Soprano Jessica Rivera and Pianist/Music Director Robert Spano Perform World Premiere of
Premiere kicks-off five-city U.S. tour that also includes performances on Oct. 17 at Bailey Hall, Atlanta; Oct. 20 at Smothers Theatre, Malibu, Calif.; Oct. 26, Memorial Hall, Cincinnati;
Song cycle is inspired by the life of Monica Langhammer and was commissioned by
Baltimore, Md.—(October 10, 2013) Baltimore-based composer Jonathan Leshnoff’s newest commissioned work, Monica Songs, featuring soprano Jessica Rivera and pianist Robert Spano, will receive its world premiere performance on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at U.C. Berkeley. The performance launches the five-city tour of this work, which also includes performances on Oct. 17 at Bailey Hall, Atlanta, Oct. 20 at Smothers Theatre, Malibu, Calif., Oct. 26 at Memorial Hall, Cincinnati and culminates in a performance on Oct. 29 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York. Please see below for complete tour details.
Monica Songs was inspired by the life of Monica Langhammer, who died in 2003 at age 38 from an undiagnosed case of Cushing’s Disease. Langhammer, an accomplished printmaker and poet, had a personality that was “vivacious and multi-faceted” said her mother Sandra Hyslop, the lead-commissioner of the project. Co-commissioners include the Friends of Monica—a group of 139 personal friends of Langhammer, many of whom will travel to see the work performed in one or more of the venues on the five-city tour—and the Carnegie Hall Corp.
The work is a six-movement song cycle is based on a variety of texts that were meaningful to Langhammer:
Monica Langhammer’s mother, Sandra Hyslop, chose Jonathan Leshnoff for the weighty task of eulogizing her daughter with music for several reasons. She had heard the Naxos recordings of Leshnoff’s music and appreciated the lyricism, honesty and subtle complexity characteristic of his style. She also knew that he was a kind person, likely to listen with a very perceptive ear, and a devoted family man. These qualities drew Hyslop to Leshnoff for the project.
"When I approached Jonathan about a commission to honor Monica's life, he immediately understood my intentions. I had thought he might compose one song, perhaps, but right away Jonathan envisioned a whole song cycle, and that it would be sung by the soprano Jessica Rivera. After Jonathan and Jessica studied samples of Monica's art and writing, they were able to make brilliant choices of the texts for the six songs. With his inspired music, Jonathan has created a cycle that reflects Monica's great capacity for life in all its aspects--her depth and courage, her humor and vivacity,” said Hyslop.
“I wish I knew Monica while she was living. But, in a way, writing this work has helped me get to know her,” said Leshnoff. “I discovered a young woman with a compassionate heart, wacky sense of humor and effervescent spirit. Sandra’s heart for her daughter is something that I can understand and relate to as a parent. It is my honor to create what I hope will be something substantial, wonderful and lasting that can use a mother’s pain to pierce all of our hearts and remind us what is really important.”
On the heels of the successful 2011-12 season, Jonathan Leshnoff pushes forward with a new season which will include performances of Starburst by the Fort Wayne Indiana Philharmonic under the baton of Andrew Constantine, another performance of his now-famous Violin Concerto by the Amarillo, Texas Symphony Orchestra with soloist Charles Wetherbee and conducted by Markand Thakar, and the debut of his Cello Concerto commissioned by the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia featuring highly acclaimed cellist, Nina Kotova and conductor Dirk Brosse in early March of 2013.
Other exciting new commissions include his Guitar Concerto being written for the internationally celebrated guitar master and Latin Grammy Award winner, Manuel Barrueco. Leshnoff’s Guitar Concerto promises to deliver many exciting moments under the leadership of conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in January of 2014. Other orchestras internationally are partnering with the Baltimore Symphony to give this work wide exposure in the 2014-15 season as well–more details to follow.
Jessica Rivera will premiere Leshnoff’s new song cycle, Monica Songs, in an East Coast tour in fall of 2013, including a performance at Carnegie Hall in October, 2013, with Robert Spano accompanying her on piano.
Also scheduled for introduction to the public is Leshnoff’s Concerto Grosso, to be performed by the Santa Barbara Symphony in honor of their 60th anniversary under the baton of conductor Nir Kabaretti. Additional works scheduled to be premiered during the new season are the String Quartet No. 4 to be performed by the Carpe Diem String Quartet at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Horizons, a piece commissioned by and orchestrated for the Millersville University Wind Ensemble in Lancaster, PA, to celebrate the opening of their new concert hall.
Gil and Orli Shaham’s performance of Leshnoff’s Yiddish Suite was highlighted on NPR’s Performance Today broadcast in the spring of 2012, while the String Quartet No. 3 also found a new forum as it was premiered as an arrangement for string orchestra by the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Markand Thakar in late April of 2012.
The past season ended in a grand finale for Jonathan Leshnoff with the world premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra and Two Percussionists at the Round Top Festival Institute in Round Top, Texas, and the release of his most recent album on the Naxos label, dedicated to selections of his chamber music. Throughout the past season, Leshnoff’s music has been heard literally around the world both in live performances and on radio broadcasts. While some of his more well-known pieces such as Starburst and his Violin Concerto have continued to draw audiences, newer pieces, including the Yiddish Suite and his String Quartet No. 3, have grown in popularity.
There will also be three performances of Leshnoff’s Concerto for Orchestra and Two Percussionists during the season at Baylor University in Waco, TX, by the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, and by the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra in Minnesota; and a performance of the string orchestra arrangement of his String Quartet No. 3 – The Miller-Kahn will bedone in New York by the String Orchestra of New York City.
In 2011, Leshnoff was commissioned to write a piece for the prestigious Johansen International String Competition in Washington, DC, for which he composed his Three Minute Chaconne, written for solo violin, viola, or cello. Since the competition in March of this year, Leshnoff’s work has been carried around the world by the musicians who have played it with documented performances in symphony halls reaching from Shanghai, China, to Auckland, New Zealand.
These and other new commissions continue to add to the excitement and anticipation surrounding each new piece penned by the Baltimore-based composer. With the momentum of past success and the anticipation of numerous future ventures, Leshnoff continues to challenge himself, delving deeper and deeper into creating the music he loves.
After the successful debuts of his work Starburst for the Baltimore and Kansas City Symphonies in 2010, Jonathan Leshnoff looks forward to an even greater new year in 2011 as he has a European premiere as well as at least three premieres in the US. The first will be his Flute Concerto, written especially for Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Jeffrey Khaner. Maestro Robert Spano conducted the piece on March 4, 5 and 8, 2011 at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. In April, 2011, World renown violinist Gil Shaham, with his sister Orli, premièred Leshnoff’s Yiddish Suite written especially for the Shahams. And within seven weeks of that date, the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts again filled the spacious Kimmel Center for the world premiere of Hope – An Oratorio, Leshnoff’s 72-minute masterpiece written for orchestra, two choirs and four soloists. It’s a true ecumenical effort with verses from the Old Testament, Hafiz, African-American spiritual lyrics, and poetry from Walt Whitman to a five-year-old child.
And just scant weeks after that, the European Premiere of Starburst was performed in Spain by the Extremadura Orquesta and its maestro, Jesús Amigo. As the year turns to summer, the University of Maryland’s Patrice Smith Performing Arts Center will host the world premiere of Leshnoff’s String Quartet No. 3. And these are just the premieres…
Back in his studio at Towson University, Jonathan has created several other pieces, which may or may not have their premieres during 2011. Some are top-secret projects, but what can be told is that he is at work already on a concerto for orchestra and two percussionists, principally commissioned by two of the charter members of So Percussion. Todd Meehan of Baylor University and Doug Perkins of Dartmouth are the powers behind this new commission and four orchestras have joined them so far with others on the way. This piece will see its premiere in the 2012-13 concert season as well as Leshnoff’s String Quartet No. 4, written for the Carpe Diem String Quartet and due to be performed initially by them at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. There are several other projects still on the drawing board – a piece for choir, orchestra, and solo viola to be premiered by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.
Jonathan Leshnoff has placed himself squarely among the most productive and recognized young composers in America and his reputation is spreading rapidly. Performances of his double concerto for Violin and Viola, his violin concerto and a number of his chamber works are in the offing as well. The second of three CD’s of his music has been just released by Naxos and picked as one of the year’s ten best by several well-known music critics.
Leshnoff CD listed as Naxos Top 40 CDs of 2009.
Second Leshnoff Naxos CD of his Double Concerto for Violin and Viola (Charles Wetherbee, violin; Roberto Diaz, viola; Michael Stern, conductor) to be released in November, 2010.
April 2009: Leshnoff celebrates release of Naxos CD and receives a commission for a new orchestral work from the Baltimore Symphony, Kansas City Symphony and Orquesta de Extremadura (Madrid). The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform Leshnoff’s Flute Concerto during the 2010-11 season with Jeffrey Khaner as soloist.
March, 2008: Violin Concerto to be released on Naxos in Feb of 2009. Recording performed by Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, Chas Wetherbee and Markand Thakar. Also on the CD is the Pearl German String Quartet.
Baltimore, MD, January, 2007 — Leshnoff has been commissioned to write a new double violin-viola concerto for Roberto Diaz, Victoria Chaing and Charles Wetherbee. The work is commissioned by a consortium of orchestras including Iris Orchestra, Columbus Symphony, Duluth Symphony, Curtis Institute Orchestra and National Gallery of Art Orchestra. An additional performance will be presented by the Tokyo Philharmonic. IRIS will record the work for Naxos with Michael Stern conducting. Markand Thakar will conduct the DSO and BCO performances.
Baltimore, MD, June, 2006 — Leshnoff receives commission to compose his new orchestral work for Iris’s 08-09 season, the third and final work for the Naxos CD of Leshnoff’s orchestral music. Michael Stern will conduct the work and record it. Leshnoff has also been named the composer-in-residence with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.
Following a successful premiere of Leshnoff’s first symphony Forgotten Chants and Refrains, the piece was recorded by Michael Stern and the IRIS Orchestra for commercial release in the near future. The symphony was also performed on the Kansas City Symphony’s 05-06 season.
The Violin Concerto was recorded by the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra in October of 2006 with Markand Thakar conducting and Charles Wetherbee as soloist. The Kyoto Philharmonic will perform the work in August, 2007, with Junichi Hirokami conducting.
Leshnoff has completed two new major works: One for the Syrinx Ensemble, Roberto Diaz (viola), Elizabeth Hainen (harp), Jeffrey Khaner (flute) and guest percussionist David DePeters. Syrinx will premiere the work on February 25, 2008, on the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society’s Series.
The second work is a string sextet for Concertante. This work is scheduled for premiere on May 6, 2007, at Merkin Hall (NY) and the Lehrman Center for Arts in Harrisburg, PA (5/4/07).
Leshnoff’s work for trumpet and organ, Cosmic Echoes, was released on MSR in winter of 2006. This work is on a CD featuring Stephen Hendrickson (trumpet) and William Neil (organ). Reviewer Aurthur Butterworth reviewed Leshnoff’s work as: “one of the most imaginative and compelling works for trumpet and organ that I have ever heard, and ought to be widely-known by trumpeters everywhere.”