The following is a guest post from Senior Concert Producer, Anne McLean.
A packed and exciting fall lineup kicks off the 2021–22 Concerts from the Library of Congress season, presenting master musicians and a wide-ranging, diverse roster of virtual events in classical music, jazz and dance.
On offer are concerts, lectures, conversations with artists and composers and innovative interdisciplinary projects. Viewers can enjoy connecting to each program and making a deep dive through curator talks that illuminate the Music Division’s rich collections, plus a constellation of interesting digital assets — for each event, manuscripts and scores, documents and artifacts will be posted online.
Wynton Marsalis’ A Fiddler’s Tale launches the season on Oct. 8 with Nic Few as narrator and Damien Sneed conducting. Recorded in cooperation with the Morgan Library & Museum, this concert spotlights musicians who are principal players in some of the nation’s major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
To accompany the performance, Kazem Abdullah of the Concert Office interviews the composer about the work—which features a record producer as the devil—and about the librettist Marsalis chose as partner, the late poet and critic Stanley Crouch.
Tchaikovsky and His Poets, scheduled for Oct. 14, is a sumptuous recital, an intimate composer portrait from an all-star trio: mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, whose remarkable voice has been described as “an all-terrain vehicle of awesome powers,” (The Arts Desk) and pianist Christian Blackshaw are joined by actor Ralph Fiennes. Famous for his roles in The English Patient, and as Voldemort in the Harry Potter films, Fiennes delivers beautiful readings of poems and letters in finely nuanced shades of timbre and tone.
Violinist Augustin Hadelich adds a sparkling “bonus track” performance of two Paganini showstoppers to his recital with Orion Weiss. In an accompanying virtual curator presentation by Melissa Wertheimer, viewers can sample a few treasures from the Music Division’s huge Paganini Collection, including his “secret red diary.”
Thought-provoking interdisciplinary collaborations from Third Coast Percussion and Hub New Music highlight music traversing boundaries of style and genre.
Third Coast players perform Metamorphosis on Oct. 30 with two brilliant dancers, Ron Myles and Quentin Robinson, in the Library’s annual Founder’s Day concert honoring Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Their breathtaking video showcases an impressive lexicon of American street dance styles; the choreography is created by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck from Movement Art Is, a creative consortium they describe as “focused on using movement artistry to inspire change in the world.”
Set to compositions by Tyondai Braxton, Philip Glass and electronic music composer and producer Jlin, Metamorphosis is a journey of becoming, contemplating issues of identity, growth and transformation.
This spectacular dance and percussion concert makes a bow to Coolidge’s adventurous dance commissions, considered cultural landmarks today: Apollon Musagète and Appalachian Spring.
Hub New Music, a versatile and virtuosic ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin and cello, gives the world premiere performance on Nov. 5 of Carlos Simon’s powerful Requiem for the Enslaved, inspired by the history of 272 enslaved workers sold by Georgetown University to pay its debts.
Simon is a professor at Georgetown, which commissioned the evening-length work, and recipient of the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence recognizing extraordinary classical Black and Latino musicians. He will be the pianist for the performance, which also features spoken-word artist and hip-hop advocate Marco Pavé and trumpeter Jared Bailey.
Simon is one of three composers who will be performing their own compositions in our concerts this fall. Havana-born vocalist Daymé Arocena performs nine of her songs in her first virtual concert. Unique to the Library’s series, her handsomely-produced video is a glorious fusion of jazz, Santería chants, Afro-Cuban rhythms and R & B.
Then, on Dec. 11, trumpeter, singer and songriter Bria Skonberg—a rare combination!—performs both jazz classics and her own compositions with her quintet. Skonberg, a hot jazz revivalist, was the bandleader for Lincoln Center’s “Sisterhood of Swing” project.
Arocena and Skonberg have now recorded new additions to the Music Division’s very popular series of engaging educational videos for viewers of all ages.
On Nov. 19, cellist Zuill Bailey plays the soaring, deeply Romantic Rachmaninoff op. 19 sonata as a highlight of his recital with pianist Bryan Wallick. Bailey also conducts a virtual masterclass with cellists from the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be available on the Library’s website.
The distinguished Netherlands Chamber Choir has enjoyed a reputation for superb Bach performances for eight decades. On Dec. 3, the choir performs J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with a partner of equal caliber, the period instrument orchestra Concerto Köln.
Saxophonist Jess Gillam performs works by Poulenc and Marcello on Dec. 9, along with recent works written for her. At 22, she is a galvanizing force in the music world, for her “irrepressible, unpretentious, outrageously virtuosic music-making” (inews.co.uk). She recently received Britain’s MBE award for creating the Virtual Scratch Orchestra during the pandemic, convening and inspiring 2,000 people to play together on instruments of all kinds.
Imani Winds, an amazing quintet of artists who have revolutionized the woodwind world, joins forces with the Catalyst Quartet on Dec. 10 for a nonet: Roberto Sierra’s “Concierto de Cámera.”
The season’s final event is a concert of Haydn, Mendelssohn and Brahms by the Calidore String Quartet, recorded on-site at the Library on the incomparable Stradivari instruments donated by Gertrude Clarke Whittall. The performance will be webcast on Dec. 18 as the Music Division’s annual Stradivari memorial concert, the world’s longest-running tribute to Antonio Stradivari.
“Building our virtual series has been a great adventure for us—new artists, new technologies, and new audiences,” Music Division chief Susan Vita said. “It’s been wonderful to see our concerts hit nearly 137,000 views, from patrons in 30 countries. We are committed to continue producing these successful special projects for the digital domain, embracing our new virtual concertgoers, but we are eagerly looking forward to a return to our almost 100-year tradition of live events in the Coolidge Auditorium. February is the month we are aiming for!”
All performances will be made available at 8 p.m. on the scheduled premiere date on www.loc.gov/concerts, on the Library’s YouTube channel and on its Performing Arts Facebook page. A full listing of concerts and events for the fall 2021 season is available at www.loc.gov/concerts.