Ensemble Modern II

Portrait Ruth Crawford Seeger: Ensemble music

David Niemann, conductor
Beyer / Crawford Seeger / Balch / Léon

Kneeling woman in a circle of children

Ruth Crawford Seeger not only arranged folk songs for children, but also took part in music lessons at her daughter’s kindergarten in the 1940s. ©

In this programme the Ensemble Modern introduces the large-scale ensemble works of the American composer Ruth Crawford Seeger that are full of the delight in experimentation and the courage to pursue untrodden paths that characterised the 1920s. The futher pieces of this portrait concert also shed light on the present day, with a composition by the young American Katherine Balch and Tania León’s “Ritmicas” from 2019 – demonstrating where Seeger’s ideas continue to have a direct or indirect effect. 

15:10, Exhibition Foyer
Work introduction

On the second evening of its showcase of the works of Ruth Crawford Seeger, the Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt presents some of her large-cast ensemble pieces. Following a musical reflection on Charles Ives’s “Central Park in the Dark” by the US composer Katherine Balch, the programme includes Ruth Crawford Seeger’s highly poetic “Music for Small Orchestra”, that is introduced by a contemplative and introspective opening movement in the style of Ives’s Park portrait. It culminates in a rousing finale that does full justice to the composer’s marking “In roguish humour.” There is also a chance to hear “Rissolty, Rossolty”, composed for CBS in 1941, which reveals traces of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s work researching folk music, though the composer repeatedly juggles numerous folk themes simultaneously, layering them in an ambitious polyphony.  This second concert by the Ensemble Modern again juxtaposes Ruth Crawford Seeger’s remarkable oeuvre with music by the Cuban-American composer and conductor Tania León, whose consciously original works contain resonances of many diverse traditions. Her five-movement orchestral piece “Ritmicas” lives up to its title as a “rainbow of polyrhythmic inventions” (León) is woven through the entire work: music that was inspired by the Cuban composer, violinist and conductor Amadeo Roldan, who composed the first symphonic pieces with Afro-Cuban percussion in 1930.


Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953)
Rissolty Rossolty (1939 – 41)
for orchestra  

Suite Nr. 1 (1927)
for five wind instruments and piano 

Tania León (*1943)
Hechízos (1995)
for chamber orchestra

Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953)
Suite Nr. 2 (1929)
for four strings and piano

Katherine Balch (*1991)
country radio (2024)
for ensemble
A work commissioned by Ensemble Modern, supported by Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain and Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne

Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888 – 1944)
Suite from various chamber music works
arranged by Hermann Kretzschmar

Tania León (*1943)
Rítmicas (2019)
for chamber orchestra

Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953)
Music for Small Orchestra (1926)


Ensemble Modern
David Niemann – conductor

An event by Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin
Supported by the Capital Cultural Fund

Ensemble Modern would like to thank the Library of Congress in Washington for its kind support in researching Ruth Crawford Seeger’s music.

With the kind support of the Ensemble Modern Patronatsgesellschaft e.V.