Hersch Composition Draws on Visual Arts

painting by Peter Weiss
“Self-Portrait between Death and Sister,” Peter Weiss, 1935

On Feb. 26 the Blair School of Music gave the world premiere of American composer Michael Hersch’s Zwischen Leben Und Tod. The program-length work for violin and piano was performed by Carolyn Huebl, associate professor of violin, and Mark Wait, Martha Rivers Ingram Dean of the Blair School.

Based upon the often disquieting paintings and drawings of Peter Weiss (1916–1982), it is the second large-scale work Hersch has written during the past five years in which visual art plays a central role, the first being Images from a Closed Ward, based on a series of etchings by Michael Mazur (1935–2009). Images from a Closed Ward, also commissioned by Blair, was premiered by the Blair String Quartet at Blair and at Carnegie Hall in 2012.

“I am deeply fortunate and profoundly grateful to have been able to write both of these works for remarkable musicians,” says Hersch. “The fact that all these musicians—the Blair String Quartet, Carolyn Huebl and Mark Wait—are part of Vanderbilt’s Blair School is a testament to the incredibly high level of music-making going on at this institution.”