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A Composer’s Eclectic Personality Reaches out to the World: Nico Muhly’s Library of Congress Commission, “Compare Notes”

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The following is a guest post from Nicholas A. Brown, Music Specialist in the Music Division’s Concert Office.

Nico Muhly, photograph by Matthew Murphy.

American composer Nico Muhly’s (b. 1981) latest work Compare Notes receives its world premiere in the Library’s historic Coolidge Auditorium on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm.  Written for violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Jeffrey Kahane, this intriguing work was commissioned by the McKim Fund in the Library of Congress and highlights Muhly’s place as an important young voice in contemporary American music.

Muhly, “the ebullient star of New York’s young-composer scene” (The New Yorker), has developed a reputation as a unique character in the arts world, with eclectic “epicurean adventures,” a very active blog and social media presence, as well as a musical identity which boasts influences from renaissance vocal music to rock. He has collaborated with the likes of Hilary Hahn, American Ballet Theater, the Chicago Symphony and Björk. Recent projects include Dark Sisters, a chamber opera co-commissioned by Gotham Chamber Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia and Music Theatre Group.

The composer recently shared some thoughts about Compare Notes:

Compare Notes begins with a large canon between the violin and the left hand of the piano in slightly awkward rhythmic shapes, and then dissolves into a more playful traditional canon.  All of this simplifies enormously into a sort of chorale with a drone, taking advantage of the open A-string of the violin.  The violin then wiggles its way out of this drone material, re-introducing the opening material.  Jeffrey Kahane and Daniel Hope can play anything, so I wanted to give them something rhythmic to chew on!”

Nico Muhly, September 2012

The McKim Fund in the Library of Congress was established by American violinist Leonora Jackson McKim (1880-1969) and has commissioned over sixty works for violin and piano by composers such as Pulitzer Prize winners Elliott Carter, William Bolcom and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Recent commissions were awarded to John Zorn, Cecil Taylor, Harold Meltzer and Sebastian Currier.

You can hear Nico Muhly discuss Compare Notes with Daniel Hope during the 6:15 p.m. pre-concert presentation on Friday, October 12. For more information about obtaining FREE tickets, visit the Concert Office website.


Event Listing

Daniel Hope, violin and Jeffrey Kahane, piano

Friday, October 12, 2012, 8:00 p.m. – Jefferson Building, Coolidge Auditorium


RAVEL: Sonata no. 1 in A minor, op. posthumous

BRAHMS: Sonata no. 1 in G major, op. 78

MUHLY: “Compare Notes” (World Premiere, Library of Congress McKim Fund Commission)

MENDELSSOHN: Sonata in F major, MWV Q26

Pre-concert presentation:

Conversation with Nico Muhly, 6:15 p.m. – Jefferson Building, Whittall Pavilion

Check out the full program (PDF)  for full details.

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