PostClassical Ensemble was founded in 2003 by Angel Gil-Ordonez and Joseph Horowitz as an experimental orchestral laboratory. Beginning in Fall 2017, PCE becomes Ensemble-in-Residence at the Washington National Cathedral.
The Ensemble’s point of origin is the conviction that musical events demand a sense of occasion, and that this criterion has been sacrificed to familiarity and routine. PCE is committed to radically rethinking the concert experience, to refreshing both format and repertoire. All PCE programing is thematic. Many programs integrate theater, dance, or film. Gil-Ordonez and Horowitz gravitate toward works deserving greater advocacy. (The composers PCE has most performed are Silvestre Revueltas and Lou Harrison.)
The marginalization of classical music in 21st century America, Gil-Ordonez and Horowitz believe, cannot be counteracted by diluting or simplifying the listening experience. Rather, music of consequence should be creatively contextualized in new spaces for audiences, old and new, in search of deeper paths of engagement both intellectual and spiritual.
PCE has been called “one of the country’s most innovative music groups” (Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post), “wildly ambitious” (Anne Midgette, The Washington Post), “exhilarating” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker), and “where culture and friendship meet most easily in DC” (Philip Bennett, former Managing Editor of The Washington Post).
PCE’s thematic CDs, DVDs, and its unique WWFM radio series “PostClassical” (two-hour thematic specials hosted by Bill McGlaughlin, Horowitz, and Gil-Ordonez) aspire to impact nationally. Many PCE productions acquire an afterlife outside DC.
PCE presentations of three classic American documentaries – “The Plow that Broke the Plains,” “The River,” and “The City,” with the original scores by Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland performed live – generated two best-selling Naxos DVDs hailed as “revelatory” by Washington Post, and also praised in feature articles in The New York Times, Le Monde, and El Pais. A fourth such Naxos DVD features the iconic Mexican film “Redes” with Silvestre Revueltas’s score newly recorded. Antonio Munoz Molina – Spain’s pre-eminent novelist — wrote in El Pais: “It is like experiencing a masterpiece of painting cleaned of centuries of grime.”
PCE’s Naxos CD, “Dvořák and America,” demonstrates the composer’s “American” style via a PCE-created “Hiawatha Melodrama,” combining music by Dvořák with text from Longfellow’s epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha.” It was named one of the best CDs of the year by Minnesota Public Radio. “This is one of those rare ‘concept’ albums’ where the concept actually works,” wrote David Hurwitz in Classics Today. “It offers a truly fresh and interesting perspective on Dvořák’s American period.”
PCE’s most recent Naxos CD features music by Lou Harrison in honor of the Harrison centenary (“The performances are second to none” – Classics Today).
PCE immersion experiences focusing on Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and “Dvorak and America” generated a nationally distributed Stravinsky radio series produced by WFMT/Chicago; scripted Ives events produced by the Buffalo Philharmonic, the University of Texas/Austin, and the University of Washington; and the “Hiawatha Melodrama,” now widely performed in the US. PCE’s three-week festival, “Interpreting Shostakovich,” was named “Musical Event of the Year” for 2012 by Radio Liberty/Free Europe. “Falla and Flamenco,” in DC and at Brooklyn Academy of Music, included the American stage premiere of Falla’s El Corregidor y la Molinera. PCE’s production of Falla’s El Amor Brujo has been seen in DC and twice in New York City, most recently presented by the New York Flamenco Festival.
PCE has also toured its “invariably original and thought-provoking” programs (Baltimore Sun) to New York’s Guggenheim Museum and to the University of Chicago. PCE productions have been adapted by many American orchestras, including the Buffalo Philharmonic and North Carolina, South Dakota, El Paso, and Pacific Symphonies, as well as the Brevard and New Hampshire Music Festivals.
The Ensemble made its sold-out Kennedy Center debut in 2005 with “Celebrating Don Quixote,” featuring a commissioned production of Manuel de Falla’s sublime puppet opera Master Peter’s Puppet Show, along with rarely heard works by Oscar Espla and Roberto Gerhard. Its reputation grew with presentations such as “Mexican Revolutionaries,” exploring how composers such as Silvestre Revueltas and painters including Diego Rivera became agents of social and political change, inspiring such Americans as Aaron Copland, Paul Strand, and John Steinbeck.
Twentieth and twenty-first century composers whose music PCE has commissioned and/or premiered include Manuel de Falla, Ana Lara, Mario Lavista, Daniel Schnyder, David Taylor, and Zhou Long. PCE has collaborated with such artists as pianists Jeremy Denk, Benjamin Pasternak, Alexander Toradze, and William Wolfram, clarinetist David Krakauer, baritones Christòpheren Nomura and William Sharp, bass-baritone Kevin Deas, pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-fen, and internationally prominent folk music, gamelan, and flamenco artists.