The 21-performer group, founded by 32-year-old conductor Chung Park and 22-year-old composer Stephen Danyew, will perform its first concerts on January 20 and 21 in Miami. The program includes Erwin Stein's chamber orchestra arrangement of Mahler's Symphony No. 4, with soprano Monica Yunus; Schoenberg's transcription of Debussy's Pr_lude _ l'aprs-midi d'un faune; and Danyew's Soft Wind.
According to The Miami Herald, while many chamber groups in the city have been founded recently, there is a lack of new music and edgier repertoire.
Park is completing his doctorate at the University of Miami Frost School of Music in conducting; he also has a degree in viola performance from the Peabody Conservatory and and a master's in conducting from the University of Illinois.
He told the Herald that he hopes to provide both cutting-edge repertory and musical excellence. "I think there's a quality gap in Miami. There's a lot of groups that have sprung up, but it seems almost to be a charity operation sometimes where they're trying to give people work. I didn't see that there was a real focus on having a world-class homegrown Miami ensemble. So I think if we build something of really top-notch world-class quality, people will come."
Project Copernicus is named after the 16th-century Polish astronomer. The mission statement on its website says: "In the same way that Copernicus the astronomer realigned our perception of the physical universe, Copernicus the project strives to realign the musical paradigm," by focusing on living composers as well as standard works in a "fresh and vibrant context."
Danyew told the Palm Beach Post, "Our niche is not having one. We like being a flexible group." Future programs indicate the veracity of that statement: the lineup includes Arvo P‹rt's Berliner Messe, Weill's Seven Deadly Sins, George Crumb's Black Angels, Manuel de Falla's Master Peter's Puppet Show, Bart‹k's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Stravinsky's Petrushka (with puppets), and works by Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Erik Satie, as well as "the Mozart Requiem with interpolations by Buddhist Monks from Gyuto Monastery."
Project Copernicus is made up of members of the New World Symphony and others Park has worked with from across the country; all players are under 30. They will all be playing gratis for the group's first event, according to the Herald. Park hopes to raise sufficient funds for a second concert in March and to schedule a full season in 2007-2008.
Park was reportedly encouraged by the large turnout for the Kronos Quartet's concert last fall. He told the paper, "We don't have to sell this as contemporary music. We just have to sell it as great music. Maybe that's too pie in the sky, but, damn, we're going to try anyway."