“Miller Theater, under its executive director, Melissa Smey, continues to be a hotbed of bold programming and contemporary music.”
— THE NEW YORK TIMES
BACH SERIES RETURNS WITH A SPLASH TO OPEN SEASON
BACH + GLASS
Simone Dinnerstein and A Far Cry perform NY Premiere of Philip Glass Piano Concert No. 3, written for them (9/28)
BACH GOLDBERG VARIATIONS
The world's hottest new harpsichord star, the young Iranian Mahan Esfahani, makes Miller debut (10/26)
Four fascinating pianists with four pianos onstage
Simone Dinnerstein • Awadagin Pratt • Dan Tepfer • Philip Lasser (12/7)
GLASS + SCHUBERT
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein performs a special program pairing these two
composers who shared big birthdays on Jan. 31 (80 and 230 respectively) (1/18)
JACK QUARTET: SOUNDSCAPE AMERICA
A thrilling two-night survey of the American string quartet ranging from 1931 Ruth Crawford Seeger and 1951 Morton Feldman to contemporary composers Applebaum to Zorn (10/19, 10/21)
THE ICONIC COMPOSER PORTRAITS SERIES
Featuring three new commissions
Miller's signature series since 1999
Each composer to attend his/her Portrait
MARCOS BALTER: ICE and an A-list of soloists perform his humorous, sensual work, including two works composed for ICE (11/16)
CHEN YI: Curtis 20/21 Ensemble performs seven major chamber works by this cultural ambassador who blends Chinese and Western traditions (12/2)
RAPHAËL CENDO: Yarn/Wire and Either/Or team up for a performance of the Berlin-based composer's exhilarating, high-energy works (2/1)
ANN CLEARE: Miller introduces this intriguing young Irish composer to NY in a Portrait featuring conductor Steven Schick, ICE, two world premieres (3/1)
CHRISTOPHER CERRONE: Third Coast Percussion and mezzo Rachel Calloway bring to life Cerrone's sublime soundworld and a world premiere commission (3/29)
FREDERIC RZEWSKI: Del Sol String Quartet performs an 80th birthday tribute that places Rzewski's 1955 Quartet alongside a world premiere commission (4/19)
JAZZ INNOVATORS MAKE MILLER DEBUTS
DR. LONNIE SMITH TRIO:
Legendary elder statesman of Hammond B3 organ & recent NEA Jazz Master (10/7)
DARCY JAMES ARGUE’S SECRET SOCIETY:
18-member triple-Grammy-nominated postmodern big band (2/3)
ALFREDO RODRÍGUEZ TRIO:
The dazzling young Cuban pianist mentored by Quincy Jones (3/3)
Drummer/composer John Hollenbeck's formidable and eclectic ensemble (3/24)
FIVE OF THE WORLD'S GREAT EARLY MUSIC GROUPS RETURN
ORLANDO CONSORT (UK) — Loire Valley in Song (10/28)
VOX LUMINIS (Belgium) — Royal Funeral Music (11/18)
TALLIS SCHOLARS (UK) — Heinrich Isaac at 500 (12/6)
NEW YORK POLYPHONY (NYC) — Tallis Lamentations (2/24)
LES DÉLICES (Cleveland) — Music for Fated Lovers (4/7)
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS RETURNS IN NEW PRODUCTION
Director/designer and puppet master Lake Simons gives new life to this family favorite celebrating Saint-Saëns and Ogden Nash's “feathers, fur, and fins” (12/16)
POP-UP CONCERTS PLACE THE AUDIENCE ONSTAGE
"Close to the music" takes on new meaning with year six of this
spontaneous, free series of hour-long 6PM concerts
6TH ANNUAL MORNINGSIDE LIGHTS: THE SECRET GARDENS
Concept and direction by Processional Arts Workshop
Miller throws open the doors again this fall, inviting all to join lantern-making workshops to create an illuminated, roving portrait of Harlem’s community gardens (9/16-9/23)
A Look Ahead to Miller's 30th Anniversary Season Opener, Sept. 2018
PROVING UP COMES TO NY
The new opera set in Nebraska by Missy Mazzoli and Royce Vavrek
is a joint presentation between Miller Theatre and Opera Omaha
Miller Theatre is known for the consistency and integrity of its curating. The venue has been heralded by The New York Times for its “transformative impact on musical culture in New York City” and exerting an “oversize influence on tastes and trends." Indeed, many credit Miller Theatre with pioneering the kind of programming that bigger organizations now emulate.
Since becoming Executive Director in 2009, Melissa Smey has continued Miller Theatre's tradition of adventurous programming, while steering Miller toward new territory—welcoming a stylistically eclectic mix of international composers and ensembles; expanding Miller's leadership in community engagement (Pop-Up Concerts, Morningside Lights, family programs like Carnival of the Animals, and commissioning public murals in Miller's lobby); and recalibrating the gender imbalance in classical music by showcasing the work of female composers, a development hailed by The New Yorker and The New York Times.
The 2017-18 season is bookended by two American masters celebrating their 80th birthdays: Philip Glass and Frederic Rzewski. JACK Quartet performs a massive two-night overview of the string quartet in America, and pianist Simone Dinnerstein appears both as part of the Bach series and in a special program of Glass and Schubert. Some of the best new-music and early music groups in the world continue to have a home at Miller Theatre, such as JACK, ICE, Either/Or, Yarn/Wire, Third Coast Percussion—and Tallis Scholars, Orlando Consort, Vox Luminis, Les Délices, and New York Polyphony.
Smey takes pride in finding exciting composers who have not yet been introduced to a NY audience—such as Ireland’s Ann Cleare this year (Iceland’s Anna Thorvaldsdottir, the New York Philharmonic Kravis Prize winner in 2015, was little known when Miller presented her Composer Portrait in 2013). "Trust Miller Theatre’s Composer Portraits series to be a catalyst,” noted David Allen in The New York Times.
Important compositional voices are illuminated across Miller Theatre’s series, not just in the famed Composer Portraits. This year’s Jazz series features the work of visionary composers Darcy James Argue and John Hollenbeck, and Early Music brings to the fore the massively influential but relatively little-known composer Heinrich Isaac in a Tallis Scholars concert.
It's intriguing that with such a wide variety of programing that each series has been so successful, frequently sells out, and has loyal attentive audiences. It may be because audiences like a challenge and trust Miller Theatre to deliver concerts that are always invigorating.
“Miller Theatre's 2017-18 season deepens our longstanding relationships with composers, musicians, and ensembles. I care deeply about supporting outstanding artists and making meaningful contributions to the city’s ever-evolving music scene. We are working closely with Simone Dinnerstein on a fabulous Bach series that will feature, among other things, four pianos onstage and a Philip Glass premiere. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the JACK Quartet, New York’s hometown, world-class ensemble. We’ve developed a series together—Soundscape America—to explore the breadth of American string quartet repertoire, which transcends the expected parameters of chronology and compositional style. Our Composer Portraits series will feature three newly commissioned works this year, by Ann Cleare, Chris Cerrone, Frederick Rzewski—and unique international voices from Brazil, China, France, and Ireland. There is a lot more to delve into, from Early Music and Jazz stars to a reimagined Carnival of the Animals featuring Lake Simons’ ingenious puppet theater. I love watching our audience up on the stage at the Pop-Up Concerts, right there with the musicians. Join us!”
"Refreshingly creative and smart."
"Immersive, cutting-edge work that sets the bar high."
— THE NEW YORKER
“Miller Theatre remains as vital as ever. Under the auspices of Melissa Smey, the venue consistently features programming that’s forward-thinking and fresh.”
— TIME OUT NEW YORK
“Miller Theatre continues to be the leading destination for new music and classics of modernism.”
— NEW YORK CLASSICAL REVIEW
Miller is thrilled to bring back its Bach series. Three fascinating concerts explore J.S.'s keyboard works with an intriguing cast of keyboard characters whose interests extend beyond the usual boundaries of classical music.
“Bach articulated the language of music in the most complete and richest and complex form that any single person has ever been able to do,” says Philip Glass, the iconic American composer whose own prodigious body of work and fascination with form and repetition compares to that of Bach. During his studies with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the mid-60s, Glass worked intensively with counterpoint and the music of Bach. His love and admiration for Bach has only intensified, as seen in works like Songs and Poems for Solo Cello and his Partita for Solo Violin.
In Miller's 2017-18 Season Opener, the acclaimed pianist and Bach specialist Simone Dinnerstein and Boston's self-conducted chamber orchestra A Far Cry (in its Miller debut) will perform the NY premiere of a new piano concerto that Glass has written especially for them. As a follow up to Bach + Glass, Simone Dinnerstein will perform a recital that pairs Glass with Schubert at Miller Theatre on January 18, 2018.
An introductory aria undergoes thirty singular transformations in Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Since its publication in 1741, the work has gained a reputation for presenting the performer with a monumental artistic challenge, requiring not only prodigious technical skill, but the emotional sensitivity to interpret the delicate nuances of mood and demeanor that give each variation its distinct character.
Miller Theatre is excited to present the brilliant young harpsichord star Mahan Esfahani (born in Tehran in 1984), whose recording of the Goldberg Variations was released last year by Deutsche Grammophon to great acclaim. "Everyone wants to record Bach’s Goldbergs, but not many show as much piercing insight as harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani," raved The Guardian. "Even music-lovers who normally hate the sound of the harpsichord find themselves mesmerized by Mahan Esfahani. He seems to have a magic touch on the instrument, coaxing out an extraordinary range of colour and articulations," wrote BBC Music Magazine.
Bach wrote many concertos for harpsichord throughout his lifetime, and given his attraction to the possibilities of counterpoint and harmony, it comes as no surprise that one harpsichord could not satisfy his imagination. In this program, Simone Dinnerstein teams up with fellow pianists Philip Lasser, Awadagin Pratt, and Dan Tepfer for an unparalleled performance of Bach’s concertos for one, two, three, and four keyboards.
“It is difficult to imagine a more innovative and up-for-anything pairing of venue and ensemble than the prominent uptown new-music hub and the unflappable JACK Quartet."
— THE NEW YORKER
The string quartet is an iconic configuration in classical music. This fall, one of the most important and exciting string quartets of our time, the JACK Quartet, takes on an extremely diverse survey of American string quartets of the 20th and 21st centuries. JACK, dubbed “superheroes of the new music world” by The Boston Globe, will perform eleven string quartets over two nights by a range of composers including jazz legends and masters of complexity Anthony Braxton and John Zorn, visionaries Ruth Crawford Seeger and Morton Feldman, thorny modernist hero Elliott Carter, maverick Gloria Coates—plus many written in the last five years by Natacha Diels, Erin Gee, Cenk Ergün, Mark Applebaum, and Marcos Balter.
“personality, verve, and thoughtfulness”
— THE WASHINGTON POST on Simone Dinnerstein
Simone Dinnerstein returns to Miller after her Bach concerts with a second concert featuring the music of Philip Glass in his 80th birthday year. This time Simone pairs Glass with Schubert, a composer he not only shares a birthday with—January 31—but also a harmonic and spiritual connection. Simone will perform a selection of Glass's Etudes and Metamorphoses followed without break by Schubert's Impromptus.
For more than a decade, Miller's flagship series Composer Portraits—deemed "endlessly important" by The New York Times and “indispensable” by The New Yorker—has exposed audiences to evening-length immersions into a single living composer's work. This season, Miller offers an in-depth look at six composers hailing from Brazil, China, France, Ireland, Massachusetts, and Brooklyn—including the chance to hear directly from the composers during onstage discussions.
This past April, Zachary Woolfe wrote in The New York Times: “The Miller Theater’s signature, invaluable Composer Portraits series is music’s Dia:Beacon, offering the chance to spend an entire evening getting to know a single living artist. You get a sense of who he (or, often, she) really is, rather than just a snapshot.”
“I am lucky to always know who will be premiering my works while I am writing them,” says Marcos Balter. It seems only fitting that this Portrait features the International Contemporary Ensemble, for whom Balter has written numerous works spanning more than a decade. Wickedly humorous, colorful, and unapologetically sensual, Balter’s music has earned him a passionate following. These elements are showcased in a program that includes Descent from Parnassus and Codex Seraphinianus, two works written specifically for ICE. "Balter's music evolves slowly, creating vivid emotional contexts and inviting the listener to savor sounds," wrote The Washington Post.
Shaped by her experience coming of age during the Cultural Revolution, Chen Yi’s early influences included Chinese traditional music and Western classical music. She is a master of contemporary technique and a strong advocate for music’s power to connect audiences of different cultural backgrounds. In the words of The New York Times, “Chen Yi’s music is about storytelling and theater, and a search for striking and original effects.” The spirited Curtis 20/21 Ensemble will take on Chen’s impressive chamber works, including the evocative Happy Rain on a Spring Night.
Listen to any work by Raphaël Cendo and one immediately feels its energy. Born in France and now based in Berlin, Cendo describes his affinity for both sonic and kinetic excess as an exploration of “saturation”—in terms of timbre, intensity, space, and gesture. The ever-ambitious musicians of Either/Or and Yarn/Wire team up for this exhilarating Portrait of Cendo’s chamber works, which includes the knockout Direct Action, written for Yarn/Wire.
Addressing themes that range from darkness and isolation to perception and discovery, Ann Cleare has an uncanny ability to translate our innermost experiences and emotions through music. But the spatial and visual aspects of sound excite her, too, as in the multi-dimensional eyam iv (Pluto’s Farthest Moons), which receives its world premiere at this performance. International Contemporary Ensemble presents some of the young Irish composer’s most striking works, including the square of yellow light that is your window, inspired by fellow Irish artist Oscar Wilde, and a world premiere commissioned by Miller Theatre and ICE.
From the very first note, Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone draws listeners into his vibrant sonic imagination—a sublime world of ethereal colors and deep emotional resonance. Riding high following the extraordinary success of his groundbreaking futuristic opera, Invisible Cities, Cerrone teams up with Grammy-award winning Third Coast Percussion ensemble and mezzo-soprano Rachel Calloway to perform recent chamber works, including the world premiere of a work commissioned for this Portrait.
Though American composer Frederic Rzewski is best known for his powerfully moving scores responding to social and political uprisings around the world, one of his earliest pieces was of a more familiar variety—a string quartet, composed when he was just 17 years old. Now approaching 80, Rzewski is still composing. For his second appearance on the Composer Portraits series, Miller highlights this very early work, followed by the world premiere of Rzewski’s latest string quartet, co-commissioned for the occasion.
Major support for Composer Portraits is provided by
the National Endowment for the Arts
Four electrifying ensembles make their Miller Theatre debuts in this season's series. Listeners will experience the soul-stirring sounds of the Hammond B3 organ, a contemporary take on the classic big band, Cuban-inspired inventions, and genre-defying virtuosity.
Dr. Lonnie Smith, the elder statesman of the Hammond B3 organ with a career spanning over five decades, is nothing short of a living legend. He cut his teeth in the 1960s alongside the likes of George Benson and Lee Morgan, and has become known as one the most important innovators of his instrument. Recently named an NEA Jazz Master, this septuagenarian is just getting warmed up—his freewheeling trio is a relentless tour de force of energy and groove.
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, an 18-member triple-Grammy-nominated postmodern big band "that makes expert use of the leader’s melodic ingenuity and the enthusiasm of its young members” (The New Yorker), is marked by driving rhythms, a powerful brass section, and harmonically rich orchestration. A genre-defying sculptor of timbre and texture, Argue is a visionary composer and bandleader whose skillful band comprises the city’s top jazz soloists.
At heart, the young Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez is a storyteller, exploring his incredible life growing up in Havana, surrounded by the richness of Cuba’s varied musical traditions. After seeking asylum in the U.S. in 2009, he was mentored by Quincy Jones, who calls Rodríguez “one of the most prolific and gifted pianists of the 21st century.” Rodríguez’s trio plays both original music and imaginative arrangements of standards from the Cuban tradition. “His virtuoso playing projects a spirited, youthful charm,” wrote The New York Times.
In the Claudia Quintet, John Hollenbeck has united five formidable talents to create a truly original ensemble. Performing Hollenbeck’s compositions, Claudia seamlessly weaves written material with improvised solos, scored for the unique instrumentation of vibraphone, accordion, bass, clarinet, and drums. The Claudia Quintet draws inspiration from many sources, including American minimalism, Argentine tango, and Senegalese percussion, combining these influences to make a thrilling tapestry of sound. In the words of The Los Angeles Times: “Rich with ambition and empathetic interplay...the Claudia Quintet doesn’t sound like anybody else. Which is exactly what makes them worth seeking out.”
Miller Theatre's "essential" (The New Yorker) Early Music series has been lauded as a leader in the scene. This year’s series highlights many of the undisputed masters of the genre as Miller welcomes back The Tallis Scholars, Vox Luminis, Les Délices, Orlando Consort, and New York Polyphony. The result is gloriously transcendent music of the Renaissance and Baroque eras, brought to life by some of the best musicians from around the world.
The Laborde Chansonnier is one of the finest surviving French song collection manuscripts, containing over a hundred songs by Binchois, Busnois, Dufay, Ockeghem, and other 15th century masters. Set with stunning illuminations and constructed with supreme skill, the Chansonnier—or songbook—was clearly produced for royal hands, eyes, and ears. England's Orlando Consort sings a montage of the Chansonnier’s most striking selections, complimenting the pictorial magic of this magnificent Renaissance artifact.
For 16th and 17th century royalty, funeral rituals provided one last opportunity for earthly opulence. The Belgium-based Vox Luminis explores the rich history of musical memorials, including Thomas Morley’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Elizabeth I and Heinrich Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien for Prince Heinrich von Reuss, who commissioned the piece as part of his elaborate funeral plans. Works by Purcell and Bach round out this poignant program that both mourns death and celebrates life.
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Netherlandish Renaissance composer Heinrich Isaac, whose career spanned the European continent and encompassed both sacred and secular genres. Though less widely known today than his contemporary Josquin des Prez, his work has nonetheless been massively influential. England's The Tallis Scholars return to Miller to celebrate the legacy of this prolific composer, performing several of Isaac’s motets alongside selections from Josquin, John Browne, and Thomas Crecquillon.
Thomas Tallis’s setting of the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah is undeniably one of the most revered works of the Renaissance canon. While 16th century Roman Catholics like Tallis primarily associated this text, which describes the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem, with Holy Thursday, Tallis’s beautiful arrangement of the verses continues to transcend liturgical use. Performed by the superb singers of New York Polyphony, this story of finding faith in times of despair proves as relevant today as it has throughout millennia.
Just as in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” true love sometimes ends with the ultimate sacrifice. Indeed, this tragic theme has inspired composers for centuries. The evocative cantatas Léandre et Héro and Pirame et Tisbé by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault and excerpts from Rameau’s groundbreaking opera Hippolyte et Aricie relate the timeless tales of star-crossed lovers in this program featuring Cleveland's Les Délices with soprano Clara Rottsolk and tenor Jason McStoots.
“In outdoing Barnum and Bailey, and Ringling,
Saint-Saëns has done a miraculous thingling!”
– OGDEN NASH, poetry for Carnival of the Animals
“Saint-Saëns’s playful score, with its preening swans, braying asses, and heavy-pawed pachyderms, has always been a children’s delight, especially when accompanied by Ogden Nash’s verse interpolations. Miller Theatre puts it on the stage with puppetry and dance.”
— NEW YORK MAGAZINE
Miller reimagines its holiday favorite, bringing new puppets and new surprises to celebrate “feathers, fur, and fins.” A peek behind the painted red curtain will charm and enchant, as director Lake Simons returns to bring a sense of magic and fantasy to the Miller stage. Featuring some of New York’s best musicians and most skillful puppeteers, this year’s Carnival will delight longtime fans and welcome first-timers into a world of wit and imagination. For the young and the young at heart, this annual Milller event is quickly becoming one of New York’s most beloved holiday traditions.
Carnival of the Animals is a Miller Theatre at Columbia University production.
Commissioned by Miller Theatre at Columbia University.
Community is at the heart of everything Miller Theatre does for its adventurous audiences. Public art, participatory workshops, free concerts—these ongoing programs are designed to welcome visitors of all ages and interests to get involved with Miller's innovative ventures.
Harlem’s deep tradition of civic activism blossoms in the thriving gardens carefully cultivated in its many reclaimed spaces. This fall’s Morningside Lights pays tribute to the tireless, resourceful visionaries who have, lot by lot, shovel by shovel, transformed Harlem's secret gardens. Visiting artists Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles return to Miller Theatre to lead a week of free art-making workshops, open to all, and a culminating illuminated procession through the neighborhood on Saturday, September 23. The public can learn more or sign up to create their own lantern at www.morningside-lights.com.
Morningside Lights is co-produced with the Arts Initiative at Columbia University.
Whether it is one's first visit to Miller Theatre or fiftieth, the free and fun Pop-Up Concerts provide the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with today’s most exciting new music. Sit onstage and enjoy a free drink during these hour-long weeknight concerts, and mingle with the musicians and fellow concertgoers after the show. Onstage seating is first-come, first-served.
Check www.millertheatre.com for dates and times (typically announced a month or two in advance), and join the Miller Theatre email list for updates and concert announcements.
“"Miller Theater’s PopUp series (free entry, free beer) continues to outdo itself.”
— THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Miller Theatre's exciting, intimate and generous free series."
— TIME OUT NY
Major support for Pop-Up Concerts is provided by
the National Endowment for the Arts and the Dow Jones Foundation
Pop-Up Concerts Series Sponsor