Jan 15: Lisa Bielawa's violin concerto Sanctuary given World Premiere by Jennifer Koh and Orland


On Wednesday, January 15, 2020 at 7pm, the world premiere of composer, vocalist and producer Lisa Bielawa’s new violin concerto Sanctuary will be performed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra led by Music Director Eric Jacobsen. This new concerto is composed by Bielawa expressly for violinist Jennifer Koh, who gives the world premiere. The concert takes place at The Plaza Live in Orlando, and pairs Bielawa’s new work with Mozart’s Symphony No. 36. A late night program at 9pm in the Palmer Room follows the orchestra concert, and will feature Bielawa and Koh performing Bielawa’s related piece Sanctuary Songs together. Click here for tickets and more details.

Lisa Bielawa’s violin concerto Sanctuary, her forthcoming concerto for cellist Joshua Roman, and her recent orchestral song cycle for mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin, form a trilogy of works inspired by the American voices she discovered during her time as the 2018 William Randolph Hearst Artist Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society.

The new piece explores the meaning of the word “sanctuary” in various contexts, found throughout the numerous writings that Bielawa explored in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. She writes, “The word ‘sanctuary’ has new prominence and resonance in our current cultural climate. Inspired by the role of sanctuary in the lives of American people, including people I know and love, and in Jennifer Koh’s life as well as my own, I undertook a large-scale research project around this powerful word. My task was simple: find instances of the use of ‘sanctuary’ in a broad range of American writings, in order to reach a greater understanding of its layered meaning within American consciousness. I explored broadsides, poetry, political tracts and speeches, novels and children’s literature – vernacular as well as statesmanlike works – discovering writings that capture the off-hand use of the word in different eras of American history. In all cases, ‘sanctuary’ carries a sense of the inviolable. It is used to appeal to a sense of the absolute. It appears in the rhetoric of both sides of every important American struggle: Abolition, Suffrage, Secession, Manifest Destiny, Temperance, Marriage Rights, Civil Rights, and the foundational thinking of the Founding Fathers. It aims to bypass rational argument and addresses itself directly to sentiment, justice, moral rightness, piety, bigotry, romantic feeling or patriotism.”

Bielawa’s Sanctuary Songs, which she will perform with Jennifer Koh during the 9pm late night program that follows the orchestra concert, also explore this concept. Bielawa chose texts for Sanctuary Songs by American women poets who wrote between the wars in the 1920s: “Broken” by Virginia Stait; “Speak Softly” by Elise M. Baker; and “My Marvelous Wall” by Elinor Wylie. Each includes the word “sanctuary.” Sanctuary Songs is recorded on Koh’s 2019 album, Limitless (Cedille).

Listen here

Sanctuary is co-commissioned by the Orlando Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Carnegie Hall, for violinist Jennifer Koh. The work is realized as part of Bielawa’s Who is America orchestral trilogy by her commissioning and production company Ganesa Music, and as part of Jennifer Koh’s The New American Concerto Project by Koh’s 501(c)3 commissioning non-profit ARCO Collaborative.

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