Events & Tickets
VIOLA VISIONS: NEW CLASSIC VIOLA
New World Center
Viola Visions closes with an epic concert celebrating the power and beauty of the viola. With MTT at the helm, three of the week’s guest artists step into the spotlight to share solo works accompanied by full orchestra. Roberto Díaz performs Jennifer Higdon’s unstoppable Viola Concerto, a work he premiered in 2015 before it won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Time feels suspended in Morton Feldman’s heavy-hearted The Viola in My Life 4, performed by Cynthia Phelps. In the festival’s grand finale, Tabea Zimmermann gives the world premiere of Steven Mackey’s reimagining of Hector Berlioz’ beloved concerto-symphony hybrid Harold in Italy. Mackey, who will be in attendance, depicts Harold in a new light, elaborating on Berlioz’ colorful themes and adding a new cadenza.
Knight Foundation and New World Symphony: Reimagining Classical Music in the Digital Age.
WAYS TO WATCH:
Approx. Duration: 21 minutes
Approx. Duration: 14 minutes
The Viola in My Life 4
Luke Kritzeck, lighting designer
Clyde Scott, projection designer
Hector Berlioz/Steven Mackey
(1806-1869 / b. 1956)
Approx. Duration: 47 minutes
Harold in Italy
(1834/2019; world premiere of NWS commission)
Harold in the Mountains. Scenes of Melancholy, Happiness and Joy
March of the Pilgrims Singing the Evening Prayer
Serenade of an Abruzzi Mountain-Dweller to his Mistress
Orgy of Brigands. Memories of Scenes Past
Approximate duration: 21 minutes
Among living American composers, Jennifer Higdon stands out for the uncommon beauty of her orchestral music. blue cathedral, her symphonic tribute to her late brother, has been performed hundreds of times since its premiere in 2000, and her concertos have earned the field’s highest honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto and a Grammy Award for her Percussion Concerto. The recording of her Viola Concerto earned Higdon a second Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, and the complete disc also won the award for Best Classical Compendium.
A consortium of groups came together to commission Higdon’s Viola Concerto, led by the Library of Congress, which presented the premiere in honor of the late patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, and in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Library’s concert series. Higdon joined an elite list of composers—including Copland, Stravinsky, Bartók and Barber—who were commissioned by Coolidge (or her foundation after her death), and who presented premieres in the small auditorium that bears her name.
Higdon dedicated the Concerto to Roberto Díaz, the violist who also serves as the President and CEO of the elite conservatory in Philadelphia that she attended and now teaches at, the Curtis Institute of Music. The Curtis Chamber Orchestra performed the world premiere, and another member of the commissioning consortium, the Nashville Symphony, made the Grammy Award-winning recording for the Naxos label. In that recording’s liner notes, Higdon explained the rationale for the work’s architecture: “I noticed that pieces for the viola were all very dark and kind of heavy. So I decided to make a piece that is more celebratory and has a real swing to it. Each movement has an American rhythmic drive, with almost jazz-like rhythms that are tricky for the orchestra. They fit together like a little puzzle, where everything is tightly woven. But you also want to think about the gorgeousness of the instrument. The viola sounds great playing long lines.”
The Viola in My Life 4
Approximate duration: 14 minutes
The American composer Morton Feldman found his voice in the 1950s, living and working among the abstract expressionist painters and poets who congregated on West Eighth Street in New York’s Greenwich Village. Like his colleague John Cage, Feldman experimented with forms of musical notation that avoided specific pitches and rhythms, and his scores explored hazy, morphing clouds of sound, not unlike the glowing “color field” paintings of his friend Mark Rothko.
Even after Feldman returned to traditional musical notation, he maintained his signature palette of extreme quiet and concentration. What he gained by working with conventional notes and rhythms—however unconventionally he arranged them—was the possibility to create cohesive works for larger ensembles, as seen in a collection of groundbreaking concertos from the 1970s. The earliest of these works for soloist and orchestra also served as the fourth and final installment of the series he composed in 1970-71 for the violist Karen Phillips, The Viola in My Life, with the single-movement Concerto joining two earlier scores for chamber ensemble and a third for viola and piano. A related work, in spirit if not in name, followed later in 1971, when Feldman featured a solo violist among an ensemble of wordless vocalists, percussion and celesta in Rothko Chapel, his famous tribute to the deceased painter.
The performance instruction at the start of The Viola in My Life 4 is quintessential Feldman: “Very quiet, all attacks at a minimum, with no feeling of a beat.” Rather than themes and harmonies in a traditional sense, the score is constructed from discrete sonic objects that recur and transform, triggering a sense of memory and anchoring the passage of time. The most distinctive motto is a five-note phrase that the viola plays a number of times over two oscillating notes plucked by cellos or basses, an achingly vulnerable sound that returns this Concerto to its core of quiet introspection each time it appears, whether intact or as a fragmentary echo.
Hector Berlioz/Steven Mackey
Harold in Italy
(1834/2019; world premiere of NWS commission)
Approximate duration: 47 minutes
As a teenager, Berlioz took flute and guitar lessons and taught himself the rudiments of composition and music theory, but at his father’s insistence he trained to become a doctor. It was only after four years of medical school, once Berlioz was thoroughly disgusted by “dirty hospital orderlies, dreadful dissecting-room attendants, hideous corpses, the screams of patients, [and] the groans and rattling breath of the dying,” that he abandoned medicine and took up music.
Berlioz eventually enrolled at the Paris Conservatory, where he became known as an outsider and iconoclast—a reputation that was confirmed by his shocking Symphonie fantastique from 1830, which led to his expulsion. That same year, he won the coveted Prix de Rome with a conventional cantata that demonstrated more restraint than his previous entries, and in 1831 he reluctantly left Paris to commence the Italian residency granted to prizewinners. He lived in Rome for more than a year, although he ventured out as often as he could. As he later wrote, “Rome is the most stupid and prosaic city I know: It is no place for anyone with head or heart.”
Although the Rome of his day held little interest for Berlioz, a romanticized notion of Italy, especially as expressed through literature, became an ongoing font of inspiration and led to his “dramatic symphony” modeled after Romeo and Juliet (set in Verona) and the opera Benvenuto Cellini, which depicted an artist of the Italian Renaissance. His first work in that vein was Harold in Italy, composed in 1834 and based loosely on the narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Byron.
The impetus to compose Harold in Italy came at the request of superstar violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, who wanted to showcase his formidable technique and his Stradivarius viola. Instead of a viola concerto, Berlioz constructed Harold in Italy as a four-movement symphony featuring the viola as a musical protagonist. Paganini was less than pleased with the viola’s limited role and the long stretches of silence in the solo part, and he refused to perform it. Paganini was able to see a performance of it some years later and was even inspired enough to give Berlioz a sizable check to fund future projects.
The new version heard here, combining an expanded solo part with the original orchestral music, brings the work closer to what Paganini might have been hoping for. This hybrid score was the brainchild of Michael Tilson Thomas, and he entrusted its execution to a longtime collaborator, the composer Steven Mackey. (See their notes below for more details on the inspiration and process.)
This Italian journey begins, according to Berlioz’ movement title, with “Harold in the Mountains. Scenes of Melancholy, Happiness and Joy.” After the somber orchestral introduction, the viola (accompanied by harp) introduces the simple melody that recurs throughout the work to signify Harold.
For the second movement, “March of the Pilgrims Singing the Evening Prayer,” the viola appears as an outside observer, rehashing a version of the same unifying melody (in its own slower pace) as the pilgrims shuffle past. This pattern repeats in the third movement, “Serenade of an Abruzzi Mountain-Dweller to his Mistress,” with Harold serving as a witness to the pastoral love scene.
A new cadenza written by Mackey sets up the finale, which begins by recapping memories from the preceding movements, until the scene moves to an “Orgy of Brigands.” Mackey’s augmentations to the score come in this section, allowing the soloist to partake in the fracas instead of observing it from afar.
— © 2019 Aaron Grad
Aaron Grad is a composer, guitarist and writer based in Seattle. Besides providing program notes for the New World Symphony, he has been the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s program annotator since 2005 and also contributes notes to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Seattle Symphony.
A Note from Michael Tilson Thomas
I first performed Harold in Italy with Joseph de Pasquale and The Philadelphia Orchestra some 40 years ago, it has remained one of my favorite pieces. Since then, I’ve harbored the wish that the collaboration between Berlioz and Paganini might have really worked, and that the viola part would have been more virtuosic, allowing the soloist to become a true protagonist as well as observer of the shifting scenes. The last movement particularly suggests many opportunities for the viola to assume a larger role. Steven Mackey is the perfect person to fulfill this dream. His imaginative instrumental writing as well as the no-holds-barred exuberance of his music reminds me of the spirit of Berlioz. Steven and I worked together as if we were creating a new Broadway show; he being the composer, me being the director. It is our hope that this newly expanded version will bring new excitement to—and win many new friends for—this wonderful piece.
A Note from Steven Mackey
Elaborating Harold in Italy turned out to be a fascinating project. I had to plug into the piece in a deeper way than I would just by studying the score of the piece and I was fortunate to have MTT’s help.
It was fun to talk with MTT about the viola, Harold, those wild Brigands and the dramatic scenario that connects them. For a stretch, I would share my work and get his thoughts daily.
In retrospect I understand that MTT’s aim was to help me find the slot between being too restrained or too free; the place between an academic exercise to accurately fill in the blanks on the one hand and writing an independent modern piece on the other.
The feel of the process evolved dramatically over the course of my work on the project. At first it seemed like I was trying to be a good student and get an A+ in MUS206: Tonal Syntax, which is a course I frequently teach at Princeton University. By the end I felt like I was composing. I did find a space where Berlioz and I could intersect and where I could let my intuitions fly a little bit.
Michael Tilson Thomas is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy; Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony; and Conductor Laureate of the London Symphony Orchestra. In addition to these posts, he maintains an active presence guest conducting with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Tilson Thomas is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America. His father, Ted Thomas, was a producer in the Mercury Theater Company in New York before moving to Los Angeles where he worked in films and television. His mother, Roberta Thomas, was the head of research for Columbia Pictures.
Mr. Tilson Thomas began his formal studies at the University of Southern California where he studied piano with John Crown and conducting and composition with Ingolf Dahl. At age 19 he was named Music Director of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra. He worked with Stravinsky, Boulez, Stockhausen and Copland on premieres of their compositions at Los Angeles’ Monday Evening Concerts. During this same period he was the pianist and conductor for Gregor Piatigorsky and Jascha Heifetz.
In 1969, after winning the Koussevitzky Prize at Tanglewood, he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That year he also made his New York debut with the Boston Symphony and gained international recognition after replacing Music Director William Steinberg in mid-concert. He was later appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra where he remained until 1974. He was Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic from 1971 to 1979 and a Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1981 to 1985. His guest conducting includes appearances with the major orchestras of Europe and the United States.
His recorded repertoire of more than 120 discs includes works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Mahler, Prokofiev and Stravinsky as well as his pioneering work with the music of Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Steve Reich, John Cage, Ingolf Dahl, Morton Feldman, George Gershwin, John McLaughlin and Elvis Costello. He also recorded the complete orchestral works of Gustav Mahler with the San Francisco Symphony.
Mr. Tilson Thomas’ television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for BBC Television, the television broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts from 1971 to 1977 and numerous productions on PBS’ Great Performances. Mr. Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony produced a multi-tiered media project, Keeping Score, which includes a television series, web sites, radio programs and programs in schools.
In 1990 Mr. Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony were presented in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF in the United States, featuring Audrey Hepburn as narrator of From the Diary of Anne Frank, composed by Mr. Tilson Thomas and commissioned by UNICEF. This piece has since been translated and performed in many languages worldwide. In August 1995 he led the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra in the premiere of his composition Showa/Shoah, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Thomas Hampson premiered his settings of poetry by Walt Whitman, Renée Fleming premiered his settings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the San Francisco Symphony premiered his concerto for contrabassoon entitled Urban Legend. As a Carnegie Hall Perspectives Artist from 2003 to 2005, he had an evening devoted to his own compositions which included Island Music for four marimbas and percussion, Notturno for solo flute and strings and a new setting of poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. Other compositions include Street Song for brass instruments and Agnegram, an overture for orchestra.
Among his many honors and awards, Mr. Tilson Thomas is a Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France, was Musical America’s Musician of the Year and Conductor of the Year, Gramophone Magazine’s Artist of the Year and has been profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and ABC’s Nightline. He has won 11 Grammy Awards for his recordings. In 2008 he received the Peabody Award for his radio series for SFS Media, The MTT Files. In 2010 President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the United States Government.
A violist of international reputation, Roberto Díaz is president and chief executive officer of the Curtis Institute of Music, following in the footsteps of renowned soloist/directors such as Josef Hofmann, Efrem Zimbalist and Rudolf Serkin. As a teacher of viola at Curtis and former principal viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. Díaz has already had a significant impact on American musical life and continues to do so in his dual roles as performer and educator.
As a soloist, Mr. Díaz collaborates with leading conductors of our time on stages throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. He has also worked directly with important 20th- and 21st-century composers, including Krzysztof Penderecki, whose Viola Concerto he has performed numerous times with the composer on the podium and whose Double Concerto he premiered in the United States during the 2013-14 season; and Edison Denisov, who invited Mr. Díaz to Moscow to work on and perform his Viola Concerto. Ricardo Lorenz and Roberto Sierra have written concertos for Mr. Díaz and he premiered a concerto by Jennifer Higdon in 2015.
As a frequent recitalist, Mr. Díaz enjoys collaborating with young pianists, bringing a fresh approach to the repertoire and providing invaluable opportunities to artists at the beginning of their careers. In addition to performing with major string quartets and pianists in chamber music series and festivals worldwide, Mr. Díaz has toured Europe, Asia and the Americas a member of the Díaz Trio with violinist Andrés Cárdenes and cellist Andrés Díaz. The Díaz Trio has recorded for the Artek and Dorian labels.
Mr. Díaz’ recordings on the Naxos label with pianist Robert Koenig include the complete works for viola and piano by Henri Vieuxtemps and a Grammy-nominated disc of viola transcriptions by William Primrose. Also on Naxos are the Brahms sonatas with Jeremy Denk and Jonathan Leshnoff’s Double Concerto with violinist Charles Wetherbee and the Iris Chamber Orchestra led by Michael Stern. On the New World Records label is a live recording of Mr. Díaz’ performance of Jacob Druckman's Viola Concerto with Wolfgang Sawallisch and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Upcoming releases include the Walton Viola Concerto with the New Haven Symphony and William Boughton (Nimbus) and the Viola Concerto by Peter Lieberson with the Odense Symphony Orchestra and Scott Yoo (Bridge Records).
Since founding Curtis On Tour six seasons ago, Mr. Díaz has taken the hugely successful program to North and South America, Europe and Asia, performing chamber music side-by-side with Curtis students and other faculty and alumni of the school. In addition to Curtis On Tour, his tenure as president of Curtis has seen the construction of a significant new building which doubled the size of the school’s campus, the introduction of classical guitar and string quartet programs, the launch of Curtis Summerfest which is open to the public and the debut of an online stage called Curtis Performs. In the fall of 2013 Curtis became the first classical music conservatory to offer free online classes through Coursera. Also under Mr. Díaz’ leadership, the school has developed lasting collaborations with other music and arts institutions in Philadelphia and throughout the world and has established the Community Artists Program (CAP) to develop the entrepreneurial and advocacy skills of young musicians.
Mr. Díaz received an honorary doctorate from Bowdoin College and was awarded an honorary membership by the national board of the American Viola Society. In the fall of 2013 Mr. Díaz became a member of the prestigious American Philosophical Society founded by Benjamin Franklin. As a member of The Philadelphia Orchestra, he was selected by Music Director Christoph Eschenbach to receive the C. Hartman Kuhn Award, given annually to "the member of The Philadelphia Orchestra who has shown ability and enterprise of such character as to enhance the standards and the reputation of The Philadelphia Orchestra." Mr. Díaz received a bachelor’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Burton Fine, and a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where his teacher was his predecessor at The Philadelphia Orchestra, Joseph de Pasquale. Mr. Díaz also has a degree in industrial design.
In addition to his decade-long tenure as principal viola of The Philadelphia Orchestra, where he performed the entire standard viola concerto repertoire with the orchestra and gave a number of Philadelphia Orchestra premieres, Mr. Díaz was also principal viola of the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovich, a member of the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa and a member of the Minnesota Orchestra under Sir Neville Marriner. Mr. Díaz plays the ex-Primrose Amati viola.
Cynthia Phelps, viola
Cynthia Phelps has Principal Violist with the New York Philharmonic since 1992. Her solo appearances with the orchestra have included performances on the 2006 Tour of Italy and the 1999 premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Two Paths, which the Philharmonic commissioned for her and the orchestra’s associate principal violist Rebecca Young. Other solo engagements have included the Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao. Ms. Phelps performs with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Boston Chamber Music Society and Bargemusic. She has toured internationally with the Zukerman and Friends Ensemble, appeared with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the Guarneri, American, Brentano and Prague string quartets. She has given recitals in the music capitals of Europe and the U.S. Her honors include the Pro Musicis International Award and first prize in the Lionel Tertis International Viola and Washington International String competitions. Her most recent album, for flute, viola and harp, on Telarc, was nominated for a Grammy Award. She has a solo album on Cala Records. She has performed on PBS’s NPR, Radio France and RAI in Italy. Ms. Phelps studied at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.
Tabea Zimmermann, viola
For many years, Tabea Zimmermann has been regarded as one of the most renowned musicians of our time. Audiences and fellow musicians value her charismatic personality and deep musical understanding. Arguably the finest violist in the world today, she owes her success not only to her exceptional talent, but also to the support of her parents, thorough training by excellent teachers, a tireless enthusiasm to communicate her understanding and love of music to her audience and an uncompromisingly high quality standard.
As a soloist Ms. Zimmermann regularly works with the most distinguished orchestras worldwide such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, London Symphony, Israel Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic. Following residencies in Weimar, Luxembourg, Hamburg and with the Bamberg Symphony, she was artist-in-residence with the Ensemble Resonanz from 2013-15, and continues this close collaboration. In the 2015-16 season, she was artist-in-residence of the Frankfurt Museums-Gesellschaft.
Ms. Zimmermann kicked off the 2018-19 season with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Further highlights of the current season include her concerts with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra under Susanna Mälkki, the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest under Markus Stenz and at the Philharmonie de Paris with Les Siècles under Francois-Xavier Roth. On a tour of Asia, she will perform Mantovani‘s Double Concerto together with Antoine Tamestit and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, and appear with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in York Höller’s new Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, which she premiered in 2018 with the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne under François-Xavier Roth.
The Arcanto Quartet, in which Ms. Zimmermann performs with violinists Antje Weithaas and Daniel Sepec and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, has provided a special focus for her chamber music activities. On the label Harmonia Mundi, they have released CDs of works by Bartók, Brahms, Ravel, Dutilleux, Debussy, Schubert and Mozart.
Ms. Zimmermann has inspired numerous composers to write for the viola and has introduced many new works into the standard concert and chamber music repertoire. In 1994 she gave the highly successful world premiere of the Sonata for Solo Viola by György Ligeti, a work composed especially for her. The subsequent premieres of this work in London, New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Amsterdam and Japan attracted great critical and public acclaim. In recent seasons, Ms. Zimmermann has premiered Recicanto for Viola and Orchestra by Heinz Holliger, the viola concerto Über die Linie IV by Wolfgang Rihm, Monh by George Lentz, Notte di pasqua by Frank Michael Beyer, a double concerto by Bruno Mantovani with Antoine Tamestit, and Filz by Enno Poppe with Ensemble Resonanz. She played the premiere of Michael Jarrell’s Viola Concerto at Festival Musica Strasbourg 2017 with the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire under Pascal Rophé; and subsequent performances with the Vienna Symphony under Ingo Metzmacher, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Pascal Rophé and the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin under Mario Venzago.
To mark Hindemith’s anniversary in 2013, Ms. Zimmermann released a highly acclaimed complete recording of the composer’s works for viola on myrios classics. Following the success of her recording of solo works by Reger and Bach with myrios classics in 2009 – for which she received an Echo Klassik prize as Instrumentalist of the Year – she has released three albums with pianists Kirill Gerstein and Thomas Hoppe. Ms. Zimmerman’s artistry is documented on approximately 50 CDs for labels such as EMI, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon. A live recording of her performance on Beethoven’s own viola at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, accompanied by Hartmut Höll, was released by Ars Musici.
Ms. Zimmermann has received several national and international awards for her outstanding artistic achievements. These include the Federal Cross of Merit, Frankfurter Musikpreis, Hessischer Kulturpreis, Rheingau Musikpreis, International Prize Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna, the Paul-Hindemith-Prize from the city of Hanau and most recently as Artist of the Year by the ICMA International Classical Music Awards 2017. She is a foundation board member of the Hindemith Foundation in Blonay (Switzerland) as well as ambassador for the German Foundation for Children’s Hospices. In 2013 she was appointed chairwoman of the board of the Beethoven-Haus Bonn. Under her aegis, the Beethoven-Woche Bonn has taken place every year since January 2015.
Ms. Zimmermann began learning the viola at the age of three, and two years later began playing the piano. She studied with Ulrich Koch at the Musikhochschule Freiburg and subsequently with Sandor Vegh at the Mozarteum Salzburg. Following her studies, she received several awards at international competitions, amongst them first prizes at the 1982 Geneva International Competition and the 1984 Budapest International Competition. As a result of winning the 1983 Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris, she received a viola by the contemporary maker Etienne Vatelot, on which she has been performing ever since. From 1987 to 2000, she regularly gave concerts in Düsseldorf, Jerusalem and Luxembourg with the late David Shallon, father of her two sons Yuval and Jonathan. Ms. Zimmermann has held teaching posts at the Musikhochschule Saarbrücken and Hochschule für Musik Frankfurt. Since 2002 she has been a professor at the Hochschule für Musik ‘Hanns Eisler’ in Berlin, where she now lives with her three children.
Christopher Rountree, conductor
Conductor, composer and curator Christopher Rountree has distinguished himself as one of classical music’s most forward-thinking innovators in programming, conducting and community building. Whether presenting his beloved chamber group wild Up in a museum bathroom or leading the country’s most renowned ensembles through new music’s most exciting works at the world’s greatest concert halls, Mr. Rountree is the linchpin between orchestral music and the future of performance.
Mr. Rountree founded the renegade ensemble wild Up in 2010. The group’s eccentric mix of new music, pop and performance art quickly jumped from raucous DIY bar shows to being lauded as the vanguard for classical music by critics for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and public radio’s Performance Today. The success of wild Up has led Mr. Rountree to collaborations with Björk, John Adams, David Lang, Scott Walker, and many of the planet’s greatest orchestras and ensembles.
Last season, Mr. Rountree’s vision was fully realized as he curated and conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 16-concert FLUXUS Festival, the experimental music component of the Philharmonic’s 100th season in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute. Mr. Rountree’s 2018-19 season also included debuts with the Cincinnati and Berkeley symphonies, and the New York premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up. He takes wild Up on tour with audience-interactive programs, celebrating local communities and the intersection of art and social justice; unveils an evening-length program with Ted Hearne, George Lewis, Jen Hill and Weston Olencki about religion, space and the Internet called of Ascension; makes his debut on the Ecstatic Music Festival; plays a live radio show at the ACE Hotel with Nadia Sirota, Andrew Norman and Caroline Shaw; curates a joint program with Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Four Larks; and conducts a new program called Eve with Martha Graham Dance Company.
In 2018 Mr. Rountree debuted with Martha Graham Dance Company and Opéra national de Paris conducting The Rite of Spring, Barber’s Medea, and the Paris premiere of the Graham-Copland Appalachian Spring at Palais Garnier. Recently, he made his Lincoln Center debut premiering Ashley Fure’s Pulitzer Prize-finalist piece Bound to the Bow on the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial; conducted Ted Hearne’s Law of Mosaics with the Chicago Symphony; gave the world premiere of Missy Mazzoli’s opera Proving Up; conducted the world premiere of David Lang’s opera anatomy theater at Los Angeles Opera; and premiered Annie Gosfield and Yuval Sharon’s War of the Worlds with Sigourney Weaver and Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, simultaneously performed across downtown Los Angeles and at Walt Disney Concert Hall.
A seventh-generation California native, Mr. Rountree lives in Los Angeles.