Award-winning Boston Modern Orchestra Project to perform Bach-inspired work

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New music is, by definition, revolutionary. But it also follows a well-established tradition of building creatively on the works of past composers. In celebration of both innovation and tradition, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) commissions, performs, and records new concert music for Boston audiences. This year marks BMOP’s 20th season under the leadership of Conductor and Artistic Director Gil Rose. The orchestra was recently honored as Ensemble of the Year by Musical America.

BMOP will demonstrate its achievements on Jan. 22 at Jordan Hall with a performance of the “New Brandenburgs,” a collection of six pieces by six modern composers. The work was inspired by Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos.” The BMOP explained that they “transmogrified” the great composer by using his original work as a blueprint. The “New Brandenburgs” was a five-year project commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in 2006. They premiered the full work in 2011.

Paul Moravec

Paul Moravec

“It’s a fascinating project,” said Paul Moravec, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and Adelphi University professor who wrote the Brandenburg Gate (2008) for the series. “I’ve heard all six pieces and I know all of the composers. No two pieces sound the same, and that’s interesting. Audiences coming to this concert will get an idea that this is a time of diversity and eclecticism in concert music.”

The “New Brandenburgs” is comprised of Stephen Hartke’s A Brandenburg Autumn, Moravec’s Brandenburg Gate, Melinda Wagner’s Little Moonhead, Christopher Theofanidis’s Muse, Aaron J. Kernis’s Concerto With Echoes, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Sea Orpheus.

Moravec’s composition corresponds to Bach’s Brandenburg No. 2. The work represents his personal reflections on the city of Brandenburg. Moravec was inspired by the world events of 1989, especially the fall of the Berlin Wall. The composer explained that he aimed to capture the thrill of that moment in history. He also incorporated a hidden nod to Bach in Brandenburg Gate, writing the theme with a B-flat, A, C, and B natural, which are the German notation equivalent of B-A-C-H.

“It’s called Brandenburg Gate, but you wouldn’t know because it has to stand on its own two feet and speak for itself, musically,” Moravec said. “It was generated by the thrilling historical events of 1989. I used that as the inspiration, and made this piece a dialogue between old and new, a dialogue between me and Bach, and Bach’s world and imagination.”

The dialogue between old and new in this new take on Bach is a concept that reflects BMOP’s philosophy. Moravec calls BMOP a “world-class orchestra,” and says that he trusts both their performance quality and their selection of new material.

“There is a tremendous amount of new music being composed today,” he said. “There is something really exciting about hearing the performance of a new piece when it’s thrown into the world for the first time.”

Beyond the exploration of the vast history and intricate philosophies of music, Moravec says the experience of concert performance comes down to one fact: “It’s fun!”

“If you haven’t been to an orchestral concert, something really exciting is the sheer thrill of the sound of 60 or 70 people onstage playing real instruments,” he said. “It’s a thrilling sound. No matter what’s going on in the music, it just sounds great.”

Bach’s music has survived for centuries in concert halls, and well past his lifetime. Moravec says that this fact alone demonstrates that classical music has far from faded over time.

“It’s a whole long, magnificent tradition of music that’s very active,” Moravec said. “I think today, 2016, is the golden age for classical music … It’s an exciting, vibrant, vital time for classical concert music.”

BMOP will perform the “New Brandenburgs” at Jordan Hall in Boston at 8 p.m., Jan. 22. A pre-concert lecture will take place at 7 p.m. Tickets are available on either BMOP’s webpage, the Jordan Hall Box Office, or by telephone: 781-324-0396.