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Performances

Aspen Music Festival and School Presents: Aspen Contemporary Ensemble

Wed, June 8, 2016  7 PM

Location: Floor Three, Susan and John Hess Family Theater

The Whitney is pleased to co-present this music event in conjunction with the Aspen Music Festival and School as part of the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL. Current members and alumni of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (ACE) give the New York premieres of works by composers tied to Aspen’s new music program. The program features work by young alumni, Thomas Kotcheff, Nina C. Young, and Christopher Stark along with faculty member Stephen Hartke, and late Aspen composition faculty member Steven Stucky. The program also includes a work by Esa-Pekka Salonen, New York Philharmonic composer-in-residence, that ACE performed to acclaim in its final concert in summer 2015. Steven Stucky was originally scheduled to conduct this program, before his untimely passing in February 2016. In his place, Timothy Weiss will conduct the evening.

Join us post-concert for an NY PHIL BIENNIAL Play Date co-hosted with the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Mix and mingle with the performers and composers over drinks outside the Susan and John Hess Family Theater.

Please note: This event has reached ticketing capacity. A limited number of standby tickets may be available at the admissions desk on a first-come, first-served basis. The standby line will open thirty minutes prior to the program’s start time.

Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (ACE). Photograph by Alex Irvin

Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (ACE). Photograph by Alex Irvin

About the Program

The title of composer/pianist Thomas Kotcheff’s bang Z (2014) is derived from the name of the small, high-pitched Chinese wood block called the bangzi, which generates the work’s central timbre. Composed for percussion, bass clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, bang Z uses sudden juxtapositions, including abrupt tempo changes, interjections of musical material, and unexpected harmonic shifts.

Stephen Hartke’s The Blue Studio: Portfolio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (2015) was inspired by Matisse’s Studio with Goldfish, which features a shade of blue similar to the composer’s own workroom. Hartke writes: "As a genre, these scenes of an artist’s workplace are especially fascinating for their incorporating paintings of paintings and other artworks. I thus came to conceive of this piece as a sort of studio visit. The listener becomes a visitor leafing through the movements as if a portfolio of drawings, the little interludes separating them representing the brief, quiet transition from image to image."

Nina C. Young’s Rising Tide (2015) was commissioned by the Nurtrire La Musica composition competition. Asked to consider the expo’s theme, "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life," Young focused on climate change, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels, which she is also addressing in several other projects. Some of the musical material is based on recordings of Antarctic glaciers provided by the Alfred Wegener Institute / PALAOA Oceans Acoustics Lab. Rising Tide also refers to the following passage from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, / Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. / Omitted, all the voyage of their life / Is bound in shallows and in miseries. / On such a full sea are we now afloat. / And we must take the current when it serves / Or lose our ventures.”

Steven Stucky’s The Stars and the Roses (2012–13) is a song cycle for tenor and orchestra based on poems by Nobel Prize winner Czesław Miłosz. The first movement, Happiness, highlights the French horn as well as the soloist, a pairing that echoes works by Benjamin Britten; The Sun explores Miłosz’s poem on artistic creation; and The Bird Kingdom references Messiaen’s love of birdsong.

Christopher Stark’s Mercy Bell (2014) is inspired by the composer’s memories of "La Misericordia" ("The Mercy Bell"), one of the seven bells housed in Giotto’s Campanile on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy. All of its melodic and harmonic material is derived from an analysis of that bell’s unique overtone timbre. The instrumentation is borrowed from Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, and also evokes the nonet from Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool. Stark writes: "Various bells and their spectra have been important muses for many composers in the past one hundred years, and through this shared inspiration, I am paying homage to those composers whose work I greatly admire—Edgard Varèse and Jonathan Harvey, to name a few."

New York Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen composed Catch and Release (2006) to complement Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. The work also borrows material developed while Salonen was working on Insomnia (2002) and ideas he later used in his Piano Concerto, which was co-commissioned and given its World Premiere by the Philharmonic, led by Salonen and featuring pianist Yefim Bronfman, in 2007.

The Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (ACE) is a student septet that functions as the ensemble for the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies to read music written by student composers. In residence for the entire Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) season, the ensemble also participates in many contemporary music performances with the artist-faculty of the AMFS.

Timothy Weiss (conductor) gained critical acclaim for his performances and brave, adventurous programming throughout the U.S. and abroad. His repertoire in contemporary music is vast and fearless, including masterworks, recent compositions, and an impressive number of premieres and commissions. Recently, he was the recipient of the Adventurous Programming Award from the American Symphony Orchestra League. Upcoming and recent engagements include the Artic Philharmonic in Bodø, Norway, Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia, Eastman Broadband Ensemble, BBC Scottish Symphony, Britten Sinfonia in London, and Melbourne Symphony in Australia. In his twenty-three years as music director of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, he has brought the group to a level of artistry and virtuosity in performance that rivals the finest new music groups. During his tenure with the CME, he has helped launch the ensembles eighth blackbird and ICE, as well as many other leading performers of contemporary music. As a committed educator, he is professor of conducting and chair of the division of contemporary music at Oberlin. He holds degrees from the Royal Conservatory in Brussels, Belgium, Northwestern University, and the University of Michigan.

About the Collaborators

NY PHIL BIENNIAL
A flagship project of the New York Philharmonic, the NY Phil Biennial is a wide-ranging exploration of today’s music that brings together an international roster of composers, performers, and curatorial voices for concerts presented both on the Lincoln Center campus and with partners in venues throughout the city. The second NY PHIL BIENNIAL, taking place May 23–June 11, 2016, will feature diverse programs — ranging from solo works to a chamber opera to large scale symphonies — by more than 100 composers, more than half of whom are American; present some of the country’s top music schools and youth choruses; and expand to more New York City neighborhoods. A range of events and activities will engender an ongoing dialogue among artists, composers, and audience members. Partners in the 2016 NY Phil Biennial include National Sawdust; 92nd Street Y; Aspen Music Festival and School; Interlochen Center for the Arts; League of Composers/ISCM; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Lucerne Festival; MetLiveArts; New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival; Whitney Museum of American Art; WQXR’s Q2 Music; and Yale School of Music.

Aspen Music Festival and School
The Aspen Music Festival and School is the United States’ premier classical music festival, presenting more than 400 musical events during an eight-week summer season in Aspen, Colorado. The institution draws top classical musicians from around the world to this mountain retreat for an unparalleled combination of performances and music education. More than 630 music students from more than forty countries come each summer to play in five orchestras, sing, conduct, compose and study with more than one hundred and fifty renowned artist-faculty members and guest artists. Alumni include violinists Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Midori, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Gil Shaham; pianists Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han and Joyce Yang; conductors Marin Alsop, James Conlon, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin and Joshua Weilerstein; composers William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Bright Sheng and Joan Tower; vocalists Jamie Barton, Danielle de Niese, Sasha Cooke, Renée Fleming, and Dawn Upshaw; cellists Lynn Harrell and Alisa Weilerstein; guitarist Sharon Isbin; performer Peter Schickele and bassist Edgar Meyer.

The Whitney is pleased to co-present this music event in conjunction with the Aspen Music Festival and School as part of the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL.

Major support for the Whitney’s Performance Program is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Generous support is also provided by the Performance Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art.  

Major support for the NY PHIL BIENNIAL is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, and The Francis Goelet Fund. Additional funding is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation and Honey M. Kurtz.