ACO appoints George Manahan
Manahan’s tenure begins with the
“George Manahan conducted and got from his players the kind of heartfelt involvement unthinkable in the City Opera orchestra pit 20 years ago.” – The New York Times
ACO is pleased to announce that conductor George Manahan will join the orchestra as Music Director. His tenure will begin with the 2010-11 season, during which he will lead all three of ACO’s concerts presented by Carnegie Hall in Zankel Hall. Mr. Manahan will also continue in his post at New York City Opera, where he is in his twelfth season as Music Director. He will be ACO’s third Music Director since its inception in 1977, following founding conductor Dennis Russell Davis (1977-2002) and Steven Sloane (2002-2006).
As Music Director of ACO, George Manahan joins the orchestra’s unique leadership structure, which, in keeping with the ensemble’s mission, includes not only the conductor but composers as well. Mr. Manahan has worked closely with Artistic Director Robert Beaser and Creative Advisor Derek Bermel in shaping the 2010-11 concert season, which will continue the orchestra’s focus on emerging and mid-career American composers, combined with works by seminal composers such as Charles Ives, Jacob Druckman, and John Luther Adams. The season will also see the continuation of ACO’s Playing it UNSafe program, the nation’s first professional laboratory for the creation of cutting-edge new orchestral music; as well as the world premiere of the second work commissioned as part of ACO’s innovative partnership with luxury goods company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The new orchestral work will reflect on the theme of “A Greener New York City,” emphasizing the connection between new music and the issues of today.
George Manahan has had an unusually wide-ranging career, embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. His most recent appearance with ACO was in February 2009 at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. Mr. Manahan led a concert of world premieres, which included the much-praised multimedia works BREAKDOWN!by Margaret Brouwer and Kasumi, Rand Steiger’s Cryosphere, and Fang Man’s Resurrection. In 2006, he workshopped and led performances of music by emerging composers Anna Clyne, Fang Man, Robert Gates, and Paul Richards during ACO’s Underwood New Music Readings. On May 21 and 22, he will again lend his leadership to promising up-and-coming composers during ACO’s 2010 Underwood New Music Readings at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. In addition to his work with ACO, in fall 2010, he furthers his commitment to working with young musicians by joining the Manhattan School of Music faculty as Director of Orchestral Studies.
“George Manahan brings a rare combination of enormous musicality and adventurous imagination that will be a perfect fit with the American Composers Orchestra,” said ACO Artistic Director Robert Beaser. “George has built his international reputation on making strong cases for overlooked masterpieces, for reinvigorating warhorses, and trekking in uncharted musical territories. We all enthusiastically embrace his upcoming tenure here and look forward to a rich and energizing collaboration.”
George Manahan looks forward to the challenge. “I am extremely happy to be the next Music Director of the American Composers Orchestra and to make music with an orchestra that has such a long tradition as advocates and trailblazers for 20th and 21st century composers,” he said. “To give voice to rarely heard music and emerging composers is a privilege, and I look forward to finding ways to explore America’s vast repertoire and engaging our audiences in that excitement of discovery.”
At New York City Opera, Mr. Manahan helped envision the organization’s groundbreaking VOX program, a series of workshops and readings that have provided unique opportunities for numerous composers to hear their new concepts realized, and introduced audiences to exciting new compositional voices. In addition to established composers such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert X. Rodriguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour, through VOX Mr. Manahan has introduced works by composers on the rise including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David Little.
“We congratulate George Manahan on his appointment to the indispensable American Composers Orchestra, and congratulate ACO on gaining the brilliant leadership of George Manahan,” stated George Steel, general manager and artistic director of New York City Opera. “At City Opera, we know the great insight, energy and commitment that George brings to contemporary music – a field that we are proud to share with ACO. We are no less proud to be sharing George’s formidable talents with ACO.”
Michael Geller, ACO executive director, agrees that Mr. Manahan is extremely well suited to leading ACO. “I know from our previous experiences working with George that he not only has everything it takes to lead an orchestra that tackles so much new and innovative American music – the clarity of technique, tremendous score reading abilities, omnivorous and stylistic diverse interests, and the energy and the intellect to tackle one of the toughest conducting ‘gigs’ in the orchestra world – but he has also shown himself to be a generous advocate for, and fearless interpreter of, the composer’s vision,” Mr. Geller said. “That committed, supportive and collegial approach shines whether he’s working with well-established composers or those at more emerging stages of their careers.”
George Manahan’s passion for the music of our time was ignited in 1980 when he was chosen as the Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony. He made his mark on the opera world in his debut with the Santa Fe Opera, conducting the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Von Heute Auf Morgen. His wide-ranging recording activities include the premiere recording of Steve Reich’s Tehillim for ECM; recordings of Edward Thomas’s Desire Under the Elms, which was nominated for a Grammy; Joe Jackson’s Will Power; and Tobias Picker’sEmmeline. His enthusiasm for contemporary music continues today; he has conducted numerous world premieres, including Charles Wuorinen’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang’s Modern Painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour’s Margaret Garner.
In 2009, Mr. Manahan conducted the sold-out world premiere of Ask Your Mama! at Carnegie Hall. An exuberant multi-media setting of Langston Hughes’s poem, the work is a collaboration among Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman, renowned soprano Jessye Norman, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and members of The Roots. Ask Your Mama! took Los Angeles audiences by storm when it was performed at the Hollywood Bowl, with the jazz world’s stunning Nnenna Freelon joining the cast. It will be recorded in spring 2010, and will be performed elsewhere across the country this year.
Mr. Manahan has also conducted the symphonies of Atlanta, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Columbus, and New Jersey, as well as the National Symphony Orchestra, The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music symphonies, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and at Music Academy of the West and the Aspen Music Festival. He appears regularly with the opera companies of Santa Fe and Portland, and Glimmerglass Opera. He has led the opera companies of Seattle, Chicago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Opera National du Paris, Teatro de Communale de Bologna, the Bergen Festival (Norway), the Casals Festival (Puerto Rico), and Minnesota Opera, where he served as principal conductor. As music director of the Richmond Symphony (VA) for twelve years, where he also appeared as piano soloist, he was honored four times by the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP) for his commitment to 20th century music.