The landmark commission by Grammy-nominated composer Carlos Simon and librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph was recorded live at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis May 18-20, 2023
Inspired by George Floyd and the ongoing struggle for racial justice, the premiere featured the full Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush, and included 150 choral singers
On September 1, Decca Classics will release brea(d)th, the latest work from Grammy-nominated composer Carlos Simon, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph and the Minnesota Orchestra. brea(d)th was recorded over the course of three live performances between May 18-20, 2023, at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall. The world premiere concerts were conducted by Jonathan Taylor Rush and included the full Minnesota Orchestra alongside spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, the Minnesota Chorale, Twin Cities Choral Partners and vocal ensemble 29:11.
The recording of brea(d)th will be available on all major streaming platforms on Friday, September 1. For press digital downloads, please contact Michael Curran, the Orchestra’s Communications Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grammy-nominated composer Carlos Simon worked alongside frequent collaborator and celebrated librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph to create the new composition, which the Minnesota Orchestra commissioned in 2021 following the murder of George Floyd. The groundbreaking work situates Floyd’s story in the context of America’s centuries-long history of systemic racism and oppression, and asks listeners to consider, “How do we move forward? What is the breadth of the task at hand?”
The work features Joseph performing his original text via spoken word. Joseph’s libretto—which in his own words “considers bread, as in value, breath, as in lifeforce, and breadth, as in the radius of American promise”—is tightly woven with Simon’s music of great emotional range. At turns solemn, bluesy, heart-rending and dissonant, the piece includes an instrumental Elegy movement for strings placed at the center.
The music of Simon has become a staple in the Minnesota Orchestra’s repertoire in recent years, including his An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave and Fate Now Conquers. In preparation for writing brea(d)th, Simon and Joseph made several trips to the Twin Cities, working closely with the Minnesota Orchestra to connect with local artists, activists and community members. The pair took a pilgrimage to George Floyd Square where, among others, they met with Angela Harrelson, George Floyd’s aunt, which allowed them to learn more about Floyd’s personal life.
As Simon and Joseph wrote in their artist statement, “We come to the resilient and root-rich Twin Cities as outsiders, but we composed this work from within the walls of Black emotion, curiosity and dignity. The piece explores a historical timeline that stretches from the pre-colonial to the present condition, and perhaps further, into a post-pandemic America.” Read their full artist statement at minnesotaorchestra.org/stories/breadth-artist-statement.
The performance on May 19 was broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) and YourClassical MPR, and streamed through the Orchestra’s website and social media channels. The broadcast can be rewatched on demand with a digital subscription to the Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.
About Carlos Simon
Carlos Simon is a multi-genre, Grammy-nominated composer and performer who is a passionate advocate for diversity in music. Simon, whose father wanted him to become a minister, describes music-making as a pulpit where he can deliver messages and minister to those listening. As winner of the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence and composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center, he sees himself as a conduit—a vessel used by God to deliver music to the people. Listed in the Kennedy Center’s Next 50, his recent commissions have been granted by the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Kennedy Center, Minnesota Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Philadelphia Orchestra, PBS and the Washington National Opera, and his work has been set to ballets by Washington National Ballet and American Ballet Theater. More: carlossimonmusic.com.
About Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a 2017 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural recipient of the Guggenheim Social Practice Initiative and an honoree of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. He is also the winner of the 2011 Herb Alpert Award in Theatre, and an inaugural recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. In the spring of 2022, he was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Watch Night, his new opera libretto, will premiere in November 2023 in New York under the direction of Bill T. Jones, and his collaboration with New York City Ballet’s Wendy Whelan is set to premiere in 2024 during his residency at the University of Washington’s Meany Center. An emergent onscreen talent, he is among the featured performers in HBO’s screen adaptation of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. He currently serves as the vice president of social impact and artistic director of cultural strategy at the Kennedy Center. More: bamuthi.com.
About Jonathan Taylor Rush
Hailed as a rising talent in the conducting world, Jonathan Taylor Rush brings passion, unique interpretation and a refreshing energy to the orchestral experience. In fall 2021, he was promoted as associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra after serving as that ensemble’s assistant conductor. In 2018, he was a Project Inclusion conducting fellow with the Chicago Sinfonietta and in 2019 was named its assistant conductor. With the Chicago Sinfonietta, Rush worked alongside music professionals and fellow conductors to help redefine classical music by encouraging diversity in orchestras across the United States. More: jonathanrush.com.
About Minnesota Chorale
The Minnesota Chorale has served as the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal chorus since 2004 and is in its 28th season under the leadership of Kathy Saltzman Romey. Founded in 1972, the Chorale is Minnesota’s preeminent symphonic chorus, with a roster of over 200 singers. Best known for its work with the two major orchestras of the Twin Cities—including collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra in performing, recording and international touring—the ensemble is equally dedicated to programs that build and enrich community. The Chorale continues to explore new artistic directions and collaborative opportunities, while earning the highest critical acclaim for its work on the concert stage. More: mnchorale.org.
About 29:11 International Exchange
The members of the musical ensemble 29:11 come from the areas of the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa. They have been trained by world-renowned musician Camillo Lombard and are currently under the direction of Brendon Adams, co-founder of New Hope International Exchange. They performed at Orchestra Hall most recently in 2019 performances of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and the 2022 presentation of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. More: 2911intl.org.
About the Minnesota Orchestra
Founded in 1903, the Minnesota Orchestra is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble known for its acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning educational programs; and a commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow, all based on the belief that music is for everyone. Recording has been an important part of the organization’s mission since the 1920s and, over the last two decades, it has recorded complete cycles of symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven, Jean Sibelius and Gustav Mahler. Each year, Minnesota Orchestra concerts and recordings are seen and heard by more than three million people via television, radio, digital streaming and on-demand platforms. Making its home at Orchestra Hall in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, the Orchestra this season welcomes Thomas Søndergård as its new music director. More: minnesotaorchestra.org
The Minnesota Orchestra is grateful to The Daniel N. and Constance B. Kunin Fund for supporting the commissioning of brea(d)th. The Orchestra recognizes Al and Kathy Lenzmeier for their generosity as lead sponsors of the premiere concerts of brea(d)th.