The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, presents "Strange Bedfellows: Unexpected Concertos" – a program of five incongruous concertos by five different composers featuring five of today's most revered solo artists. Spearheading the evening is the world premiere of Eric Chasalow's Horn Concerto with horn soloist Bruno Schneider. Other works include: the American premiere of Andrew Norman's Air: Concerto for Theremin with Dalit Warshaw (theremin); Luciano Berio's Chemins II with Jack Stulz (viola); Keeril Makan's Dream Lightly: Electric Guitar Concerto with Seth Josel (electric guitar); and Avner Dorman's Mandolin Concerto with Avi Avital (mandolin).
Noted for being among the few composers comfortable composing both electro-acoustic music and for traditional ensembles, New Jersey-born Eric Chasalow (b. 1955) is Professor of Music at Brandeis University and Director of BEAMS, the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio. His latest work, Horn Concerto, receives its world premiere with BMOP featuring one of the world’s most sought after hornists, Bruno Schneider (principal horn in Claudio Abbado's Lucerne Festival Orchestra).
BMOP's new Music Alive Composer-in-Residence Andrew Norman (b. 1979) celebrates the American premiere of Air: Concerto for Theremin (2011), marking BMOP's first performance of Norman's music. Originally written for the Heidelberg Philharmonic, Air indulges the composer's most lyrical and vocal tendencies.
The theremin, performed brilliantly by renowned thereminist Dalit Warshaw (professor at Boston Conservatory), is one of the most electronic and "machine" of musical instruments that has the ability to sound uncannily human. "Air is a piece that treats the theremin like a hyper-human voice – a voice that can sing lower than the lowest basso profundo and higher than the highest coloratura soprano," explains Norman. "A voice that can sing softer than any one instrument in the orchestra and louder than all of them put together, and, perhaps most alluringly, a voice that can sing the most impossibly long phrases without having to breathe like a normal human."
Despite their spanning generations, Luciano Berio (1925-2003) and Keeril Makan (b. 1972) both combine lyric and harmonic musical qualities with the most advanced techniques of electronic music. Berio is a leading representative of the musical avant-garde and is considered highly imaginative and poetic. In Chemins II (1967), Berio's work for chamber orchestra and viola, BMOP is joined by Jack Stulz - principal violist of the USC Thornton Symphony Orchestra, Music Academy of the West Festival Orchestra, New England Conservatory Philharmonia, and the Shleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra and the winner of the BMOP/NEC Concerto Competition. Makan's Dream Lightly (2008) is not so much a traditional concerto as it is a sophisticated exploration of the dissonance that exists between the harmonics on different strings of the guitar, as well as between the tuning of the guitar's harmonics and the tuning of the orchestra. Its 2008 premiere by the American Composers Orchestra was hailed by the New York Times as having, "explored the orchestra's capacity for innovative timbre. As Mr. Josel gently tapped the same note on different strings, harmonic overtones subtly shifted between chiming consonance and pulsating friction." Makan currently serves as Assistant Professor of Music at M.I.T. and was awarded the 2008 Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.
Rounding out the program is Avner Dorman's Mandolin Concerto (2006). Commissioned in 2006 by mandolinist Avi Avital and recorded in 2010, Mandolin Concerto was nominated for a Grammy® Award for Best Instrumental Soloist with Ensemble. Avital's "exquisitely sensitive playing" and "stunning agility" (New York Times), combined with Dorman's unique approach to rhythm and timbre make for a breathtaking and alluring piece. Dorman has quickly risen to become one of Israel's most successful and renowned composers.