Tag: New York Philharmonic

On the Good and the Great—Wrapping up the NY Phil Biennial

New York Philharmonic 2014 Biennial

Christopher Rouse takes a bow after the premiere of his Fourth Symphony.
Photo by Chris Lee.

Since three nights late last week of hugely ambitious programming and concerts—the big finish of the first NY Phil Biennial—I’ve waited to let things settle for a few days in my ears and memories before trying to sum up this heady, busy, and at times even giddy festival.  As I mentioned in earlier posts on the goings-on all over New York City, I was excited by what I heard and saw: some dazzling performances of new repertoire and the galvanized atmosphere of a happening.  Professionals from as far as London and Los Angeles popped their heads in and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as anyone else.  Holders of the Biennial Pass (a golden key to every event) began to recognize each other and band together at intermissions and at après-concert events for conversation.  Composers both young and not-so were out and about: in droves at the large concerts in Avery Fisher Hall; in trickles for other events.  And the musicians of the Philharmonic, thoroughly exhausted by a punishing schedule, still found energy to honor and even serenade their colleagues at the annual Musicians Retirement Concert and dinner last Thursday.  It’s always heartening to see great musicians speak so fondly and eloquently of each other, and with legends like principal second violin Marc Ginsberg, principal trumpet Philip Smith, and concertmaster Glenn Dicterow all saying their goodbyes to the Philharmonic this season, I was further reminded of the riches of continuity of this and other great orchestras.  A 30-plus year orchestral career is not built merely upon one’s own talent, but upon stamina, trust, and flexibility, and in truly valuing one’s colleagues.  In some way, last week’s enormous back-to-back programs of Rouse, Eötvös, Carter, Pintscher, and added Earshot (“Composer Idol”) winners Julia Adolphe, Max Grafe, and Andrew McManus, as impressive as they were, were just another challenging (and hopefully to more than a few, gratifying) week of work at the New York Philharmonic.

(From left) Christopher Rouse, Julia Adolphe, Matthias Pintscher, Peter Eötvös, Alan Gilbert, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe. Photo by Chris Lee.

(From left) Christopher Rouse, Julia Adolphe, Matthias Pintscher, Peter Eötvös, Alan Gilbert, Steven Mackey, Bruce Adolphe.
Photo by Chris Lee.

Still, as exciting as it was this year, the most significant element of the biennial may be already stored away in the attics, waiting for 2016 (or ’18, or ’26) to be fully unpacked.  Its potential as a driver and supplier of new projects and new music was (understandably) only just lightly tapped this year, with most pieces being US/NYC premieres as opposed to commissions.  And yet, last week amounted to a floodgate of new music being opened: from a few new subscription-series pieces per season from major figures and some encouragement to young talent by way of CONTACT! commissions, the Philharmonic and partners performed well over 60 pieces from composers of all stages and many walks of life.  Absolutely laudable say some, foolhardy say others.  I couldn’t possibly say I enjoyed every piece.  One left me angered in concert, and a few others had me in various states of nervous discomfort.  Nothing new for me—I assume never to like or despise anything until I’ve heard it (and then maybe heard it again, and again…) but liking every piece is, for me, not the point. (I also have a strict personal policy against picking favorites in a concert, and I must say it’s improved my complexion, demeanor, and probably lengthened my life—no two composers are trying to make the same piece; judging them against each other simply makes no sense.)

Andrew McManus took a bow after the New York Philharmonic gave the World Premiere of his piece Strobe. Photo by Chris Lee.

Andrew McManus took a bow after the New York Philharmonic gave the World Premiere of his piece Strobe.
Photo by Chris Lee.

But a subtle tension begins to build when one of the world’s great orchestras and a committed presenter of “Great” music (when have you heard the perfectly good music of Louis Spohr or Eugène Bozza at Avery Fisher Hall?) says, “We’ve got it here; you be the judge of what’s good and what’s great.”  (I also hear the voices singing of the problematic aesthetics of words like great and good!—Don’t worry; I hear them!)  There are those composers and listeners, taking a generally unpopular position, who say that part of the honor of being performed by the Philharmonic was that one had to earn the privilege, or that this is the not the place to be tried in the fire.  (As someone who was tried in this fire, with one of my first major commissions from the New York Philharmonic at age 29 after a thorough vetting, I can recognize and regard the whole process as one of those defining moments of one’s musical life, although I took the responsibility of those twenty minutes of stage time as seriously as I could.  I did my absolute best to rise to the specific challenges and opportunities presented by that particular commission, and beyond that can’t assess myself in terms of great or good or bad.  For those not interested in that kind of internal and external pressure, I can’t recommend it.)  Selectivity is important, as is perspective, but I believe this floodgate can be managed to great benefit.  I know composers who rise to the challenge of a major commission each and every time, and I know many more who are still waiting for the invitation.  In the future, when the biennial provides opportunities to hear their kind, and all kinds, of vital, compelling music, I will be cheering in the aisles.

Composer Péter Eötvös and soloist Midori acknowledge the crowd after a performance of <em>DoReMi </em> for violin and orchestra.

Composer Péter Eötvös and soloist Midori acknowledge the crowd after a performance of DoReMi for violin and orchestra.
Photo by Chris Lee

If hearing three major statements (the premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Fourth Symphony, DoReMi for violin and orchestra by Péter Eötvös, and Matthias Pintscher’s cello concerto, Reflections on Narcissus, with soloists Midori and Alisa Weilerstein, respectively) was a highlight of the week for this listener, it was powerfully counterbalanced by a special event from the opening weekend—that of the Very Young Composers of the New York Philharmonic in a free a.m. concert titled The Continuum.  A mentoring program, part of the Philharmonic’s vast education conspiracy and developed by composer and former Philharmonic associate principal bassist Jon Deak, the VYC emphasizes guidance and directed enthusiasm over style-based composer training, and kids start in third grade.  The concert, a presentation of the whole range of the program, with pieces from young students through to senior teaching artists (all noted composers themselves) Richard Carrick, Daniel Felsenfeld, and David Wallace, was bound to put a smile on my dial.  When 12-and-unders Samantha Darris, Graydon Hanson, Jake O’Brien, and Elli Choi joined members of the orchestra on stage to hear their pieces, each an individual jewel, and took their triumphant bows, my mother hen’s heart leapt!  The VYC Jazz Improvisation Group (Eric Poretsky, Ethan Cohn, Jack Gulielmetti, and Nick Chomowicz, with mentor Will Healy) followed with a cool, original fill-in for the stage change, with larger statements by more young composers to keep an eye on: teens Milo Poniewozic, Julian Galesi, and recent graduate Farah Taslima, now a young mentor in the VYC program.  Lovingly shepherded by vice president of education Ted Wiprud, Deak, and his dedicated army of teaching artists, the morning program was an Instagram of this exciting moment (for each composer, and for the VYC program, to a packed house at the NY Phil Biennial) which felt more like a Polaroid, reminding me of my own excitement for music at that age.  Including these voices, and those on the Face The Music program the next day, on the biennial was one of the masterstrokes of the festival, as striking as any statement that could be made about the future.

And to the future the NY Phil Biennial will ride, after the number crunching and soul searching, and fine-tuning and finagling.  My stated goal in the first post was to hear lots of live music, which I managed to achieve in spades, and which was every bit as rejuvenating and electrifying as I’d hoped it would be.  I’m eager to know what shape the biennial will take in two years, but for now, I’ve got something more pressing on the horizon: the premiere of my own new work for Alan Gilbert and the orchestra.   Songs is paired with (actually sandwiched between) some of that Great music—Beethoven’s Second and Third Piano Concerti—this coming week in Avery Fisher Hall.  It will be time to put my music where my mouth is, but one thing has been a relief, as I have been able to content myself, so far, with working to make (not easy!) something good.  With Alan, Yefim Bronfman (the humblest man in the world), the Philharmonic and Herr B (perhaps the least humble man in history) on the program, we’ve got the great covered just plenty.

NY Phil Biennial: Scads, Oodles, and Heaps of Composers

New York Philharmonic Biennial

Photo by Chris Lee

As the NY Phil Biennial continues, with events every day through this Saturday, I’ve begun to realize how many new pieces and how many composers I’ve heard over the last week or so. My rough count comes to 56 people, with only one name appearing on more than one program: that of French composer Bruno Mantovani (whose two delicious yet totally different pieces, Spirit of Alberti and Turbulences, separated by more than fifteen years and adding much to both the “Beyond Recall” and “Circles of Influence: Boulez” programs, was a fascinating contrast in itself). While certain works—the operas Gloria – A Pig Tale and The Raven and other major statements—have made biennial marquis names out of a small number of composers such as HK Gruber, Toshio Hosokawa, Christopher Rouse, Steven Mackey, and Peter Eötvös, the majority of pieces I’ve heard are for modest forces and are of modest length: nearly always less than fifteen minutes long. Of course, if what the planners seek is variety, then such a design makes sense. To paraphrase Alan Gilbert during his conversations with leaders in the visual arts on Monday evening, time space is to music what wall space is to art. Both are precious, but the more Richard Serra one exhibits, the less space there is for everything else. A combination of grand monuments and humble still lifes can fill a gallery—differences of scale are powerful in giving us context for what see and hear, and also how we come (perhaps over several pieces and several visits) to know an artist or composer.

Ruminating on the delicate art of programming these recent days, I’ve been struck by that old simple math: finding the right pieces and putting them in the right order can provide for some seriously satisfying musical experiences. If the scope of the festival might be called broad, then several of the biennial programs have approached the questions of what music to put and where to put it from a place of (sometimes to my ears, very sharp) focus: surveys of the British and French scenes by way of Pierre Boulez and George Benjamin; solo works from young Americans. Europe seemed to figure in more heavily over the weekend, whereas on Tuesday alone, I heard 12 very new pieces from Americans of roughly my generation—all less than 10 years older or younger. (Ed. note: Sean will be 35 next month!) In the case of the two “Circles of Influence” concerts presented by Pablo Heras-Casado and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in Rose Hall, the pieces had an uncanny way of talking to each other. Boulez’s former students of various generations—Mantovani, Marc-André Dalbavie, and Philippe Manoury—each provided a new prism of commentary and illumination of Boulez’s slightest works, Mémoriale (…explosante-fixe… Orginel) for flute and small ensemble and Une page d’éphéméride for piano. His contemporary and colleague Heinz Holliger’s Ostinato funèbre was a real outlier, a kind of dirge of found and novel sounds, which gave the whole program a different weight altogether. Similarly, Sunday’s program—essentially Brits of two generations—presented a kind of dialogue across the ages. Although not as tightly wrapped as the French version (those sharing the program with Benjamin each could be said to have closer personal history with another British lion, Oliver Knussen, who wasn’t on the program), these composers complemented each other in natural and surprising ways. The pieces of the thirty-somethings, Helen Grime and Ryan Wigglesworth, each balanced, melancholy and impeccably elegant, contrasted with Colin Matthews’s hugely frenetic and impassioned Suns Dance, cool-to-the-touch Night Rides, and Benjamin’s virtuosic, noble Octet and gravely poetic Upon Silence.

Matthias Pintscher conducting members of the New York Philharmonic in Contact! At the Biennial: Beyond Recall at Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Chris Lee

Matthias Pintscher conducting members of the New York Philharmonic in Contact! At the Biennial: Beyond Recall at Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Chris Lee

A cousin of these programs could be the “Beyond Recall” concerts, presented at MoMA as part of the Philharmonic’s CONTACT! series, with Matthias Pintscher conducting Philharmonic musicians in nine pieces, each less than one year old, each in response to a work of public art in the city of Salzburg. Rather than a meditation on recent history, however, this concert served as a snapshot of the present on the Continent. As such, a different atmosphere—that of anticipation, with an almost tingling sense of event—seemed to permeate the lobby of MoMA at 10 p.m. on a school night. Major voices in Europe like Michael Jarrell, Olga Neuwirth, Dai Fujikura, Johannes Staud, Mark Andre, and Mantovani shared the program with emerging voices like Slovenians Nina Senk and Vito Zuraj, while American composer Jay Schwartz, who at age 25 left the US for Germany to study nearly 25 years ago, enjoyed his US concert debut, presented by the New York Philharmonic, in a moment whose significance was not lost on him.

Matthias Pintscher conducting members of the New York Philharmonic in Contact! At the Biennial: Beyond Recall at Museum of Moder Art, 5/29/14. Photo by Chris Lee

Photo by Chris Lee

The program—often dense, often jubilant, and veering fast among all things between—would have been unheard of as a New York Philharmonic presentation when I arrived in New York more than a decade ago, but the growth of CONTACT! has contributed to a new institutional norm: the new music band. The subset of Philharmonic musicians, always changing, who tackle this repertoire, have, I dare say, grown into the job over the years. It’s a very different one than sitting on the Avery Fisher Hall stage with Brahms and Mahler and the weight of history on your shoulders, and in years of seeing CONTACT! after my own premiere on the opening season, I’ve enjoyed the blossoming of these die-hard chamber virtuosos in magnificent performances of major contemporary rep, like Boulez’s …explosante-fixe… a few seasons back. I also dare say that whether or not the biennial (which has put a lot of difficult new music in the hands of Philharmonic musicians this week) is a natural outgrowth of CONTACT!, it has been enhanced immeasurably, both in performance and as an experience, by this and other journeys into the new world of brave new music. This orchestra is ready for this exhibition.

New York Philharmonic's Biennial Contact! Young American Composers at Subculture. Photo by Chris Lee

New York Philharmonic’s Biennial Contact! Young American Composers at Subculture. Photo by Chris Lee

Tuesday’s American fare, a night of solo works at SubCulture on Bleeker Street, co-presented with the 92nd Street Y and the EarShot reading sessions in a closed session by the Philharmonic, seemed yet a different way of shining a light on what’s happening this very minute. Six composers for six soloists (Paola Prestini, Eric Nathan, Oscar Bettison, Ryan Brown, Michael Hersch, and Chris Kapica, respectively, with Sumire Kudo, cello; Joseph Alessi, trombone; Rebecca Young, viola; Eric Huebner, piano; Yulia Ziskel, violin; and Pascual Martínez Forteza, clarinet) provided what was has probably been the loosest night of the biennial—all pieces, save Ryan Brown’s charmingly dappled Four Pieces for Solo Piano, were commissioned premieres, with huge variations in result. From the spare gravity of Michael Hersch’s seven elegies lasting nearly 20 minutes, to Eric Nathan’s clever take using a partially dismantled instrument, to Chris Kapica’s party-on-the-stage Fandanglish, with sweet and sensuous turns for strings from Prestini and Bettison, what was compelling in concert was actually the sense that each new piece would be approaching the problem of the instrumental soliloquy from a new perspective.

New York Philharmonic's Biennial Contact! Young American Composers at Subculture, 6/3/14. Photo by Chris Lee

Photo by Chris Lee

The orchestra readings offered a similar view from six in their late twenties and early thirties—it’s musical variety that we Americans expect, especially from each other. As with many an early orchestra piece, I heard a lot of others composer’s music in the six pieces chosen on Tuesday morning. I’ve spoken before about getting one’s flight hours in with the orchestra, and with so much to be aware of, developing one’s personal orchestral voice is no slick and simple process. These pieces each approached the challenge of these forces with intelligence, and this weekend we hear the pieces selected for performances (by Julia Adolphe, Andrew McManus, and Max Grafe) get the fair Philharmonic treatment, not just those 20 or so minutes of the reading, which can frustratingly pose more questions than answers. I’m curious to revisit them.

The notion of a musical program is so simple: several pieces, often split by a break, before we head off to drinks. The orchestral norm—overture, concerto followed by symphony—has been so satisfying that it’s worked for centuries. But it seems that the element of surprise can bring so much perspective, and can help us to absorb things afresh. Alan Gilbert is well known for his talent in this realm (“…best we’ve had since Bernstein,” as a former member of the orchestra told me this week), and I’ve seen it here—he and Edward Yim, the Philharmonic’s vice president for artistic planning, and the NY Phil partners understand that there are myriads way to present a piece or a composer. Last night, pianist Marino Formenti, in what has been among the most rich of all such endeavors, presented a stunningly shaped program of Liszt (“the first of the moderns,” as he said from the stage) and works since the 1960s, in which there were many unclear moments—which century were we in? Now there was a surprise, as satisfying as they come.

Pavillons en l’air—Bell’s Up on the NYPhil Biennial

For the inaugural NY Phil Biennial, a large initiative devoted to the newest of the new, the Philharmonic borrowed a concept that is generally associated with the visual arts: the exhibition.  When I first learned of it, at last year’s season announcement press conference along with everyone else, what resonated was the idea of the biennial, the every-two-years event that could efficiently attract a specific gravity of attention to itself and the work presented.  But as I’ve seen and heard since Thursday evening, the curators of the NY Phil Biennial have taken the concept of the exhibition into the concert hall on a more structural level.  Taking from Venice (the original contemporary art exhibition as we know it, which goes back to 1895) the organizing principal of the pavilion—a separate space with its own curator, purpose, and point of view—and applying that to this collection of events, the Philharmonic seems to have made something both looser and freer than I was probably expecting.  I tend to think of a festival as being an opportunity to focus on one or two things in particular (the 2008 Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, devoted entirely to Carter at 100, comes quickly to mind), but in practice, and in New York City on a spring weekend, who’s to say that variety isn’t the spice of life?  The pavilions were helpful to keep in mind as I dashed across town over the last several days; from Pig Tales to Ravens to Pennsylvania miners, and from central Europe, France, the UK, and Japan, to America and back again.

Pablo Heras Casado conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke's in Circle of Influence: Pierre Boulez at Rose Theater. Photo by Chris Lee

Pablo Heras Casado conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in “Circle of Influence: Pierre Boulez” at Rose Theater. Photo by Chris Lee

The pavilions concept can be terribly convincing when each curator and each artist is working within their wheelhouse.  Whether or not the chicken-and-egg question of “which came first: the repertoire or the artist?” is interesting, the result looks deliberate: New Yorkers doing what they do best.  Who better than Doug Fitch and Edouard Getaz to stage HK Gruber’s joyful, zany, and satiric cabaret opera Gloria – A Pig Tale?  (with nods to Animal Farm, Kurt Weill, and others who mastered the fine art of allegory). Who better than Pablo Heras-Casado, the music director of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and perhaps the world’s most charismatic young disciple of Pierre Boulez, to perform the music of the elder’s close circle with the former’s local band?  Bang on a Can performing Julia Wolfe; Matthias Pintscher (now living in NYC for years) conducting very recent works from Europe’s master set: these feel like obvious choices.  To me, for good reason: if this is an exhibition, why not give every piece and every note the golden, experienced care and treatment they each deserve?  Performances have been truly stellar and, in some cases, illuminating and transcendent.  This is proving to be no marathon, where participants and spectators alike must drag themselves across a finish line to the earthly comforts of burgers and booze, only to say, “I was there for it all.”  Each pavilion is an event worth seeing, and after seeing seven in the last four days, I still would recommend each one (with more detail in my next posts).

Gotham Chamber Opera in collaboration with the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College presented The Raven as part of the NY Phil Biennial. Directed by Luca Veggetti. Conducted by Neal Goren. Featuring Fredrika Brillembourg and Alessandra Ferri. Photo by Richard Termine

Gotham Chamber Opera in collaboration with the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College presented The Raven as part of the NY Phil Biennial. Directed by Luca Veggetti.
Conducted by Neal Goren. Featuring Fredrika Brillembourg and Alessandra Ferri.
Photo by Richard Termine

My friends know me as being a pretty ambivalent New Yorker (I long for the mountains and sun and the possibility of running with a dog off-leash), but a real surprise of the biennial so far was to be reminded of the cultural capital and the sheer vastness of musical resource in this city.  What a clichéd revelation to arrive at!  But concertgoers come to start asking ourselves, especially in busy months: “Am I going to this or that performance tonight?”  A designed festival schedule that allows for the possibility of going to see this and then that performance has a way of putting the variety within reach.  Saturday was my first trip to the Gerald W. Lynch Theater (all of a ten-minute walk from Avery Fisher Hall) and my first time attending the Gotham Chamber Opera, to see Toshio Hosokawa’s dreamy static/dynamic vision of Poe’s The Raven.  The intimate staging for a cast of two (one singer, one dancer) was far removed from a night at the Phil, but fit very sharply into the biennial.  It seems the trust the Philharmonic extended to its artistic partners could have reciprocal benefits: perhaps future biennial festivals will have wider cooperation, and perhaps audiences (myself included, with Gotham Chamber Opera) will find their way back across the new bridges that are built this week.

The idea of taking a dip in what goes on all over the city of New York is hugely audacious for any one organization.  Even the Met’s objective—one opera a night for most nights of the year—seems to pale in light of such a challenge.  But perhaps that will be the future of this biennial: the loose netting of an exhibition as the guiding factor in a collection of new music from groups, artists, thinkers and fans from all over the city.  Tonight, I will hear Alan Gilbert speak about his ideas with leaders from Venice, the Whitney, and the Public Theater.  For today and this year, the question remains:  “What’s the NY Phil Biennial?”  It may be premature, but perhaps we can predict its future cousin: “What’s on the NY Phil Biennial?”

What’s In a Festival? NY Phil Biennial Pre-Game

This week marks the start of something big, busy, and possibly brilliant in New York: the first edition of the NY Phil Biennial.  It’s so big, in fact, that beyond the tag lines—11 days of new (really actually new!) music, in 9 venues, in partnership with many others—it’s not too easy to describe succinctly.  The New York Times gave it a team effort in their preview, and the New Yorker’s Going’s On About Town excitedly devotes a page to parsing it all out, while in later pages eulogizes another large new music festival upstart, Spring for Music, which presented its final concerts at Carnegie Hall earlier this month.  Beyond what look like some exciting programs, I’m waiting to make any grand assessments on something so damn grand.

Parsing it all out is also what I’m trying to do for now and, this week and next, I’ll be going to nearly every event and will be reporting here on what I’m hearing and seeing—and what it all might mean for composers, and even for music, at a juncture such as this.  Whereas my previous posts and series on NewMusicBox (starting in 2006 at the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute, and in various instances since) were written from a participant’s perspective, I’m primarily (beyond speaking in a discussion on masterpieces in the 21st century: “Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?”) a listener this time around.  But, as the Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer, I have a kind of insider’s view, for both better and worse.  I was involved in some programming discussions for a small part of the festival, I know many of the artists involved, and I know a little about the reasons and drive for this organization, the busiest orchestra in the world, to start an entirely new (and doubtlessly expensive) initiative, although I’d like to know more.  But in the end, I’m savoring the chance to hear a lot of music, something I just don’t get to do these days.

Since the festival was first announced, people have approached me—in casual conversation, via email, even on my Facebook wall—about what they don’t see enough of on these concerts.  Some see it is as too international, some see it as needing more female voices, some see it as being too general, with no unifying thematic drive.  They make fair points.  These are the kinds of questions that every curator of any major event must contend with, and I don’t think it should surprise anyone to say that these conversations go on at the Philharmonic, because they go on nearly everywhere.  Inspired programs come from inspired conversations, where people come in prepared to talk about what really excites them.  When someone speaks eloquently about what they are moved by, the enthusiasm is infectious.  Then the process usually becomes about what must be cut (Oww! Oww! Ouch!  It really does hurt); it’s the rare moment of misery. The best things I’ve experienced in a concert hall have a way of looking strange on paper, and so I also think about that when I see these 13 different concerts.  I know I’ll think differently once I hear them.

I personally see the international components of this program as a particular strength and find any argument that we in New York should be hearing less music from around the world to be absurd.  I’m pleased to see two of the sharpest younger voices in the UK, Helen Grime and Ryan Wigglesworth, getting US premieres of their work, and I’m very curious to hear music from the brightest young lights from Slovenia (didn’t you know?), Nina Senk and Vito Suraj.  And I wouldn’t, not for a hot minute, miss the Very Young Composers of the Philharmonic along with the Jovenes Compositores de Venezuela, whose presence on this festival is no mere accident. There’s also opera (Gotham Chamber Opera’s presentation of Hosokawa’s The Raven, and H. K. Gruber’s Gloria – A pig tale with Alan Gilbert in another Philharmonic production with Doug Fitch’s Giants are Small team), solo music (the powerhouse Italian pianist Marino Formenti gives a recital and Philharmonic musicians premiere new pieces for solo instruments), young composer readings (by the American Composers Orchestra as well as the Philharmonic), and some big, vital pieces (Steve Mackey’s Dreamhouse, Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, and Christopher Rouse’s new Fourth Symphony). The Philharmonic has stretched their fingers in ways only an organization of this magnitude can, and few actually do. The results may very well be stupendous.  I count 67 pictures of composers young and old (and nearly all living, save Liszt and a few others) featured on the site of the festival.  To me, that is already stupendous.

Most conductors, musicians, and administrators I’ve met have their Big Ticket Item, their Pie In The Sky programming idea—if money and time were no object, they would have done it long ago. So while I head uptown to some concerts this week, I’ll leave you with the question:  What’s in your festival?

Christopher Rouse Named NY Phil Composer-in-Residence

Christopher Rouse

Photo by Jeffrey Herman, courtesy Boosey & Hawkes

During a media briefing by the New York Philharmonic in WQXR’s Greene Performance Space in Lower Manhattan, it was announced that American composer Christopher Rouse has been named the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, following the three-year tenure of Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg in this position. Rouse’s two-year tenure will include performances of a number of his works (including Phantasmata (1985) and Seeing for Piano and Orchestra (1999) with soloist Emanuel Ax), plus the world premiere of a New York Philharmonic commission (April 17-20, 2013). Rouse will also serve as an advisor in collaboration with New York Philharmonic Artistic Director Alan Gilbert in programming the Philharmonic’s CONTACT! new music series.

In his introduction of Rouse during the press conference, Gilbert extolled Rouse’s music which he has previously recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. “Chris has an ear for sense and a sense of human psychology that is really penetrating. I literally have never heard one note of Chris’s that doesn’t speak to me as a deep and powerful statement.”

“I’m thrilled to be doing this,” acknowledged Rouse. “Phantasmata was really the first orchestral commission I had, so it’s something of a golden oldie. I’m thrilled that Seeing, which the orchestra commissioned, is being revived yet again. […] The new piece that I’ll be writing is still a little amorphous.”

Christopher Rouse has had a long history with the New York Philharmonic which dates back to hearing their recordings as he was growing up in Baltimore, as well as watching them on television during Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. As an adult, Rouse has composed numerous works for the Philharmonic including his 1992 Trombone Concerto (written for the Philharmonic’s principal trombonist Joseph Alessi) which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. (Read a 2008 NewMusicBox interview with Christopher Rouse.)

The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence position was the result of a $10 million gift from Henry R. Kravis endowing the residency as well as the awarding of an annual $250,000 Marie-Josée Kravis Prize for New Music which was awarded for the first time last year to French composer Henri Dutilleux.