World Premieres?

Recently, I read an article (I can’t remember where, NY Times, Newmusicbox, one of several blogs…) which discussed the idea of world premiere performances and when is a performance an actual “world premiere.”

Is the world premiere the initial performance? Does it occur during the performances which occasionally take place before the big Thursday Night Symphony concert? Is it the big Thursday night Symphony concert? Is it during the various workshops where a work can be played numerous times before the big concert?

I know of one instance where a piece was performed multiple times before the “world premiere”. Charles Wuorinen composed The Haroun Piano Book for pianist Lynn Raley who resides in Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Raley performed the work several times while on a concert tour which lead up to the “world premiere” performance in New York City.

Is this common practice?

I guess so. Or at least more widespread than I once thought.

Now I have another instance (or two) where this has happened (or in the process of happening) with one of my works. Coming up Friday there will be a performance of my Figment No. 3 “Euterpe” for solo flute at a local coffee house. (See Al Theisen’s latest post.) I guess it can be called a “sneak peek” since the actual world premiere is scheduled for May 6 at our local new music festival.

A similar thing has happened for another work of mine. My Canon In Memoriam Iannis Xenakis for Saxophone Quartet (2002) had its first performance at a private birthday recital for my former saxophone professor and it hasn’t been performed since. I have chosen to call the upcoming performance on March 31 the “world premiere”.

Can a composer save the actual “world premiere” performance for another date and venue? Would that be like our federal government and the difference between actual and observed holidays?

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