Fuel and Cruel Sister at Carnegie Hall

October 7, 2013

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This season Julia Wolfe’s large works for string orchestra, Fuel and Cruel Sister, are performed at Carnegie Hall by two of the country’s leading interpretors of contemporary works.

On October 25, Robert Spano leads the American Composers Orchestra in their Carnegie performance of Julia Wolfe’s full-throttled work for strings, Fuel, on a concert dubbed “Orchestra Underground: Adding Fuel to the Fire”.

Wolfe’s Fuel was created in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison and is inspired by the mystery and economy of how things run — the controversy and necessity of fuel — the global implications, the human need. Premiered in 2007 by Germany’s Ensemble Resonanz, Wolfe wanted to capture, in music, the sounds of transport and harbors — New York and Hamburg — large ships, creaking docks, whistling sounds and a relentless energy. Fuel was premiered in a multi-media performance with Morrison’s film at the Kaispeicher B Warehouse at the port of Hamburg, Germany.

On April 24, as part of Carnegie Hall’s series Collected Stories (curated by David Lang), Wolfe’s powerful work Cruel Sister is performed by conductor Brad Lubman and his Ensemble Signal.

Wolfe comments on this piece:

Cruel Sister takes its name from a stirring and fantastic Old English ballad. The tale is of two sisers — one bright as the sun, and the other cold and dark. One day, so that she can have the love of a young man who has come courting, the dark sister pushes the bright sister into the sea. Two minstrels find the dead sister washed up on the shore and shape her breastbone into a fine harp strung with her yellow hair. They come to play at the cold dark sister’s wedding. As the sound of the harp reaches the bride’s ears, the ballad concludes “and surely now her tears will flow.” While my piece references no words and quotes no music from the original tune, it does follow the dramatic arc of the ballad — the music reflecting an argument that builds, a body floating on the sea, the mad harp.