Miranda CucksonViolin Blair McMillenPiano

Miranda Cuckson and Blair McMillen

Thursday, November 2, 2023 |  7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information


About This Performance

Be among the first Bay Area audiences to hear the debuts of Miranda Cuckson and Blair McMillen. These two internationally celebrated young artists, noted for their innate expressivity, musical dexterity, and boundlessly evident love for music and live performance. “Her command of line and naturalness of expression leave little doubt that Miranda Cuckson is an artist to be reckoned with” (Gramophone). “When played by the formidable Mr. McMillen, any piece sounds terrific” (The New York Times).


JANÁČEK: Sonata for Violin and Piano
BEETHOVEN: Violin Sonata in G Major, Op.30, No. 3
PROKOFIEV: Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80
ROSS LEE FINNEY: Fiddle-doodle-ad: Eight American Folk Tunes for Violin and Piano


ANTHONY CHEUNG: Aubade, for a Golden Age from Elective Memory

Artist Information

Performer Biographies

Violinist Miranda Cuckson delights listeners internationally as soloist and collaborator in a wide range of music, from older eras to the most current creations. She has in recent years become one of the most acclaimed and passionately committed performers of contemporary music, playing innumerable concerts and premieres of new works and moving new creations more into the center of musical life.

Venues and festivals have included the Berlin Philharmonie, Suntory Hall, Casa da Musica Porto, Teatro Colón, Guggenheim and Cleveland Museums, Art Institute of Chicago, Strathmore, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series, and the Bard, Marlboro, Portland, Music Mountain, West Cork (Ireland), SinusTon (Germany), and LeGuessWho and Soundsofmusic (Netherlands) festivals. Miranda made her Carnegie Hall debut playing Piston’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the American Symphony Orchestra, and recently premiered new violin concertos written for her by Georg Friedrich Haas in Tokyo, Stuttgart and Porto, and by Marcela Rodriguez in Mexico City. Her recent and upcoming solo performances include Wien Modern, Time Spans, the 2021 Ojai Festival with John Adams, and the 2022 Grafenegg Festival playing the Haas Concerto. She is a member of the interdisciplinary collective AMOC, which was named artistic director for the Ojai Festival in 2022.

In addition to working with many of today’s emerging artists, Miranda has worked with celebrated composers including Dutilleux, Carter, Adès, Sciarrino, Boulez, Crumb, Saariaho, Mackey, Davidovsky, Ran, Rzewski, Currier, Iyer, and Murail. Composers who have written pieces for her include Jason Eckardt, Reiko Füting, Michael Hersch, George Lewis, Wang Lu, Katharina Rosenberger, Jeffrey Mumford, Aida Shirazi, Steve Lehman, and Harold Meltzer (Library of Congress commission).

Her acclaimed discography includes the Korngold and Ponce violin concertos; albums of music of American composers Finney, Shapey, Martino, Sessions, Carter, Glass, Hersch, Mumford, and Weesner; her ECM Records album of Bartók, Schnittke and Lutoslawski; Melting the Darkness, an album of microtonal and electronics pieces by Xenakis, Bianchi, Rowe and more; and her recording of Luigi Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica future for violin and electronics (Urlicht AV), which was named a Best Recording of 2012 by the New York Times.

Miranda teaches at the Mannes School of Music at New School University in New York. She studied at The Juilliard School, from Pre-College through her doctorate, and won Juilliard’s Presser Award.

Hailed by the New York Times as “prodigiously accomplished and exciting” and as one of the piano’s “brilliant stars,” pianist Blair McMillen has forged a musical life that is unbounded by convention. He is well-known for his advocacy of living composers and contemporary music, as well as for championing very early keyboard music and more recent neglected masterpieces. For more than two decades, McMillen has divided his time as piano soloist, chamber musician, music festival director, and educator/teacher.

Blair McMillen has performed in major concert venues in New York, throughout the United States, and around the world. Recent appearances include concertos with the American Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, solo appearances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and a 3-week solo tour of Brazil sponsored by the US State Department. He is a member of several prominent ensembles, including the American Modern Ensemble, the six-piano “supergroup” Grand Band, and the Perspectives Ensemble, among others. For 10 years he was pianist for the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players. He has also performed with the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Knights, and the LPR Ensemble.

As a teacher and pedagogue, McMillen is in high demand. He has taught at Bard College and Conservatory since 2005, and he serves on the piano and collaborative piano faculty at Mannes at the New School in New York City. He regularly adjudicates at competitions and festivals throughout the United States and abroad. In past summers, McMillen has taught at the Elm City Chamber Festival, the Xi’an Festival, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Samuel Barber Institute, FEMUSC (Brazil), and the Bennington Chamber Music Festival, to name a few.

His first solo CD Soundings, was released to critical acclaim in 2001. Since then, Blair McMillen has been featured on dozens of commercially-released solo, chamber, and orchestral recordings. An album of two-piano music with Stephen Gosling, Powerhouse Pianists II, was declared “one of the finest piano recordings in 2016” by NPR. An ECM recording with violinist Miranda Cuckson was hailed by The Guardian for “…playing that is frank and urgent, with powerfully stripped-back quiet passages and gritted-teeth ecstatic climaxes.” McMillen was featured on a recent release, Harold Meltzer’s Grammy©-nominated Songs and Structures. And in 2021, Naxos will release McMillen’s recording of Joan Tower’s piano concerto Still/Rapids with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Blair McMillen is the co-founder and co-director of the Rite of Summer Music Festival. Rite of Summer is a free, outdoor contemporary-music series held on New York City’s Governors Island. The festival has presented boundary-pushing artists such as the JACK Quartet, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Tigue, Theo Bleckmann, Todd Reynolds, Contemporaneous, and Don Byron’s New Gospel Quintet. Rite of Summer is the only annual music festival on Governors Island, a place the New Yorker has called “an enormous playground for the arts.”

Blair McMillen holds degrees from Oberlin College, Manhattan School of Music, and The Juilliard School. While at Juilliard he was selected as concerto soloist on a tour of Japan with the Juilliard Orchestra. While there, he won the school’s Gina Bachaeur Competition and the Sony “Elevated Standards” Career Grant. McMillen’s principal teachers have included Jerome Lowenthal, Robert McDonald, Sophia Rosoff, Joseph Kalichstein, and Byron Janis. He lives in New York with his wife Kay and son Conor. In his spare time he enjoys biking, skiing, film, and the occasional semi-competitive game of table tennis.

Artist Videos

Miranda Cuckson Plays Language by Sam Perkin

Blair McMillen Plays The Serpent’s Kiss by William Bolcom