Describe your best and worst memories of premiere performances John Corigliano, Composer

John Corigliano
Photo by Julian Kreeger courtesy G. Schirmer

The best premiere I can remember is that of my CLARINET CONCERTO with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic and Stanley Drucker as the soloist. My father, who died in 1975 — two years before the premiere — was the concertmaster of the Philharmonic, and they had never played a piece of mine, so the concert had a very special meaning to me. It was a blazing performance — one a composer usually only dreams about.

My worst premiere was in the 1960’s when a mezzo-soprano, who had won the prestigious JOY OF SINGING award, gave the first performance of THE CLOISTERS, a cycle of four songs with text by William M. Hoffman.

The problem was that the singer didn’t want to use the music (which was admirable), but also didn’t know the songs (which wasn’t). The result was a Gertrude Stein text set to a John Cage score. The New York Times loved it. I’ve always wondered what they would have thought of the piece we actually wrote.”