A PCE Immersion Experience
featuring baritone Christopheren Nomura
Tuesday, April 28, 2015 at 7:30 pm
Austrian Cultural Forum
A program featuring baritone Christopheren Nomura—a mesmerizing Mahler specialist—
in “Songs of a Wayfarer” and the “Abschied” from “The Song of the Earth,” plus a playlet
about the marriage of Gustav and Alma Mahler.
A composer’s music will always bear some relationship to his personal life. Gustav
Mahler furnishes an exceptional case: a fascinating and illuminating study of how
personality and personal circumstance align with creative achievement. Mahler (who
converted to Catholicism) was and was not Jewish, was and was not Austrian, was and
was not Viennese. His self-described quest for “redemption” generated an artistic stream
of consciousness, a fraught interior narrative. Mahler’s roots in rural Iglau, where he grew
up, are documented in his music by the influence of military tattoos, cantorial songs, and
rural reveries. In Vienna Mahler was differently rooted — in Beethoven and Schubert. In
addition, the drama of Mahler’s personal life at all times explicitly dramatized his
symphonies. In particular, the death of his beloved daughter Putzi in 1907, and the nearly simultaneous discovery of his heart disease, drove him toward a more resigned, less
egoistic salvation mode, a journey inflected by his discovery of the melancholic Chinese
poetry enshrined in the “Abschied” (“Farewell”) from The Song of the Eart - music at
once mournful and consoling.
This event comprises two musical selections with a 25 minute PLAYLET in between.
The PLAYLET, with two actors (Sasha Olinick as Gustav and Laura C. Harris as Alma) was created by PCE Executive Director Joe Horowitz and premiered on the West Coast. It uses letters and diary entries to tell the story of a controversial and nearly disastrous marriage. Gustav was 42, Alma 23, when they married in 1902. He imposed unreasonable restrictions. Then she fell in love with Walter Gropius and the restrictions collapsed. This story narrates Mahler's tumultuous personal odyssey, mirrored directly in his music. This presentation will incorporate photographs of the Mahlers.
The MUSIC juxtaposes early Mahler - "The Songs of a Wayfarer" - with late Mahler - the "Farewell" from "The Song of the Earth." Both sung by baritone Christópheren Nomura (a Mahler specialist) with PostClassical Ensemble conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez.
This event is 90 minutes with no intermission, followed by discussion with the audience.
• Tuesday, April 21, 7:30pm at the Austrian Cultural Forum: Conference/concert:
“Who Was Gustav Mahler?” with baritone Christopheren Nomura; pianist Lura Johnson,
and speakers James Loeffler and Seven Beller; Joseph Horowitz, host.
Additional events in collaboration with the Department of Performing Arts at Georgetown University.
When & Where
PostClassical Productions and its PostClassical Ensemble are recognized for “turning familiar music on its head, providing context and fresh perspectives and generally pulling the rug out from under listeners” (Washington Post). PCP/PCE was founded in 2003 by Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Executive Director Joseph Horowitz as an experimental orchestral laboratory, producing immersion experiences that upend traditional boundaries. PCP/PCE programming is thematic and cross-disciplinary, typically incorporating art, film, dance, or theater, exploring unfamiliar works and composers, or recontextualizing standard repertoire. Central to its mission is collaboration with other cultural organizations, especially museums and universities, most regularly its educational partner Georgetown University.
PostClassical Ensemble is PCP’s DC-based performing group, called “wildly ambitious” by The Washington Post, and a “group known for revolution.” Its frequent DC performance partners include the National Gallery of Art’s film and music divisions, the Kennedy Center, Strathmore, and Georgetown University. PCE’s repertoire emphasizes music composed after 1900 – from Copland, Ives, Mahler, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich to remarkable but less familiar works by, Chavez, Farwell, Gerhard, Montsalvatge, and Revueltas. 20th & 21st century composers whose music PCE has commissioned and/or premiered include Manuel de Falla, Ana Lara, Mario Lavista, Daniel Schnyder, David Taylor, and Zhou Long. PCE has collaborated with such artists as pianists Jeremy Denk, Benjamin Pasternak, Alexander Toradze, and William Wolfram, clarinetist David Krakauer, baritones Christòpheren Nomura and William Sharp, bass-baritone Kevin Deas, pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-fen, and internationally prominent folk music, gamelan, and flamenco artists.
The ensemble made its sold-out Kennedy Center debut in 2005 with “Celebrating Don Quixote,” featuring a commissioned production of Manuel de Falla’s sublime puppet opera Master Peter’s Puppet Show, along with rarely heard works by Oscar Espla and Roberto Gerhard. Its reputation grew with presentations such as “Mexican Revolutionaries,” exploring how composers such as Silvestre Revueltas and painters including Diego Rivera became agents of social and political change, inspiring such Americans as Aaron Copland, Paul Strand, and John Steinbeck; “Charles Ives: A Life In Music,” a one-of-a-kind theatrical presentation incorporating letters, and essays; and “Falla and Flamenco,” the sold-out American stage premiere of Falla’s El Corregidor y la Molinera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. PCP/PCE presentations of three classic American documentaries – “The Plow that Broke the Plains,” “The River,” and “The City,” with original scores by Virgil Thomson performed live – generated two best-selling Naxos DVDs hailed as “revelatory” by Washington Post, and also praised in feature articles inThe New York Times, Le Monde, and El Pais.
PCE’s most recent CD for Naxos, “Dvořák and America,” demonstrates the composer’s ‘American’ style via a PCP-created “Hiawatha Melodrama,” combining music by Dvořák with text from Longfellow’s epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha.” “This is one of those rare ‘concept’ albums’ where the concept actually works,” writes David Hurwitz in Classics Today. “It offers a truly fresh and interesting perspective on Dvořák’s American period.” Of comparable scope were PCP/PCE festivals focusing on Stravinsky, Ives, and “Dvořák and America” — which generated a nationally distributed Stravinsky radio series produced by WFMT/Chicago; scripted Ives events produced by the Buffalo Philharmonic, the University of Texas/Austin, and the University of Washington; and the “Hiawatha Melodrama,” next scheduled for performance in Austin. PCP’s three-week festival, “Interpreting Shostakovich,” was named “Musical Event of the Year” for 2012 by Radio Liberty/Free Europe.
PostClassical Productions has toured its “invariably original and thought-provoking” programs (Baltimore Sun) widely in the US, from the Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City, to the University of Chicago. PCP’s production of Falla’s El Amor Brujo has been revived twice. Other PostClassical Productions have been adapted by orchestras including the North Carolina and Pacific Symphonies, and Louisville Orchestra. PCP has generated national radio features via NPR and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
With PostClassical Productions and the PostClassical Ensemble, Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez aspire to create a radical alternative symphonic model for the 21st Century, fostering multi-genre approaches that resonate far beyond the concert hall. PCP/PCE is supported by a multi-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation targeting innovative programming with national impact.