Snow Day Miscellany

Well, not a snow day in the sense of schools being closed (it’s a Saturday, anyway), but it has been snowing much of the day here in Philadelphia – on April 9. Several things to catch up on here:

  • the Prism Quartet performance in New York that included my Stratigraphy was reviewed by Musical America. The complete review is behind a paywall online, but here’s what Bruce Hodges had to say in connection with my own piece:

    The afternoon ended with Stratigraphy (2016) by James Primosch, also on the University of Pennsylvania faculty. Introducing his piece, Primosch mentioned he was inspired by geology—the word refers to the analysis of strata—and by spectralism, after reading pianist Marilyn Nonken’s book, The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age (2014, Cambridge University Press). Also director of piano studies at NUY’s Steinhardt School, Nonken has long been at the forefront of contemporary piano music, and has commissioned many new works. Here, as a guest with the ensemble, she offered clean, expertly balanced keyboard sound, often in delicate tracery—a welcome counterpoint to the saxophones. Primosch makes maximum use of the instruments’ contrasting timbres, framing the quartet with the piano—the latter often at the extreme ends of the keyboard. Each of the six movements has its beauties, but I was most struck with “Game of Pairs” (a nod to Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra), and the motoric sparkle of “Geochronologic.”

  • Pianist Geoffrey Burleson gave a very fine performance of my Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift in its New York City premiere at Bargemusic last night. He ably captured the contrasting moods of this set, and the virtuosic aspects of the piece were completely under control. Geoff also played a movement from the piece earlier in the week at a Music & More program, also in NYC. I was thoroughly impressed by the remainder of Geoff’s program, which included music by Yehudi Wyner, Missy Mazzoli, and David Rakowski, plus Geoff’s own piece based on Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse, along with the fruits of Geoff’s researches into the solo piano music of Saint-Saens, new territory for me.
  • The distinguished pianist Lambert Orkis is having an array of his Temple University students play my Piano Variations at Temple this coming Monday at 2:45 in Rock Hall. Each of his students is taking on a few variations from the piece, a set that is based on the first movement from my Sonata-Fantasia for piano and synthesizer, a work I wrote for Lambert back in 2001. Knowing the piano and synth version was unlikely to receive many performances, I made this version for piano alone of the big first movement of the sonata. It will be fascinating to hear the varied approaches these talented young artists take to the piece. There is an excerpt from the score here.

Here’s a shot of Geoff and I after his performance:IMG_1260

Obsessing in NYC

1451406169421Geoffrey Burleson will be playing my complete Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift at Bargemusic this coming Friday, April 8 at 8 pm – it’s the first performance of the whole set in NYC. But if you can’t make it to that concert, a movement from Contraption called “Nocturnal Obsessions” is part of Geoff’s contribution to a Music & More concert at Good Shepherd Church in NYC this coming Tuesday, April 5, at 7:30 pm. More info here.

Post-Hiatus Miscellany

My pieces for the Mendelssohn Club and Prism (with Marilyn Nonken) are completed, and while I still need to put in a great deal of practice time on the music I will be playing at Penn on February 17 and 24 (more info below), I want to take a moment and catch up on a few things.

– First of all, a big thank you to the Philadelphia Sinfonia and its music director Gary White for their fine performance of my Variations on a Hymn Tune. I was terrifically impressed by the group and by Gary. Their hard work paid off in a performance that was spirited and elegantly shaped. Likewise, thank you to the Society for New Music for programming my Dancepiece – I heard from Neva Pilgrim that the performance went very well and was warmly received.

– the Eighty-Eight Lately series of concerts at Penn, featuring new and recent music for piano, continues with performances by Gregory DeTurck on February 17 (works by Crumb, Perle and Dutilleux) and by Matthew Bengtson on February 24 (works by Carter, Nancarrow, Melinda Wagner, Bolcom, Ligeti, and Takemitsu). In addition to the music Greg and Matt will play, I will contribute one piece to each program. On the 17th I will play the Berio Sequenza and on the 24th, a movement from Donald Martino’s Fantasies and Impromptus. Both concerts are at 8 pm, and take place in Rose Recital Hall, found on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall, 34th and Walnut, on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia.

– word has come in of a few additional performances this season. My Oboe Quartet has been programmed by the organization Weekend of Chamber Music. The performers will be Peggy Pearson, who commissioned and premiered the piece; Ari Streisfeld of the JACK Quartet; and Kathryn Lockwood and Caroline Stinson of the Lark Quartet – this is quite an all-star group. They will be at the Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC on March 25, and at The Cooperage in Honesdale, PA on March 26. On April 1, soprano Sarah Noone will sing my Four Sacred Songs for voice and chamber ensemble at Notre Dame University. And on Friday, April 8, my music will be heard at Bargemusic in NYC for the first time when pianist Geoffrey Burleson plays Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift. You can always find a complete list of upcoming performances in the footer at the bottom of each page on this website. That information is also on the Performances page, along with an archive of past events.

“Contraption” on the barge

I just got word that the brilliant Geoffrey Burleson will give the first New York City performance of my set of piano pieces Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift. He will be playing the piece at Bargemusic on April 8, with a preview of one of the movements at an April 5 event at Good Shepherd-Faith Presbyterian Church, 152 W. 66th Street in NYC.

I first heard Geoff’s playing on Barbara White‘s excellent disc “Apocryphal Stories”, later enjoying his disc of the complete Arthur Berger piano music. Check out the videos on his website, including music by David Rakowski and Jacob TV.