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Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) Spotlights the Viola 2/15
BMOP is thrilled to be casting a spotlight on the viola to help promote it as a major solo instrument. “This concert succeeds at letting the viola glow and giving it an opportunity to show its true, vibrant colors,” explains Gil Rose, Artistic Director and Conductor of BMOP. “And, we’ve rounded up the nation’s crème de la crème of violists to join BMOP for this special concert.”
Commissioned for BMOP by the Jebediah Foundation New Music Commissions (JFNMC), Viola Concerto (2011) by Donald Crockett (b. 1951) is an expansion of the composer’s earlier work entitled “to airy thinness beat” which was written for violist Kate Vincent and her Firebird Ensemble. “The Viola Concerto is a significant addition to the concerto repertoire for the viola,” says Vincent. “It gives the soloist the opportunity to delve deeply into an internal, emotional world while in other parts of the work exploiting the virtuosic, impetuous personality of the instrument.”
Based on a poem by John Donne ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’ and an epigraph from the poem, “endure not yet a breach, but an expansion, like gold to airy thinness beat,” Crockett uses this poetic fragment in expressing the musical relationship between the viola and ensemble. BMOP will record this work for a prospective Crockett-centric album to be released on its record label, BMOP/sound.
Turning to his wife/violist Susan Ung for inspiration, Cambodian-American composer Chinary Ung (b. 1942) mixes both Eastern and Western elements in his new Singing Inside Aura Viola (2013) which is also commissioned by the JFNMC. Ung is known for using Western instruments, but his melodic materials are often based on Asian pentatonic scales, and he often calls for pitch bending and microtones that further resemble the music of the East.
Xian Shi (1983) by Chinese-born American composer Chen Yi (b. 1953) is the first viola concerto written by a Chinese composer. It received its North American premiere in 2012 by the Chicago Composers Orchestra. Special guest violist is Lizhou Liu, former principal violist in the Savannah Symphony for 13 years and current principal violist in the Hilton Head Orchestra.
Those interested in 12-tone music should listen to Serenade #1 for Viola and Chamber Orchestra (1962) by one of America’s greatest compositional voices, Pulitzer Prize-winner George Perle (1915-2009). It has been described by the New York Times as “music that…invites us to examine its parts, each of which is brightly and delicately lighted.” This performance showcases up-and-coming violist Wenting Kang, winner of the 2012 Tokyo International Viola Competition and the NEC Concerto Competition.
Finally, BMOP’s own roster of violists is featured in the Suite for Eight Violas (1976) by Gordon Jacob (1895-1984). An important 20th-century British composer, Jacob had an affinity for string instruments, for which he composed a large body of concerti and chamber music, including the Suite for Eight Violas. The Suite is in four movements, the first of which is dedicated to the former virtuoso, Lionel Tertis, whose name is coded into 12 notes that form the theme.
About BMOP: 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 twelve seasons, BMOP established a track record that includes more than 80 performances, over 70 world premieres (including 30 commissioned works), two Opera Unlimited festivals with Opera Boston, the inaugural Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music with the ICA/Boston, and 32 commercial recordings, including 12 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.” http://www.bmop.org
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