From Rome to Berlin: AAR and the Scharoun Ensemble, a lasting collaboration

February 8, 2016
Composers (left to right): Italian Fellow Carmine Emanuele Cella, and Rome Prize winners Nina Young and Christopher Cerrone.
Guests at the opening reception.
Christopher Cerrone speaking with guest.
Guests the the opening reception.
The Scharoun Ensemble rehearses.
AAR President Mark Robbins with Trustee Jessie Price and her husband Charles Price.
Heiskell Arts Director Peter Benson Miller with Rome Prize winners Young and Cerrone.
A packed house at one of the Scharoun Ensemble performances.
Academy Director Kim Bowes greets guests.
Scharoun Ensemble in performance.
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Flaming music boxes. Ping pong balls. Kurt Vonnegut. Shakespeare. While not typical staples of classical music, all have been featured in the work of AAR composers and performed by the renowned Scharoun Ensemble. For eight years Fellows have written and performed music with Scharoun, who spend a week-long residency in Rome each winter. The compositions—ranging from neo-minimalist riffs on traditional instruments, to electronic-acoustic bricolage—are then performed in a series of concerts at the Academy’s Villa Aurelia.

The collaboration between composers at the AAR and one of Europe’s premier chamber ensembles is mutually beneficial. For Fellows, the opportunity to work with some of the Berlin Philharmonic’s best musicians is transformative: “As a composer working with the Scharoun Ensemble, you are working with ….musicians who often see in your piece much more than what you have written,” said Italian Fellow Carmine Emanuele Cella, whose work, along with Rome Prize winners Nina C. Young and Christopher Cerrone, was performed on January 29 and 30 to standing room-only audiences. The Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted Cerrone was also thrilled with the experience, noting his amazement at the opportunity to present his work in such a professional way to capacity audiences at Villa Aurelia.

For the Scharoun Ensemble, the week at the AAR is a highlight of the year. “Spending time in Rome, working with the Fellows is an intense collaborative experience and each year the challenges are different.” said Peter Riegelbauer, the ensemble’s director. From the syncopated matches-and-music box notes of Paula Matthusen (2015 Fellow), to the challenging flute solos written by Young, the compositions by AAR Fellows explore and expand the boundaries of classical music.

The group often performs the work of AAR composers on the road: music by Matthusen and Andy Akiho (2015 Fellow) was recently performed by Scharoun in Berlin, and the work of composer Eric Nathan (2014 Fellow) was featured in a series of performances by the ensemble in New York City in March 2014.

The road from Rome to Berlin is short and the Academy is proud to have traveled it together with the Scharoun Ensemble for eight years of extraordinary music.