From The Academy: Brian Ellingsen on Working with Sir Simon Rattle and Christian Tetzlaff
8 Mar 2011

Brian EllingsenOn December 19, Ensemble ACJW will join forces with Sir Simon Rattle, violinist Christian Tetzlaff, and soprano Barbara Hannigan to perform a program of works by Rameau, Ligeti, and Richard Strauss. Two members of the ensemble—Brian Ellingsen and Leelanee Sterrett—share their thoughts on working with these luminaries of the classical music world. Today, Brian reveals his excitement on learning about the lineup and program for the evening.


When I received word that the first concert I would be taking part in as an Academy fellow would be conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, I was ecstatic. When I saw that the program included works by Rameau, Ligeti, and Richard Strauss, I practically had to refrain from jumping out of my chair! Mr. Rattle is a conductor who I have admired for years. I remember seeing a video of the Berlin Philharmonic under Maestro Rattle some time ago. I was immediately pulled in by his electrifying energy, intricate attention to the sound of the orchestra, and inspiring passion.

To me it often seems difficult to program a concert in which the audience will leave saying "I've never seen anything like that before!" Here we are, musicians and audiences 10 years into the 21st century. Sometimes it can be easy to think that we have seen it all; you can't shock us! However, the program on December 19 to be played by Ensemble ACJW under the musical direction of Sir Simon Rattle is truly something remarkable. The graceful and elegant style of the Suite from Les Boréades paired next to the cutting edge complexity of Ligeti's Violin Concerto and the shocking theatrics of Mysteries of the Macabre is something that I find rare and exciting. Then, sandwiched in between these two periods of time, you have Richard Strauss's Metamorphosen, some of the most lush and richly romantic string writing I think I have ever heard. It is not very often that I see a concert program that contrasts and yet complements the history and styles of the music so well.

We also have the wonderful opportunity to work with violinist Christian Tetzlaff and soprano Barbara Hannigan on this concert. Mr. Tetzlaff is a violinist of incredible sensitivity and impressive virtuosity. I am mostly acquainted with his interpretations of Mozart and Bach, which I think are stunning, but I am very interested in hearing his interpretation of Ligeti. A violinist of his caliber performing this concerto is sure to be exceptional. A colleague of mine in The Academy was kind enough to forward along a YouTube clip of Ms. Hannigan singing Mysteries of the Macabre with Mr. Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker. I must say, I couldn't take my eyes and ears off the performance. Ms. Hannigan sang with impeccable accuracy and shocking theatrical flare.

If there is one thing that Ms. Hannigan and Mr. Tetzlaff have in common, it is that they both perform with engaging personalities. Over the course of the past few months, I have gotten to know the other fellows in The Academy quite well, and I can assure you that there is no lack in personality! In the first two Ensemble ACJW concerts of the season, I have seen the fellows perform with sparkling charisma, intellectual clarity, and warming emotion. I feel that the pairing of Ensemble ACJW, Sir Simon Rattle, Christian Tetzlaff, and Barbara Hannigan in this interesting and diverse program, is a concert not to be missed.

—Brian Ellingsen

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