“Five Poems” Premiere

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:

Program Listing

1) Dreamscape
2) The Work Lies in Returning (after Susan Stewart)
3) Nightsong
4) Nothing Gold Can Stay (after Robert Frost)
5) Vision

Program Note

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!

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New “Five Poems” Date

There has been a change to the date of the premiere for my Five Poems for violin and piano. Instead of February 3, the performance, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, will be May 9, 2016, at 8 pm. The venue remains the American Philosophical Society here in Philadelphia. The violinist will be Tai Murray, with pianist Gilles Vonsattel.

It’s an intriguing program, featuring another new work, this one by Jeffrey Scott, called Transparencia. Jeff is best known as a member of the outstanding Imani Winds. Both Jeff’s piece and mine were commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society in honor of the Society’s 30th anniversary. There will also be a Beethoven sonata and some infrequently played works by Korngold and Janacek.

School’s Out Miscellany

Classes have ended at my day job, just an exam to give and much grading. I will have more time for the project on the front burner, a big piece for violin and piano for Tai Murray and Anton Nel,  commissioned by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society for a premiere in Philly next February. Here’s Tai playing Copland:

And here Anton plays Mozart:

– Speaking of first-class pianism, Marilyn Nonken will be coming to Penn twice next season, for a colloquium in September, and a recital in January. Go here for a fascinating interview with Marilyn.

– I’ll be in NYC for the BMI Student Awards on May 18, and after the ceremony, will head over to Merkin Hall to hear the New York New Music Ensemble play Lee Hyla and Matthew Rosenblum. Info here.

– don’t forget to check the upcoming performances listing at the very bottom of this page or via the performances link at the top of the page. My music will be heard in LA; NYC; Easton, MD; Philadelphia; and Tanglewood in the next few months.

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.