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Bienen ensembles perform works by Nemmers Prize winner William Bolcom

Faculty guests join Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Symphonic Wind Ensemble conducted by Mallory Thompson
The Symphonic Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mallory Thompson.

This April, Northwestern University’s Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will feature three performances of works by William Bolcom, the 2021 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition winner. As a composer, Bolcom has made vital contributions to 20th- and 21st-century American music across a variety of instrumental and vocal settings, and his works have been regularly included in Bienen School curricula. Bolcom will provide virtual coaching to the Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra and participate in a virtual roundtable with Bienen composition students.

All performances take place at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, located at 50 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. The three concerts also will be presented as live streams.

Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.

The Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Victor Yampolsky and graduate assistant conductor Yuxin Dai, performs Bolcom’s Violin Concerto in D Major, featuring Bienen faculty violinist Desirée Ruhstrat. The concerto, which Bolcom wrote for colleague Sergiu Luca as he worked with jazz technique, is both bluesy and bold, drawing harmonic and rhythmic inspiration from Gershwin and Stravinsky alike. The concert also features Samuel Barber’s pensive “Second Essay for Orchestra,” Op. 17 and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances,” Op. 45.Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for full-time students with valid ID.

Symphonic Wind Ensemble
Friday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.

Faculty clarinetist Steven Cohen joins the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mallory Thompson, for Bolcom’s Concerto for Clarinet and Band — a piece that contains, in Bolcom’s words, many “Benny-isms” inspired by famous bandleader Benny Goodman. The concerto, which highlights its soloist through Brazilian chorinho (a fast-paced, upbeat genre of Brazilian popular music characterized by improvisation, syncopation and counterpoint) and Ravelian waltz elements, showcases Cohen in one of his final performances before his retirement from Northwestern. Also included is “Asimov’s Aviary,” written by friend of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble Joel Puckett, and Karel Husa’s “Music for Prague 1968.” Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for full-time students with valid ID. 

Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra
Thursday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.

The Northwestern University Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Robert G. Hasty, concludes the month’s exploration of Bolcom’s works with his Symphony No. 1. The symphony, completed in 1957, was Bolcom’s first of nine composed between 1957 and 2012. Also on the program is Clara Wieck Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 7, featuring faculty pianist Sylvia Wang, and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 97, also known as the “Rhenish.” Tickets are $6 for the general public and $4 for students with valid ID.

Tickets may be purchased from the Bienen School Ticket Office by visiting or calling 847-467-4000. 

William Bolcom is a National Medal of Arts recipient whose “Twelve New Etudes” won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1988, and whose “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” a setting of William Blake’s poetry collection, earned him four Grammy Awards in 2005. Bolcom’s extensive compositions include works for keyboard, chamber, operatic, vocal, choral and symphonic music.

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