Alex WeiserNY, NY
Broad gestures, rich textures, and narrative sweep are hallmarks of the “compelling” (New York Times), “shapely, melody-rich” (Wall Street Journal), “ravishing” (The New Yorker) music of composer Alex Weiser. Born and raised in New York City, Weiser creates acutely cosmopolitan music combining a deeply felt historical perspective with a vibrant forward-looking creativity. Weiser has been praised for writing “insightful” music “of great poetic depth” (Feast of Music), and for having a “sophisticated ear and knack for evoking luscious textures and imaginative yet approachable harmonies.” (I Care If You Listen).
An energetic advocate for contemporary classical music and for the work of his peers, Weiser co-founded and directs Kettle Corn New Music, an “ever-enjoyable,” and “engaging” concert series which “creates that ideal listening environment that so many institutions aim for: relaxed, yet allowing for concentration,” (New York Times) and was for nearly five years a director of the MATA Festival, “the city’s leading showcase for vital new music by emerging composers.” (The New Yorker). Weiser is now the Director of Public Programs at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research where he curates and produces programs that combine a fascination with and curiosity for historical context, with an eye toward influential Jewish contributions to the culture of today and tomorrow.
Weiser is currently developing an opera with librettist Ben Kaplan called State of the Jews. Based on the life of Theodor Herzl, the opera juxtaposes a historical narrative focusing on the last year of his life, with the more intimate story of Theodor’s conflicted relationship with his wife, Julie Herzl, and the toll his political views and activities took on their family life. The opera is being developed as a part of a two-year fellowship with American Opera Projects, the LABA fellowship of the 14th Street Y, and with support from the ConEd Exploring the Metropolis Composer Residency program.
Recent projects include and all the days were purple, a 30-minute song cycle for Eliza Bagg and ensemble featuring songs setting Yiddish and English language Jewish poems reflecting on life and death which is the center piece of Weiser’s recent release on Cantaloupe Music, and Shimmer, an extended work for eight spatially-arrayed cellos for Ashley Bathgate which will also be released on an album in the coming season. Other recent projects include Three Epitaphs for singer Kate Maroney and chamber orchestra Cantata Profana, and water hollows stone for HOCKET piano duo. Other commissions and performances have come from ensembles and musicians including the Soldiers Tale septet, Exceptet, Kathleen Supové, Typical Music (Todd Reynolds, Ashley Bathgate, and Vicky Chow), Lisa Moore, Mellissa Hughes, Sandbox Percussion, JACK Quartet, Guidonian Hand, Momenta Quartet, Argento Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Bearthoven, Fifth House Ensemble, bassoon quintet Dark in the Song, and the New Amsterdam Singers.
For more information please visit the composer’s website, www.AlexWeiser.com.
and all the days were purple 1. My Joy
Perhaps this was my happiness:
to feel how your eyes
bowed down before me.
No, rather this was my happiness:
to go silently back and forth
across the square with you.
No, not even that, but listen:
how over our joy
there hovered the smiling face of death.
And all the days were purple
and all were hard.
after shir hashirim
shir hashirim is the ur-love poem. An ecstatic erotic book found in ketuvim (writings) in the Jewish bible, it has been a source of inspiration for generation after generation of Hebrew love poems. The original text itself contains multitudes: from descriptions of kisses, wine, and sweet fragrances, to passages lamenting a lost love, to lines that are odd and inscrutable, to a warning that love is as strong as death, unquenchable and undrownable. I aimed to find a musical world in which all of this could coexist.
Motivated by a mixture of philosemitic encouragement to explore their Jewish identity, as well as antisemitic discouragement that kept them from feeling fully Russian, Jewish students of the St. Petersburg...