The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen

Oregon’s Orchestra Next, in collaboration with the Eugene Ballet Company, has released its debut album featuring the world premiere recording of Kenji Bunch’s The Snow Queen. This 100-minute ballet score is a significant addition to the repertoire.

Unlike Disney’s movie Frozen, this retelling follows the Hans Christian Anderson tale somewhat closely. At its heart, The Snow Queen is the classic tale of a hero’s quest. In this particular version, though, the hero is actually a heroine and she goes off on adventures to rescue a boy from the forces of evil. In the story, childhood friends Gerda, a girl, and Kay, a boy, are separated when Kay is blinded to the good of the world by shards of a frozen mirror made by Satan. Kay ends up being taken to the Ice Palace of the Snow Queen; with help from various other characters, Gerda rescues him there.

It was this reversal of the classic gender roles that drew Eugene choreographer Toni Pimble to the story. “It’s the heroine who saves the hero in this story,” she says. “And, the two main characters are women. That’s very different.” The story works equally for children and adult audiences alike.

As composer Kenji Bunch writes, “Helping to tell this hauntingly beautiful but entirely wordless story for close to two hours was, simply put, the largest undertaking of my career to date, by a longshot.”

Kenji Bunch has emerged as one of the most engaging, influential, and prolific American composers of his generation. Hailed by the New York Times as “A Composer To Watch” and cited by Alex Ross in his seminal book “The Rest Is Noise,” Mr. Bunch’s unique blend of wit, exuberance, lyricism, unpredictable stylistic infusions, and exquisite craftsmanship has brought acclaim from audiences, performers, and critics alike. Mr. Bunch maintains an active career as a violist, and is widely recognized for performing his own groundbreaking works for viola.  A founding member of the Flux Quartet (1996-2002) and Ne(x)tworks (2003-present), Mr. Bunch is a veteran of the New York new music world and now resides in Oregon.

Orchestra Next, under the direction of Brian McWhorter is a training orchestra and the resident orchestra with the Eugene Ballet Company. Resurrecting the tradition of the mentor-apprentice relationship, Orchestra Next, now in its 5th season, combines Eugene’s creative and vibrant professionals with the region’s most talented protégés.