See Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony on May 23

 

Francesco Lecce-Chong joined Eugene Symphony as Music Director & Conductor with the 2017/18 Season after a multi-year search, similar to what Eugene Symphony is currently amidst to find Francesco's successor.

May 23rd's concert, Mahler's "Resurrection" (and truly the entire 2023/24 Season) is one for the books, culminating a season presenting everything that Francesco wanted to bring to the Silva Stage and perfectly characterizing "only in Eugene." It's fitting that Francesco's final concert as Music Director has such power and symbolism, between the sheer number of musicians on state to the themes of the music itself.

Francesco shared his top 10 favorite moments and projects of his time as Music Director. Thank you for sharing in these moments in Eugene Symphony history with us.

1. Tristan und Isolde

Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde, Act II, Nov. 17, 2022

A project spanning three seasons across 2022 and 2023, bringing Richard Wagner’s full epic and tragic opera to the Silva Stage (and to any stage in Oregon for the first time in more than 50 years) was a feat unto itself. We partnered with four phenomenal vocalists, experts in their craft, to bring these complex characters to life across all three performances. To conduct such a complicated and lengthy opera is a major accomplishment.

Nina Warren (pictured above as Isolde) and Ola Rafalo (Brangäne) return to the Silva stage to sing Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

2. The Color of Sound

The Color of Sound
The Color of Sound, April 18, 2019

On April 18, 2019, in partnership with Harmonic Laboratory and Light at Play, Eugene Symphony presented “The Color of Sound.” This multimedia performance illuminated the connections between what we see and what we hear, fully realizing Russian composer Alexander Scriabin’s visions and dream of fully enveloping an audience in both, with each note having a correlating hue. All of this was projected on an eight-foot-wide Radiance Orb above the stage, controlled in real time with a MIDI keyboard.

3. First Symphony Project

First Symphony Project
Angélica Negrón, February 2023

The First Symphony Project’s goal was simple: give four up-and-coming contemporary composers the opportunity to compose and see the world premiere of their very first full symphony. In partnership with the Santa Rosa Symphony, the project started with Matt Browne, whose premiere was delayed through the pandemic. His work finally came to fruition in May 2022, when patrons experienced the Pacific Northwest premiere of “The Course of Empire.” February 2023 brought the world premiere of Angélica Negrón’s Sinfonía Isleña, with the Pacific Northwest premiere of Gabriella Smith’s “ONE for Orchestra” the month after. In February 2024, the final composer, Michael Djupstrom, premiered his “Dreams of Flight.”

Each composer spent two split weeks of residency in the Eugene community, visiting schools, leading community events, and introducing themselves to the orchestra with the performance of another one of their pieces. Thank you to the families who contributed to support this amazing project!

“The classical music form relies on the creative vision of today’s composers,” Francesco says. “In the large-scale form of a symphony, these composers will be able to create a musical world that is both deeply personal and powerfully universal, all the while bringing new creations for classical music lovers to enjoy for generations to come.”

4. Renée Fleming

Renée Fleming
Renée Fleming, September 19, 2017

On September 19, 2017, soprano superstar Renée Fleming returned to the Silva Stage for Francesco’s very first concert in the Silva Concert Hall as Music Director & Conductor. “The people’s diva” performed Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, alongside some of her other favorites from opera and musical theatre. What a way to kick off his time with Eugene Symphony!

5. His first summer concert

Francesco Lecce-Chong's first summer concert
Francesco's first summer concert, 2018

For his very first concert as Eugene Symphony Music Director & Conductor, Francesco conducted our annual Symphony in the Park concert at the Cuthbert Amphitheatre. The sold-out concert featured classical, Broadway, and cinematic hits, including the first movement to Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, the Overture to West Side Story, and the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Save the date: Eugene Symphony in the Park will be Sunday, July 21, 2024, at The Cuthbert. Ticketing details coming soon!

6. C3: Creativity, Connection, Community

C3: Creativity, Connection, Community
Connection, February 17, 2022

During the 2021/22 season, the first after the pandemic, Eugene Symphony launched the C3 Project, which featured programming, community projects, and pre-concert activities surrounding Creativity, Connection, and Community.

February 17, 2022, represented Connection, featuring a performance by #instaballet, a partnership with four artists from the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (who each visually interpreted a movement from Paul Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Weber), and a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony.

May 19, 2022, represented Community, with Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and the presentation of the Boléro
Music Video project. In this project, Eugene Symphony musicians were filmed performing segments of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, put altogether by our partners at Attic Media to be projected above the stage while the orchestra performed the entire piece in perfect sync with the video at the concert. The audio from the concert and video were stitched together, with the whole finished product released for a limited time.

The final C3 concert on May 26, 2022 (rescheduled from that January because of the rise of the Omicron variant), focused on Creativity and invited the audience to participate during a performance of Tan Dun’s Passacaglia: Secret of Winds and Birds with special bird sounds played on cell phones throughout the hall. The concert also featured Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony, which brought him back from the brink of career-threatening writer’s block, and the Pacific Northwest premiere of Matt Browne’s first symphony as part of the First Symphony Project.

7. First commercial recording by the Eugene Symphony

First commercial recording
Francesco in the sound booth

PREFONTAINE, a symphonic homage to the legendary Steve Prefontaine by Oregon composer David Schiff, celebrated its world premiere in June 2022, featuring images of Steve’s hometown of Coos Bay and actors from Oregon Contemporary Theatre reading community-submitted tributes. Thanks to support from Jordan Schnitzer and the Arlene & Harold Schnitzer Foundation, PREFONTAINE returned to the Silva Stage in October 2023 as Eugene Symphony’s very first full commercial recording. (Details of its release will be announced soon.)

8. The annual family concerts

Family Concert
Family Concert 2018

Each spring, wiggling kids and their grownups are invited to the annual Family Concert, centered around family-friendly programming to provide an accessible avenue for children to be inspired by music. During his time at Eugene Symphony, Francesco conducted four Family Concerts:

  • 2018: The Composer is Dead
  • 2019: An Afternoon with Beethoven
  • 2022: Peter & the Wolf
  • 2023: Carnival of the Animals

The best is yet to come:

In the 2024/25 Season, Francesco’s role will transition into Artistic Partner as we welcome the final five Music Director search candidates for five of the nine Symphonic Series concerts. While Francesco will be returning to conduct the other four Symphonic concerts of the season, his duties will change with the title. Still, there are two projects that he is looking forward to in the 2024/25 Season to make up his ninth and tenth favorite moments.

9. Dan Tepfer Commission

Dan Tepfer
Dan Tepfer, Natural Machines

On March 20, 2025, in addition to performing Gustav Holst’s The Planets and John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Eugene Symphony and pianist and composer-in-residence Dan Tepfer will celebrate the world premiere of Three Scales of Interconnection, which combines Dan Tepfer’s astrophysics, technology, and musical backgrounds into a multi-media work. Dan Tepfer develops computer algorithms to generate music and images in response to live improvisations, which are also fed to the other musicians on stage, all of which will be displayed above the orchestra during the performance.

Leading up to the performance, Dan Tepfer will also participate in a week-long residency, with visits to local schools and other community-based activities.

Learn more about this concert.

10. Marsalis' Swing Symphony

Darrell Grant
Darrell Grant

As the perfect capstone to an amazing tenure at Eugene Symphony, Francesco’s true grand finale will center entirely on the Pacific Northwest premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony in partnership with famed Portland-based jazz great Darrell Grant and the formation of the Pacific Northwest All-Stars. The new group, personally assembled by Darrell Grant himself, includes 14 accomplished jazz musicians from around the Pacific Northwest who will join the Eugene Symphony musicians on stage for this exhilarating concert on May 22, 2025.

Learn more about this concert.