THE CLASSICAL STYLE: AN OPERA (OF SORTS) ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4
Robert Spano Conducts The Knights in New Opera by Jeremy Denk and Steven Stucky
|On Thursday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m. Carnegie Hall presents the New York premiere of Steven Stucky and Jeremy Denk’s The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), with Robert Spano conducting The Knights, together with soprano Jennifer Zetlan, mezzo-sopranos Rachel Calloway and Peabody Southwell, tenors Dominic Armstrong and Keith Jameson, baritone Kim Josephson, and bass-baritones Aubrey Allicock and Ashraf Sewailam. The work, a Carnegie Hall co-commission, is directed by Mary Birnbaum in Zankel Hall.
For his first libretto, Mr. Denk, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, adapts for the stage the late Charles Rosen’s National Book Award-winning masterpiece with music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky. Rosen’s immensely successful 1971 book The Classical Style examined the musical structures and concepts of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. An accomplished writer, Mr. Denk has written a libretto that parodies the art forms in the book as an opera buffa with a comic clashing of egos between the composers, and often the musical chords themselves.
Written for a cast of eight performers, roles range from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven to “a preening musicologist,” a bartender, and the personified Tonic (bass-baritone), Dominant (soprano), and Subdominant (mezzo) chords, which are involved in a love triangle. The work had its world premiere performance at the Ojai Music Festival on June 13. To open this performance, Mr. Denk will perform Mozart’s Fantasia and Sonata in C Minor, K. 475/457.
This is also the first opera (of sorts) for Mr. Stucky, whose Second Concerto for Orchestra won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize and whose evening-length concert drama August 4, 1964 was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2013 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
About the Artists
Mr. Denk is known for his original and insightful writing on music, which Alex Ross praises for its “arresting sensitivity and wit.” The pianist’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the New Republic, The Guardian, and on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. One of his New Yorker contributions, “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” forms the basis of a memoir he is writing for future publication by Random House. Recounting his experiences of touring, performing, and practicing, his blog, Think Denk, was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress web archives. For his work as a writer and pianist, Out magazine included Denk on its “Out 100” list celebrating the most compelling people of 2013.
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, Mr. 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, Mr. 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. Mr. Stucky’s Second Concerto for Orchestra, which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in music in 2005, was commissioned by the LA Philharmonic.
Mr. 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 Lutosławski’s music, he is a recipient of the Lutosławski Society’s medal. Mr. 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.”
Conductor, pianist, composer, and pedagogue Robert Spano is known worldwide for the depth and intensity of his artistry as well as his unique communicative abilities. Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, this imaginative conductor is an approachable artist with the innate ability to share his enthusiasm for music with an entire community and concert hall. He has quietly been responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous classically-trained composers and conductors and enjoys collaborations with composers and musicians of all ages and ability. Also the Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students, including Aspen’s American Academy of Conducting.
With a discography of critically-acclaimed recordings for the Telarc, Deutsche Grammophon, and ASO Media labels, Mr. Spano has won six Grammy Awards with the Atlanta Symphony. An all-Vaughan Williams disc for ASO Media comprising The Lark Ascending, Dona Nobis Pacem, and Symphony No. 4 was released in September 2014. Mr. Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music, Emory University, and Oberlin. Maestro Spano was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2012 and is proud to live in Atlanta.
The Knights are an orchestral collective, flexible in size and repertory, dedicated to transforming the concert experience. Engaging listeners and defying boundaries with programs that showcase the players’ roots in the classical tradition and passion for musical discovery, The Knights have, as The New Yorker observes, “become one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products, [and] are known far beyond the borough for their relaxed virtuosity and expansive repertory.”
The Knights evolved from late-night chamber music reading parties with friends at the home of violinist Colin Jacobsen and cellist Eric Jacobsen. The Jacobsen brothers, who are also founding members of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider, serve as artistic directors of The Knights, with Eric Jacobsen as conductor. In December 2012, the Jacobsens were selected from among the nation’s top visual, performing, media, and literary artists to receive a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship.
The Knights’ roster boasts remarkably diverse talents, including composers, arrangers, singer-songwriters, and improvisers, who bring a range of cultural influences to the group, from jazz and klezmer to pop and indie rock music. The unique camaraderie within the group retains the intimacy and spontaneity of chamber music in performance.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART Fantasia and Sonata in C Minor, K. 475/457
Bank of America is the Proud Season Sponsor of Carnegie Hall.
Image at top of release by Timothy Norris, Courtesy of Ojai Music Festival