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  • Carnegie Hall Presents
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American Composers Orchestra

Orchestra Underground: Past Forward
Friday, March 24, 2017 7:30 PM Zankel Hall
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Acclaimed for “consistently champion[ing] contemporary music with consistent excellence” (The New York Times), American Composers Orchestra showcases two premieres—one commissioned by Carnegie Hall—by two cutting-edge composers and a classic from Steve Reich, Tehillim (Hebrew for “psalms”). Inspired by cantillation he heard in Israel, Reich sets four psalms in an exotically scored and rhythmically invigorating work that pulses with life and is considered one of the modern master’s most thrilling compositions.


American Composers Orchestra
George Manahan, Music Director and Conductor
Elizabeth Bates, Vocals
Rachel Calloway, Vocals
Martha Cluver, Vocals
Mellissa Hughes, Vocals
Oliver Hagen, Keyboards
David Friend, Keyboards
Mami Kosemura, Video Artist


DAVID HERTZBERG Chamber Symphony (World Premiere)
PAOLA PRESTINI The Hotel That Time Forgot (World Premiere)
TREVOR WESTON Flying Fish (World Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)

Event Duration

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

Lead support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Public support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional funding is provided by members of Carnegie Hall's Composer Club.

Steve Reich is the holder of the 2016–2017 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall.

About the Program

Welcome to ACO’s 40th season! This evening we present “Past Forward,” a journey that traverses the world, but is uniquely American in its sonic expression.

ACO joins Carnegie Hall in celebrating the 80th birthday of one of America’s truly revolutionary composers, Steve Reich. We are thrilled to present this season’s sole NYC professional orchestral performance of Reich’s Tehillim. Music Director George Manahan revisits this contemporary classic, which he recorded more than 30 years ago for ECM Records. Inspired by cantillation heard in Israel, Tehillim sets four psalms in an unusually scored and rhythmically invigorating work.

In keeping with ACO’s mission to honor both established—and in Reich’s case, iconic—composers and juxtapose them with emerging voices, the first half of the concert features three world premieres by Paola Prestini, David Hertzberg, and Trevor Weston. Each explores their own personal histories to illuminate the universality of heritage and memory. Flying Fish, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall as part of its 125 Commissions Project, honors Weston’s spiritual roots in Barbadian culture. In her collaboration The Hotel That Time Forgot, Prestini and video artist Mami Kosemura reanimate an old and mysterious building in Lebanon. David Hertzberg, winner of ACO’s 2015 Underwood Commission, finds poetic inspiration for his Chamber Symphony in a poem by Wallace Stevens, constructing voices that resonate across vast temporal vistas.

In addition to sharing their artistic gifts, these three composers are making enormous contributions to the musical community—Prestini as creative and executive director of the musical hub National Sawdust in Brooklyn; Hertzberg as composer-in-residence for the innovative Opera Philadelphia; and Weston as composition professor at Drew University and board member of the MacDowell Colony. Bringing together their vibrant and essential voices, along with a modern classic by one of America’s leading composers, lies at the heart of ACO’s mission.

Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director


American Composers Orchestra

Now in its 40th season, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is the only orchestra in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. Through concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO also serves as an incubator of ideas, research, and talent; as a catalyst for growth and change among orchestras; and as an advocate for American composers and their music.

To date, ACO has performed music by more than 800 American composers, including 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra's innovative programs have been SONiC: Sounds of a New Century, a citywide festival of music by composers age 40 and under; Sonidos de las Américas, six annual festivals devoted to Latin American composers and their music; Coming to America, a program immersing audiences in the ongoing evolution of American music through the work of immigrant composers; Orchestra Tech, a long-term initiative to integrate new digital technologies in the symphony orchestra; Improvise!, a festival devoted to the exploration of improvisation and the orchestra; coLABoratory: Playing It UNsafe, a new laboratory for the research and development of experimental new works for orchestra; and Orchestra Underground, ACO's entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, eclectic instruments, new experiments in the concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations.

Composer development has been at the core of ACO's mission since its founding. In addition to its annual Underwood New Music Readings and Commission, ACO also provides a range of additional educational and professional development activities, including composer residencies and fellowships. In 2008, ACO launched EarShot, a multi-institutional network that assists orchestras around the country in mounting new music readings. Recent and upcoming EarShot programs include engagements with the Detroit, Berkeley, La Jolla, Nashville, Memphis, Colorado, and San Diego symphonies; New York Philharmonic; New York Youth Symphony; and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Last year, EarShot expanded its work with a special initiative to provide career development and commissions for emerging female composers. Visit for more information. The Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute, launched in 2010, supports jazz artists who desire to write for the symphony and has led to the creation of 40 new works by diverse composers.

Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI in recognition of the orchestra's outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming to ACO 36 times, singling out ACO as "the orchestra that has done the most for American music in the United States." ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Community Engagement and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records,,, and iTunes. ACO's digital albums include Playing It Unsafe (March 2011), Emerging Composers Series: Vol. 1 (February 2012), and Orchestra Underground: X10D (June 2012), an album that features unusual and extended solo instruments with the orchestra. Orchestra Underground: AV, an album of multimedia works, is available for free streaming at Orchestra Underground: Tech & Techno, was released in August 2014. ACO's latest digital album, SONiC Double Live, featuring premiere recordings from its inaugural festival of 21st-century music, was released in July 2016. Visit for more information.

George Manahan

In his seventh season as music director of the American Composers Orchestra, the wide-ranging and versatile George Manahan has had an esteemed career, embracing everything from opera to the concert stage, the traditional to the contemporary. In addition to his work with ACO, Manahan continues his commitment to working with young musicians as director of orchestral studies at the Manhattan School of Music as well as guest conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Manahan was music director at New York City Opera for 14 seasons. While there, he helped envision the organization's groundbreaking VOX Contemporary Opera Lab, a series of workshops and readings that have provided unique opportunities for numerous composers to hear their new concepts realized, and introduced audiences to exciting new compositional voices. In addition to established composers--such as Mark Adamo, David Del Tredici, Lewis Spratlan, Robert Xavier Rodriguez, Lou Harrison, Bernard Rands, and Richard Danielpour--VOX has introduced works by composers on the rise, including Adam Silverman, Elodie Lauten, Mason Bates, and David T. Little.

In May 2011, Manahan was honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) for his "career-long advocacy for American composers and the music of our time." His recent Carnegie Hall performance of Barber's Antony and Cleopatra was hailed by audiences and critics alike.

Manahan's extensive discography includes the premiere recording of Steve Reich's Tehillim; recordings of Edward Thomas's Desire Under the Elms, which was nominated for a Grammy; Joe Jackson's Will Power; and Tobias Picker's Emmeline. His enthusiasm for contemporary music continues today; he has conducted numerous world premieres, including Charles Wuorinen's Haroun and the Sea of Stories, David Lang's modern painters, and the New York premiere of Richard Danielpour's Margaret Garner. As music director of the Richmond Symphony in Virginia for 12 years, he was honored four times by ASCAP in recognition of his commitment to 20th-century music.

Elizabeth Bates

Soprano Elizabeth Bates is increasingly in demand as a performer of both early and new music. Based in New York City since 2011, she began her career singing as a soprano with the Schola Cantorum of the Church of Saint Agnes. Bates is now a soprano with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, appearing as a soloist in the Bach at One series, Concerts at One, and for liturgical events. She has also appeared with the American Classical Orchestra, Downtown Voices, Pro Arte Singers of New Canaan (Connecticut), and Charis Chamber Voices of Bedford (New York). Solo performances include Mozart's Requiem with the Church of Saint Agnes and Fauré's Requiem with Trinity Wall Street. She has appeared on some of the world's most recognized stages, including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Notre Dame de Paris, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and Brooklyn's National Sawdust. Her 2016-2017 season includes tours of both Handel's Messiah and Bach's Mass in B Minor to Montreal and California. She joins 100 musicians from the Wordless Music Orchestra to perform the live music accompaniment to Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life. She also appears with the ensemble The Thirteen in Washington, DC. Her performance of Steve Reich's Tehillim with the American Composers Orchestra marks her Carnegie Hall debut. Bates holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in French from Middlebury College. She has taught and tutored students in French, Spanish, and Italian.

Rachel Calloway

Mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway has established herself as a versatile and intelligent artist. She has performed with Ensemble Signal, Gotham Chamber Opera, ekmeles, the 2013 Next Wave Festival at BAM, Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston, the Amernet String Quartet at Bowdoin College, Tulsa Opera, Central City Opera, the Glimmerglass Festival, and American Opera Projects. Calloway made her Latin American debut at the Festival Internacional Cervantino with the Amernet String Quartet and sang the world premiere of Gabriela Lena Frank's Santos with the San Francisco Girls Chorus. She has also appeared with Ensemble Signal in a portrait concert of Oliver Knussen and with Alarm Will Sound. With the contemporary vocal ensemble ekmeles, Calloway performed at Princeton University, Roulette, and the Bohemian National Hall in a large-scale collaboration with Talea Ensemble in Beat Furrer'sFAMA. She made her European debut in 2011-2012 as Mrs. Grose in The Turn of the Screw. In addition to the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz's Third Symphony, other performances include debuts with the Berkeley Symphony.

Martha Cluver

Soprano Martha Cluver has performed as soloist with the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Remix Ensemble, Prague Modern, and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Noted performances include Feldman's Neither, George Benjamin's Into the Little Hill, Shelter by Bang on a Can, and many works by Steve Reich. As a chamber musician, she has collaborated with groups such as Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, Dogs of Desire, Axiom, Zorn Vocal Quintet, NEXUS, Sō Percussion, and ACME. Composers with whom Cluver has worked closely include John Zorn, Caleb Burhans, Chris Kapica, Nico Muhly, David Mallamud, Elizabeth Kelly, Paul Mealor, and Emmanuel Nunes. As a choral musician, she is a member of the Trinity Choir Wall Street, Antioch, Voices of Ascension, and Clarion. She has worked under the baton of many greats, such as Brad Lubman, Peter Rundel, Stefan Parkman, Julian Wachner, Andrew Parrott, Alan Pierson, David Alan Miller, Simon Carrington, and Jane Glover. She has also preformed new works by John Zorn, Caleb Burhans, Fifth House Ensemble, and itsnotyouitsme. Her discography includes recordings on the Naxos, Nonesuch, Cantaloupe, Mode, and Tzadik labels. Cluver earned her bachelor's degree in viola performance from the Eastman School of Music. She currently resides in Manhattan, along with her husband and music collaborator, Caleb Burhans.

Mellissa Hughes

A dedicated interpreter of living composers, Mellissa Hughes has worked closely with Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Steve Reich, and Neil Rolnick. She has also premiered works by David T. Little, Missy Mazzoli, Ted Hearne, Caleb Burhans, Christopher Cerrone, Jacob Cooper, and Frederic Rzewski, among others. Last season featured Hughes performing Silver Threads, a solo cycle written for her by Jacob Cooper at (le) Poisson Rouge; a New York City Opera debut in John Zorn's The Holy Visions; a Stanford Lively Arts performance with Alan Pierson and Alarm Will Sound; a national tour with Missy Mazzoli and Victoire; and a performance with Newspeak at Atlas in Washington, DC. Other recent events have included the world premiere of David T. Little's Am I Born; a MATA Festival performance of David Coll's Position, influence; the world premiere of Alex Temple's Liebeslied; a performance of Jonathan Berger's one-act opera Theotokia with the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Pedja Muzijevic for Stanford Lively Arts; a Weill Recital Hall performance and Naxos recording of Mohammed Fairouz's Tahwidah with clarinetist David Krakauer; Bryce and Aaron Dessner's multimedia song cycle The Long Count at the Holland Festival; a recital with pianist Lisa Moore for Kettle Corn New Music; a Steve Reich program with Alan Pierson and Alarm Will Sound at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a Reich/Bach program with Brad Lubman and Ensemble Signal at Miller Theatre; and the US premiere of Adrian Utley and Will Gregory's score for The Passion of Joan Arc as part of Lincoln Center's 2011 White Light Festival. Based in Brooklyn, Hughes holds degrees from Westminster Choir College and Yale University.

Mami Kosemura

Based in Tokyo, Mami Kosemura is a contemporary artist whose early photographs and animations reference traditional subjects taken from classical European motifs and Japanese paintings, exploring the confluence between painting and filmmaking. Her current work pursues a new approach that incorporates various elements of painting, composition, and perspective through her painting-like photographs that have a strong sense of physical presence. By broadening her production method, the new work subverts viewers' expectations of static imagery by introducing physical movement and illustrating the passing of time. Kosemura says, "My work leads viewers to question several aspects of the piece itself: Is it a painting or a photograph, static or changing, fiction or reality? When we start to lose our fixed perspective, we can connect these questions to far more important questions about where or what we are, our self-understanding, and our relationship to the external world."

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