Recent Concerts in Philly and NYC

I’ve been lucky to be at a number of splendid concerts lately:

  • The March 27 Philadelphia Chamber Music society recital by Carolin Widmann, violin, and Gloria Chien was memorable for elegant Beethoven and Stravinsky, but especially for a hair-raising Prokofiev First Sonata and a spectacular little piece for unaccompanied violin by Widman’s brother, Jorg. It was a kind of fantasy (a “Paraphrase”, as the title put it) on the Wedding March from Midsummer Night’s Dream by Mendelssohn. From the opening triplet – played by tapping on the body of the violin – to the witty harmonic detours and hairpin turns, this was brilliantly composed and played. The piece is not just a virtuoso turn, but also a piece about virtuosity.
  • Jason Wirth and Lily Arbisser did a wonderful job with songs from my cycle Holy the Firm at a program in Manhattan last week. Lily sang with uncommon passion, and the result was a powerfully touching performance. Jason partnered her beautifully, with alert and sensitive pianism.
  • This past Sunday Mimi Stillman’s Dolce Suono Ensemble presented a big program featuring important and neglected American repertoire, ranging from the Piston Flute Sonata (flutists, please program the Piston instead of playing the Poulenc or Prokofiev sonatas yet again!) to Richard Wernick’s piano suite called Pieces of Eight. Violinist Miranda Cuckson dazzled in an unaccompanied work by Ralph Shapey. Indeed, the performances were uniformly excellent. Every one of these composers richly deserves a more prominent place on our concert programs.

Here are Dick Wernick (on the right) and Jim Freeman at the panel discussion:

  • There was more Wernick at last night’s concert by the Daedalus Quartet with James Austin Smith, oboe and Michael Rusinek, clarinet, as well as works by my Penn colleague Anna Weesner, Penn alum Philip Maneval, and myself. James and members of the Daedalus played my Oboe Quartet with a keen grasp of the work’s varied moods, clearly enjoying the jazzy moments in the last movement.

End-of-January Miscellany

Things have been quiet here at Secret Geometry lately, mostly because I have been concentrating on making progress with the Oboe Quartet I am writing for Peggy Pearson and Winsor Music. But I want to catch up on a few things:

– my Meditation for Candlemas will be heard at this Sunday’s Eucharist at Emmanuel Church, Boston – 10 AM service, Ryan Turner conducts. This was the first piece I wrote for Emmanuel back in 1994; seven more motets have followed. (Check the worklist and audio excerpt links above)

– here are some pictures from the Dolce Suono Ensemble premiere of Badinerie Squared. Flutists Mimi Stillman and Jeffrey Khaner were brilliant in my little duet. Here they are with colleagues Charles Abramovic, harpsichord and Gabriel Cabezas, cello – the four offered works by C. P. E. and J. S. Bach as part of the program.

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Mimi had invited a long list of composers to write short pieces for this program, here’s are most of them, as well as the performers:

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L to R: Jeffrey Khaner, myself, Robert Maggio, Charles Abramovic, Heidi Jacob, Mimi Stilman, Gabriel Cabezas, Jeremy Gill, and Jan Kryzwicki.

– the other concert that I haven’t written about was the “Voice of the Wail!” program at Penn on January 23. Maureen Francis and Matt Bengston did a beautiful job with two songs from my Holy the Firm, as well as Waltzing the Spheres. Here we are after the program:

 

Francis JP Bengston

Penn alum Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon was our guest for the concert, with three impressive short pieces. His piano trio, Jácaras, was especially striking: economical, full of quicksilver gestures. Here he is after the program:

zohn-muldoon

 

– The New York premiere of Waltzing the Spheres will be on the February 10 New York Festival of Song program at OPERA America’s National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Avenue (at 29th Street). I don’t know who the performers are yet, but I do know I have consistently heard strong performances on NYFOS concerts.

OK, time to get back to composing and let the blog get back to napping. I expect to be here more often in a few weeks.

 

How to Write a Symphony in 10 Steps

My longtime friend and colleague Daniel Dorff sent a link to a helpful webpage that offers guidance on writing a symphony. Lots of interesting insights, may eliminate the need for a theory textbook when classes resume this week.

Danny will be one of the composers having new pieces done on this coming Sunday’s Dolce Suono concert. My contribution will be this little flute duet.

[UPDATE: my WordPress stats tell me that a great many people come to this page as the result of what is probably a well-intentioned Google search, so I feel a need to point out the third item in the list of tags below.]

Performance Update

I’ve recently updated the performances page. Some new items:

–  New York Festival of Song plans to include something of mine on its February 10 program.

– the “invention” that I am writing for Dolce Suono Ensemble to premiere in January has become a playful fantasy on the well-known Badinerie from the Bach 2nd Suite – the working title for this flute duet is now Badinerie Squared.

images– The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society has commissioned a new work for violin and piano. This will be a big piece, sonata-like in dimensions, if not actually called a sonata. The performers will be Tai Murray and Anton Nel. These are formidable artists, and I count myself lucky to be writing for them. The premiere has been set for February 3, 2016, at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. The image at left is the cover from Ms. Murray’s disc surveying American works.