Orpheus's commissioning project will create six new concertos inspired by the original six Brandenburg Concertos. Each of the new pieces will use instrumentation similar to that of the related Bach work; Hartke's score is inspired by the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1.
In the 2007-2008 season, Orpheus will premiere Christopher Theofanidis's new work, which is modeled after Concerto No. 3. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec has also been commissioned; three additional composers will be announced later.
Orpheus is scheduled to complete "The New Brandenburgs" project in the 2009-2010 season, culminating with a performance of all six commissions paired with the six Bach concertos.
Alan Kay, clarinetist and program coordinator for Orpheus, said the idea for the commissioning project grew out of Stephen Hartke's interest in writing a piece modeled after the First Brandenburg Concerto.
Orpheus frequently commissions new works, and this project, says Kay, takes the practice one step further by creating a new "set" of concertos which he "envisioned would have immediate appeal and hope[d] will create a lasting artistic legacy. Bach's works serve as sparkling musical models of remarkable instrumental variety and exist as gems of the concerto grosso style."
When commissioning works, Orpheus told the composers that their works need not be formally modeled on Bach's originals, but rather "a reflection of and response to what comes to mind when they think of them."
Writing from the American Academy in Berlin, Stephen Hartke said, "My piece reflects on the thoughts and emotions stirred up by this landscape, from the lake to the amazing opulence of the main Hohenzollern palaces here in this part of Berlin and in neighboring Potsdam."
The December 2 concert will also include Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor (with solo pianist Jeremy Denk) and the First and Second Brandenburg Concertos.