New Century Chamber Orchestra’s Featured Composer Residency Program, launched through the vision of Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg during her 2008-09 inaugural season, was established to give structure to the organization’s longstanding commitment to the creation and performance of new music. Each season, New Century works with a different composer, who creates at least one new work for the orchestra with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as concertmaster, soloist and muse. New Century also performs at least one existing piece by the Featured Composer to both represent a wider range of his or her work, and to help ensure the longevity of past compositions.
2015-2016 Featured Composer Jennifer Higdon is renowned as a “leading light” among American composers (Fanfare Magazine) and “one of the most beloved contemporary composers anywhere” (Audiophile Audition). 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon is a major figure in contemporary classical music and receives commissions from the most prestigious orchestras, ensembles and organizations across the world. As 2015-2016 Featured Composer in residence, Jennifer Higdon will have a selection of works showcased on the opening September 2015 performances before returning in May 2016 for her World Premiere commission by New Century.
2014-2015 Featured Composer Derek Bermel has composed works that draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. Bermel currently serves as Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and Artistic Director of the intrepid American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. He has received commissions from orchestras, ensembles, and soloists worldwide, and his many awards include the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, and the Alpert Award in the Arts. In September 2014, Bermel joins New Century as a guest soloist for a program that features three of his chamber works: A Short History of the Universe for String Quartet and Clarinet; Silvioudades, a duet for clarinet and violin; and Oct Up for two string quartets and percussion. In May 2015, New Century will will present the West Coast premiere of a new work by Bermel, co-commissioned in collaboration with a national consortium of orchestras including River Oaks Chamber Orchestra of Houston and A Far Cry of Boston.
Hailed by The Times (London) as “a master icon maker” with a “maverick imagination, fearless structural sense and meticulous ear,” 2013-2014 Featured Composer Michael Daugherty is one of the most commissioned, performed and recorded composers on the American concert scene today. Known for music rich with American cultural allusions, Daugherty’s extensive compositional output encompasses the orchestral, band and chamber repertory. In September 2013, New Century presented a program of Daugherty’s solo and chamber works, ranging from Viva for solo violin, performed by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, to Elvis Everywhere for string quartet and tape. The ensemble premiered Daugherty’s Fallingwater, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, in November 2013.
2012-2013 Featured Composer, Lera Auerbach, is a highly-acclaimed composer, pianist, and poet. An artist steeped in the Russian tradition but with a musical voice that is unique and very much her own, Lera Auerbach is Composer-in-Residence of the Staatskapelle Dresden. Her ballet The Little Mermaidhas been performed over 100 times worldwide since its premiere in Copenhagen in 2005 and was introduced to the US with a production by the San Francisco Ballet, which was recently broadcast nationwide on PBS. Characterized by its stylistic freedom and juxtaposition of tonal and atonal musical language, Auerbach’s music explores a wide range of forms and genres, from opera to chamber music. New Century presented the world premiere of Auerbach’s String Symphony (Memoria de la Luz) in May 2013, in addition to her Sogno di Stabat Mater in December 2012.
The 2011-2012 Featured Composer, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, was the first female recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in Music and was named to the first Composer’s Chair in the history of Carnegie Hall. At a time when musical offerings are more varied than ever before, few composers have emerged with a musical voice as unique as Ms. Zwilich. As The New York Times warmly noted, “She writes in an idiosyncratic style that, without ostentation or gimmickry, is always recognizably hers.” A prolific composer in virtually all media, Ms. Zwilich’s works have been performed by most of the leading American orchestras and by major ensembles abroad. New Century presented her Prologue and Variations in December 2011 and a world premiere violin concerto, Commedia dell’Arte, in May 2012.
The 2010-2011 Featured Composer, Mark O’Connor, an American bluegrass, country and classical fiddler, composer, and music teacher, studied a variety of uniquely American musical styles under folk fiddler and innovator Benny Thomasson and French jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. He has melded and shaped these influences into a style he calls “a new American Classical music.” Mr. O’Connor’s musical works have been embraced by a variety of performers and collaborators, including Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, the Eroica Trio, Sharon Isbin, the New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Mr. O’Connor regularly has residencies and teaches workshops at a variety of prestigious musical programs, including the Juilliard School of Music, Curtis Institute, Berklee College of Music, and Eastman School of Music. Mr. O’Connor performed as a soloist with New Century in November 2010, and the ensemble premiered his work Elevations in May 2011.
The 2009-10 Featured Composer, William Bolcom, is a National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner, and one of the most versatile contemporary American composers of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music. In November 2009, New Century performed his Serenata Notturna for Oboe and Strings and Three Rags for String Quartet, and on its closing program of the season in 2010, the ensemble performed the world premiere of Mr. Bolcom’s violin concerto, Romanza for Solo Violin and String Orchestra, with Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist. New Century performed the work on the 2011 East Coast Tour and the 2013 National Tour.
The 2008-2009 Featured Composer, Clarice Assad, has made her mark in the music world as a classical and jazz composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist. Ms. Assad composed two new works for the New Century Chamber Orchestra. Impressions, Suite for Chamber Orchestra, premiered in September 2008 and was lauded by San Francisco Classical Voice for displaying the orchestra in the best light, as the work took advantage of the musicians’ talents and expertise. Dreamscapes, a violin concerto, premiered in May 2009 and featured Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist.