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Steven Stucky’s “Silent Spring” receives world premiere Feb 17

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky looks forward to a number of important premieres this month. His orchestral tone poem Silent Spring (2011) receives its world premiere on February 17, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s eponymous book, which helped launch the environmental movement. Conducted by Manfred Honeck, this premiere performance comes courtesy of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where Stucky currently serves as Composer of the Year; after three performances at the ensemble’s Pittsburgh home, the same forces undertake the new work in its New York premiere on February 25 and at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall on February 26. This follows the New York premiere of Stucky’s Aus der Jugendzeit (2010-11), with baritone Randall Scarlata and the Dolce Suono Ensemble, at Symphony Space on February 6.
A Pittsburgh Symphony commission, Silent Spring pays musical tribute to celebrated marine biologist and Pittsburgh-area native Rachel Carson (1907-64). As Stucky comments in his illuminating program note, it was with Silent Spring (1962) that Carson “galvanized public opinion and earned a permanent place in 20th-century American history.” The composer goes on to explain how her seminal work inspired his own process:
“I gathered together four of Carson’s own titles: The Sea Around Us; ‘The Lost Wood’ and ‘Rivers of Death’ (from the book Silent Spring); and Silent Spring itself. With these phrases as cues, I could fashion a one-movement orchestral tone poem in four sections that tries to create its own dramatic and emotional journey from beginning to end, without referring specifically to any scientific details.
“The result is music at once ‘abstract’ and ‘programmatic’ (admittedly fuzzy terms). ‘The Sea Around Us’ is murky water music: it rises from the depths of the orchestra until it reaches a grand but melancholy chorale evoking the vast expanses of the sea. ‘The Lost Wood’ calls forth a desolate chaconne (i.e., a set of variations over a cyclic chord progression). The somber atmosphere grows more and more intense until it leads to a short, scathing scherzo, ‘Rivers of Death.’ This diabolical ‘death scherzo,’ too, escalates until it cannot go any further, instead bursting into the ecstatic mass singing that begins the final section, ‘Silent Spring.’ But – like the insects and birds that Rachel Carson wrote about – one by one those ecstatic orchestral voices fall quiet. We are left with near-silence.”
No stranger to orchestral writing, it was with his Second Concerto for Orchestra that the composer won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. As American Record Guide observes, “Stucky, with his feeling for big gestures and love of timbral variety, is at his best – or at least at his most free – when writing for full orchestra.” An interview with the composer, about his career and his appointment as the Pittsburgh Symphony’s 2011-12 Composer of the Year, is available on video here.
Aus der Jugendzeit (“From Childhood”) was commissioned by Philadelphia’s Dolce Suono Ensemble for its “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” project in honor of the two great Viennese composers’ milestone anniversaries last year. Taking its text from a poem of the same name by Friedrich Rückert, a poet much favored by Mahler, Stucky’s work is scored for the same forces as Schoenberg’s revolutionary ensemble piece, Pierrot lunaire. In keeping with the poem’s nostalgic theme, Stucky’s setting opens with a Pierrot quotation and closes by evoking Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Now Dolce Suono Ensemble makes its New York debut with the New York premiere of Aus der Jugendzeit, which will feature Randall Scarlata, a baritone with “the vocal wherewithal to do just about anything he wants” (Boston Globe). Stucky himself will be in attendance, appearing in a pre-concert panel discussion.
The composer’s further upcoming highlights include performances of Son et lumière (1988) by both the New York Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony, conducted by Alan Gilbert and Leonard Slatkin respectively; of American Muse (1999) by baritone Thomas Hampson with the Munich Philharmonic and Lorin Maazel; and of Funeral Music for Queen Mary (1992) by the London Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. This summer Stucky will be Composer-in-Residence at the Music from Angel Fire Festival.
Steven Stucky – selected upcoming engagements
Feb 6
Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater, Symphony Space, New York, NY
Aus der Jugendzeit (New York premiere) 
Dolce Suono Ensemble (Mimi Stillman, Artistic Director)
Randall Scarlata, baritone
Feb 17, 18, & 19
Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, PA
Silent Spring (world premiere) 
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Manfred Honeck
PSO Composer of the Year project
Feb 23, 25, & 28,
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Son et lumière
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
Feb 24
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Son et lumière
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
Feb 25
Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, Brookville, NY 
Silent Spring (New York premiere)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Manfred Honeck

Feb 26
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
Silent Spring
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Manfred Honeck

March 2 & 4
The Church of the Holy Trinity, New York, NY
New Amsterdam Singers / Clara Longstreth
March 22-25
Residency, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland, OH
March 25 concert includes Partita-Pastorale, after J.S.B.Dialoghi: Studi su un nomeAllegretto quasi Andantino (Schubert Dream), and Ad Parnassum
March 30 & 31; April 1
Heinz Hall, Pittsburgh, PA
Son et lumière
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra / Leonard Slatkin

May 4
Cologne, Germany
American Muse
Thomas Hampson, baritone, Munich Philharmonic / Loren Maazel
May 31
Saint Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, New York, NY
New Amsterdam Singers / Clara Longstreth

June 4-10
University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 
The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music
Senior faculty, June in Buffalo Festival and Conference

June 14
Barbican Centre, London, UK
Funeral Music for Queen Mary
London Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink
Aug 17-Sept 2
Angel Fire, New Mexico
Music from Angel Fire
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