The Chamber Orchestra of New York (CONY) kicked off their 2018/19 season last year on November 16, 2018 with a sold-out concert at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. Known as New York City’s Premier Young Professionals Orchestra, the talented musicians performed Bach’s Brandenburg No. 5, Vivaldi and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The next concert is less than two weeks away on Valentine’s Day and L’Etage had the opportunity to interview CONY’s Music Director & Composer, Salvatore Di Vittorio.
First and foremost, congratulations on all your career success so far. What inspired you to start Chamber Orchestra of New York?
The vision for the Chamber Orchestra of New York came to me after my music conservatory days in New York, when I returned to my native Italy to complete conducting studies. Orchestral positions for instrumentalists had become quite scarce, and I realized that New York was one of very few cities around the world that (except for places like London) enjoyed the presence of three major music conservatories in Manhattan alone, making it the perfect environment for a young professionals’ orchestra.
New York is home to numerous orchestras, what makes CONY different?
CONY is the first fully-auditioned young professionals’ orchestra, probably in the history of the city of New York. It’s membership only involves musicians either recently having exited the music schools or in their first 7-10 years of professional work with major orchestras. Though it is a professional orchestra, the ensemble is between two worlds: a youth orchestra, and an adult orchestra.
How do you go about selecting the pieces each season? Why did you choose the ones you did for this season?
Programming the concerts is always accomplished by considering the entire season, given our limited number of productions. Nowadays, we include at least one concert which showcases some of our own players as soloists, and one concert that showcases the young winners of our Respighi Prize music competition. As a chamber orchestra, which simply means a “small” orchestra, we are motivated to program smaller orchestral works but we tend to take advantage of our smallness by focusing on those chamber orchestral works that often do not show up at, say, the New York Philharmonic or other veteran orchestras. My specialty of Italian composers is often represented, and we love pairing well known classical works together with neoclassical 20th century works, including with film scores at times – or classical music used in film.
In your bio, it says that you are fascinated with the world of storytelling. What type of stories inspire you? From where do you draw your inspiration?
As a neoclassical, lyrical, composer, myself, I focus on symphonic poems and program music, whether using the large or small orchestra, and my compositions often depict paintings or ancient stories, from Titian’s Venus and Adonis to Ovid’s Metamorphoses but always creating music that is very memorable to a wider audience – I did grow up on not just opera, but film as well, and both genres have inspired my musical language. Verdi, Respighi, and even John Barry are influences.
What type of impact has The Respighi Prize had on young musicians?
The Respighi Prize continues to showcase young composers, conductors, and soloists with premieres and performances at Carnegie Hall, and these become incredible marketing opportunities for all advancing their careers.
What are some of the upcoming concert highlights for 2019?
It’s a very special season, following our 10th anniversary last year, and this one will conclude with a special June 27th concert featuring music from our upcoming two Naxos recordings. Unlike at our Carnegie concerts, our audience will be surrounding our orchestra during highlights of both albums.
Tell us a bit more about CONY’s initiative to work with children? Why is that important?
Youth is an inherent foundational focus, as we are a young professionals’ orchestra. And we could not be happier to launch a new Education Program this year titled Maestro Juniors. We believe the program will develop into quite an exciting umbrella of related activities.
Tell us a bit about your upcoming recordings. How do you describe the music? What do you want listeners to take away from it?
We are known internationally as the New York orchestra that specializes in the music of Ottorino Respighi, Italy’s last and greatest symphonic composer. I was honoured to receive a commission from Respighi’s great nieces to complete several of his unfinished or unpublished orchestral works, and that has allowed us a unique opportunity to record and champion a major composer. Very few orchestras have that privilege today so I am always tremendously grateful that we have the ability to contribute, in our own way, to the history of classical music.
What are your top five favorite compositions?
Very difficult question. I would say that Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem is (in my view) the best composition ever written. For the other four, I often cite Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, and Richard Strauss’ Thus Sprach Zarathustra.
What are your biggest aspirations for CONY?
CONY has reached an incredible milestone completing its 10th Anniversary season last year. We have grown our Board and branding these last few years, and now look forward to advancing the dimension of our Board together with corporate sponsors and a more expanded Masterwork Series at Carnegie Hall, increasing the number of annual concerts.