scant lingering regard for the political circumstances shadowing his odyssey.

In any event, three decades after Shostakovich’s death, his music continues to resonate disturbingly. Pertinent, it seems to me, is Shostakovich’s discomfort (in Testimony) with a Stravinsky “personality flaw” – that he “always spoke only for himself.” Shostakovich also says, in Testimony: “Meaning in music – that must sound very strange for most people. . . . What was the composer trying to say? . . . The questions are naïve, of course, but despite their naivete and crudity, they definitely merit being asked. And I would add to them, for instance: Can music attack evil? Can it make man stop and think? Can it cry out and thereby draw man’s attention to various vile acts to which he has grown accustomed?”

The twentieth-century view that saw Stravinsky and Schoenberg towering over the contemporary musical landscape has never seemed more remote.


PostClassical Ensemble performance transcends Shostakovich’s modest intentions – Washington Post

By Stephen Brookes, Monday, November 5, 2012

There was a sizable Russian contingent in both the audience and the orchestra at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday night; not surprising, perhaps, given that it was the closing concert of the PostClassical Ensemble’s three-week festival devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich, the brilliant and controversial composer who was either a closet opponent or a passive supporter of the oppressive Soviet regime under which he worked.And it was, in every respect, a fascinating and compelling evening. The PostClassical Ensemble is famous for its innovative performances — which mix different media with unusual repertoire — and Sunday night’s concert took a fresh look at contrasting sides of Shostakovich’s character, featuring rarely heard transcriptions for string chamber orchestra of two of the composer’s most personal string quartets.

The concert opened with the Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a, the transcription by Rudolf Barshai of Shostakovich’s autobiographical eighth quartet. Beefing up a quartet to an ensemble five times as large is risky; delicate details get lost, and edge and agility are often sacrificed for power. But under the nuanced and utterly fluid direction of Angel Gil-Ordonez, the work lost none of its roiling, acrid bite nor its unearthly luminosity. The wild-eyed allegretto was as menacing as ever, the three largo movements even more sweeping and ethereal than in the quartet version, and concertmaster Oleg Rylatko brought off the lead violin lines with genuine ferocity and power. The quartet may be a whirlwind, but in these hands, the chamber version became a tornado.

A typically PostClassical touch followed, as a recording of Shostakovich himself playing his Prelude in C Major drifted, ghost-like, from speakers high in the hall. Pianist George Vatchnadze then took the stage to play the same work (with its accompanying Fugue) as well as the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, providing an island of calm and transcendent clarity before the closing work, the Chamber Symphony for Strings in A-flat Major, Op. 118a (from the 1964 string quartet No. 10). Beautifully played, with a wonderfully scherzo-like allegro furioso and a profound, deeply moving adagio passacaglia, it proved to be a work of stunning power and grace — perhaps even more beautiful than the original version for quartet.


The Culture Report with Rob Sachs: Shostakovich Festival Brings Music, Films to Washington, DC – The Voice of Russia Radio

Rob Sachs Oct 24, 2012 00:28 Moscow Time
WASHINGTON — The Shostakovich Festival has kicked off once again in the D.C. metro area for residents to enjoy and celebrate the music of Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich with film events focused on his legacy and concerts of his music.

Host Rob Sachs talked with Solomon Volkov about the festival and the impact of Shostakovich’s music. Volkov is a music historian and author of Shostakovich’s memoirs.



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