The China Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Clara Yang premiered Chen Yi’s Four Spirits on November 18th in Beijing, China. The ensemble, under the direction of Long Yu, also brought the work to Chapel Hill, NC on December 8th for its U.S. Premiere.
Four Spirits (2016)
For Piano and Orchestra
Solo Pno.; 2(2 = Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
Commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
represents the four sacred animals in Chinese legend: the blue dragon in the east, the black xuanwu (a combination of turtle and snake in one) in the north, the white tiger in the west, and the red phoenix in the south. The images have inspired me in my music creation.
The first movement features a bright and refreshing image, with tunes composed in the style of Chinese folk songs drawn from the center part of China, the music is lyrical and energetic.
The sonority in the second movement is dark, mysterious and imaginative, with passionate and expressive layers, as well as vertical soundscapes and space presented by the piano solo.
In the third movement, the dramatic, witted, and powerful characteristics are presented by the patterns in extreme registers on the piano, supported by sections of instruments in the orchestra. This shorter movement serves as an episode towards the final movement.
The fourth movement is fast, lively, fluent, and vibrant. The thematic material is taken from a folk tune in South China. The piano and the orchestra became an organic whole in the four-movement concerto, symbolizing the spirits of the culture from the East.
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Swathmore College honored long-time faculty memeber Gerald Levinson’s 65th birthday on November 13th with a concert featuring many of his works, including Duo: Winds of Light for violin and piano, Here of Amazing Most Now for chamber ensemble, and Ringing Changes for two pianos. A highlight of the program was the world premiere of Levinson’s new solo piano piece, Chorale for Nanine, with Birds (Homage à Messiaen).
On November 20th, organist Olivier Latry gave the U.S. premiere of Levinson’s au coeur de l’infini
on the Opus 1953 organ at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ. The work, which received its world premiere in 2013 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame (Paris, France), has been toured extensively by Latry. Listen to a brief excerpt of the work here
Congratulations to Stacy Garrop, who was named the winner of the 2017 Utah Arts Festival Chamber Ensemble composition competition. She has been commissioned to compose a new work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. The piece will receive its premiere at the June 2017 Utah Arts Festival in Salt Lake City.
Explore a work with similar instrumentation by Stacy Garrop…
Remnants of Nine (1999)
For Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, and Percussion
Remnants of Nine
contains a playful mix of motor rhythms, pedal points, big boomy piano and percussion noises, and some tone row theory. The source material for the piece is a fourteen chord row which are all major or minor triads (thus giving the piece a modal sound). The work begins with a slow introduction in which several melodies are stated as well as fragments of the chord row. After a brief pause, the work jumps to a fast tempo and shows off its themes and row via a mixture of pedal point sections and orchestrally altered versions of the chord row. The piece feverishly spins forward at full tilt through a maze of short, linked sections until it blazes its brightest in a no-holds-barred ending.
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Boston Modern Orchestra Project launched its 2016-2017 season with its “American Masters” program, featuring the music of Steven Stucky and Michael Colgrass. The October 8th concert opened with Colgrass’ imaginative work, The Schubert Birds, and closed with Steven Stucky’s Chamber Concerto, both of which garnered high praise in the Boston Music Intelligencer:
Michael Colgrass: The Schubert Birds
Colgrass’s imagination gave us some fine solo writing, and some vivid color, with a memorable duet between oboe and contrabassoon and a striking melody for violins, violas, and cellos in unison fortissimo, without octaves. The waltz itself fades away near the end with four solo contrabasses playing very high on their G strings, a remarkable sound that kept in tune only with difficulty. A widely-spaced, luminous string chord at the very end supported a touching gesture of flute and piccolo.
Steven Stucky: Chamber Concerto
…premiered only six years ago, and it still sounds young and fresh. An abundance of expressive melody wanders through the highs and lows of orchestral sound, featuring rich differences of instrumental soli. The beginning, with widely-spaced polychordal fifths in string harmonics and vibraphone, evokes a daybreak scene. A rhythmically well-marked faster section follows with staccato woodwinds in parallel thirds; it yields to a slower section with expressive clarinet, solo violin, and solo cello, eventually much-divided strings playing soft trills with solo flute and bisbigliando harp. …Overall, the radiant orchestral sound and color most impressed in this formally adventurous concerto.