NEC New Music Ensemble: Ligeti, Li, Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, Boulez, Piazzolla

NEC: Brown Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Inaugurated in Fall 2022, NEC's New Music Ensemble begins its second season with a program of works by Ligeti, Yuan-Chen Li, Stravinsky, Villa-Lobos, Boulez, and Piazzolla.  Hugh Wolff and Timothy Ren '25 MM conduct.

From Hugh Wolff

This first half of this evening’s concert celebrates two centennials and introduces a composer new to most at NEC.  The second half is devoted to music for cello ensemble. Twenty-three of NEC’s young cellists will take part.


This is an in-person event with a private stream available to the NEC community here:

  1. György Ligeti | Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (1953)

    Allegro con spirito
    Rubato: Lamentoso
    Allegro grazioso
    Presto ruvido
    Adagio: Mesto
    Molto vivace: Capriccioso

    Shengyu Cui, flute
    Corinne Foley, oboe
    Phoebe Kuan, clarinet
    Zoe Beck, bassoon
    Graham Lovely, French horn

    Program note

    One of the 20th century’s most original voices, György Ligeti, was born a century ago in what is now central Romania. A Hungarian Jew, Ligeti lost most of his family in the Holocaust. Educated at conservatories in Cluj and Budapest, he took an early interest in ethnomusicology and Hungarian folk music. This can be heard clearly in his early Six Bagatelles for Woodwind Quintet, as well as his brilliant sense of humor in music.

  2. Yuan-Chen Li | Butterfly (2007/2012)

    The Butterfly

    Chia-Fen Chang, flute
    Kian Hirayama, oboe
    Hugo Heokwoo Kweon, clarinet
    Seth Goldman, bassoon
    Xiaoshu Tang, piano 

    Timothy Ren '25 MM, conductor       

    Program note

    Born in Taiwan in 1980, Yuan-Chen Li has developed a style influenced by Taiwanese and Chinese arts, literature, and philosophy. Her chamber work Butterfly features delicate and complex textures to (in her words) “emulate the movement of butterfly’s flying and the delightful spirit of springtime.” The third section is calmer, evoking the quiet but dramatic transformation from larva to butterfly.

  3. Igor Stravinsky | Octet (1923)

    Sinfonia: Lento - Allegro moderato
    Tema con variazioni: Andantino

    Anne Chao, flute
    Chasity Thompson, clarinet
    Evan Judson, Zoe Beck, bassoon
    Reynolds Martin, Eddy Lanois, trumpet
    Ethan Lehman, trombone
    Ki Yoon Park, bass trombone

    Timothy Ren '25 MM, conductor

    Program note

    Igor Stravinsky’s Octet was premiered a century ago in Paris (October 18, 1923). A twenty-two year-old student named Aaron Copland was present that night. Later Copland wrote of the “general feeling of mystification that followed the initial hearing. Everyone was asking why Stravinsky should have exchanged his Russian heritage, and a neo-primitive style all his own, for what looked very much like a mess of 18th-century mannerisms. The whole thing gained Stravinsky the unanimous disapproval of the press. No one could have possibly foreseen, first, that Stravinsky was to persist in this new manner of his, or, second, that the Octet was destined to influence composers all over the world in bringing the latent objectivity of modern music to full consciousness by frankly adopting the ideals, forms, and textures of the pre-Romantic era.”


  5. Heitor Villa-Lobos | Bachianas brasileiras No. 5

    Ária (Cantilena)
    Dança (Martelo)

    Josie Larsen '25 AD, soprano

    Kei Otake, Andrew Byun, Hechen Sun, Thomas Hung, Xinyue Zhu, J. Alexander Smith, Isaac Pagano-Toub, Jihyeuk Choi, cello

    Program note

    Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote nine works with the title Bachianas Brasileiras. These represent a fusion of his native Brazilian folk and popular music with the structures and counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach. Perhaps the best known of the group, is Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and cello choir. The languorous first movement is a nocturne about beauty and love; the second movement, a quick dance celebrating the birds of the northern Brazilian mountain state of Ceará.

  6. Pierre Boulez | Messagesquisse

    Shannon Ross, solo cello

    Jonah Kernis, Sarah Tindall, Bennet Huang, Zac Fung, Hayoung Moon, Annie SeEun Hyung, cello

    Program note

    Messagesquisse by Pierre Boulez is among the group of works commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of Paul Sacher, a Swiss conductor and patron of the arts. Sacher himself had commissioned some of the 20th century’s most important works for chamber orchestra from composers such as Stravinsky, Bartók, Honegger, Britten, Lutoslawski, Henze, Richard Strauss, and others. Rostropovich’s commissions naturally feature the cello – in this case, a soloist and ensemble of six other cellos. Sacher’s name is expressed musically in the first six notes played by the solo cello and echoed by a cello in the ensemble: S (E-flat from the German “Es”), A, C, H (German for B-natural), E, and R (the solfege “re” or D). An etude of extreme virtuosity, Messagesquisse is a set of variations on these pitches.

  7. Astor Piazzolla (arr. James Barralet) | from The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

    3. Winter
    4. Spring

    Claire Deokyong Kim, GaYeon Jenny Kim, Pi-Wei Lin, Lillian Yim, Rei Otake, Shijie Ma, Asher Kalfus, Miruna Eynon, cello

    Hugh Wolff, conductor


    Program note

    Astor Piazzolla brought tango and Argentine dance forms into the concert hall. As a young bandoneon (an Argentine concertina) player, he steeped himself in the tango music of Buenos Aires in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In 1954, wanting to broaden his musical education, he travelled to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. Returning to Argentina, he established nuevo tango, a style of purely instrumental tango music influenced by jazz and without the traditional singer. He experimented with extended forms, more complex counterpoint and harmony, and larger ensembles. All of this was controversial among tango traditionalists, but Piazzolla gradually gained recognition and a worldwide audience. The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, one of his most performed works, has been arranged for dozens of different ensembles. This evening we perform Winter and Spring in an arrangement for eight cellos by British cellist James Barralet.