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Richard Anderson
Ah Young Hong is the soprano singer in the "On the Threshold of Winter" monodrama by composer Michael Hersch, which will be featured on Thursday at the University of Utah School of Music's Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sounds of music will be heard Thursday at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center as renowned American composer Michael Hersch will be in town to hear his two-act monodrama "On the Threshold of Winter."

This performance, sponsored by the NOVA Chamber Music Society and Utah Opera, caps off a weeklong celebration called "American Visionary," which has highlighted Hersch's music. This season marks NOVA's 40th anniversary of making music in the Beehive State.

"I'm just deeply honored to be part of it," Hersch said. "These are extraordinary musicians, so I know that the piece will be presented in a manner that it was intended."

"On the Threshold of Winter" deals with the melancholy subjects death and sickness, taking details from poems of the Romanian poet Marin Sorescu, who died from liver cancer. Sorescu had a close friend who also died from cancer.

Hersch said the monodrama features an ensemble of eight musicians — a pianist from Baltimore and the rest of the musicians from Utah.

"It's a new experience for all of them," he said. "So it will be interesting for me to see what they bring to it with completely fresh eyes and fresh ears."

Hersch and his music have been featured around the United States and across the world, from Carnegie Hall to Japan's Pacific Music Festival. His music has been performed by major orchestras in Seattle, Dallas and Baltimore, among others. He is a chair of the composition faculty at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University.

This Thursday, "On the Threshold of Winter" will be conducted by Tito Muñoz of the Phoenix Symphony.

The performance will feature soprano singer Ah Young Hong in the leading role — a part that she performed to rave reviews in New York City in 2014. Hong has been a member of several symphonies, including the Phoenix Symphony, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, among others. She is also on faculty at the Peabody Conservatory, where she serves as the voice department chair.

"She's quite extraordinary," Hersch said. "It’s important for me to say that even if people don’t like the music, seeing an artist on her level is just something unto itself. She really is a deeply special artist. She has been part of this piece from the beginning. (Muñoz has) conducted it several times, so he also is someone who’s steeped in the piece and knows it well."

Hong said this is a wonderful opportunity to perform in Utah and share Hersch's music with a new audience.

"For us to be able to take it all the way over here, to take it to Salt Lake City, is such a privilege," she said. "The music is so intense, so wonderful."

Hersch said he hopes that individuals who attend the performance connect with the music.

"I hope that people go with an open mind and open ears, and know that it’s OK to not to like it," he said. "I certainly hope that they connect with it. But, I hope that they realize how rare it is, an opportunity to be able to hear contemporary music played at the highest level."

Hersch said he has much gratitude for the NOVA Chamber Music Society.

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"There’s such an incredible breadth of diversity of contemporary music in the United States, with so many different voices, and I would hope that people recognize they have something very, very special in this NOVA Chamber Music Series — that (they are) doing something like this, not just now with me, but with other composers in the future."

Sam Oberter
Composer Michael Hersch's monodrama "On the Threshold of Winter" will be presented Thursday at the University of Utah School of Music's Libby Gardner Concert Hall. The presentation of the monodrama caps off a weeklong "American Visionary" festival, which has featured Hersch's music.

If you go …

What: NOVA Chamber Series presents "On the Threshold of Winter"

When: Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 Broadway

How much: $30

Website: artsaltlake.org