Performance Features World Premiere of Ogonek Chamber Concerto

December 6, 2019
Cathy Partlow Strauss
Five people standing in front of the stage in Warner Concert Hall; Elizabeth Ogonek, Stephen Hartke, Xak Bjerken, Timothy Weiss, and Jesse Jones.
Pictured (left to right): Elizabeth Ogonek, Stephen Hartke, Xak Bjerken, Timothy Weiss, and Jesse Jones. Photo credit: Michael Hartman

Pianist Xak Bjerken set to give the premiere performance of Elizabeth Ogonek’s chamber concerto where are we now at 7:30 p.m., Friday, December 6 in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, under the direction of Timothy Weiss.

Pianist Xak Bjerken will give the premiere performance of Elizabeth Ogonek’s chamber concerto where are we now (2019) tonight at 7:30 p.m., Friday, December 6 in Oberlin Conservatory's Warner Concert Hall with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, under the direction of Timothy Weiss. The concert is free and can also be streamed live.

Ogonek's piece, cast in seven sections, is based on poetic text by British music critic, novelist, and librettist Paul Griffiths. The work's inventive instrumentation is for male sextet and four percussionists with a prominent solo piano.

Bjerken has been performing newly commissioned works at Oberlin during the past few years as part of a large-scale project to give premiere performances and recordings of three chamber concertos featuring solo piano. These works were written by Oberlin Conservatory composition faculty members—Grammy-winner Stephen Hartke, Rome Prize- and Guggenheim-winner Jesse Jones, and former Chicago Symphony Orchestra Composer-in-Residence Elizabeth Ogonek.

Weiss, director of the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble and Oberlin Sinfonietta, has been given a grant to record all three works, to be issued on the Oberlin Music label and distributed by Naxos in 2020. 

Bjerken is a professor of music at Cornell University. He has appeared with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Schoenberg Ensemble, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Disney Hall. He has performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Glinka Hall in St Petersburg, and the Konzerthaus in Berlin, as well as at Alice Tully Hall, Weill Hall, and the Kennedy Center. He can be heard in recordings on the CRI, Koch International, Chandos, Albany Records, and Artona labels, and Open G Records.

Previous works premiered as part of this project include Jesse Jones’ Persona Mechanica (2016), performed by the Oberlin Sinfonietta in October 2017. It was supported by New Music USA and made possible by annual program support and endowment gifts from Justus and Elizabeth Schlichting. Stephen Hartke’s one-movement chamber concerto Ship of State was given its debut performance in March 2018 by the Oberlin Sinfonietta. It was commissioned by Bjerken, Oberlin Sinfonietta, USC Thornton Edge ensemble, Ensemble X, Riverside Symphony, June in Buffalo, and the Arizona State University Chamber Orchestra.

You may also like…

A student sings on a stage while a pianist plays nearby.

Live From the Cat

September 2, 2020
The campus community was treated to a live-streamed jazz performance on August 28 from the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse. The virtual concert was a first for the student-run performance space.