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EXO Chamber: ACT

EXO presents an interactive performance of Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht

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EXO Chamber: ACT


About the Concert

Under the direction of Strategic Partner Pauline Kim Harris, five superb EXO musicians have joined our Creative Team who have worked together in curating and designing a new chamber music series of three concerts. This will inaugurate the Ensemble Residency Series at Carnegie Hill Concerts in the 2023 Spring Season -- a new music chamber music series in New York City - Manhattan, co-curated by Nicholas Zork and Pauline Kim Harris. CHC Season runs on a calendar year, alternating between featuring Composers and Ensembles/Artists every other year. Participating artists are invited back to join the CHC Chamber players in future programs.

In this collaboration with CHC, EXO will present three concerts curated by our newly formed 2022-23 Creative Team: Alex Fortes, Lady Jess, Sami Merdinian, Michelle Ross and Henry Wang. In delving deeper into the overall theme of our 2022-23 season of “discovery,” EXO’s Creative Team has carefully molded an intertwining experience through the lens of storytelling. Over the course of three concerts, the audience will embark on new ways to experience and participate in the music. The three concert residency concludes on Thursday, October at 7:30pm, with “ACT.” 

For the grand finale on Thursday, October 5 at 7:30pm with “ACT” in an immersive night of music and drama when the power of storytelling is revealed as the audience witnesses the lines between audience and performer blur right in front of their eyes. On this night, audience members will be invited to be a part of “the cast” in a musical journey guided by a renowned actor of Schoenberg’s iconic work, Verklärte Nacht. Each member of the audience will be invited to share a "confession" by jotting it down on a piece of paper upon entry to the concert. This will then be woven into the script of the evening's performance, as the poem by Richard Dehmel unfolds through music composed by Schoenberg. played by the musicians of EXO. 


TBA (actor); Lady Jess and Henry Wang (violins); TBA and TBA (violas); TBA and TBA (celli)


Arnold Schoenberg VERKLÄRTE NACHT (1899)


Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") was inspired by a mystical poem by Richard Dehmel. In cold, moonlit woods, a woman confesses to her lover that she carries the child of another man she never loved but to whom she yielded for fulfillment. After a long pause of brooding meditation, he resolves that their love will make the child their own. They embrace and walk on, the formerly barren night transformed by hope and devotion. Such cloying sentimentality is rather hard to take seriously nowadays, and indeed Schoenberg later called the poem "repulsive" and urged appreciation of his work as pure music, portraying nature and expressing human emotion rather than depicting the specific action of the text.

(Even so, Schoenberg authorized Anthony Tudor to use the music as a 1944 ballet, Pillar of Fire, which, according to George Ballanchine, dramatized the story with additional dancers, a community context and character motivations. While the ballet served to popularize the work beyond occasional concert performances, I'd never want to see it, lest these tangible elements spoil the music's deeply suggestive power of imagination and evocation of universal longings.)

Its musical style melded the formal harmonies and variation structure of Brahms with the uninhibited sensual sonorities of Wagner, and thus reconciled the two poles of late 19th century musical aesthetics. Allen Shawn goes further by regarding Verklärte Nacht as a herald of the extreme organic unity of Schoenberg's later serial style. He marvels at its "abundance from economy" in which each theme seems a fluent variant on its predecessor. Thus, not only does the second half relate back to elements of the first, transformed by the lover's radiance, but all motifs are subtly connected, while the walking gait provides a constant rhythmic ground.

This was music on the brink –

not only through its historical position of looking both backwards and forward, but precariously poised on an emotional edge between despair and faith. Indeed, both bittersweet and gorgeous, it readily transcends its source and era with vast emotional resonance for our current yearning for stability despite an uncertain future as political and social fabrics seem so fragile and apt to be altered. On a personal note, for decades I have turned to this piece more than any other for understanding, empathy and hope in times of my own emotional trials.

— Peter Gutmann (CLASSICAL NOTES ) excerpt



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