CRITICAL PRAISE FOR HERSCH'S NEW MONODRAMA "ON THE THRESHOLD OF WINTER"
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"... a work of great originality, daring, and disturbing power"
— The Baltimore Sun
"The two-act monodrama, which received its searing premiere on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is about illness and death ... Mr. Hersch’s music, for all its dark and fragile beauty, offers neither comfort nor catharsis. A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium after the last line sung by the soprano Ah Young Hong, the opera’s blazing, lone star: “Terrible is the passage/ Into the fold/ Both for man/ And /Animal.” ... Death casts a long shadow over the recent work of Mr. Hersch, who lost a close friend to cancer while battling the disease himself. But in “On the Threshold of Winter” Mr. Hersch has given himself the space to burrow past anger and incomprehension in search of an art fired by empathy and compassion."
— The New York Times
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"... Hersch is so sincere in his darkness, and so sophisticated in his expressivity, that he can make the morbid magical." — New York Magazine
"The opera is thoroughly Hersch-like: intense, unsparing, honest ... Sometimes the opera is beautiful and haunting; sometimes it is savage and assaultive. The score can be lean, virtually stripped bare; then it can seem semi-oceanic. No note is wasted, as usual with Hersch. Nothing is frivolous or trivial. Everything has a purpose ... Though it has the forces of a chamber opera, or something less than a chamber opera—eight instrumentalists, one singer—it has the length of a grand opera: two hours (not counting intermission). It also has the impact of a grand opera. The one singer on Wednesday night was Ah Young Hong, who performed intelligently, bravely, and searingly ... Hong delivered a tour de force. ... It has often been said, including by me, that a Hersch premiere has an air of importance. Something important is taking place. So it was on Wednesday night—maybe more than ever, given the length and scope of the work."
— The New Criterion
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"... On the Threshold of Winter is a journey into fatal illness that, in Hersch's hands, acknowledges no distance, safe or otherwise, between a listener and the suffering protagonist. ... Yes, it's that dark - as Hersch tends to be, but in ways that are purely existential and without moral corruption. There are no bad personas in Hersch's works, only innocents confronting an overwhelming world." — The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Hersch, now in his second decade as one of the most prominent composers in the country, writes masterly modernist music of implacable seriousness. After personal tragedy - he not only battled cancer but watched a close friend die die of the disease - he came to write his first opera, a monodrama for soprano employing texts from the final collection of the Romanian poet Marin Sorescu." — The New Yorker
SAINT PAUL CHAMBER ORCHESTRA COMMISSIONS VIOLIN CONCERTO
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has commissioned Michael Hersch to write a concerto for the remarkable Patricia Kopatchinskaja to premiere during the autumn of the 2015/16 concert season.
ORPHEUS COMMISSIONS NEW WORK FOR ITS AMERICAN NOTES INITIATIVE
As part of Orpheus’ ongoing commitment to new works by living composers, the American Notes commissioning initiative seeks to engage composers from diverse musical styles and backgrounds to create musical pieces that explore the question of American identity – particularly in our increasingly globalized world. Orpheus is proud to continue the American Notes exploration over the next two years with composers Harold Meltzer, Jessie Montgomery, and Michael Hersch. Hersch's work to premiere during the 2016/17 concert season.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS TO PRESENT HERSCH'S CARRION-MILES TO PURGATORY
During the 2015/16 concert season members of Berlin's Atos Trio premiere Hersch's 35' work for violin and cello: Carrion-Miles to Purgatory: thirteen pieces after texts of Robert Lowell. In celebration of the Library’s storied history as a commissioner of new works the 2015-2016 season features the premieres of nine commissions including new works by Michael Hersch, Paul Lansky, Hannah Lash, Matthias Pintscher, Gabriela Lena Frank, Brian Ferneyhough, Maria Schneider, Frederic Rzewski, and a new dance work choreographed by Pontus Lidberg performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company.
NETWORK FOR NEW MUSIC PREMIERES HERSCH'S "A BREATH UPWARDS" IN PHILADELPHIA
The Network for New Music commissioned this new song cycle after texts of Dante Alighieri and Ezra Pound for their 30th anniversary season. Writing of the premiere, the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, "... composer Michael Hersch usually leaves you gasping - cognitively speaking - to keep up ... But in his new song cycle, a breath upwards, Hersch stopped me in my tracks as he explored a narrower-than-usual range of sound, harmony and gesture, requiring a more minute exploration of the tension between music and texts from Dante's Inferno and related ones by Ezra Pound. This piece went inward with fine gradations of awe, disbelief and contemplation of the incomprehensible." Hear an excerpt of the work as performed by soprano Ah Young Hong accompanied by Gleb Kanasevich, John Stulz and Jamie Hersch, conducted by Blair Skinner.
2016/17 CONCERT SEASON
JUNE 10, 2016 AT 8:00 PM
LEX 54 CONCERTS a breath upwards for soprano, clarinet, horn and viola (NY PREMIERE)
New York, NY MORE INFORMATION
JUNE 28, 2016 AT 8:00 PM
NATIONAL SAWDUST Zwischen Leben und Tod: twenty-two pieces after images by Peter Weiss (NY PREMIERE)
in full multi-media presentation
Brooklyn, NY MORE INFORMATION
July 2, 2016 at 7:00 pm
AVANTI SUMMER SOUNDS MUSIC FESTIVAL Violin Concerto(EUROPEAN PREMIERE)
Chloë Hanslip, violin
Olari Elts, conductor / Avanti Chamber Orchestra
Porvoo, Finland MORE INFORMATION
SEPTEMBER 7, 8 & 11, 2016
HERSCH FESTIVAL AT SPECTRUM NYC
performers include Michael Hersch, Miranda Cuckson, Mariel Roberts, Ah Young Hong, Jacob Rhodebeck, Sophie Shao, Gary Louie, and Michael Atkinson
New York, NY MORE INFORMATION
September 7, 2016 AT 8:00PM
in the snowy margins for unaccompanied violin (2010) Carrion-Miles to Purgatory for violin and cello after texts of Robert Lowell (2014) (NEW YORK PREMIERE) the weather and landscape are on our side for unaccompanied violin after texts of Bruno Schulz (2016) (WORLD PREMIERE)
September 8, 2016 AT 8:00PM
After Hölderlin's 'Hälfte des Lebens' for viola and cello (2001) of ages manifest for unaccompanied alto saxophone (2010) Lullabies for piano (2011) a tower in air: songs after texts of Christopher Middleton for soprano and horn (2015) (NEW YORK PREMIERE)
September 11, 2016 AT 7:00PM
The Vanishing Pavilions for piano (2005)
Books 1 & 2 (complete)
November 4, 2016 AT 7:30PM
MUSIC AT ST. DAVID'S
Lavenna Johanson, cello
Canticum Novum / Douglas Buchanan, conductor Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 for Unaccompanied Cello From Ecclesiastes(WORLD PREMIERE)
Baltimore, MD MORE INFORMATION
November 8, 2016
SIXTH LONDON FESTIVAL OF AMERICAN MUSIC
Fidelio Trio Variations on a Poem(U.K.PREMIERE)
London, England MORE INFORMATION
November 20, 2016 AT 4:00 PM
NEW MUSIC AT CRANE ARTS AND THE ICEBOX PROJECT SPACE PRESENT : Zwischen Leben und Tod: twenty-two pieces after images by Peter Weiss
in full multi-media presentation
Carolyn Huebl, violin
Mark Wait, piano
December 7, 2016
ENSEMBLE KLANG AT DE DOELEN
Fidelio Trio cortex and ankle: songs after texts of Christopher Middleton for soprano and ensemble (WORLD PREMIERE)
Rotterdam, Holland MORE INFORMATION
February 4, 2017 at 8:00PM
ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA AT CARNEGIE HALL End Stages(WORLD PREMIERE)
New York, NY MORE INFORMATION
February 12, 2017 at 7:30PM
COMMUNITY CONCERTS AT SECOND After Hölderlin's Hälfte des Lebens
Peter Minkler, viola
Kristin Ostling, cello
Baltimore, MD MORE INFORMATION
February 19, 2017
ENSEMBLE UNITED BERLIN AT KONZERTHAUS BERLIN After Hölderlin's Hälfte des Lebens a breath upwards for soprano, clarinet, horn and viola (EUROPEAN PREMIERE)
Berlin, Germany MORE INFORMATION
FILM RELEASE OF "ON THE THRESHOLD OF WINTER"
directed by James Matthew Daniel
more details soon MORE INFORMATION
HERSCH PLAYS HERSCH: LIVE IN CONCERT NOW AVAILABLE ON I-TUNES
In 2011, Michael Hersch performed selections from his acclaimed solo piano work "The Vanishing Pavilions" on a recital at Merkin Hall. The concert was presented by NUNC (Miranda Cuckson, artistic director). This Suite features several newly revised movements in a condensed version of Hersch's 2005 work. The concert was recorded and is now available on i-tunes. CLICK TO PURCHASE
"CARRION-MILES TO PURGATORY: THIRTEEN PIECES AFTER TEXTS OF ROBERT LOWELL" PREMIERES AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
The Washington Post
Published: October 18, 2015
"a spare, intense, fiercely inward-turning work ... Hersch opened and continually returned to string sounds that were straight and jagged: long, wheezing harmonics in measured paces, like heartbeats or footfalls, tentative and dogged, marshaling their energies at times for violent and slashing blows of bow on string. It’s a piece that’s staking out a territory, each section like a building block, defining a space in conjunction with the other blocks around it, about the relationship between one micro-section and another ... a significant meditation on life and death ..." CLICK TO READ
Label: Innova Records (907)
Jamie Hersch, horn
Daniel Gaisford, cello
Michael Hersch: Last Autumn is available on
DOCUMENTARY NOW AVAILABLE ON VIMEO
Richard Anderson's documentary now available for free viewing on Vimeo. An Official Selection of the 2013 American Documentary Film Festival, the NYC Independent Film Festival and others, the film explores Michael Hersch's music for the piano over the course of the past two decades and his performances of it, with rare archival audio and video. Watch on Vimeo
Recent News and Reviews
Cleveland Orchestra / Hampson / Ohlsson / Hersch recording
will be released in 2017
This recording will be an all-Hersch disc with performances by the Cleveland Orchestra, Michael Sachs, Thomas Hampson, Garrick Ohlsson, and the composer. Works will include Night Pieces for trumpet and orchestra (a Cleveland Orchestra commission) and Domicilium, a song cycle after texts of Thomas Hardy (commissioned by Thomas Hampson and the A.S.C.A.P. Kingsford Commissions for Art Songs). Garrick Ohlsson performs Hersch's Tenebrae for solo piano, and the composer performs the Two Lullabies for solo piano.
HERSCH'S "ZWISCHEN LEBEN UND TOD" [Between Life and Death] RECEIVES ITS WORLD PREMIERE IN NASHVILLE
Reviewing in the Nashville Scene, John Pitcher writes:
"In person, the American composer Michael Hersch usually comes across as a gentle soul, an unassuming, soft-spoken, painfully shy man. So people are often surprised when they first hear his daring, ferociously aggressive music. Imagine a tabby cat with a Siberian Tiger’s roar, and you get the idea ... Zwischen Leben und Tod is the second Hersch masterpiece premiered at Vanderbilt in recent years ..."
THE BALTIMORE SUN REVIEWS HERSCH'S NEW SONG CYCLE "A BREATH UPWARDS"
"The intellectual brilliance involved is startling enough; the
addition of expressive intensity can be almost overwhelming ... The
most extraordinary and moving passage was the final song, when the
dark mood lifted just enough, leading to a long, beautiful melodic arc
for the singer in the final line: 'And then we emerged to see the
stars again.' The sudden cut-off at the end of that line -- like the
way a falling star evaporates in an instant -- was a master stroke."
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER MUSIC REVIEW: IN A NETWORK COMMISSION, HERSCH GOES INWARD
"... composer Michael Hersch usually leaves you gasping - cognitively
speaking - to keep up ... But in his new song cycle, a breath upwards,
Hersch stopped me in my tracks as he explored a narrower-than-usual
range of sound, harmony and gesture, requiring a more minute
exploration of the tension between music and texts from Dante's
Inferno and related ones by Ezra Pound. This piece went inward with
fine gradations of awe, disbelief and contemplation of the
NEW YORK TIMES CRITICS' PICK
"The pianist Jacob Rhodebeck will perform the New York premiere of
Michael Hersch’s mammoth 'Vanishing Pavilions' ... the first complete
performance of the work since Mr. Hersch debuted it in 2006. Inspired
by texts by the British poet Christopher Middleton, the dramatic,
unsettling and emotionally potent 'Pavilions' offers an expansive
insight into Mr. Hersch’s dark-hued aesthetic."— The New York Times
HERSCH WORKS AT THE ENESCU INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
"Powerful Contrasts, Volcanic Engergy - The American composer and
pianist Michael Hersch, recipient of the American Composers Award and
the Rome Prize among others, presented his massive piano cycle 'The
Vanishing Pavilions' in Bucharest, Romania. The work is inspired by
poems of British poet Christopher Middleton. Hersch's personal style
is characterized by powerful contrasts: sometimes fortissimo passages
flash with the energy of volcanic eruptions only to be drowned in
their own resonance, or he juxtaposes them with lyric sound islands.
His insanely difficult ten-part piano concerto of 2010 gave the New
York based Romanian pianist Matei Varga the opportunity to deliver a
brilliant, highly emotional and virtuosic performance which for forty
minutes fascinated those in attendance. Varga played the concerto’s
European premiere as soloist with the Filharmonica Banatul Timisoara
under the direction of Radu Popa."
— Neue Musikzeitung
GRAMOPHONE REVIEWS HERSCH'S "IMAGES FROM A CLOSED WARD"
"Commissioned by the Blair String Quartet, who throw themselves into
the recording as if not only their life but the composer's as well
depended on the relentless intensity of every bar, Michael Hersch's
'Images From a Closed Ward' demonstrates the extreme musical and
emotional lengths to which a composer and a string quartet will go
these days to maintain a serious relationship. Hersch's grim graphic
quartet responding to Michael Mazur's etchings and lithographs of
inmates in a Rhode Island psychiatric hospital during the early 1960s
lives a separate though equally haunted life from its visual
inspiration. It tells no narrative story, only disquieting human
agony. Although the music's searing pain and endless despair,
desperately trying to escape mortality - which erupts most violently
in the 10-minute 11th movement - never really subside, a radiant core
seems to emerge in the third of the music's 13 untitled movements.
This core leads gradually over time to the possibilities of peace
through release and consolation ..."
HERSCH'S "IMAGES FROM A CLOSED WARD" REVIEWED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Like the series of lithographs and etchings by Michael Mazur that
inspired it, this 13-movement string quartet by Michael Hersch is dark
and unsettling. And like those black-and-white images of inmates of a
mental hospital in the 1960s, Mr. Hersch’s music is beautiful in a
timeless, eternal-night sort of way. The fine Blair Quartet brings
intensity and suspense to the dense harmonies that move by turns with
creeping dread and desperate urgency."
Richard Anderson's documentary film about Hersch's work as a pianist selected as a New York Times Critics' Holiday Recommendation.
Richard Anderson's documentary film about Hersch's work as a pianist was selected as a New York Times Critics' Holiday Recommendation. The paper noted:
The Sudden Pianist focuses on the composer Michael Hersch, who writes works that are often startling in their complexity, beauty and demonic fury. Mr. Hersch is also a pianist, albeit one who rarely performs publicly. A film by Richard Anderson explores Mr. Hersch’s compositions for the piano; a companion CD features his remarkable “The Vanishing Pavilions,” inspired by the poetry of Christopher Middleton.
The Sudden Pianist named as an official selection of four film festivals including the 2013 American Documentary Film Festival, 2013 New York City Independent Film Festival, 2013 Artisan Festival International - World Cinema Festival Hamptons, and the 2014 Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival. thesuddenpianist.com
ASCAP Audio Portrait February 17, 2011 - The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers highly acclaimed Audio Portraits series gives listeners unique insight into the creative process, as told by the writers themselves.
Peter Sheppard-Skaerved plays Michael Hersch
Michael Hersch: Five Fragments for unaccompanied violin
Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, violin
Galleria Marco - Mexico City Click here to listen