21st Century Consort Press ClippingThe Christopher Kendall and Curt Wittig Archive of 20th/21st Century Consort Live Concert Recordings (The Kendall-Wittig Archive)

The 21st Century Consort, founded and directed by Christopher Kendall, is the new music ensemble-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. During its 40 year history the Consort has professionally recorded over 706 works in live performances. The Smithsonian concerts have been recorded from the very first concert in 1975. For more than thirty years they were recorded by Grammy-nominated engineer Curt Wittig (1939-2011), among the leading recording engineers in the field. Mark Huffman has continued this tradition of quality live recording since 2011.

In 1995 the Consort began a project to permanently preserve these recordings. The project was initiated by private donors, further supported by grant awards from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2003 and 2008. As a major milestone in this project in June 2009 the Consort transferred 557 CDs and DVDs of live performance archive recordings for cataloging and permanent preservation by professional archivists in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland. Digital copies of all printed concert programs accompanied the recordings for preservation. The printed programs document the compositions, composers, song texts and translations, and performers. Since this first milestone we have extended this archive to include every existing recording of 21st Century Consort concerts from 1975 to 2019, 44 seasons, 183 concerts, 630 compositions by 253 composers, in 774 performances.

These recorded performances consist predominantly of significant American chamber music composed since 1975. Highlights include more than forty premieres of Consort-commissioned works by emerging and established composers including Stephen Albert, Thomas Albert, Jon Deak, David Froom, Stephen Jaffe, Jessica Krash, Mark Kuss, Bruce MacCombie, Marjorie Merryman, James Primosch, Paul Schoenfield, Joseph Schwantner, Richard Wernick, Scott Wheeler, James Willey and many others. These premiere performances, as well as most other Consort performances, are unique because the composers have regularly worked with the performers during rehearsals to support full realization of the composer’s intentions. One or more composers have participated directly in about 75% of the recorded concerts. This remarkable level of hands-on involvement by living composers insures the highest levels of historical authenticity.

Of importance equal to the premieres, the archive includes second performances of deserving new repertoire, and many additional important works unavailable elsewhere. Often these are the only existing recordings of these works, and constitute an irreplaceable resource for performers, conductors, composers, scholars and students interested in the course of American music in this exciting period of its history.

For historical perspective the archived performances also include important works dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century, including the music of composers such as Bartok, Carter, Copland, Ives, Messiaen, Ravel, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and many others.

The challenging repertoire in these recordings is performed at the highest artistic level by the 21st Century Consort performers, who consist of principal players in the National Symphony Orchestra and other nationally and internationally recognized artists from Washington and elsewhere.

Completion of this archive and web site was supported by:

  • Dennis Deloria and Suzanne Thouvenelle, in memory of LaVergne (Deloria) Fairchild
  • The National Endowment for the Arts

The live concerts were supported in part by:

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
  • Smithsonian Freer Gallery of Art
  • Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
  • The Smithsonian Associates
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Cafritz Foundation
  • Aaron Copland Fund for Music
  • DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities
  • Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund
  • Friends of the 20th/21st Century Consort