For me, commissioning new works means connecting with our world, hearing a different point of view, and having added relevance to the world we live in. New music is there to reflect certain parts of our society and certain preoccupations that we all have collectively, and also so people can bring their own culture and background to our concert stage. I’m thinking first of [Composer-in-Residence] Gabriela Lena Frank’s Picaflor [May 11–13, 2023]. Gabby has been working with the Orchestra for many years. She was actually the first composer I commissioned when I became music director. Over the years we have performed a lot of her music, but this one is special. It’s based on a traditional Peruvian creation myth, but one that actually has much resonance today.
John Luther Adams is one of the most important composers of our time, and I’m very excited that we’ve commissioned a piece for chorus and orchestra called Vespers of the Blessed Earth [March 30–April 2]. There’s an obvious reference to all the vespers that have been traditionally performed: the great ones by Monteverdi and Mozart; many composers wrote vespers. But these are not religious. They have more to do with the spirituality of the earth, which is very often the case with John’s music, a preoccupation with earth in terms of climate change and how we need to take care of nature. This piece will be a collaboration with the Crossing, a fantastic choir from Philadelphia that I’m very much looking forward to working with.
Xi Wang’s Ensō [December 8–10] is based on a sacred Buddhist symbol meaning circle, and it’s about the flow of the harmony of nature and earth. This is something that I believe is in much of the music we play, an example being one of the last concerts in the season when we will perform Bruckner’s music, which I always found very connected with these philosophies. Now to commission a Chinese composer to give us her vision of this relationship between music, philosophy, and myth, religion and spirituality, is going be very telling and a meaningful moment in our season.