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American Composer-Pianist Thomas Nickell Continues Avant Garden Concert Series With Oistrakh Symphony, Chicago, IL April 25, 2024

April 18, 2024 | By Ellen Churui Li

The vibrant American composer/pianist Thomas Nickell continues his role as curator of the Oistrakh Symphony Avant Garden series with a concert conducted by Music Director Mina Zikri on Thursday evening April 25, 2024, 7 pm CDT at the Mary Patricia Gannon Concert Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center (2330 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614). Entitled Inner Voices, this concert will feature the KAIA String Quartet, joining the symphony in a program of contemporary and modern works by Henry Cowell, Michael Druzinsky, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Nikolai Roslavets, as well as two works by Mr. Nickell-- Viriditas and Idyll for string orchestra.


The full program follows:


Niloufar Nourbakhsh               Happiness Filled the Space of Sadness for string quartet and electronics
Michael Druzinsky                   Suite for string orchestra
Henry Cowell                           Ballad
Thomas Nickell                       Viriditas for string orchestra
Thomas Nickell                        Idyll for string orchestra
Nikolai Roslavets                    Sonata No. 5 (arr. for piano and string orchestra by Thomas Nickell)


General admission of $22 and student/senior tickets of $12 can be purchased through DePaul University’s website. For more information, please visit pianist Thomas Nickell’s website: https://thomasnickellmusic.com/ and Oistrakh Symphony’s website: http://www.oistrakhsymphony.org/.  


Inventive young composer-pianist Thomas Nickell, steeped in the classical music tradition with an ear for contemporary soundscapes, has already garnered recognition throughout Europe and the United States for his thoughtful explorations of various musical genres. As a pianist, Mr. Nickell has given many highly lauded public performances of important works by Bach, Beethoven, Berg, Gershwin, Khachaturian, Liszt, David Matthews, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, as well as his own compositions.


Mr. Nickell and percussionist Fiona Stocks-Lyons were honored to be commissioned multiple times by choreographer Christopher D'Ariano to write music for several ballets to be performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. The duo and Mr. D’Ariano’s most recent collaboration is a commissioned work for the Joffrey Ballet, just premiered in Chicago in March 2023.


In June 2021, Mr. Nickell and Ms. Stocks-Lyons wrote and recorded Follower for Piano and Drum Set, presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet Company’s “Next Step” showcase. Their first commission in 2018 with the resulting work Secondsight for Piano and Drum Set, received its world premiere by the Pacific Northwest Ballet at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, Washington, on June 14th, 2018. This led to the second commission by Mr. D’Ariano and the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, and a concert version of the music entitled What Lies Ahead for Piano and Drum Set was performed by Mr. Nickell and Ms. Stocks-Lyons at SubCulture, New York City, in November, 2019. An album of the music was released in August 2019, and is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music. A follow-up album to Two Ballets is in the works.


Increasingly devoting his time to composition and to collaborative efforts, Mr. Nickell has created Sarabande for solo piano (2023); Leaks for Solo Percussion and Tape (2020); Horizons for 8 Double Basses and Sine Waves (2020); Tribute (after Julius Eastman) for Solo Piano (2020); Untitled for Retuned Digital Keyboard (2020); The Falling Sun for Electronic Sounds (2020); Unstuck in Time for Orchestra (2019-20); Music for Ensemble for at least 4 players (2019-20); String Quartet in No. 2,“Heliopause,” selected for JACK Quartet Readings at Mannes (2019); Spires of Form for Voice and Piano, a work co-composed with American soprano Denise Young which was premiered at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall (2019); Piano Trio for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (2019), Intercalendrical Zone for Piano (2019), and Prelude and Constellated Night for Piano (2019). When Mr. Nickell gave the world premiere of his composition Innisfree in 2018 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, Roriane Schrade of New York Concert Review wrote:


Mr. Nickell’s own composition, Innisfree…revealed the influence of Cowell and possibly Crumb in its extended techniques, all while expressing a mood of meditation and mystery that seems to reflect the beginnings of his own individual style. One eagerly awaits hearing his future compositions. (June 8, 2018)


Earlier works include On a Windy Night for Piano (2018), String Quartet No. 1, “Eliot Episodes” (2018), Fantasia after Gabrieli for Cello (2017-18), Innisfree (version 2) for SSAATTBB Chorus (2017), Ripples for Two Pianos (2017), Innisfree for Voice and Piano (2016), and Love and Harmony Combine for SATB Chorus (2014).


As pianist, Mr. Nickell most recently appeared as guest soloist in Chicago with the Northbrook Symphony under the baton of conductor Mina Zikri, performing J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor and Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and Strings. The orchestra also performed Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No. 10 in B Minor. Mr. Nickell performed with the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago and Maestro Zikri, with performances at both the University of Chicago and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall in June 2019. Their program again included J.S. Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto for Piano and Strings, alongside an original Nickell composition for solo piano, entitled On a Windy Night. Mr. Nickell also appeared with the Oistrakh Symphony in his Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall debut, June 2018, for a performance of Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto, Liszt’s Totentanz, and giving the world premiere of his own composition, Innisfree.


Mr. Nickell holds double bachelor of music degrees from the New School, Mannes College of Music—a B.M. in piano, having studied with J Y Song, and a B.M. in composition under the tutelage of composer David T. Little. Mr. Nickell, who makes his home in New York City, likes to paint in his spare time and enjoys photography, the occasional foray into writing, and reading non-fiction, especially about composers.



For further information, please contact Hemsing Associates at (212) 772-1132 or visit www.hemsingpr.com.


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