Programming new music responding to specific pieces from the past

Posted on: August 22, 2016

Composers “have long borrowed from their predecessors: quoted them, evoked them … orchestrated them, built sets of variations from their seeds,” writes David Allen in Friday’s (8/19) New York Times. “On the whole, nobody has asked them to. But over the last decade or so … major institutions, orchestras and performers [have been] asking contemporary composers to respond to specific pieces of music from the past…. Around 10 years ago, ‘this idea seemed to pop up in a lot of places at the same time,’ said the pianist Jonathan Biss, who with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra commissioned [Timo] Andres and four other composers to respond to Beethoven’s piano concertos…. Jesse Rosen, the president of the League of American Orchestras, said ensembles are saying, in effect: ‘Yes, we want to play a role in generating new music. We also want a pathway for people to engage with it.’ … Composers appreciate that response pieces lead to coherent programming, possibly making for a better reception for their work. It creates a “meaningful link,” said Anna Clyne, whose ‘Night Ferry’ was designed to go with Schubert’s Ninth Symphony…. Jorg Widmann, whose ‘Con brio’ partnered Beethoven’s seventh and eighth symphonies, said a response spilled over. ‘I learned a lot about Beethoven, of course, but also about my language,’ he said.”

Posted August 22, 2016