Bravo! Backstage Access column: Opus One debuts Poul Ruders Piano Quartet at Classically Uncorked
The final orchestral performance of Bravo! Vail is Friday, with the New York Philharmonic performing music of Richard Wagner. But the festival doesn’t end when the New York Philharmonic goes home. Bravo! Vail continues next week with four more concerts that celebrate contemporary classical music.
Bravo! Vail started the series called Classically Uncorked four years ago, with the idea that fine wine pairs exceptionally well with chamber music. In previous years, Bravo! Vail artistic director Anne-Marie McDermott has programmed the Classically Uncorked series with a liberal dose of contemporary music combined with familiar favorites. For next week’s series, however, McDermott has paired adventurous programming by living composers from around the globe with the wines of Grgich Hills Estate. The oldest piece of music to be performed was composed in 1974.
I believe that classical music organizations have as much of a responsibility to bring new music into the world as they do to perform the canon, or core repertoire. Gone are the days when single benefactors sponsored a composer to write music. Today’s orchestral and chamber music organizations take on the responsibility to commission new music, and often, these organizations will collaborate and share the expense of hiring a composer.
This is the case for two-time Grammy-nominated Danish composer Poul Ruders, who has composed a Piano Quartet to be premiered in the Classically Uncorked Series on Thursday, Aug. 4, by McDermott’s piano quartet Opus One. The new piece of music is a co-commissioned project between Bravo! Vail and the Ocean Reef Chamber Music Festival.
McDermott is a frequent performer of contemporary music and has given world premieres of many new works, so I asked her a few questions about Ruders’ world premiere.
JENNIFER TEISINGER: What is the most challenging aspect of learning a brand new piece of music, such as Ruders’ Piano Quartet?
ANNE-MARIE McDERMOTT: Learning the composer’s language is the most fascinating part of premiering a new work. In the case of Poul Ruders’ Piano Quartet, I literally started by marking up my music — taking note of the particular way he has written for each member of the group — to indicate how the piano fits in.
I try to work out any rhythmic complexities before I even start playing the work on the piano. The list of compositional choices for the composer is endless, and it is my job to understand how those choices fit together to create the whole. When I sit down with my colleagues, it’s like assembling a puzzle and we love it. It’s a great challenge and responsibility — the journey from first setting eyes on the score to the premiere is epic.
TEISINGER: What do you enjoy the most about performing a world premiere?
McDERMOTT: Working with the composer. Can you imagine having Beethoven in the audience after playing a work of his for the first time? From the page to the stage is an epic journey for the composer. Being part of that is an indescribable privilege.
TEISINGER: Do you have any suggestions for the audience as they listen to this new piece by Ruders?
McDERMOTT: Relax and let go of any preconceived ideas you have about music. Enjoy the sounds and textures and let your imagination be touched. It’s an adventure. I hope everyone will enjoy the journey.
Jennifer Teisinger is the executive director of Bravo! Vail, which runs through Aug. 6. For more information on the season and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.bravovail.org or call 970-827-5700.