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Axiom Plays Druckman and Subotnick

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Axiom begins its 2013-14 season with a premiere and a rarity. Under conductor Jeffrey Milarsky (B.M. ’88, M.M. ’90, percussion), the new-music ensemble will perform works by Jacob Druckman and Morton Subotnick. Milarsky gave The Journal a peek into how he selected the program.

Jeffrey Milarsky

(Photo by Peter Konerko)

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I have wanted to celebrate Jacob Druckman (B.S. ’54, M.S. ’56, composition; faculty 1956-72) for a long time—he is a composer who is absolutely underperformed, even though he wrote stunning music. One piece we are doing on October 11 is Come Round, which in my view, is his magnum opus within his chamber music oeuvre. I’ve performed it many times and am continually amazed by its unexpected beauty. Druckman’s mastery of form and color is astounding. I also chose a piece I was unaware existed. I was contemplating what I could pair with Come Round when my friend Dan [faculty member and alum Daniel Druckman, Jacob’s son] told me about the work. I wanted something besides the obvious stuff, and he suggested Delizie contente che l’alme beate after Francesco Cavalli, a 1973 wind quartet. It is not performed very often, possibly because of the tape element. 

At about the same time as I was deciding to do the Druckman pieces, Michael Tilson Thomas asked if I could fill in for him conducting the San Francisco Symphony on Morton Subotnick’s Jacob’s Room. I had never done anything of Subotnick’s before, but he is a musical legend in our time. It then occurred to me that Subotnick and Druckman would be an incredible concert combination.

Jacob’s Room has gone through many incarnations. I was having dinner with Mort after the San Francisco concert and I asked if he would ever consider making a larger string ensemble arrangement. Thankfully he took this opportunity to compose this expanded version, of which Axiom will play the world premiere. Joan La Barbara [the vocalist and composer, who’s married to Subotnick] is performing the solo part, and she is a thrilling performer.

I’m thrilled to give our musicians the chance to celebrate these legendary American composers.

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