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Music in Time: Christian Wolff on Merce Cunningham 

When: Sun., June 6, 5 p.m. 2010
Price: $25
www.spoletousa.org

One of the most unheralded composers of our time, Christian Wolff’s music explores the social, physical, and spatial relationship of musical events. His tribute to Merce Cunningham, Merce, bears remarkable analogy to the process and grace of Cunningham’s choreography. Presented by Spoleto Festival USA.

The edge of classical music
For open-eared musical adventurers, this series explores the avant-garde end of serious music. Over the years, series director John Kennedy has exposed festival audiences to the finest creations from just about any prominent cutting-edge composer you can name — plus the work of many fascinating, but lesser known, musical pioneers. This year's assortment of class acts includes a "genre-defying" string quartet (see Brooklyn Rider), as well as music from Christian Wolff that, according to Kennedy, "mirrors the elegant, graceful, and even playful nature of choreographer Merce Cunningham's work."

Dig a little deeper
One of the series' regular practices has been to offer deeper explorations into the music of contemporary composers whose operas are being staged at Spoleto. Accordingly, there will be a program devoted to the music of German sensation Wolfgang Rihm, whose opera Proserpina ranks high on this year's playbill.

A closer look at Neely Bruce
Kennedy believes that the series' most vital operatic connection this year is to the music of Neely Bruce, who was commissioned to "re-compose" the music to Flora, Spoleto's headline opera. "His stylistic impulses pick up on classic musical Americana from all eras of our history," says Kennedy. "Rather like American icon Charles Ives, Neely's compositional methods are often traditional, but with a strong experimental bent." We'll get to hear a broad sampling of his work, including the world premiere performance of Three Sonnets of Eileen Albrizio, as well as his Heliotrope Bouquet and excerpts from his Music for Dancing. If the idea of classic Americana with a modern twist appeals to you, don't miss it.

— Lindsay Koob

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