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HRO Concert Honoring Dr. Yannatos
November 12, 2022

On November 12, 2022, HRO alumni across generations – from the class of 2022 to the class of 1953 – gathered in Sanders Theatre to honor the memory of former HRO Music Director Dr. James Yannatos, affectionately called Dr. Y. Yannatos conducted the orchestra from 1964 until his retirement in 2009. A video of Dr. Y’s time with the HRO and speeches by the Yannatos family and the HROF Foundation remembering Dr. Y were greeted enthusiastically and warmly by alumni and students alike. The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra Foundation also realized a longtime dream: the organization welcomed HRO alumni back to campus to perform side by side with students in the orchestra’s stellar second concert of the season.


The event was the fruit of a true collaboration between Music Director Federico Cortese, the orchestra’s student board and the HRO Foundation.


Led by Maestro Cortese, now in his 13th season at the helm of the HRO, the students opened the concert with the Yannatos Violin Concerto. Joseph Lin ’00 reprised his role as soloist from the premiere by the HRO in 2004. Following the concerto was Strauss’s iconic tone poem Don Juan, which proved an ideal vehicle for the orchestra. The students channeled the work’s virtuosic energy and shaped its dramatic contours with dexterity and joy. Clad in HRO fleece vests made for the occasion, 50 alumni then joined the students on stage to close the concert with a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.


From the first notes of the joint afternoon rehearsal, the orchestra’s Music Director, Federico Cortese, embraced the alumni. With his guidance, the composite ensemble quickly coalesced, building the camaraderie so familiar to HRO members and audiences. Alumni shared, once again, in that special HRO magic, rising to the moment alongside the sterling student musicians. 


It was an uplifting and indeed historic evening for the HRO, with current members making music with alumni for the first time, hearing cherished memories of Dr. Y’s Harvard years, and accompanying the distinguished violinist Joseph Lin. A former member of the Juilliard Quartet, Lin is one of many HRO graduates who have gone on to careers in music. The concert was also a product of the HRO’s characteristic efficiency and industriousness: the students prepared the repertoire right on the heels of their equally brilliant performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony just two weeks earlier.


While the concert offered the chance to look back at the HRO’s storied past, it also cast a spotlight on the orchestra’s vital present. Since Cortese assumed the directorship of the HRO in 2009, the orchestra has entered an era of high musical precision and integrity. Amid societal crises and transformations, Cortese has ensured that the HRO remains a space of cohesion – a source of emotional sustenance and fellowship at the center of students’ creative lives. Having steered the orchestra through the pandemic-related strains on live performance, Cortese is cultivating in students the kind of expressive fortitude and sensitivity that is needed in today’s public discourse.


The November concert was the latest in a string of recent achievements for the orchestra. With the HRO Foundation’s backing, the orchestra’s principal string players had a one week-long residency at the Stauffer Foundation in Cremona, Italy, in March 2022. The HRO looks forward to a continuing relationship with the renowned Academy and is planning another residency for March 2023. The HRO also had an unforgettable tour to Mexico this past May, – a tour that was, as Alberto Fierro, the Consul General of Mexico in Boston described it in his letter of encouragement sent to HRO, a “student-led initiative of cultural diplomacy.”


As Cortese noted, at the November 12 concert, current students witnessed how uniquely important the HRO experience remains to members long after college. From Dr. Y to Maestro Cortese, to the talented current students and the global network of alumni, the HRO community continues to flourish, moving from strength to strength.


In its efforts to continue its support of the HRO, the HRO Foundation has formed an Endowment Fund, announced on November 12, which will help support future student and alumni programming. Any alumni interested in attending HRO events on campus, mentoring current orchestra members, or contributing to the Endowment Fund are welcome to contact the Foundation at

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