Press Room

Steven Stucky’s Symphony (2012): NY Phil gives NY premiere (Nov 29)

Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steven Stucky scored an unequivocal hit this fall with his most recent orchestral work, Symphony (2012), a co-commission by two of America’s foremost orchestras: the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic. After the piece’s world premiere at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the L.A. Times reported, “No note felt wasted. To hear Stucky’s Symphony once was to want to hear it again.” Now the new work will be showcased once again, when Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic present its New York premiere in the first of three performances on November 29.
According to American Record Guide, “Stucky, with his feeling for big gestures and love of timbral variety, is at his best … when writing for full orchestra.” In an illuminating program note, the composer describes Symphony as a musical journey similar to his single-movement orchestral works Radical Light and Silent Spring: “a single expanse of music … that travels through a series of emotional landscapes, depositing us at the end of our journey in a different place from where we set out.” After Symphony’s world premiere under music director Gustavo Dudamel at the L.A. Philharmonic’s season-opening concerts, critics were unanimous in their praise. The Orange County Register observed:
“Stucky’s new Symphony is as cogent and eloquent as all of his recent music. … [It] glows and blazes though its four movements seamlessly, its colors dovetailing (it is splendidly orchestrated), its thoughts sophisticated and coherent. Its brass chorale may be one of the most beautiful things in recent music. A finale that reminiscences on the preceding music ties up the piece into a neat package.”
Likewise, in the Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed explained:
“The score begins with a plaintive oboe solo, …but the winds absorb it. ‘Outcry’ is powerful, not cataclysmic: what is held back can be more moving than what is revealed. ‘Flight’ is full of fancy, brightly lighted. The final movement is a graceful coming together, less resolution than acceptance. … No note felt wasted. To hear Stucky’s Symphony once was to want to hear it again. … Playing it a second time wouldn’t have been unwarranted.
East Coast audiences will now have the chance to hear Stucky’s new masterpiece when Alan Gilbert directs the New York Philharmonic in the piece’s New York premiere on a program that also features Barber’s Violin Concerto played by Musical America’s Instrumentalist of the Year, Gil Shaham (Nov 29–Dec 1). The orchestra’s close association with Stucky includes co-commissioning Rhapsodies (2008) and giving its world and US premieres, at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Lincoln Center respectively, as well as recently programming both Son et Lumière (1988) and selections from Spirit Voices (2002-03). The composer also hosted the Philharmonic’s “Hear & Now” series from 2005 to 2009.
“I’ve always thought of Steven Stucky as a quintessentially American composer,” Gilbert reveals. “He is not only one of the most important living composers – he has been an important person in the Philharmonic family, and I am honored to introduce Symphony to New York audiences.”
This important debut follows the composer’s success with last year’s orchestral tone poem, Silent Spring (2011), written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s eponymous book, which famously helped launch the environmental movement. Last spring, the work received both world and New York premieres at the hands of Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, where Stucky served as 2011-12 Composer of the Year. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the symphonic poem “a brilliant, if unsettling, work,” while the New York Times commented:
Evoking Carson’s argument for conservation in a musical score is a tall order. But Mr. Stucky … typically draws on a vast timbral palette to create vivid textures. And with the title as a prompt, it is easy to hear what he had in mind in this explosive, shape-shifting 17-minute tone poem.”
Now Silent Spring has just enjoyed a series of high-profile repeat performances, when Honeck and the Pittsburghers toured seven key European cities – Madrid, Vienna, Paris, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Luxembourg – with the work this fall.
Several of Stucky’s season highlights are still to come. As only the fourth resident composer of Philadelphia’s prestigious Curtis Institute (following John Corigliano, Joan Tower, and George Crumb), he not only looks forward to two renditions of Rhapsodies by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra and Jahja Ling (Feb 15 & 17), but also to a retrospective concert of his music by Curtis 20/21, the school’s contemporary music ensemble (March 1). March also sees the world premiere of The Stars and the Roses, a song cycle for tenor and orchestra set to the poetry of Nobel Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz, which crowns the composer’s tenure as the Berkeley Symphony’s 2012-13 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence (March 28).
Further information is available at the composer’s web site,, and details of his numerous upcoming engagements are provided below.
Steven Stucky – upcoming engagements 2012-13
Nov 29, 30, Dec 1
New York, NY
New York Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert
Symphony (New York premiere)
Dec 2
Ithaca, NY
Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra / Jeffery Meyer
Dec 4
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group / Lionel Bringuier
Ad Parnassum
Feb 15
Allentown, PA
Curtis Symphony Orchestra / Jahja Ling
Feb 17
Philadelphia, PA
Curtis Symphony Orchestra / Jahja Ling
Feb 21-24
Dallas, TX
Dallas Symphony / Jaap van Zweden
Elegy from August 4, 1964
Feb 25
Chicago, IL
Members of the Chicago Symphony
Piano Quintet
March 1
Philadelphia, PA
Curtis Portrait Concert
Ad Parnassum, Allegretto quasi Andantino, The Stars and the Roses, Dialoghi, Piano Quintet
March 13
Dallas, TX
American Choral Directors Association national conference
Take Him, Earth for chorus and instruments, to honor 50th anniversary of JFK assassination
March 17-21
German tour: Munich, Frankfurt, Hanover
Dallas Symphony / Jaap van Zweden
Elegy from August 4, 1964
March 28
Berkeley, CA
Berkeley Symphony / Joana Carneiro
Noah Stewart, tenor
The Stars and the Roses (world premiere)
April 26
Ithaca, NY
Cornell Chamber Orchestra / Chris Younghoon Kim
PRISM Quartet
Music for Saxophones and Strings
April 27
Boston, MA
New England Philharmonic / Richard Pittman
April 28
Philadelphia, PA
Dolce Suono Ensemble
Sonate en forme de préludes

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