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Focus! 2010 "Music at the Center: Composing an American Mainstream," Friday, January 22 - Saturday, January 30, 2010 at Juilliard, Explores Mid-20th Century American Composers

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Juilliard's FOCUS! 2010, its 26th annual mid-winter festival of ‘new' music, takes place Friday, January 22 through Saturday, January 30, 2010, entitled Music at the Center: Composing An American Mainstream. FOCUS! 2010 explores American mainstream composers at the center of the last century and marks the centennials of composers William Schuman and Samuel Barber. Other American composers to be spotlighted during the festival are: Samuel Adler, Aaron Copland. Jack Beeson, Leonard Bernstein, Henry Cowell, David Diamond, Morton Gould, Leon Kirchner, Peter Mennin, Hall Overton, Vincent Persichetti, Walter Piston, Ned Rorem, Ruth Crawford Seeger, William Grant Still, Louise Talma, and Virgil Thomson. All events take place in Juilliard's Peter Jay Sharp Theater (155 West 65th Street).

   

ALL JANUARY FOCUS! 2010 festival concerts require FREE tickets, available at the Janet and Leonard Kramer Box Office at Juilliard beginning January 8, 2010. The Box Office, located in the lobby of Juilliard at 155 West 65th Street, is open Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 6 PM. For further information, call (212) 769-7406 or visit Juilliard's Web site at www.juilliard.edu/focus.

 

On Thursday, April 1, 2010, Juilliard introduces its first springtime addendum to FOCUS! when conductor and Juilliard alumnus Leonard Slatkin leads the Juilliard Orchestra in an all-William Schuman concert at Avery Fisher Hall. Tickets are $10 and $20 at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office or via CenterCharge, (212) 721-6500, beginning February 25; they're free to students and senior citizens only at the Avery Fisher Box Office.

    

This year's festival comes full circle, celebrating its roots and showcasing the composers who were ‘new' during the mid-century tenure of Juilliard President William Schuman who first explored the works of current composers during the Juilliard performance season. The tradition was continued with the name ‘Festival of Contemporary Music' by Juilliard's next president, Peter Mennin. Those presentations were neither thematic nor annual, and with the appointment of Juilliard's sixth president, Joseph Polisi, Juilliard's concept of a festival was re-focused in 1985, with programming created by Juilliard faculty member Joel Sachs, music director of FOCUS! for all its 26 seasons. That first 1985 FOCUS! also featured the composers of the mid-20th Century, but was a global mix of names both familiar to American concert-goers, and many new introductions. Since then, the festival has examined specific themes in new musical literature, from the crossover between jazz, folk, and popular idioms to the influence of immigrant music in the American melting pot. Many composers now regularly heard in NYC were first introduced locally with a FOCUS! performance. Also for the first time, FOCUS! extends its schedule with a special addendum to its lineup, a springtime performance in Avery Fisher Hall that features the Juilliard Orchestra, led by conductor Leonard Slatkin, in an all-William Schuman concert on Thursday, April 1, 2010.

  

There are compelling reasons to return to the very composers and compositions that inspired Juilliard's first forays into new music advocacy, and its reiteration as FOCUS! As stated by FOCUS! Music Director Joel Sachs:

 

                For many older music lovers, the very words "20th-century music" evokes the ideological battles of the last century, when the struggle between change and tradition became acute. Young composers confronted the apparent death of principles that had governed composition for centuries. Schoenberg's self-image as both conservator and innovator-which, in retrospect, is accurate-seemed disingenuous, a mere self-defense against opposition. His twelve-tone method drove music lovers apoplectic. But at least the music of Schoenberg and his school used the traditional pitch system. Pieces for percussion ensemble (Varèse's Ionisation or Cage's Constructions), the concept of indeterminacy (a few 1930s Cowell works), the gliding/sliding voice of the Theremin, and the novel sound-world of other electrical instruments seemed to portend alarming prospects for the future of music. After World War II, as the idea of indeterminacy spread from John Cage throughout the world, as advanced electronics opened music's door to everything audible, composers who adhered to the Schoenberg tradition seemed to guard the fort against these new challengers to the very idea of music. Soon fusions of Western and non-Western by Cowell, McPhee, Hovhaness, and others were added to the bubbling cauldron; there was a surge of interest in mating classical with jazz or pop; a new lyricism symbolized by George Crumb; and countless other tendencies tugging the listener in every direction. Forgotten, it seemed were the traditionalists.

 

                Yet amidst all the turmoil, life continued in the middle ground, that place where composers wrote pieces called Symphony and still used Italian tempo markings, a land surrounded by the struggles of the new concepts. One can reasonably guess that a majority of the countless thousands of composers preferred to be part of that mainstream, which was by no means peaceful. The "centrists" felt exiled from the new music world by the propaganda of innovators on all sides.

 

                Ironically, in recent decades, when young composers returned to more accessible styles, many older innovators and centrists began falling off programmers' maps, just when audiences are markedly less hostile to unfamiliar ideas, and today's performers do such justice to those older styles that music of the entire spectrum can make a more powerful impact than ever.

 

                The older innovators are memorialized in the history books with big ideas that gave shape to history, some of which prove to be lasting. But the centrists simply wrote music, not producing earthshaking ideas; Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber are among the few who remain part of the core repertory. 2010 is an appropriate time to revisit mid-20th century American mainstreamers. In addition to the Schuman and Barber centennials, 2009 marked half a century since President Eisenhower broke the ground for Lincoln Center, where tradition has been powerful. Furthermore, exploration revealed the surprising breadth of the mainstream, which even embraced some former radicals.

  

Directed by festival founder Joel Sachs and now in its 26th year, FOCUS! 2010 opens Friday January 22 at 8 PM, with the Juilliard Orchestra conducted by Jeffrey Milarsky, featuring Aaron Copland's Nonet (version for string orchestra) (1960); Leonard Bernstein's nocturne, Halil with flutist Fiona Kelly (1981); Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (text by James Agee) (1947/50) with soprano Emalie Savoy; and Schuman's Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5) (1943).

  

On Monday, January 25 at 8 PM, Joel Sachs leads the New Juilliard Ensemble in David Diamond's Concerto for Small Orchestra (1940); Hall Overton's Pulsations (1972); William Schuman's The Young Dead Soldiers: Lamentation (1975) with soprano Catherine Hancock and Molly Norcross on French horn; and Henry Cowell's Symphony No. 13, "Madras" (1956-58) with Ray Spiegel on tablas.

  

The festival continues with three chamber music concerts, January 26 to 28, which will include a variety of American composers. The Tuesday, January 26 program opens with a pre-concert conversation at 7 PM with Joel Sachs and Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi, author of the recent book, American Muse: The Life and Times of William Schuman. Composer William Schuman was president of Juilliard from 1945 to 1961 and of Lincoln Center from 1961 to 1968. The concert follows at 8 PM featuring Samuel Barber's Summer Music (1955) with Emi Ferguson, flute, Jennifer Christen oboe, Xiang-yu Zhou, clarinet, Benjamin Moermond, bassoon, and James Ferree, French horn; Louise Talma's Piano Sonata No. 2 (1944-1955) with pianist Yohann Ripert; Jack Beeson's Love Song and Aria from The Sweet Bye and Bye (composed in 1956 and premiered at Juilliard in 1957) (text by Kenward Elsmlie) with tenor Martin Coyle and pianist Natalya Katyukova; Peter Mennin's Sonata Concertante (1959) with violinist Sean Riley and pianist Liza Stepanova; Morton Gould's Benny's Gig (1962) with clarinetist Asuka Yamamoto and double bassist Eric Lamm; and William Schuman's Amaryllis: Variations for String Trio, based on an old English Round (1964) with violinist Yo-Yo Fann, violist Eva Gerard, cellist Tobin Low, and sopranos Faylotte Crayton, Lilla Heinrich, and Carolyn Sproule.

  

The program on Wednesday, January 27 features Vincent Persichetti's Serenade No. 12, Op. 88 (1961) with Jonathan Hill (tuba); Leon Kirchner's Piano Sonata (1948) in one movement with pianist Jennifer Chu; William Grant Still's Songs of Separation (1949) with bass-baritone Timothy Beenken and pianist Michael Funderburk; Walter Piston's String Quartet No. 5 (1962) with violinists Francesca Anderegg and Sharon Park, violist Molly Carr, and cellist Matthew Zalkind; Gian Carlo Menotti's Ricercare and Toccata on a Theme from The Old Maid and The Thief (1951) with pianist Stephanie Chen; and William Schuman's In Sweet Music: Serenade on a Setting of Shakespeare (1978) with soprano Tharanga Goonetilleke, flutist Rose Lombardo, violist Izia Weyman, and harpist Grace Browning.

  

On Thursday, January 28, the program features Samuel Adler's Canto I (1970) in four movements with Toby Penk, Kathyrn Miller, Clayton Chastain, and Colin Sieg on trumpets; Ned Rorem's Night Music (1972) with violinist Elly Suh and pianist Marnie Hauschildt; Virgil Thomson's Praises and Prayers (1963) with mezzo-soprano Carin Gilfry (alumna) and pianist Byung Hee Yoo; Ruth Crawford Seeger's Suite for Wind Quintet (1952) with Matthew Wright (flute), Hsuan-Fong Chen (oboe), Shuyue Zhao (clarinet), Brent Foster (bassoon), and Nathanael Udell (French horn); and William Schuman's String Quartet No. 4 (1950) with Juilliard's graduate resident quartet, the Afiara String Quartet (Valerie Li and Yuri Cho, violins, David Samuel, viola, and Adrian Fung, cello).

  

The festival concludes with a concert version of Aaron Copland's opera, The Tender Land, an American classic, a coming-of-age story about young people discovering who they are and what they want for their futures, on Saturday, January 30 featuring Juilliard singers directed by Copeland Woodruff, with conductor David Effron leading the Juilliard Orchestra. Juilliard Vocal Arts Artistic Director Brian Zeger adds: "The Tender Land is a perfect vehicle for young singing actors. We are presenting this opera in a concert version: this format allows the performers to create a convincing world with their voices, words, and emotions without the help of scenery or costumes." (This performance is part of Juilliard Opera, a program dedicated to the education and training of future generations of singers at Juilliard. Juilliard Opera is supported by the vision and generous lead funding of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture and its Chairman, Dr. Haruhisa Handa.)

 

BIOGRAPHIES

   

Joel Sachs, founder and director of the New Juilliard Ensemble, performs a vast range of traditional and contemporary music as conductor and pianist. As co-director of the internationally acclaimed new-music ensemble Continuum, Dr. Sachs has appeared in hundreds of performances in New York, nationally, and throughout Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He has also conducted orchestras and ensembles in Austria, China, El Salvador, Germany, Iceland, Mexico, Switzerland, and Ukraine, and held new-music residencies in Berlin, London, Salzburg, Curitiba (Brazil), Helsinki, and the Banff Centre (Canadian Rockies). In 2006 he conducted Continuum in Jakarta, Indonesia, where they presented Tony Prabowo's opera The King's Witch in full staging, his piano concerto Psalm -- both of which were composed for and premiered by the New Juilliard Ensemble -- and music by American composers. In 2007 Dr. Sachs conducted a concert of American music at the Shanghai Conservatory including the Chinese premiere of Ives' Symphony No. 3. The following October he conducted the Danube-Hudson Project, comprising works by Juilliard and Liszt Academy composition students, at the Liszt Academy in Budapest as part of the Budapest Autumn Festival and at Juilliard. Keyboard appearances include numerous performances of John Cage's monumental Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano. In August 2009 he gave a recital of American piano music in the festival at Céret, in the French Pyrenees. Joel Sachs' recordings appear on the Advance, CRI, Naxos, New Albion, Nonesuch, and TNC labels. A CD of music of the Americas with La Camerata de las Americas (Mexico City) was released by Dorian. He also directs concerts by Juilliard students at MoMA Summergarden. One of the most active presenters of new music in New York, Joel Sachs founded the New Juilliard Ensemble in 1993. He produces and directs The Juilliard School's annual FOCUS! Festival, has been artistic director of Juilliard's concerts at New York's Museum of Modern Art since 1993, and also was a co-director of the former Sonic Boom Festival of contemporary music, a project of a consortium of New York City's most prestigious new-music ensembles. A member of Juilliard's music history faculty, Joel Sachs is writing a biography of the American composer Henry Cowell, to be published by Oxford University Press, and appears on radio as a commentator on recent music. He has been a regular delegate to Netherlands Music Days and other international music conferences.

  

Jeffrey Milarsky is a leading conductor of contemporary music in New York City and now a member of Juilliard's conducting department. Known for his innovative programming and wide-ranging repertoire from Bach to Xenakis, he has premiered and recorded works worldwide by contemporary composers, and led such accomplished groups as the American Composers Orchestra, MET Chamber Ensemble, the Milwaukee Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York New Music Ensemble, Manhattan Sinfonietta, Speculum Musicae, Cygnus Ensemble, Fromm Players at Harvard University, and the New York Philharmonic chamber music series. In the United States and abroad, Mr. Milarsky has premiered and recorded works by groundbreaking contemporary composers, including Charles Wuorinen, Fred Lerdahl, Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Gerard Grisey, Jonathan Dawe, Tristan Murail, Ralph Shapey, Luigi Nono, Mario Davidovsky and Wolfgang Rihm. Mr. Milarsky made his debut at the New York City Opera during the 2008-2009 season. He has been music director of AXIOM since its founding in 2005. Mr. Milarsky is a much in-demand percussionist who has performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, among many other ensembles. He is a professor in music at Columbia University, where he is music director and conductor of the Columbia University Orchestra. Also at Columbia, he is the music director and conductor of the Manhattan Sinfonietta, which focuses on 20th- and 21st-century scores. In addition, he is on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music as artistic director and conductor of the Percussion Ensemble. Mr. Milarsky received his bachelor and master of music degrees from Juilliard.

  

Known for its versatility and the freshness of its performances, The Juilliard Orchestra performs frequently in its own New York City series each season, and is a strong partner to Juilliard's operatic and dance performances. In May/June 2008, the Juilliard Orchestra toured China - Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou - on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, with concerts led by conductor Xian Zhang. During Juilliard's 2005-06 centennial season, the Juilliard Orchestra traveled to six European cities - Aldeburgh, Berlin, Helsinki, Leicester, London, and Lucerne - and six major symphony halls in the United States - Chicago's Symphony Center, Dallas' Meyerson, Irvine's Barclay, Los Angeles' Walt Disney, San Diego's Copley, and Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center. Principally led by the School's Director of Conducting and Orchestral Studies James DePreist, the Juilliard Orchestra also appears with prominent guest conductors, most recently including John Adams, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Alan Gilbert, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, David Robertson, and Michael Tilson Thomas. The Juilliard Orchestra has appeared several times on PBS' Live From Lincoln Center.

  

The New Juilliard Ensemble (NJE), led by founding director Joel Sachs, celebrates the liveliness of today's music, focusing primarily on repertory of the last decade. Now in its 17th season, NJE presents music by a variety of international composers writing in the most diverse styles. Its members are current students at Juilliard, who are admitted to the ensemble by audition. Student interest in the ensemble's work is considerable, with more than 100 students participating each year, although the maximum size of compositions is normally 15-20 players. The Ensemble appears regularly at MoMA's Summergarden and has been a featured ensemble four times at the Lincoln Center Festival. This Spring, the New Juilliard Ensemble gave four concerts in Tokyo sponsored by Suntory Hall and featuring a program in Suntory's "Debut Concerts" in its Blue Rose Room; on December 12, 2009, they performed aleatoric music at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with an exhibition of Persian and Turkish "divining" manuscripts. Last January, the New Juilliard Ensemble opened the 2009 FOCUS! festival, CALIFORNIA: A Century of New Music, which showcased West Coast composers. The 2008 FOCUS! festival celebrated composer Elliott Carter's 100th year with New Juilliard Ensemble members joining members of the Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble, conducted by Pierre Boulez.

 

COMPLETE PROGRAM LISTING

  

FOCUS! Festival 2010, MUSIC AT THE CENTER: COMPOSING AN AMERICAN MAINSTREAM

  

January 22 - 30, 2010, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater at The Juilliard School

  

Friday, January 22, 2010, 8 PM, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater (155 West 65th Street)

 

Chamber Orchestra

 

Jeffrey Milarsky, conductor

   

Aaron Copland - Nonet for strings (1960)

Leonard Bernstein - Halil: Nocturne (1981)

 

                Fiona Kelly, flute

 

--intermission-

 

Samuel Barber - Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947-50)

 

                Emalie Savoy, soprano

  

William Schuman - Symphony for Strings (Symphony No. 5, 1943)

 

Monday, January 25, 2010, 8 PM, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

 

New Juilliard Ensemble

 

Joel Sachs, conductor

  

David Diamond - Concerto for Small Orchestra (1940)

 

Hall Overton - Pulsations (1972)

 

--intermission-

 

William Schuman - The Young Dead Soldiers: Lamentation (Text: Archibald MacLeish) (1975)

 

                Catherine Hancock, soprano

 

                Molly Norcross, French horn

 

Henry Cowell- Symphony No. 13, "Madras" (1956-58)

 

                Ray Spiegel, tablas

  

Tuesday, January 26, 2010, 7 PM Pre-Concert, 8 PM Concert, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

 

7 PM      Pre-Concert Conversation: Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi and Joel Sachs

 

8 PM      Concert

 

Samuel Barber - Summer Music (1955)

 

Emi Ferguson, flute, Jennifer Christen, oboe, Xiang-yu Zhou, clarinet, Benjamin Moermond bassoon, Sydney Braunfeld, French horn

 

Louise Talma - Piano Sonata No. 2 (1944-1955)

 

Yohann Ripert, piano

 

Jack Beeson - Love Song and Arietta from The Sweet Bye and Bye (1956)

 

                Martin Coyle, tenor

 

                Natalya Katyukova, piano

 

Peter Mennin - Sonata Concertante (1959)

 

                Sean Riley, violin

 

                Liza Stepanova, piano

 

--intermission-

 

Morton Gould - Benny's Gig (1962)

 

                Asuka Yamamoto, clarinet

 

                Eric Lamm, double bass

 

William Schuman - Amaryllis: Variations for String Trio, based on an old English Round (1964)

 

                Yo-Yo Fann, violin

 

                Eva Gerard, viola

 

                Tobin Low, cello

 

                Faylotte Crayton, Lilla Heinrich, Carolyn Sproule, sopranos

  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010, 8 PM, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

 

Vincent Persichetti - Serenade No. 12, Op. 88 (1961

 

                Jonathan Hill, tuba

 

Leon Kirchner - Piano Sonata (1948)

 

                Jennifer Chu, piano

 

William Grant Still - Songs of Separation (1949)

 

                Timothy Beenken, bass-baritone

 

                Michael Funderburk, piano

 

Walter Piston - String Quartet No. 5 (1962)

 

                Francesca Anderegg and Sharon Park, violins

 

                Molly Carr, viola

 

                Matthew Zalkind, cello

 

--intermission-

 

Gian Carlo Menotti - Ricercare and Toccata on a Theme from The Old Maid and The Thief (1951)

 

                Stephanie Chen, piano

 

William Schuman - In Sweet Music: Serenade on a Setting of Shakespeare (1978)

 

                Tharanga Goonetilleke, soprano

 

                Rose Lombardo, flute

 

                Izia Weyman, viola

 

                Grace Browning, harp

  

Thursday, January 28, 2010, 8 PM, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

 

Samuel Adler - Canto I: In Four Movements (1970)

 

                Toby Penk, Kathryn Miller, Clayton Chastain, Colin Sieg, trumpets

 

Ned Rorem - Night Music (1972)

 

                Elly Suh, violin

 

                Marnie Hauschildt, piano

 

Virgil Thomson - Praises and Prayers (1963)

 

                Carin Gilfry, mezzo-soprano (alumna)

 

                Byung Hee Yoo, piano

 

--intermission-

 

Ruth Crawford Seeger - Suite for Wind Quintet (1952)

 

                Matthew Wright, flute

 

                Hsuan-Fong Chen, oboe

 

                Shuyue Zhao, clarinet

 

                Brent Foster, bassoon

 

                Nathanael Udell, French horn

 

William Schuman - String Quartet No. 4 (1950)

 

                The Afiara String Quartet

 

                Valerie Li and Yuri Cho, violins

 

                David Samuel, viola

 

                Adrian Fung, cello

  

Saturday, January 30, 2010, 8 PM, The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

 

Aaron Copland's The Tender Land (1952-54) (concert version)

 

Copeland Woodruff, director; David Effron, conductor; Juilliard Opera and Juilliard Orchestra

  

FREE FOCUS! 2010 tickets are available at the Janet and Leonard Kramer Box Office at Juilliard beginning January 9, 2010. The Box Office, 155 West 65th Street, is open Monday through Friday from 11 AM to 6 PM. For further information, call (212) 769-7406 or visit Juilliard's Web site at www.juilliard.edu.

  

FOCUS! 2010 ADDENDUM, Thursday, April 1, 2010, 8 PM, Avery Fisher Hall

  

Leonard Slatkin Conducts the Juilliard Orchestra in an All-Schuman concert

Celebrating the William Schuman (1910-1992) Centennary

 

Circus Overture; Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 3

Tickets are $20 and $10 and will be available beginning February 25, 2010 at the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office or through CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500.