S.E.M. Ensemble's BEYOND CAGE Festival 2012 Kicks Off Today, 10/22

In conjunction with the centennial of John Cage's birth, artistic director Petr Kotik and S.E.M. Ensemble, Inc present "BEYOND CAGE – John Cage at 100 / Music at 2012", a festival highlighting some of Cage's most significant works and his legacy in the music of our time.

In the mid-20th century, Cage created pieces that opened a new path to the composition, performance, and perception of music. The festival's nine programs will span four generations from Cage and his close associates (Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown) to young emerging composers, and will display the composer's broad and lasting influence on today's composition. BEYOND CAGE will feature longtime collaborators and interpreters, including Joseph Kubera, Christian Wolff, Petr Kotik, and Talujon Percussion Ensemble, among others. All the living composers will participate in the realization of their work.

"John Cage's music is challenging to perform and impossible to imitate and his ideas have been part of the discourse not only among composers, but also among artists and intellectuals for more than sixty years," Artistic Director Petr Kotik says. "The idea behind the festival is to present Cage in the context of today's music and to show that influence is not imitation."

Performing ensembles include The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, Janacek Philharmonic Ostrava (Czech Republic), FLUX Quartet, Talujon Percussion Ensemble, S.E.M. Ensemble, and Ostravská banda. Soloists are Ursula Oppens and Joseph Kubera (Piano); Hana Kotková and Conrad Harris (Violin); Katalin Károlyi (Mezzo Soprano); Erin Lesser (Flute); Roscoe Mitchell (Saxophone), and Petr Kotik (Conductor).

Co-producers for BEYOND CAGE include The Graduate Center, CUNY; Paula Cooper Gallery; ISSUE Project Room; Interpretations Series at Roulette Intermedium; Czech Center at Bohemian National Hall; Talujon Percussion Ensemble; and Ostrava Center for New Music.

Kicking off BEYOND CAGE at Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage at Carnegie Hall on October 22, the 86-piece SEM Orchestra conducted by Petr Kotik will perform Cage's first large orchestra work, Atlas Eclipticalis (1961-62), simultaneously with Winter Music (1957), featuring pianists Ursula Oppens and Joseph Kubera. Twenty years ago, Kotik presented the same program at Carnegie Hall as part of "Tribute to John Cage" in honor of the composer's 80th birthday, with David Tudor as soloist. This 1992 concert, which marked the debut of the SEM Orchestra, turned out to be an international sensation with audiences and critics from across the U.S., Europe and Japan. BEYOND CAGE's opening program will also include Christian Marclay's Shuffle (2007), in a first orchestrated version using 75 musicians.

For BEYOND CAGE's final concert, the Janacek Philharmonic Ostrava will present the N.Y. premiere of Cage's last orchestra work, 103, a 90-minute work for 103 musicians, commissioned by WDR (Cologne, Germany) for the composer's 80th birthday and which Cage never got to hear. This program will also feature the world premiere of individuals, collective by Christian Wolff, sole surviving member of the New York School (Cage, Feldman Wolff, Brown and Tudor), and the American premiere of the Czech composer Lucie Vítková's (b. 1985) Accept, for solo accordion, drum set and symphony orchestra (Bohemian National Hall, Nov. 7). This performance will mark the first time a large-scale orchestral work by Wolff is presented in North America.

Other festival highlights include the American premieres of Morton Feldman's monumental Violin and Orchestra and his Flute and Orchestra – two works almost never heard due to the staggering complexity of the scores. The 100-piece Janacek Philharmonic Ostrava will perform these works with Czech/Swiss violinist Hana Kotková and Canadian flutist Erin Lesser (Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, Nov. 5). The most recent performance of Flute and Orchestra was in 2009 by the Janacek Philharmonic Ostrava (Petr Kotik, flute; Peter Rundel, conductor). The Alice Tully Hall concert will mark the first time an entire program of Feldman's major orchestra works is presented in the U.S.

BEYOND CAGE will also offer the opportunity to hear compositions that are rarely performed. At Roulette (Nov. 4), the program will feature Cage's epic solo pieces Music of Changes (Joseph Kubera, piano) and Freeman Etudes (Conrad Harris, violin), in addition to his Concert for Piano and Orchestra (Ostravská banda, Joseph Kubera). The evening will also feature Kotik's flute solos from There is Singularly Nothing, and the premiere of a new solo by Roscoe Mitchell, Red Flower On A Bamboo Pole, performed on the saxophone by the composer. At ISSUE Project Room (Oct. 30), Ostravská banda (Petr Kotik, conductor) will perform the US premiere of Salvatore Sciarrino's stage version of his "One-act Ecstasy" chamber opera, Infinito nero (1998), with acclaimed mezzo-soprano Katalin Károlyi. BEYOND CAGE will also include two major pieces by Petr Kotik, both at Paula Cooper Gallery: the "classic" 6-hour work Many Many Women (1975-78) on the text by Gertrude Stein (Nov. 2) and Torso (2011/12) for string quartet (Oct. 27). In addition, the festival will showcase new works by emerging composers, including 2012 Guggenheim Fellows Alex Mincek and Kate Soper, among others (Willow Place Auditorium, Oct. 28).

Petr Kotik's association with John Cage began in 1964 when he was asked to perform (with Cage and Tudor) Atlas Eclipticalis, as part of Merce Cunningham Dance Company's "Event No. 1" in Vienna. Kotik became then an active proponent of Cage's music as a performer, conductor, and presenter, and is one of the composer's oldest living collaborators. Kotik was first personally introduced to Morton Feldman by Cornelius Cardew in 1966. Kotik conducted his first concert of Feldman's work in 1970 in Buffalo, New York, and in 1973, Feldman composed Instruments I for Kotik's newly formed S.E.M. Ensemble (both composers lived at that time in Buffalo). Other longtime collaborators of Cage and Feldman participating in BEYOND CAGE include Christian Wolff; Joseph Kubera, who performed with both composers since the early 70s; and Richard Kostelanetz, the author of numerous books written with and about Cage.

In addition to the public concerts, BEYOND CAGE will host "John Cage's Musical Legacy", a panel discussion on performance practices in Cage's music with Christian Wolff, Petr Kotik, Joseph Kubera, Richard Kostelanetz, and Joel Chadabe (Oct. 26, The Graduate Center, CUNY). The festival will also feature a presentation by Czech composer Peter Graham, "September 1964: Cage, Cunningham & Rauschenberg in Prague & Ostrava", which will include an audio sample of a talk Cage gave in Prague in 1964.

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