the Sibyl of Cumae in the Sistine Chapel
Written on a Fromm Foundation commission, A Sibyl is a cycle of six songs on texts by Susan Stewart, whose poetry I have set in several other pieces – Holy the Firm, Dark the Star, and Songs for Adam. Susan wrote the poems specifically for this new project. Collage New Music will premiere the piece at the Longy School in Cambridge, MA on October 15, 2017 at 3 pm. (There will be a pre-concert chat at 2 pm.) Mary Mackenzie will be the soprano soloist and David Hoose will conduct. Here’s my program note on the piece:
When I asked my friend Susan Stewart to write a set of poems for a new work for soprano, she responded with reflections on the mysterious prophetess spoken of in Virgil and Ovid. The sibyl sings of her prophecies written on leaves, and of how the god possesses her; she warns Aeneas before his descent to the underworld; she celebrates the moon. Having been granted eternal life, but failing to ask for eternal youth, she is reduced to no more than her voice. I understand the sibyl as an archetype of the musician who sings for us of fate and the mysteries of life, death, and love; who guides us in moonlit and shadowy places; and whose prophetic voice resounds unendingly, in power, and in vulnerability.
A Sibyl was written for Collage New Music on a commission from the Fromm Music Foundation. I am grateful to the Foundation, to Collage, and to Mary Mackenzie for making this work possible, and to Susan Stewart for words to sing.
Mary has performed many pieces of mine, and she recorded Sacred Songs and Meditations with the 21st Century Consort, led by Christopher Kendall.
She has also recorded a big 2-CD collection of songs by various composers with pianist Heidi Williams that will include four pieces of mine, to be released on Albany later this season.
Collage Fellow Joseph Sowa published an interview with me on the Collage website – I talk there about working with Susan’s poetry and my history with Collage.
I’m delighted to report that Albany Records has released Cathedral Music, a new CD that includes my Sacred Songs and Meditations along with works by Stephen Albert (Cathedral Music) and Christopher Patton (Out of Darkness). I devised the piece at the request of Christopher Kendall, who wanted something for a concert celebrating the new millennium to be performed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. To honor the notion of “a thousand years of music”, the work is based on ancient sacred tunes – plainchant and more – and is written for a solo soprano, chorus and Christopher’s two consorts: The Folger Consort and The 21st Century Consort. For this recording, Mary Mackenzie is the superb soloist. The piece alternates instrumental fantasias on the old melodies with settings of the tunes for soprano, all scored for a combination of early and modern instruments. Before each movement the men and children of the National Cathedral choirs sing the tune on which the movement is based. In addition to the virtuosic and atmospheric performances by all the musicians, the disc benefits from the lovely resonant acoustic fashioned by engineer Mark Huffman and producer Joseph Gascho.
When I made the piece, I assumed it was sort of a one-off, given the unusual forces required, and would never be performed again. Christopher, bless him, proved me wrong, programming the piece a few years ago prior to the recording session. Go here for a post about the performance and recording, including pictures and personnel credits. Thank you to all concerned, especially Christopher and Mary.
The album has already shown up on YouTube. Here is the first movement:
An mp3 download of clarinetist Lisa Oberlander‘s album Times Like These is now available at Amazon. Yien Wang is the pianist on the album, which is a nice mix of new music and older repertoire.
I wrote the title piece for Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling who recorded it for Albany. Lisa has now played it – brilliantly – several times, and recorded it for Potenza Records. I expect the physical CD will be available soon. Check out video of Lisa and Yien performing the piece by clicking on the “video” link above.
Lisa Oberlander, clarinet, and Tatiana Muzanova, piano, will be performing my Times Like These this coming Sunday, August 3, as part of the International Clarinet Association‘s ClarinetFest 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This convention is a big deal in the clarinet world, with tons of concerts, lectures, exhibits, and so forth. Lisa’s performance will be part of a 12 noon recital in Shaver Theater on the campus of Louisiana State University.
Lisa, with pianist Yien Wang, has recorded the piece for Potenza Music. (That’s the lively cover art above.) The release is imminent, so far as I know; I’ll post the relevant links for getting the disc as soon as they become available. Lisa and Yien have a fabulous command of the piece; check out the video of their performance:
Originally commissioned and premiered by Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling, and recorded by them for Albany, Times Like These was recently published by the Theodore Presser Co.
However, I don’t see it listed yet on their website, nor at Sheet Music Plus – if you are interested in the piece, I suggest contacting Judith Ilika, head of promotion at Presser: firstname.lastname@example.org. I know they have the PDF file of the score that I sent to them, so be persistent and I’m sure they will eventually get you the music. UPDATE: you can purchase the piece at the Presser website here. Judith Ilika no longer works for Presser; you can try email@example.com for questions.
I’ve written before about the free music service Freegal, which I access through the Free Library of Philadelphia – you need a library account (from the FLP or you can try your local library) to use the service. You can download three tracks per week, free of charge, and, as the name suggests, it’s totally legal. The catalog of music is enormous, and I now notice it includes music from New World Records and Albany, two prime sources for new music. My own album on New World, Icons, is there. I don’t know if these labels were represented all along and I just never noticed or if they are new additions, but the point is that you can access them now. Freegal lacks a decent search engine, and lists classical recordings by performer, not composer, but it is still worth looking around the vast list of material. By the way, did you know that New World’s project to make the entire CRI catalog available is complete?
I want to remind you of the performance of my Times Like These in Georgia this week. Clarinetist Lisa Oberlander is joined by pianist Yien Wang in performing the piece that was commissioned by Jean Kopperud for her “Extreme Measures” project, and subsequently recorded by her and Steve Gosling for Albany. Lisa’s program is on September 6 at Legacy Hall, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University, Columbus GA.
Thursday, September 6, 7:30pm
Legacy Hall, Rivercenter for the Performing Arts
Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University
The program is:
Wanhal – Sonata in Bb Major
Primosch – Times Like These
Widor – Introduction et Rondo
Brahms – Sonata in Eb Major, Op. 120, No. 2
And closer to home, The Crossing
will do spiralling ecstatically
, a setting of an e.e. cummings poem for a cappella chorus, at their Christmas concert:
The piece originated in a setting I wrote for the choir of the Catholic Campus Ministry at Columbia University some decades ago. I subsequently re-wrote the piece for Emmanuel Church
in Boston, where it was done most recently at the installation
of their pastor, Pamela Werntz.
Congratulations to The Crossing’s conductor, Donald Nally
, who recently joined the faculty of Northwestern.
Here are some samples from Eric Moe‘s fine Albany disc that draws upon pieces written for publisher C. F. Peter’s Waltz Project of several decades back, along with some new waltzes. The clip includes music by:
1) Wayne Peterson: Valse Subliminale (2001)
2) (@02:58): Eric Moe: Pulaski Skyway Waltz (2002)
3) (@07:37): Milton Babbitt: Minute Waltz (1977)
4) (@08:51): Virgil Thomson: For a Happy Occasion (1951)
Eric is one of the pianists I am writing for in my consortium project.
In anticipation of next Wednesday’s Wail of the Voice concert, here is my colleague Jay Reise‘s program note for his contribution to the concert, a work for saxophone and piano called Yellowstone Rhythms. It’s the first performance of the piece in this version.
Yellowstone Rhythms is in one movement and lasts about 15 minutes. It was inspired by the vivid and multi-faceted atmosphere of the dramatic and ever-changing landscape of Yellowstone National Park: variously hot and bright, cold and dark, filled with mysterious life and vibrant geological formations; sometimes agitated – even fomenting, and yet at other times seeming to exist in slow motion, evoking feelings of isolation and timelessness.
Yellowstone was originally composed for bassoon and piano and was premiered by Charles Ullery, principal bassoonist for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, at the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming in 1995. Mr. Ullery has recorded the piece with pianist Marc-André Hamelin (Albany Records). Ullery also premiered a version for bassoon and 10 instruments with the Network for New Music in 2001. It was described at that time in the Philadelphia Inquirer as, “Nature in its most songful state.”
The version being presented this evening was written especially for this performance by Messrs. Lorber and Bengtson.
That’s a reference to Samuel Lorber, saxophone, and Matt Bengston, piano.
More about the concert in my next post.