latest news / press

PostClassical’s next on WETA’s “Front Row Washington”

Listen in to WETA’s “Front Row Washington” program on Monday, Novermber 11 at 9pm, for a broadcast of a performance, part of Post Classical Ensemble’s multi-week “Interpreting Shostakovich” festival last November, which was awarded the Musical Event of the Year from Radio Liberty/Free Europe. This National Gallery of Art performance by Post Classical Ensemble features two chamber symphonies plus solo piano works played by George Vatchnadze.  Recorded November 4, 2012 in the National Gallery of Art’s West Garden Court by John Conway.

PostClassical Ensemble
Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Music Director
Joseph Horowitz, Artistic Director
George Vatchnadze, pianist

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH:  Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110 a (Transcribed by Rudolf Barshai from String Quartet No. 8, Op. 110)

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH: Preludes and Fugues for Solo Piano from Op. 87
Prelude in C Major (as recorded by the composer)
Prelude and Fugue in C Major
Prelude and Fugue in G Minor
George Vatchnadze, pianist

DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH: Chamber Symphony for Strings in A-flat Major, Op. 118a  (Transcribed by Rudolf Barshai from String Quartet no. 10, Op. 118)

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded PostClassical $200,000 in support of three planned festivals

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded PostClassical Ensemble $200,000 in support of three planned festivals: “Mexican Revolution” this Spring, “A Mahler Portrait” in Spring 2015, and a season-long American music festival in 2015-16.

The Mexican festival, which includes a concert, a conference, a gala, and a book club, will be hosted by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, the Mexican Cultural Institute, and Georgetown University. The culminating event, on May 10 at the Clarice Smith Center, will feature the iconic Mexican film “Redes” (1935) with the soundtrack, by Silvestre Revueltas, performed live by a 50-piece orchestra. Concurrently, PostClassical Ensemble will create its third Naxos DVD – “Mexican Revolution,” incorporating “Redes” with a new soundtrack.

The Mahler festival will include concerts, a short play about the marriage of Gustav and Alma Mahler, and a conference at the Austrian Cultural Forum focusing on “Mahler in America,” and “Mahler and Jewishness.”

The American festival will link to the book “Classical Music in America” by PostClassical Ensemble Artistic Director Joseph Horowitz. As composer-in-residence, the Swiss-American composer/saxophonist Daniel Schnyder will compose a commissioned concerto for the pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-fen.

The new grant is the Ensemble’s second three-year $200,000 gift from the Mellon Foundation. The previous grant supported such projects as the Ensemble’s fully staged production of Manuel de Falla’s “El Amor Brujo,” which this March is seen in New York City as part of the New York Flamenco Festival. A forthcoming PostClassical Ensemble Naxos CD – “Dvorak and America,” featuring world premiere recordings of a “Hiawatha Melodrama” and Indianist works by Arthur Farwell – is also Mellon-supported.

In a joint statement, Horowitz and PostClassical Ensemble Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez said:

 “This is a challenging moment for American orchestras. Looking to the future, many find themselves faced with a choice between innovation and retrenchment. We founded PostClassical Ensemble a decade ago with a mission to explore fresh repertoire and new performance formats. The generous funding that we enjoy from the Mellon Foundation is crucial to our capacity to put our artistic mission first; it supports risks we could not otherwise afford. Thanks to the Mellon Foundation, we have been able to launch festivals of Stravinsky and Shostakovich incorporating theater and film. We’ve been able to collaborate with Georgetown University – our Educational Partner – on new productions of ‘A Soldier’s Tale’ and ‘El Amor Brujo.’ We’ve been able to create and record a “Hiawatha Melodrama” combining Longfellow’s poem with excerpts from three Dvorak works.

“We undertake projects of this kind in the conviction that they can impact both locally and nationally. And in fact most of the programming supported by the Mellon Foundation yields an afterlife outside the DC/Baltimore area. Our ‘Stravinsky Project’ generated a four-hour radio special produced and distributed by WFMT/Chicago. ‘Schubert Uncorked’ and ‘Amor Brujo’ have been adapted and produced in New York City and Seattle. Our scripted presentation ‘Charles Ives: A Life in Music’ has been seen in Seattle, and over the next three seasons will be adapted by four other American orchestras. We feel we can play a role in rethinking how symphonic programming can connect to audiences, universities, and communities.”

This season’s “Mexican Revolution” is a month-long immersion experience. The core participants include the Mexican singer Eugenia Leon, the Revueltas scholar Roberto Kolb, and the Georgetown University historian John Tutino. The “book club” event, at the Mexican Cultural Institute on April 5, will screen Elia Kazan’s film “Viva Zapata” for readers of John Steinbeck’s “Zapata.” The conference, at Georgetown University on April 11, will include presentations on social and cultural aspects of the Mexican Revolution in conjunction with a performance by the Georgetown University Orchestra. The Clarice Smith Center concert on May 10 will include performances by Eugenia Leon and a visual track created by the video artist Peter Bogdanoff.

PostClassical’s conductor Angel Gil-Ordoñéz to speak at TEDxMidAtlantic

PostClassical’s own Angel Gil-Ordoñéz will be one of 50 speakers at this year’s TEDxMidAtlantic during the weekend of October 25-26, 2013.

To find out more information, visit the TEDxMidAtlantic website. You can read Angel’s TED bio on the speakers page. Don’t miss this once-of-a-lifetime event!

PostClassical Ensemble in November!

Please join us for our first concert of the 2013-14 season.

Tales from the Vienna Woods
Saturday, November 16, 2013, at 8 pm

Dumbarton Concerts
Historic Dumbarton Church
3133 Dumbarton Street, NW
Washington, DC
Tickets: dumbartonconcerts.org and box office at 202-965-2000.

Johann Strauss’s most beloved waltzes in a variety of scintillating transformations—including a chamber-orchestra version of The Emperor Waltz
as lovingly transcribed by Arnold Schoenberg, and Adolf Schulz-Evler’s spectacular solo piano paraphrase of The Blue Danube as performed by
Benjamin Pasternack. Also: Soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot sings “Vilja” from Lehar’s The Merry Widow­—plus surprises galore.

Related Event:
“The Operetta Spirit” at the Austrian Cultural Forum
(3524 International Court NW), Nov. 7, 7:30 pm—with soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot, pianist Vera Danchenko Stern, and Ernst Lubitsch’s 1934 film of The Merry Widow. Free Admission.

PCE Announces Its 2013-2014 Season

At DUMBARTON Concerts:
In 2013-14, PCE becomes ENSEMBLE-IN-RESIDENCE at Dumbarton Concerts—performing in Dumbarton Church (3133 Dumbarton St. NW), an intimate setting with ideal acoustics.
Tickets: dumbartonconcerts.org and box office at 202-965-2000.

Tales from the Vienna Woods
Sat., Nov. 16, 2013, at 8 pm
Johann Strauss’s most beloved waltzes in a variety of scintillating transformations—including a chamber orchestra version of The Emperor Waltz as lovingly transcribed by Arnold Schoenberg, and Adolf Schulz-Evler’s spectacular solo piano paraphrase of The Blue Danube as performed by Benjamin Pasternack. Also: Soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot sings “Vilja” from Lehar’s The Merry Widow­—plus surprises galore.

Related Event:
“The Operetta Spirit” at the Austrian Cultural Forum
(3524 International Court NW), Nov. 7, 7:30 pm—with soprano Jennifer Casey Cabot, pianist
Vera Danchenko Stern, and Ernst Lubitsch’s 1934 film of The Merry Widow. Free Admission.

Scenes from Childhood
Sat., Feb. 22, 2014, at 8 pm
A seraphic evening radiant with childhood innocence: the sublime Siegfried Idyll and a little-known nursery song, both composed by Wagner for his infant son; the Washington National Catherdal’s Choir of Boys and Girls in Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and “In Paradisum” from Fauré’s Requiem.

Related Event:
Tony Palmer’s Benjamin Britten film biography Nocturne, with commentary by Tony Palmer and live music by PCE—at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, date TBA

MEXICAN REVOLUTION
Sat., May 10, 2014
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (College Park)
Hear Mexico’s famous Eugenia León sing songs from the Mexican Revolution. See the great Mexican film Redes (1936) with Silvestre Revueltas’s searing score performed live by a 50-piece orchestra. A multi-media exploration of how Mexico’s artists powered social and political change.
Tickets: claricesmithcenter.umd.edu

SAVE THE DATE! May 8, 2014
Mexico–United States Cultural Gala Dinner with Eugenia León
Celebrating the important cultural and economic ties binding two great nations, and celebrating PostClassical Ensemble’s Tenth Anniversary. Special surprise guests! For more information, call 202-677-5773.

Related events at Mexican Cultural Institute and Georgetown University TBA

Also of interest to PCE patrons:
“Rouben Mamoulian and the Art of Musical Film”
Sat., Sept. 28. and Sun., Sept. 29, 2013, at The National Galley of Art

A film retrospective linked to Joseph Horowitz’s new book “On My Way”—The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin, and “Porgy and Bess.”

Download the PCE 2013-14 season press release.

Dvorak and Burleigh at Ellington – The Georgetowner

By John Blee

When Antonin Dvorak, Czech-born, came to America he had as his assistant the African American composer, Harry T. Burleigh. Burleigh would have an influence on Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” composed in 1893, through introducing him to African American spirituals. A concert at Duke Ellington School of the Arts played by students from Ellington and Georgetown University will present music by Dvorak and Burleigh at Ellington conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez of the PostClassical Ensemble.

Speaking with Gil-Ordóñez, who also teaches at Georgetown University, about the upcoming concert I asked him about the collaboration and what he enjoyed the most about it. He replied, “the Duke Ellington students are younger than those of the Georgetown Orchestra students. You would think there would be less maturity in their approach to this music. Not the case. From the first rehearsal they had the same level of commitment and understanding than the Georgetown students. When I work with an orchestra I don’t make any difference between professionals, students or amateurs. There are only good or bad orchestras.”

I asked him as well about the Dvorak story in America. Gil-Ordóñez emphasized that it was “fascinating, Dvorak arrives in New York and feels immediately attached to the African American spirituals and to the dances and chants of the Native Americans. All this transpires in the ‘New World Symphony.’ Even without an explanation of this, when you play the work as an American you recognize yourself in it.”

Dvorak’s gifts to American music highlighted at University of Maryland – The Washington Post

By Stephen Brookes, click here to read the entire article

“When the ensemble then turned to the 1895 “American Suite,” it wasn’t as if a breath of fresh of air had swept into the hall — it was more like a bracing gale. Exuberant, unfettered, almost cinematic in its rich colors and heady sweep of ideas, the work seemed to explode with vitality and a sense of freedom and infinite possibility. Much of that was due to superb playing by the ensemble itself — led with fluidity and precision by music director Angel Gil-Ordóñez — but the music itself proved that Dvorak was no mere borrower of indigenous melodies: He had grasped the frontier mentality of America itself.

The real focus of the evening, though, was the premiere of a bold new work called “Hiawatha Melodrama,” put together by music historian Michael Beckerman and PostClassical artistic director Joseph Horowitz. Combining music from the “New World” symphony, the “American Suite” and the Violin Sonatina with a truncated version of Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha,” it suggests what Dvorak might have written if he’d completed a planned vocal work based on the epic poem. . . . Musically seamless, it built to a stirring climax and showcased Dvorak’s extraordinary gift for tone-painting.”

 

Dvořák and America: Editior’s Pick for March – The Washington Post

The PostClassical Ensemble culminates its Dvorak festival with a performance of a reconstituted version of Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” an inspiration for Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony. At the Dekelboum Concert Hall. More information on The Washington Post’s website.

Naxos’s 25 years of reinventing itself – Washington Post

By Anne Midgette, Published: November 8

In the late 1980s, the record label Naxos was a bargain-budget name with a dicey reputation. True, it was recording lots of interesting repertory and selling it at cut-rate prices, but it was supposedly doing this by exploiting its artists, who were paid a flat fee, no royalties, and often not even enough money to cover recording costs. What kind of recording deal was that?

This year, Naxos is celebrating its silver anniversary — as one of the major forces in the classical music field. Today, cushy record contracts for classical artists are all but extinct, more and more artists are self-financing their recordings, and Naxos, offering significant brand recognition and the biggest international distribution network in the field, suddenly looks like a pretty good deal.

The savvy business sense of its founder, Klaus Heymann, is no longer seen as a liability; it’s enabled him to keep the company making money despite the fact that the classical recording business is changing so fast that every time I’ve talked to him over the past 10 years, Naxos has had a different primary source of revenue.

“We can’t live off CD sales anymore,” says the German-born Heymann, 75, speaking by phone from his base in Hong Kong. When Naxos began, Heymann proved that you could make money selling tens of thousands of copies of works nobody had ever heard of; as CD sales gradually declined, the company has variously relied on proceeds from digital downloads, audio books, and other ventures. Today, it looks to YouTube, where a tool called Content ID crawls the site, figures out how many of a given company’s videos are illegally posted, and – rather than removing the videos – calculates that company’s share of advertising revenue. “That’s become an income stream,” says Heymann, estimating that it covers about 75 percent of his recording budget.

“iTunes, Audible, SiriusXM,” he adds. “Wherever there’s a source of revenue, we squeeze it out.”

Twenty years ago, this kind of talk branded Heymann as a miser, a businessman exploiting artistic talent. Today, he’s often heralded as a visionary, a businessman using practical means to keep a valuable artistic resource afloat.

“Klaus is a heroic figure in classical music,” says Joseph Horowitz, the co-founder of Washington’s Post-Classical Ensemble. Horowitz has served as a consultant for Naxos’s American Classics series, which focuses on otherwise neglected works by American composers, past and present. The Post-Classical Ensemble has also released two recordings on Naxos — DVD reissues of classic 1930s documentaries with scores by Virgil Thomson (“The Plow That Broke the Plains”) and Aaron Copland (“The City”). It’s just one of a number of ensembles in the greater Washington area that have found in Naxos a platform and a step to larger international attention — from individuals such as the pianist and composer Haskell Small, who teaches at the Washington Conservatory of Music, all the way up the food chain to Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Heymann has always been something of an outsider, starting out by importing luxury goods including high-end stereo equipment to Asia, and organizing classical concerts as a way to promote his wares. Perceiving a ready Asian market for classical CDs, he set out to fill it. His unorthodox background has stood him in good stead as he keeps changing his company to find new ways to make money. Audiobooks have done well; Naxos is the major distributor of other classical labels; and the company has been in the vanguard of all manner of digital content. The flagship here is the Naxos Digital Library, which offers on-demand access to the entire catalogue. Anyone can subscribe, from schools and libraries to some Naxos artists; the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra offers it as a free perk to its subscribers.

That the BSO is a loyal Naxos artist is a clear sign of the changing times. “The days of recording companies fronting all the upfront costs are over,” says Paul Meecham, the orchestra’s president and CEO. “We’ve done things with Decca in the last few years. No one is upfronting the cost. It’s not just Naxos.”

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Small, the Washington-based composer, financed the 2011 recording of his “Lullaby of War” on the American Classics series himself. He doesn’t see a drawback; quite the contrary. “I was excited to do it with Naxos,” he says. “To be perfectly frank, I own [the rights to] a lot of the stuff in my discography; Naxos is the only one I don’t own outright. For the pennies that dribble in [from the other recordings], Naxos is a much better deal on the whole.”

Naxos is also one of the few entities in the classical music business that embraces things that are different and unusual. Opera Lafayette, the Washington-based company specializing in French baroque opera, first approached Naxos with the e-mail equivalent of a cold call; they had recorded the French version of Gluck’s “Orphee,” and wondered if Heymann might be willing to release it. Unlike most cold calls, it worked. “He said, We have the Italian version, but we don’t have the French version, and we like it, so we’ll take it,” recalls Ryan Brown, Opera Lafayette’s founder and conductor. It was the beginning of a fine relationship; Opera Lafayette’s eighth Naxos recording, the first-ever of Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry’s “Le Magnifique,” is coming out this month. “When I started suggesting things to Klaus,” Brown says, “it was obvious that they have this omnivorous appetite for music. They were very open to suggestions of things that were out of the way or hadn’t been recorded before.”

“Look, Naxos is a gift to us,” says the Post-Classical Ensemble’s Horowitz. “When I proposed to Klaus that he do three DVDs with films that are not well known and the addition of live music and content out of the blue and he said yes in three minutes, it’s a very unusual person.” He adds, “Klaus is an impresario; he makes decisions quickly. He doesn’t study a project. If he likes it, he’ll say, I’m doing it. He’s not afraid of doing things that haven’t been done before — an unusual asset in what’s left of the world of classical music. He has an entrepreneurial intelligence that’s not that common.”

Naxos is widely seen as having pioneered a new business model for recordings, but there are other ways to slice and dice the same model. The label Avie, for instance, also produces self-financed recordings, but leaves the rights in the hands of the artists. “It’s all based on artist ownership,” says Melanne Mueller, who co-founded the label with her husband, Simon Foster, in 2002. “Artists come up with financing of their recordings. They own everything, and earn the majority of the revenue. We take a commission.”

Kenneth Woods, a conductor who has released several recordings on Avie, prefers this to Naxos. “Naxos’s strength is the huge catalogue and the breadth of what they cover,” he says. It’s “great for the listener and collector; not so great to the artist.” And, he opines, “it’s hard for a lesser-known artist to get the kind of exposure on Naxos that I can get on Avie.” Ryan Brown might beg to differ; the international reviews, particularly in France, of Opera Lafayette’s Naxos recordings may have helped influence his company’s invitation to perform last season in Versailles.

Naxos has certainly practiced a kind of “flood the zone” approach to music. Heymann thinks in terms of complete sets rather than individual discs: American Classics or romantic masterpieces, the complete works of C.P.E. Bach (the 18th-century German composer) or Alfredo Casella (the 20th-century Italian one). “I’m a sucker for good repertory ideas,” he says, with a chuckle. Even he admits that Naxos probably releases too many recordings.

But when he runs through some current projects, his real motivation becomes apparent. The maverick businessman genuinely loves music and delights in demonstrating its range and variety. “We’ve got the first volume of the complete Villa-Lobos symphonies, then the Penderecki orchestral choral works from Warsaw,” he says. “Then Simon Mayr,” an early 19th-century Bavarian composer whose operas Naxos is bringing out, one by one, two of them this year. “And the third volume of the Haydn piano trios. Can I say no to any of this?” he asks. In today’s classical music world, most people would probably answer, “Yes!” It’s only for Klaus Heymann that this question remains rhetorical.

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PostClassical Ensemble performance transcends Shostakovich’s modest intentions – Washington Post

By Stephen Brookes, Monday, November 5, 2012

There was a sizable Russian contingent in both the audience and the orchestra at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday night; not surprising, perhaps, given that it was the closing concert of the PostClassical Ensemble’s three-week festival devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich, the brilliant and controversial composer who was either a closet opponent or a passive supporter of the oppressive Soviet regime under which he worked.And it was, in every respect, a fascinating and compelling evening. The PostClassical Ensemble is famous for its innovative performances — which mix different media with unusual repertoire — and Sunday night’s concert took a fresh look at contrasting sides of Shostakovich’s character, featuring rarely heard transcriptions for string chamber orchestra of two of the composer’s most personal string quartets.

The concert opened with the Chamber Symphony for Strings in C Minor, Op. 110a, the transcription by Rudolf Barshai of Shostakovich’s autobiographical eighth quartet. Beefing up a quartet to an ensemble five times as large is risky; delicate details get lost, and edge and agility are often sacrificed for power. But under the nuanced and utterly fluid direction of Angel Gil-Ordonez, the work lost none of its roiling, acrid bite nor its unearthly luminosity. The wild-eyed allegretto was as menacing as ever, the three largo movements even more sweeping and ethereal than in the quartet version, and concertmaster Oleg Rylatko brought off the lead violin lines with genuine ferocity and power. The quartet may be a whirlwind, but in these hands, the chamber version became a tornado.

A typically PostClassical touch followed, as a recording of Shostakovich himself playing his Prelude in C Major drifted, ghost-like, from speakers high in the hall. Pianist George Vatchnadze then took the stage to play the same work (with its accompanying Fugue) as well as the Prelude and Fugue in G minor, providing an island of calm and transcendent clarity before the closing work, the Chamber Symphony for Strings in A-flat Major, Op. 118a (from the 1964 string quartet No. 10). Beautifully played, with a wonderfully scherzo-like allegro furioso and a profound, deeply moving adagio passacaglia, it proved to be a work of stunning power and grace — perhaps even more beautiful than the original version for quartet.

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