Mid-October Miscellany

There has been a lack of posting here due to a deadline for my Philadelphia Chamber Music Society commission. But this week I sent the last movement of my new violin and piano to my brilliant editor/computer notation wizard, and I am now catching up on various neglected tasks. I’ll write about the PCMS piece in another post, for now I’ll just say it is called Five Poems – it was originally going to be a Violin Sonata, but the movements feel more like character pieces than something “symphonic” in conception.


The soprano soloist for the New Juilliard Ensemble performance of my From a Book of Hours has been named: Alexandra Razskazoff. There is a brief bio of her here (scroll down) from a press release on a Juilliard performance of Le nozze di Figaro this past spring.


So many events worth your attention this weekend in Philly:

Guthrie Ramsey’s Musiqology at Annenberg
Network for New Music has a panel and a concert for the Persichetti centennial
Bowerbird explores Julius Eastman
The Crossing is at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian with encore performances of several pieces
Kile Smith has a premiere on the first Mendelssohn Club concert under new artistic director Paul Rardin


And if you are in New York City this weekend, Mimi Stillman and Bart Feller will be doing my Badinerie Squared at a New York Flute Club program this coming Sunday.


Recent reading:

Bluets – Maggie Nelson
A Dance of Polar Opposites – George Rochberg


Music is undervalued in more ways than just through insufficient royalty payments for streaming audio – read this essay by Craig Havighurst.

Another “Mass” Review

Michael Caruso reviewed the recent performance of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus for the Chestnut Hill Local. He remarks:

It was the Primosch that most caught my attention Sunday afternoon. The composer ingeniously combined sonic recollections of late medieval settings of the Greek and Latin Ordinary of the Roman Catholic Mass with contemporary overlays of poetic interpolations in which dissonances were sometimes jarring but never off-putting.

“Mass” Reviewed

I’m happy to link to a sympathetic review of The Crossing’s performance of my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus by David Patrick Stearns that appeared in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. He called it one of my best works, and I think he is right – for whatever inexplicable reason, things seemed to fall into place in that piece. Would that such a thing would happen consistently…

I liked the comment with which the review ends:

You can trust a piece that’s too personal to proselytize, and, through depth of feeling, achieves more universality.

The performance was quite fantastic. I am in awe of the musicianship of The Crossing’s singers and of the skill with which Donald Nally (the group’s artistic director) can elicit the formidable best that they can give. It didn’t hurt that many of the singers were performing the piece for a second time. It was good to hear the piece in Chestnut Hill Presbyterian, a less drastically resonant space than The Icebox where the premiere took place.

You can see the video of last year’s premiere of the piece at this site’s video page – go to the link above.

Upcoming in Easton MD and Philadelphia PA

I’ll be traveling to Easton, Maryland tomorrow for rehearsals and a performance of my recent Oboe Quartet. There will be an open rehearsal of the Quartet at 11:30 tomorrow, and the performance is this Thursday, June 18, at 5:30. Both events are at the Academy Art Museum in Easton as part of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival. The players will be Peggy Pearson, oboe; Robin Scott, violin; Steven Tenenbom, viola; and Marcy Rosen, cello; quite an all-star group. I am looking forward to hearing another interpretation of the piece after the fine performances by Peggy plus members of the Apple Hill Quartet earlier this year. It is such a treat to have multiple performances of a piece, an all-too rare occurrence.

But not entirely rare; after all, the other upcoming performance is also a reprise. The Crossing will revive my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, premiered last year at The Icebox in Philadelphia, and presented this coming Sunday at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia at 4:00 pm. The premiere was astonishingly fine – check it out on the video page (link above). The only problem with the video is that folks find it hard to make out the beautiful Denise Levertov texts that I have interwoven with the traditional Latin Mass, due not to any fault with the diction of the choir, but to the unusually resonant performance space. It will be interesting to hear it in a less dramatically resonant space this time around.

Philadelphia Milestones

I was honored to be mentioned in David Patrick Stearns’s review of events in classical music for 2014 in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote:

Philadelphia had its own unofficial biennial. In a town sometimes accused of championing composers from far away at the expense of locals, The Crossing choir’s June/July Month of Moderns Festival featured new works by both Robert Maggio (The Women Where We Are Living) and James Primosch (Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus) at peak inspiration. In October, Kile Smith delivered The Consolation of Apollo, an ingenious melding of the writings of sixth-century Boethius and the musings of the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968. Would these works have been written were there not a choir like this to sing them?

To answer his rhetorical question – no, I think not, at least not in my own case. I wrote the piece knowing I could count on a superb performance, no matter what the challenges I set before the group. I’m happy to say The Crossing will reprise the piece next June 21.

Encore from The Crossing

UnknownThe Crossing, Philadelphia’s extraordinary new music choir, has just announced its 2014-15 season, and I am happy to say they will be reviving my Mass for the Day of St. Thomas Didymus, which they premiered this past summer. The date is Sunday, June 21, 2015, as part of the group’s annual Month of Moderns festival – more info about the program here. You can see video of this past June’s performance by choosing the video link above. There are several posts about the piece below; perhaps start with this one. You can find more posts by clicking on “The Crossing” in the tag cloud found in the sidebar on the right.

Monday Miscellany

– It was a fantastic performance by The Crossing last Saturday. I thought my new Levertov Mass went very well, and the audience was warmly appreciative. I’m deeply grateful to every member of the group, especially those who performed the demanding “schola” parts – a quartet of singers positioned behind the audience – as well as the several singers who took on brief solos in the main choir, in front of the audience. Donald Nally prepared the performance with meticulous care, and the level of musicianship of all involved was quite dazzling.

UPDATE: go here for the Philadelphia Inquirer review of the concert by David Patrick Stearns.

– You can read an article here about the Westminster Choir College CoOPERAtive program, which will include a reprise of this spring’s Lyric Fest concert that includes my Waltzing the Spheres. Laura Ward will again be the pianist, while Kelly Bixby will be the soprano.

– There are eight Philadelphia Orchestra concerts at the Mann Center this summer – but five of them are either movie play-alongs or pop concerts, and a sixth is mostly given over to spirituals. The latter does have a premiere by Uri Caine, nice to see some new music being done. But only two entirely classical programs?

I grew up going to Cleveland Orchestra summer concerts at the Blossom Music Center – the first time it was the late Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos conducting Brahms #1 with Gina Bachauer, followed by The Rite of Spring. I also remember hearing Mahler #3 (Maureen Forrester, soloist), Mahler #8 with Leinsdorf, and Issac Stern playing Brahms. But that was then, and this is now…

UPDATE: a brochure just came in today’s mail for two July programs with the Philadelphia Orchestra – “Pixar in Concert” and “Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles”. By the way, on the days that Philly will present “Pixar in Concert”, the Mostly Mozart Festival will present a John Luther Adams premiere.