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Steven Mackey: World Premiere of Stumble to Grace by St. Louis Symphony

(August 2011)

Album Releases of It Is Time and Lonely Motel: Music from Slide in September

In the early weeks of its new concert season, the St. Louis Symphony will present the world premiere of Stumble to Grace by Steven Mackey. The new piano concerto features soloist Orli Shaham, for whom the work is dedicated. The premiere concerts will be led by Music Director David Robertson at St. Louis's Powell Hall, September 23 and 24. The concert on September 24 will be broadcast live on St. Louis Public Radio (90.7 FM – KWMU) at 8:00 p.m. CT, and is available online at http://www.stlpublicradio.org/programs/symphony.php.

Following the success of his emotional violin concerto Beautiful Passing (2008), Stumble to Grace represents Mackey's first orchestral work spotlighting the piano. The new concerto is performed in five "stages," played continuously without pause. The inspiration behind the title comes from the development of Mackey and Shaham's respective young children, which is mimicked throughout these "stages." In his program notes, Mackey elaborates, "There is a narrative running through the piece that reflects the title: the piano is all thumbs (literally and metaphorically) as it stumbles in its first entrance, playing naïve and awkward plinks and plunks. By Stage 5 the piano plays sophisticated, virtuosic and, at times, graceful contrapuntal music—a fugue, in fact. The intervening music reflects various stages of progress and regress in the physical and spiritual evolution of the piano." While the work does not include electric guitar, the piece is influenced by the composer's experience and familiarity with the instrument and its unique sound effects. In particular, a chorale section in Stage 2 sounds as if the orchestra is gradually depressing a distortion pedal. Stumble to Grace is co-commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In addition to the world premiere of Stumble to Grace, two of Mackey's recent works will be featured on albums available September 27. A dual CD/DVD of his It Is Time will be released by Cantaloupe Records, featuring So Percussion, for whom the work was specifically written and premiered by in 2010. It Is Time features synchronized video accompaniment from Mark DeChiazza, and "marshals the virtuosity of the individual members of So to speed, slow, warp, celebrate and mourn our perceptions of time. Each of the four sections of the piece is a mini concerto for one of the players," according to the composer. Via Cedille Records, selections from Mackey's innovative stage work and song cycle Slide appear on Lonely Motel: Music from Slide. The complete song cycle premiered in 2009 at California's Ojai Music Festival to much critical acclaim. The Ventura County Star noted: "Few could deny the piece was musically and dramatically memorable." The album features the original performers: eighth blackbird; vocalist, librettist and long-time collaborator Rinde Eckert; and Mackey on electric guitar.

Another upcoming highlight for Mackey is the National Symphony Orchestra performance of Beautiful Passing in January 2012 featuring Leila Josefowicz. This moving work was hailed by the Los Angeles Times in May 2011 for its "fresh, rapturous violin writing, full of swirling harmonics, as if played by an electric guitar transformed by a choir of particularly musical angels into something heavenly."

> To view the score to Mackey's Stumble to Grace, click here.
> Watch Steven Mackey discuss Stumble to Grace on video.
> For more information about the St. Louis Symphony concerts, click here.


> Further information on Performance: Stumble to Grace
> Further information on Work: Stumble to Grace

Photo Credit: Jane Richey

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