Rewriting Beethoven :: Schirmer News Spring 2011

Rewriting Beethoven :: Schirmer News Spring 2011
Schirmer News Spring 2011
London's Barbican Centre features Red Poppy composers at Reich Festival in May

This May, London's Barbican Centre presents concerts of music by Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe for the Reverberations Festival: the influence of Steve Reich.

Click here
to listen to Gordon talk about his thoughts on Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

Click here to see Wolfe discuss Cruel Sister.

Click here to watch David Lang talk about his little match girl passion.

For Gordon, Lang and Wolfe, the work of Steve Reich has been immensely influential. This was the music that changed their world. For them, it was clear that Reich "had unleashed a hidden and locked-up power of the sounds between the sounds." When they met in New York City in the early 1980s, Reich's music was what they played for each other and what that they discussed. With the festival in May, the Barbican Centre recognizes this influence and the role these composers have toward influencing the next generation of composers and musicians. One such composer of the next generation is Schirmer's own Missy Mazzoli, whose Still Life With Avalanche will be performed as part of the festival.

Michael Gordon. Photo credit: Peter Serling Michael Gordon, © Peter Serling
On May 7, the itinerant American percussion group So Percussion performs David Lang's the so-called laws of nature and the BBC Symphony gives the UK premiere of Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony — Michael Gordon's 2006 re-imagining that filters one of the classics through the lens of the 21st century. Not looking to improve on Beethoven's timeless quality, Gordon imagined "what if someone unknowingly used this material in the course of writing his or her new work?" Throughout the composition process, however, Gordon questioned, "Who am I to take these precious notes and mash them into clay?" But, at a certain point, he simply got lost in the material. Upon completing the score, Gordon wondered whether his piece had transformed the music of Beethoven, or whether it had transformed him. He recalls that he "reveled in its power. I forgot about these questions in my mind. I forgot about Beethoven."

On May 8, the Reverberations Festival features the London premiere of David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning composition for four singers, the little match girl passion performed by Theatre of Voices and Julia Wolfe's Cruel Sister performed by the Britten Sinfonia — a string orchestra setting of the old English Ballad.