New York Philharmonic leases out a world premiere

The NY Phil commissioned a concerto for its principal viola, Cynthia Phelps, from the composer Julia Adolphe.

A Lincoln Center world premiere was scheduled for November.

Er, no.

cindy-phelps-richard-bowditch-200w

Phelps’s representative asked Gerard Schwarz, music director of the Eastern Music Festival, if she could premiere the concerto this weekend with the EMF’s faculty orchestra in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Schwarz agreed – why not? – to an unsought feather in his festival’s cap.

But why did the NY Phil give up its first-night rights so lightly?

Has the chance of presenting a world premiere lost all of its New York prestige?

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  • “Because it’s so new, I thought it would very helpful to be able to play it with an orchestra before I played it in New York, with The New York Times critics there,” Phelps said. “I wanted to be able to know what it’s like to have the whole orchestra texture behind me and to play it for a big audience.”

    and

    “Phelps previewed the concerto’s first movement at a New York event honoring Adolphe, then the entire piece with piano in California. They rewrote a few parts.

    Now they look forward to working with Schwarz and the EMF faculty orchestra.

    After EMF, Phelps will perform the concerto in October with the USC Thornton Symphony.”

    Sounds like the Philharmonic is not jealous of letting the composer & soloist try out

    Phelps previewed the concerto’s first movement at a New York event honoring Adolphe, then the entire piece with piano in California. They rewrote a few parts.

    Now they look forward to working with Schwarz and the EMF faculty orchestra.

    After EMF, Phelps will perform the concerto in October with the USC Thornton Symphony.”

    Sounds like the Philharmonic is not jealous about who gets the world premiere; it can still be a New York premiere, and if there is any rewriting/revision before November, I believe they can still call it a world premiere.

  • A viola concerto presents inherent issues of balance, requiring great skill and experience on the composer’s (and conductor’s) part to work successfully. It makes sense to “try out” a new viola concerto by a new composer in a workshop-like setting, so that adjustments can be made in a more leisurely setting than the pressure of a regular weekly New York Philharmonic program. Cynthia Phelps was smart to arrange things that way, and the Philharmonic was smart to agree.

  • Out-of-town tryout before going to Broadway.

    They can change a few notes after and call it a world premiere of the new version.

  • Everyone benefits from additional performances. It will doubtless encourage more interest in the official ‘premiere’, and drum up more interest in additional players/ensembles taking up the work. After all, that’s the usual intent in a commission – aside from getting a good piece – to have a new work enter the repertoire with the name(s) of the commissioning ensemble(s) at the top of the title page, etc.

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