Second Performances – A Big Deal!

David Ward-Steiman and William Bolcom receiving prestigious Second Performances

Anyone who lives within and around the world of contemporary music knows that New Music lives a double life: that of its World Premiere, and that of everything, or anything, after. No new phenomenon, we are still “rediscovering” works of long ago by time-honored composers that were only performed once, and the odds for any new work even now suggest that an active afterlife is always in doubt. This makes us grateful for the World Premieres, but curious about the notion of perennially commissioning new work when so many great works are waiting for the second performance. The obvious reason for this is the prestige of the Premiere. Perhaps we must lend similar prestige to the Second Performance.

We are able to celebrate at least two important Second Performances in the coming months. David Ward-Steinman’s Bishop’s Gambit is a seven-minute band work composed in 1979 for Bishop Ireton-St. Mary’s High School in Alexandria, Virginia, who played it in 1980 under Garwood Whaley. Fast forward to now, when, after having been edited and engraved, it shall receive its Second Performance by the Indiana University Wind Ensemble, under Stephen Pratt, on March 27. At the time of Ward-Steinman’s passing in April, 2015, we were in discussion about engraving this score, as parts could not be found. Work was finally completed last summer, and we are thrilled that a band of IU’s caliber will be presenting it anew!

Also of great importance is the Second Performance of William Bolcom’s 2nd Symphony (“Oracles”) 53 years after its Premiere and only performance by the Seattle Symphony under Milton Katims. “Oracles” is a one movement symphony lasting about sixteen minutes and has all the earmarks of Bolcom’s style from the first half of the 1960’s: flirtation with serialization and an emergence of tonality produced by sheer will against the serious Eurocentric musical trends of the day. It will receive its next performance at Western Washington University under the baton of Dr. Ryan Dudenbostel. Interestingly, it was one year ago exactly that the Arditti String Quartet gave the Second Performance of the Bolcom’s String Quartet No. 8, another work from 1965, and another work with the same musical conflicts on display, albeit differently.

Here’s to the future lives of works that still lie dormant after their World Premieres. Put them in shape because it’s never too late!

March 13, 2018