David Ludwig will become the latest recipient of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s A.I. du Pont Composer’s Award tonight when he accepts the honor at the DSO’s second Classics Series concert at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington
The concert—titled “Mother Earth”—will feature a performance of Ludwig’s bassoon concerto, Pictures from the Floating World, with guest soloist William Short, principal bassoon of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Also on the program will be Claude Debussy’s La Mer and Ferde Grofe’s Grand Canyon Suite.
The award was established in 1985 to honor Alfred I. du Pont, an accomplished musician credited with funding the predecessor of the DSO. The award, which carries a cash prize, recognizes a living composer or conductor who has made a significant contribution to contemporary classical music. Past recipients have included the likes of Morton Gould, Philip Glass, John Adams, George Crumb and Jennifer Higdon. Andre Previn was last season’s honoree.
DSO Executive Director Alan Jordan, who collaborated with Ludwig while at the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, noted his accomplishments both in and outside the concert hall. “David Ludwig is an amazing man, teacher, administrator and arts advocate,” he said. “His music is immediately compelling and says a lot. He’s got an amazing way of blending sounds that are familiar and sounds that are not so familiar.”
Music Director David Amado, who will conduct the concert, agrees. “He has as a priority the need to communicate with the audience,” he said. “David’s music is beautiful; it’s thoughtful. It has many of the priorities I have as a musician; it’s unpretentious and it achieves a kind of intimacy and directness that I find very appealing and that’s rare.”
Ludwig is honored to join the ranks of past recipients and to be recognized by an organization so near his home turf. “It’s very special to be part of an organization that’s local to me,” said the Bucks County, Pa. native now living in Philadelphia. “This is a wonderful orchestra just down the road from where I live with my neighbors playing in it.”
Pictures from the Floating World is the English translation of ukiyo-e, the name for Japanese woodblock prints of landscapes and waterscapes. Ludwig also took inspiration from the work of Claude Debussy, who wrote La Mer. Each of the works’ five movements takes its title from one of Debussy’s water pieces.
“I think Debussy is in most every composer’s lineage and that music truly speaks to me,” he said. “There are some direct quotes from Debussy, but it’s not my goal to transcribe the music but to use some of his clay.”
Pictures from the Floating World was written for Daniel Matsukawa, principal bassoon of the Philadelphia Orchestra which premiered the work in 2013. Matsukawa approached Ludwig to write a concerto that would showcase the lyrical capabilities of the instrument which has become associated with bouncy rhythms and comic characters. That presented both a challenge and an opportunity for the composer.
“There aren’t a lot of pieces for bassoon and orchestra like there is for other instruments like the violin and the piano, so that’s like a double-edged sword,” said Ludwig. “On the one hand, there’s a lot of opportunity to do something new and unique, but at the same time, there aren’t a lot of models to follow.”
The character of the instrument also had to be considered. “It’s a gentle, soft-spoken instrument so when writing for it, you have to be careful to give it room to speak over all the other instruments.”
Ludwig also had to strike a balance between writing for Matsukawa and for artists who would perform the work in the future. “Everything we do [as composers] is both personal and public,” he said. “Billy [Short] has played the piece before and has done a magnificent job at making it his own as well.”
Short, who studied with both Matsukawa and Ludwig while a student at Curtis, is thrilled to play the work with the DSO where he served as principal bassoon. He left in 2012.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “The musicians of the DSO and David Amado were so incredibly supportive and welcoming to me at a time in my career when I really had a lot to learn. I couldn’t be more excited to go back and make music with them again.”
If you go:
- What: Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Classics Series Concert 2
- When: Friday, November 17, 7:30 p.m. Pre-concert discussion at 6:30 p.m.
- Where: The Grand Opera House, 818 N. Market Street, Wilmington
- For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.delawaresymphony.org
The DSO will perform a shortened version of this concert on Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19.
- Saturday, November 18
Tatnall School’s Laird Performing Arts Center, 1501 Barley Mill Road, Wilmington
1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
- Sunday, November 19
Milford High School, 1019 N. Walnut Street, Milford