U.K. Festival of American Music Spotlights John Corigliano


John Corigliano
John Corigliano
photo credit Christian Steiner

Music of John Corigliano will provide the main focus for the Royal Northern College of Music‘s American Reflections Festival, which will run from November 30th until December 16th. Under the artistic direction of the College’s Director of Contemporary Music, Clark Rundell, the series of sixteen concerts will feature 14 works (including 6 UK premières) by the award-winning Corigliano, music to mark the centenary of Aaron Copland’s birth, five performances of Stephen Sondheim‘s Into the Woods, and several concerts exploring music by other influential American composers. Support for the festival is being provided by the U.S. Embassy.

John Corigliano will be attending the festival and taking part in two pre-concert discussions. The suites from The Ghosts of Versailles and The Red Violin will receive their UK premieres during this festival in a concert given by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Marin Alsop. The concert will feature Yuri Torchinksy as the violin soloist and Barry Douglas as piano soloist in Corigliano’s Piano Concerto.

Clark Rundell, the RNCM’s Director of Contemporary Music, explained in an email that the College wanted to celebrate Copland’s centenary “not simply with a festival of Copland’s music, but with music by the many composers who felt his influence.” Rundell wanted to explore “the considerable ground in between” the “uptown” modernists and the “downtown” minimalists and post-minimalists. “We were given a considerable boost when John Corigliano agreed to come,” Rundell commented. “Despite his exceptionally high (and well-deserved) profile in the U.S., his music is little-known here.” Rundell called the festival “the most substantial Corigliano event every staged outside the U.S.”

The Corigliano concerts also include a performance by the RNCM Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Kok of the composer’s First Symphony, and the UK premiere of Troubadours, for chamber orchestra and guitar, performed by the RNCM Chamber Orchestra conducted by Baldur Brönnimann with Australian guitarist Craig Ogden. There will also be a “Corigliano Chamber Concert” and a “Corigliano Song Cycles” concert.

In addition to a comprehensive program book, the RNCM is publishing a collection of essays on Corigliano by Mark Adamo. The College also plans to publish a book of conservations between Corigliano and American scholars, as well as transcripts of the two two-hour pre-concert talks that he will give as part of the festival in December.

“Nothing could please me more than that a major U. K. institution like the Royal Northern College of Music should do me the honor of devoting so much of their creative time and energy to my work,” Mr. Corigliano commented in an email. “It’s in festivals like these that new thought begins to takes root–how terrific to be a part of one!” Corigliano is enjoying an autumn full of accolades: in November alone, in addition to the RNCM festival, he will be honored twice in New York. The Center for Contemporary Opera is giving a “gala benefit” in his honor on November 2nd, and the Bronx Arts Ensemble is featuring his music in a “Celebrate Corigliano” concert on November 5th.

In between the Corigliano concerts, RNCM will launch their first full-scale production of a contemporary musical, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. The musical will be performed 5 times under the direction of RNCM Director of Opera Studies Stefan Janski, and conducted by Clark Rundell. The festival will also include “American Songbook” and “American Keyboard” concerts and a masterclass and performance by former Oscar Peterson drummer Ed Thigpen. The RNCM Percussion Ensemble will perform Varèse’s Ionisation and Reich‘s Vermont Counterpoint and his Sextet. Ensemble Eleven, conducted by André de Ridder, will perform the last the concert, which will include works by Bang On A Can artistic directors Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe.