Robert Sirota's Two Variations on America the Beautiful to be Premiered at the Green-Wood Cemetery
Commissioned by Min Kwon for her America/Beautiful Project
Presented by Death of Classical’s Angel’s Share Series
Friday, July 9, 2021 at Green-Wood Cemetery
Twilight Performance: 6pm ET | Moonlight Performance: 7:30pm ET
Tickets and Information: www.deathofclassical.com/angelshare/america-beautiful
On Friday, July 9, 2021, pianist Min Kwon will give the world premiere of composer Robert Sirota’s Two Variations on America the Beautiful, presented by Death of Classical’s Angel’s Share series at Green-Wood Cemetery (500 25th St., Brooklyn, NY). Sirota composed these variations – “. . . alabaster cities . . .” and “. . . God mend thine every flaw . . .” – as part of Min Kwon’s project America/Beautiful, for which she commissioned a diverse group of more than 70 of today’s leading American composers to each compose a variation on America the Beautiful. In addition to Sirota, the composers on July 9 include Timo Andres, Sebastian Currier, Tyson Davis, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, George Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Paul Moravec, Nico Muhly, Paola Prestini, Gity Razaz, and Melinda Wagner.
Kwon’s goal was to paint a sonic picture of her adopted country in all of its sprawling complexity, and ultimately try to find the beauty at the core of the American experiment and its credo of e pluribus unum (out of many, one). She explains, “Ultimately this project is about embracing our diversity, and remembering that by understanding, appreciating, and celebrating our differences, we become stronger both as individuals and as a country. The fact that 70 composers can hear the same song in a completely different way is, to me, something truly beautiful.” The 70+ world premiere performances that make up America/Beautiful will take place over six days, beginning July 4, 2021, with a series of free streamed video performances by Kwon followed by discussions with the composers.
Of his Two Variations on America the Beautiful, Sirota says, “Every new work presents particular challenges. In this case, the challenge is composing short variations intended as part of a large communal work. Given that the subject is America, the form of this project could not be more appropriate. Our country is supposed to be about creating unity out of diversity; about making sure that all voices are heard, that no single voice shouts the others down. To do this while celebrating the beauty and distinctiveness of every individual voice is what we are working towards. ‘ . . . alabaster cities . . .’ is a view of our country as seen from 30,000 feet. A dream, an ideal, an aspiration, never to be completely achieved, always to be striven for. ‘. . . God mend thine every flaw . . .’ brings that aspiration down to ground level, where the real work goes on every day to form a ‘more perfect union.”
Each performance on July 9 begins with an hour-long reception featuring a complimentary whiskey tasting. The journey to and from the Catacombs for the musical performance takes approximately 20-30 minutes, which includes walking over hilly and uneven terrain; proper footwear is recommended. The program inside the Catacombs will run for approximately one hour with no intermission. Health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced, including wearing a mask and keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from those not in your party. Attendees must provide a negative COVID test result or proof of completed vaccination and fill out a health survey in advance of the event.
Tickets and more information are available at www.deathofclassical.com/angelshare/america-beautiful.
About Robert Sirota: Over five decades, composer Robert Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernible in all of his work – whether symphonic, choral, stage, or chamber music. Writing in the Portland Press Herald, Allan Kozinn asserts: “Sirota’s musical language is personal and undogmatic, in the sense that instead of aligning himself with any of the competing contemporary styles, he follows his own internal musical compass.”
Robert Sirota’s works have been performed by orchestras across the US and Europe; ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound, Sequitur, yMusic, Chameleon Arts, and Dinosaur Annex; the Chiara, American, Telegraph, Ethel, Elmyr, and Blair String Quartets; the Peabody, Concord, and Webster Trios; and at festivals including Tanglewood, Aspen, Yellow Barn, and Cooperstown music festivals; Bowdoin Gamper and Bowdoin International Music Festival; and Mizzou International Composers Festival. Recent commissions include Jeffrey Kahane and the Sarasota Music Festival, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, Palladium Musicum, American Guild of Organists, the American String Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, the Naumburg Foundation, yMusic, and arrangements for Paul Simon. Commissions for Sirota@70 in honor of his 70th birthday include works for Thomas Pellaton, Carol Wincenc, Linda Chesis & the Cooperstown Summer Music Festival, and Sierra Chamber Society.
Recipient of grants from the Guggenheim and Watson Foundations, United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and the American Music Center, Sirota’s works are recorded on Legacy Recordings, National Sawdust Tracks, and the Capstone, Albany, New Voice, Gasparo and Crystal labels. His music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Schott, Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser, and To the Fore.
Before becoming Director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 1995, Sirota served as Chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and Director of Boston University's School of Music. From 2005-2012, he was the President of Manhattan School of Music, where he was also a member of the School’s composition faculty.
A native New Yorker, Sirota studied at Juilliard, Oberlin, and Harvard and divides his time between New York and Searsmont, Maine with his wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota. They frequently collaborate on new works, with Victoria as librettist and performer, at times also working with their children, Jonah and Nadia, both world-class violists. For more information, visit www.robertsirota.com.
About Min Kwon: Described as a musician of “captivating enthusiasm, superb technique, warm emotional lyricism, and explosive energy” by Piano Magazine, Korean-born American pianist Min Kwon has excelled for over 30 years in a career that has brought her to over 60 countries and to all 50 of the United States. Sought after as an educator as well as a musician, Kwon has taught students from 27 countries, and mentored over 40 doctoral pianists at Rutgers University, where she became the youngest Full Professor of Piano in 2015. In 2021, Kwon celebrates 20 years of teaching piano at Rutgers.
Min Kwon holds a Bachelor of Music from The Curtis Institute of Music and received her Master of Music and Doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School, where she was the first-ever alumnus to serve as a member of The Juilliard Council. A Steinway Artist, she can be heard on BMG / RCA Red Seal, and in 5 solo and chamber CD releases on MSR Classics. Kwon is the founder and director of the Center for Musical Excellence (CME), a nonprofit organization dedicated to mentoring and supporting gifted young musicians, and it is through CME that she has commissioned the composers for America/Beautiful.