ROCHESTER, NY — Prominent British composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle comes to the Eastman School of Music early next month to work with students in a three-day residency, February 2-4. The highlight of his visit will be a performance of his acclaimed Secret Theatre by Eastman’s Musica Nova at 8 p.m., Wednesday, February 2, in Kilbourn Hall (26 Gibbs St.). The concert, conducted by Brad Lubman, associate professor of conducting and ensembles, is free and open to the public.
Considered to be one of Europe’s most important composers, Birtwistle frequently draws inspiration for his music from contemporary art, classical mythology, and pre-history. In Secret Theatre, a work composed in 1984 for chamber orchestra, musicians perform an esoteric “ritual,” with soloists playing on the sides of the stage next to the seated ensemble. Like many of the composer’s works, the difference between melody and accompaniment is very clear, based on where the musicians stand or sit on stage.
Birtwistle was knighted in 1988, and in 1995 received the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, Germany’s most prestigious award in music. Last year, the celebration of his 70th birthday prompted retrospective performances at the Aldeburgh Festival, Lucerne Festival, and the South Bank Centre in London. His music has been championed and recorded by conductors Pierre Boulez, Oliver Knussen, Sir Simon Rattle, Christoph von Dohnányi, and Daniel Barenboim, among others.
“It’s a tremendous honor for the Eastman School to host Sir Harrison Birtwistle,” said Eastman Dean James Undercofler.
In addition to attending the concert at Eastman — which also features the premiere of Lubman’s new string quartet, as well as works by Ligeti and Kurtág — Birtwistle will work with Eastman student performers in rehearsal and with student composers at a composition symposium on Thursday and in a master class on Friday.
“I consider Sir Harrison Birtwistle one of the most formidable composers of his generation,” said Lubman, who also will be conducting two Birtwistle works at New York’s Zankel Hall (part of Carnegie Hall) on Jan. 31. “We are all eagerly anticipating his visit to Eastman.”
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