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Caramoor continues its commitment to new music this summer with the world premieres of new Caramoor commissions from Saad Haddad and Dominic Shodekeh Talifero, and a new orchestral work by Valerie Coleman; U.S. premieres from Natalie Dietterich, Kate Moore, and Hilary Purrington; New York premieres of important new works by Douglas J. Cuomo and Nico Muhly; two major experiential, site-specific works by John Luther Adams and Donald Nally / Kevin Vondrak; and a wealth of music by other living composers, including Jason Eckardt, Philip Glass, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Angélica Negrón, Arvo Pärt, Joan Tower, Julia Wolfe, and Ayanna Woods.
Featured artists include Alarm Will Sound, Chanticleer, JIJI, Pekka Kuusisto, Nico Muhly, PUBLIQuartet, Sō Percussion, Conrad Tao, The Crossing, The Knights, and the resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s, all of whom will appear live for in-person audiences on Caramoor’s picturesque Westchester campus.
Caramoor has been committed to public health and safety since the start of the pandemic, and the 2021 festival has been designed in accordance with all the latest state and federal guidelines. All between 60 and 90 minutes in duration and without intermission, the summer concerts will as always take place outdoors, in the Venetian Theater and other venues, now with reduced capacity.
New music at Caramoor this summer: a chronological list
June 24: The winner of Chamber Music America’s Visionary Award, PUBLIQuartet ponders the question of “What Is American?” by exploring some of the styles and genres that make up our nation’s rich musical heritage. Two works are drawn from the Grammy-nominated quartet’s “Mind | The | Gap” project, which uses group improvisation to bridge the gaps between musical genres. The first offers a celebration of Ornette Coleman’s influence on free jazz while the second is a re-conception of Dvořák’s “American” Quartet in which the composer’s original melodies meet PUBLIQuartet’s blues, jazz, and rock-inflected improvisations. These share the program with Dig the Say (2012), a rhythmic James Brown tribute from MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer, and Voodoo Dolls (2008), a suite of dances representing traditional children’s dolls by former PUBLIQuartet founding member Jessie Montgomery, the next Composer-in-Residence of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
June 27: Having a long history at Caramoor, Orchestra of St. Luke’s – “one of the most versatile and galvanic ensembles in the U.S.” (WQXR) – returns under the baton of internationally recognized conductor Tito Muñoz, for a program showcasing the world premiere of Fanfare for Uncommon Times, a new OSL commission from Valerie Coleman, Performance Today’s 2020 Classical Woman of the Year. In a virtual Caramoor Conversation that will be released on YouTube, the composer will join Caramoor’s Artistic Director, Kathy Schuman, to discuss her new work, which serves as the centerpiece of the orchestra’s “Generational Fanfares” program. This also includes Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (To the Uncommon Woman) Fanfare No. 1, Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Appalachian Spring, and Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending, with the “sublime” (New York Times) Tai Murray as violin soloist.
July 1: The Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence is one of three mentoring programs through which Caramoor nurtures emerging young artists, and this season’s incumbent is the Callisto Quartet, Grand Prize-winner of the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Bookended by two great Classical quartets by Haydn and Beethoven, the Callisto’s program features the world premiere performance of String Quartet No. 2, a new Caramoor commission from Saad Haddad, whose work straddles East and West, achieving a “remarkable fusion of idioms” (New York Times). His new piece represents the most recent addition to Caramoor’s innovative “String Quartet Library for the 21st Century” initiative, for which 22 new works have been commissioned to date. To talk about his new quartet, Haddad will join Callisto cellist Hannah Moses and Kathy Schuman for a virtual Caramoor Conversation, to be available on YouTube.
July 3: Next follows the first of two major experiential, site-specific, open-air contemporary works that highlight this year’s summer lineup. Created in response to the pandemic and the particular problems it presents for choral performance, The Forest is the creation of Donald Nally and Kevin Vondrak, the respective conductor and assistant conductor of two-time Grammy-winning vocal group The Crossing, dubbed “America’s most astonishing choir” (New York Times). Drawing on new amplification technology to create an immersive soundscape, their work places The Crossing’s singers 30 feet apart from one another in Caramoor’s wooded grounds, where audience members will follow a special route at socially distanced intervals, experiencing the music as they walk. Set to a libretto based on the singers’ own recollections of lockdown isolation, the music “creates an otherworldly atmosphere of peace and serenity, … provid[ing] a sense of hope in a dark time” (Opera Wire). Click here to see The Crossing’s film The Forest.
July 9: American electric and acoustic guitarist Nels Cline, best known as a member of Grammy-winning alt-rock band Wilco, joins an alum of the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet residency – the Grammy-nominated Aizuri Quartet, which is “an adventurous quartet, always in the moment” (Boston Globe) – for the New York and live world premieres of Seven Limbs by Douglas J. Cuomo. Written expressly for the artists, Cuomo’s virtuosic, improvisatory evening-length piece was inspired by a Tibetan Buddhist purification ceremony, and consists of seven movements titled: “Prostration,” “Offering,” “Confession/Purification,” “Rejoicing,” “Requesting the Turning of the Wheel of Dharma,” “Beseeching the Spiritual Guides Not to Pass Away” and “Dedication.” The composer explains:
“This piece is inspired by an ancient Buddhist purification ceremony called ‘The Seven Limbs’. It’s part of a meditation practice I do every day. The practice has lots of words; the piece has none. The feel of this ceremony is what I kept going to as I composed, and then at some point I realized I was setting text without using words. For me Seven Limbs is a dream-like piece; I can look inward to a new terrain and find out what’s there: stillness, turmoil, suppleness, euphoria, high drama.”
Representing a “distinctly American voice” (Opera News), Cuomo will not only join Cline for a pre-concert conversation but will also take part in a virtual Caramoor Conversation about the work with Cline and Kathy Schuman on YouTube. Click here to see Cline and the Aizuris play an excerpt from Seven Limbs.
July 11: Following the success of John Luther Adams’s site-specific pieces Inuksuit and songbirdsongs at Caramoor in 2018 and 2019, Alarm Will Sound – “one of the most vital and original ensembles on the American music scene” (New York Times) – gives a 70-minute open-air account of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s work Ten Thousand Birds. Drawing inspiration from the different species’ birdsongs heard at each performance location, Adams’s work was composed expressly for Alarm Will Sound. As customized for the Caramoor grounds by its Artistic Director, Alan Pierson, each song is captured in minute detail to evoke the cycle of a single day on the Westchester estate. Audience members will be encouraged to walk around and experience the music from multiple perspectives, as when Alarm Will Sound premiered the piece, leaving St. Louis Magazine “stunned in a good way – and moved beyond measure.” Pierson will be on hand to discuss his process in a pre-concert conversation.
July 15: “The kind of musician who is shaping the future of classical music” (New York magazine), rising star pianist-composer Conrad Tao has already accrued a string of honors including the Avery Fisher Career Grant and Gilmore Young Artist Award. Following a May appearance with the Junction Trio in the Music Room, he makes his Caramoor solo recital debut with a program of works by Bach and Schumann, his own improvisation, and Guggenheim fellow Jason Eckardt’s Echoes’ White Veil, a piece heard at Tao’s Carnegie Hall debut two years ago, when the “performer and composer came together with complete sympathy” (New York Classical Review).
July 22: Also giving a solo recital at Caramoor this summer is Korean guitarist JIJI, first prize winner at the 2016 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. A passionate advocate for new music, she performs her “Unbound” program, for which she commissioned virtuosic new solo guitar works from eight contemporary composers, including Iceland’s Gulli Björnsson, Latvia’s Krists Auznieks, and distinguished Cuban-American Tania León, winner of the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award. JIJI’s Caramoor recital features the U.S. premieres of new works by Natalie Dietterich, Hilary Purrington, and Kate Moore.
July 23: A new commission from Grammy-nominated composer Ayanna Woods highlights a program of “awakening”-themed music spanning six centuries from Chanticleer, the three-time Grammy-winning vocal group hailed as “the world’s reigning male chorus” (New Yorker).
July 25: Known for its “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (New Yorker), percussion quartet Sō Percussion gives the world premiere of Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice, a new Caramoor commission from Dominic Shodekeh Talifero, the groundbreaking beatboxer, vocal percussionist and breath artist known for his “attention-grabbing talent and a laid-back charm” (New Music USA), who will appear as a special guest in the concert. This also includes Sō Percussion’s accounts of four more recent works: gone by Angélica Negrón, Melodic Concept iii by Kendall K. Williams, September/Extremes by ensemble member Jason Treuting and Forbidden Love by Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe. This last was written for the group, whose interpretation of the work proved “a stunning experience” (New York Classical Review) at Carnegie Hall.
July 29: Iconoclastic Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and celebrated American pianist-composer Nico Muhly offer an intimate and adventurous evening of musical exploration, in violin and piano repertoire ranging from traditional Finnish music to works by contemporary composers including Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt and Muhly himself. Kuusisto, whose New York appearances are few and far between, has been credited with “the most personal sound of any classical violinist now alive” (Telegraph, UK), while Muhly, the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, is one of contemporary music’s leading lights. Together, the duo’s “extraordinary technical finesse shines with the talent of two stars” (The Age, Australia).
July 30: Kuusisto and Muhly return next day for the New York premiere of the composer’s violin concerto, Shrink, which is destined to “become a 21st-century classic” (Limelight, Australia). As the work’s dedicatee, Kuusisto will be joined by Grammy-nominated orchestral collective The Knights – “one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products” (New Yorker) – whose program also includes Starburst by Bernstein Award-winner Jessie Montgomery. Before the performance, Knights conductor and co-founder Eric Jacobsen will take part in a pre-concert conversation with Muhly and Kuusisto. Click here to see The Knights’ virtual performance of Montgomery’s Starburst.
Also at Caramoor this summer
Beyond new music, Caramoor presents a diverse array of additional offerings this summer. Richard Goode gives a piano recital of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Debussy (June 25), and the Verona Quartet – Caramoor’s 2017-18 Ernst Stiefel String Quartet in Residence – returns for Beethoven, Puccini and Grażyna Bacewicz with pianist David Fung (July 16). San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra plays an all-English program (July 18), Grammy-winning Cleveland orchestra Apollo’s Fire performs Italian Baroque favorites (Aug 1) and Curt Ebersole and the Westchester Symphonic Winds return for their annual Independence Day Pops & Patriots concert (July 4).
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis host the Opening Night Gala (June 19), the Brianna Thomas Band pays tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (July 2) and the annual Jazz Festival returns with a stellar lineup featuring Sean Jones (July 31). In place of last year’s cancelled 90th-birthday concert for Stephen Sondheim, Broadway stars Betsy Wolfe, Scarlett Strallen, Bryce Pinkham and Ben Davis celebrate the Tony-winner’s 91st birthday (July 10). The annual American Roots Music Festival returns with artists including The War and Treaty (July 24), the Watkins Family Hour performs bluegrass (Aug 6), singer-songwriters Natu Camara (June 26) and Joan Osborne (July 17) both make Caramoor debuts, and guitarist Sharon Isbin and Indian sarod virtuosos Amjad Ali Khan and sons join forces for “Strings for Peace” (July 8). Caramoor’s casual “Concerts on the Lawn” series presents Ljova and the Kontraband (Aug 5), Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas (Aug 7), Flor de Toloache (Aug 13), Della Mae (Aug 20) and Shenel Johns (Aug 27), while the “Beginner’s Ear” series, which combines music with mindfulness, returns on three Sundays in late summer (Aug 15 & 29; Sep 12).
As well as attending concerts, visitors are invited to explore Caramoor’s newly renovated, landscaped Italianate and woodland gardens; interact with nature and architecture on socially distant walks and picnics; and discover the site-specific sound art installations of Sonic Innovations (Fridays through Sundays, June 11–Oct 10). The centerpiece of this year’s exhibition is in“C”, a site-specific sound-sculpture commissioned from MacArthur Fellow Trimpin, which will be officially inaugurated on June 12 when he and the other sound artists will participate in a Sound Artist Gathering.