Today is the 70th birthday of Marc Neikrug, the highly-respected American composer, pianist, and arts administrator whose accomplishments have been heard on WFMT and around the world for almost four decades. Marc lives a prolifically creative life, albeit on the quieter side of fame, and we’d like to help you know him a little better as we wish him many, many happy returns of the day.
Major American and international orchestras and presenters, such as the New York Philharmonic and the Deutsche Oper Berlin, have commissioned or performed Marc’s chamber music, symphonies, music-based theater pieces, and operas. The lengthy roster of notable musicians who have championed his work includes Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, Leonard Slatkin, Oliver Knussen, Jennifer Koh, James Galway, Kirill Gerstein, Susan Graham, Pinchas Zukerman, Maximilian Schell, and the Emerson, Vermeer, Tokyo and Orion Quartets.
This week, WFMT has aired a number of recordings featuring Marc as composer or as pianist. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra graciously allowed us to rebroadcast the Clarinet Concerto Marc wrote in 2010 for the MSO’s principal clarinetist, Todd Levy. We’ve featured some of the remarkable duo recordings Marc made with his long-time recital partner violinist Pinchas Zukerman, and we’ve shared some of his performances with musicians from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival where he has served as artistic director since 1998. Finally, on Sunday, September 25th at 11:00 PM, WFMT brings you an encore presentation of Marc’s beautiful Healing Ceremony, the result of his dedication to the Navajo culture of New Mexico and his belief in the healing power of music.
Kerry Frumkin and Louise Frank have gotten to know Marc through their work on WFMT’s Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival radio series, and it was in Santa Fe this summer that Kerry spoke with Marc about his multi-faceted, musical life. When asked what motivated him towards a life in music, Marc responded with wry seriousness, “Genetically, I had no choice.”
As for important influences, Marc emerged into a virtuosic, unusually curious, and musically omnivorous family. And then there was Stefan Askenase, the piano teacher with a connection to Mozart.
Beginning with his first season as artistic director of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Marc has presented commissions and contemporary music on a regular basis. Marc noted to Kerry how the Festival’s devoted audiences have expressed their appreciation: “And now they say, ‘I wonder what the new piece will be.’ People here are grateful their horizons have been expanded.”
Marc confided that his 35-year collaborative partnership with violinist Pinchas Zukerman shines among the highlights of his long career and many accomplishments. “He is the most amazingly intuitive, impeccable musician I have ever known.”
Through Roses, Marc Neikrug’s brilliant account of a Holocaust survivor haunted by guilt and memories, was commissioned by London’s South Bank Festival with the National Theater. Since its premiere in 1980, it has had hundreds of performances in 15 countries and has been translated into 11 languages. A film version of Through Roses was directed by Jürgen Flimm and stars Maximilian Schell.
A commission from the Deutsche Oper Berlin not only enabled Marc to compose his his anti-nuclear opera, Los Alamos, it led to his first visit to New Mexico and from there, to unanticipated, positive and enduring changes in his personal life – and a move from 98th Street and West End Avenue in New York, to Santa Clara Pueblo.
“Audiences are never averse to expanding their knowledge. Presenters are because they’re afraid they’ll lose the audience. In fact, I always believed that was exactly the opposite of the truth.”
– Marc Neikrug on the importance of programming full pallet of musical offerings, including contemporary music, at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival