American Composers Orchestra (ACO) has awarded composer David Hertzberg its 2015 Underwood Commission, bringing him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in the 2016-2017 season. Chosen from seven finalists during ACO’s 23rd Underwood New Music Readings on May 6 and 7, 2015, in one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States, David won the top prize with his work Spectre of the Spheres.
In addition, for the sixth year, audience members at the Underwood New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through the Audience Choice Award. The winner this year was composer Carl Schimmel, for his piece Two Variations on Ascent into the Empyrean. As the winner, Carl has been commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone which will be available to everyone who voted, free of charge.
ACO Music Director George Manahan said, “The musicians of the ACO were impressed with David’s music. His control of orchestral colors and his talent were obvious to us all. We look forward to performing more of his works.”
“Such a well-deserved award,” adds Underwood New Music Readings mentor composer Gabriela Lena Frank. “David has an ear for color and pacing that’s really outstanding, and I can’t wait to hear the new work that he’ll create for the ACO and future orchestras to perform!”
Upon winning the Underwood commission, David Hertzberg said, “I am thrilled to be writing for such a dynamic group of musicians. The commitment and artistry that Maestro Manahan and the ACO bring to all of the music that they perform is singular and truly inspiring. ”
The music of David Hertzberg (b. 1990) has been performed recently at the Aspen, Tanglewood, and Santa Fe festivals, and on the stages of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. Highlights of his 2014-2015 season included the premiere a new work for the PRISM Quartet and Young Concert Artists, where he served as the 2013-2015 Composer-in-Residence, as well as a feature on APM’s Performance Today, a performance at Hong Kong’s The Intimacy of Creativity festival, and a reading with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Upcoming projects include new works for pianist Steven Lin and violinist In Mo Yang, both of which will premiere on the 2015-16 Concert Artists Guild series at Carnegie Hall, and a large-scale concert work for Gotham Chamber Opera, to be premiered at (le) poisson rouge in the spring of 2016. The New England Philharmonic selected Spectre of the Spheres as the winner of the 30th annual Call for Scores; the piece will be performed by the orchestra in April 2016.
Recent engagements include works for sopranos Julia Bullock and Jennifer Zetlan, pianists Ursula Oppens and Steven Lin, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Curtis Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the Flux Quartet, the Dover Quartet, and the New Fromm Players. Recent distinctions include those from Gotham Chamber Opera, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Composers Forum, Copland House, Yaddo, Tanglewood, ASCAP, and BMI. David began his musical studies at the Colburn School in Los Angeles and received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Samuel Adler. He holds an Artist Diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music. Of Spectre of the Spheres David says, “In the opening stanzas of The Auroras of Autumn (from which my work’s title is drawn), Stevens uses the image of a serpent thrashing after having shed its skin, glimmering and flashing as if possessed, as a metaphor for the majestic beauty of the Northern Lights. I found this idea, of something primordial, that is at once terrifying and arrestingly beautiful, to be a very poignant one, and one ripe for musical expression. With Spectre of the Spheres I sought to create something that moves and breathes like the unfettered Aurora, with a reckless vitality, inexorably, and of its own mystical accord.”
About the Underwood New Music Readings
The 24th Annual Underwood New Music Readings were under the direction of ACO’s Artistic Director, composer Derek Bermel, and were conducted by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts as mentor composers. The conductor, mentor composers, and principal players from ACO provided critical feedback to each of the participants during and after the sessions. In addition to the Readings, the composer participants took part in workshops and one-on-one sessions with industry professionals. This year’s New Music Readings attracted over 200 submissions from emerging composers around the country.
Writing for the symphony orchestra remains one of the supreme challenges for the aspiring composer. The subtleties of instrumental balance, timbre, and communication with the conductor and musicians are critical skills. Opportunities for composers to gain hands-on experience working with a professional orchestra are few. Since 1991 ACO’s Underwood New Music Readings have provided invaluable experience for emerging composers while serving as a vital resource to the music field by identifying a new generation of American composers. To date, more than 140 composers have participated in the Readings, including such award-winning composers as Melinda Wagner, Pierre Jalbert, Augusta Read Thomas, Randall Woolf, Jennifer Higdon, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Sebastian Currier, Kate Soper, and ACO’s own Artistic Director, Derek Bermel. Readings alumni have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes, and orchestras around the globe have commissioned ACO Readings alumni.
The New Music Readings continue ACO’s emphasis on launching composers’ careers, a tradition that includes many of today’s top composers, such as Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for ACO commissions; and Robert Beaser, Ingram Marshall, Joan Tower, Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Rouse, Sebastian Currier, and Tobias Picker, whom the orchestra championed when they were beginning their careers.
ACO’s 2014 winner, Andy Akiho, received the top prize for his work Tarnished Mirrors. Andy is composing a new piece that will premiere in October 2015 as part of ACO’s SONiC festival. The 25th Annual New Music Readings are scheduled for May 2016 at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York City. Complete submission guidelines and application will be posted by September 1, 2015 at www.americancomposers.org/unmr2016.