(Not an Olympic) Miscellany

-I just came across a nice write-up about the Mendelssohn Club’s disc that includes my Fire-Memory/River-Memory. A relevant portion:

James Primosch’s “Fire Memory/River Memory” has a more choral/symphonic through-composed quality. The music has a harmonically more adventurous palette and well crafted choral-symphonic sonances. Of the three works, this one has the most sweeping flow to it. It revels in suspension and release, choral part writing that is set off very effectively by poetic orchestration, a solo violin part that weaves in and out of the neo-impressionist orchestral light and shadow. The final of the two movements has some fireworks of an orchestral sort and more of the beautiful choral writing that permeates the work as a whole.

– Very fine composer and good friend Hayes Biggs is part of a Kickstarter campaign in support of a recording project by C4, the Choral Composer Conductor Collective. I wrote about Hayes’s music here and here, and there is a sample of his work at C4’s Kickstarter site.

– Newport Jazz Festival streams here.

– My colleague Steve Mackey blogs about The Rite of Spring.

– Read this in connection with Hiroshima and Nagasaki days.

Innova Playlist

The second movement of my Fire-Memory/River-Memory is on the current playlist at the Innova Records site. Go here and click on “Listen Up” in the upper right of the page. Scroll down in the pop-up, and you’ll find the second movement of the piece. Of course, there is lots of other stuff worth hearing on Innova by a great many composers – speaking for myself, I have a track on the Prism Quartet “Dedication” album, and there’s also the performance of George Crumb’s Celestial Mechanics in which I play alongside Lambert Orkis.

Rainy Friday Miscellany

– I’ll be hearing lots of music in the next few days – the Network/Mendelssohn Club/Philadelphia Chamber Music Society performances of my Ariel Songs this weekend;  the NY Phil at the Kimmel Center here in Philadelphia tonight (a run-out of this week’s subscription program of Stucky, Berlioz and Mussorgsky-Ravel, with Joyce DiDonato, Alan Gilbert conducting) as well as Eric Owens‘s recital, again at Kimmel, next Tuesday.

– My hometown is also home to an amazing book store.

– A lovely post for the beginning of Lent.

– Many of these are quite funny.


“Ariel” premiere

The first performances of my Ariel Songs are coming up. These settings of texts from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” began life as part of a larger set of pieces composed for the early instruments of the Folger Consort, with soloists William Sharp and Ellen Hargis. I subsequently arranged the work for modern instruments, and then made this piano and voice version of Ariel’s songs.

The piece will be performed on joint concerts by Network for New Music and FELYX_M, the chamber choir of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. The first is 8:00 pm, Saturday, February 25 at the Community Music School in Trappe, PA. The second, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, will be at 7:30, Sunday, February 26 at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. Soprano Barbara Berry will be accompanied by pianist Susan Nowicki. The program also includes music by Cynthia Folio, Jan Krzywicki, Thomas Whitman, Jennifer Higdon, and Donald St. Pierre. If you are in the Philadelphia area, I hope to see you there. Update: video from Tom Whitman about his piece here.

(image: “Ariel” by Henry Fuseli. c. 1800-10. Oil on canvas, approx. 36.5 ” x 28 “. The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. The painting is inspired by Ariel’s line: “…on the bat’s back I do fly…”)

Mendelssohnian Metamorphosis

I’m delighted to report that the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia’s new CD Metamorphosis has been released on Innova. The album includes choral pieces by Jennifer Higdon, Andrea Clearfield, and my own Fire-Memory/River-Memory. I wrote about the project and the piece here and here. (Innova is having trouble with its website at the moment, will pass along an update when I can.) Photo borrowed from the Mendelssohn Club Facebook page.

Fire-Memory/River-Memory in the chapel and in the studio

The column at right notes that I am working on mapping edits for the recordings the 21st Century Consort made of four of my vocal pieces, but recently I have been involved in another CD project as well. I just finished going through recordings from a performance of a piece I wrote for chorus and orchestra on a commission from the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, Fire-Memory/River-Memory. Here is my program note on the piece:

Fire-Memory/River-Memory, commissioned by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, is my fourth and largest composition on the poetry of Denise Levertov.  The two poems I have selected contrast in tone, but are unified, as my title suggests, through their shared concern with memory.

The first poem not only memorializes the victims of war, and laments the loss of their traces, but speaks of acts of memory rendered impossible by war. In this sense, the line “maybe fathers told their sons old tales” becomes the emotional center of the text: for a moment, remembrance was possible. In my setting, I have mostly assigned the poet’s questions about the people of Vietnam to the men of the chorus, while the bitter and elegaic answers are principally sung by the women.  Levertov was writing at the height of the Vietnam War, but her powerful images transcend the historical moment of the poem’s origin.

The second poem reflects Levertov’s love of nature and concern with the spiritual realities. Here memory is a memory of the divine, as embodied in the creation. The poem’s opening words are repeated at the end of the piece, turning them into an imperative, challenging us all to acts of mindful remembrance.

This is the first time a live performance of one of my pieces will be used for a commercial CD release. The performance was in the cavernous chapel at Girard College, (see at left) and the highly resonant acoustic made for a grand, if not very clear or well-balanced sound. I will be working with Mendelssohn Club director Alan Harler and engineer Joe Hannigan to mix the multiply miked recording, hopefully bringing the various elements of the piece into better balance. A run-thru was recorded, but the performance was so good, I am not sure much patching will be necessary. I am grateful to Alan and the Mendelssohn Club for bringing the piece to life. It will be great to have a document of the work. More details on the CD will be coming.