The Boston Modern Orchestra Project Presents A FINE CENTENNIAL, 5/16
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, partners with The Fine Family, The Irving Fine Society, and Brandeis University and its Department of Music to pay tribute to three central figures of the mid-century Boston musical landscape - Irving Fine, Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger. Celebrating Irving Fine's (1914-1962) centennial, BMOP spotlights this trio of lifelong friends and composers who advanced a unique vision for American music that incorporated the neoclassicism of Stravinsky, the clean elegance of Copland, and the edginess of serialism, all with a highly personal stamp. Click here to view program details.
As part of a special centennial year of international events, BMOP honors the life, legacy and music of celebrated composer/scholar/conductor Irving Fine. "Many of Fine's pieces have become standard repertory works representing the American neoclassical school," explains Gil Rose, Artistic Director and Conductor of BMOP. "Although his roots are firmly grounded in Boston, he played a leading role in America's music history."
Fine experimented with many styles throughout his career: serialism, 18th-century forms, and romantic expressivity among them. Yet Stravinsky's neoclassical style was an early and lasting influence on Fine as well as fellow Harvard classmates and Brandeis University faculty members Shapero and Berger. In the 1940s, the three became associated with a group of primarily Jewish, Boston-based composers alternately known as the "Stravinsky School," "Boston School," "Harvard Stravinskians," and "Boston Neoclassicists." Fine wrote that the music of Stravinsky in which he and his peers grounded themselves was inclined to be "diatonic and tonal or quasi modal...an ideal balance between form and emotion...peppered with unresolved neighbor dissonant tones, all of it tastefully set forth through his genius for spacing and texture."
BMOP illuminates Fine's remarkable gift for lyricism in a performance of three pieces written during the composer's final years. Capping the program is Fine's last and most ambitious work - the dramatic Symphony (1962), which he conducted with the Boston Symphony Orchestra prior to his untimely death later that year. Considered to be the most substantial work of his career, it stands as Fine's creative masterpiece. The Symphony illustrates the culmination of a unique, diverse aesthetic, demonstrating the composer's subtle grasp of not only neoclassicism and serialism, but polyphony, rhythmic force, and symphonic form.
During his 12 years on the Brandeis faculty, Fine played many roles, including founder and chair of the School of the Creative Arts. Fine was responsible for bringing leading artists to the faculty (Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland) and cutting-edge new works (by the likes of Miles Davis, Merce Cunningham and Marc Blitzstein) to the campus. Fine's time as an educator, mentor, administrator, and composer transformed Brandeis into an internationally-recognized breeding ground for emerging talent that would define American culture in the 20th century. One of Fine's most popular works from the Brandeis years is the three-minute marching song, "Blue-White." The orchestral version, Blue Towers (1959), is dedicated to Brandeis and then president Abram Sachar. The title references the Brandeis school colors and a campus architectural landmark, Usen Castle, known for its three distinctive towers. Prior to arriving at Brandeis, Fine served on the music faculty at Harvard. He was a key member of the composition faculty at Tanglewood in the early years under Serge Koussevitzky.
Rounding out the Fine tribute is a BMOP performance of his four Diversions for Orchestra (1959). Dedicated to Fine's three daughters (Claudia, Emily and Joanna) and French poodle, Koko, this playful yet sophisticated piece premiered at a 1960 Boston Symphony Orchestra children's concert.
Harold Shapero (1920-2013) joined the Brandeis faculty in 1951 and spent 37 years teaching in the Department of Music. He helped develop the university's renowned electronic music studio and taught theory and composition. His works are emotionally intense and expertly structured, hailed for their rhythmic vitality, elegance, and memorable thematic material. BMOP presents one of his finest gems, Serenade in D for string orchestra (1946). Shapero continued to embrace an unambiguously neoclassical style throughout his career, and the Serenade demonstrates the composer at his peak.
Completing the triumvirate is the celebrated composer and music critic Arthur Berger (1912-2003). Berger joined the Brandeis faculty in 1953, retiring in 1980 as the Irving Fine Professor of Music Emeritus. BMOP has long been a Berger champion. In 2002, it recorded Arthur Berger: The Complete Orchestral Music (New World Records) followed by the 2013 release of Arthur Berger: Words for Music, Perhaps (BMOP/sound).
Like Fine, Berger immersed himself in Stravinskian neo-classicism early in his career, later expanding his technique to achieve a unique synthesis with 12-tone serialism. BMOP performs his Prelude, Aria, and Waltz for String Orchestra (1982), a revision of his previous work Three Pieces for String Orchestra of 1945. The orchestral version premiered in 1985 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with John Harbison conducting.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is widely recognized as the leading orchestra in the United States dedicated exclusively to performing new music, and its signature record label, BMOP/sound, is the nation's foremost label launched by an orchestra and solely devoted to new music recordings. Founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Gil Rose, BMOP affirms its mission to illuminate the connections that exist naturally between contemporary music and contemporary society by reuniting composers and audiences in a shared concert experience. In its first 18 seasons, BMOP established a track record that includes more than one hundred performances, over a hundred world premieres (including forty commissioned works), two Opera Unlimited festivals with Opera Boston, the inaugural Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music with the ICA/Boston, and fifty-seven commercial recordings, including thirty-six CDs from BMOP/sound.
In March 2008, BMOP launched its signature record label, BMOP/sound, with the release of John Harbison's ballet Ulysses. Its composer-centric releases focus on orchestral works that are otherwise unavailable in recorded form. The response to the label was immediate and celebratory; its five inaugural releases appeared on the "Best of 2008" lists of the New York Times, Boston Globe, National Public Radio, Downbeat, and American Record Guide, among others.
BMOP/sound is the recipient of five Grammy Award nominations: in 2009 for Charles Fussell: Wilde (Best Classical Vocal Performance); in 2010 for Derek Bermel: Voices (Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra); and three nominations in 2011 for its recording of Steven Mackey: Dreamhouse (Best Engineered Classical Album, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance). The New York Times has proclaimed, "BMOP/sound is an example of everything done right." Additional BMOP recordings are available from Albany, Arsis, Cantaloupe, Centaur, Chandos, ECM, Innova, Naxos, New World, and Oxingale.
In Boston, BMOP performs at Boston's Jordan Hall and Symphony Hall, and the orchestra has also performed in New York at Miller Theater, the Winter Garden, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and The Lyceum in Brooklyn. A perennial winner of the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming of Orchestral Music and 2006 winner of the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music, BMOP has appeared at the Bank of America Celebrity Series (Boston, MA), Tanglewood, the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Festival of New American Music (Sacramento, CA), and Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh, PA). In April 2008, BMOP headlined the 10th Annual MATA Festival in New York.
BMOP's greatest strength is the artistic distinction of its musicians and performances. Each season, Gil Rose, recipient of Columbia University's prestigious Ditson Conductor's Award as well as an ASCAP Concert Music award for his extraordinary contribution to new music, gathers together an outstanding orchestra of dynamic and talented young performers, and presents some of the world's top vocal and instrumental soloists. The Boston Globe claims, "Gil Rose is some kind of genius; his concerts are wildly entertaining, intellectually rigorous, and meaningful." Of BMOP performances, the New York Times says: "Mr. Rose and his team filled the music with rich, decisive ensemble colors and magnificent solos. These musicians were rapturous-superb instrumentalists at work and play." www.bmop.org
About the Irving Fine Centennial
The life, legacy and music of Irving Fine are being commemorated with a special centennial year of events programmed throughout the United States and Europe. The Irving Fine Society, in conjunction with the Fine family, is collaborating with leading arts and academic institutions to shed light on Fine's role in American music. Recent collaborators have included Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, the Library of Congress, Brandeis University, New York Woodwind Quintet and the Contemporary Music Center of Milan. For more information about the Irving Fine Centennial visit www.irvingfinesoc.org.
About Brandeis University
Ranked among the top 35 national universities by U.S. News & World Report every year since the list's inception, Brandeis University combines the faculty and resources of a world-class research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. For students, this means unsurpassed access - both in and out of the classroom - to a faculty renowned for groundbreaking research, scholarship and artistic output.
Located in suburban Boston, Brandeis supports a program of learning that emphasizes an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to knowledge and the solution of real-life problems. Undergraduates, from the very first year, enjoy leadership positions and exceptional research opportunities. Alumni pursue careers in a wide array of fields, and advanced studies in the nation's leading graduate and professional schools.
Characterized by academic excellence since its founding in 1948, Brandeis is the only university in the United States founded by the Jewish community as a non-sectarian, multi-cultural institution, welcoming students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds and beliefs. Named for the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis, who stood for the rights of individuals, Brandeis University was founded in the belief that, through acquiring and sharing knowledge throughout our lives, we can work together to repair the world.
A newly adopted strategic plan guiding institutional decision-making for the next five years and beyond reflects the university's values and aspirations to cherish and nurture student potential, celebrate innovation and imagination, and improve the world. www.brandeis.edu