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The UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra celebrates its debut.

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UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra celebrates its debut at the opening of the 2000 Verbier Festival & Academy.

The UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra conducted by James Levine, its Artistic Consultant, celebrated its debut at the Gala Opening as resident orchestra at the 2000 Verbier Festival & Academy. An enthusiastic ovation from a capacity international audience greeted the first performance which, thanks to the inspired initiative of UBS, signals the beginning of an annual residency at the Festival, followed by an international tour each autumn.

The new Orchestra has drawn one hundred and eight musicians aged 17 - 29 from 29 countries, who auditioned in nine key cities worldwide. Reflecting the powerful musical mix of youth and experience which is the tradition of Verbier, the Orchestra has prepared for its debut in Verbier working with seven Principals of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra selected by its Music Director, James Levine and for the last week with James Levine himself. During the current Festival the Orchestra will also be conducted by Lawrence Foster, Paavo Järvi, Zubin Mehta and Yuri Temirkanov in challenging programmes which will include Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade. The 250th anniversary of the death of Johann Sebastian Bach on Friday July 28 will be the occasion for an ensemble of members of the UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra conducted by Zoltán Kocsis and Kennedy (violin) as soloist, to perform a programme of Bach and Arvo Pärt. Members of the Orchestra will take part in the free Bach Musical Meditations in an intimate setting at 11.00 pm every evening at the Protestant Chapel in Verbier.

Orchestra members will also take part in the Festival's chamber concerts, will attend master classes, open rehearsals and share sessions with many of the great artists who are performing in the Festival, including Martha Argerich, Yuri Bashmet, Kennedy and Evgeny Kissin. They will also create spontaneous chamber groups and jazz ensembles of their own. Martin T:son Engstroem, Executive Director of the Orchestra, has said "The mixture between UBS' initiative and support and James Levine's artistic input will give these young chosen musicians an opportunity which is absolutely unique. I wish I had the talent - and the age - to be in the orchestra !"

The Festival ends on August 6 with a closing concert by the UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra under Paavo Järvi presenting a programme which includes Paganini Violin Concerto No 2 Op 7 "La Campanella" with Vadim Repin (violin) as soloist, and Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, after which the young musicians will return to their homes across the world. The musicians then prepare for the Orchestra's first major annual international tour this autumn. With Paavo Järvi and Vadim Repin the orchestra will appear in ten European cities.

The Orchestra's future plans include its residency at the 2001 Verbier Festival & Academy opening on July 20 2001 with a concert conducted by Yuri Temirkanov. James Levine will conduct two concerts in the 2001 Festival and the Orchestra will also be conducted by Kent Nagano and Wolfgang Sawallisch. The international autumn tour in 2001 will take the Orchestra to the United States and South America, in 2002 to Europe and in 2003 to Asia. James Levine has invited all members of this year's Orchestra to return in 2001. When required, replacements will be selected at auditions to be held in different cities.

UBS, the global financial services firm headquartered in Switzerland, has sponsored the Verbier Festival & Academy since it began in 1994. The UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra is managed by the Verbier Orchestra Foundation. The aim of the Foundation is the promotion of cultural, artistic and musical excellence, by supporting young musicians throughout the entire world, regardless of their culture or origins.

Verbier, July 22 2000