Three faculty members in the department of music and dance—Eric Berlin, John Bottomley and Greg Spiridopoulos—performed with the Albany Symphony Orchestra (ASO) on a Grammy-winning recording of “Conjurer,” a concerto for percussionist, string orchestra and optional brass by John Corigliano.
Berlin and Spiridopoulos are regular members of the symphony and hold prized positions in their sections; Berlin is principal trumpet, and Spiridopoulos is principal trombone. Bottomley was acting principal tuba on the CD that was awarded the Grammy in the classical/best instrumental solo. The Albany Symphony CD, on the Naxos label, also includes Corigliano’s “Vocalise.”
According to Berlin, “We, the ASO members, knew during the week of rehearsals that this CD was going to be something special. Percussionist Evelyn Glennie has a gift for pacing, which is unparalleled. During the 36 minutes of the concerto we were transfixed; Glennie was conjuring up something supernatural. It was such a powerful experience to play with her. Personally, I couldn’t wait to hear the CD after we recorded it.”
The Grammy is another major indicator of the recognition that the ASO has been receiving. The symphony’s mission, to nurture young composers and document the music of our time, especially American music, has led to numerous grants from American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and to two invitations to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Spring for Music Festival, celebrating American orchestras’ innovative programming. The ASO has an international profile, not the norm in the regional orchestra category to which it belongs, because of its numerous recordings. According to Berlin, “Since 1998 when I joined, the Albany has created 20 CDs.”
Other nominees included large orchestras with major budgets, such as the New York Philharmonic, and other world renowned soloists/conductors—Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The fourth music faculty member who performs with the Albany Symphony is Stephen Walt, who played in the other work on the Grammy-winning CD, titled “Vocalise.” Walt has performed with the ASO since 1983 and holds the position of principal bassoonist.