C0291. PAUL FREEMAN Cond. Chicago Sinfonietta: Coleridge-Taylor, Sowande & William Grant Still - African Heritage Symphonic Series. Cedille 900000 055, recorded 2000, River Forest, IL. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 735131905527
“One of a handful of African-American conductors who was able to break through the glass ceiling of American symphonic music a generation ago, Paul Freeman made the Chicago Sinfonietta, the midsized orchestra he founded in 1987 and remained at its helm for 24 years until he retired in 2011, a shining emblem of racial and cultural diversity across the classical music landscape. He also made the Chicago ensemble a role model for inclusion, as more and more classical ensembles as of the early 1990s were moving to bring more musicians of color and women into their ranks and to attract younger and more varied audiences, thereby keeping pace with the rapid socio-demographic changes taking place in American society as a whole.
In the 24 years Freeman directed the sinfonietta before turning over the baton to its present music director, Mei-Ann Chen, in 2011, he regarded his pride and joy as a kind of Rainbow Coalition orchestra where black, white, Latino and Asian instrumentalists could perform in perfect harmony and gain valuable professional playing experience. Seeing and hearing such integration on stage would serve as a powerful inspiration to audience members, he reasoned. He was right. To this day, no other symphony in the Chicago metro area, or practically anywhere else in the nation, can boast so ethnically diverse a roster – approximately one-third of the player personnel (which varies from 60 to 65, depending on the program) is made up of minority musicians.
Born in Richmond, VA., Freeman began his career while studying at the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. He studied for two years at Berlin's Hochschule fur Musik on a Fulbright scholarship. He later trained with the eminent French conductor Pierre Monteux. Following his apprenticeship, he went on to become associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony and the Detroit Symphony during the late 1960s and '70s, before establishing a solid reputation in Europe. He served as principal guest conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic, music director of the Victoria Symphony in Canada and, in more recent years, music director of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. All told, he led more than 100 orchestras in more than 30 countries.
A recipient of the Mahler Award from the European Union of Arts, Freeman made more than 200 recordings, including a landmark, nine-LP series issued on Columbia in the mid-1970s that traced the history of black symphonic composers. He and the Sinfonietta later produced an offshoot of that anthology with their African Heritage Symphonic Series on Chicago's Cedille records.”
- John von Rhein, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 28 July, 2015