Presented by Harvard University's Department of Music, this year's "Fromm Players at Harvard" music series features works of five composers to be performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's only orchestra dedicated to performing, commissioning, and recording new music of the 21st century. Curated by British composer and Harvard faculty member Julian Anderson, the 2007 Fromm Festival takes places Thursday, March 22nd, and Friday, March 23rd @ 8:00pm, in the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall at Harvard University (Oxford Street, Cambridge). Joined by special guest artists Monica Germino (violin) and Cristina Zavalloni (soprano), BMOP will showcase multiple pieces by the influential Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and Harvard's Fromm Professor of Composition Gunther Schuller, along with works by Arthur Berger, John Cage, and Lee Hyla.
The Fromm Festival is part of an impetus to program work that might not otherwise be seen in the Boston area. This marks BMOP's encore performance at the Fromm Festival; they had sold out performances in the 2002-2003 festival series.
BMOP will once again demonstrate why "composers are lucky to have it around" (The Boston Globe), with its performance of the avant-garde compositions of Louis Andriessen. This is BMOP's second collaboration with Andriessen; the orchestra's North American premiere of Andriessen's monumental Trilogy of the Last Day was called "the event of the season" by the Globe. Regarded as the leading composer working in the Netherlands today, Andriessen is a central figure in the international new music scene known for employing elemental harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic materials, heard in totally distinctive instrumentations. The basic idea of Andriessen's Zilver (1995) was to write a chorale variation like Bach did for the organ: a long melody in slow musical motion, combined with fast playing of the same melody. Zilver (meaning 'silver' in Dutch) is part of a series of chamber music pieces named for certain kinds of matter. The title also has to do with the fact that the two silver instruments—flute and vibraphone—start and end the piece.
Based on the text of the poet Dino Campana (1885-1932), Andriessen composed a double concerto for guest artists Cristina Zavalloni (soprano) and Monica Germino (violin). The Italian singer Zavalloni first introduced the poet's Canti Orfici (Orphic Songs) to Andriessen, resulting in his Passeggiata in Tram in America e ritorno, featuring a trembling violin performed by Germino, a brass ensemble, and vocal accompaniment by Zavalloni. He found the combination of her voice and the violin so rich that he decided to compose another piece for them, La Passione (2002) based on the text of Campana's Canti Orfici. Rounding out the Fromm program is a fourth Andriessen piece, Bells for Haarlem (2002) for two keyboards and two percussions.
MacArthur "genius" grant recipient Gunther Schuller, currently Fromm Professor of Composition at Harvard, has absorbed music of all types and styles from all over the world. Claimed to be the founding father of "third stream," the intersection of jazz and classical music, Schuller reveals a protean range of styles in his music, assimilating and using whatever suits his purposes. Saturday's program includes his Densities and Concerto de Camera which is actually the second work with that title, the other one composed in 1970. De Camera is the result of a twin commission by two chamber orchestras, the Pro Arte orchestra of Boston (of which Schuller was Conductor Laureate, having worked with them for over twenty years), and Orchestra 2001. The work is in two joined movements without interruption, one slow, and the other quite fast.
Arthur Berger (1912-2003) was an influential composer, critic, and teacher for more than half a century who received acclaim as a skillful neo-classical composer. According to The New York Times, his "neo-classical works had spiky, astringent qualities that made them seem fully modern, and his 12-tone works retained neo-classical lucidity and charm." After retiring from Brandeis in 1980, Berger taught at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston until 1999. Reviewing the performance of Berger's Collage III, The New York Times calls the music "bracing and mercurial... a section deceptively marked 'tranquillo' is filled with insistent stuff that keeps protuding through the placid surface; spunky outbursts are oddly quizzical." Berger had a close relationship with BMOP and Rose; their recording of Berger's complete orchestral works was selected as one of the "Best CDs of 2003" by The New York Times.
Rounding out Friday evening's performance is Amnesia Variance by Lee Hyla and Sixteen Dances by John Cage. BMOP is no stranger to Hyla's music. In 2004, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project released Trans, the critically acclaimed CD of his orchestral music from New World Records. Hyla lives in Boston where he is chairman of the composition department at the New England Conservatory.
John Cage's Sixteen Dances was written with a "magic square." According to Cage, "it's a square which contains numbers, and all the rows and files and diagonals add up to the same number. That's why it's called magic. So I made squares in which I put sounds and then I made moves on those squares, and I could change moves getting different kinds of continuities."
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project has had an outstanding reputation amongst Boston's most innovative performing arts organizations for attracting multi-generational audiences and providing thematic, diversified programming, and a national reputation for performing and recording new orchestral music at the highest level. Founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Gil Rose, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project strives to illuminate the connections that exist between contemporary music and contemporary society by reuniting composers and audiences in a shared concert experience. In just 10 years, BMOP has received eight ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Orchestral Music, and at the 2006 American Symphony Orchestra League conference BMOP received the prestigious John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music. BMOP has appeared in the Bank of America Celebrity Series, the Boston Cyberarts Festival, Tanglewood, the Festival of New American Music (Sacramento, CA), and Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh, PA). In Boston, BMOP performs at Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall, and has performed in New York at Miller Theater, the Winter Garden, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. BMOP recordings are available from Albany, New World, Naxos, Arsis, Oxingale, and Chandos, and are regularly reviewed by national and international publications including The New York Times ("Best CDs of 2003"), The Chicago Tribune ("Best CDs of 2004"), Gramophone, Fanfare, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Time Out New York ("Best CDs of 2004"), The Boston Globe ("Best CDs of 2003"), Paris Transatlantic Monthly, LA Weekly, Opera Now, BBC Music, and American Record Guide. BMOP is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Meet the Composer and other private foundations, and individuals.
Gil Rose, Artistic Director, Founder, and Conductor for BMOP, is recognized as one of a new generation of American conductors shaping the future of classical music. Since 2003, Rose has served as Music Director of Opera Boston, launching the much-celebrated Opera Unlimited, a ten-day contemporary opera festival performed with BMOP. He was recently chosen as the "Best Conductor of 2003" by Opera Online. The Boston Globe claims he "is some kind of genius; his concerts are wildly entertaining, intellectually rigorous, and meaningful."
Tickets required. Free passes are available two weeks in advance of concert in the Harvard Box Office, in the Holyoke Center Arcade, Harvard Square. Harvard Box Office hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm, Telephone (617) 496-2222, TTY (617) 495-1462
Thursday, March 22nd
Composer: Louis Andriessen Zilver
Composer: Arthur Berger Collage III
Composer: Lee Hyla Amnesia Variance
Composer: John Cage Sixteen Dances
Friday, March 25th
Composer: Louis Andriessen Bells for Haarlem, Passeggiata in Tram in America E Ritorno, and La Passione
Composer: Gunther Schuller, Densities and Concerto de Camera
Guest Artists: Monica Germino (violin) and Cristina Zavalloni (soprano)