We did it! On February 11, 2018 we gave the world premiere of Evis Sammoutis's brand new wind quintet, J.II.9 fragments, commissioned through a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant.
The premiere was at Anderson House, a 1905 historic gilded mansion near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. Anderson House's ballroom is loud, resonant, and absolutely stunning. Perfect for chamber music.
Despite Sunday afternoon's wet and drizzly weather, we had a packed house. I'm sure the sparkling chandeliers and heart-stopping piccolo notes also did their part in keeping the listeners warm and awake.
To complement the commission, we built a program of works that all draw upon, reflect, refract, or otherwise deal with the past—historically, tonally, and musically. The program is called “Super Ars Nova”.
"Super Ars Nova" is a play on: “supernova”, when a large star dies and explodes at the end of its life; and "Ars Nova", a period of Renaissance music known for its wild freedom of rhythm and melody.
Plugging “supernova” into “Ars Nova” means we’re talking about explosive change and titanic transformations. Nothing subtle here! The reference to Ars Nova also means that we’re mindful of what came before us.
The music in "Super Ars Nova" winds its way through rule-breaking harmonies from the late Renaissance, trippy 70s electronic tape, Arabic/Klezmer/Gypsy tonalities, harmonicas, tubes, and allusions to the mysterious 15th Century Cyprus Codex.
Each of the composers on this program: Druckman, Fairouz, Gesualdo, Plylar, and Sammoutis is unique in their approach to history, tonalities, and the role their own contemporary voice plays.
The theme of the program actually touched upon an idea that has always been fascinating to me: this idea that often as we look to the future, we find ourselves simultaneously looking to the past.
Ligeti said it even better:
First on the program was Druckman’s Delizie Contente Che l’Alme Beate for wind quintet and electronic tape.
I saw perhaps 5 people get up and flee the performance space immediately after the Druckman was finished. They were out of there before the applause had even died down! ...Which was pretty cool, I admit. I think I like that contemporary electronic music from the 70s can still be a little too "out there" for audiences in 2018.
The Druckman is a great piece, but I guess it’s not for everyone!
You can decide for yourself:
We ended the program with the official premiere of J.II.9 fragments. And it was a tremendous success! We followed the premiere with another run of "Super Ars Nova" at Ithaca College less than a week later as part of our residency there.
I'm eager for our next performance of J.II.9 fragments. I know it will be even better. Evis's music has a way of percolating in our creative brains and bursting out in a new way each time we perform it.
This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.