NEW YORK (October 5, 2023) — Pianist Shai Wosner debuts MacArthur Fellow Vijay Iyer’s first piano concerto, Handmade Universe, with the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) on Saturday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. at Washington Irving High School in New York City, presented by Peoples’ Symphony Concerts (PSC) where Wosner serves as Artist-in-Residence. A virtual concert will be made available by PSC on Monday, October 30. Wosner and ECCO then perform the Philadelphia premiere of Handmade Universe on Wednesday, November 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society (PCMS). Handmade Universe is co-commissioned by PSC and PCMS, and marks the third work that Iyer has composed for Wosner.
In addition to Iyer’s piano concerto, Wosner and ECCO perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414. The program also includes ECCO performing Eleanor Alberga’s Remember, and the second movement “Lento” of Dvořák’s Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, American in an arrangement by ECCO, and works by Florence Price that draw connections to the African-American folk music and spirituals that inspired the Czech composer while serving as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. The world premiere of Iyer’s piano concerto takes place at the historic New York site where the Conservatory was located and where Dvořák lived and worked.
Wosner says of Iyer’s concerto, “Vijay mixes the aural and the tactile in the most natural way - it is music written with the listeners and performers equally in mind. The piece brings the piano and the strings together in a very communal way - they complement and enrich each other's sound creating a spectrum of colors that's larger than the sum of its parts and which feels like a celebration of pure sonority and rhythm.”
Of his first piano concerto, Iyer says, “The title Handmade Universe refers to the instrumentation: for pianists and string players, every sound is the result of a gesture. For me, this old and obvious truth still somehow unsettles music’s fundamentals. Lyricism, for example, amounts to an aural illusion, insinuating a voice that is absent; musical phrasing can simulate breathing without actually correlating to it; a walking beat is generated by fingertips rather than feet.
As a pianist and former violinist, he adds, “I found myself building the work in two very different directions: from my composer’s head, and from my player’s hands. The hands, I find, possess a musicality all their own.”
Wosner and Iyer previously collaborated on Plinthe for solo piano, written as part of Variations on a Theme of FDR, premiered by Wosner with Peoples’ Symphony Concerts in 2022. For that commissioning project, Wosner asked composers to base their work on a central theme—a quote from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1938 address to the Daughters of the American Revolution: “Remember, remember always, that all of us… are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Iyer based Plinthe on civil rights activist Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael), who emigrated from Trinidad and was instrumental in the creation of the Black Power movement. Wosner paired Variations on a Theme of FDR with Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations in recital, and both sets of variations are available on recordings from New Focus Recordings and Onyx Classics respectively. Also, for Shai Wosner and violinist Jennifer Koh’s Bridge to Beethoven series, Iyer composed Bridgetower Fantasy after Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata.
Wosner has championed new music through commissions such as Variations on a Theme of FDR, featuring contributions from composers Derek Bermel, Anthony Cheung, John Harbison, and Wang Lu, in addition to Iyer. He also premiered Michael Hersch’s Along the Ravines for piano and orchestra, and Christopher Cerrone’s piano concerto The Air Suspended—written for and dedicated to Wosner—which he also performed with ECCO.
Pianist Shai Wosner has attracted international recognition for his exceptional artistry, musical integrity, and creative insight into a broad range of repertoire—from Beethoven and Schubert to Ligeti and the music of today. A recipient of Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, he has appeared in North America with the orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, St. Paul, and Toronto, among others, as well as in Europe with ensembles ranging from the BBC orchestras to the Vienna Philharmonic. He records for Onyx Classics, and his most recent release on the label is Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Other recordings for Onyx include an album comprising four late sonatas by Schubert. Released in March 2020, this double album marked the completion of his recorded series of the composer’s final six piano sonatas. Born in Israel, Mr. Wosner studied piano with Opher Brayer and Emanuel Krasovsky and composition, theory, and improvisation with André Hajdu. He later studied at The Juilliard School with Emanuel Ax. For more information, visit shaiwosner.com.
The critically acclaimed East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) is a collective of dynamic like-minded artists who convene for select periods each year to explore musical works and perform concerts of the highest artistic quality. Drawing from some of the world's finest orchestras, chamber groups, and young soloists, ECCO strives for vitality and musical integrity; a self-governing organization, each member is equal and has a voice in every step of the artistic process, from programming to performance. ECCO believes that the best musical experience can speak to all audiences regardless of age or socioeconomic background and performs accordingly across a wide range of venues.
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Saturday, October 28, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
Peoples’ Symphony Concerts
Washington Irving High School
40 Irving Place, New York
Tickets: $20 General Admission, $25 Reserved, $10 Students & Essential Workers
Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 7:30 p.m.
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center
300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia
Shai Wosner, piano
East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO)
Price: Three Folksongs in Counterpoint (Oh My Darlin' Clementine, Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, Shortnin' BreadI
Vijay Iyer: Handmade Universe for piano and strings [World and Philadelphia premieres; co-commissioned by PCS and PCMS]
Eleanor Alberga: Remember
Dvořák: String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, Lento (Arr. by ECCO)
Mozart: Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 414