Florestan's original founders with composer Thea Musgrave
Florestan was born in 2001, when Aaron and tenor Joe Dan Harper brainstormed about a song series during a long opera rehearsal. They shared a love for song, a desire to actually use university training for its intended purpose, and Aaron’s vague panic about ending up working a fluorescent-bulb-lit office job for the next fifty years. Those hurried beginnings have given way to a near fifteen-year history of performance, innovation, recording, and mentorship.
We are named for the fiery character of Florestan, one of the creative alter egos of composer Robert Schumann, who wrote of a basic mission: “to be remindful of older times and their works and to emphasize that only from such a pure source can new artistic beauties be fostered.” That message is at the center of our activities, generating projects that draw connections between art song of the past, present, and future, while exploring the genre’s rich collaborative possibilities.
Aaron and Joe Dan joined with pianist Anne Kissel as Florestan’s co-founders and artistic directors. When Joe Dan and Anne embarked on a Fulbright grant to Germany in 2003, Alison d’Amato came on as a co-director to further develop the Boston-based concert series. As lives and employment opportunities took off in several directions, Florestan has evolved into a multi-faceted organization with an international network of collaborators, co-directed by Aaron and Alison since 2012.
Since these Boston-based beginnings, Florestan has grown into a national art song powerhouse, producing recitals, festivals, and innovative performances of classical music for audiences from coast to coast. Our oeuvre includes large-city premieres of new work as well as revivals of older pieces. Mentoring is also an essential part of Florestan’s mission, and we have led and participated in several efforts to foster the development of young musicians and composers, from short-term residencies to emerging artist programs.
In 2008, Florestan Records launched, initiating a varied and critically-acclaimed catalog of world premiere art song recordings. In 2012, Florestan redesigned our website and marketing approaches specifically to accommodate ongoing recording projects, many of which will be released for free through streaming web audio. By offering a free, simple and user-friendly online platform for our recordings, Florestan is changing the way audiences access new and old songs; while hearing professionally-produced releases, listeners are simultaneously able to access carefully researched programn otes, biographical information on the composer and poets, as well as full texts and translations. Our belief is that these works should have no monetary impediment to being heard.
Highlights of our History of Performance and Recording are included below. For a complete list, click here.
• “Samuel Barber in Words and Song” (2013)
• “A Poet’s Love” (2011)
• Guest artists: AmBul Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria (2011)
• American Vanguard Festival: “A Landscape of American Song” (2010)
• BarberFest: The Complete Songs of Samuel Barber (2009)
• FrancisFest: The Complete Songs of Francis Poulenc (2007)
• Ned Rorem’s evening-length song cycle, Evidence of Things Not Seen (2003)
• The Complete Songs of Daniel Pinkham, volumes One and Two (2009)
• 3-year appointment as “Musical Artists in Residence” at Dickinson College (2007-2010)
• The world premiere of The Early Songs of Samuel Barber (2013)
• The multi-media web release of Libby Larsen’s The Peculiar Case of Dr. H. H. Holmes (2010)
• Florestan is also currently working closely with the Virgil Thomson Foundation in recording the first-ever compilation of The Complete Songs of Virgil Thomson.
• ‘Tombstones in the Starlight’ (2014)
• A world premiere set by American composer, John McDonald (late 2015)
• Yearly commissions and world premieres, works by: Libby Larsen, Andy Vores, Stephen Paulus, Robert Pound, Thea Musgrave