piano and toy piano

Marilyn Nonken is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression. Upon her 1993 New York debut, she was heralded as "a determined protector of important music" (The New York Times). Recognized as "one of the greatest interpreters of new music" (American Record Guide), she has been named "Best of the Year" by some of the nation's leading critics.

Marilyn Nonken's performances have been presented at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum, IRCAM, the Theâtre Bouffe du Nord, the ABC (Australia), Le Poisson Rouge, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Phillips Collection, and the Menil Collection, as well as conservatories and universities around the world. Composers who have written for her include Tristan Murail, Pascal Dusapin, Michael Finnissy, David Rakowski, Jason Eckardt, Liza Lim, Milton Babbitt, Elizabeth Hoffman, and Drew Baker. As a chamber musician, she is the pianist and Artistic Director of Ensemble 21 (New York) and Elision; she also has appeared with the Group for Contemporary Music, MusicNOW (Chicago Symphony), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum Musicae, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Festival appearances include Résonances and the Festival d'Automne (both, Paris) and When Morty Met John, Making Music, and Works and Process (all, New York), The Festival of New American Music (Sacramento), Musica Nova (Helsinki), Aspects des Musiques d’Aujourd-hui (Caën), Messiaen 2008 (Birmingham, UK), New Music Days (Ostrava), Musikhøst (Odense), Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh), Piano Festival Northwest (Portland), and the William Kapell International Piano Festival and Competition. Highlights of her 2010-2011 season include performances of Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (Santiago), Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories, Tristan Murail's complete piano music (Philadelphia, Vancouver), and Olivier Messiaen's Visions de l’Amen.

She has recorded for New World Records, Mode, Lovely Music, Albany, Metier, Divine Art, Innova, CRI, BMOP/sound, New Focus, Cairos, Tzadik, and Bridge. Her solo discs include American Spiritual, a CD of works written for her, Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories, and Tristan Murail: The Complete Piano Music. She appears as concerto soloist in David Rakowski's Piano Concerto (under Gil Rose) and Roger Reynolds's The Angel of Death (under Magnus Martensson). Recent chamber releases include music of William Albright, Charles Wuorinen, and Brian Ferneyhough, as well as Messiaen's Visions de l’Amen (with Sarah Rothenberg). Forthcoming recordings include works by emerging Americans Drew Baker and Chris Bailey.

A student of David Burge at the Eastman School, Marilyn Nonken received a PhD degree in musicology from Columbia University. Her writings on music have been published in Tempo, Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, Agni, Current Musicology, Ecological Psychology, and the Journal of the Institute for Studies in American Music. She has contributed chapters to Perspectives on French Piano Music and Messiaen Perspectives 2: Techniques, Influence, and Reception, both forthcoming from Ashgate. Currently Director of Piano Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School, Marilyn Nonken is a Steinway Artist.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | November 2, 2007

News and Press

[CD Review] BMOP CD: Rakowski's serious fun

Composer David Rakowski’s jocularity is well known. His many piano etudes (88 at last count) feature a number of sly allusions to other styles and works, as well as more overt zaniness; one even requires the performer to play pitches with their nose! His previous concerti have featured various subterfuges in which the soloist is upstaged by the orchestra. And, famously, goofiness abounds on his website. But alongside Rakowski’s penchant for light-hearted expression are consummate craftsmanship and music of considerable poignancy.

Sequenza21 Full review
[CD Review] Gramophone reviews David Rakowski: Winged Contraption

There are marvelous ideas in David Rakowski’s music. At the very end of the slow movement of his Piano Concerto (2006), for instance, the soloist suddenly switches to a toy piano to play a flourish that’s at once otherworldly and mischievous. Similarly, the jazzy syncopations and riffs in the movement that follows convey simultaneous feelings of playful spontaneity and lurking menace.

Gramophone Full review
[News Coverage] Spinning Local: A batch of new CDs from BMOP

Meanwhile the city’s other homegrown label, BMOP/sound, continues to impress. This scrappy in-house operation run by conductor Gil Rose and his Boston Modern Orchestra Project was launched early last year, and it has released a steady stream of impeccably produced, beautifully packaged discs with exacting and engaged performances of 20th- and 21st-century music. Several elegantly probing pieces by Brandeis-based composer David Rakowski were recently featured on a BMOP/sound disc called Winged Contraption, including his Piano Concerto in a strong performance by Marilyn Nonken.

The Boston Globe Full review
[Concert Review] A primer on reinventing the concerto

“Re-Inventions,” the opening concert of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s 11th season, promised “glorious and subversive music for keyboards.” While none of the four pieces heard Friday night fully lived up to either adjective, they did present individual and strikingly resourceful ideas on how the concerto, a timeworn musical form, could be reimagined for the present.

The Boston Globe Full review
[Press Release] Boston Modern Orchestra Project launches its 11th season with Re-Inventions: Glorious and Subversive Music for Keyboards

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's leading orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing, commissioning, and recording new music of the 21st century, spearheads its premiere-packed, cutting-edge season with "Re-Inventions: Glorious and Subversive Music for Keyboards" at Jordan Hall (30 Gainsborough Street), on Friday, November 2nd @ 8:00pm.

Full review
[Press Release] BMOP 07|08

BMOP's 11th season features Gil Rose's innovative programming, pairing 20th-century mavericks with today's foremost composers and performers.

World Premieres
Lisa Bielawa, Composer in Residence
Martin Boykan
Michael Colgrass
Derek Hurst
David Rakowski
Alejandro Rutty
Ezra Sims
Ken Ueno

Featured Guests
Firebird Ensemble
Colin Jacobsen
Kim Kashkashian
Carla Kihlstedt
Joanne Kong
Marilyn Nonken

Club Concerts
BMOP returns to downtown Boston, featuring new works by Lisa Bielawa composed in residence for solo artists.

Full review