Monday, April 19, 2010

Expectations of a Premiere

I've been wondering lately about the history of premieres, specifically why it is after hundreds of years, that we still hold the expectation that they may be the ultimate representation of a work. Audience, critics, and composer alike - whose reputation, or at least the reputation of the work, in some way always balances on this first public presentation, all await this moment of truth. But the truth in preparing any premiere is that while one can hope that the execution is clear and personal, any matured, honed or developed sense of the work by definition cannot be expected in a first performance. As performers, we all strive for this depth of
interpretation and dramatic arc, but we know in our heart of hearts that if the piece demands it, its nature can only be known over many performances, in an ongoing relationship.

One of the things that we talk a lot about in the LARK is continuing to represent the "older" commissions of the group. One example are Aaron Jay Kernis' String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2, "Musica Celistis" and "Musica Instrumentalis", the latter of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. It has been a number of years since the LARK has programmed these works, and we believe that in commissioning a work, we have a responsibility beyond the premiere to continue to represent these works in performance, especially if they are works we love. Otherwise, there is a risk that all the public hears are first performances, and though they may be strong, even captivating given the best of interpreters, any piece that is worth it's salt has a lot more to offer the players, and in turn there is a lot more that the players can then offer the piece, and the audience.

So as we embark on our last two concerts of the 2009-10 season, April 22nd at Merkin in New York and May 2nd at Stanford, we will present two brand new works, a piano Quintet by Paul Moravec with Jeremy Denk and a song cylce by William Bolcom with Stephen Salters, and hope and plan that these will be the first of many lives for these works, and that we will continue to bring more to them in each opportunity we have to explore them in performance.

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