Called "a dynamic new music ensemble" (The New York Times) ModernWorks was formed in 1997 by cellist and long-time concert producer Madeleine Shapiro. The focus of the ensemble is the exploration of the wealth of recent repertoire written for strings in a variety of combinations. Though the core is a string quartet, the ensemble also performs repertoire in numerous other combinations; string duos and trios, as well as works with accordion. Its ModernCelli ensemble performs music for multiple cellos. This is an area of the contemporary repertoire which is very rich, but not being consistently explored by most ensembles.
Madeleine was the founder, and co-director of The New Music Consort for 21 years, and ModernWorks is a continuation and expansion of her work in the field of contemporary music. It reflects her interest in performing and programming an eclectic range of new works by both established and emerging composers, and in the creation of new works. In the short time that the ensemble has been in existence, it has won critical acclaim for its New York seasons. It has also presented over 30 New York or United States premieres of works by both young, emerging composers, and such diverse established composers as Sofia Gubaidulina, Kaija Saariaho, Luciano Berio, Iannis Xenakis and Bernard Rands. ModernWorks is proud to have been the recipient of a commissioning grant from Meet the Composer to commission a duo for cello and accordion by the eminent American composer Charles Wuorinen. The work received its premiere in January, 2002. ModernWorks takes particular pride in its work with younger American composers whose works are presented annually on both the New York series and on tour. The ensemble was recently the recipient of a second Meet the Composer Commissioning Award to commission Anthony Cornicello to write a work for violin, cello and accordion, thus continuing to add to the accordion chamber music literature.
ModernWorks consists of a core of some of New York City's most prominent performers of new music. The ensemble is a member of The New York Consortium for New Music and has appeared in New York on Sonic Boom 6, 8, 9, the festival's 10th anniversary marathon at The Knitting Factory, and Sonic Boom 11, also at the Knitting Factory. Other NY appearances have included two seasons at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse in which the ensemble was featured in a three concert series of 20th century Italian music; the Museum of Arts & Design (7 seasons) and NorthRiverMusic (3 seasons). The ensemble has been heard on NPR's Performance Today and WNYC's "New Sounds" and has been featured in an on-line webcast in the American Music Center's NewMusicBox. ModernWorks was in residence at New York University where it performed in the university's new Black Box theater and presented lecture demonstrations and readings of works by student composers.
ModernWorks' recent touring appearances have included the International Festival of Cello Ensembles in Beauvais, France and a concert tour in Italy with appearances on such prestigious festivals as Nuovi Spazi Musicali (Rome) and Rive Gauche Concerti (Turin). Other recent concerts took place at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, The African Art Museum, Tenafly, New Jersey (NJ Composer's Guild), Eastern Connecticut University, the American Accordion Association's annual New York City concert at The City College of New York; as well as appearances of ModernCelli on the "Take Five on Tuesdays" series at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, the Festival of World Music at Montgomery College, Rockville, MD, and Mutable Music's celebration of 15th anniversary of the Interpretations Series at LaMama, NYC where it performed with jazz notable Roscoe Mitchell.