Julius Eastman's only known symphonic composition -- Symphony No. II, The Faithful Friend: The Lover Friend's Love for the Beloved -- was first heard on November 20, 2018. Luciano Chessa led the world premiere performance by the Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City.
In the annals of American contemporary music, Julius Eastman stands as one of the shadowy lost souls. A brilliant pianist and vocalist and the composer of fiercely cantankerous minimalist scores, he cut a memorable swath through New York's musical circles in the 1970s and early '80s before dying alone and unnoticed at 49 in a Buffalo Hospital.
Joshua Kosman, SF Chronicle
Symphony No. II
Luciano Chessa, 22 October 2018, New York City:
As I am going through the emotions of rehearsing this quiet, relentless masterpiece, a work that I now believe to be the arrival point of his output, I realize that here Eastman is no longer the soldier in the queer army or the black activist. He is a human being dealing with the most human of feelings: the loss of love.
Unless other works surface, the orchestral piece you are about to experience is both Julius Eastman's only symphonic composition and his last large-scale work. This piece survived thanks to poet R. Nemo Hall, Eastman's lover in the year it was written and the dedicatee of the work. Hill kept the manuscript in a drawer for several decades; composer Mary Jane Leach eventually included a copy of it in her Eastman website, and there is where I first saw it.
Luciano Chessa's deep knowledge of and continued curiosity about Julius Eastman and his music are bringing forth new insights on the music of Eastman's time and the classical music that inspired him.
+ Eastman and his 19th-century musical heritage
+ Eastman and his contemporaries
+ Eastman's fully lived life: composition, performance, love, socio-political action
In 2012 Luciano Chessa curated the first-ever Eastman retrospective. Presented with Sarah Cahill's L@te Series at the Berkeley Art Museum, the event garnered the first full write-up on Eastman by a major paper, the San Francisco Chronicle.
Luciano Chessa contributed a chapter on Eastman's "minimalist choralphantasie" Gay Guerrilla for the book Gay Guerrilla: Julius Eastman and His Music (2015), edited by Renée Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach.
The Julius Eastman score for Symphony No. II, The Faithful Friend: The Lover Friend's Love for the Beloved is edited by Luciano Chessa and published by Music Sales/G. Schirmer.