PostClassical Ensemble in the New Yorker | Alex Ross reviews The Shostakovich-Weinberg Connection

An excerpt from Alex Ross’ column in the April 17 issue of The New Yorker, titled

A Gathering of Orchestras in D.C.

…the city [Washington] has long been a paradise for chamber music. I grew up there, and learned the chamber repertory in such intimate, welcoming venues as Dumbarton Oaks, the Library of Congress, and the Phillips Collection. A newer addition to the scene is the PostClassical Ensemble, which, since 2003, has been presenting thematic programs in halls around town. Before Shift began, I went to the Harman Center for the Arts to attend a PostClassical event entitled “Music Under Stalin: The Shostakovich-Weinberg Connection.” The group’s music director is Angel Gil-Ordóñez; its executive director is the scholar-impresario Joseph Horowitz, who, in the nineties, staged meaty festival weekends with the late, lamented Brooklyn Philharmonic.

PostClassical also experiments with alternative formats. “Music Under Stalin” included a “theatrical interlude” in which the actor Edward Gero delivered monologues that evoked scenes from Shostakovich’s tormented life. I found these unpersuasive: Gero failed to capture the composer’s skittish manner, and the texts came from “Testimony,” the memoir dubiously attributed to Shostakovich. Other Shostakovich items on the program were invigorating. Alexander Toradze cavorted thunderously through the First Piano Concerto, and Gil-Ordóñez led a vital rendition of the Eighth Quartet, in the string-orchestra arrangement by Rudolf Barshai.

Connoisseurs came mainly for music by Mieczysław Weinberg, the Polish Jewish composer who fled to the Soviet Union in 1939 and joined the circle around Shostakovich. When Weinberg died, in 1996, he received few obituaries in the West; in the past decade, though, his name has gained lustre, with his 1968 Holocaust opera, “The Passenger,” being accorded productions around the world. Much of his large-scale symphonic writing dwells in Shostakovich’s mournful-antic shadow, yet in chamber forms Weinberg assumes a distinctive profile, his melodic fluency underpinned by a flair for tension and surprise. His output has benefitted from the advocacy of the violinist Gidon Kremer, a determined foe of usual-suspects programming, whose two Weinberg recordings, on ECM, make for an excellent introduction.

Weinberg did not escape the terrors of the Stalin era, and was briefly imprisoned, in 1953. In the wake of the Khrushchev thaw, his writing became more adventurous. His Symphony No. 10, for string orchestra (1968), which capped PostClassical’s program, encroaches on avant-garde territory: there are nebulous twelve-tone passages, scouring cluster chords, and anarchic jam sessions in which solo instruments play independently of one another. Off-kilter Baroque stylings recall Stravinsky and anticipate the meta-musical games of Alfred Schnittke. With this jaggedly original work, the follower becomes the leader: Shostakovich echoes several of Weinberg’s effects in his Thirteenth Quartet and Fourteenth Symphony.

The spectre of contemporary politics hovered here as well. The question of how artists should respond to repression no longer seems as historical or as distant as it did even a few months ago: PostClassical recently held a discussion with the Russian-born pianist Vladimir Feltsman, entitled “Artist Dissidents and Culture in the Age of Trump.” In a program note, Horowitz criticized J.F.K. for saying that the arts can thrive only in a free republic. Indeed, Shostakovich and Weinberg provide a monumental counterexample. It is, however, not difficult to imagine a nominally free but radically unequal society in which market forces drive the arts to the edge of extinction. The new potentates in Washington may feel that the dream is within reach. ♦

Click here to read the full article

PostClassical Ensemble’s THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND | Steal Away arr. Burleigh

PostClassical Ensemble's The Trumpet Shall Sound

Listen below to an excerpt from PostClassical Ensemble’s The Trumpet Shall Sound:

Steal Away arr. Burleigh performed by Kevin Deas, bass-baritone and Joe Horowitz, piano. Recorded in concert February 4, 2017 at The Washington National Cathedral

Joe Horowitz, Piano. Photo Credit: Behrouz Jamali, 2017

Kevin Deas, Bass-Baritone. Photo Credit: Behrouz Jamali, 2017

Arthur Hartman: A Legacy of Cultural Diplomacy

source: wikimedia commons


Arthur Hartman (1927-2015) was an American career diplomat who served as Ambassador to France under President Jimmy Carter and Ambassador to the Soviet Union under President Ronald Reagan.

Hartman was a master practitioner of cultural diplomacy in a period when the US State Department had largely abandoned culture as a diplomatic tool.

Behind the scenes, Hartman played a key role when Vladimir Horowitz returned to his Russian homeland in 1986 as President Reagan’s “Ambassador of Peace.” This occurred at a moment of chilly US-USSR relations, due to events in Libya. Though Horowitz’s historic Moscow recital was televised internationally, it was initially downplayed in Russia. Then the Russians changed their mind and Horowitz appeared on Soviet television with enormous impact. In fact, there can be no doubt that Horowitz’s visit, for which he received the US Medal of Freedom, contributed to glasnost.

Some years earlier, when Vladimir Feltsman — a “refusenik” — was denied permission to perform, Arthur Hartman invited him to perform at the US Embassy. With Hartman’s assistance, Feltsman emigrated in 1987 and resettled in the US.

In an obituary, The New York Times wrote: “In Moscow, the Hartmans transformed the ambassador’s residence, Spaso House, into a gathering place for intellectuals, dissidents and artists.” Vladimir and Wanda Horowitz stayed with the Hartmans at Spaso House while in Moscow.

The PCE Gala will comprise a half-hour recital by Mr. Feltsman, followed by a dinner. Mr. Feltsman and Ambassador Robert Gelbard, among others, will have occasion to remember Arthur Hartman.

We believe that Ambassador Hartman’s conviction that culture can promote peace among nations has never been more pertinent than today.

Source: Boris Yurchenko/Associated Press


PostClassical Ensemble is devoting two seasons to marking the Centenary of the Russian Revolution. The participants include pianists Vladimir Feltsman and Alexander Toradze, and the conductor Valery Gergiev.

A major focus will be the “experimental” music and art of the 1920s. The classic Soviet silent film “The New Babylon” (1929) will be screened with Shostakovich’s score performed live. The bold compositions of Roslavetz, Mossolov, and Protopopov, today forgotten even in Russia, will be highlighted.

In fact, decades of Soviet musical life were largely concealed from the west. Feltsman writes: “The artists who lived and worked in Russia during the twentieth century produced an amazing body of work. This legacy is precious, authentic, and meaningful. The art that was created there was not meant to entertain or amuse, but to turn our attention to the basic conditions of life, to what is really important, and to ask hard questions that can be answered only by ourselves.”

PCE will also host an important contemporary Russian composer as yet little known in the US: Victor Kissine, whose “Between the Waves” for piano and string orchestra will receive its American premiere.

The close relationship of Shostakovich and the Jewish refugee composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg will be another major theme.

The events of the festival will include many novel features – including (at “The Shostakovich-Weinberg Connection” March 25 at the Harman Center) the prominent DC actor Edward Gero playing Shostakovich as part of a “theatrical interlude” incorporating film and music. (Mr Gero will be attending both the March 15 Gala and Alexander Toradze’s private recital on March 10.)

The institutions participating in the PCE festival include the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, Washington Performing Arts, the National Gallery of Art Film Division, the Jewish Community Center of DC, the Harman Center for the Arts, and American University’s Russian Cultural initiative.

Individual participants, in addition to Feltsman, Toradze, and Gergiev, will include pianist Alexander Shtarkman, the cellist Benjamin Capps, violinist Netanel Draiblate, trumpet soloist Chris Gekker, Jewish music scholar James Loeffler, and Peter Rollberg, a specialist in Russian film.

For more information about table sponsorship at the March 15 Gala: Music For Mutual Understanding with Vladimir Feltsman or PCE’s multi-year Russian Festival, please contact Matthew Gardner: 412.680.9228 or matthew@postclassical.com

Bernard Herrmann Festival on WETA



PCE is taking over 90.9 WETA this Halloween

To celebrate Halloween, WETA’s Front Row Washington presents:

The Music of Bernard Herrmann

Monday, October 31 at 9:00pm 
Tune in Monday evening to hear PCE’s performance at the National Gallery of Art, April 17, 2016. Conducted by Angel Gil-Ordóñez and recorded by John Conway.

This concert was part of our Bernard Herrmann Festival during the 2015-16 season:

From WETA radio:

Post Classical Ensemble–Halloween Special. The music of Bernard Herrmann

Presented by the National Gallery of Art
Monday, October 31, 2016 – 9:00pm

Post-Classical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, conductor, presents a Halloween Special featuring the music of Bernard Herrmann.  We’ll hear different aspects of Herrmann’s music, including John Mauceri’s arrangement of the iconic 1960 soundtrack to Psycho, plus the 1967 Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, and the 1935 Sinfonietta for Strings.

This concert was recorded at the National Gallery of Art, April 17, 2016 by John Conway.

Featured performances:

More than music

El Pais
Jorge F. Hernández
April 8, 2014

Angel Gil-Ordóñez directs music and conversations, Joseph Horowitz placed invisibly ruled paper ideas and conversation often becomes chair.Both run the Post-Classical Ensemble, an orchestra that plays more than music. In fact, touch all who see their directors at the helm. Aware that the final composition of Gustav Mahler was inspired by an ancient Chinese poem, Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez set up a program where the audience not only listened to the translation of the verses that deal with the languid parting between two friends. In addition, viewers were able to witness not only the interpretation of the swan song with which Mahler was the world, but also the presentation of a traditional Chinese orchestra with instruments of centuries. Aware that the endless Library of Congress in Washington custody not only all the scores in the world, and all printed books, but also pietajes of all films and documentaries and have gotten Gil-Ordóñez and Horowitz were given the task to return with his orchestra recorded the music of Aaron Copland and Virgil Thompson and video remaster small films with the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to promote and spread culture in thousands of theaters when times trying to return to the name stuff.

Post-Classical Ensemble is therefore an ecumenical and trans sanctuary where the viewer not only attends the hearing contemplation of the program is announced, but the musical experience where multiple records are combined: literature, film and discussion of ideas. Errant thought, criticism molto vivace and all doubts that we become allegro ma non tropoquestions. Attendees actively participate in conferences that Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez coordinate not only with high intellectual and academic prestige, but intertwined with the music heard in a much more friendly and enriching format which opens the fan who buys a CD and listening at home, and digitally reading booklet accompanying illustrative.

In fact, the initial seed of this project Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez born precisely the depletion of the old formula where one attends a concert hall and is forced to follow a ritual that looks more like liturgy, where you can not applaud until end movements. And, of course, where there is no way to give the director some questions, much less a short time to express any ideas or feelings that the work has raised in one.

Angel Gil-Ordóñez who tends addressed as the leaves of a bush blooming cherry trees and quiet conversation with the wind; Joseph Horowitz speaks as if arming hypertext screens against her lips, which interrelates the different planes of the issues that conversation. Gil-Ordóñez is also director of the Georgetown University Orchestra and Horowitz, artistic director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra and between them have completed at least two programs that nurture not only the great past of Mexican music, but with this convoluted and the uncertain future of our reality.

During this spring, many of the faithful and new viewers will have a chance to immerse themselves in the labyrinths of our loneliness with conferences, lectures and film screenings around that we still call Mexican Revolution and the Post-Classical Ensemble has settled into a lucrative program multidisciplinary gathering the screening of the film Viva Zapata! Elia Kazan, played by Marlon Brando, written by John Steinbeck and Networks truncated but with the music of Silvestre Revueltas superb film, the two contrasting faces of the first great social revolution of the twentieth century . The program extends from the hand of John Tutino known scholar, historian emeritus at Georgetown University and so the audience not only opens windows to an era of ideas, questions, scores and thought, pure history and culture but the opportunity to listen to an orchestra of impeccable sound quality time.

Antonio Muñoz Molina takes absolutely right when he celebrates projects Post-Classical Ensemble, as if speaking of a forest maze of shadows becomes attractive and I applaud today touches me standing all the achievements and efforts of those constant reminders that the sound of the times, the noise around us, melody singing She quietly and notes invisible score all the unseen and invisible beyond what we hear: it is also in books and in conversation, in the works of those who paint with brushes or even camera, also in silence. Much more than music.

2014-15 Season

2014-15 Season at a Glance

La cultura ibérica, a la conquista de Washington

El Pais
Silvia Ayuso
March 2015

Una actuación única de los bailarines españoles Ángel y Carmen Corella. Un concierto de la orquesta PostClassical Ensemble bajo la batuta del también español Ángel Gil-Ordóñez, al igual que el pianista Javier Perianes. Fados de la portuguesa Carminho, acompañado del grupo brasileño de danza contemporánea Corpo y del saxofonista mozambiqueño Moreira Chonguiça. La función con la que abrió la noche del martes el Iberian Suite: Global Arts Remix en el Centro John F. Kennedy de Washington resume el espíritu de este festival que se ha propuesto conquistar durante las próximas tres semanas la capital estadounidense con lo mejor de las artes y la cultura de la península ibérica y su influencia en el mundo.

Testigo privilegiado de esta primera noche de magia ibérica fue Don Juan Carlos. El Rey, en su primera visita a Estados Unidos desde su abdicación en junio, pudo además visitar antes que nadie uno de los tesoros de este festival: “Picasso ceramista y el Mediterráneo”. Esta muestra ha logrado traer por primera vez a EE UU la colección de más de 140 piezas cerámicas del malagueño universal en las que se explora la atracción del artista por los colores y mitos mediterráneos.

“Hubo un tiempo en el que España y Portugal abarcaron el mundo, desde Perú a China, de Manila a San Francisco. Las rutas trazadas por nuestros barcos abrieron las vías del mundo globalizado del que disfrutamos hoy”, recordó el Rey al inaugurar el festival, al que acudió acompañado, entre otros, del senador demócrata Tim Kaine, con quien conversó en español.

“Es una civilización que sigue viva tanto en nuestras lenguas como en la imaginación de nuestros artistas y de nuestra música”, agregó Don Juan Carlos, para quien el Iberian Suite constituye “una entrada mágica a este maravilloso mundo”.

Mágica y completa. El Centro Kennedy para las Artes Escénicas se ha propuesto que esta conquista sea a través de los cinco sentidos, y para ello ha buscado durante los últimos tres años lo más representativo de la cultura y tradición de España y Portugal, así como su influencia global, según Alicia Adams. Ella es la curadora de la muestra que permanecerá abierta hasta el 24 de marzo y en la que participan unos seiscientos artistas de una veintena de países tocados de alguna manera por la cultura ibérica.

La península ibérica reúne “algunos de los trabajos más interesantes y ricas que existen en el mundo tanto en artes escénicas como en visuales, literatura, gastronomía o moda. Eso es lo que tratamos de mostrar. También la mezcla de todo ello que se produjo cuando esa cultura atravesó los mares y regresó, transformando parte de ese arte”, explicó Adams a este periódico.

Una mezcla que se traducirá en momentos únicos como el concierto que la española de origen guineano Buika ofrecerá junto con el pianista cubano Iván “Melón” Lewis y su Continuum Quartet, o el Proyecto Tango-Fado del dúo argentino-uruguayo Daniel Binelli y Polly Ferman, que junto con la orquesta de cámara neoyorquina Manhattan Camerata explora los lazos entre el baile argentino y el canto portugués.

En el mismo espíritu regresará la semana próxima para el público general la PostClassical Ensemble que, de nuevo de la mano del español Gil-Ordóñez, estrenará en EE UU la obra “Mística Ibérica: la Confluencia de las Fes”. La obra, escrita por el director ejecutivo de la orquesta experimental asentada en Washington, Joseph Horowitz, y el escritor español Antonio Muñoz Molina, “muestra la coexistencia de las culturas islámica, católica y judía con anterioridad a la toma de Granada en 1492 y el fin de la Reconquista”, adelantó Ordóñez a la Agencia EFE.

Dos de las máximas figuras del flamenco contemporáneo en España, Sara Baras -para la que ya se agotaron las entradas- y María Pagés, compartirán escenario con la Companhia Portuguesa de Bailado Contemporaneo o el brasileño Corpo. El Teatro de la Abadía y la compañía Ron Lalá son parte de la representación teatral española de un festival que también se completa con decenas de actuaciones musicales, tanto de pago como gratuitas, que atraen lo mejor y más curioso de la influencia ibérica en varios continentes: desde la mexicana Eugenia León a la caboverdiana Carmen Souza, la chilena Claudia Acuña o el niño prodigio boliviano José André, de nueve años.

Muñoz Molina también regresa a Washington para, junto con Carlos Ruiz Zafón, discutir sobre la “imaginación española sin límites” y la manera en que las tradiciones literarias españolas han influenciado su obra. De similar manera, el también español Javier Cercas discutirá, junto con el colombiano Juan Gabriel Vásquez, el argentino César Aira, la portuguesa Dulce María Cardoso, el peruano Alonso Cueto y la mexicana Carmen Boullosa las “voces de los maestros de la literatura” ibérica de “hoy y de antes”.

Muestras de moda, así como charlas y documentales gastronómicos completan un “remix” cultural con el que según la curadora Adams, el Centro Kennedy espera dar a muchos estadounidenses que no suelen viajar -poco más del 30 % de los norteamericanos tienen pasaporte- una “oportunidad de experimentar cosas que si no probablemente jamás vivirían”

“American Music” (2014)

In 2005, Naxos released a highly praised DVD of two classic Pare Lorentz documentaries, The River (1936) and The Plow that Broke the Plains (1937), with new recordings of their legendary Virgil Thomson scores. The creative forces responsible for this venture—Joseph Horowitz, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, and the Post-Classical Ensemble—have now turned their attention to Aaron Copland’s music for the 1939 film The City. Once again they have transformed the viewer’s experience of an aged film by replacing the monaural soundtrack with new narration and a high-quality stereo recording of the music.

There are numerous excellent justifications for such an undertaking. First, there is no modern recording of this important Copland score. Joseph Horowitz, who is one of the United States’ leading cultural historians, describes the score in his liner notes as “arguably, Copland’s highest achievement as a film composer, but far from his best-known.” The City marked Copland’s first foray into film music, giving him, as he wrote in his autobiography, “the credit I needed to approach Hollywood again.”1 Meanwhile the film itself, which examines the social implications of town planning, is widely considered one of the finest early documentaries: it “tells its story without wasting a shot,” as Time magazine put it back in 1939.

Beyond its attraction for Copland scholars and documentary specialists, this DVD offers an array of possibilities for classes on film music and American music history. For example, it would provide an excellent starting point for discussions of Depression-era politics and their impact on the arts. Produced for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, The City brought together a team of leading left-wing artists and thinkers from New York: cinematographers Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke; city planner Lewis Mumford, who wrote the script; Henwar Rodakiewicz, who created the scenario; actor Morris Carnovsky, who was the narrator; and, of course, Aaron Copland. Howard Pollack describes the film, which offers a vision for a better model for living and working in the United States, as an embodiment of the progressive socialist ideals and attitudes that these men shared.3 The City juxtaposes the countryside, a place rich in quality of life but poor in opportunity, with the urban center, its opposite. Mumford’s script proposes the union of the strengths of each lifestyle in new planned communities, which would offer a higher standard of living for American workers. In this context, Copland’s pared down and approachable score for The City serves as the musical expression of this quest for a more humane society, typical of his efforts to attract a broader public during the 1930s.

The three-part structure of the film—countryside, city, new planned city—meanwhile offers an excellent mechanism to compare and contrast Copland’s rural and urban musical tropes and thereby explore the nature of his musical Americanism. These tropes can be found across Copland’s output during this period but their straightforward juxtaposition here will aid in-class presentation. The alternately disturbing and humorous features of city life are especially elegantly depicted in this score.

The newly recorded soundtrack is largely excellent, with the Post-Classical Ensemble exemplifying the understated, light, and precise style of playing needed for Copland’s music. The striking saxophone solos are particularly evocative and compare very favorably to their counterparts on the original recording. (Such comparisons are easily made, since the DVD also includes the entire film with the original soundtrack as a bonus feature.)

A striking element of the new soundtrack—in marked contrast to the original—is the reduced volume of the narration in relation to the music. In his liner notes to the DVD, Horowitz explains that this approach is modeled on Virgil Thomson’s film music philosophy, which asserts that narration should be no louder than is required for it to be understood. The result is that the music of The City is much more noticeable than is conventional, thus going against common practice in Hollywood. Overall this approach poses few problems in The City because narration and music mostly alternate. In the brief moments where they overlap, however, it can be a little more difficult to understand Francis Guinan’s fine new narration. Nevertheless, the decision seems entirely justified given that Copland’s music serves such a crucial role in expressing the message of this dialogue- and sound effects–free film.

The DVD comes with three fascinating bonus features that offer additional teaching-related opportunities: The entire film with the original soundtrack (mentioned above); a documentary about the town of Greenbelt, Maryland, where the final section of the film was shot; and a conversation between Joseph Horowitz and George Stoney, a documentary filmmaker and a historian of the genre. Stoney’s conversation with Horowitz will be useful for students of both film and music history. Particularly interesting is Stoney’s discussion of the role of music in the early documentary. In The City, he says, music serves both to emphasize the film’s political message and to provide relief from its weightiness. Elsewhere Horowitz assesses the influence of Thomson’s film music on Copland  Multimedia Review 537 and describes the nature of their combined contribution to the genre. Together, he says, they crafted uniquely “American” soundtracks that differed markedly from the European-influenced Hollywood model, creating a leaner style with “fewer notes” that others would soon emulate.

Emily Ansari

University of Western Ontario

The City. Lewis Mumford, script. Ralph Steiner and Willard von Dyke, cinematography. Aaron Copland, music. 1939. Soundtrack recreated by Post-Classical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, music director, Joseph Horowitz, artistic director. 2009. Distributed by Naxos. New soundtrack (music and narration) recorded in Dolby Digital / DTS Surround. 132 minutes including bonus features.

Ansari review of The City PDF

Season at a Glance – HIGHLIGHTS of the 2014-15 Season

Saturday, November 15 at 8 pm

Kevin Deas horizontal2Bach and the Divine
featuring Kevin Deas, bass-baritone – Netanel Draiblate, violin – Igor Leschishin, oboe
Dumbarton Concerts



Saturday, February 7 at 8 pm

Beethoven: Early to Late
featuring Mykola Suk, piano
Dumbarton Concerts

Tuesday and Wednesday, March 10 and 11 at 7:30 pmSonia Olla

Iberian Mystics: A Confluence of Faiths
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Family Theatre


Thursday, March 12 at 6 pmFlamenco

“Spain, Flamenco, and the Piano”
with Pedro Carboné, piano
Antonio Muñoz Molina, author


Tuesday, April 28 at 7:30 pmnomura_eagg-720x320

Concert and Playlet:  “A Mahler Portrait”
featuring Christópheren Nomura, baritone and Sasha Olinick, actor
The Austrian Cultural Forum

Sample the world premiere Hiawatha Melodrama!

Hiawatha Melodrama was conceived and assembled by the author and music entrepreneur Joseph Horowitz, with contributions from NYU musicologist Michael Beckerman. The piece consists of the narration of a condensed version of Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha” flavored with a score drawn largely from Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. The idea is to draw links between a poem that had been hugely popular when Dvorak arrived in America, and the composer’s Symphony, which captured some of the soulfulness of black spirituals. Baritone Kevin Deas is the fiery and affecting narrator here.

The recording also features examples of Dvorak’s American-influenced compositions such as the Violin Sonatina in G, his Humoresques, Op. 101 for piano, his American Suite, Op. 98, plus three works by American composer and Native American music scholar Arthur Farwell. The fine Benjamin Pasternack is the soloist on the piano works.

Dvorak and America coverDvorak and America back









To read about the Hiawatha Melodrama and the “Dvorak and America” CD:
Dvorak’s “Hiawatha” Symphony
Part 1

Part 2

Order Now

Leave a Comment

The Getty Foundation
The Washington Ballet
Washington National Cathedral
WWFM The Classical Network
Edlavitch DCJCC
American University
Artmentor Foundation
Graham Holdings
Washington Performing Arts
Georgetown DPA
Indonesian Embassy
national gallery