Friday, March 23, 2018

Celebrating Charles Wuorinen at 80

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to present an 80th birthday concert for Charles Wuorinen on April 24. Under the auspices of the Center’s Slee Sinfonietta series, guest ensemble Signal will perform a rare full concert of Wuorinen’s work. For event details and ticket information, visit Slee Hall’s website.

Wuorinen is among the most recognized living composers worldwide. He has received many of the highest honors available to an American composer—a Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and American Academy of Arts and Sciences—while his works have been performed by many of the most respected American orchestras, with commissions for new works from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and more. As an opera composer, Wuorinen has collaborated with noted literary figures Salman Rushdie and Anne Proulx, in works commissioned by the New York City Opera and Teatro Real Madrid, respectively.

Also active as a performer (conductor and piano), in 1962 he joined Harvey Sollberger, past June in Buffalo faculty member, to create and lead the noted Group for Contemporary Music in NYC. The group has been credited for raising standards across the board in contemporary music performance, and functioned as an important model for later contemporary music ensembles. In fact, UB’s own Creative Associates in the 1960s and 70s were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s project to create Group for Contemporary Music “spin off” ensembles; more recently, the Center’s flagship Slee Sinfonietta (founded in 1997 by the Center’s Artistic Director David Felder) continues to refine models of new music ensemble performance pioneered by these earlier ensembles.

Throughout his long career, Wuorinen has been a frequent guest at UB. He has served as faculty composer at numerous June in Buffalo festivals, from the early days of the Festival in the 1970s all the way through to recent years. In turn, the festival has functioned as an important outlet for Wuorinen’s work over the years, including large-scale works such as the complete Fenton Songs (performed by Ensemble Surplus in 2006), the orchestral Microsymphony (performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic in 2007), and the cantata It Happens Like This (performed by the Slee Sinfonietta in 2013). Building on this long-standing relationship, the State University of New York awarded Wuorinen an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York during the 2013 June in Buffalo Festival, where a ceremony was followed by a portrait concert.

Charles Wuorinen speaks at the ceremony at which he was awarded a SUNY honorary doctorate, with composer David Felder, University President Satish K. Tripathi, and SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin on stage. Photo by Irene Haupt.
The Center’s upcoming 80th birthday concert features performances by Ensemble Signal of three Wuorinen works for instrumental soloist and large ensemble: Megalith (with piano soloist), Spin 5 (with violin soloist), and Iridule (with oboe soloist). Megalith will feature UB Associate Professor Eric Huebner as piano soloist, while the other works will feature highly regarded guest soloists: Olivia De Prato (violin)—known to Buffalo audiences for past appearances with Signal and the MIVOS Quartet, and Jacqueline Leclair (oboe)—known to Buffalo audiences for past appearances with Signal and the Slee Sinfonietta. Iridule was in fact written specifically for Leclair, and the composer has made audio of her performance available on his website here.

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