The Albany Symphony’s “Tchaikovsky Serenade” Concert to Feature Distinguished Composers


The Albany Symphony is thrilled to present “Tchaikovsky Serenade,” a performance featuring stunning works by living composers Jessie Montgomery and Caroline Shaw as well as captivating pieces by George Walker, Jean Sibelius, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on Saturday, January 9 at 7:30pm. The event will be streamed live and in real-time from Universal Preservation Hall in Saratoga Springs. There will be a pre-concert talk at 7:00pm and a post-concert question and answer session with artists for season subscribers. 

Jessie Montgomery

The concert features works by two renowned women composers, who are an inspiration to many in the world of classical music and beyond. “I’m elated we will perform Jessie Montgomery’s and Caroline Shaw’s breathtaking pieces, which are very different from one another but will both captivate members of our audience and provide them with a touching experience they will not soon forget,“ said Music Director David Alan Miller. 

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, and her works are frequently performed around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st century American sound and experience. 

Montgomery wrote Banner in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner. “Many composers would have been wary of a commission to write a tribute to the 200th anniversary of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’… but Ms. Montgomery readily accepted the challenge, writing an urgent, inventive piece… She daringly transforms the anthem, folding it into a teeming score… to create a musical melting pot,” according to the New York Times.

Check out this highlight of Maestro David Alan Miller’s interview with Jessie Montgomery as part of our COSMOS series!

Caroline Shaw is a New York-based musician who wears many hats including those of vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer. She performs in both solo and collaborative projects. Shaw was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013 for Partita for 8 Voices, written for the Grammy-winning vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, of which she is a member. 

Entr’acte, composed by Shaw in 2017, is an inspiration that came from the minuet of Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major. There is a specific moment about a third of the way through Haydn’s piece that caught her attention. “I love the way some music suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, technicolor transition,” she writes in the notes of the piece. 

Caroline Shaw

Shaw truly loves her role as a composer. “Writing music sometimes feels like gardening. It takes a lot of work and preparation, but with the right attention and care, you end up with something beautiful and nourishing,” she said. 

The evening also includes Lyric for Strings, composed by George Walker. Walker, who lived from 1922 to 2018, was the first black composer to receive a Pulitzer Prize in Music for his piece Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra. Throughout his lifetime he received numerous awards from orchestras and organizations throughout the nation. In 2000, he was inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. 

Walker’s grandmother was a beloved and inspiring person in his life. She had escaped slavery and had lost her first husband when he was sold into slavery. About a year after she passed away, Walker, who was 24 years old, composed his first-string quartet and dedicated it to his grandmother He initially titled the piece Lament after hearing it performed by a string orchestra, but later changed it to Lyric for Strings but continued to call it his grandmother’s piece. It has become the best known and most performed work in his incredible career as a composer. 

Audience members can also look forward to Andante Festivo by Jean Sibelius. It’s a single movement composition originally scored for string quartet and later rescored for string orchestra. In 1939, Sibelius conducted his composition in a live worldwide broadcast, resulting in the only sound document of Sibelius interpreting his own music. The work was also played at his funeral. 

The finale for the evening is the beloved Serenade for Strings by Tchaikovsky. The piece has four beautiful and dazzling movements. The score was used as the foundation for the ballet Serenade and over many years, excerpts have been used in modern pop culture. The piece was first performed in St Petersburg in 1881. 
The 2020-2021 season continues through the American Music Festival in June. Concerts will be live and virtual with the ability to purchase access online at or by calling the Albany Symphony Box Office at 518-694-3300. Subscribers are also invited to attend a pre-concert chat and a post-concert, real-time “talk-back” session with guest composers, soloists, and Maestro Miller.


January 9, 2021Tchaikovsky Serenade 
Jessie Montgomery, Banner
Jean Sibelius, Andante Festivo
Caroline Shaw, Entr’acte 
George Walker, Lyric for Strings
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Serenade for Strings

February 13, 2021 
Sir William Walton, Facade
Lucy Fitz Gibbon, Narrator
Tyson Davis, New Commission 
Johannes Brahms, Serenade No. 1 (original version) 

March 13, 2021 Rachmaninoff’s Third
Ottorino Respighi, Trittico Botticelliano
Carlos Bandera, New Commission 
Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 3 (chamber orchestra version)
Inon Barnatan, Piano

April 24, 2021 Haydn & Schubert
Tanner Porter, New Commission 
Franz Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 46  
George Tsontakis, Violin Concerto No. 2 
Melissa White, Violin
Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 5  

June 12, 2021  American Music Festival
Nina Shekhar, New Commission 
Clarice Assad, Folk Tales, Double Guitar Concerto
Brasil Guitar Duo
Molly Joyce/Christopher Theofanidis, Songs

Alexis Lamb, New Commission 

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