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Musical Fund Society Bicentennial: New Commissions from Tania León, Stephen Jaffe, Roberto Sierra, Augusta Read Thomas

The Nation's Oldest Music Society Celebrates Philadelphia with Four New Works Performed by Curtis 20/21, Astral Artists, PRISM Qtet and NNM!


The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia will celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2020 by commissioning four eminent American composers to create works connected to the city of Philadelphia, to be premiered by four acclaimed Philadelphia ensembles:

—>Stephen Jaffe will compose a work for the Network for New Music Ensemble

—>Tania León will compose a wind sextet for the Curtis Institute 20/21 Ensemble

—>Augusta Read Thomas will compose a string quartet for the Rolston Quartet of Astral Artists

—>Roberto Sierra will compose a saxophone quartet for the PRISM Quartet

All four works will receive their world premiers on April 26, 2020. Presented in partnership with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, this event has been moved from Settlement Music School to the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater due to high ticket demand.

Additionally, a special exhibit of historic Society memorabilia—including the Bartok third string quartet manuscript and a lock of Niccolo Paganini’s hair—at the Kislak Center in the University of Pennsylvania Library, and a display of Society-related manuscripts at the Fleisher Collection of The Free Library of Philadelphia.

These exciting events will celebrate music in Philadelphia, from the Society’s inception in 1820 through the present time, and connect Philadelphia audiences with the city’s rich musical life. The bicentennial celebration calls attention to the Society’s unique role in promoting, supporting and encouraging this rich musical legacy by providing vital opportunities to deserving composers, outstanding performing artists, and regional audiences.

The Commissions

Tania León’s work for the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble will celebrate the Musical Fund Society’s long-lasting and unwavering support of people from all heritages who have helped build Philadelphia’s music scene, and the Society’s ability to embrace the sounds of each generation, foreseeing what might be relevant for future ones and supporting innovators who later became music icons. “Nowadays, society is more mindful of the contributions composers and musicians have made to humanity,” León said.

In describing his piece, Stephen Jaffe wrote, “As I soak up ideas and ambiance, let them ferment, and aim to produce something previously unheard, new, beautiful and curious, my work for Network for New Music will celebrate the city and the region for its plentifulness and effervescence.”

Roberto Sierra will write a work for the PRISM Quartet inspired by the urban street as a sequel to his work Graffiti, written in 2017. He said “Philadelphia, like all major American cities has great street art, which I intend to explore through the sounds of saxophones, a soulful instrument at home in many settings.”

Augusta Read Thomas is picking up on Philadelphia’s history of inclusion, innovation, communication, industry, fertile fields, and the brother and sisterhood that binds us all together. “My work for the Rolston Quartet will flow like the arc of the rivers that define this great city. From planting seeds to harvesting the fruit of mind and labor embodied in the spirit of Philadelphia, thanks is given for our mutual celebration of justice, love and joy, health and knowledge, beauty and insight into the nature of being.”

Project Media

The Ensembles: Astral Artists’ Rolston String Quartet, Network for New Music Ensemble, PRISM Quartet, Curtis Ensemble 20/21
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Rolston String Quartet of Astral Artists: String Quartet No. 1, “Métamorphoses nocturnes” by Ligeti (excerpt)

3:06: Network for New Music Ensemble; Jan Krzywicki, conductor: Light and Shadow by Pierre Jalbert

5:58: PRISM Quartet (saxophones): Short Stories, Chase by Jennifer Higdon

9:21 Curtis Institute 20/21 Ensemble: Sparkle by Chen Yi

Start and End Dates



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Associated Event

April 26, 2020 | Philadelphia, PA
Archived Events

Project Created By

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia, established in 1820, is the oldest continuing musical organization in the United States. Like other organizations founded on its model in Boston and elsewhere, the Musical Fund Society was organized to promote music performance and to aid needy musicians. It continues to play an active role in the career…

In Collaboration With

Camillus, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
One of four participating performing ensembles


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