Broad gestures and rich textures are hallmarks of the “compelling” (The New York Times), “deliciously wistful” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “personal, expressive, and bold,” (I Care If You Listen) music of composer Alex Weiser. Born and raised in New York City, Weiser creates acutely cosmopolitan music combining a deeply felt historical perspective with a vibrant forward-looking creativity. Weiser’s debut album and all the days were purple, was named a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Music. Released by Cantaloupe Music in April 2019, the album includes songs in Yiddish and English and has been praised as “ravishing” (The New Yorker), “reverent and magical... devastatingly beautiful,” (American Record Guide), “gorgeous” (Tablet Magazine), “utterly original and exquisitely unsettling... sweeping, bewitching, divinely dissonant... pitch-perfect.” (In Geveb).
Weiser recently completed an opera with librettist Ben Kaplan called State of the Jews. Hailed as “stunning, heavenly, marvelous” by Israeli National Public Radio, the opera is based on the life of Theodor Herzl and juxtaposes a historical narrative focusing on the last year of his life, with the more intimate story of Theodor’s conflicted relationship with his wife, Julie Herzl, and the toll his political views and activities took on their family life. Developed as a part of a two-year fellowship with American Opera Projects, the LABA fellowship of the 14th Street Y, a Roulette residency, and with support from the ConEd Exploring the Metropolis Composer Residency program, the opera received a series of preview performances at the 14th Street Y in December 2019 and awaits a premiere production.
Other recent projects include Shimmer, an extended work for eight spatially arrayed cellos written for Ashley Bathgate which will be released on an album in the coming season; a collection of works inspired by David Vogel’s poem with gentle fingers including a song, a work for singer with a percussion quartet performing inside a piano, and a pair of works for Cello and Piano; Three Epitaphs originally written for singer Kate Maroney and chamber orchestra Cantata Profana; and water hollows stone, a multi-movement four hand piano work written for HOCKET piano duo.
An energetic advocate for contemporary classical music and for the work of his peers, Weiser co-founded and directs Kettle Corn New Music, an “ever-enjoyable” and “engaging” concert series which “creates that ideal listening environment that so many institutions aim for: relaxed, yet allowing for concentration” (New York Times), and was for nearly five years a director of the MATA Festival, “the city’s leading showcase for vital new music by emerging composers” (The New Yorker). Weiser is now the Director of Public Programs at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research where he curates and produces programs that combine a fascination with and curiosity for historical context, with an eye toward influential Jewish contributions to the culture of today and tomorrow.
Other commissions and performances have come from ensembles and musicians including the Soldiers Tale septet, Exceptet, Kathleen Supové, Typical Music (Todd Reynolds, Ashley Bathgate, and Vicky Chow), Lisa Moore, Mellissa Hughes, Sandbox Percussion, JACK Quartet, Guidonian Hand, Momenta Quartet, Argento Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Bearthoven, Fifth House Ensemble, bassoon quintet Dark in the Song, and the New Amsterdam Singers.Weiser has completed residencies at Avaloch Farm Music Institute, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Wildacres, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Millay Colony, and his music has been heard at festivals including Bang on a Can, Norfolk, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, Carlsbad Music Festival, June in Buffalo, European American Musical Alliance, Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival, and highSCORE. Weiser has received commissions, awards, and support from Roulette, New Music USA, ASCAP, the Lyrica Chamber Music Society, Iowa State University’s Carillon Festival, the University of Central Missouri, and the Mid Atlantic Foundation for the Arts.
Weiser’s musical education began in earnest while attending Stuyvesant High School writing pieces for their symphonic orchestra, studying theory and conducting with Joseph Tamosaitis, and studying composition with Paul Alan Levi. Weiser then continued his studies at Yale University and New York University where teachers and mentors included Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Michael Klingbeil, Kathryn Alexander, Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Ingram Marshall, and Christopher Theofanidis.