Hitting the High Notes at SMF Part 3: World Premiere



Editor's Note: This is the third in a three-part series on the Sarasota Music Festival.

This Saturday, spectators will take their seats at the Sarasota Opera House to witness the grand finale of the Sarasota Music Festival: the world premiere of Luminous Bodies, composed by Robert Sirota at the special request of the festival, to be performed by SMF artistic director Jeffrey Kahane and yMusic, an ensemble of six New York instrumentalists, returning to the festival after a celebrated debut last year. After three full weeks of performances, the festival culminates with this never-before-heard piece by a world-renowned composer.

Sirota worked on Luminous Bodies for five months, but he came up with the title first. In this case, the astrophysical term used to describe heavenly bodies that emit their own light, like stars, represents not only the seven musicians who will perform the piece, “who also have a kind of inner light," but also a set of composers that have inspired Sirota in his own life, emitting light in their own way: George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Lili Boulanger, Fanny Mendelssohn and Leonard Bernstein. Each of the five movements bear a composer’s first name. “I try to weave something about their music into my own music,” he says. “So the piece is a kind of big tapestry of dedication to artists and composers.”

Sirota hopes Luminous Bodies will showcase the talent and range of the seven musicians for whom it was written—including his daughter, who plays the viola with yMusic. “I like a challenge,” Sirota says. “And if people of the caliber of Jeffrey Kahane ask you to write a big piece for them, and you're not motivated by that to do something as brilliantly as you can, then you're probably in the wrong business.”

Sirota doesn’t try to tell an audience what they’re supposed to feel or how they’re supposed to respond. Mostly, he is interested in the conversation between himself and the five composers he dedicated his piece to, and, only by extension, the conversation between his piece and the audience. “It'll be different for different people,” he says. “But I think any work of art that can't be experienced in a number of different ways is not a particularly strong work of art.”

Pictured: Composer Robert Sirota. Photo by Brian Hatton.

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