Composer Michael Hersch to Receive World Premiere in Washington , DC

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.

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