“a natural musical genius who continues to surpass himself.”
— Tim Page, The Washington Post
“one of the most fertile musical minds to emerge in the U.S. over the past generation.”
— Andrew Clark, The Financial Times of London
“Hersch’s language never hesitates to leap into the abyss – and in ways that, for some listeners, go straight to parts of the soul that few living composers touch.”
— David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer
His work described by The New York Times as “viscerally gripping and emotionally transformative music … claustrophobic and exhilarating at once, with moments of sublime beauty nestled inside thickets of dark virtuosity,” composer Michael Hersch is widely regarded as among today’s most gifted artists. Recent and upcoming premieres include his Violin Concerto, with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Avanti Festival in Helsinki, and the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland; the New York City premiere of Zwischen Leben und Tod, at the newly established National Sawdust, and new productions in Chicago (Ensemble Dal Niente) and Salt Lake City (partnership between NOVA Chamber Music Series and Utah Opera) of his monodrama, On the Threshold of Winter. The two-act work premiered in 2014 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Of the premiere The New York Times noted: “Death casts a long shadow over the recent work of Mr. Hersch … But in On the Threshold of Winter Mr. Hersch has given himself the space to burrow past anger and incomprehension in search of an art fired by empathy and compassion.” The Baltimore Sun called the piece “a work of great originality, daring, and disturbing power.” Over the past several years, Hersch has also written new works for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Klang, the Alban Berg Ensemble Wien, and the Library of Congress. Other notable recent events include European performances by the Kreutzer Quartet of Images From a Closed Ward in the U.K. and Sweden, a recording of the work by the acclaimed FLUX Quartet, and the premiere of Of Sorrow Born: Seven Elegies, a work for solo violin commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, premiered at the orchestra’s Biennial. Current projects include a major co-commission by the Ojai Music Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, Cal Performances Berkeley, and PNReview, with a world premiere scheduled for a June 2018, and an upcoming residency with the Camerata Bern in Switzerland in 2019/20.
In recent years, Hersch has worked closely with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the violinist commissioning both his Violin Concerto, which premiered in 2015, and his chamber work … das Rückgrat berstend, which premiered in 2017. She recently recorded the concerto with the International Contemporary Ensemble (I.C.E.), and the duo with cellist Jay Campbell. Both are scheduled for release in 2018.
Hersch’s solo and chamber works have appeared on programs around the globe – from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall in the U.S. to Germany’s Schloss Neuhardenberg Festival in Brandenberg and the Philharmonie in Berlin; from the U.K.’s Dartington New Music Festival and British Museum to Italy’s Romaeuropa and Nuova Consonanza Festivals. Performances in the far east include those with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Japan’s Pacific Music Festival.
Notable past performances include Night Pieces, commissioned and premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra, and a song cycle for baritone and piano, Domicilium, premiered by Thomas Hampson and Wolfgang Rieger on San Francisco Performances (commissioned by Hampson and the ASCAP Kingsford Commissions for Art Song). Hersch’s second piano concerto, along the ravines, was given performances with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra with pianist Shai Wosner, and as part of the George Enescu International Festival in Romania (Timisoara and Bucharest) with pianist Matei Varga. Hersch’s Symphony No. 3 was premiered by Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival Orchestra, a festival commission, and his A Forest of Attics, commissioned for the Network for New Music’s 25th anniversary season, was selected as one of the year’s most important classical music events by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The paper said of the work, “A Forest of Attics threw a Molotov cocktail into the concert: Everything before it paled in comparison … Hersch has written some towering works in recent years; this is yet another.”
Born in Washington D.C. in 1971, Michael Hersch came to international attention at age twenty-five, when he was awarded First Prize in the Concordia American Composers Awards. The award resulted in a performance of his Elegy, conducted by Marin Alsop in New York’s Alice Tully Hall. Later that year he became one of the youngest recipients ever of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition. Hersch has also been the recipient of the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship and Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and the President’s Frontier Award from the Johns Hopkins University, among other honors.
Also a gifted pianist, Hersch has appeared around the world including appearances at the Festival Dag in de Branding in the Netherlands, the Warhol Museum, the Romaeuropa Festival, the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., Cleveland’s Reinberger Chamber Hall, the Festival of Contemporary Music Nuova Consonanza, the Network for New Music Concert Series, the Left Bank Concert Society, Festa Europea della Musica, St. Louis’ Sheldon Concert Hall, and in New York City at Merkin Concert Hall, the 92nd St. Y – Tisch Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, among others.
Hersch currently serves as chair of the composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.
Modern Muses: Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Michael Hersch