Performance Sunday, March 8, 2015 | 5 PM

The MET Chamber Ensemble

Zankel Hall
Music by great 20th-century iconoclasts is featured. The late Elliott Carter’s The American Sublime is given its world premiere performance under the baton of James Levine, for whom it was written. Stravinsky’s Octet for winds is infused with pungent wit, while Ives’s Scherzo: Over the Pavements imitates the rhythms of people walking past his Manhattan apartment.

The contemporary work on this program is part of My Time, My Music.


  • The MET Chamber Ensemble
    James Levine, Artistic Director and Conductor
  • Sharon Harms, Soprano
  • Laura Mercado-Wright, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Steven Brennfleck, Tenor
  • Evan Hughes, Bass-Baritone
  • Douglas Williams, Bass-Baritone


  • IVES Scherzo: Over the Pavements
  • CARTER The American Sublime (World Premiere)
  • CAGE Atlas Eclipticalis
  • CHARLES WUORINEN It Happens Like This

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


John Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis
Chicago Symphony Orchestra | James Levine, Conductor
Deutsche Grammophon

At a Glance

IGOR STRAVINSKY  Octet for Wind Instruments

By the time Stravinsky’s Octet received its premiere in 1923, the composer was fully committed to the newly adopted neoclassical style that would dominate his work for the following 30 years. The Octet completely surprised its first audience, however, which must have come expecting something akin to the brilliantly colorful, powerfully Russian, and sometimes violent and primitivist sound of his earlier works—especially the famous ballets written for Sergei Diaghilev.

CHARLES IVES  From the Steeples and the Mountains

From the Steeples and the Mountains is an extremely adventurous and surprising work for its era. Scored for four sets of church bells (or chimes), trumpet, and trombone, this brief piece is polytonal, with the bells imitating one another in three separate keys simultaneously.

CHARLES IVES  Scherzo: Over the Pavements

Another brief experimental work, Scherzo: Over the Pavements is a musical depiction of the sounds of New York City, where Ives lived until his marriage in 1908. The work captures the confused randomness of the hustle and bustle of the city through extensive use of polyrhythm and polymeter.

ELLIOTT CARTER  The American Sublime

Carter, who died in November 2012 at age 103, was always interested in and inspired by poetry and fiction, and turned often to the work of American modernist poets—including Ezra Pound, Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens—as sources of text for his works. The American Sublime, for baritone and large ensemble, sets five ruminative and often enigmatic poems by Stevens.

JOHN CAGE  Atlas eclipticalis

Atlas eclipticalis is Cage’s earliest work for symphony orchestra. Described by the composer as “a heavenly illustration of nirvana,” which “should be like looking into the sky on a clear night and seeing the stars,” the music of Atlas is derived from maps of the night sky, which Cage projected onto blank music paper, marking notes wherever the stars fell.


Pulitzer Prize–winning American composer and New York City native Charles Wuorinen has been a prominent and prolific voice of modern music since the 1950s. A cantata for four singers and chamber ensemble, It Happens Like This features settings of surrealist/absurdist, yet profoundly worldly, free-verse poems by James Tate.

Program Notes
This performance is part of Chamber Sessions III.

Part of