Anthracite Fields, a new, hybrid choral work by composer Julia Wolfe, commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, has received widespread media attention leading up to its world premiere performances on April 26 and 27.
Wolfe is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and the co-founder of New York City new music collective Bang on a Can. Over the course of two-year research period leading up to the premiere, supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Wolfe drew inspiration from Anglo-American folk music and stories around coal mining communities in her home state of Pennsylvania.
At The Huffington Post, Lew Whittington writes, "Wolfe wanted to show the whole spectrum of life around the mines and the community solidarity that would 'honor the spirit of these people, the relationship with the earth and humanism,' she said. [...] In addition to going into the actual mines, Wolfe met with many families who recounted stories of their relatives living in a mining community." Whittington also notes that Anthracite Fields will be performed during the New York Philharmonic inaugural biennial in May at Avery Fisher Hall. Read more >
"Whether buried or asphyxiated, the names of killed and injured miners are the starting point of Anthracite Fields," writes Daniel Patrick Stearns for the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Montgomeryville native [Wolfe] receives commissions from modern-music organizations all over the world, but Anthracite Fields is her first from Philadelphia, and she wanted to touch on something local. 'Something about tunnels and digging was speaking to me,' she said." Read more >
Stearns follows up this piece with a positive review of the world premiere performance, held on April 26 and 27: "Working with a nonprofessional choir prompted distilled, concentrated musical thought; Anthracite Fields has all the guts of any Wolfe piece, but may be her most attractive work yet." Read more >
In another review at Broad Street Review, Tom Purdom writes, "Anthracite Fields is a major contribution to a category that is so thin it is almost non-existent: art inspired by the great saga of industrialization. [...] Wolfe has chosen powerful texts and magnified their impact with creative, unpredictable musical effects." Read more >