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University of Kentucky: Boulez's "Le Marteau sans Maitre"

  • Singletary Center for the Arts 405 Rose Street Lexington, KY, 40508 United States (map)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 22, 2016) — Dieter Hennings, assistant professor of guitar at University of Kentucky School of Music, and an all-star ensemble will present "Le marteau sans maitre" ("The Hammer Without Master"), the 1953 masterwork by iconic composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, along with Pulitzer Prize finalist Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon's stunning song cycle "Sones de tierra fría." The free public concert will begin 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall.

A controversial work of chrystalline, hallucinatory beauty, "Le marteau sans maitre" by Pierre Boulez is rarely performed due to its monumental technical and interpretive demands. The "Marteau" perplexed many composers and theorists of the day with the complexity of its harmonic language. It was a rallying cry for the postwar avant-garde, and became one of the most important works of the 20th century, standing alongside Arnold Schoenberg's "Pierrot Lunaire," Igor Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du soldat" and Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" as one of the greatest achievements in modern chamber music.

Historical importance and infamous difficulty aside, the music speaks for itself: amidst an exotic and seductive sound world of alto flute, xylorimba, vibraphone, percussion, guitar and viola, texts by the surrealist poet René Char melt into a sea of colors and textures. Australian, Chicago-based mezzo-soprano Jessica Aszodi, member of the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble, delivers the virtuosic solo vocal part. Grammy Award-winner Molly Barth takes the stage with the alto flute, and Andrew Bliss, the distinguished UK graduate, joins the percussion section.

"Sones de tierra fría" is by Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, one of Mexico's most prominent composers, who studied with George Crumb and Franco Donatoni and teaches at Eastman School of Music.

"'Sones de tierra fría' is an extended 'cancionero' (a songbook), currently 'under construction.' The title of the work refers to my having composed all these songs — my tribute to the 'sones' of México — in Rochester, New York, the cold northern region where I have made my home for the past 13 years," the composer said.

When completed, "Sones de tierra fría" will include settings of poems in several languages, penned by a number of authors from different eras, but woven together by a common thematic thread — love and absence. The cycle is also unified by its musical content: each song develops and recasts a small collection of harmonic and melodic archetypes, resulting in an overall formal design that is akin to a set of variations. The composer draws on texts from William Shakespeare (sonnets relating to night and day), and the Mexican poet Raúl Aceves. Internationally renowned soprano Tony Arnold is the soloist in these lush, evocative and rhythmically vital settings.

Other guest artists joining Hennings on stage are percussionist Stuart Gerber, fellow member of Bent Frequency and professor of percussion at Georgia State University; violinist Hanna Hurwitz, fellow member of Eastman BroadBand; violist John Richards, of JACK Quartet; percussionist Paul Vaillancourt, professor of percussion at Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University; and conductor Tim Weiss, director of Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble.

For more information on this concert, contact UK doctoral candidate Jeremy Bass, at

The UK School of Music in the UK College of Fine Arts has garnered national recognition for high-caliber education in opera, choral and instrumental music performance, as well as music education, composition, theory and music history.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;