A Pulitzer Winner Asks: Why Write Symphonies?

NPR Music
by KEVIN PUTS

In 2007, I was interviewed by a journalist over lunch a day before the premiere of my Violin Concerto. One of his first questions was, “So why do you write in these old forms, the symphony, the concerto … ?” I told him that these were simply titles which imply nothing about the form, which was another thing entirely. But it led me to ask myself: What is a symphony these days? If it no longer comprises a four-movement structure with an energetic first movement, a slow movement, a scherzo, and some kind of quick rondo, then what exactly characterizes it? And why write one? MORE

Published August 6, 2013
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Yale Philharmonia offers Mahler, Berg, and Akiho’s new steel pan concerto January 21

The Yale School of Music presents the Philharmonia Orchestra of Yale and conductor Shinik Hahm on Friday, January 21, 2011 at 8 pm in Woolsey Hall. The concert will open with Andy Akiho’s new Concerto for Steel Pans, which received its premiere December 9 in Sprague Hall. Akiho, a trained percussionist as well as composer who has studied steel pan culture in Trinidad, will be the soloist in the piece. Akiho’s concerto was selected by the Yale School of Music’s composition faculty to be performed on this program.

Soprano Janna Baty will join the orchestra to perform excerpts from Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck. The opera, based on Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck, was a succès de scandale at its premiere in 1925 and quickly took off across Europe. Baty, a member of the School of Music faculty, has been praised by the Boston Herald for her “voice brimming with richness and confidence.”

The concert will close with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, called “The Titan” not for its size – though a performance requires about 100 musicians and lasts about one hour – but because Mahler originally based the work on Jean Paul’s novel of the same name. MORE

Published December 15, 2010
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East Coast premiere of new Aaron Jay Kernis symphony

Yale presents the East Coast premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’s major new work, the “profoundly spiritual” Symphony of Meditations

Kernis, Aaron JayThe Yale School of Music, Institute of Sacred Music, and Glee Club will present the East Coast premiere of Aaron Jay Kernis’s Symphony of Meditations, a major new work in the repertoire for orchestra and chorus, on Friday, November 6 at 8 pm in Woolsey Hall. Kernis himself will conduct the performance, which will feature the Yale Philharmonia (Shinik Hahm, conductor), the Yale Camerata (Marguerite L. Brooks, conductor), the Yale Schola Cantorum (Masaaki Suzuki, director), and the Yale Glee Club (Jeffrey Douma, director). The vocal soloists, all emerging artists in the Yale Opera program, are Amanda Hall, soprano, Joseph Mikolaj, tenor and David Pershall, baritone. The performance will take place during the 2009 convention of the American Collegiate Choral Organization, hosted by Yale University.

The hour-long, three-movement Symphony of Meditations was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. After its first performance in June under the baton of Gerard Schwartz, the piece was warmly received by the audience and hailed by the press. The Examiner called it “a complex, ambitious and, overall, brilliant undertaking… there is much to praise about this multi-textured, profoundly spiritual composition.” Gathering Note said, “Kernis has constructed a major new symphony that gives notice to everyone that the form is not dead …nothing less than a serious and worthy composition.” MORE

Published October 21, 2009
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