I was interviewed by soprano Liv Redpath as part of a project for a class she took with pianist J. J. Penna at Juilliard earlier this year. The result is posted here. Do look around the site for more interviews, I was honored to be part of a project involving some very fine composers and performers.

Liv is wonderfully gifted, check out her performance at a Renée Fleming master class here.

Michael Caruso reviewed the recent performance of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus for the Chestnut Hill Local. He remarks:

It was the Primosch that most caught my attention Sunday afternoon. The composer ingeniously combined sonic recollections of late medieval settings of the Greek and Latin Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass with contemporary overlays of poetic interpolations in which dissonances were sometimes jarring but never off-putting.

I’m happy to link to a sympathetic review of The Crossing’s performance of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus by David Patrick Stearns that appeared in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. He called it one of my best works, and I think he is right – for whatever inexplicable reason, things seemed to fall into place in that piece. Would that such a thing would happen consistently…

I liked the comment with which the review ends:

You can trust a piece that’s too personal to proselytize, and, through depth of feeling, achieves more universality.

The performance was quite fantastic. I am in awe of the musicianship of The Crossing’s singers and of the skill with which Donald Nally (the group’s artistic director) can elicit the formidable best that they can give. It didn’t hurt that many of the singers were performing the piece for a second time. It was good to hear the piece in Chestnut Hill Presbyterian, a less drastically resonant space than The Icebox where the premiere took place.

You can see the video of last year’s premiere of the piece at this site’s video page – go to the link above.

UnknownI had planned to post today about how Gunther Schuller would be receiving the Edward MacDowell Medal at the MacDowell Colony this coming August. Instead, I must sadly acknowledge his passing yesterday at the age of 89.

I will always be grateful to Gunther for his generous support, beginning with my time at Tanglewood some 31 years ago, including publishing some early pieces of mine with his firm Margun Music. I will continue to learn from his writings and transcriptions (despite the flaws of a few of the latter). And I will continue to admire his music: powerful in expression and expertly crafted.

I previously posted about Gunther here, here, here, here, and here.

The Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland was the venue for the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival performance of my Oboe Quartet this week. Commissioned by Winsor Music, and its Artistic Director, oboist Peggy Pearson, the piece received its fourth performance, the first three having been given by Peggy and members of the Apple Hill Quartet this past spring.

This time it was not members of a particular string quartet that played, but rather an all-star group put together for the occasion: Robin Scott, the newly appointed first violin of the Ying Quartet; Steven Tenenbom, violist of the Orion Quartet; and Marcy Rosen, who was cellist of the Mendelssohn Quartet for 31 years. I was delighted by the group’s superb performance. For example, the fourth movement of the piece is lyrical, but with the principal line frequently passed from player to player. It was impressive to see in rehearsal how readily these players intuited when to come forward and when to pull back, creating a finely crafted web of song.

Here’s a picture of the Deco-ish interior of the Avalon Theater in Easton where one of our rehearsals took place:

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And here is a shot from the sound check before the performance, this at the Academy Museum of Art:

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The festival schedule is packed with elite players performing both standard and lesser-known repertoire. Heartfelt thanks for Marcy Rosen and J. Lawrie Bloom, Artistic Directors of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, for giving me a chance to share my music with such wonderful players, and with an appreciative audience.

I’ll be traveling to Easton, Maryland tomorrow for rehearsals and a performance of my recent Oboe Quartet. There will be an open rehearsal of the Quartet at 11:30 tomorrow, and the performance is this Thursday, June 18, at 5:30. Both events are at the Academy Art Museum in Easton as part of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. The players will be Peggy Pearson, oboe; Robin Scott, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; and Marcy Rosen, cello; quite an all-star group. I am looking forward to hearing another interpretation of the piece after the fine performances by Peggy plus members of the Apple Hill Quartet earlier this year. It is such a treat to have multiple performances of a piece, an all-too rare occurrence.

But not entirely rare; after all, the other upcoming performance is also a reprise. The Crossing will revive my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, premiered last year at The Icebox in Philadelphia, and presented this coming Sunday at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia at 4:00 pm. The premiere was astonishingly fine – check it out on the video page (link above). The only problem with the video is that folks find it hard to make out the beautiful Denise Levertov texts that I have interwoven with the traditional Latin Mass, due not to any fault with the diction of the choir, but to the unusually resonant performance space. It will be interesting to hear it in a less dramatically resonant space this time around.

This is not fresh news, but I only just heard about it: soprano Judith Kellock died this past March from complications following cancer surgery. A remarkable artist, beloved teacher, and just a nice person, Judy did my music on several occasions, including a performance at SongFest several years ago where I had the privilege of accompanying her myself. Read more about her at her website; an obituary here. Here is a video in which she sings the last movement of Lukas Foss’s Time Cycle, a setting of the same Nietzsche text that Mahler used in his Third Symphony.

I missed the Bad Plus Joshua Redman show in Philly tonight – in lieu of a report, here are some videos, the first with the trio plus Redman from a few years ago, the second with just the trio, posted fairly recently. My post title refers to a Louis Armstrong recording, but also honors the rhythmic gamesmanship of the first song on the trio video. I’d welcome comments on what you hear going on in this tune.

George Walker’s music was heard at the Mannes Beethoven Institute recently, and you can read reviews of the performances at The New Criterion and the NY Times.

I will be teaching a graduate seminar on piano music since 1945 this fall at Penn, and I plan to include one of Walker’s sonatas on the syllabus. He is a virtuoso pianist as well as an excellent composer, so his piano music is of special interest. I was intrigued to read in the New Criterion piece an explanation for the remarkable second movement of Walker’s Sonata No. 3, which is built on a single chord played played 17 times, with various dynamics and durations: it was inspired by a bell Walker heard when in residence at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, on Lake Como.

– the Prism Quartet plays with guests Chris Potter and Ravi Coltrane on June 9th at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia and June 10th at Symphony Space in New York. It’s the next installment of Heritage/Evolution, a project featuring new work by top jazz saxophonists, created for Prism.

– I was walking up Fifth Avenue a week ago Sunday, early for a Mass I was going to attend in celebration of the anniversary of a friend’s ordination as a priest. I decided to stop in at St. Patrick’s for a few minutes before continuing on my way to that anniversary celebration. It was shortly before the main Mass of the day at the cathedral, and the following little incident says something about the role of the arts in the liturgy of my denomination. An organ prelude begins: a Bach trio sonata. Pretty classy, no? Then – while the Bach is still going – someone steps up the microphone with a cheery “Good morning and welcome…” The trio sonata became a more or less pleasant, vaguely “church-y” background noise, or, rather, it became clear that it had been understood by those shaping the liturgy as background noise all along. There’s a rather different experience of Bach and of music in general at Emmanuel Church, which I have often written about here. It’s a place where my motets and Bach cantatas and organ works are understood to be an integral part of the service, not just atmosphere. My music takes on a pastoral role in that context.

– try taking this test to see if you can tell the difference between compressed and uncompressed audio files. I’ve been in situations where I felt a musical recording didn’t sound well, with a squished dynamic range, and it turned out to be a compressed file, but I was horrified to see how badly I did on the test, even with decent headphones.