Arts & Culture

The Fromm Players present!

4 min read

Annual event features a repertoire of contemporary classical pieces

Music lovers will soon have a chance to hear pieces by some of the most influential classical composers working today performed by one of the most honored groups of players specializing in new music. And it’s all free!

The Fromm Players at Harvard is an annual event sponsored by the Music Department and the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard. This month it will feature the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) under the direction of Gil Rose performing works by Louis Andriessen, Gunther Schuller, Arthur Berger, Lee Hyla, and John Cage. The BMOP is the nation’s only orchestra dedicated to performing, commissioning, and recording new music of the 21st century.

The concerts will be presented over two nights, March 22 and 23, at Paine Hall. Free tickets are available beginning today (March 8) at the Harvard Box Office, in the Holyoke Center Arcade.

None of the pieces being presented this year is a premiere performance, but this was a deliberate choice, said Julian Anderson, the Fanny P. Mason Professor of Music and the curator of the concert series.

“I’ve always been interested in the idea of second, third, and fourth performances, of establishing a repertoire,” Anderson said. “Too many compositions receive a premiere performance and then are never heard again.”

The first concert will begin with “Zilver” by Louis Andriessen, which Anderson describes as “a piece with sheen, with a very bright, textured atmosphere.” Born in 1939, Andriessen is considered the leading composer of the Netherlands. Last year, his piece “Trilogy of the Last Day” was performed by the BMOP at Jordan Hall and was “the event of the season,” according to the Boston Globe. Anderson said that he and Rose were so impressed by the composer’s work that “We decided then that we’d like to work with him again.”

The second piece will be “Collage III” by Arthur Berger, an influential critic and teacher as well as a composer. He died in 2003. According to Anderson, Berger’s work shows the influence of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, but with elements of jazz.

Next comes “Amnesia Variance” by Lee Hyla, a professor of composition at the New England Conservatory. In addition to contributing a piece to the program, Hyla will spend two weeks at Harvard as a Blodgett Artist in Residence.

The final piece will be “Sixteen Dances” by John Cage. Anderson describes it as “witty, beautiful, and crystalline. It’s one of the last pieces of strictly notated music that Cage wrote, although he did use chance procedures in composing it. It’s a very underplayed masterpiece.”

The second concert will feature three more works by Andriessen: “Bells for Haarlem,” “Passeggiata in Tram in America E Ritorno,” and “La Passione.” Two guest artists who have often worked with Andriessen will help to perform “La Passione” — violinist Monica Germino and soprano Cristina Zavalloni. Anderson describes Zavalloni as an extraordinary performer whose dramatic physical gestures complement her pure, clear voice. She is known as a jazz singer as well as a performer of classical and experimental music.

The final two works are by Gunther Schuller, who is spending the spring term at Harvard as the Fromm Professor of Composition. Schuller, a distinguished writer on music as well as a musician and composer, was the recipient of a MacArthur “genius grant” and is known as the originator of Third Stream Music, combining elements of classical and jazz. The BMOP will perform his compositions “Densities” and “Concerto de Camera.”

The Fromm Foundation at Harvard is the oldest foundation in the country devoted exclusively to the support of new music. The foundation grants commissions annually to young composers, sponsors an annual composition award and contemporary music concert at Tanglewood, and has recently helped to establish a composer residency at the American Academy in Rome. In addition, the foundation has supported a variety of concerts and festivals of new music throughout the country.

The concerts will be presented over two nights, March 22-23, at Paine Hall. Free tickets are available beginning today (March 8) at the Harvard Box Office, Holyoke Center Arcade, (617) 496-2222.