The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Sep 01, 2011

Composer Corigliano to guest at SoBe Arts string fest

Posted by Gregory Stepanich

Contemporary classical composers have a higher profile these days than they did not long ago, which marks something of a return to an older time when the names of living composers were as well-known as performers.

One musician who’s helped raise public awareness about contemporary classical composition is John Corigliano, whose score for "The Red Violin" has had a good shelf life outside the movie, and whose Symphony No. 1, a threnody about the AIDS crisis, is one of the only pieces of its time to have secured a place in the repertory.

This December, Corigliano (pictured above) will be the composer-in-residence during the American Masterworks String Festival at the SoBe Institute of the Arts in Miami Beach. Carson Kievman, founder of the institute, said Corigliano will be in town for two of the six days of the series, which is set for Dec. 5 through 10.

“We share some history ... from back in the 1970s, when he was doing the score for ‘Altered States’ and I was working for Joe Papp,” said Kievman, who was the resident composer for Papp’s now-legendary Public Theater in New York. “He knows who I am, and more importantly, I had gotten all the other pieces together first.”

Those other pieces include concerts and workshops by the four major string players who are performing for the festival, which is supported by a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Violinist Lara St. John, who just premiered a new Corigliano piece in her native Canada, will give a recital Dec. 6, following a lecture/demonstration by violinist Anastasia Khitruk; on Dec. 8, St. John gives her lecture during the afternoon and Khitruk her recital at night.

The same thing happens with the two other players in the festival, violist Kim Kashkashian and cellist Matt Haimovitz. On Dec. 7, Haimovitz does his lecture/demonstration followed by Kashkashian in recital; the two switch places Dec. 9. The festival pianist will be the fine Robert Chumbley.

The festival’s last day starts with an early-afternoon concert by student participants in the festival, then closes with a concert featuring the four soloists and Chumbley, with Corigliano giving a pre-concert talk. The last day’s events will be held at the Colony Theatre.

The four string players are among the finest working today; Kashkashian alone routinely makes the list of the world’s greatest violists. St. John and Khitruk are well known for their nervy choices of fresh repertoire, and Haimovitz is perhaps the first of the young classical wave to have made a habit of playing non-traditional venues such as CBGB and Le Poisson Rouge.

All four also will be conducting master classes with advanced string players from around the world who sign up for a festival string residency. Lecture/demonstrations are free-admission, while the individual concerts are $15. The closing concert is $25.

Kievman said he’s been thinking about a project such as this for some time.

“I’ve always wanted to do a broader project with broader impact than just locally. I’ve been toying with that idea for years,” he said. It was Khitruk, who played at SoBe Institute two years ago, who helped Kievman put the program together, he said.

“The festival fits into both sides of what we’re doing: education and performance,” he said of the SoBe Institute.

Kievman said Corigliano’s new piece is expected to be part of the music performed during the festival, though repertory choices haven’t been finalized. He also said he’s trying to figure out whether he can include a screening of "The Red Violin" as part of the events.

Kievman himself has a long-delayed premiere in February, when his opera "Hamlet," composed 20 years ago on a commission from Papp, has a semi-staged run at SoBe Arts (Feb. 23 through March 11). It’s all part of spreading the word about American classical music.

“We’ll be doing some of John’s music in the festival, of course, and we have to do mostly American music,” Kievman said. “We may throw in something Canadian or European here or there, but most of it will be by U.S. composers.”

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