“Holy Mighty”

I just learned from my colleague Jay Reise that our vocal music is to be heard in Moscow this coming September 26 in a concert at the Myaskovsky Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. Ekaterina Kichigina, soprano, and Mikhail Dubov, piano, will offer Jay’s Satori and excerpts from my own Holy the Firm. Works by George Crumb will also be heard.

The title of my piece is translated as “Holy Mighty” in the concert announcement, which is interesting because it brings to mind a traditional prayer in the Orthodox tradition called the Trisagion:

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Though I wasn’t thinking of the Trisagion (my title is borrowed from that of a book by Annie Dillard), perhaps the person preparing the announcement intended to recall it.

Ms. Kichigina performed my songs in Moscow last season, read more about that here.

Wail Ahoy

“Wail of the Voice” (the phrase is a play is on Penn emeritus professor George Crumb’s chamber work Voice of the Whale), the annual concert of music by Penn faculty and alums, is coming right up, Friday, January 23 at 8 pm in Rose Recital Hall, which is located on the fourth floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall on the Penn campus at 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia. Admission is free. Maureen Francis, soprano, and Matthew Bengston, piano, will be doing two songs from my cycle Holy the Firm, as well as my Susan Scott Thompson setting, Waltzing the Spheres. There also will be a piano trio by Jay Reise, and three pieces by Penn alumnus Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon.

Three Generations of Penn

Rochberg taught Reise; Reise taught Gill. So when pianist Jeremy Gill plays a concert with violist Peter Minkler at Penn this Wednesday, October 1, at 8 pm in Rose Recital Hall, and the program includes works by Rochberg, Reise, current Penn faculty member Anna Weesner, and Gill, well, that’s what the post title is about. Rose Recital Hall is in the Fisher-Bennett building at 34th and Walnut in Philadelphia – the concert is free.

Here are some comments by Jeremy:

“I met George Rochberg in 1995 at a summer composition program in Madison, Wisconsin. I was then an undergraduate at the Eastman School of Music, and Rochberg had already retired from a long teaching career at the University of Pennsylvania, where he built one of the finest composition programs in the country along with his colleagues George Crumb and Richard Wernick. I only had one private lesson with Rochberg that summer, but it was the single best lesson of my life, and I knew that he would remain a major figure in my development.

“When I came to Penn in 1996 to do a PhD in composition, I had the opportunity to continue our relationship, which soon blossomed into a true friendship (he and his wife, Gene, who is still alive and well at 94, were living in Newtown Square, a Main Line suburb of Philadelphia). Rochberg, though nearly 60 years my senior, always treated me like a colleague, introducing me to his acquaintances as his “young friend.” He continued to be a great mentor to me until his death in 2005, whereupon Gene asked me to edit a book he left unfinished for publication. A Dance of Polar Opposites came out in 2012, published by University of Rochester Press.

“The Viola Sonata that Baltimore Symphony violist Peter Minkler and I will perform on October 1 is one of the first pieces of Rochbergs that I came to love. It is full of fire, pathos, and is formidably crafted: the work of a true master and one of the most important works in the viola/piano repertoire. Peter and I gave our first performance of the work at the Mansion at Strathmore in New Bethesda, MD last spring (after a private performance for Gene) and Ive been dying to play it again since. Peter has been playing the sonata for about 30 years, and has made, in my opinion, the best commercial recording of the piece available (on the Centaur Records label, with pianist Lura Johnson). It is an honor to play this great work with him.”

Jay Reise: Memory Refrains

TROY1004Jay Reise‘s Memory Refrains will close this Friday’s “Voice of the Wail!” concert at Penn (details here). This 2002 work, written for and premiered by the Cassatt Quartet, will be played by the Daedalus Quartet at Friday’s concert. Here is Jay’s program note on the piece:

Memory Refrains is in one movement and runs about 25 minutes. The work is structured around three “inner” pieces of contrasting moods – Capriccio, Barcarolle, and Elegy. Each is played three times (the ‘refrains’ of the title) interspersed with interludes and transitions. The work opens with the fanciful and whimsical capriccio; after almost a complete stop, the barcarole begins with its lilting rhythms. The elegy begins immediately after the close of the barcarole and is characterized by a quietly insistent accented accompaniment. The interludes and transitions develop ideas derived from these three central pieces.

Memory Refrains is dedicated to Anna Cholakian, the extraordinary founding cellist of the Cassatt Quartet, who was tragically lost to cancer in 1996. The musical letters of Anna’s name (A-A-C-B [= German H]-A-A) make up the note content of the cello solo before the final refrain of the elegy. Memory Refrains was premiered and recorded by the Cassatt Quartet in 2002 (Albany Records).

Wail – 2014 edition and more

I’m taking a break from working on my piece for this to let you know about some upcoming events. It will be a very busy few days at the end of this week. On Friday, January 24, Penn will offer its annual “Wail of the Voice!” program, featuring faculty and alumni composers. There will be music by current faculty Jay Reise, Anna Weesner, and myself, as well as alum Mike Fiday, performed by the Daedalus Quartet, flutist Michele Kelly and pianists Greg DeTurck, Matthew Bengtson, and myself. The concert will be in Rose Recital Hall, on the 4th floor of Fisher-Bennett Hall, found at 34th and Walnut on the Penn campus here in Philadelphia. The 8:00 pm concert will be preceded by a 7:00 pm pre-concert discussion, with Penn grad student Neil Crimes as moderator.

It will be my first time playing piano in a concert performance in quite a while (playing at church or in the classroom is a different matter). The Daedalus and I will offer the slow movement from my 1996 Piano Quintet, a set of variations on “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”. As I remarked at rehearsal with the Daedalus, “you guys sound great, and my part is easy”, so this bodes well for a fine performance.

I’ll post the program notes for the Wail! concert during the course of this week. For now, let me point out the rest of my own busy weekend. After the concert at Penn I will take an overnight train to Boston, arriving for a Saturday morning rehearsal of my new setting of The Call, with Emmanuel Music and Ryan Turner conducting. That piece will receive its first performance at Emmanuel Church’s Sunday Eucharist, 10:00 am on January 26. On Sunday evening I will attend Christopher Oldfather’s performance of my consortium commission piano piece, Pure Contraption, Absolute Gift on a Collage New Music concert. It’s an 8:00 pm concert, 7:15 pre-concert chat, this at the Longy School in Cambridge. Between my two Sunday performances, I hope to attend Robert Levin’s piano recital at Harvard, featuring piano works by Wyner, Harbison, Türk, and Rands. And on Saturday afternoon (assuming I haven’t collapsed from lack of sleep on the train) I will meet with John Harbison to try out some of his Leonard Stein Anagrams for him, in preparation for my February 26 performance of them here in Philadelphia.

Within the Octave of Christmas

No, not that kind of octave. We are presently within the Octave of Christmas, liturgically speaking. Therefore I am not too late with a couple of Christmas items:

– go here for the Christmas gift of a download from The Crossing.

– so how did you spend your Christmas Day? In 1952, you could have spent Christmas evening at Carnegie Hall with Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic, which offered the following as light holiday fare: a Sinfonia from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio; the Corelli Concerto Grosso “Fatto per la Notte di Natale”; and… the Bruckner 8th Symphony. You think I’m kidding? check out the program here.

One non-Christmas item: the Penn music department will be putting on a concert of music by Penn composers January 11, 8:00 pm, at Rose Recital Hall in Fisher-Bennett Hall, 34th and Walnut Streets, here in Philadelphia. The 8th Quartet of Richard Wernick will be featured, played by the Daedalus Quartet, as well as music by Jay Reise, Matthew Schreibeis, and Anna Weesner as well as myself. More details on performers and the pieces to be posted in the coming days; for now, a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to all – see you in 2013.

Sound as Four, Sound as One

Anna Weesner has sent along her program note for Sound as Four, Sound as One, the work that the Daedalus Quartet will perform as part of the Wail of the Voice concert next Wednesday:

In clear connection with the title, this quartet opens with the sound of all four players in unison, a sound that is then quickly juxtaposed with the sound of one voice alone.  A basic notion concerning the many and the one, or the one and the many, informs much of this piece.  This expressive notion probably has a few different points of origin for me.  For one, I have long loved the sound of strings playing in unison in the register represented by the lowest octave of the violin.  There is something about the less-is-more timbral mix that occurs when violins, viola and cello play together in this range that has always sounded potentially gutsy and sort of heart-rending at the same time.  There is also a textural concern that I think has to do with wanting to explore questions about the role, or the “sounding meaning”, so to speak, of melody.  In addition to playing in actual unison, the quartet often plays in rhythmic unison, which may set off as meaningful other textural situations, such as when there is clear melody and accompaniment, or when there is one voice alone.  I also hope that there will be a sense of space in play, so that the louds and softs in the music might translate somehow as being equally concerned with feelings of near and far.  I imagine, for example, someone who is far away calling out loudly in contrast to a softly murmuring crowd nearby.  Or perhaps it’s a single person murmuring nearby and a crowd far away, roaring.

We’ve got the program order figured out for the concert, here’s the lineup:

Anna Weesner: Sound as Four, Sound as One
Daedalus Quartet

James Primosch: Piano Variations
Gregory deTurck, piano

– intermission –

Jay Reise: Yellowstone Rhythms
Samuel Lorber (scroll down), saxophone; Matthew Bengston, piano

George Crumb: Vox Balenae (Voice of the Whale)
Michele Kelly, flute; Tom Kraines, cello; Matthew Bengston, piano

The time and place again: 8:00 pm, Wednesday, March 28, in Rose Recital Hall in Fisher-Bennett Hall on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Fisher-Bennett is at 34th and Walnut. There will be a pre-concert chat with the composers, moderated by Penn grad student Delia Casadei, at 7:00 pm. An article by Delia about George Crumb here. More on the concert here and here and in future posts.

 

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.