Steven Stucky's 2013-14 Features Boston Symphony Concerts, Ojai Opera Premiere and More

Steven Stucky's 2013-14 Features Boston Symphony Concerts, Ojai Opera Premiere and More

Composer Steven Stucky - winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and nominated for a Grammy Award last season - has been called "a master of orchestral writing" (Dallas Morning News) and "a fascinating voice in American composition" (Pittsburg Post-Gazette). His 2013-14 season kicks off today with the premiere of The Stars and the Roses in its chamber version at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; the San Jose Mercury Newshas said that the "song cycle - based on the lyric and touchingly optimistic wartime poems of Czeslaw Milosz - seems to paint with light." From October 25-27 the Kansas City Symphony under Michael Stern performs the piece that earned Stucky his Pulitzer: the Second Concerto for Orchestra, which the Los Angeles Times called "a colorful, delight-bringing score." On November 10, the Washington Choral Society opens its season with the East Coast premiere of Stucky's Take Him, Earth, the first of several performances this year of a work composed to mark the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. The New Year brings performances of Stucky's take on Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink in Boston (Feb 6-8) and at Carnegie Hall (Feb 11); the re-orchestration by Stucky makes Purcell's 17th century masterpiece seem "as if viewed through rippled glass," according to the New York Times. Stucky will cap his season with the world premiere of his opera The Classical Style - written to a libretto by Jeremy Denk - at the Ojai Music Festival in California (June 14).

Denk is the music director of next summer's Ojai Music Festival, which co-commissioned The Classical Style along with Cal Performances at Berkeley, Carnegie Hall and the Aspen Music Festival. Denk describes his opera with Stucky as "a love letter to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven... A satire of classical pomp."

Other highlights of Stucky's season include a concert featuring his chamber works Dialoghi and Nell'ombra, nella luce performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble at Symphony Space in New York City (Dec 13). The Pittsburgh Tribune called Nell'ombra nella luce "a significant addition to the repertoire," adding: "As the title's visual metaphor suggests, it is concerned with the contrast between darkness and light. But unlike most color-study pieces of music, Stucky's new quartet satisfies the listener with an inner coherence undoubtedly strengthened by his close study of the music of Witold Lutoslawski." Also reflecting Stucky's scholarship on the Polish composer (which includes his 2009 book Lutoslawski and his Music), he will curate seven one-hour broadcast episodes for a 24-hour centennial "Lutoslawski @ 100" program on November 12, part of WQXR New York's month-long Q2 Music series on the Web celebrating Polish modernism.

One of the most striking of Stucky's recent orchestral pieces will get a reprise on January 24-26 in Tampa, when the Florida Orchestra performs his Sibelius-inspired Radical Light. The San Francisco Chronicle said: "Stucky's Radical Light unfolds in a single span that encompasses a wealth of moods and orchestral colors." The Los Angeles Times called the piece "a study in wondrous sonorities: thick string clouds, incandescent brass, chattering and glittering winds. ... The end is one big rapt, rich sound, with the strings shimmering, rippling, a grand but still muted sunrise. The piece has the feeling of Sibelius' sound but provides a sensual pleasure all its own."

Steven Stucky, born in 1949 in Kansas, has an extensive catalogue of compositions ranging from large-scale orchestral works to a cappella miniatures for chorus. He scored his first Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition last season, for his concert drama August 4, 1964, written with librettist Gene Scheer and recorded live by the Dallas Symphony for its DSO label. The chairman of the board of the American Music Center, Stucky is also a trustee of the American Academy in Rome, a director of New Music USA, a board member of the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. For 21 years, Stucky enjoyed a close partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic: in 1988, André Previn appointed him composer-in-residence of the orchestra; later, he became the Philharmonic's consulting composer for new music, working closely with Esa-Pekka Salonen. Stucky's Second Concerto for Orchestra, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2005, was commissioned by the LA Philharmonic.

Stucky is also active as a conductor, writer, lecturer and teacher. He has taught at Cornell University since 1980 and now serves as Given Foundation Professor of Composition. He has also taught at the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Eastman School of Music and the University of California, Berkeley. A world-renowned expert on Lutoslawski's music, he is a recipient of the Lutoslawski Society's medal. Stucky's works appear on the programs of the world's major orchestras. Last season saw his Symphony premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and then taken up by the New York Philharmonic. The Los Angeles Times said of the work: "To hear Stucky's Symphony once was to want to hear it again."

Steven Stucky: 2013-14 performances:

Oct 18

The Stars and the Roses, chamber version (world premiere)

Curtis Institute of Music

Philadelphia, PA

Oct 25-27

Second Concerto for Orchestra

Kansas City Symphony; Michael Stern, conductor

Kansas City, MO

Oct 27

Colburn Variations

Sinfonietta of Riverdale; Mark Mandarano, conductor

Bronx, NY

Nov 10

Take Him Earth

Choral Arts Society of Washington; Choral Arts Orchestra; Scott Tucker, conductor

Washington, DC

Nov 16

Allegretto quasi Andantino

Xak Bjerken & Miri Yampolsky, duo/solo piano

Danville Concert Association

Danville, VA

Nov 22

Take Him, Earth

Pioneer Valley Symphony and Chorus

Westhampton, MA

Dec 13

Take Him Earth

Yale Schola Cantorum

New Haven, CT

Dec 13

Dialoghi and Nell'ombra, nella luce

Symphony Space

New York, NY

Jan 10-11

Rhapsodies

Grand Rapids Symphony; Justin Brown, conductor

Grand Rapids, MI

Jan 24-26

Radical Light

Florida Orchestra

Tampa, FL

Feb 6-8

Funeral Music for Queen Mary

Boston Symphony Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, conductor

Symphony Hall

Boston, MA

Feb 11

Funeral Music for Queen Mary

Boston Symphony Orchestra; Bernard Haitink, conductor

Carnegie Hall

New York, NY

Feb 24

Rain Shadow

Opus One

Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society

Pittsburgh, PA

June 14

The Classical Style (world premiere)

Jeremy Denk, librettist

Vocal cast TBA

The Knights; Robert Spano, conductor

Ojai Music Festival

Ojai, CA

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Photo Credit: Hoebermann Studio