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Upcoming concert at the Pulitzer is part of a new tradition

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 17, 2012 - The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is celebrating its 10th anniversary this season. And for almost eight of those years, musical performances featuring members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra have provided an intriguing exploration of the resonance between music and the art on exhibit at the Pulitzer.

The concert series began in December 2005 with a performance of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" (written while the composer was interred a German concentration camp in the early years of World War II) that was juxtaposed with an exhibit called "Art and the Spiritual."

As with all subsequent concerts in the Pulitzer series, the repertoire for that initial performance was chosen by SLSO Music Director David Robertson. And the selections were focused on contemporary music -- almost all of it composed within the past 50 years.

Later exhibits featuring the work of Constantin Brancusi and Richard Serra, minimalist artists of the 1960s, and the photography of Hiroshi Sugimoto were paired with performances of works by Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. A 2008 exhibit of light sculptures by Dan Flavin were accompanied by concerts showcasing the music of Luciano Berio and Philip Glass. 

The concert this Wednesday, Jan. 18, is the third of four performances scheduled in conjunction with the Pulitzer's current exhibit, "Reflections of the Buddha." It will feature performances of pieces by Stockhausen ("Mikrophonie I"), Cage ("Three Dances") and Giacinto Scelsi ("Okanagon").

Like almost all recent concerts in the Pulitzer series, Wednesday's performance is sold out. That may spur you to consider purchasing tickets for the final concert in the series associated with the "Reflections of Buddha," scheduled for Wednesday, March 7. Robertson will conduct works by Berio ("Naturale"), Toru Takemitsu ("Rain Tree") and Morton Feldman ("Rothko Chapel") in a 7:30 concert that will take place three days before the exhibit closes on March 10.

Another indication of the growing popularity of the Pulitzer concert series is reflected in the December announcement that the SLSO and the Pulitzer have decided to create the Pulitzer Contemporary Music Festival, which will take place June 14-17 at the Pulitzer. Titled "Retrospectives and Innovations: A Celebration of 10 Years of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts," the festival will reprise works presented earlier in the series -- as well as introduce a work new to the series at each of the three concerts.

In the press release announcing the Contemporary Music Festival, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, founder and chair of The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, emphasized that Robertson's paring of musical pieces with the exhibitions had created a special synergy.

"David's inventive and illuminating programs are a perfect marriage with our building and exhibitions," she said. "Our ongoing partnership with David and the St. Louis Symphony underscores and advances the Pulitzer's commitment to and desire for innovation, collaboration and experimentation."

In the release, Robertson also commented on that special dynamic of art and music.

"The hallmark of the Pulitzer is that every exhibition is something that is transformative and really alters your perspective once you come into contact with it," he stated. "We try to show on a parallel level in sound that same connection to quality and transformation. You may not know any piece on the program, but by coming in, you will have an experience that you can't get in any other way and that will probably remain with you for the rest of your life in a very positive way."

Pulitzer Contemporary Music Festival

Tickets: on sale now for each of the three concerts on June 14, 16 & 17.
How much: Single tickets for each concert are $20 each and a festival pass to all three concerts is $48. For more information about concert programs or for tickets, go to stlsymphony.org or call 314.534.1700

Foundation for the Arts

The Pulitzer is open and free to the public Wednesdays from noon to 5 pm and Saturdays from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, go to www.pulitzerarts.org or call 314-754-1850

Terry Perkins is a freelancer who regularly writes for the Beacon. 

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