Česká centra, Czech Centres

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May 9, 2016 8:00 PM


A leading American group with members of Ostravská banda dedicated to the performance of contemporary classical music. Conducted by Petr Kotík.


S.E.M. Ensemble

With members of Ostravská banda


Sara Schoenbeck, Bassoon
Joseph Kubera, Piano
Roscoe Mitchell, Saxophone
Conrad Harris, Violin
Seth Parker Woods, Violoncello
Lucie Vítková, Accordion

The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in collaboration with String Noise, Violin Duo
Petr Kotik, Conductor


Petr KotikString Noise William (Premiere)
George LewisNot Alone (2015)
Lucie VítkováPlaces to Meet (Premiere)
John CageRyoanji (1985)
Roscoe MitchellThey Rode for Them (Premiere)
Karlheinz StockhausenZeitmaße (1956)
Improvisation with Mitchell, Lewis, Buckner, and members of SEM

Reserve free tickets

It is interesting that Lucie Vítková, George Lewis, Petr Kotik, and Roscoe Mitchell, all four of the composers who have new works on the May 9th program, have taken part in Ostrava Days, founded in 2001. The Institute and Festival Ostrava Days (Ostrava, Czech Republic), similarly to Darmstadt’s programming of the ‘50s and ‘60s, provides an opportunity for the creation and performance of major compositions for large ensembles by composers who have for the most the part been marginalized by the mainstream music world. With an international group of 35 young and emerging composers, two resident orchestras, and some of today’s most distinguished composers, Ostrava Days sets itself apart from other new music projects. All four of these composers have realized large-scale compositions at Ostrava Days, including operas and music for 3 orchestras.

Over the years, the S.E.M. Ensemble has programmed music by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, in part due to the close relationship Petr Kotik had with Cage and Stockhausen. Kotik met Cage in 1964 and Stockhausen in 1965.

Since their first meeting, Petr Kotik and John Cage collaborated regularly on various performance projects. They performed for the first time together in the spring of 1964 in Vienna. A few months later in Prague, Kotik organized musicians for a performance of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (David Tudor at the piano, Cage conducting). During rehearsal, Cage divided an orchestra part into two separate units to enable two players to perform a single part. Similarly, on May 11th, the orchestra parts of the Concert for Piano and Orchestra will be split into two, doubling the size of the ensemble from 13 to 26. SEM performed such a two-orchestra version, this time also with two piano solos with David Tudor and Joseph Kubera, at Alice Tully Hall in 1993.

In 1987, when rehearsing for performances at Cage’s 75th anniversary event at WDR in Cologne (24 hours of public performances broadcasted live), Cage created a special version of Ryoanji for SEM, adjusting the piece to the instrumentation of the ensemble.  This version, without pre-recorded sections and with some parts transposed, will be performed on May 9th.
When Kotik was travelling through Cologne in 1965, he visited the Electronic Music Studio at WDR, where he met Karheinz Stockhausen. Stockhausen asked to see one of his compositions, and the recording of Music for 3 was played, right in the studio. This led to a commission for Kotik from the WDR Electronic Music Studio (Stockhausen was the studio’s director). In 1967, Stockhausen invited Kotik to assist with the performance of his Mixtur in Darmstadt. Kotik and Stockhausen met for the last time in 1997, at the occasion of a performance of Gruppen at Cologne’s Triennale Festival. Meeting Stockhausen and being present at the rehearsal and performance of Gruppen inspired Kotik to organize and perform the piece at the Prague Spring Festival in 1999, which led to the idea of starting Ostrava Days shortly afterwards.

Stockhausen’s Zeitmaße, along with Gesang der Jünglinge (4-channel electronic music) and Gruppen for 3 orchestras, constitute a major musical statement of the time. Stockhausen’s music influenced musical thinking in the 20th century, similarly to the work of John Cage, especially his Concert for Piano and Orchestra and Atlas Eclipticalis. Performing major works by the two composers together on both programs is one of the highlights of SEM’s present season.



Bohemian National Hall, 321 East 73rd Street
NY 10021 New York
United States


May 9, 2016 8:00 PM


Czech Centre

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