August 18, 2011
American Pianist Donald Berman Launches 2011-2012 Season at Distler Hall
Pianist Donald Berman, Director of the New Music Ensemble at Tufts University and the Summer Institute at the New England Conservatory, will launch a busy 2011-2012 season with chamber music performances in three very different contexts, two of them within the active music scene in the city of Boston. "For years I've had major teaching, performing and recording commitments elsewhere, and have maintained a separate residence in New York City, but there's so much going on in Boston that I've decided to give in to my love of this city and from now on bring my primary focus back to Boston," says Mr.Berman. One major impetus for his decision was Mr. Berman's time as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University in 2010-2011. "I spent an entire year performing programs rooted in the music of Charles Ives and researching Harvard musical archives for the works of other under-performed composers - which reminded me of the rich, multi-dimensional experience available to the performer/scholar/educator in this environment," he says.
The 2011-2012 season will begin with Piano Trios on the Brink, a concert at Tufts University's stellar Distler Hall on Friday, 23 September at 8pm. Mr.Berman will be joined by violinist Gil Morganstern and cellist Ole Akahoshi in performances of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht ( in a transcription for piano trio by Schoenberg student Eduard Steuermann), and Trio No. 2 in E minor by Shostakovich. Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht has long been regarded as one of the demarcations between the Romantic and Modern eras, while the Shostakovich trio was written as the Nazi death camps were liberated in 1945. Both works embody one era while leaning toward another. Admission to the concert is free, with no tickets required. For directions to Distler Hall, which is located within the Granoff Music Center, visit tufts.edu/musiccenter//directions.
On 25 September, Mr. Berman will perform in Dissolving Boundaries, a concert by the legendary new music ensemble Dinosaur Annex, which has been performing in the Boston area for 37 years. The concert features Trifolium for piano trio by Gabriela Ortiz Torres, Dogma 74 for flute, bass clarinet, viola, cello and piano by David Sanford, and East Broadway for toy piano and audio playback by Bang on a Can's Julia Wolfe. The concert will take place at 7pm at the Slosberg Recital Hall on the campus of Brandeis University, 415 South St. / Waltham, MA 02453. www.dinosaurannex.org
On 10 October at 8pm, Mr.Berman will join soprano Brenda Patterson, violinist David Bowlin and cellist Darrett Adkins in a concert of the music of Brahms and Su Lian Tan. They will perform Brahms' Piano Trio No.1 in B Major, Op.8, and Ms.Tan's Jamaica's Songs, on texts by Jamaica Kincaid. About combining standard repertoire with new music in concert programs, Donald Berman says "I strive to infuse my programs with stylistic approaches that converse across centuries, and to introduce my audiences and students to the diversity of traditional, cross-cultural, and modern repertoires. I have always been fascinated by how new music and standard repertoire inform one another."
Mr.Berman's newest recording, to be released in November 2011 by Summit Records, features the world premiere recording of Piano Concerto, written for him by Christopher Theofanidis, whose new opera Heart of a Soldier will receive its world premiere at San Francisco Opera in September with Thomas Hampson in the starring role. Mr.Berman premiered the piano concerto with the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Timothy Russell in Columbus in 2006. Subsequent releases will include a solo recording of the music of Martin Boykan, one of the central figures in Dinosaur Annex.
In Spring 2012, Donald Berman and Schoenberg scholar Joseph Auner will collaborate on a seminar at Tufts University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Pierrot Lunaire. They will take a multi-disciplinary approach involving both professional and student performances of Schoenberg's great work. The soloist in the performance will be the exceptional soprano Susan Narucki.
American pianist Donald Berman is recognized as one of the chief exponents of new works by living composers, overlooked music by 20th century masters, and recitals that link classical and modern repertoires. His reputation as definitive interpreter of the American new music canon is unsurpassed. His playing has been described as "Versatile" (NY Times), "Adventurous" (NY Times), "Invaluable" (New Yorker), and "Essential" (Boston Globe). He has established an extensive discography in the works of major American composers, including Ives, Ruggles, Kernis, Levering, Wheeler, Boykan, and many others. Mr. Berman's acclaimed recordings of The Unknown Ives (on CRI and New World, in two volumes) present premieres of unpublished works and new critical editions (by Mr.Berman) in the only recording of the complete short piano works of Charles Ives extant. On The Uncovered Ruggles Mr.Berman offers premiere recordings of unpublished sketches, transcriptions, and realizations of Ruggles' music by John Kirkpatrick. For ten years Mr.Berman devoted his energies to curating an exhaustive survey of neglected works by American composers sponsored by the American Academy in Rome - first in a 4-concert series at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and subsequently in a 4-CD set on Bridge Records (9271). Both the Americans in Rome recording and his recording of Charles Ives songs with soprano Susan Narucki, The Light That Is Felt (New World 80680) were named CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine.
Donald Berman has performed to critical acclaim at major venues in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. In 2009 his electro-acoustic solo show When Brahma Sleeps, a collaboration with composer and sound designer Mark Wingate, was premiered to critical acclaim at New York's Le Poisson Rouge in its inaugural season. In 2010 Mr. Berman's versatility was showcased by the Hartford Symphony with conductor Tito Munoz as the soloist in Christopher Theofanidis' Piano Concerto, side by side with Chopin's La ci darem la mano Variations for piano and orchestra. He has premiered works as diverse as Su Lian Tan's U-Don Rock, David Rakowski's Chase, Donald Martino's Piano Trio, Milton Babbitt's Septet but Equal, David Lang's Burn Notice, and Arthur Levering's Piano concertina Catena. Other recent performances have ranged from Mozart concertos with the Columbus Symphony to recitals linking Haydn and Schubert with new music, called "thrillingly clear" by the New York Times.
A prizewinner at the 1991 Schubert International Competition, Mr.Berman studied the piano with Leonard Shure, John Kirkpatrick, George Barth, and Mildred Victor. He directs the Contemporary Music Ensemble at Tufts University, directs the Summer Piano Institute at New England Conservatory, collaborates with musicologists on performance practice courses, and teaches master classes as well as private students. He was a Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University in 2011, is Treasurer for the Charles Ives Society, and currently lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and two children.