One of the pleasures of contemplating a new music season is contemplating the new-music season. Boston’s contemporary music offerings may be discrete and somewhat balkanized, but they add up to an uncommonly rich, substantial selection of works. A few of the city’s many new-music groups have recently announced their 2013-14 seasons.
A sinfonietta-sized group devoted largely to European modernism, Sound Icon made its name last year with a performance of Georg Friedrich Haas’s “in vain.” The ensemble begins its fourth season on Sept. 28 with a concert centered around “Encore/Da Capo” by the Italian composer Luca Francesconi. Of special significance for Sound Icon’s music director, Jeffrey Means, is a March 17 performance of Pierre Boulez’s “Sur
Incises” for three pianos, three harps, and three percussion parts. The piece won the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2001 and has become one of Boulez’s most highly regarded recent works.
“Having studied with Boulez, conducting his works is a particular personal pleasure for me,” Means wrote in an e-mail, “and ‘Sur Incises’ is a piece that I love and have wanted to lead for quite a while. The instrumentation of the piece is visually and aurally dazzling, and in a certain way it is the perfect ensemble for Boulez, distilling his aesthetic down to its characteristic elements.”
The final concert is a tribute to the mystically inclined British composer Jonathan Harvey, who died last December. The May 3 concert will mark what would have been Harvey’s 75th birthday and include the chamber ensemble work “Death of Light, Light of Death.”
Boston Musica Viva
While Sound Icon is a relative newcomer, Boston Musica Viva, which bills itself as America’s oldest professional ensemble devoted to the performance of contemporary music, is embarking on its 45th season, all under the direction of Richard Pittman. Their season-opening program on Oct. 5 is a typically catholic affair, combining Robert X. Rodriguez’s “Tango,” a concert opera for tenor and chamber ensemble about the forbidden dance craze of the early 20th century; a scene from an opera in progress by Martin Brody; and Gunther Schuller’s “Sonata Serenata,” inspired in part by the legendary jazz violinist Joe Venuti.
Other offerings from the season include a reprise of Thea Musgrave’s chamber opera “The Mocking-Bird,” which BMV commissioned and premiered in 2002 (Nov. 16); a 2005 work by the talented young composer Sean Shepherd (May 10); and the annual family concert, this year including the world premiere of Kate Salfelder’s “King Midas and the Golden Touch” (Feb. 9). New this year is a free emerging composer’s concert, to be held at Boston Conservatory April 25.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project begins its season by reaching back to a relative classic: “Four Saints in Three Acts,” an operatic collaboration between composer Virgil Thomson and librettist Gertrude Stein. BMOP’s Nov. 16 concert performance will be conducted by Gil Rose, who is making opera an increasingly prominent part of his conducting work.
The 2013-14 season is heavy on American composers, including a Jan. 17 concert featuring world premieres by two Bostonians — Elena Ruehr and David Rakowski — and one former Bostonian (Ken Ueno). A May 16 performance offers the world premiere of a concerto for orchestra by Donald Martino, his final work, completed before his death in 2005 at 74.
Tickets go on sale Oct. 1.
Finally, the Firebird Ensemble has announced a CD release party for “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch,” its new CD of works by Pittsburgh-based composer Eric Moe. The concert at First Church in Boston on Sept. 6 will include “Frozen Hours Melt Melodiously Into the Past” and the CD’s title track, both of which were premiered by the Firebird. Later in the season, the group reprises its popular holiday offering: Jon Deak’s “The Passion of Scrooge, or A Christmas Carol.” (Dec. 6).