Highlights from the 2017 Festival Season
1st September 2017
Matthew Aucoin continues to establish himself as a composer-conductor for the ages, with an impressive crop of residencies and performances throughout the Summer. On July 16, Aucoin's opera Second Nature was performed at the Ad Adstra Music Festival in Kansas. The day before, Aucoin conducted the world premiere of Crossing Suite at Music Academy of the West, with whom he maintains an ongoing association as a Mosher Guest Artist. The suite—scored for full orchestra, men's chorus, and two baritone soloists—is drawn from Aucoin's Walt Whitman opera Crossing, which the composer conducts this season at BAM Next Wave October 3-8 and LA Opera May 26. Aucoin also has music on every program at the summer-long Abiquiu Chamber Music Festival in New Mexico, where he is the Featured Composer for their tenth-anniversary season.
Elsewhere in the US, the opening weekend (August 4-5) of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music featured Gabriela Lena Frank's evocative Three Latin American Dances and the stunning Second Symphony of Aaron Jay Kernis, as part of Music Director Cristian Măcelaru's inaugural season. Măcelaru conducted Elina Vähälä in John Corigliano's Red Violin concerto July 6, as part of the 40th Colorado Music Festival. CMF celebrated another Music Sales legend on July 13, with the US premiere of A Little Summer Suite by Betsy Jolas.
On the East Coast, the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music (August 10-14) includes the world premiere of Nico Muhly's new sextet Clip, plus chamber music by Donnacha Dennehy, Terry Riley, David Lang, Moritz Eggert, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Music Sales' latest signing, the singular Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Other Tanglewood highlights include their co-commissioned premiere of John Harbison's String Quartet No. 6 on July 9, The Knights performing John Adams' early masterwork, Common Tones in Simple Time July 13, and the BSO delivering two beloved classics: Aaron Jay Kernis' Musica Celestis July 23 and Witold Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra August 12.
At Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart festival, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will give the US premiere of Anna Thorvaldsdottir's aequilibria on August 14, and Sō Percussion joined the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra for the New York premiere of David Lang's man made August 1-2. André Previn's Almost an Overture received its world premiere on July 1, as part of the Newport Contemporary Music Series.
Premieres took place at this summer's Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, including two from Marc Neikrug, his String Trio by the Variation Trio (which brought it to another of the work's co-commissioners, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, in August) and Prisms by pianist Kirill Gerstein, as well as the first hearing of Igor Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat in Wallace Shawn's new English translation, which Shawn performed. The Grand Teton Music Festival co-commissioned Marc Neikrug's orchestral work The Unicorn of Atlas Peak with the Atlanta Symphony and gave it its festival premiere in July. Following Tanglewood, Moritz Eggert hurried to the Staunton Music Festival in Virginia for the US premieres on August 12-16 of four chamber and solo pieces: Croatoan III, Iron Curtain, Amadé, Amadé, and Hämmerklavier XX: One Man Band 2.
Overseas, Donnacha Dennehy and Enda Walsh's 'extraordinary' (Irish Times) new opera The Second Violinist had its world premiere run at the Galway Arts Festival, July 27, 29-30, where it received a five-star review from The Guardian: 'From the exhilarating score, lyrical singing, and dazzlingly intricate design, this is a work that needs to be seen more than once in order to absorb the rich detail. Like its recurring filmed image of a murmuration of starlings, it soars'. Headed to the Dublin Theatre Festival October 2-8, the opera finds both composer and writer/director at the peak of their creative powers, bolstered by Dennehy's uncanny Crash Ensemble in the pit.
Electroacoustic composer Daniel Wohl has triumphed with his score to 8 Minutes, the first evening-length ballet by choreographer Alexander Whitley, which also features visuals by Tal Rosner. Presented at Sadler's Wells in London June 27-28, this world premiere was hailed as a 'stunning cosmic voyage' (The Guardian), which 'merges dance visuals and music as equal partners. Daniel Wohl's score pulsates with solar energy.' (Evening Standard) A rare, moving symbiosis of art and science, 8 Minutes heads to Karlsruhe, Germany November 17, and several other UK venues in October.
Kaija Saariaho was composer-in-residence at the 2017 Bergen International Festival in Norway. The chamber version of Saariaho's La Passion de Simone was performed at the Cornerteateret, Bergen on May 31, presented by the festival and BIT20. On May 30, Jakob Kullberg (cello) and Aliisa Barrière (violin) gave the world premiere of the full version of Concordia at Håkonshallen. Finally, Peter Herresthal and the London Sinfonietta performed Saariaho's violin concerto, Graal Théâtre, on June 2, along with the world premieres of Rolf Wallin's Spirit—an electric bass concerto for longtime Prince affiliate Ida Nielsen—and Eivind Buene's Sea Change for string trio and ensemble. Saariaho's latest opera, Only The Sound Remains, heads to the Palais Garnier January 23 for a six-performance French premiere run.
Image: © Johan Persson