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Composer George Walker to be on hand for Sinfonia world premiere

10/2/2012 | Dusty Rhodes, Arts & Humanities Editor | 217-333-0568;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Composer George Walker will join Sinfonia da Camera on Saturday (Oct. 6) for the world premiere of his “Movements” for cello and orchestra, featuring Dimitry Kouzov, professor of cello at the University of Illinois. Tenor Albert Rudolph Lee will join Sinfonia to perform Walker’s “Lilacs” for voice and orchestra, a piece commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for which Walker was awarded the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for composition.

George Walker
George Walker | Photo courtesy of Sinfonia da Camera

When Walker graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1945, he became the first African-American to receive a diploma from the institute. His debut recital in Town Hall in New York City marked the first time a black instrumentalist performed there.

Walker has held faculty appointments at more than a half dozen colleges and conservatories, including Smith College, Peabody Institute and Rutgers University. He has composed more than 90 published works, which have been performed by major orchestras all over the world. His awards include two Guggenheim fellowships, two Rockefeller fellowships, an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, and grants from the National Endowment of the Arts.

He has received commissions from the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Eastman School of Music, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Pew Charitable Trust and the Boys Choir of Harlem, among others.

Ian Hobson, the music director of Sinfonia, has made several recordings of Walker’s work and plans to record Saturday night’s concert as well. “He has revised these scores and is putting out what he hopes are definitive recordings of his music,” Hobson said.

Walker, who is 90, is “amazingly alert and involved in revising his compositions and supervising the performance and recording of them,” Hobson said.

Hobson has programmed Mendelssohn’s Overture to Ruy Blas, Op. 95, and Symphony No. 4, Op. 90 (the “Italian”), to begin and end the program, deliberately positioning compositions by a famous child prodigy adjacent to a new work composed by a nonagenarian. “The mood and the atmosphere and the orchestrations are totally different – both interesting in their own ways,” he said. “I think for the audience, it will make a wonderful sandwich. I was going for maximum contrast.“

The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, in Urbana. To purchase tickets, visit, or call 217-333-6280.

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