Oct. 20: Boston Music Viva's 50th Anniversary Season opens with a new Harbison monodrama

IF From the Distance

50th Anniversary Season Premiere featuring John Harbison's new monodrama IF

Saturday, October 20 at 8pm
Kresge Auditorium

$30 General Admission, $20 for Seniors, $10 for Students, Free for MIT students

Order Tickets




In celebration of the start of our 50th Anniversary and  Pulitzer-winning composer John Harbison’s 80th birthday, we open our season with IF, a Harbison world premiere featuring the BMV debut of soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon. (“dazzling, virtuoso singing”—The Boston Globe) Harbison, who has been long fascinated by the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin, set his own English translation of “If, from the distance” for this new monodrama.

The program also includes Niccolo Castiglioni’s Tropi (a selection from BMV’s first season), Judith Weir’s Blue-Green Hill and Gunther Schuller’s Four Vignettes—both past BMV commissions—as well as a new celebratory bagatelle by Eitan Steinberg.


Read John Harbison's Program Note for IF

My first orchestra piece, Diotima (1975), comes from the early stages of a lifelong preoccupation with the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). The poem, Diotima, partakes of the poet's recreation, in his Odes and Elegies, of the ideals of Ancient Greece. 

In his mid-thirties, under increasing pressure from the intensity of his imaginative and spiritual ambitions, and his chaotic personal life, Hölderlin's mental stability collapsed. A carpenter and admirer of his poetry, Ernst Zimmer, compassionately sheltered him, as it turned out, for forty-three years (over half the poet's life). Hölderlin continued to write, in a very different manner: simpler, more naive, but still eloquent. The poem, If from the Distance (Wenn aus der Ferne) is one of the first poems of this after-period. It is evidently written in the voice of Susette Gontard, the great love of the poet's life, saying what he would have longed, in vain, for her to say to him. Their separation and her subsequent sudden death were central to his mental breakdown, and the poem appears to be the only treatment of that situation during his long existence in Zimmer's cottage. 

My determination to set the poem in English precipitated various attempts at translating it, finally completed during two weeks in Dresden in 2015, the process indivisible from the making of the monodrama, IF, as a piece of music. 

— John Harbison 



About Soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon

Noted for her “dazzling, virtuoso singing” (Boston Globe), and “musically stunning and dramatically chilling” performances (Twin Cities Daily Planet), Lucy Fitz Gibbon is a dynamic musician whose repertoire spans the Renaissance to the present. After a performance of Fred Lerdahl’s Wake at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the Berkshire Review for the Arts praised Lucy’s “agile and beautifully focused soprano of exceedingly wide range, uniform timbre, and great flexibility… a remarkable performer who stood out among many other remarkable musicians.”
Lucy believes that creating new works and recreating those lost in centuries past is integral to classical music’s future. As such, Lucy has performed the U.S. premieres of works by Francesco Sacrati (La Finta Pazza, Deidamia), Barbara Strozzi (Presso un ruscello algente), and Agostino Agazzari (Eumelio). She has also worked closely with numerous other composers, including John Harbison, Kate Soper, Sheila Silver, David Hertzberg, Reena Esmail, Anna Lindemann, and Pauline Oliveros, on projects ranging from song to opera and beyond. In helping to realize the complexities of music beyond written notes, the experience of working with these composers translates to all music: the commitment to faithfully communicate not only the score, but also the underlying intentions of its creator.
In addition to her forays into early and new music, Lucy has appeared with her collaborative partner, pianist Ryan McCullough, in such venues as London’s Wigmore Hall; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Park Avenue Armory, and Merkin Hall; and Toronto’s Koerner Hall. Their 2018-19 season includes recitals from coast to coast (Trinidad, CA; Trumansburg, NY; Colgate College; Cornell University; and more) and the release of a CD featuring works by James Primosch and John Harbison. In 2019, they will record a CD of works by 20th century Polish composers including Tadeusz Kassern and Roman Palester. In 2018, Lucy will appear for the third consecutive season with the Brooklyn Art Song Society, as well as premiere John Harbison’s IF, a monodrama for soprano and ensemble, commissioned by Boston Musica Viva for their 50th Anniversary season and in honor of Harbison's 80th birthday.
A graduate of Yale University, Lucy is the recipient of numerous awards for her musical and academic achievements. Lucy also holds an artist diploma from The Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory and a master’s degree from Bard College Conservatory’s Vocal Arts Program. She is currently a Visiting Lecturer at Cornell University. For more information, see www.lucyfitzgibbon.com.

Latest News

May 21, 2019
Senior Tony Zhang is double-majoring in physics and mathematics with computer science, and minoring in music. “People will ask you whether music informs physics or vice...
May 01, 2019
Grace Yin doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t play violin. “Apparently my musical career started in day care,” says Yin ‘19, an Electrical Engineering and Computer...
March 19, 2019
NPR, Heard on Fresh Air
Deveau and the Borromeo String Quartet perform piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven as chamber music on a new recording. Lloyd Schwartz says the album is "full of...
March 13, 2019
"And among the evening’s three world premieres of three-minute piano solos, Elena Ruehr’s “Music, Pink and Blue” stood out for its depth and thoughtfulness”… Continue...