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BBC Radio 3 - Modern Muses: Michael Hersch and Patricia Kopatchinskaja Michael Hersch / Patricia Kopatchinskaja Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and composer Michael Hersch discuss his Violin Concerto
listen to Modern Muses

Screening of Michael’s “On The Threshold of Winter” at the George Peabody Library on April 7, 2017 James Matthew Daniel's acclaimed production of Hersch's two-act monodrama brought to the big screen. With Ah Young Hong, soprano - Tito Muñoz, conductor - NUNC Ensemble - Miranda Cuckson, artistic director
Panel discussion begins at 7:00 pm, film begins at 8:00 pm. For tickets, which are free but limited in quantity, please call the Peabody Box Office at 667-208-6620.

Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja discusses the work of Michael Hersch in the January 2017 issue of Strings Magazine
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Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja discusses the work of Michael Hersch in the January 2017 issue of Strings Magazine "AMONG CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS ONE OF THE MOST URGENT AND COMPELLING VOICES IS MICHAEL HERSCH … I WANT TO LEND HERSCH MY FORCES BECAUSE HE FACES OUR PAIN WITH URGENCY, HONESTY AND DIGNITY. THAT’S WHY I PLAY HIS MUSIC.”
PATRICIA KOPATCHINSKAJA

Critical Praise for Hersch’s New Monodrama “On The Threshold Of Winter” "... a work of great originality, daring, and disturbing power"
The Baltimore Sun

Michael Hersch's monodrama in two acts, On the Threshold of Winter. Ah Young Hong, soprano.
Photo by Richard Anderson

"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

"... 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

Michael Hersch's monodrama in two acts, On the Threshold of Winter. Ah Young Hong, soprano.
Photo by Richard Anderson

"... 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

Michael Hersch's monodrama in two acts, On the Threshold of Winter. Ah Young Hong, soprano.
Photo by Richard Anderson

"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

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Commissions Violin Concerto Patricia Kopatchinskaja 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 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.

Featured Articles

Michael Hersch's trenchant music, and Weiss' images, at Crane Arts Michael Hersch's trenchant music, and Weiss' images, at Crane Arts
November 21, 2016
The Philadelphia Inquirer reviews Zwischen Leben und Tod [Between Life and Death] Hersch's 80' work for violin and piano after images of Peter Weiss
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The New York Times reviews the Hersch Festival at Spectrum The New York Times reviews the Hersch Festival at Spectrum
SEPT. 11'S MONUMENTAL DESPAIR, EVOKED BY SOLO PIANO
September 12, 2016
"Claustrophobic and exhilarating at once, with moments of sublime beauty nestled inside thickets of dark virtuosity, 'Pavilions' is an extraordinary musical experience and a pianistic masterpiece I would unhesitatingly place alongside those of Bach and Liszt." Read More

A Dark, Haunting Work by Michael Hersch Gets a Premiere A Dark, Haunting Work by Michael Hersch Gets a Premiere
'A Breath Upwards', a new composition by Michael Hersch June 12, 2016
"His music is notable for its startling contrasts, with hauntingly beautiful interludes juxtaposed with dissonant outbursts and interwoven with solitary passages tinged with a Renaissance-flavored melancholy."
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Miranda Cuckson champions Michael Hersch at Spectrum September 8, 2016
"In place of explicit narrative, the pieces conveyed the sensation of a profound internal experience for which words are inadequate." Read More

Michael Hersch performs the second of his Two Lullabies in a rare performance

On June 28, 2016 at 7PM, National Sawdust Presents Michael Hersch’s “Zwischen Leben Und Tod” in Ist NY Premiere [Trailer]

European Premiere of Hersch Violin Concerto Given at Avanti Summer Sounds Festival in Finland Music Review in Helsingin Sanomat
July 4, 2016
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The New Yorker Recommends Spectrum Hersch Festival The New Yorker Recommends Spectrum Hersch Festival
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Miranda Cuckson on the music of Michael Hersch October 10, 2016
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The New York Times Recommends The NYC Premiere of Hersch’s “Zwischen Leben Und Tod” at National Sawdust The New York Times Recommends The NYC Premiere of Hersch’s “Zwischen Leben Und Tod” at National Sawdust
June 23, 2016
"Several major works by this composer, whose dark, unsettling music is notable for its vivid contrasts, have been inspired by visual art. The 22 movements of his Zwischen Leben und Tod (Between Life and Death) for violin and piano each correspond to a painting or drawing by Peter Weiss, a 20th-century avant-garde German artist. The pianist Mark Wait and the violinist Carolyn Huebl will perform the work in a multimedia presentation."
— Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times Read More

Mourning Through Music: Michael Hersch in Conversation with Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson Mourning Through Music: Michael Hersch in Conversation with Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson Johns Hopkins Health Review
Fall/Winter 2015 Volume 2 Issue 2
"Pianist and composer Michael Hersch is on the Composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. His music has premiered in concert halls around the globe."
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“Carrion-Miles To Purgatory: Thirteen Pieces After Texts Of Robert Lowell” Premieres at The Library of Congress“Carrion-Miles To Purgatory: Thirteen Pieces After Texts Of Robert Lowell” Premieres at The Library of Congress
October 18, 2015
By Anne Midgette
"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 ..."
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A Survivor, Inspired by Love and Loss - Michael Hersch’s New Opera Reflects on a Friend’s Death
Photo by Sam Oberter

A Survivor, Inspired by Love and Loss - Michael Hersch’s New Opera Reflects on a Friend’s Death A Survivor, Inspired by Love and Loss - Michael Hersch’s New Opera Reflects on a Friend’s Death
June 20, 2014
By Vivien Schweitzer
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Recent Releases

Michael Hersch’s Of Sorrow Born: Seven Elegies for Solo Violin Newly Released on i-Tunes and Amazon Digital as Part of Selections Form The 2014 New York Philharmonic Biennial Michael Hersch - The 2014 New York Philharmonic Biennial 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.
Listen to an extended excerpt of the first movement

Last Autumn Michael Hersch: Last Autumn Innova Records (907)
Jamie Hersch, horn
Daniel Gaisford, cello
Michael Hersch: Last Autumn is available on


Documentary Now Available on Vimeo Michael Hersch: The Sudden Pianist 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

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.
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Recent News and Reviews

Recording Scheduled for Release in 2017/18 Recording Scheduled for Release in 2017/18 In 2017/18 multiple Hersch recordings will be released including an all-Hersch disc with Dutch contemporary music group Ensemble Klang. The album will feature two works commissioned by the group, Black Untitled and cortex and ankle. Other recordings scheduled for release include Hersch’s Violin Concerto with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the International Contemporary Ensemble, as well as recordings featuring Hersch’s work performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, soprano Ah Young Hong, violinist Miranda Cuckson, cellist Jay Campbell, and the composer at the piano.

The New York Times Selects Hersch’s “end stages” as one of the 8 Best Classical Moments of the Week The New York Times Selects Hersch’s “end stages” as one of the 8 Best Classical Moments of the Week
Glimpse of a Suffering Soul
"Michael Hersch’s end stages, commissioned and given its New York premiere by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, was a little-relieved cry of anguish and anger in the face of terminal illness and death. But with a faint tolling of orchestral bells and whimpers in the violins at the end of the second movement, attitude gave way to what seemed a touching glimpse of the suffering soul itself."
Full Review

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 Baltimore Sun Reviews Hersch’s New Song Cycle “A Breath Upwards”
April 24, 2015
By Tim Smith
"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 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."

New York Time’s Critics’ Pick New York Time’s 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."
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” 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
Watch Michael Hersch Live in Concert

Richard Anderson's documentary film about Hersch's work as a pianist selected as a New York Times Critics' Holiday Recommendation. Michael Hersch: The Sudden Pianist 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.
Richard Anderson's documentary film about Hersch's work as a pianist selected as a New York Times Critics' Holiday Recommendation.
thesuddenpianist.com

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

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 On the Life of a Twenty-First Century Composer: Michael Hersch
Spring 2011
By Susan Forscher Weiss
Read the Full Article in PDF

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.
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Peter Sheppard-Skaerved plays Michael Hersch Michael Hersch: Five Fragments for unaccompanied violin
Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, violin
Galleria Marco - Mexico City
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