Chen Yi’s New Piano Concerto, Four Spirits, Premiered in China

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.
Duration: 26′
Commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Program Note:
Four Spirits 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.

–Chen Yi
View Perusal Score
Coming soon…

Two Premieres in November for Gerald Levinson

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.

Stacy Garrop Wins 2017 Utah Arts Festival Competition

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
Duration: 6’30”
Program Note:
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.

View Perusal Score

Adler Recording Nominated for a 2017 Latin Grammy Award

The most recently released recording to feature the music of Samuel Adler, “José Serebrier Conducts Samuel Alder,” has been nominated for a Latin Grammy® Award. Nominated in the category of Best Classical Album of the Year, the record pairs Adler’s “frantic and brilliantly exciting” Symphony No. 6 alongside his “more introspective” Concerto for Cello and Orchestra. Congratulations to all involved with the project!
Jose Serebrier Conducts Samuel Adler
Linn Records (CKD 545); June 10, 2016
Performer(s): Maximilian Hornung, cello; Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Jose Serebrier, conductor
Work(s): Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
Symphony No. 6
These works are benchmarks of contemporary American composition: monumental in scale and embracing a wide expressive spectrum with ease and visceral power, Adler merges twenty-first century ebullience with an almost classical economy and balance.

Don’t play this if you have a hangover. The American composer Samuel Adler’s sixth symphony is so loud, frantic and brilliantly exciting it will blow you across the room. In three movements it crackles with electric energy, with only the central section offering a brief respite. Yet for all the clamour it is tightly organised, with a clarity of purpose and sense of direction that sends it hurtling to a dramatic conclusion.

-The Guardian

Stucky and Colgrass Among BMOP’s “American Masters”

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.