Marin Alsop

Inspirations: Marin Alsop

Posted by:  The Philadelphia Orchestra on February 25, 2020

Acclaimed conductor Marin Alsop shares her musical inspirations on our latest playlist.

Stream Marin’s Spotify playlist HERE.

Inspirations: Marin Alsop

Johannes Brahms: String Sextet in B-flat major, Op. 18—This is a very special piece because this was the moment in my life when I suddenly understood that music has the capacity to move us as human beings, and certainly moved me. I was probably 11 or 12 years old and I was at a summer chamber music festival and was walking down the hallway of the dorm and something caught my ear. A CD of this piece was playing and I sat down outside this door, and I remember for the first time being moved to tears by music.

Aretha Franklin: “Respect”—This is fun! This is much more about the environment I grew up in, which was a very liberal home life with a mum who was pro women’s lib. She loved this tune, and me, too.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 9, fourth movement—I’ve chosen the fourth movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with Leonard Bernstein conducting. I think Bernstein’s relationship to Mahler, his complete devotion to every single piece he conducted, but especially to Mahler, is all consuming and for me, Bernstein was this inspirational, all-consuming figure.

Leonard Bernstein: MASS—This is an excerpt from Bernstein’s seminal composition, MASS, a piece that was premiered in 1972 and roundly criticized. I believe it was one of the great statements of 20th-century music, not only musically, but also politically.

Stéphane Grappelli: Solo from Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing)”—When we started Swing Fever I began listening like crazy to jazz and especially jazz violin players. My favorite was, as you can imagine, Stéphane Grappelli, and I used to go hear him play live all the time. And this particular tune is a solo of Grappelli’s to Duke Ellington’s tune “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing).” I spent an entire week transcribing note-by-note this solo, and I believe if you handed me a violin now I could actually still play it!

Béla Bartók: Contrasts—This is a piece that I played when I was a freshman at Yale. I had a chamber music seminar course, and I remember when I was assigned this piece, I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I hate contemporary music!” I was only 16 at the time, and I remember telling my mum and dad, “I hate new music, I’m never going to play contemporary music.” It was Bartók, and of course as it turned out I fell in love with this particular piece, with Bartók in general. And it really opened a whole new door for me to contemporary music. I’m a huge advocate.

Robert Schumann: Piano Quartet in E–flat major, Op. 47—This is the slow movement from Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet and this is a very, very special piece for me because I often played this with my parents—my mother on cello, my father would play viola, and our dear friend who I had known since birth, he played in a trio with my mum, Seymour Bernstein. So this is a very, very special piece.

Johannes Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, fourth movement—Full circle now coming back to Brahms. This is an excerpt from the Brahms Requiem, which to me is a piece that speaks to the greatness of the human spirit. The fact that it’s non-denominational and that Brahms thought he’d originally like to call it a human requiem, appeals to me not only musically but intellectually, emotionally, and in every possible way.

Anna Clyne: Prince of Clouds—I champion Anna’s music. She is a good friend and has a unique voice.

Jennifer Higdon: Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra—I work often with Jennifer and introduced her to percussionist Colin Currie, so that is a very personal collaboration.

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