Two major festivals centering on famous composers, one celebrating the sesquicentennial of Claude Debussy’s birth and the other showcasing the organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach, highlight the fall concert season at the Eastman School.
But it’s not just classical music that folks can enjoy. Early music, new music, world music, jazz—performed by soloists and ensembles, vocalists and instrumentalists, Eastman faculty and students, and guest artists—will fill the school’s concert halls and be offered in community venues as well.
Aug. 22 marked the 150th anniversary of Debussy’s birth, but Eastman is devoting the month of October to the composer. “The Prismatic Debussy” festival features an “Extravagant Debussy” gala opening concert on Saturday, Oct. 13, with the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, Eastman Wind Ensemble, and Chorale performing works ranging from Printemps to the last two acts of the opera Le Martyre de saint Sébastien. Other performances include a Musica Nova concert on Wednesday, Oct. 17, of new works by Eastman composers inspired by Debussy, and a concert of Eastman students and faculty members performing chamber arrangements of his works in a nonstop surround-sound setting on Saturday, Oct. 20.
The final weekend of “The Prismatic Debussy” features a crossover arrangement of Pelléas et Mélisande, the composer’s only completed opera, on Friday, Oct. 26, with a small ensemble of classical and jazz musicians performing the music while accompanied by projected panels from a comic book by artist P. Craig Russell based on the drama. The pioneering comic book artist will also speak about his work at the Memorial Art Gallery on Thursday, Oct. 25. The festival draws to a close with a symposium, recital, and Internet2 master class on Saturday, Oct. 27, focusing on five recently discovered Debussy songs.
As part of “The Prismatic Debussy” festival, the Sibley Music Library presents an exhibition of original Debussy manuscripts, including the complete working draft of his great impressionistic orchestral poem La Mer, and other rare materials Oct.1 through 27.
“Bach and the Organ” is the theme of this year’s Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative (EROI) Festival, which explores the many connections between the organ and one of its most influential composers Sept. 27 through 30. The festival features master classes, scholarly presentations, and concerts. Among the headliners is the Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble, which presents two performances of a program of festive vocal and instrumental music on Saturday, Sept. 29 (prior to the ensemble’s appearance in the school’s Kilbourn Concert Series on Tuesday, Oct. 2).
Kilbourn Concert Series
Barbara B. Smith World Music Series
Eastman Faculty Artist Series
The opening concert of “Bach and the Organ” on Thursday, Sept. 27, recreates Felix Mendelsson’s 1840 Leipzig performance of Bach’s organ music, which was Mendelssohn’s only public recital on the organ and which revived interest in the 18th-century composer. World-renowned solo performers include Jacques van Oortmerssen (Friday, Sept. 28), Joel Speerstra (Sept. 29), Robert Bates (Sept. 30), and Edoardo Bellotti (Sept. 30).
EROI Festival performances will take place on several instruments throughout Rochester: the Craighead-Saunders Organ in Christ Church, which is modeled on the kind of organ Bach played and for which he wrote his music; the Italian Baroque Organ at the Memorial Art Gallery; the Halloran All-Saints Organ in Sacred Heart Cathedral, built by Paul Fritts and inspired by an early 17th century organ in the Netherlands; and the 1893 Hook & Hastings Organ Romantic Organ, currently being installed in Christ Church.