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By Betsy Goolian

On Tuesday, March 29 at Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m., the University Symphony Orchestra and University Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Kiesler (photo left), Director of Orchestras, will perform Mahler’s 6th symphony.

The concert is free and open to the public.

If you are unable to attend the performance, you can watch it live online at 8 p.m. (eastern) at

“The Mahler 6th is played a bit less often than many of the other Mahler symphonies,” says Maestro Kiesler. “It shows new developments in the composer’s use of the orchestral color and is a musically and technically demanding piece that requires a skillful and mature orchestra.”

The symphony’s tremendous range of sound and color, intensity and emotion, make it a powerful and visceral experience for both the listeners and the performers. This particular symphony requires very large woodwind, brass, and strings sections, for a total orchestra of 129 players.

Of Kenneth Kiesler’s performances, critics have said: “Mr. Kiesler drew an assured, colorful performance, winning a prolonged ovation for the players … The New York Times Kiesler’s interpretation emphasized a brooding suspense that underlay everything … Newsday (NY) and under the masterful baton of Kiesler, all the music was beautifully played with dynamic shading, precision and flawless technique.” The Pantagraph (IL)

Kelly Rinne, who is producing and directing the online event, says, “Our goal is to bring the masterful musicality of such exciting performances to a global audience. For those who are new to the format, an online broadcast is a great opportunity to experience the art form.”


This highly selective orchestra, under the baton of award-winning music director Kenneth Kiesler for the past 16 years, has taken on some of the most demanding works. Repertoire from recent years has included Mahler Symphonies nos. 1, 2, 3, 5, and 7, Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra, Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Petrouchka, and The Rite of Spring, the Verdi Requiem, and U-M faculty composer and Grammy Award-winner Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony. USO has numerous recordings and has played many world and American premieres, including the American premiere of the Mendelssohn 3rd Piano Concerto. The USO was featured on the Grammy Award-winning recording of U-M composer William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience.


Kenneth Kiesler is one of the most prominent conductors of his generation, and one of the world’s most sought-after mentors to conductors. He has conducted many of the world’s leading ensembles, led many world premiere performances, and conducted a dozen acclaimed recordings on the Naxos and Equilibrium labels. His latest recording with the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, of Evan Chambers’ orchestral song cycle The Old Burying Ground, was released on the Dorian Sono Luminus label in 2010. Gramophone Magazine praised, “The performance is a luminous reflection of Chambers’ sympathetic vision. Kenneth Kiesler shapes the score with a keen ear for balance, pacing and nuance…”

Kiesler has conducted the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, the Chicago Symphony, the orchestras of Utah, Detroit, New Jersey, Florida, Indianapolis, Memphis, San Diego, Albany, Virginia, New Hampshire, Omaha, Fresno, Richmond, Long Beach, Long Island, Portland, Jerusalem, Haifa, Osaka, Puerto Rico, Daejeon and Pusan in Korea, the New Symphony Orchestra in Bulgaria, Hang Zhou in China, and at the festivals of Meadowbrook, Skaneateles, Sewanee, Breckenridge, and Aspen.  Of his 2008 debut with L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, critic Roger Bouchard stated, “There do exist great American conductors, and Kiesler is one of them!  Standing on behalf of the music he serves, he conducts from memory with unaffected gestures both precise and passionate.  Nothing is unnecessary in his conducting; yet everything is there.  Very beautiful work!”

He is currently serving as Music Advisor of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra where he served as Music Director from 1980 to 2000, and was honored with the permanent title of Conductor Laureate in 2000.

Director of Orchestras and Professor of Conducting at Michigan since 1995, Kiesler directs the National Arts Centre Conductors Programme (Canada) and Conductors Retreat at Medomak (Maine). He has led masterclasses in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and New York, and has been a member of the visiting artist faculty at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Manhattan School of Music. His students hold prominent positions with major orchestras and opera companies worldwide and have won most of the world’s leading conducting competitions including the Lorin Maazel Competition in Carnegie Hall, Eduardo Mata Competition in Mexico City and the Nicolai Malko Competition in Denmark.

The Indianapolis News said: “Kiesler is a man with a musical mind at work. He recognizes a piece for what it is, whether it be Bach’s ‘Third Suite’ or Respighi’s ’Roman Festivals.’ He reads, interprets and conducts idiomatically, in the spirit, in which a given work was written.”

Betsy Goolian is a writer for the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

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