Times Like These in Georgia

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.

Performances this fall

Two additions to the Upcoming and Recent Performances page:
Times Like These, the clarinet and piano piece I wrote for Jean Kopperud‘s “Extreme Measures” project a few years ago, will be played by Lisa Oberlander, clarinet, and Yien Wang, piano, this fall. The details:
Thursday, September 6, 7:30pm
Free admission
Legacy Hall, Rivercenter for the Performing Arts
Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University
Columbus GA
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
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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:
Sunday, December 23, 8:00 pm
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Philadelphia, PA
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.

The Waltz Project Revisited

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.

Yellowstone Rhythms

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.

No Extra Notes

Richard Zarou, proprietor of the website No Extra Notes, invited me to prepare a podcast of my music to post on his site. I am told it will be available starting at some point tonight (Sunday, November 13.) The podcast is mostly samples of my music – The first movement from Dream Journal, played by Network for New Music; a motet sung by Emmanuel Music; and a clarinet and piano piece with Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling. (Thanks to Albany Records for the go-ahead on using the first and third of those pieces.) There are lots of other composers featured at No Extra Notes, definitely worth looking around.

O Sapientia/Steal Away

The highlight of the newly released Avalon String Quartet CD on Albany is O Sapientia/Steal Away by Hayes Biggs. Hayes was a colleague of mine in the Columbia doctoral composition program. I have long felt his music deserves wider recognition; perhaps this disc can help make that happen.

The compound title of the piece refers to its sources: Hayes’s own motet on the Advent antiphon “O Sapientia” (“O Wisdom that proceeded from the mouth of the Most High, Come and show us the way of prudence.”) and the spiritual “Steal Away” (“Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus”).  These are woven into a compelling narrative that plays continuously. The piece begins with darkly charged chords, starting from e-flat minor, which frame more lyrical music, including the “Sapientia” material. A scherzo interrupts, “obsessed” as the composer puts it, with repeated notes, but also including witty references to similar gestures in Beethoven and Mozart quartets. The material of the first part returns, yielding to a disconsolate meditation on “Steal Away”, hauntingly tentative at first; later, more lyrically extended. The piece ends with tender, high register harmonies, imbued with the intervalic colors of the “Steal Away” melody – essentially tonal harmonies, like the piece’s opening, but seen now in a very different light, a world away from the intense, brooding sounds with which the piece began.

The style of the piece is not easily categorized, perhaps occupying a spot a bit to the left of late Britten. Such comparisons are inadequate; Hayes’s language is his own. I found the form of the piece engrossing, the harmonies varied and telling, the string writing idiomatic – and the emotional content powerful.

There are so many fine young string quartets these days that the Avalon may have not yet come to your attention. It should. They play the Biggs piece with passion and precision, sensitively varied colors, and impeccable pacing.

This disc includes music of interest by David Macbride, Stephen Gryc and Ethan Wickman, but it is Sapientia that most strongly continues to claim my attention.