Superficially, Wolfgang Mozart's THE MAGIC FLUTE (or DIE ZAUBERFLOTE for you purists) and David Hertzberg's THE WAKE WORLD couldn't seem less alike, written more than two centuries apart and with very different musical vocabularies. Taken together, they stretch the definition of what makes an opera. (And how...) Yet, as two of the main attractions of Opera Philadelphia's daring new O17 opera festival, they have a surprising amount in common--including spectacular scores that demand to be heard again and again.
SUGGESTING CELESTA | One of the three (yes, three!) world premieres at Opera Philadelphia’s O17 festival is David Hertzberg’s “The Wake World,” a fantastical tale presented in a spacious court at the Barnes Foundation. Mr. Herzberg’s spiky, sumptuous opera reminded me of his chamber piece “Orgie-Céleste,” which I heard performed in 2015 on a Young Concert Artists program. In this score I hear echoes of Messaien, Schoenberg and Feldman, though the compositional voice is personal and quirky, at once mystical and wild. At times, true to its title, it suggests strange, tinkling celesta sounds. Catch the passage when the clarinetist, violinist and pianist seem to get swept up in their own spheres, but just calmly keep on.
Composer David Hertzberg’s music in The Wake World inspired some of the best critical writing of the festival. Waleson: “The sheen and muscle of Strauss wedded to the diaphanous spirit of Debussy.” Tommasini: “The score, spiked with modernist elements, makes Mr. Hertzberg seem like a 21st-century Ravel.” Dobrin: “A half-remembered dream Szymanowski once had about Scriabin.”
[ ... ] Just five instrumentalists produce wondrous colors and sonorities. The score, spiked with modernist elements, makes Mr. Hertzberg seem a 21st-century Ravel. The choral writing is eerily voluptuous. The performers, directed by R. B. Schlather, often walked amid attendees, who sat, stood and milled about. (Talk about engaging your audience.)
[ ... ] Mr. Hertzberg’s music, conducted by Elizabeth Braden, has an early 20th-century aura, with the sheen and muscle of Strauss wedded to the diaphanous spirit of Debussy, but with a distinctly modern edge. His variety makes the orchestra of five sound like many more instruments, while the chorus of 16 creates a mystical underpinning for the arresting principal singers, soprano Maeve Höglund (Lola) and mezzo Rihab Chaieb (Fairy Prince).
[ ... ] The Wake World, by David Hertzberg, is music to draw up around you like velvet — or, to borrow from Hertzberg’s own libretto, “such soft violet glistens like this place.” The prose was purple, and so was the music, so thoroughly an antique musical language that it sounded like a half-remembered dream Szymanowski once had about Scriabin. A lesson in music theory isn’t necessary here, but suffice it to say that Hertzberg, with degrees from both Juilliard and Curtis, recognizes the mystical qualities of a harmonic world that constantly resists resolution. It floats.
Richard Sasanow | September 15, 2017
The last of the new operas at the center of Opera Philadelphia's O17 opera fest is THE WAKE WORLD, a chamber piece written by composer/librettist David Hertzberg and directed by RB Schlather. It opens on Monday September 18 at the Barnes collection in central Philadelphia and promises a one-of-a-kind experience for those savvy enough to snare a ticket. Its five performances are sold out.
Musically, I’m most intrigued by The Wake World, David Hertzberg’s one-act opera inspired by works in the Barnes Foundation (and performed there) and by British polymath Aleister Crowley (poet, occultist, mountaineer). Hertzberg’s musical language, to judge by past works, is atmospheric and highly sensitive to color — not bad qualities given the subject matter.
On the exciting line-up for this year's O17 Festival is the world premiere of Opera Philadelphia's Composer in Residence David Hertzberg's The Wake World, September 18-25. With director R.B. Schlather, Hertzberg's work is designed to give audiences a one-of-a-kind experience of the galleries of The Barnes Foundation, focusing on the fascinating lives of Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951) and Aleister Crowley (1875-1947).
Opera Philadelphia’s much-anticipated new festival includes an astonishing three world premieres and a Philadelphia premiere. [...] The Wake World, with music and libretto by David Hertzberg, is inspired by an Aleister Crowley story and the highly personal art collection amassed by Albert C. Barnes in Philadelphia. The opera will take place in the Barnes Museum.
At 27, David Hertzberg is one of the youngest composers at the festival. His “Méditation Boréale,” performed by the Lyris String Quartet, also on the April 29 program, unfolds in an uninterrupted 15-minute arc. “I wrote it on a trip to Sweden,” Hertzberg said. “It has an arctic flavor, conjuring a magical northern landscape.”
Hertzberg currently is working on “The Wake World,” an opera that grew out of his thinking about the mystical and religious symbols in kabbalah. Commissioned by Opera Philadelphia, it opens in September.
Speaking with Mr. Yim onstage before the premiere of his alluring Chamber Symphony, Mr. Hertzberg said that this single-movement work presents a series of contrasting ideas, almost as if different composers were talking to one another across vistas. The piece begins with seemingly distinct statements, with pauses in between: a mini-episode of pastoral-like sonorities with an ominous cello line lurking below; sustained, bustling high harmonies with squiggly flights from the piano; an episode of staggered drum bursts; a haze of dense, piercingly dissonant chords; and more. Over time the music tries to find commonalities among the contrasts, building to an ecstatic, slightly crazed culmination that sounded like modern-day Messiaen.
David Hertzberg is currently Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music Theatre Group and has been honored with the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, the Fromm Commission from Harvard University, and the Aaron Copland Award from Copland House. Past residencies include Tanglewood, Yaddo, IC Hong Kong, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and Young Concert Artists.
David's Spectre of the Spheres was selected for our 2015 Underwood New Music Readings, where it earned him the $15,000 Underwood Commission to write a new orchestral work. David's Chamber Symphony is this new work, and will be premiered by Maestro George Manahan and the American Composers Orchestra at “Past Forward” on Friday, March 24, 2017 at 7:30pm in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. David was kind enough to talk with us about the piece.
David Hertzberg was on hand to preface his “for none shall gaze upon the Father and live,” written in 2015, the young composer describing his intent behind the work’s mystical soundworld. Beginning with a fragile effect of air blown through the brass and rasping of near-silent strings, the seismic pulse developed from long, layered, decaying tones. Wide intervallic leaps, a two-note theme, were revealed from this atmosphere, which relied on a series of swell-and-release moments to proceed with the push of its expanding crescendo. At the final strike, Stern suspended the cut off to allow the work’s visceral effect on the audience to dissipate.
The next piece in the program was a short but wonderfully beautiful piece by Los Angeles-based composer David Hertzberg titled Ellébore, composed for a septet. Hertzberg also came to us in black and white video format to explain his inspiration for the piece, which was a blooming flower in the winter. Indeed, this was a delicate piece that was definitely edgy but kept a balance through strings that reminded me of melting snow and the slow moving water accumulating in a field getting ready for spring.
Mason Bates, the Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence, continues his reinvention of the classical music concert experience. Named after one of two works to be performed by composer and vocalist Lisa Bielawa, Ravishment will be conducted by Fawzi Haimor and anchored by a performance of The Second Quartet by John Adams in celebration of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer’s 70th birthday. Also on the bill is Carrot Revolution, a work by one of Adams’ students, Gabriella Smith, plus an eerie electronica piece by Chris Cerrone and a dreamy whimsical work by David Hertzberg. All set within a warehouse-type top floor space, the concert is followed by a dance party featuring DJ Moose.
The son of San Fernando Valley State Sen. Bob Hertzberg is composer-in-residence for Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group. [David] Hertzberg has two degrees from Juilliard (where he studied under the tutelage of Jewish composer Sam Adler) and has been described as a “gifted young composer … with a vibrantly personal style” by The New York Times. His music has been performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, and by the likes of the New York City Opera, the Kansas City Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
David Hertzberg is a Jewish American composer, currently living in Los Angeles, the city in which he was raised. He started playing music around age eight, studying violin, cello, and piano, and began composing soon thereafter with a love of Mozart and a deep feeling of kinship for classical music. Hertzberg reflects: “Composing was for me an immediately natural way of relating to music… I was fairly serious about piano for a while, but it was always second to composition.”
AMERICAN COMPOSERS ORCHESTRA The young composer David Hertzberg impressed last year with “Sunday Morning,” an unusually unshowy, memorably delicate cantata for New York City Opera. This indefatigable new-music band gives the premiere of his new symphony at Carnegie Hall [...] March 24.
Harking back to the suave songs of Lee Hoiby and Ned Rorem, David Hertzberg’s “Ablutions of Oblivion” sews together two Stevens poems with mellow lines for the singer and exuberant drizzles of piano (Milena Gligic).
Among the highlights are the soprano Julia Bullock (fresh from her new evening of Josephine Baker arrangements at Lincoln Center), with works by Lukas Foss; John Cage; and the young, talented David Hertzberg.
The opening-night concert features performances by a true original, the young American soprano Julia Bullock (singing music by David Hertzberg in addition to classics by Foss and Cage); by the Australian flutist, soprano, and multimedia experimentalist Alice Teyssier; and by the Swedish composer and vocal improvisor Sofia Jernberg.
Hertzberg’s star is currently on the rise with his music being performed on elite stages such as Tanglewood, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall. Spectre of the Spheres, winner of the NEP’s annual Call for Scores competition, is a musical depiction of the aurora borealis as told through a poem by Wallace Stevens.
The music develops glacially, unfolding from a veil of harmonics and wind flutters that shimmer in space like the northern lights themselves. As the piece progresses, dense clouds of descending passages and stark string and wind statements form, carrying the piece to a sudden conclusion.
He then gave the premiere performance of David Hertzberg’s “Daphne Unbound,” a 10-minute work for solo violin commissioned (by Concert Artists Guild in conjunction with the BMI Foundation) for Mr. Yang’s debut. Mr. Hertzberg, a young composer on the rise who has had several premieres in New York of late, wrote in a program note that this piece was inspired by myths and fairy tales of “natural transfiguration.” It begins mysteriously, as the violin plays cosmic-sounding harmonics that float high and low, like spectral arpeggios. Soon, tones swell and lines coalesce into a searching soliloquy. The piece gradually becomes agitated, though somehow this shift seems the expression of intensity that had been stirring from the start. Mr. Yang played with rhapsodic allure and wondrous colors.
Living composer David Hertzberg wrote “Méditation boréale” a commission for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. In a recent news release, Cascade Quartet violist Maria Ritzenthaler explained that “Hertzberg uses extreme registers and unique timbres to create a shimmering and ethereal sound world for the string quartet.”
Although young, Hertzberg is a rising star as a composer, and his works have been performed at several major music festivals and on the stages of Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall.
“Sunday Morning,” a work for soprano and small ensemble by the young composer David Hertzberg, was originally commissioned by Gotham Chamber Opera. But when that company foundered last year before a planned performance could take place, the piece wasscooped up by New York City Opera, which was rising from the ashes of bankruptcy at just the same time.
Mr. Hertzberg, who may well have doubted the fate of “Sunday Morning,” got to hear its belated premiere on Wednesday evening in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where it was the final work on — and by far the highlight of — the new City Opera’s first concert program.
“Sunday Morning” is, above all, unusual. Attend any new-music concert, and you hear works by composers in their 20s and 30s that may be good or bad but are almost always restless and frenetic, full of dramatic contrasts. Think Pollock, or Basquiat.
Mr. Hertzberg here bears more resemblance to Robert Ryman: pale and unshowy, with flickers of color evident only on close inspection. “Sunday Morning,” a setting of an eight-part Wallace Stevens poem, begins with sunrise ethereality — held high notes in the strings and light plucks of a harp — and remains raptly restrained even as it condenses and blooms.
The music is gently perfumed and unhurried — perhaps, at 40 nearly stationary minutes, to a fault. But the work’s long, quiet duration does make drama out of even slight shifts: a dark cello line that gives spine to a reflection on death, or the elusive harmonies in the penultimate section, just as glassily shimmering as earlier but now more velvety.
David Hertzberg’s new work “Notturno incantato” received an extraordinarily colorful and scintillating reading from Mr. Lin, its dedicatee. For the final showstopper “La Valse”, Mr. Lin seemed overly preoccupied with Ravel’s difficult transcription for the piano, which to his credit he played faultlessly, but showed little feeling for the romantic waltz. ... Also, more music from the very talented Mr. Hertzberg, please.
After an informative and informal introduction by the artistic directors, we heard a compelling reason for the creation of this initiative: David Hertzberg's "Meditation Boréale" – a depiction of the celestial forces which drive our universe, of the light and space in which we live, performed by Samantha Bennett and Micah Brightwell, violins; Steve Laraia, viola, and Jesse Christeson, cello.
At once tonally rich and mysterious, the music – often at the edge of audibility — was at times tragically lyrical, employing familiar harmonic devices to wrap us in the wider universe, especially in Bennett's extended and soaring solo passages.
David Hertzberg’s Meditation Boreale for string quartet is true to its meteorological name, using harmonics and overtones to ethereal ends. After building to an intense climax, it ends with a plaintive viola solo, beautifully played here by Ritzenhaler.
This inaugural concert includes works of J.S. Bach, Zemlinsky, Korngold, and Golijov and features the much-anticipated world premiere of David Hertzberg's "Sunday Morning." Hailed as "opulently gifted" by Opera News, Hertzberg is among New York's youngest and most exciting new composers.
David Hertzberg's "Orgie-Céleste" for clarinet, violin and piano. In this riveting work, Mr. Hertzberg, 24, demonstrates that a gifted young composer can be inspired by masters and still speak with a vibrantly personal style. The music abounds in echoes of composers Mr. Hertzberg seems to have had in his ear, especially Messiaen, Schoenberg and Morton Feldman. Yet the sound and dogged exploration of the work's ideas come across as utterly original.
Music by Six Curtis Student Composers (played by the Dover Quartet)
The Dover Quartet performs six new works by Curtis student composers, all supervised by the members of eighth blackbird. They include: You Shattered My Deafness II by Rene Orth; Meditation by Andrew Hsu; Scherzo (“Ach Wie Fluchtig, Ach Wie Nichtig”) by T.J. Cole; Moro Lasso by Alyssa Weinberg; unusta III by Riho Esko Maimets and Méditation boréale by David Hertzberg.
The members of the Dover Quartet (all of whom are Curtis graduates): Joel Link, violin; Bryan A. Lee, violin; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola and Camden Shaw, cello.
The company will present the world premiere of David Hertzberg's Sunday Morning at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room in March. The following month, New York City Opera will stage the East Coast premiere of Hopper's Wife, which tells of an imagined marriage between the prickly artist Edward Hopper and L.A. Times gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. The opera, by composer Stewart Wallace and librettist Michael Korie, will be produced at the Harlem Stage.
Michael Huebner | February 1, 2016
David Hertzberg’s “Notturno Incantato,” a work commissioned for Lin, wafted in atmospheric quietude, then thick atonal flourishes. Elements of Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit” mixed with George Crumb’s “Makrokosmos” in an attractive build of ghostly harmony.
Opera Philadelphia, in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group in New York, is proud to announce that composer David Hertzberg, whose music "demonstrates that a gifted young composer can be inspired by masters and still speak with a vibrantly personal style" (the New York Times), has been selected as its fifth Composer in Residence (CIR). Hertzberg was chosen from over 150 applicants for the position and now has the opportunity to follow a personalized development track focused on the advancement of his skills as an operatic composer.
Like Opera Philadelphia (“Charlie Parker’s Yardbird”), he has picked up a project that was put in limbo by the demise of Gotham Chamber Opera: the world première of the young American composer David Hertzberg’s “Sunday Morning,” a setting of Wallace Stevens’s beloved poem, for soprano, strings, and harp.
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) has awarded composer David Hertzberg its $15,000 Underwood emerging composer commission for a work that will be premiered by ACO in the 2016-2017 season. Chosen from seven finalists during ACO’s 2015 Underwood New Music Readings on May 6 and 7, 2015, David won the top prize with his work, Spectre of the Spheres.
Dayla Arabella Santurri | June 10, 2015
David Hertzberg’s ‘Spectre of the Spheres’ is a beautifully written work with startlingly crystalline textures. It evokes a musical work that is both familiar and mysterious. It has a grand sweep to it, and achingly beautiful melodies.
May 26, 2015
It was valuable to hear David Hertzberg's strikingly original murmurations(2014). The Juilliard- and Curtis-trained composer establishes a soundscape in this longish piece that, in its harmonic language, grows out of non-serial Berg and Schoenberg but, in the ghostly way it reveals itself, resembled little else.
Of particular note was David Hertzberg’s Spectre of the Spheres. Inspired by the Wallace Steven poemThe Auroras of Autumn which uses the image of a thrashing serpent to represent the Northern Lights, the orchestra’s restless harmonies swirl around a chiming celesta, which is both at the center of and unattached to the sounds around it.
The next piece was a premiere: David Hertzberg’s “Orgie-Céleste” for clarinet, violin and piano. In this riveting work, Mr. Hertzberg, 24, demonstrates that a gifted young composer can be inspired by masters and still speak with a vibrantly personal style.
The music abounds in echoes of composers Mr. Hertzberg seems to have had in his ear, especially Messiaen, Schoenberg and Morton Feldman. Yet the sound and dogged exploration of the work’s ideas come across as utterly original. It opens with an episode in which the piano plays restless runs with hints of bird calls. The violin is consumed with cosmic harmonics, while the clarinet fixates on haunting two-note figures. The music goes through bursts of wildness, yet never loses its mystical aura. The eminent pianist Ursula Oppens, joined by the violinist Paul Huang and the clarinetist Narek Arutyunian, who were both featured in the Young Concert Artists gala concerto concert last year, gave an exhilarating performance.
After intermission came the afternoon’s highlight: a new work by the talented young American composer David Hertzberg. “Notturno Incantato” is a 15-minute piece commissioned for Lin and premiered this year in New York. It is a darkly atmospheric work built on lithe undulations of sound punctuated by sharp moments of crisis. The piece’s mysterious tension was beautifully sustained in a supple and persuasive performance by Lin.
Mr. Hertzberg is deserving of the reward because the prize jury found his music to be "an extraordinarily beautiful sound world with a unique and distinguishing vocabulary," with "deeply affecting emotional content.” The jury adds that Mr. Hertzberg has the potential to revamp the world of concert repertoire for voice.
Michael Cooper | August 3, 2014
The panel that chose Mr. Hertzberg found that his music offered “an extraordinarily beautiful sound world with a unique and distinguishing vocabulary.”
A new piece by the opulently gifted twenty-three-year-old David Hertzberg, the Young Concert Artists' Composer-in-Residence, used two Wallace Stevens poems as his text, and overflowed with a refreshingly explorative harmonic language that was an intriguing match for Stevens' dense, eloquent imagery. Bullock, for her part, sang as if in a state of unfolding amazement at the otherworldly musical and visual universe she herself was evoking. She sang this difficult but mesmerizing work from memory, as if it were a familiar repertory item, and pianist Renate Rohlfing showed similar mastery of the richly cascading, often cataclysmically dissonant accompaniment.
Anthony Tommasini | March 12, 2014
She then presented the premiere of “Ablutions of Oblivion,” written for her by David Hertzberg, this year’s Young Concert Artists composer in residence. The piece is a 15-minute, through-composed setting of two elusive yet compelling poems by Wallace Stevens: “Banal Sojourn” and “The Snow Man.” The music unfolds in mostly slow-moving vocal lines that emerge from a subdued piano part thick with cluster chords in the style of Messiaen. At one point during the “Banal Sojourn” setting, the mood intensifies and takes the singer into powerful outbursts in the high register, an extreme and terrifying passage.
As part of the Concert Artists Guild’s commissioning program, which has produced almost 100 new works since 1984, Mr. Lin offered the premiere of the “Notturno Incantato” by David Hertzberg. Given a committed performance by Mr. Lin, the appealing piece at times evoked Scriabin and Debussy. Agitated, hard-driving passages were interspersed with a quiet interlude; texturally alluring sections featured rippling, delicate figurations that unfolded enigmatically in the upper register.
The work’s nightscape was calm yet eerie, starting with hushed chords punctuated by harp plucks. This led to a mournfully beautiful solo for the wonderful flutist Emi Ferguson that brought her from breathy bursts to lithe melodies. If scoring for both harmonium and celesta may have been a little much, they combined with shivers of strings to genuinely evocative effect.
The first composer, David Hertzberg, has spent all his life in music, including studies in Darmstadt. His Nympharum, from Ezra Pound’s line, Nympharum membra disjecta (The scattered limbs of the nymphs) has already garnered the prestigious Arthur Friedman Composition Prize, for good reason. The work for high soprano–taken unerringly by the familiar voice of Jennifer Zetlan–carried, in its three Pound poems, lines not unlike Lulu, reaching, soaring into the landscape against a loud but not intrusive orchestra.
True, the three poems are aphoristic, almost haiku, and Mr. Hertzberg has clothed them in grandiose orchestral robes more fitting for an epic poem. But the lines were extravagantly good, the long epilogue to the tiny “Dawn Song” was lush and dreamy, the sounds themselves evoking auras.