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Jennifer Koh's "Shared Madness"

The New York Philharmonic's second Biennial is underway, bringing new music programming to venues across the city. In addition to Lincoln Center, the NY Phil is programming concerts at venues in Brooklyn like National Sawdust, a venue that is quickly becoming a vital center for contemporary music. Following its first installment on May 24, violinist Jennifer Koh returns to National Sawdust on May 31 for the second part of her commissioning project entitled "Shared Madness". The program is indeed a bit of a mad idea: 30 virtuosic show-pieces, commissioned and premiered by Koh, all performed over two evenings. As Koh puts it, her program seeks to explore "the meaning of virtuosity in the 21st century." 

Among the composers Koh chose to commission are Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, Anthony Cheung, Vijay Iyer, Phil Kline, and Andrew Norman. Koh's recent "Bridge to Beethoven" project saw close collaboration between her and Iyer, Norman, and Cheung, in addition to Jörg Widmann. Be sure to stop by National Sawdust to experience the "shared madness"!

World Premiere of Mario Diaz de Leon's "O Ignis Spiritus" by the TAK Ensemble

The TAK Ensemble, an ambitious young group from New York, will premiere Mario Diaz de Leon's new composition, "O Ignis Spiritus", alongside a performance of Ann Cleare's "Unable to Create an Offscreen World (C)", at Roulette on May 25th. Supported by a Chamber Music America commissioning grant and the GENERATE program at Roulette, this performance follows a busy month for Diaz de Leon, who recently has performed in venues as diverse as Brooklyn metal mecca Saint Vitus, the Donau Festival in Krems, Austria, and the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow, alongside the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and frequent collaborator Nate Young, of the noise group Wolf Eyes. 

Diaz de Leon's new work, "O Ignis Spiritus", shares its title with a medieval sequence of the same name by Hildegard von Bingen; the text, which translates to "O Holy Fire", compliments Diaz de Leon's compositional aesthetic, which explores the extremities of timbre, texture, color, and form. 

Diaz has written about fire before: check out "The Flesh Needs Fire", a 2007 composition for flute, clarinet, and electronics. 

Hannah Lash's "Beowulf" Premiered by Guerilla Opera

Hannah Lash's latest operatic project, Beowulf, will be premiered on May 20th by  Guerilla Opera in Boston. Though it's title references the great Anglo-Saxon epic, Lash's opera—for which she wrote both the socre and the libretto—tells her own unique story. In an interview with Guerilla Opera's Board Director Susan Larson, Lash writes: "I wanted to make a story about a hero who was suffering, a monster who was a situation, and a situation which was tragic, beautiful, full of love and loss." Lash picks up on the long tradition of "total works of art", crafting nearly every aspect of this deeply personal narrative: its characters, scenario, dialogue, and music. 

Already highly anticipated by such media outlets as the Boston Globe, Beowulf—directed by Andrew Eggert—will run for two weekends on May 20/21 and 26/27, including a talk-back session with the composer on May 22nd. Guerilla Opera is one of the most highly regarded opera companies in Boston, and is not afraid to take on powerful, adventurous new works, such as Ken Ueno's Gallo, which premiered in 2014. 

Check out OPERA America's exclusive interview with Lash on her compositional process below. 

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