Soprano Jamie Jordan will be offering three songs from my cycle Holy the Firm as part of her recital with pianist Steven Beck at Penn tomorrow evening (2/22/17) – go here for more on the concert, and click here for a PDF of the program. The piece will be heard again later this week, as J. J. Penna has programmed the complete cycle as the closing event of Westminster Choir College’s 2017 Art Song Festival. I don’t yet have the name of who will be singing at Westminster, but J. J. will be playing piano and I will update this post with the singer’s name as soon as I get it. The concert is this Saturday, 2/25, at 7:30 in Bristol Chapel on the Westminster campus. More information here.
I first heard the soprano Jamie Jordan on a New York New Music Ensemble concert a few years ago, and it was immediately apparent that this was an artist of exceptional gifts, so I am delighted that she will be performing at Penn next Wednesday, February 22, at 8 pm in Rose Recital Hall, found in Fisher-Bennett Hall, 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia. Her pianist will be Steven Beck. The concert will be an all-Penn affair, with music by Penn faculty past and present, plus a work by Penn alum Matthew Schreibeis. Here is the program:
George Crumb: The Sleeper
Richard Wernick: Ball of Sun
James Primosch: Holy the Firm (excerpts)
Jay Reise: Satori
Matthew Schreibeis: Sandburg songs (excerpts)
Anna Weesner: Early After, Ever Now
George Crumb: Apparition
The opening pieces by Crumb and Wernick were written for a recital given by Jan DeGaetani in Carnegie Hall, and Crumb’s big Whitman cycle, Apparition, was also written for and premiered by Jan, all of these with her long-time colleague Gilbert Kalish. Gil gave the first performance of my Holy the Firm, with Dawn Upshaw. In addition to these details of performance history, both Jay and I studied with George and Dick, and Matt studied with Jay and I, so there are many threads binding this repertoire together.
I’ve returned from the Florida State University Festival of New Music. My Dark the Star for baritone and chamber ensemble was to have been performed there, but the baritone, Evan T. Jones, suffered a terrific attack of laryngitis, and the performance had to be cancelled. I did hear a rehearsal of the other musicians for the piece – Deborah Bish, clarinet; Greg Sauer, cello; Heidi Louise Williams, piano, Peter Soroka, percussion; and Alexander Jimenez, conductor – and it was clearly going to be a great performance. It’s a pity Evan was ill. Here’s hoping those performers get another shot at the piece some other time.
The Festival was a substantial event, with six concerts in a few days, presenting works by 23 composers. You can find all the details here, though with the Festival being over I am not sure how long the website will be up.
The featured guest composer was Louis Andriessen. He had several works performed; my favorite was a chamber work called Zilver in which process struck a healthy balance with melody and harmony. There was a memorable program by the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo which featured a number of imaginative miniatures by Kurtág as well as short commissioned works in his honor. The most striking of the latter was Jason Eckardt’s Toll, a solemn processional of sounds created with extended techniques. Amy Williams’ own solo piece Cineshape 4 was striking for its athletic and smart piano writing.
Here’s Andriessen at a pre-concert talk:
Thank you to everyone at FSU, in particular Clifton Callender and Evan A. Jones, co-chairs of the Festival committee, for the tremendous amount of work that went into making the Festival happen. Even though my piece didn’t get performed, I am very grateful to have been there.
I lingered in Tallahassee after the festival to attend a recording session for two of my Three Folk Hymns. These are songs based on “Be Thou My Vision” and “What Wondrous Love Is This?”, and were recorded by Heidi Williams (FSU faculty, who was to have played piano in the ill-fated Dark the Star performance), and soprano Mary Mackenzie. Both ladies were in excellent form, and this was the least stressful recording session I have ever participated in! (It didn’t hurt that we only had to do about 8 minutes of music.) I worked with composer Daniel Crozier to produce the session. Dan was extremely helpful with noting small details for which we needed to record patches – I just find it very hard to decide if we are covered for particular spots, and my comments were more in the vein of coaching suggestions. The recording engineer was Paul Hennerich of The Pan-Galactic Company, and he captured a rich and colorful sound. Heidi used FSU’s Fazioli piano, an instrument with a unique timbre, quite different from a Steinway. It is savory, sumptuously resonant, yet a bit bright. It brought to mind an exotic after-dinner liqueur. It could easily become clattery in the hands of someone less skilled than Heidi, but she drew an astonishing array of bewitching color from the instrument. I am greatly looking forward to the CD for which this was the last session. It will come out on Albany later this year, a two-disc set featuring music by Daniel Crozier, Ned Rorem, and John Harbison as well as a big chunk of my own vocal catalog.
Here’s the setup in FSU’s Opperman Music Hall:
Heidi at work:
the view from the driver’s seat:
check out the oddly grained and highly finished interior of the case:
Even the underside of the instrument is beautiful:
Mary and Heidi when the session was over:
And here is the whole team with Heidi and Mary in front, and, standing behind them, Paul Hennerich (engineer), Anne Garee (piano technician), myself, and Dan Crozier, (co-producer).
My Dark the Star for baritone and chamber ensemble was selected to be performed at the Florida State University Festival of New music next week. Here are the details:
Thursday, February 2, 2017, 7:30 pm: Dark the Star
Evan T. Jones, baritone
Deborah Bish, clarinet
Greg Sauer, cello
Heidi Williams, piano
Peter Soroka, percussion
Alexander Jimenez, conductor
Opperman Music Hall
Florida State University
A great deal of music is packed into the three days of the Festival – go to the Festival website for more information.
Special guest performers for the Festival include the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, and violinist Monica Germino. The featured composer is Louis Andriessen. I’ve never met Andriessen, but I played his 1963 work Registers for piano at the 1977 Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition in Rotterdam. This graphic score is very different from the later music for which he is principally known, with its influences from minimalism and Stravinsky. You can get some sense of what the score looks like in this video, though the image is quite reduced in size. (A shame the performer in the video is not identified.)
Heidi Williams, the pianist for the performance of Dark the Star, is in the midst of a big CD project with soprano Mary Mackenzie, including quite a lot of my vocal music. I will linger in Florida after the Festival to attend a recording session for my Three Folk Hymns with Mary and Heidi. (Mary just gave a wonderful performance at a Collegium Institute event at Penn, along with pianist Eric Sedgwick.)
Here’s the first movement of Dark the Star in the Bridge recording made by the forces for whom the piece was written: William Sharp, the 21st Century Consort, and Christopher Kendall, conductor.
The Parkway in Philly at the Women’s March today:
The very early music was of course the greatest novelty for a piano recital. Not knowing the original pieces in every case, I can’t say how much “arranging” Denk did, but I can say that the playing was colorful, with contrapuntal textures clearly delineated, and flexibly dancing rhythms.
The big extroverted pieces stood out, inevitably – the Bach, the Debussy, the Liszt/Wagner. But there were memorable smaller pieces as well – Stravinsky’s cubist evocation of ragtime, the profoundly inward Brahms, and the scintillating Scarlatti sonata among them. I’m glad to have heard the Stockhausen live for the first time; I wonder if I will ever hear it again?
Denk ordered the pieces wisely, creating not just a satisfying recital program, but a narrative arc, a through-line. For those of us who live in music, he told the story of our lives. I am grateful to have heard that story told with elegance, flair, and imagination.
The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture has asked me to give a talk on my music, to be held next Monday, January 23, at the University of Pennsylvania – details on the poster above. Mary Mackenzie and Eric Sedgwick will perform my Three Sacred Songs, Waltzing the Spheres, and excerpts from Holy the Firm, and I will offer a few comments on the pieces. Mary has done my music several times, including recording a superb CD of Sacred Songs and Meditations – give a listen here.
I got a note from Jason Eckardt about an event called The Anti-Inaugural Ball, to be held, of course, on Inauguration Day, January 20, at 7 pm, at the Di Menna Center in NYC. As the announcement puts it:
Musicians from across the NYC experimental and jazz community counter cynicism with sound with performances by
Phyllis Chen & Friends • Jordan Dodson • ETHEL
Flor de Toloache – Mariachi Femenino • Flutronix • Gemini
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) • JACK Quartet
Darius Jones • loadbang • So Percussion • Adam Tendler
With dancing provided by DJ Robert Maril
On January 20th, 2017, all-star musicians from throughout the experimental and jazz communities of NYC will come together for a marathon fundraiser concert/dance party in the acoustically intimate Mary Flagler Cary Hall at the The DiMenna Center for Classical Music. The concert is FREE to attend, and will provide laptop stations for attendees to donate funds for institutions that uphold America’s democracy and diversity including ACLU, LAMBDA Legal, Planned Parenthood, Southern Poverty Law Center, Hollaback!, and more. Representatives from organizations will be in attendance.
Join us in our response to the current political climate for a night of positive action, deep listening, ecstatic sound, and community.
Go here for more information.
Well, I did it, I gave in, I am giving Twitter a try, with the wildly imaginative handle of @james_primosch. For years I have restricted myself to just blogging, feeling that’s quite enough to keep up with when I really should be composing and practicing, but my friend Matt Levy of the Prism Quartet urged me to try it. Of course, it might help if I actually had some followers, so have pity on me and sign up. In the meantime, a few avian videos:
Oh, yes, the post title is explained by this.
Max Reger: Music for Clarinet and Piano. Alan R. Kay, clarinet; Jon Klibonoff, piano. Bridge Records 9461
Reger is a composer many people love to hate – the pieces are said to be too long, the harmony too wanderingly chromatic. (Not everybody; Rudolf Serkin was a fan.) But the two clarinet sonatas of Op. 49 are only about 20 minutes long each, and with a bit of patient listening, the harmonic labyrinths of this late romantic music become less forbidding. Along with Reger’s slightly longer sonata Op. 107, they deserve to be heard much more frequently as alternatives to the Brahms sonatas on clarinet recitals. The three sonatas plus a couple of very brief character pieces make up this wonderfully performed disc, notable for the sheer beauty of sound achieved by both players.