PostClassical Ensemble Awarded $200,000 by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

PostClassical Ensemble, of Washington, D.C. has been awarded $200,000 by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The award, announced by the Ensemble today, supports thematic programming initiatives, including touring programs and a Naxos DVD, through the 2012-2013 season.

Co-founded by Artistic Director Joseph Horowitz and Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez, PostClassical Ensemble (PCE) has presented more than 50 events, mainly in the D.C. / Baltimore area, since its debut in 2003. Pursuing the conviction that interdisciplinary humanities content will prove crucial to the institutional future of classical music, all PCE programming is thematic, with linkage to film, theater, dance, and vernacular music; and to area colleges and universities.

The Mellon grant specifically targets an ongoing partnership between PCE, the Music Center at Strathmore (Bethesda, Maryland), Georgetown University, and the Film Division of the National Gallery. As an “Educational Partner,” Georgetown University integrates PCE programs and themes into its Performing Arts curriculum, hosts academic conferences related to the programming, and busses students to Ensemble events at Strathmore. As an “Artistic Partner,” PCE collaborates with Strathmore Vice President of Programming Shelley Brown on multi-day festivals; it will also interface with Maryland Youth Orchestra concerts at Strathmore. The National Gallery Film Department, under Margaret Parsons, has since the Ensemble’s inception hosted film events linked to PCE concerts.

The planned PCE festivals supported by the grant include The Stravinsky Project, Celebrating Ives, and Mexican Revolution, all at Strathmore; and Falla/Stravinsky, Schubert Uncorked, and Interpreting Shostakovich, all at Georgetown University. The participating artists include the pianists Jeremy Denk and Alexander Toradze, the flamenco singer Esperanza Fernandez, the Shostakovich scholar Solomon Volkov, the choreographer Igal Perry, and the filmmaker Tony Palmer.

Both the Ives project, including a scripted program culling readings from Ives’s essays and letters, and a new production of Manuel de Falla’s El Amor Brujo choreographed by Igal Perry, are intended to tour. (In recent seasons, PCE has presented programming at the University of Chicago and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.) The planned Naxos DVD will complete a trilogy of PCE Naxos releases presenting classic films with newly recorded soundtracks. The Ensemble’s previous Naxos DVDs, with music by Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland, showcased The Plow that Broke the Plains, The River, and The City. The new DVD will present the 1936 Mexican classic Redes with the Silvestre Revueltas score — one of the greatest ever composed for film — newly recorded.

In a joint statement, Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez commented, “The conductor Theodore Thomas, who inspirationally propagated symphonic culture throughout the U.S. in the late nineteenth century, preached: ‘A symphony orchestra shows the culture of the community.’ In many communities, large and small, Thomas’s prophecy proved true. In the course of the twentieth century, however, many American orchestras lost influence — in the community; in the culture at large. PostClassical Ensemble is conceived in the conviction that if orchestras are to regain impact as agents of cultural identity, a broader humanities mandate would vitally enhance both their mission and their capacity. We are thrilled to have obtained this generous support from the Mellon Foundation, which conveys the imprimatur and helps provide the means to realize projects that do not rely upon standard repertoire and familiar formats to generate income. We see ourselves as cultivating a new and adventurous audience: our patrons expect from us the unexpected. And we inspire to impact nationally, at a crucial moment, on what orchestras and classical-music presenters can do to maintain a lively and significant cultural presence.”

Horowitz and Gil-Ordóñez said PostClassical Ensemble looks forward to maintaining its long relationship with the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland at College Park, and other D.C.-area venues. Its Lou Harrison festival, this spring, is hosted by George Washington University, with linked events at the National Gallery and the Indonesian Consulate.

“Strathmore is pleased to solidify our ongoing artistic partnership with PostClassical Ensemble,” comments Shelley Brown. “The Stravinsky Project this April will introduce Stravinsky anew, emphasizing his Russian roots and challenging conventional wisdom about how his music should be performed. In eight hours of programming over two days, we’ll present an orchestra, four pianists, a chorus, a pianola version of Les Noces, and a photography exhibit including film. One D.C. premiere will be a four-piano version of the “Danse Sacrale” from The Rite of Spring. By organizing educational programs alongside significant musical presentations, Strathmore and PostClassical Ensemble will strive to convene a national musical conversation of new depth.”

“The Mellon Foundation lent support to a new national template for performing arts programming when they awarded this grant to PostClassical Ensemble,” comments Anna Celenza, professor of music at Georgetown University. “Over the last three years, we have joined forces with PostClassical Ensemble on a series of interdisciplinary conferences and multimedia performances: Defining Mexico, Copland and the Cold War, Interpreting Liszt. In each of these events, student actors and singers performed with PostClassical Ensemble’s professional musicians, and faculty from various departments put the music into a historical/cultural context via public talks and classroom discussions. The Mellon grant will enable a leading professional ensemble to continue its deep engagement with one of the nation’s finest liberal arts universities. We’re looking forward to our future collaborations: The Stravinsky Project, Celebrating Ives, Falla/Stravinsky, Schubert Uncorked, Interpreting Shostakovich, and Mexican Revolution.”

Margaret Parsons, head of the National Gallery’s acclaimed film program, underscores the significance of the new partnership: “The rich accumulation of historic and artistic film production is often neglected as an essential source for understanding many aspects of cultural history, especially music. This new opportunity to work with PostClassical Ensemble under the aegis of the Mellon grant will help us to stage an entire day of Stravinsky and Film on Saturday, April 9 — with the premiere of a new restoration of Richard Leacock’s celebrated 1966 cinema-verité A Stravinsky Portrait, a piano performance by Alexander Toradze, and an appearance by director Tony Palmer as he introduces the Washington premiere of his 1982 masterwork Stravinsky: Once at a Border with footage of Nadia Boulanger and Jean Cocteau, among others.”