ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Commission Digital Premiere: in a dark blue night | אין אַ טונקל בלויער נאַכט, a New Song Cycle by Alex Weiser Reflecting on New York City Through Yiddish Poetry
December 2, 2020
New York, NY – December 2, 2020 - in a dark blue night (אין אַ טונקל בלויער נאַכט), a new song cycle by composer Alex Weiser, will receive its digital premiere on January 5, 2021 at sunset in New York City, 4:43 p.m.
The new work, Weiser’s first return to Yiddish poetry since his Pulitzer-nominated and all the days were purple (און אַלע טעג זײַנען געװען פּורפּורן), turns its focus to New York City at night, setting three poems to music by Jewish immigrant poets of the turn of the 20th century – Morris Rosenfeld, Naftali Gross and Reuben Iceland.
Commissioned by The ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund, this work’s digital premiere performance will feature singer Annie Rosen and pianist Daniel Schlosberg, pre-recorded from two remote locations and edited together by audio engineer Gleb Kanasevich. The free performance will take place simultaneously on the composer’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. RSVP is available at the composer’s website.
When: January 5, 2021, 4:43 p.m.
Where: youtube.com/c/AlexWeiser and
RSVP: alexweiser.com/nakht.html (free)
Against the gentle, flowing gray of evening the skyscrapers argue, like naked giants, with dark brows and fiery eyes.
This description of the New York City skyline from Reuben Iceland’s 1922 poem, “Night Reflex,” could easily describe the New York of today. In many ways this New York is eternal. Though millions of people come and go, though fortunes are won and lost, and though buildings are raised and leveled, New York’s essence as the metropolis of all metropolises, its impossibly dense skyline, and its electric glow in the evening, never cease to strike us with awe.
And yet, some things have changed. For one, this poem by Reuben Iceland was written in Yiddish. Yiddish was the language that Weiser's great grandparents brought with them to this country and spoke at home. It was a central language of Jewish civilization for nearly a thousand years. It was the language not just of shop signs and kitchens, but of poems and novels, plays and operettas. Today, almost 100 years after Iceland wrote of his New York, Yiddish has become a distant memory to most.
This song cycle sets to music Yiddish poems by poets Morris Rosenfeld, Naftali Gross, and Reuben Iceland which reflect on New York City from the perspective of Jewish immigrants building a new life here. The Hudson river “lost in thought in its cold silver-bed” murmurs a lonely good night to the setting sun in Rosenfeld’s “Evening.” The city lights mirror the heavens in Gross’s “New York.” The man-made wonders of the city rival the divine in Iceland’s “Night Reflex.”
Today, the Yiddish language world of Jewish immigrants in New York is often remembered with nostalgia and kitsch, but in reality it was rich and multifaceted, encompassing the full range of human experience from the quotidian to the sublime. The literary reflections of these modernist Yiddish poets capture New York as the incredibly beautiful and inspiring place that it remains today. As Reuben Iceland writes in the closing of his poem: “And life, drained from days / and dreams, enchanted in the nights, / flow golden through steel veins / from wonder to wonder, / where people have illuminated a window to heaven.”
Broad gestures and rich textures are hallmarks of the “compelling” (The New York Times), “deliciously wistful” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “personal, expressive, and bold” (I Care If You Listen) music of composer Alex Weiser. Born and raised in New York City, Weiser creates acutely cosmopolitan music combining a deeply felt historical perspective with a vibrant forward-looking creativity. Weiser’s debut album and all the days were purple was named a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Music. Released by Cantaloupe Music in April 2019, the album includes songs in Yiddish and English and has been praised as “ravishing” (The New Yorker), “reverent and magical... devastatingly beautiful,” (American Record Guide), “gorgeous” (Tablet Magazine), “utterly original and exquisitely unsettling... sweeping, bewitching, divinely dissonant... pitch-perfect.” (In Geveb).
Weiser recently completed an opera with librettist Ben Kaplan called State of the Jews. Hailed as “stunning, heavenly, marvelous” by Israeli National Public Radio, the opera is based on the life of Theodor Herzl and juxtaposes a historical narrative focusing on the last year of his life, with the more intimate story of Theodor’s conflicted relationship with his wife, Julie Herzl, and the toll his political views and activities took on their family life. The opera received a series of preview performances at the 14th Street Y in December 2019 and awaits a premiere production.
Other recent projects include Shimmer, an extended work for eight spatially arrayed cellos written for Ashley Bathgate which will be released on an album in the coming season; a collection of works inspired by David Vogel’s poem with gentle fingers including a song, a work for singer with a percussion quartet performing inside a piano and a pair of works for Cello and Piano; Three Epitaphs originally written for singer Kate Maroney and chamber orchestra Cantata Profana; and water hollows stone, a multi-movement four hand piano workwritten for HOCKET piano duo.
Mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen's performances have been acclaimed as “fearless,” “intensely present,” and “soul-crushingly vulnerable.” Prior to COVID-19, this season she was to have sung her first Cherubino/Le nozze di Figaro with Opera Omaha, Kashchejevna/Kashchej the Immortal with Chicago Opera Theater, Ruby in Virginia Opera's new production of Cold Mountain, the title role in L'enfant et les sortilèges with Florentine Opera,and Unborn Child/Die Frau ohne Schatten with The Metropolitan Opera. Given COVID-19, she's creating digital content for several companies and performing live stream recitals from balconies across Chicago.
Last season, Rosen made her debut live and in HD at The Metropolitan Opera as Ankhesenpaaten/Akhnaten, debuted with Calgary Opera as Adalgisa/Norma, and appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall. Her last engagement of the season, Wellgunde in Wagner's complete Ring cycle with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, was canceled due to COVID-19. Some previous roles have included Suzuki/Madama Butterfly with Central City Opera, Adalgisa/Normawith Utah Opera, and Siébel/Faust with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The music of Brooklyn-based composer-pianist Daniel Schlosberg has been performed by the Dover Quartet, Minnesota Orchestra, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Nashville Symphony, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and Lorelei Ensemble, at venues including Carnegie Hall, (le) poisson rouge, Royal Albert Hall, Beijing Modern Music Festival, and David Lynch’s Festival of Disruption, and has been featured in the New York Times and WNYC’s Soundcheck. Daniel has received the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards. Recent projects include the release of A Demonstration on New Amsterdam Records, Canal Songs for the Albany Symphony’s Erie Canal bicentennial, a fantasy on Twin Peaks for the Dover Quartet and music for Shaunette Renée Wilson’s short film Foxx n Wolfe.
Daniel is Co-Music Director of Heartbeat Opera, for which his re-orchestrations of classic operas have garnered national acclaim, core member of Cantata Profana, and rotating principal pianist of NOVUS NY. Other music directing credits include Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Yale Repertory Theatre (premiering a new score by David Lang) and Once Five Years Pass (premiering his own original score) at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Last spring, Daniel was the pianist for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film West Side Story. As a performer, Daniel has collaborated with such luminaries as David Shifrin, Ani Kavafian, Yura Lee and the Imani Winds. Daniel’s work has been described as “richly detailed yet delicate” by the New York Times and “witty” and “ingenious” by the Wall Street Journal.
The ASCAP Foundation Commissioning Program
Through a generous bequest from the Estate of Charles Kingsford, an ASCAP composer of many Art songs, The ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund was established in 2000 to provide opportunities for ASCAP composers to write Art Songs
The ASCAP Foundation is dedicated to nurturing the music talent of tomorrow, preserving the legacy of the past and sustaining the creative incentive for today's creators through a variety of educational, professional, and humanitarian programs and activities which serve the entire music community.
For The ASCAP Foundation:
Cathy Halgas Nevins | ASCAP