“Eighty-Eight Lately” Cancelled Tonight

Tonight’s “Eighty-Eight Lately” concert has been cancelled due to weather-related travel difficulties faced by pianist Gregory DeTurck. An attempt will be made to re-schedule the concert for next season. Please be with us for the final concert in the series, featuring Matthew Bengtson and James Primosch, next Wednesday, February 24, at 8 pm in Rose Recital Hall, 34th and Walnut Streets, on the Penn campus. The program will include works by Carter, Bolcom, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Takemitsu, Berio, and Melinda Wagner.

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.

Composing for the Piano

88l8telyI was assigned a graduate composition seminar this fall at my day job, and decided to make composing for piano the focus. I further decided to plan a few recitals and talks relating to the course, under the title “Eighty-Eight Lately”, and with the support of a generous grant from Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, the following roster of events has taken shape, all on the Penn campus:
September 29, 2015: “The Spectral Piano” – a colloquium with Dr. Marilyn Nonken of New York University – read more below.
October 28, 2015: piano recital by Gregory DeTurck and myself. Greg will play works by Crumb, Perle, and Dutilleux, and I will offer the Berio Sequenza IV. UPDATE: this program has been postponed until February 17, 2016.
January 27, 2016: Marilyn Nonken will return to campus for a recital including pieces she mentioned in her talk this past week. The list of composers may bet tweaked a little, but the plan is for her to play Rakowski, Murail, Carrick, Dufourt, and Kuehn. The Carrick and Kuehn works will be premieres.
February 24, 2016: Matthew Bengtson and I will share a program. I’ll play one or two movements from the Martino Fantasies and Impromptus, and Matt will play Carter, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Bolcom, and Melinda Wagner. Mindy will give a talk on her music earlier that day.
The class so far has only met a few times. In these first meetings we have been spending time with some early 20th century classic, but the main focus of the class will be post-WWII. So far we have looked at:
– Debussy: various Preludes
– Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit
– Copland: Piano Variations
– Ives: “Concord” Sonata
– Barber: Sonata
– Bartok: Sonata
– Schoenberg, Six Little Piano Pieces
We will look at the Webern Variations next, with Messiaen to follow.
Marilyn Nonken’s talk this past Tuesday drew upon her elegant and thoughtful book The Spectral Piano, and she talked about the spectralist attitude, with sound itself, – its overtone content and its characteristic attacks and decays – as the stuff of a composition rather than pitches or motives. She discussed the music of Murail, Grisey, Dufourt, and Edmund Campion, as well as playing for us a short work by Joshua Fineberg. You can see a video of the lecture here.

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.

 

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.

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.

Matt Bengston at DCCA

Pianist Matthew Bengston offers a attractive recital at Delaware County Community College this coming Sunday, Dec. 13 at 3 pm. Here’s the program:
William Bolcom – Twelve New Etudes
Richard Belcastro – Evil Monkey
Charles Ives – Piano Sonata no. 1
Igor Stravinsky – Piano Rag Music
Paul Hindemith  – Ragtime, from Suite 1922
Conlon Nancarrow – Canon B for Ursula

Info here.