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St. Louis Symphony and Music Director David Robertson Give World Premiere of Video Installation for Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles by Photographer Deborah O’Grady

Co-Commissioned by the STL Symphony, the work by Deborah O’Grady receives first performance at Powell Hall (January 16, 2016), followed by performances at UC Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA.

(ST. LOUIS)—On Saturday, January 16, Music Director David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony perform a one-night-only special program of Olivier Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles …, a 12-movement, large-scale orchestral work accompanied by the world premiere of a new video installation by photographer Deborah O’Grady. The video installation was co-commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony, the University of California, Berkeley, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony and Washington Performing Arts.

The January 16 performance will be broadcast live on St. Louis Public Radio, 90.7-KWMU and streamed live here.

Following the premiere in St. Louis, Robertson and the Symphony go on its California tour (Jan 28 - Feb 2) that includes presentations of the piece and installation by two of the co-commissioners: in UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances; and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall, as part of its Green Umbrella series.

Commissioned in 1971 by Alice Tully and premiered in 1974, Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… is scored for piano, horn and two percussion soloists with a small group of strings and woodwinds and a large complement of percussion. Messiaen was inspired by the landscapes he saw during a trip through Utah and Arizona in 1972, particularly Bryce Canyon, and the work took shape after his visits to these parks.

Photographer Deborah O’Grady was commissioned to create visuals to accompany the musical experience by showing the specific places that inspired the music. O’Grady describes the challenge as “recognizing both the spiritual aims of Messiaen's score and my own concerns for the pressures our culture places on the land.” The resulting ‘visual choreography’ incorporates still images, time lapse images (compressed, accelerated time),
natural time video, and slow motion video of the parks as they looked in 1972 when
Messiaen visited, using the texts the composer provided as a guide. O’Grady describes her
work as informed by Messiaen’s own words: “at once geological, ornithological,
astronomical, and theological.” Dramatic lighting complements the visual images to further
enhance the production.

In March, David Robertson leads The Sydney Symphony - where he serves as Chief
Conductor - in their performances of Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… and video
installation by O’Grady.

Complete Program Details:
Powell Hall Saturday, January 16, 2016, 8:00pm
St. Louis, MO
St. Louis Symphony
David Robertson, conductor
Peter Henderson, piano
Deborah O'Grady, photographer
MESSIAEN: Des canyons aux étoiles…
Tickets: $25-$86.50

Interviews during live broadcast:
David Robertson
Deborah O’Grady
NPS Ranger Rhonda Schier
Peter Henderson
Performance sponsored by Washington University in St. Louis.

California Tour
Aliso Viejo, CA Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 7:30pm
Palm Desert, CA Thursday, January 28, 2016, 7:30pm
UC-Berkeley, CA Friday, January 29, 2016, 8:00pm
UC-Berkeley, CA Sunday, January 31, 2016, 3:00pm
Los Angeles, CA Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 8:00pm

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