Since 1967, John Heiss has taught NEC students the roots of 20th-century modernism both in the classroom and as a conductor and coach. His courses on Ives, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky have shaped generations of musicians. Due to the accuracy of his ear in rehearsals, Stravinsky called him "the pitch doctor." Each year John Heiss recruits students interested in performing 20th- and 21st-century music to join the NEC Contemporary Ensemble.
Tonight's concert offers an opportunity to hear some lesser-known Stravinsky works—his songs—just two weeks before NEC's centennial performance of his most notorious work, Rite of Spring. These songs date from 1911—two years before Rite's riotous premiere—and extend all the way to Stravinsky's last completed work, from 1966, where he used Edward Lear's animal love-poem to celebrate his life with his wife, Vera.
An oblique continuation of Heiss's year-long tour of major Schoenberg works comes with Joan Tower's Petrouchskates, written for "Pierrot Ensemble," i.e. the unique instrumentation Schoenberg devised for his Pierrot Lunaire (performed under Heiss's direction here last April). At the same time, the title and melodic material draw on Stravinsky's ballet suite Petrouchka.
A large portion of the program memorializes another titanic modernist composer, Elliott Carter (1908–2012), and features both early and late works, including the percussion piece NEC commissioned in 2008.
John Heiss will receive an honorary Doctor of Music degree at NEC's Commencement this year. More on this.
Sonnet Swire '16 Wiosna Hop (Spring Dance)
Adrian Sanborn, flute
Timothy Feil, oboe
Hunter Bennett, clarinet
Brittney Walker, bassoon
Paige McGrath, horn
Igor Stravinsky Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont
Three Japanese Lyrics
The Owl and the Pussycat
Susanna Su, soprano
Patricia Au, piano
Joan Tower Petrouchskates for Pierrot Ensemble
Allison Poh, flute
Peter Bauer, clarinet
Lisa Goddard, violin
Mira Luxion, cello
Patricia Au, piano
Derek Geary North
Diamanda La Berge Dramm, violin
Wenting Kang, viola
Works by Elliott Carter
Woodwind Quintet (1948)
NEC Percussion Ensemble
Frank Epstein, conductor
Artem Belogarov, piano
Figment III (2007)
Edward Kass, double bass
Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948)
Emileigh Brooke Vandiver, cello
Kai-Ching Chang, piano
photo of Elliott Carter with John Heiss, from Carter's 1993 residency at NEC