Anthracite Fields Pulitzer Prize in the News

Composer Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, an oratorio for chorus and sextet commissioned by Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music. Here are some select articles and quotes that appeared in the news and social media following the announcement. Please use the links for complete articles.  

New York Times – ArtsBeat: “Anthracite Fields” was given its premiere by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, and was later included in the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural NY Phil Biennial festival. Reviewing the New York performance, Corinna da FonsecaWollheim wrote in The New York Times that it “contains a raw indictment of the exploitation of workers, particularly the children employed in the mines as breaker boys, sifting through coal and debris with bleeding fingers.” She added that in “Ms. Wolfe’s polished and stylistically assured cantata, the overall coherence of the musical material helped her expressions of outrage to burn cleanly and brightly.”

NPR – Deceptive Cadence:   [Julia Wolfe] “And this is one of those moments. I feel very fortunate, even before the Pulitzer, to have a wonderful life in music working with amazing musicians. But this is one of those moments where the light shines on that so I would hope it supports that, supports reaching for something outside of the box.”

Philadelphia Inquirer:  “Monday’s Pulitzer was an unexpected award for one of the chorus’ largest projects and a particularly ambitious effort by Wolfe. “I think of myself as off the beaten path. When you take that road … you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “But every so often, somebody shines a light on it.” … “Acclaimed by critics, Anthracite Fields was also a success when performed weeks later in the New York Philharmonic Biennial. Though Wolfe had explored the American worker with 2009’s Steel Hammer, a Pulitzer finalist about John Henry folklore, Harler said, “I think [Anthracite Fields] was a creative breakthrough.”

LA TImes: “In his article about the best classical music moments of 2014, Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed — a member of the Pulitzer jury that selected Wolfe this year — wrote that “Anthracite Fields” was “an unforgettably haunting, harrowing evocation of the plight of Pennsylvania’s coal miners, incorporating many musical styles and effectively shadowy visuals.””

The Standard Speaker: “‘Anthracite Fields’ should come home”

Studio 360:  “[Julia] acknowledges that the subject matter of Anthracite Fields might have been percolating for quite a while, but “subconsciously,” Wolfe tells Kurt Andersen. Until recent years, Wolfe’s work has been exploring sound, timbre, and instrumentation, not language. “The thing I love about music is it’s beyond words,” she says. “But somehow the words crept back in — big time.” “

MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press: “Powell and her husband attended the April 2014 premiere of “Anthracite Fields,” performed by the Mendelssohn Club and the Bang on a Can All-Stars in Philadelphia, and came away moved. She said Wolfe – and the performers and production designers who helped bring “Anthracite Fields” to life – got it exactly right. “It was just so captivating,” Powell said. “It did a lot for our heritage here in northeastern Pennsylvania.”

thetimes-tribune: “Those memories flooded back to Mr. Supey when he watched Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Anthracite Fields” at it’s debut in Philadelphia last April. The work, commissioned by Philadelphia’s Mendelssohn Club, pays tribute to Northeast Pennsylvania’s coal miners with a combination of photographs of miners and an oratorio for vocals and instruments. “It was so real,” he said. “It my made you want to tear up because how good we have it today compared to what we went through.”

Philebrity: “In the year since the piece had its world premiere here it has received unanimous praise, culminating in a 2015 Pulitzer Prize win …”

NBC10: “Wolfe’s work, described by judges as a “powerful oratorio for chorus and sextet,” was composed after a year’s study of the Pennsylvania coal mining industry at the turn of the 20th Century, near where Wolfe grew up in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania.”

WQXR:  “Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields, a multimedia oratorio about the plight of Pennsylvania coal miners, has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for music.”