The Anchoress: An Evening of Music by David Ludwig, Philadelphia and NYC

“…I left one stone-bright burial for another, my other, this cell”

The Anchoress, a new monodrama by David Ludwig, “a composer with something urgent to say” (Philadelphia Inquirer), has its world premiere on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 7:30 PM at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia under the auspices of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. The next evening, Thursday, October 18 at 8:00 PM, the New York premiere is presented at The DiMenna Center for Classical Music, Cary Hall. Set to texts by Katie Ford, The Anchoress is inspired by the medieval mystic tradition called anchorism and its relationship to contemporary society. In what may be the first-ever combination of voice, period wind instruments, and saxophones, The Anchoress will be performed by soprano Hyunah Yu; the early music ensemble Piffaro, The Renaissance Band; and the PRISM Quartet.

The Anchoress explores struggles with faith, alienation, gender, and social power through the imagined person of a Medieval anchoress. Anchorism as a movement lasted throughout early Christianity to about the time of Shakespeare; and though it was a gender-neutral practice, at its height women anchorites outnumbered men four to one. An anchoress would permanently sequester herself into a small cell attached to a church. She had one small window through which to speak to townspeople coming to her for guidance. Her daily life resembled a prayerful funereal rite, as she would remain in the “anchorhold” under her eventual passing. By withdrawing from the world and choosing a form of death, she became a “living saint” in the eyes of the Church.

David Ludwig writes, “The Anchoress explores contrasting wind ensemble sonorities from opposite ends of Western music history: the ancient, now unusual street band instruments of the Piffaro consort and the versatile and contemporary saxophone quartet. This may be the first work of its kind to bring these specific instruments from antiquity and modernity together into one piece. The Anchoress further offers social commentary. Medieval and Renaissance-era women had few professional opportunities; the anchoritic calling offered a life where scholarly and creative pursuits were a possibility. Accounts of their mystic visions have informed theology for hundreds of years, as meaningful in today’s instantaneous and multi-layered digital world as it was in the spiritual and ascetic culture of the anchorites.”

Also on the program are three of the composer’s earlier works: Our Long War, a song cycle and Ludwig’s first collaboration with poet Katie Ford featuring soprano Tiffany Townsend, violinist Karen Kim, and pianist Susan Nowicki; Josquin Microludes (commissioned by the PRISM Quartet), a set of miniatures that incorporates Josquin’s Mille Regretz into its musical language; and Three Anchoress Songs for flute and saxophone, composed as Ludwig was developing The Anchoress song cycle, which will be performed by flutist Mimi Stillman and PRISM saxophonist Matthew Levy. Additionally, Piffaro will perform works by the medieval French poet and composer Guillaume de Machaut, newly arranged by Ludwig.



David Ludwig‘s music has been described as “arresting and dramatically hued” (The New York Times) and “supercharged with electrical energy and raw emotion” (Fanfare).

Ludwig has written for many prominent artists, including Jonathan Biss, Jennifer Koh, the Dover and Borromeo quartets, eighth blackbird, ECCO, and orchestras including the Philadelphia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and National Symphonies. In 2013 his choral work, “The New Colossus,” was selected to open the private prayer service for President Obama’s second inauguration. In 2012 NPR Music selected him as one of the Top 100 Composers Under Forty in the world. His 2017-18 season highlights included the premiere of a concerto written for pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, commissioned by the Bravo! Vail music festival in honor of their thirtieth anniversary.

Recent highlights include a violin concerto written for his wife, acclaimed violinist Bella Hristova; the concerto was commissioned by a consortium of eight orchestras across the United States. Other recent commission and performances include Titania’s Dream for the KLR Trio, Swan Song for Benjamin Beilman commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and Pictures from the Floating World commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra for bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Born in Bucks County, P.A., Ludwig comes from several generations of eminent musicians including grandfather Rudolf Serkin and great-grandfather Adolf Busch. He holds degrees from Oberlin, The Manhattan School, the Curtis Institute, The Juilliard School, and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Ludwig serves as the director of the composition faculty of The Curtis Institute of Music, and is the Gie and Lisa Liem Artistic Advisor and director of the Curtis 20/21 Contemporary Music Ensemble.



Katie Ford‘s poetry collections are published by Graywolf Press, and include Deposition, which confronts God, violence, and Christian belief; Colosseum, named “Best Book of 2008” by Publishers Weekly, and which explores the theme of ruination and pulls from Ford’s personal experiences as a resident of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina drove thousands out of their homes; and Storm which continues on the theme of ruination with a focus on the efforts to escape New Orleans in the aftermath of the hurricane. Her individual poems and essays can be found in many contemporary journals and reviews, such as American Literary ReviewThe New YorkerThe American Poetry ReviewThe Paris ReviewSeneca ReviewPloughsharesPoets & Writers, and Pleiades. Ford teaches at the Department of Creative Writing in the University of California, Riverside.



Hyunah Yu

Hyunah Yu

Applauded for her absolutely captivating voice with exceptional style and effortless lyrical grace(Washington Post)Soprano Hyunah Yu has garnered acclaim for her versatility in concert and opera roles of several centuries, for her work in chamber music, for her support of new music written by contemporary composers, and for her recorded and broadcast performances.  Known particularly for her performances of the music of J.S. Bach, Hyunah has appeared regularly with esteemed conductors, festivals and orchestras throughout the US, Europe, and Asia.  An avid chamber musician and recitalist, Ms. Yu has enjoyed re-engagements with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Baltimore’s Shriver Hall Concert Series, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Vancouver Recital Society, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., Musicians from Marlboro, and many others.  A highlight of Ms. Yu’s opera career was singing the title role in Peter Sellar’s new production of Mozart’s Zaide in the joint production of the Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Barbican Centre and the Wiener Festwochen played in New York, London, and Vienna.  She has recorded Bach and Mozart Arias on EMI’s Debut Series and solo recitals broadcast for the BBC Voices program. Hyunah was a prizewinner at the Walter Naumburg International Competition and a finalist in both the Dutch International Vocal and Concert Artist Guild International competitions. Upon the nomination of the pianist Mitsuko Uchida, she received the coveted Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. Ms. Yu also holds a degree in molecular biology from the University of Texas at Austin.

PRISM Quartet

Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America’s foremost chamber ensembles. “A bold ensemble that set the standard for contemporary-classical saxophone quartets” (The New York Times), PRISM has performed in Carnegie Hall on the Making Music Series, in Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America, China, and Russia under the auspices of the United States Information Agency and USArtists International. PRISM has also been presented to critical acclaim as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, and conducted residencies at the nation’s leading conservatories, including the Curtis Institute of Music and the Oberlin Conservatory. Two-time recipients of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has commissioned nearly 300 works, many by internationally celebrated composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winners Julia Wolfe, William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon, Zhou Long, and Bernard Rands, and MacArthur “Genius” Award recipients Bright Sheng, Tyshawn Sorey, and Miguel Zenón. PRISM’s discography includes releases on Albany, BMOP/Sound, ECM, innova, Koch, Naxos, New Dynamic, New Focus, and its own label, XAS Records. The Fifth Century, PRISM’s ECM recording with The Crossing under Donald Nally, was awarded a 2018 Grammy for Best Choral Performance. In 2016, PRISM was named by its alma mater, the University of Michigan, as the first recipient of the Christopher Kendall Award in recognition of its work in “collaboration, entrepreneurship, and community engagement.”


Piffaro, The Renaissance Band


Piffaro delights audiences with highly polished recreations of the rustic music of the peasantry and the elegant sounds of the official wind bands of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods.  Its ever-expanding instrumentarium includes shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, recorders, krumhorns, bagpipes, lutes, guitars, harps, and a variety of percussion — all careful reconstructions of instruments from the period. Piffaro presents an annual subscription concert series in the Philadelphia region; tours throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and South America; and appears as performers and instructors at major Early Music festivals. Recordings are a significant part of the ensemble’s work, and 18 CDs have been released since 1992, including 4 on the prestigious label Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion.


Mimi Stillman

Mimi Stillman has appeared as an orchestra soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and master clinician at leading venues and educational institutions worldwide. In her project, Syrinx Journey, Stillman honored Claude Debussy on his 150th birthday by making a video of his solo flute masterpiece “Syrinx” every day for one year. Her Música en tus Manos project to share chamber music with Philadelphia’s Latino community was awarded a Knight Arts Challenge grant. Stillman is the founding Artistic Director of Dolce Suono Ensemble. At age 12, she was the youngest wind player ever admitted to the Curtis Institute where she studied with the legendary Julius Baker and Jeffrey Khaner. She received a MA and PhD (abd) in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and is a published author on music and history. She serves on faculty of Curtis Summerfest, Music for All National Festival, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania.


Tiffany Townsend

A native of Jackson, MS, soprano Tiffany Townsend is in her third year of postgraduate studies at The Curtis Institute of Music. She received her Bachelors of Arts from Millsaps College studying under James C. Martin and Masters of Music from The Juilliard School studying under Marlena Malas. At the Chautauqua Institution she performed First Lady in The Magic Flute. She has performed in concerts with The Mississippi Chorus, Millsaps College Singers, The New York Festival of Song, George Crumb’s Winds of Destiny with The Juilliard Percussion Ensemble, and Juilliard Wednesdays @ 1 in Alice Tully Hall. Upcoming engagements include Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Brenda in Rene Orth’s Empty The House both with the Curtis Opera Theatre. 


Karen Kim

Grammy Award-winning violinist Karen Kim’s performances have been described as “compellingly structured and intimately detailed” (Cleveland Classical), “muscular and gripping” (New York Classical Review), and having “a clarity that felt personal, even warmly sincere” (The New York Times). She has performed in such prestigious venues and series as Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium and Zankel and Weill Recital Halls; the Celebrity Series of Boston; the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; the Vienna Musikverein; London’s Wigmore Hall; the Musée d’Orsay in Paris; and the Seoul Arts Center. She received the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance in 2011 for her recordings of the complete quartets of György Ligeti. She is a member of the Jasper String Quartet, Talea Ensemble, and Deviant Septet, and is a founding member of Third Sound.


Susan Nowicki

Susan Nowicki is a faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music where she coaches for the Vocal Studies Department.  She has appeared throughout the United States as soloist and as collaborative pianist, and frequently performs with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Ms Nowicki has premiered and performed with the ensemble Network for New Music, and has recorded for the Albany, Capstone, De Haske, North-South and MSR labels. Ms. Nowicki is in demand as an adjudicator and clinician for music festivals, conferences and competitions. She maintains a private piano studio in Wyndmoor, PA, and is an instructor for The Well Balanced Pianist programs, intensive courses for pianists which emphasize the study of coordinate technique to produce artistic results and remain injury free.


Support for The Anchoress has been provided to David Ludwig by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The New York performance is made possible with support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. PRISM is a member of New Music USA’s New Music Impact Fund, made possible with funding from The Scherman Foundation’s Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund. Visit PRISM’s New Music USA profile.

Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102

October 17, 2018
7:30 PM

$30 (plus $2 handling fee). DISCOUNT: enter the coupon code "PRISMdeal" for $10 off

Box office contact info:
PCMS: (215) 569-8080

Cary Hall, The DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W. 37th Street, New York, NY 10018

October 18, 2018
8 PM

$22 General Admission, $17 Seniors, $12 Students ($3 more at the door for all tickets)

Box office contact info: (800) 504-4849