Exploring creativity and collaboration with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and composer Michael Hersch

Patricia Kopatchinskaja

By Lauren McNee

This Thursday through Saturday, November 5-7, Saint Paul audiences will hear the world premiere of Michael Hersch’s Violin Concerto featuring SPCO Artistic Partner Patricia Kopatchinskaja (Tickets + Info).

The process of collaboration between composers and soloists is fascinating, so we’re also excited to launch the new Music in the Making series we’ve created with American Composers Forum and Minnesota Public Radio. On Wednesday, November 4, Hersch and Kopatchinskaja will discuss the creative collaboration process with host Steve Seel of Classical MPR.

Known for writing works that are “startling in their complexity, beauty and demonic fury” (New York Times), Michael Hersch is one of the leading composers of his generation, as well as a concert pianist. The complexity and stark emotion of Hersch’s violin concerto performed by the effervescent Kopatchinskaja is sure to enthrall SPCO audiences.

The new concerto exists in the psychological and musical space of grief. The space is occupied by thoughts of the death of a dear friend of Hersch who passed over five years ago. As time passes, the pain is greater as he misses her more and more.

A nod to genres of the past, the first and fourth movements are brief and function as a prelude and postlude. The psychological core of the concerto is formed by the inner movements, which are inspired by art and literature influenced by Classical Greek and Victorian realism.

The second movement is inspired by the aesthetic of the bronze sculpture Stanchion (1984) by sculptor Christopher Cairns. Located at the University of Pennsylvania, Stanchion depicts a classical female figure clad in robes and resembles a caryatid, which is a sculpted female figure that serves as architectural support. Even though Stanchion is a symbol of strength and support, she is also damaged, missing half of her face and limbs.

The concerto’s third movement is inspired by the poem A Commonplace Day (1922) by Thomas Hardy, whose poems also inspired Hersch’s 2013 song cycle, Domicillium. Here are fragments of A Commonplace Day:

The day is turning ghost …
I part the fire-gnawed logs,
Rake forth the embers, spoil the busy flames, and lay the ends
Upon the shining dogs;
Further and further from the nooks the twilights’s stride extends,
And beamless black impends …
And when the nights moan like the wailings
Of souls sore-tried,
The folk say who pass the church-palings
They hear inside
Strange sounds of anger and sadness
That cut the heart’s core,
And shaken words bitter to madness;
And then no more

The Music in the Making event is free and open to the public, but reservations are accepted.

Watch & Listen

New Music in the Making Host Steve Seel:

Classical MPR: Steve Seel discusses Music in the Making

Featuring Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the SPCO:

Compositions by Michael Hersch:

The Vanishing Pavilions, Movement 6, performed and written by Michael Hersch

The Wreckage of Flowers, Mvm. 13, by Michael Hersch, performed by Miranda Cuckson (Liquid Music artist 2015.16)