New music remains a strong focus, with a long and distinguished commissioning tradition continuing to blossom in the premieres of new works by György Kurtág, Steve Antosca, Kevin Puts and Judith Shatin. To honor the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial, the Library's Francis Scala Fund announces a trio of commissions for wind ensemble to Quincy C. Hilliard, Gay Holmes Spears and Paul W. Whear.
In December the Library continues its tribute to the 100th birthday of Elliott Carter. Last May 29, the celebration began with the performance of the Library's Carter commission, Quintet for Piano and String Quartet (with Music Accord, 1997), with the Pacifica Quartet. This season features the Library's other Carter commission, the Duo for Violin and Piano (McKim Fund, 1974), performed by Sequitur. The Washington-based Verge Ensemble unwraps two new works commissioned by the Library in Carter's honor: Judith Shatin's "Tower of the Eight Winds" and Steve Antosca's "Kairos."
February 2009 introduces a new Library of Congress Coolidge Foundation commission, when the eminent Hungarian composer György Kurtág appears at the Library with his wife Márta. The Kurtágs will give the world-premiere performance of his "Hommàge à Bartók," in an evening evoking Béla Bartók’s historic Library concert with Joseph Szigeti. Kurtág’s visit, his first to the United States with concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Library, is part of "Extremely Hungary: A Year of Performances and Exhibitions in New York City and Washington, D.C. Celebrates Hungary's Contemporary Arts and Impact on American Culture." The event is cosponsored by the Hungarian Cultural Center New York and the Embassy of Hungary.
Marking the centenary of Olivier Messiaen, a lecture by Messiaen authority Peter Hill introduces Christopher Taylor's performance of the "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus," and Tony Arnold sings Messiaen's "Harawi" song cycle. Screened at the Mary Pickford Theater will be "Apparition of the Eternal Church," a 2006 documentary by Paul Festa that captures the responses of 31 authors, musicians, filmmakers and dancers to Messaien's organ work of the same name.
"Mendelssohn on the Mall" presents an intensive season-long immersion in the music of Felix Mendelssohn, marking the bicentennial anniversary of his birth. The unique resources of the Library's Gertrude Clarke Whittall Mendelssohn Collection document his life and the cultural context for his music: original manuscripts, more than 300 letters, portrait engravings, watercolors and the Mendelssohn family scrapbook, to be displayed in February 2009. A highlight is a new work by Kevin Puts, co-commissioned by the Library, the Cypress String Quartet, the Lied Center of Kansas and the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center in Illinois. Project partners are the Library, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences.
Music and the Brain launches in October 2008, with psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison, one of the nation's most influential writers on creativity and the mind, as project chair. Presented through the generous support of the Dana Foundation, this two-year series brings together an impressive roster of scientists, physicians, anthropologists, composers, music theorists, psychologists and other experts, spotlighting the explosion of new research at the intersection of cognitive neuroscience and music.