Video: Brett Mitchell discusses John Williams's score for 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Brett Mitchell at the piano in the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

Brett Mitchell at the piano in the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

DENVER — Before leading the Colorado Symphony in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back next weekend (more info here), Brett Mitchell sat down with host David Rutherford in the Colorado Public Radio Performance Studio to explore some of the highlights of John Williams's iconic soundtrack.

After reviewing themes from Star Wars: A New Hope (watch the breakdown here), Mr. Mitchell explores the new themes Mr. Williams created for characters in The Empire Strikes Back, including Darth Vader, Yoda, and Han and Leia.

Watch the full video in the video below.

Colorado Symphony announces its 2019-20 season, Brett Mitchell's third as Music Director

DENVER — The Colorado Symphony has announced its 2019-20 season, which marks Brett Mitchell's third as Music Director. Over the course of the season, Mr. Mitchell will lead the orchestra in nine subscription weeks and half a dozen other special projects.

Demonstrating his deep commitment to contemporary music, Mr. Mitchell will conduct works by eleven living composers over the course of the Colorado Symphony's 2019-20 season, including Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, Missy Mazzoli’s Holy Roller, Anna Clyne’s Masquerade, and Libby Larsen’s Deep Summer Music. Mr. Mitchell will also lead contemporary works by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, Christopher Theofanidis, Adam Schoenberg, James Clarke, John Williams, and James Beckel, as well as a number of works by previous generations of American composers, including Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Leonard Bernstein.

Highlights of Mr. Mitchell's third season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony include Mahler’s Symphony No. 9, Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, Verdi’s Requiem, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”), Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”).

Mr. Mitchell will collaborate with the following soloists during the Colorado Symphony's 2018-19 season:

Mr. Mitchell will lead several other special programs throughout the season, including:

Review: 'Mitchell, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra rove widely, from Mozart to Kilar'

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston at St. John the Divine on Saturday, February 23.

Brett Mitchell leads the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston at St. John the Divine on Saturday, February 23.

HOUSTON — The Texas Classical Review has published a review of Brett Mitchell’s performance on Saturday, February 23 with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra:

The program ranged from Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa, a string-ensemble piece, to Ethel Smyth’s Overture to The Wreckers, which is typically full-orchestra fare. Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 and others works came in between.

Led by conductor Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony, the orchestra moved adroitly among styles and sounds, capturing The Wreckers’ heft as readily as the Haffner’s airiness and zip.

For The Wreckers…right from the dynamic opening theme, the orchestra brought the overture heft and boldness. Besides spurring the orchestra to play so vigorously, Mitchell guided it confidently through the overture’s mood changes. When a waltz suddenly interrupted the agitation, Mitchell and the orchestra gave it a lustiness that may have harkened back to the opera’s setting in a British village; when the music took a clangorous, aggressive turn, the orchestra dug into it fiercely…

The orchestra played [Orawa] with incisiveness and momentum as Mitchell steered it through Kilar’s meter changes and sudden changes of tone, including a pounding theme that breaks out at one point. The players unleashed bursts of virtuosity in the whirlwind filigree that propelled the music to its climax.

The orchestra had dubbed the program “Ticket to Ride,” casting it as a musical tour of nations. The linchpin was a new work inspired by trains: Jim Stephenson’s ROCOmotive, whose title plays off the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra’s initials… Mitchell and the orchestra revealed the music’s color and charm. The musicians raced through the first and fourth movements with breeziness and clarity. But they also brought a cozy intimacy to the second movement and a jaunty cheerfulness to the third, which included nimble solos for oboe and flute…

Mitchell also directed the orchestra to relish Mozart’s energy and exuberance in the Haffner without allowing the church’s reverberation to muddy the textures. The strings’ nimbleness and precision played a key role, and Mitchell had the winds ringing out brightly without overdoing it.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Preview: River Oaks Chamber Orchestra travels across Europe with ‘Ticket to Ride’

Brett Mitchell will lead the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra at St. John the Divine in Houston on Saturday, February 23.

Brett Mitchell will lead the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra at St. John the Divine in Houston on Saturday, February 23.

HOUSTON — The Houston Chronicle has published an extensive preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming debut with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra.

“I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could,” says Brett Mitchell, quoting a favorite bumper sticker of his. “That’s kind of like me. Any excuse to come back to Texas is great.”

Originally from Seattle, the music director of the Colorado Symphony received his master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Texas at Austin and later worked as the assistant conductor of the Houston Symphony from 2007 to 2011.

On Saturday, Mitchell will return to Houston to make his debut with another local ensemble, leading the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in “Ticket to Ride” at the Church of St. John the Divine.

The concert will take its audience on a train trip across Europe in a program featuring Ethel Smyth’s “The Wreckers,” Wojciech Kilar’s “Orawa,” Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1, Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 (also called the “Haffner” Symphony) and a new commission by composer Jim Stephenson titled “ROCOmotive…”

In a way, the programming was devised through a back-and-forth “dance” between Mitchell and artistic director Alecia Lawyer, whose father collects miniature trains — a fitting theme that ties into ROCO’s overall season, “Games People Play.”

One of Lawyer’s suggestions was the overture of Smyth’s three-act opera, which was re-scored by composer Mark Buller to fit the smaller orchestra. Highlighting works by women has long been a part of the ensemble’s mission, and it’s an initiative that Mitchell fully supports, saying, “It’s about damn time that we start having more female composers on our series.” …

Although Smyth’s opera debuted over a century ago, it presents a challenge for Mitchell, much like Stephenson’s new commission. Fortunately, he enjoys the challenge and finds inspiration in working on world premieres. In fact, it’s why he became a conductor in the first place, he says, rather than following the paths of a pianist or a composer.

“I came to realize that I didn’t really feel like I personally had anything compelling that I needed to say through my own music,” he says. “What I really love doing is finding other composers that I feel like do have something to say and giving those works a voice, breathing life into them for the first time.” …

“Instead of being a creative artist, I consider what we do in orchestras being a re-creative artist,” he continues. “Priority number one for me always, the person that I am working the hardest for, it’s not the orchestra. It’s not the audience. It’s not even me. It’s the composer. Without the composer, none of us have jobs. I take my obligation to that incredibly seriously, and it’s so incredibly rewarding when you get to bring something to life like this.”

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Debut: Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on September 12, 2019.

Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on September 12, 2019.

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Philharmonic has announced that Brett Mitchell will make his debut with the orchestra by leading their 2019 Hollywood Bowl season finale.

On Thursday, September 12, Mr. Mitchell and the orchestra will perform the iconic music of George Gershwin to accompany a screening of the 1951 classic film An American in Paris.

Single tickets go on sale on Sunday, May 5. For more information, please click here.

Preview: ‘Inside the Symphony’ with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Brett Mitchell will lead the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a program of Dvořák and Smetana on Friday, February 8 at the Orpheum in downtown Vancouver.

Brett Mitchell will lead the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in a program of Dvořák and Smetana on Friday, February 8 at the Orpheum in downtown Vancouver.

VANCOUVER — Daily Hive has published a preview of one of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming three performances with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra:

Looking for a new way to spend your Friday night on the town?

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) wants to help.

This Friday, February 8, is the VSO’s second iteration of “Inside the Symphony,” a new, three-concert series that brings listeners closer to the music, while still allowing plenty of time to hit the town afterwards.

The evening begins with Happy Hour at the Orpheum at 5:30 pm… The concert then begins at 6:30 and lasts for an hour, with the conductor taking listeners inside the music with a casual analysis before the piece is played.

This week’s event features guest conductor Brett Mitchell and two highly-popular Czech pieces – Smetana’s The Moldau and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Colorado Symphony welcomes Itzhak Perlman

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony will welcome violinist Itzhak Perlman for a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. (Photos by Roger Mastroianni and Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony will welcome violinist Itzhak Perlman for a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. (Photos by Roger Mastroianni and Lisa Marie Mazzucco)

DENVER —  Violinist Itzhak Perlman will join the Colorado Symphony and Music Director Brett Mitchell for a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on Thursday, January 10 in Boettcher Concert Hall, marking the violinist’s first appearance in Denver since 2014. Mr. Mitchell and the orchestra will open the program with Jennifer Higdon’s Fanfare Ritmico and Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones concertantates. For more information, please click here.

Brett Mitchell discusses Gershwin's Concerto in F

Brett Mitchell is featured in the latest issue of Notes from the Podium, a quarterly online periodical that publishes in-depth interviews with conductors from all over the world and all areas of the profession.

This all-American issue comprises in-depth interviews with three eminent conductors…

Following [Leonard Slatkin] is a conductor he mentored: the brilliant Brett Mitchell, Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. Mitchell suggested discussing Gershwin’s Concerto in F - a piece he knows very well and recently conducted with the soloist Joyce Yang. This is the first concerto that Notes from the Podium has covered, and Mitchell’s vast knowledge and infectious enthusiasm will whet your appetite for this work, one that is certainly underperformed over here in Europe.

To read the complete interview, please click here (subscription required).

Preview: 'Colorado Symphony Will Live-Score Amadeus'

Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in the score of Milos Forman's classic film  Amadeus .

Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in the score of Milos Forman's classic film Amadeus.

DENVER — Westword has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming performances of Amadeus with the Colorado Symphony:

Few movies capture the myth of the mad genius better than Amadeus, Milos Forman's Academy Award-scooping epic. Next month, the Colorado Symphony, conducted by Brett Mitchell, will live-score the film.

This is the perfect mashup of the orchestra's embrace of pop culture through the Movie at the Symphony series and its obligation to perform canonical music for longtime subscribers.

The orchestra will bring out the Colorado Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Duain Wolfe, to fill out the sound on the operatic parts of the score (not to mention that sweeping meditation on mortality, Mozart's final requiem).

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Preview: New Year's Eve with the Colorado Symphony

Music Director Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in a program of waltzes, marches, and polkas on New Year’s Eve at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Music Director Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in a program of waltzes, marches, and polkas on New Year’s Eve at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Gazette has included Brett Mitchell’s upcoming performance with the Colorado Symphony on its list of the biggest New Year’s Eve events in and around Denver:

If you’re searching for a place to ring in 2019 with friends (and friends you haven’t met yet), festivities abound in the Pikes Peak region and the Denver metro area…

A Night In Vienna by Colorado Symphony, conducted by Brett Mitchell, Boettcher Concert Hall… Program includes polkas, waltzes and marches from Nicolai, Strauss, Verdi, Waldteufel and Bernstein.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

New holiday recording with The Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus in eight selections on their newest holiday album,  On Christmas Night .

Brett Mitchell leads The Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus in eight selections on their newest holiday album, On Christmas Night.

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus has released its latest holiday album, On Christmas Night, featuring eight selections performed with The Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Brett Mitchell. Recorded in 2016 and 2017, Mr. Mitchell’s selections on the album include:

  • I Saw Three Ships (arr. Matthew Jackfert)

  • The Holly and the Ivy (arr. Paulus)

  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (Calkin, arr. Randol Alan Bass)

  • Fanfare: Joy to the World (Randol Alan Bass)

  • Christmas Day (Holst)

  • “Somewhere in My Memory” from Home Alone (featuring Children’s Chorus) (John Williams)

  • “Christmas Time Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas (featuring Children’s Chorus) (Lee Mendelson/Guaraldi)

  • Deck the Halls (arr. Randol Alan Bass)

On Christmas Night is available to donors contributing a new gift of $25 or more to The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus Fund. To order, please call 216-231-7372.

Colorado Symphony will perform 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Music Director Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for  Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back  in March 2019.

Music Director Brett Mitchell will lead the Colorado Symphony in John Williams’s score for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in March 2019.

DENVER — Westword has published a preview of Brett Mitchell’s upcoming performances with the Colorado Symphony of John Williams’s iconic 1980 score for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Star Wars fans, take note! The Colorado Symphony is teaming up with Disney to bring Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back to Denver.

Conducted by Brett Mitchell, the event will include a screening of the film and a live performance of John Williams's iconic score.

The performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 23 and 24 at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield.

To read the complete article, please click here.

To read the Colorado Symphony’s press release, please click here.

Colorado Symphony conductors come together for panel at Brett Mitchell Society breakfast

Colorado Symphony Music Director Brett Mitchell joined with Assistant Conductor Bertie Baigent (L) and Associate Conductor Christopher Dragon (R) for a wide-ranging discussion on life, music, and more. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Colorado Symphony Music Director Brett Mitchell joined with Assistant Conductor Bertie Baigent (L) and Associate Conductor Christopher Dragon (R) for a wide-ranging discussion on life, music, and more. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

From the Colorado Symphony Blog:

On December 9, 2018, members of the Brett Mitchell Society gathered at Denver’s historic Dazzle Jazz Club for an intimate discussion with Associate Conductor Christopher Dragon, Assistant Conductor Bertie Baigent, and of course, Music Director Brett Mitchell himself.

A wide-ranging conversation ensued covering topics from favorite books to musical idols, what pieces they would most like to conduct, what drew them to conducting, impactful advice they’ve received, and what separates the Colorado Symphony from other orchestras around the world.

“I noticed immediately during my audition that it felt very welcoming and I felt very much at home, there was a real sense of generosity and warmth from this orchestra,” said Baigent.

“This is my fourth season with the Colorado Symphony and leaving family and friends from Australia was difficult, so coming to an orchestra that is so accepting and supportive was incredible. It truly feels like a family here with the Colorado Symphony,” said Dragon.

That culture is fostered by Mitchell, who shared his favorite piece of advice with the assembled crowd.

"No whining, No complaining, No excuses."

When asked where that particular piece of advice came from, the Seattle native quipped, "Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll," providing some good-natured ribbing and one of many lighthearted moments to the proceedings.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Renée Fleming returns to the Colorado Symphony

DENVER — Soprano Renée Fleming will return to the Colorado Symphony in November 2019 for two performances led by Music Director Brett Mitchell. Ms. Fleming last performed with the orchestra on Mr. Mitchell’s inaugural concert as music director in September 2017.

From the Colorado Symphony’s press release:

Today the Colorado Symphony announces the Colorado premiere of The Brightness of Light by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, featuring internationally renowned soprano Renée Fleming in a special two-night performance conducted by Music Director Brett Mitchell at Boettcher Concert Hall on Friday, November 15, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. 

The letters of iconic American artist Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, the photographer and curator Alfred Stieglitz, are full of poetry, humor, passion, pain, and longing. Written over the many months and years they lived apart, these letters chronicle their initial flirtations—when Georgia was a young, aspiring artist—to Alfred’s death in 1946. Written in three parts, with orchestral interludes composed by Kevin Puts and accompanied by a film by Wendall Harrington, The Brightness of Light tells the story of a great artist who ultimately turns from a painful marriage to embrace her work and the desert land she loves…

“What a thrill for us to welcome one of the greatest singers of all time back to Boettcher,” said Mitchell. “I first had the pleasure of working together with Renée at a world premiere in Paris back in 2009 and again during my first concert as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony in 2017. The Colorado Symphony is delighted to share the stage once more with one of the iconic artists of our time.”

For more information, please click here.

Colorado Symphony asks concertgoers to donate instruments

DENVER — The Denver Post has published an article about the Colorado Symphony’s partnership with Bringing Music to Life to benefit underfunded school music programs across Colorado.

Colorado Symphony musicians won’t be the only ones carrying their instruments into Boettcher Concert Hall. The orchestra is asking audience members to donate used instruments they no longer play to the nonprofit Bringing Music to Life 2019 Instrument Drive. Bringing Music to Life will be in the lobby at 10 concert dates in November, December and January to receive donated instruments… Donated instruments will be repaired and awarded to deserving music programs throughout Colorado before the start of the next school year.

The Symphony’s collaboration with Bringing Music to Life began early in the year when music director Brett Mitchell appeared in the organization’s promotional video. Then in August, Mitchell took part in Bringing Music to Life’s instrument presentation event, where teachers from more than 30 schools came to Denver to pick up 450 instruments that had been awarded to their schools. At that presentation, Mitchell discussed the importance of music to students and saluted the Colorado’s music teachers.

”All of us at the Colorado Symphony are so thrilled to partner with Bringing Music to Life to help you do this incredibly important work,” he told the teachers.

In October, Mitchell and his wife, Angela, performed at another Bringing Music to Life event. “Brett has been so generous with his time and talent,” Blatt noted. “We couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: 'The week's five best Twin Cities classical concerts'

Brett Mitchell will lead the Minnesota Orchestra in works of Kevin Puts, Shostakovich, and Beethoven at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Nov. 15-17. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

Brett Mitchell will lead the Minnesota Orchestra in works of Kevin Puts, Shostakovich, and Beethoven at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Nov. 15-17. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

The Minnesota Orchestra will celebrate cellist Anthony Ross’s 30-year anniversary.

The Minnesota Orchestra will celebrate cellist Anthony Ross’s 30-year anniversary.

MINNEAPOLIS - Brett Mitchell’s upcoming concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra are the top pick on the Star Tribune’s list of “The week's five best Twin Cities classical concerts”:

It's been 30 years since principal cello Anthony Ross joined the Minnesota Orchestra. The group marks the occasion by adding Shostakovich's Second Cello Concerto to its repertoire. Conductor Brett Mitchell leads a program that also includes Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. [The program will open with Kevin Puts’s Inspiring Beethoven.]

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: 'The Dallas Symphony and its chorus excite audiences with Carl Orff's popular Carmina Burana'

Brett Mitchell leads the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Chorus, Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, and a roster of soloists at Meyerson Symphony Center. (Photo by Paul Feakes)

Brett Mitchell leads the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Chorus, Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, and a roster of soloists at Meyerson Symphony Center. (Photo by Paul Feakes)

DALLAS — TheaterJones has published a review of Brett Mitchell’s recent performances with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra:

Carl Orff’s scenic cantata [Carmina Burana] is a true crowd-pleaser…and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, in collaboration with the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas, proved last night to be up to the task.

For opening night of the production, the Meyerson Symphony Center was nearly full. Conductor Brett Mitchell offers them a solid interpretation, filled with forward energy and thoughtful sensitivity….

Kudos for the evening definitely go to the choruses. The DSO choir carries a heavy burden with this piece, but they deliver expertly balanced passages with full lines and near-perfect diction. Director Joshua Habermann has nicely prepared the large group for Mitchell’s expressive and nuanced interpretations….

As appetizers to the main event, the DSO also performed Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body and Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, Op. 40. Together, the two pieces filled roughly 30 minutes with a unique mixture of sound and story-telling. Theofanidis, a Dallas native, starts his piece with a Gregorian-like chant inspired by poetry written around the same time as Carmina Burana. The piece goes smoothly through movements that are bright and pastoral to dark and mysterious. Elgar’s Op. 40 is adventurous and provincial, with a lovely accompaniment from Bradley Hunter Welch on organ that gives the piece a full and resounding finish.

These were great teasers to the main course, but what most in attendance came out to see was certainly the Orff, and understandably so. The DSO delivers this well-known favorite with artful precision. It’s difficult not to enjoy such an energetic cantata, especially when everyone around you is so thoroughly engaged. 

To read the complete review, please click here.

Brett Mitchell discusses upcoming Dallas Symphony concerts on Facebook Live

DALLAS — Brett Mitchell spoke with Classical 101.1 WRR’s Amy Bishop on Facebook Live from Meyerson Symphony Center this morning about his upcoming performances with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, featuring Dallas native Christopher Theofanidis’s Rainbow Body, Elgar’s Cockaigne, and Orff’s Carmina Burana. Watch the conversation above, or click here to view it on Facebook.