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World premiere of Michael Hersch’s Last Autumn is on Jan 31

Last Autumn – New Work by Award-Winning Composer Michael Hersch – to Receive World Premiere in Washington, DC on January 31

The world premiere of Last Autumn, a major new work for saxophone and cello, will be the centerpiece of a concert devoted to music by award-winning composer Michael Hersch. Presented by the Left Bank Concert Society, “Music of Michael Hersch” will take place on Saturday, January 31 at 7:30 pm at the historic Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Georgetown, Washington, DC. Last Autumn will be performed by Gary Louie on saxophone and Evelyn Elsing on cello, alongside two piano works – Two Pieces for Piano (2003) and Suite from The Vanishing Pavilions (2006) – that the composer will perform himself. A “Meet the Audience” reception with refreshments will follow the concert.

Hersch began composing Last Autumn in 2005. Commissioned by the Washington Performing Arts Society, the work is based on fragments of poetry by the late W. G. Sebald, a German novelist and poet who died in 2001. His work, which often simultaneously intertwined themes of biography, literary history, poetry, and cultural critique, often the savage nature of man, was a complex web of haunting landscapes. For this world premiere performance, the 22 movements of Last Autumn’s Book I will be performed in their entirety.

In 2006, Hersch gave the world premiere of The Vanishing Pavilions in Philadelphia, drawing a rave review from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which found the 145-minute-long work to be “actually a model of clarity and economy if you can handle the reality Hersch’s music embraces. Overtly or covertly, The Vanishing Pavilions is about the destruction of shelter (both in fact and in concept) and life amid the absence of any certainty. And though the music is as deeply troubled as can be, its restless directness also commands listeners not to be paralyzed by existential futility.” As for the performance, the composer “conjured volcanic gestures from the piano with astonishing virtuosity” – in short, “the evening felt downright historic.” Like Last Autumn, The Vanishing Pavilions is based on fragments of poetry, this time from British poet Christopher Middleton, with whom Hersch collaborated. The immense solo piano work, from which the Suite is excerpted, has recently been released on the Vanguard Classics/Musical Concepts label as a two-CD set, again with Hersch as pianist. The composer likewise premiered his Two Pieces for Piano in 2003 in Rome on the Romaeuropa Festival, recording the work on an album of his chamber music from Vanguard.

Named “one of the most fertile musical minds to emerge in the U.S. over the past generation” by Andrew Clark in the Financial Times, Michael Hersch was born in 1971 in Washington, DC, and raised in Virginia. He studied at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore and the Moscow Conservatory, and is currently on the composition faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. In 1996, at age 25, he was awarded First Prize in the American Composers Awards for his composition Elegy (1994). The work was featured in a performance conducted by Marin Alsop at Alice Tully Hall in 1997. Later that year, Hersch became one of the youngest ever recipients of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition. He won the prestigious Rome Prize (2000), the Berlin Prize (2001), and both the Charles Ives Scholarship (1996) and Goddard Lieberson Fellowship (2006) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Hersch’s work has been conducted in the U.S. and abroad under leading conductors including Mariss Jansons, Marin Alsop, Robert Spano, Alan Gilbert, James DePriest, Carlos Kalmar, and Gerard Schwarz. The second CD of his works to appear on the Vanguard Classics label was selected by the Washington Post as one of the most important recordings of 2005. The album features Hersch, who is also regarded as one of today’s most gifted pianists, performing his own music alongside works by Morton Feldman, Wolfgang Rihm, and Josquin des Prez. A CD of Hersch’s orchestral works, including his Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2, was released in the fall of 2006 with Marin Alsop conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on the Naxos American Classics series.

About Hersch’s compositions:
Hersch completed his Symphony No. 2, which was commissioned by Mariss Jansons and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, while living in Germany in 2001. A work for clarinet and cello, written for clarinetist Walter Boeykens, was premiered at the Pantheon in Rome in 2001 as part of the Romaeuropa Festival. In August 2002, Hersch’s Octet for strings, commissioned by Boris Pergamenschikow and the Kronberg Academy, was given its premiere at the Schloss Neuhardenberg Festival in Brandenburg, and later that year his early Trio No. 1 for violin, clarinet, and piano was given its German premiere by members of the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester.

For the 2002-03 season, Hersch was selected by conductor Mariss Jansons as resident composer of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Hersch’s Piano Concerto, commissioned by Garrick Ohlsson and the orchestras of St. Louis, Oregon, and Pittsburgh, was premiered in November 2002. In January 2003, at the Philharmonie in Berlin, the String Soloists of the Berlin Philharmonic performed Hersch’s Octet for strings and Duo for viola and cello. In October 2003, Hersch gave the world premieres of his Recordatio and Two Pieces for Piano at the Musica XXI Romaeuropa Festival. During this same concert, cellist Daniel Gaisford gave the premiere of Hersch’s Sonata No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello. In fall 2004, his work for violin and piano, the wreckage of flowers: twenty-one pieces after poetry and prose of Czeslaw Milosz, which was commissioned by Midori, was performed by the violinist with pianist Robert McDonald in Lisbon, London, and New York. Hersch’s most recent work for large orchestra, Arraché, was commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the opening of their new concert hall and premiered in February 2005.

About Hersch’s piano performances:
As a pianist Hersch has appeared on the Van Cliburn Foundation’s “Modern at the Modern” Series, the Romaeuropa Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music “Nuova Consonanza”, American Academy in Berlin Series, Festa Europea della Musica, St. Louis’ Sheldon Concert Hall, and in New York City at Merkin Concert Hall, the 92nd St. Y – Tisch Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, among others. During the summer of 2001, Hersch was asked to write a work for composer Hans Werner Henze, and went on to perform it for him on the occasion of his 75th birthday.

Past performance highlights include the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s centennial commission of his Symphony No. 1, which premiered in 1999 with repeat performances at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in 2000 and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2002. In 1998, Hersch works premiered with the New York Chamber Symphony and the CBC Vancouver Symphony. His orchestral work Ashes of Memory has been performed in Seattle, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. Violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved premiered Hersch’s 14 Pieces for Unaccompanied Violin at a concert held in Janácek’s home in the Czech Republic in 2007, and the following year he repeated the work alongside the wreckage of flowers with pianist Aaron Shorr in London. Hersch’s Chamber Concerto for piano and 13 instruments, commissioned for pianist Shai Wosner by the 92nd St. Y and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, will be premiered in 2010.

Hersch was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1997. In the summer of 1998, he was a fellow at the Norfolk Festival for Contemporary Music and the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan.

About the artists:
A native of greater Washington, DC, saxophonist Gary Louie is dedicated to championing the artistic possibilities and expanding the repertoire of his instrument. This season, Louie performs Robert Sirota’s Concerto for saxophone and orchestra with the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Lande, as well as in Vienna and throughout Italy and Spain with Yuri Temirkanov and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In recital, he returns to New York City’s St. Bartholomew’s Church.

Recent seasons have heard Gary Louie with Juanjo Mena, David Lockington, and Daniel Hege and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in performances of Milhaud’s La création du monde, Debussy’s Rhapsody for alto saxophone and orchestra, and Glazunov’s Concerto for saxophone and orchestra, respectively; with the Ohio Chamber Orchestra in Cleveland; and with the Washington Chamber Symphony and National Chamber Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, playing Ibert’s Concertino da camera. In recital he has been presented at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and the Frick Collection in NYC; California’s La Jolla Chamber Music Society; Boston’s Jordan Hall; University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; and the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. He has performed internationally in Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Spain, and Germany.

The co-artistic director of the Left Bank Concert Society, cellist Evelyn Elsing is Professor of Cello at the University of Maryland School of Music, College Park. A member of the summer faculties of the Interlochen Center for the Arts and International Workshops, Elsing has participated in the Aspen, Ravinia, and Spoleto Festivals, has won prizes at the Munich International Cello Competition and the Washington International Competition for Strings, and has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan. A chamber music enthusiast, Elsing has collaborated with members of the Cleveland, Muir, and Guarneri Quartets. She is cellist of the Ecco Trio and the Left Bank Quartet.

Washington area solo engagements have included performances at the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Kennedy Center. Recognitions include the University of Michigan’s highest award to a performer, the Stanley Medal, a Solo Recitalist Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Citation for Exceptional Leadership and Merit from the American String Teachers Association. Elsing was principal cellist of the Handel Festival Orchestra for 15 years and performed regularly with the historic Theater Chamber Players, birthplace of the Left Bank Quartet.

With concerts that have been critically acclaimed by the Washington Post as “beautifully smart,” “cohesive and inspired,” and “an exciting smorgasbord of old and new,” Left Bank Concert Society is now in its fifth season, presenting new music and rare chamber music works juxtaposed with historical masterpieces in evocative performances recognized for their ingenuity and high level of artistry. The Society’s artistic directors are Evelyn Elsing and David Salness.

Dumbarton United Methodist Church is an historical landmark located in Georgetown. Used as a makeshift hospital for troops from the Battles of Bull Run and Antietam during the Civil War, the church was also a place of worship for President Lincoln, whose pew bears the title “Pastor.” Still an active place of worship, the church also hosts chamber music concerts and other activities.

Last Autumn was commissioned by Washington Performing Arts Society with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Gary Louie.

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Saturday, January 31 at 7:30 pm
Washington, DC (Dumbarton United Methodist Church)

Music of Michael Hersch
Two Pieces for Piano (2003) – East-coast premiere
Suite from “The Vanishing Pavilions” (2006) – Washington, DC premiere
Last Autumn (2008) – World premiere

Michael Hersch, piano; Gary Louie, saxophone; Evelyn Elsing, cello

Tickets: $35; $32 seniors; $7 students over 18 with I.D.
To order, e-mail [email protected], visit, or call (703) 536-0222. Tickets are also available at the door.

– January 26, 2009

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