News

CRITICAL PRAISE FOR HERSCH'S NEW MONODRAMA
"ON THE THRESHOLD OF WINTER"

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"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

Recent Projects
Patricia Kopatchinskaja

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.

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

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.

2015/16 CONCERT SEASON

SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

Milosz Fragments (NYC premiere)
Jason Hardink, piano
Spectrum
New York, NY
MORE INFORMATION


OCTOBER 3, 2015

On the Threshold of Winter - a monodrama in two acts
Ah Young Hong, soprano
Tito Muñoz, conductor
James Daniel, director
Nunc Ensemble (Miranda Cuckson, artistic director)
Peabody Institute
Baltimore, MD
MORE INFORMATION


OCTOBER 16, 2015

Carrion-Miles to Purgatory: thirteen pieces after texts of Robert Lowell (world premiere)
Atos Trio
Annette von Hehn, violin
Stefan Heinemeyer, cello
The Library of Congress
Washington, DC
MORE INFORMATION


OCTOBER 18, 2015

Of Sorrow Born: Seven Elegies for unaccompanied violin (2014)
Alexander Woods, violin
NOVA Chamber Music Series
Jason Hardink, Director
MORE INFORMATION


OCTOBER 30, 2015

On the Threshold of Winter - a monodrama in two acts
Ah Young Hong, soprano
Tito Muñoz, conductor
Nunc Ensemble (Miranda Cuckson, artistic director)
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN
MORE INFORMATION


NOVEMBER 6, 2015
NOVEMBER 7, 2015

Violin Concerto (world premiere)
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Saint Paul, MN
MORE INFORMATION


NOVEMBER 14, 2015

From Ecclesiastes (world premiere)
Canticum Novum
Douglas Buchanan, conductor
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
Baltimore, MD


DECEMBER 2, 2015

Tenebrae for piano
Two Pieces for Cello and Piano
the wide-wandered hour for soprano and piano
Josquin des Prez - arrangements for piano
Lunar Ensemble
Baltimore War Memorial
MORE INFORMATION


DECEMBER 7, 2015

the wreckage of flowers (selections)
Darragh Morgan, violin
Mary Dullea, piano
The Forge, Camden Town
London, England


APRIL 17, 2016

Sonata No. 2 for Unaccompanied Cello (2000/01)
After Hölderlin's Hälfte des Lebens for viola and cello (2001)
NOVA Chamber Music Series
Brant Bayless, viola
Anne Francis Bayless, cello
Jason Hardink, Director
MORE INFORMATION


JUNE 28, 2016

Zwischen Leben und Tod: twenty-two pieces after images by Peter Weiss
(NY premiere)
presented in full multi-media
Carolyn Huebl, violin
Mark Wait, piano
National Sawdust Presents
Brooklyn, NY


Featured Article


A Survivor Inspired by Love and Loss:
Michael Hersch's New Opera Reflects on a Friend's Death

Published: June 20, 2014
CLICK TO READ

New Releases

MICHAEL HERSCH'S OF SORROW BORN: SEVEN ELEGIES FOR SOLO VIOLIN NEWLY RELEASED ON I-TUNES AND AMAZON DIGITAL AS PART OF SELECTIONS FROM THE 2014 NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC BIENNIAL
iTunesamazon.com
listen to an extended excerpt of the first movement


LAST AUTUMN
Label: Innova Records (907)
Jamie Hersch, horn
Daniel Gaisford, cello
Michael Hersch: Last Autumn is available on
amazon.com arkivmusic iTunes


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 ..."
Full Review

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."
Full Review

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 incomprehensible."
Full Review

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
Full Review

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."
Full Review



MICHAEL HERSCH: LIVE IN CONCERT OUT NOW
"...astounding facility at the keyboard." —International Piano
"...astonishing virtuosity." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

A rare glimpse into Hersch's acclaimed pianism, his first NY recital in over a decade was recorded live and is available on the Innova record label.
Program Notes by Jason Eckardt
thesuddenpianist.com


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

Feature

Shai Wosner Premieres Michael Hersch's Piano Concerto No. 2, along the ravines, with the Seattle Symphony
Excerpts from the world premiere performance of Along the Ravines.
Shai Wosner, piano; Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz, conductor

below bright multitudes there was only earth
a short film by Alex Levy/music by Michael Hersch

Interview With Violinist Miranda Cuckson
Violinist Miranda Cuckson speaks about her interest in new music, her artistic collaboration with composer Michael Hersch.

The Hopkins Review – Spring 2011
On the Life of a Twenty-First Century Composer: Michael Hersch
by Susan Forscher Weiss
READ MORE

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

 

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