(Houston, TX) On February 25th and 26th at 8pm and February 27th at 2:30 pm (the third date added due to popular demand), the Houston Chamber Choir and Da Camera present Music for Rothko, a concert program of contemporary music in one of Houston’s most unique performance spaces. All three performances are sold out.

Presented in the interior of Rothko Chapel, the Music for Rothko program includes piano works by John Cage and Erik Satie, Tagh for the Funeral of the Lord for viola and percussion by Tigran Mansurian, and choral compositions by John Cage including Four. Feldman’s Rothko Chapel for soprano, alto, choir, celesta, and percussion, is the centerpiece of the program. The performers include the Houston Chamber Choir conducted by Robert Simpson, pianist Sarah Rothenberg, percussionist Brian Del Signore, and violist Kim Kashkashian in her first Houston appearance in more than 20 years.

New Yorker Magazine music critic Alex Ross recently tweeted: “It’s Rothko Chapel week” in reference to several performances taking place this week across the country of Feldman’s elegy for his friend painter Mark Rothko. It is exciting to find out via Twitter that this piece is receiving so much well deserved attention. Last Fall on Sequenza 21, I wrote about the Houston Chamber Choir and this upcoming concert. But I didn’t know at the time that several other performances of the piece would take place within a short span of time. And now I’m interested in contemplating what will set the Houston performance of Rothko Chapel apart from those taking place in other cities?

In his wonderful collection of writings Give My Regards to Eighth Street, Feldman describes Rothko’s paintings as “…an experience in depth…not a surface to be seen on a wall.” Music for Rothko will be complimented by the fourteen paintings Rothko painted for Rothko Chapel; and this setting is one that venues in other cities will not be able to approximate. Rothko’s paintings seem to move beyond the edges of the canvases, their surface appearances changing constantly thanks to the light coming through the chapel’s skylight and Houston’s unpredictable weather patterns. A fusion between the paintings, the architecture of the octagonal room, AND the live music is in store for the chapel’s capacity audiences.

Rothko Chapel

Music for Rothko takes place February 25th and 26th at 8pm and February 27th at 2:30pm at Rothko Chapel. All three Music for Rothko concerts are sold out.

A standby list will be created beginning one hour before the performances, and if there are unoccupied seats, ticket will be sold for $35 at the door beginning about 10 minutes before the concert begins.

9 thoughts on “Music for Rothko”
  1. “Has Sāvitri ever been performed in the Rothko Chapel?” Yes. Except the musicians were required to wear cowboy hats and spurs and there was a live pony in the lobby for kids to have their picture taken with.

  2. I love the Phillips Rothko permanent installation, and dislike (or rather hate) the new large Phillips Hodgkin installation (although I loved the Hodgkin stage curtain for the Freer Gallery production of Holst’s Sāvitri. Has Sāvitri ever been performed in the Rothko Chapel?)
    … Enjoy your weekend celebration.


    “No taxation without representation!” — dcvote.org/

  3. I don’t think that my comment read like a press release, Chris.
    I was simply following up on your excitement with the major, waiting-list only Houston Rothko-Feldman events with some information and ideas about other attempts to link contemporary classical music and the, largely, abstract contemporary visual arts.
    The Phillips has a small Rothko permanent installation that is just as important (although different) from the later permanent Houston installation, and that installation has inspired new musical works, this and next month, by both Haskell Small and Roger Reynolds (who was also inspired to create a new work for two guitars and live computer sound processing by a huge, dual Howard Hodgkin temporary installation in D.C.). I also simply pointed out a new, deeper curatorial linking of Morton Feldman and the painter Philip Guston (who broke with pure abstraction, as did the minimalists and neo-diatonic tonalists in the 60s), as well as the recognized and celebrated link between Feldman and Rothko.

  4. Maybe these comments – three of them now, all regarding events at the Phillips collection – the third one reading like a press release – should instead be presented as a separate specific post on Sequenza 21? Steve Layton is the person to contact about posting privileges here.

    You also then have the option of adding tags to your post which will help with searches re: to the subject.

  5. Thanks to a special Estonian Independence Day celebration grant from the Embassy of Estonia, tomorrow (Thursday) evening’s 6 PM Erkki-Sven Tüür portrait chamber concert, with the New Tallinn Trio and the composer, at the Phillips Collection is free of charge (with reservation). Remaining seats are limited. (If doable, the museum requests a $20 contribution to help it further its contemporary classical music programming and commissioning projects.)

    On March 3, the Phillips Collection hosts Roger Reynolds for two evening sets of music in the galleries; and on March 10 at 6 PM, the Museum hosts a special concert focusing on the relationship between painter Philip Guston and Morton Feldman. The Red Light Ensemble performs Feldman’s ‘The King of Denmark’, ‘Palais di Mari’ for solo piano, and ‘Why Patterns?’ There is also a conversation between Philip Guston curator Susan Behrends Frank and Feldman protégé Dr. Nils Vigeland.

    Link (scroll down):

  6. When I lived in New York, I was lucky enough to hear two performances of works by Morton Feldman. When I would visit Houston, I’d always make sure to visit the Menil and the Rothko Chapel. Now I get to hear Feldman’s Rothko Chapel IN Rothko Chapel and I can’t wait. Between the voices in the Houston Chamber Choir and Sarah and Brian it should sound incredible.

  7. I had been planning to mention Haskell Small’s Rothko-inspired world premiere on Sunday in D.C. Unfortunately, I had to miss it, but my wife heard it and she described it to me. I hope that it will be broadcast on WETA-FM, reprised soon, and recorded.

    I believe that the work was the third of Mr. Small’s compositions to be inspired by masterpieces in the Phillips Collection.

  8. Interestingly enough, pianist and composer Haskell Small’s The Rothko Room: Journeys in Silence, was given its World Premiere on Sunday, February 20 at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.

    The composer was the performer.

    He wrote about the new work, “(The artist Mark) Rothko said tragedy, ecstasy, doom are the only important things in art. I’ve tried this in music. In this piece, I’m trying to play so quietly on the piano as to be on the very cusp of audibility, but there are occasional outbursts paralleling Rothko’s passionate nature (wild primeval, ritualistic dances). The work was influenced by Mompou’s Musica Callada and the work of Arvo Part. It is in 1 continuous movement, a little under half an hour, with 4 parts, representative of the 4 paintings in the Phillips’s Rothko Room. These parts are interwoven with an “ether” theme- floating in space. The piece also features a bell motif, at first very quiet, then later bells of doom.”

    For more information about Haskell Small, visit his website – http://www.haskellsmall.com/

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