mannes school of music presents world premiere of johanna beyer's cyrnab

The Mannes Orchestra will also perform works by Henry Cowell, George Rochberg, and Krzysztof Penderecki

Johanna Beyer

NEW YORK, November 13, 2019 – The New School's Mannes School of Music will present the world premiere of Johanna Beyer's orchestral work Cyrnab, a twelve-minute piece for string orchestra originally composed in 1937 during a critical period in Beyer’s development. The Mannes orchestra will also perform contemporary and experimental works by renowned composers George Rochberg, Henry Cowell, and Krzysztof Penderecki. The concert will take place on Friday, November 22nd at 7:30 at The New School’s Tishman Auditorium.

During the 1930’s, Johanna Beyer created some of the most experimental work among her contemporaries, which has been largely ignored in the decades since her death. A graduate of Mannes, Beyer was a deeply innovative composer and pianist throughout her career, and only today is beginning to receive her due as one of the most radical and forward-thinking composers among ultra-modernists. 

Beyer was at the forefront of new music and composed for solo piano, string quartet, mixed chamber ensembles, orchestra, percussion ensemble, and has been credited as the first woman to write concert music for electronic instruments. She was a colleague of Henry Cowell, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Aaron Copland, John Cage, and other great composers of the time, and her work was often exemplary of the dissonant counterpoint, a theoretical compositional system devised by Cowell and Charles Seeger. The New School hosted a number of her major performances, including her first in 1933, where her Three Songs for Soprano, Piano, and Percussion were performed.

“It is gratifying and important that so many have begun exploring and bringing to life works by concert composers who were not white males,” said Richard Kessler, Dean of Mannes and Executive Dean for the College of Performing Arts. “As part of this effort, Mannes has begun to invest in illuminating one of our own, Johanna Beyer, who graduated Mannes in 1928, while also studying at The New School with Henry Cowell. Johanna Beyer has languished in the shadows for too many years, particularly as her music is among the most interesting and experimental of anything written in the 1930s. While Beyer did not live to hear many of these works performed, we are committed to premiering these great experimental works so that the musical world may be enriched and also become more just.”

Engraved parts did not exist for Beyer’s Cyrnab when Mannes decided to premiere the work and has since engraved the score. Following the premiere, those parts will be made available to the public through Frog Peak editions.

Known for their bold and adventurous programming, the Mannes Orchestra has been hailed by The New York Times as an orchestra whose quality is “a revelation”,” and for their “intensity of focus.” In the past year, they have performed world and U.S. premieres of works by Julius Eastman, Carl Davis, and more.

The 2019/20 season features exciting performances, collaborations, and projects, including performances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, John L. Tishman Auditorium at The New School, and appearances with the Mannes Opera at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.


Conductor: David Hayes

George Rochberg - Black Sounds

Henry Cowell - Symphony No. 2 "Anthropos"

Krzysztof Penderecki - Threnody To The Victims of Hiroshima

Johanna Beyer - Cyrnab

Johanna Beyer - Music of the Spheres*

*Levy Lorenzo, Assistant Professor of Creative Technologies at the College of Performing Arts will present this fixed media piece with the score projected for the audience to follow along.

Founded in 1916 by America’s first great violin recitalist and noted educator, David Mannes, Mannes School of Music is a standard-bearer for innovative artistry, dedicated to developing citizen artists who seek to make the world a better and more beautiful place. Through its undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies programs, Mannes offers a curriculum as imaginative as it is rigorous, taught by a world-class faculty and visiting artists. Distinguished Mannes alumni include the 20th century songwriting legend Burt Bacharach, the great pianists Richard Goode, Marray Perahia, and Bill Evans, acclaimed conductors Semyon Bychkov, Myung-Whun Chung, Joann Falleta, and Julias Rudel, beloved mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, as well as the great opera stars of today, Yonghoon Lee, Danielle de Niese, and Nadine Sierra.

Founded in 1919, The New School was born out of principles of academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. Committed to social engagement, The New School today remains in the vanguard of innovation in higher education, with more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students challenging the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The New School welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and calendar of lectures, screenings, readings, and concerts. Through its online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.


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Media Contacts:

Rohana Elias-Reyes,
The New School

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