I had a great time visiting the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival this past Monday, where I did a presentation on my own music for the composer fellows of the Festival, as well as observing a few rehearsals. The Festival takes place at Mannes, which is now part of The New School (I knew it as an independent institution during my NYC days.) The Imani Winds themselves read some of the student composer pieces that the student players had been working on, and it was a pleasure to hear the varied approaches of the talented young composers. It was a pleasure as well to witness the amazing sight-reading abilities of the Imani players. I enjoyed seeing Tania León, composer-in-residence at the Festival, as she offered wise advice to the students as their pieces were read.
I also heard a portion of a rehearsal of a piece for voice and winds by Jeff Scott, the hornist of the Imani Winds, and played by the Festival students. Jeff is a gifted composer and even though this was a first session on the new piece, his command of the tricky combination of winds and voice was evident, with sultry and brilliant colors from the ensemble by turns. I’m afraid I failed to note the name of the soprano who is featured in Jeff’s piece – she was very fine.
Thank you to Tai Murray and Ieva Jokubaviciute for a fantastic performance of my new Five Poems for violin and piano last night. Commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the piece is a 20-minute set of character pieces, some of which are related to poems by Susan Stewart and Robert Frost. Tai and Ieva captured the spirit of each movement and projected the music with passion and authority. Here is my program note on the piece:
2) The Work Lies in Returning (after Susan Stewart)
4) Nothing Gold Can Stay (after Robert Frost)
Upon receiving a commission from the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for a violin and piano piece in honor of its 30th anniversary, my plan was to write a sonata, a term suggesting a relatively abstract discourse. But as the piece developed, the movements struck me as character pieces rather than music employing a more “symphonic” approach. When specific poems started to attach themselves in my mind with two of the movements, the overall title Five Poems became clear. The title of the second movement is a line from Susan Stewart’s “Descent”, which deals with Aeneas’s visit to the underworld. The music is alternately fiercely driving and quite still, though tense. Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” summons fleet scale passages framing lyrical counterpoint. The remaining movements do not refer to specific poems, but have titles reflecting their expressive tone. “Dreamscape” is musing with an improvisatory violin line over shifting pairs of piano chords. “Nightsong” is a bluesy lullaby that turns highly dramatic. “Vision” begins with a closely argued struggle but breaks through to something spacious and clear.
I greatly enjoyed the other premiere on the program, Transparência, composed by Jeff Scott, hornist with the Imani Winds. The piece is a sonata inspired by scenes from Brazil, and alternates dance rhythms and moody lyricism.
Tai and Ieva were elegant in Beethoven’s Op. 12, Nr. 2, and also offered the enigmatic Janáček sonata, plus two sweet and brilliant Viennese pastries in the form of short works by Korngold.
Here’s a shot with Jeff, Tai and I – sorry I didn’t get a picture with Ieva!