New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP, aka Sick Puppy) has established itself as one of the most prolific contemporary music festivals the East Coast has to offer. Running from June 18-25, the festival offers a multifaceted program for composers, instrumentalists, and vocalists through participant ensembles, master classes, and workshops in electronic music and performance. Artistic Director Stephen Drury has assembled a notable faculty of distinguished composers and performers, making participation in this festival a coveted experience for enthusiastic contemporary performers and emerging composers alike.
But the big perk for the rest of us music lovers is an action-packed week of performances by Drury’s Callithumpian Consort and the festival musicians. Starting on Monday, June 20, Jordan Hall and Brown Hall will host a concert every evening, featuring faculty composers and performers. The unique daily concerts will include premieres of works by Tristan Murail (the festival’s composer-in-residence), John Luther Adams, and Nicholas Vines, and a diverse array of works by Fredereic Rzewski, John Corigliano, Joshua Fineberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tamar Diesendruck, Lei Liang, Charles Wuorinen, John Zorn, and more.
The concerts on Monday and Wednesday both feature performances by the Callithumpian Consort. Drury himself will perform Zorn’s fay ce que vouldras. But perhaps one of the most anticipated evenings of the series will be Wednesday’s concert, at which the ensemble features resident composer Tristan Murail. He is one of the world’s most celebrated living composers, known primarily as one of the innovators behind the compositional practice, Spectralism. In addition to a performance of Le Lac will be the world premiere of Lachrymae, composed for the Callithumpians. Also on the program is the virtuosic Territoires de l’oubil, to be performed by William Fried; Okanagon by Giacinto Scelsi, who had a profound influence on Murail’s unique style; and Counterfactual by Boston’s own Joshua Fineberg, protégé of Murail
On Tuesday evening, pianist Ursula Oppens, a bona fide contemporary music legend, will be performing Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated, for which she received one of her three Grammy nominations, as well as Corigliano’s Etude Fantasy and Wuorinen’s Oros, both of which were commissioned and premiered by Oppens in the last couple of years.
Thursday’s performance includes a performance of Stockhausen’s Kontakte, with Drury at the piano and percussionist Stuart Gerber; Gerber’s ties with the composer are sure to guarantee a stalwart performance. Also on the program is the Boston premiere of Four Thousand Holes by John Luther Adams, who has recently been in town as a visiting lecturer at Harvard.
Friday’s performance features musicians Corey Hamm, Yukiko Takagi, Jessi Rosinski, Stuart Gerber, Karina Fox, and Martin Stragier in a program featuring the faculty musicians as soloists.
The festival culminates on Saturday, June 25, with the SICPP Iditarod, a six-hour-plus marathon concert. In addition to performances of works by the festival’s composition fellows, they also will perform works by Saariaho, Stockhausen, Carter, Schnittke, Hurel, Grisey, Xenakis, Cage, Wolff, Foss, Crumb, Kurtag, and Scelsi, as well as more music by Murail, and Steve Reich’s masterwork Music for Eighteen Musicians. The Iditarod will also feature the premiere performance of New England Drift, commissioned by Callithumpian Consort and SICPP composed by 2009 SICPP fellow Lee Weisert.
All these concerts are free and open to the public. And with such a broad and inclusive collection of contemporary milestones, Sick Puppy’s upcoming concert series is one not to be missed.
Peter Van Zandt Lane is a composer and bassoonist who performs regularly in the Boston area. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Music Composition and Theory at Brandeis University.