Missy Mazzoli's Expanding Orbit

Missy Mazzoli's Expanding Orbit
© Photo by Stephen S. Taylor
Missy Mazzoli, New Music USA's Music Alive Composer-in-Residence at the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, is featured in a series of concerts and events leading to the premiere of the orchestral version of her Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres).

Mazzoli begins her residency on Tuesday, February 9, with an informal chat during the orchestra's series of free open rehearsals known as Café Phil. The next day the Altius Quartet offers a concert of Mazzoli's chamber music alongside music of J.S. Bach, a composer who greatly influences her. That evening she joins the orchestra's stargazing Musical Hikes, Stars, Spirals & Orbiting Spheres, to explore the relationships between Mazzoli's composition and events in the night sky. In addition to working with the orchestra in rehearsal, Mazzoli dines with the Boulder Phil's other guest that week, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, and Music Director Michael Butterman at a Meet the Artists Q&A on Thursday.

The week culminates in a "Spheres of Influence" concert on Friday night and the first performance of the orchestral Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres). The Los Angeles Philharmonic commissioned and premiered the original version for a small sinfonietta in 2014 led by John Adams. Mazzoli wrote, "Sinfonia (for Orbiting Spheres) is music in the shape of a solar system, a collection of rococo loops that twist around each other within a larger orbit. The word ‘sinfonia’ refers to baroque works for chamber orchestra but also to the old Italian term for a hurdy-gurdy, a medieval stringed instrument with constant, wheezing drones that are cranked out under melodies played on an attached keyboard. It's a piece that churns and roils, that inches close to the listener only to leap away at breakneck speed, in the process transforming the ensemble into a makeshift hurdy-gurdy, flung recklessly into space." And indeed, several players in the orchestra evoke a hurdy-gurdy in space, playing simple harmonica parts in addition to their regular instruments.

The New York Times called Mazzoli "one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York." Recent performances include LA Opera's production of her multimedia Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt, and performances by the Phoenix Symphony, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and the Grammy-winning vocal group Roomful of Teeth. Currently she's working with librettist Royce Vavrek on Breaking the Waves, a chamber opera based on Lars von Trier's 1996 film, commissioned by Opera Philadelphia which premieres in September 2016 under the direction of James Darrah.

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