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Dolce Suono Ensemble

Mimi Stillman, Artistic Director

Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60

Dolce Suono Ensemble’s “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” project marks the centennial of Gustav Mahler’s death in 1911 and the 60th anniversary of the death of Arnold Schoenberg in 1951 with performances of  chamber and vocal works by these two iconic composers and the commissioning of six new works reflecting on Mahler and Schoenberg. The project unfolds over two seasons, including concerts in Philadelphia, its surrounding area, and New York City, and a series of educational and community outreach events.

In commissioning six new works reflecting on Mahler and Schoenberg, we sought to highlight the ways in which their music still provides a fertile, vibrant legacy for today’s composers. We are honored to collaborate with some of today’s most acclaimed eminent composers and most promising emerging composers – Shulamit Ran, Steven Stucky, Steven Mackey, David Ludwig, Fang Man, and Stratis Minakakis, and with celebrated guest soloists Eric Owens, bass-baritone, Lucy Shelton, soprano.

Year 1 of “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” took place in May 2011, with performances on the Dolce Suono Ensemble Presents series at Trinity Center for Urban Life in Philadelphia and at Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, PA. The program include Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, in Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement for ensemble, Schoenberg’s Sechs kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19, and the world premieres of five commissioned works reflection on Mahler and Schoenberg by Steven Stucky, Steven Mackey, Fang Man, David Ludwig, and Stratis Minakakis. Bass-baritone Eric Owens joined Dolce Suono Ensemble as soloist.

See feature article about “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” Year 1 by David Patrick Stearns in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Year 2 continues in February, 2012 with concerts on the Dolce Suono Ensemble Presents series at Trinity Center for Urban Life in Philadelphia (February 5) and Haverford College (February 3). The program includes Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor, his only extant chamber piece, Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, Op. 21, and the world premiere of Shulamit Ran’s Moon Songs: A Song Cycle in Four Acts for Soprano, Flute (doubling Piccolo), Cello, and Piano. Soprano Lucy Shelton is soloist in the Ran and in Pierrot lunaire, one of her signature roles, with the performances taking place during the centennial of this masterwork.

Dolce Suono Ensemble makes its New York debut at Symphony Space (Feb. 6) as part of the city-wide Composers Now Festival. The concert, Dolce Suono Ensemble Commissions and Premieres, brings together seven recent Dolce Suono Ensemble-commissioned works, including all six of the “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” project commissions. Lucy Shelton, soprano and Randall Scarlata, baritone are soloists.

“Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” is the culmination of nearly two years of research, planning, and preparation; and a lifetime of listening, loving, and playing the music of the composers to whom the project is devoted. It has been deeply illuminating and rewarding to immerse ourselves in the music of these two titans. Mahler and Schoenberg work organically together as subjects because of the close connections between them personally and musically, as Mahler was a formative influence on Schoenberg. These musical pioneers shaped much of the music of the 20th and 21st centuries, along with Wagner, Debussy, and Stravinsky.  The project encourages us to deepen our understanding of Mahler and Schoenberg in a variety of ways: looking forward at their influence on the music that followed them; looking back into history to situate each composer’s work in the canon of Western music; understanding Mahler and Schoenberg in their time and in the cultures of Vienna, Europe, and the United States where they lived and worked, and the struggles they encountered as Jews; and the aesthetic, existential, and philosophical questions they posed and sought to answer.

In Year 1, we asked the composers to write for the eponymous Pierrot Ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, with added percussion), which derives from Arnold Schoenberg’s landmark masterpiece Pierrot lunaire, written in 1912. The four composers commissioned to write vocal works in this program – Steven Stucky, Steven Mackey, Fang Man, and David Ludwig – were asked to set texts that were important to Mahler. Stratis Minakakis, who was commissioned to write an instrumental work, referenced aspects of both Mahler and Schoenberg in his piece. In Year 2, we commissioned Shulamit Ran to compose a work for soprano and ensemble of flute, cello, and piano. Having written several important works for Pierrot Ensemble, she considered the smaller configuration an interesting new vehicle. In writing a piece to be premiered alongside Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, Ran selected texts from a variety of cultures, all dealing with the theme of the moon.

All the commissioned composers expressed their personal debt to Mahler and Schoenberg. Each of the composers in this group of diverse backgrounds and aesthetics, brought a highly individual voice to the project. The result is six compelling works which showcase the powerful legacy of Mahler and Schoenberg.