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.

Start of 2016-2017 Performance Season Filled With Premieres

The first few weeks of the 2016-2017 performance season were teeming with exciting premieres from our composers. Learn more about the pieces and see what the critics had to say by selecting one of the composers below.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich

for Piano Trio
World Premiere – September 18, 2016
Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio
First Unitarian Church; Cincinnati, OH
Review by Janelle Gelfand
Pas de Trois was both engaging and sophisticated. The two movement piece began with an emphatic flourish by all players, and soon moved into a syncopated dialogue. Zwilich described her piece as inspired by the ballet, but she also was clearly inspired by the blues, with blues-inflected chords, a sensuous melody and recurring jazz licks as hallmarks of this piece.

In the second movement, entitled “Variata e Coda,” each musician took the theme, a haunting melody, I loved the sonorous chords played by Kalichstein when his colleagues took a turn. They were in perfect sync in the lively, syncopated coda. The audience approved with a warm response.

The work was commissioned by Cincinnati arts patrons Ann and Harry Santen, and a consortium of other presenters through the International Arts Foundation. There is also a substantial future life planned for Pas de Trois. It is to be played in St. Paul, the Kennedy Center, Kravis Center (West Palm Beach), Miami, Chicago, Carmel (CA), at Bard College (NY) and at the La Jolla Chamber Music Society. [read full review]

Lee Hyla

for Percussion and Cello
World Premiere – September 18, 2016
Dinosaur Annex
Davis Square Theater; Somerville, MA
Review from The Boston Globe
The finale was a premiere, Triptych by the late Lee Hyla (the work was commissioned and written in 2009, but remained unperformed at Hyla’s 2014 death). The instrumentation was exotic: Popper-Keizer on cello, joined by Aaron Trant, playing a battery of percussion and a twanging hammered dulcimer. The first movement’s sinuous shimmer led to a brawny marimba-cello call-and-response in the second; the third movement’s opening bongo-and-pizzicato cool collapsed into dissonant, funky angles. The performance was cogent, solid, locked-in. But the music’s obsessive recombinations and oblique shifts replaced the rest of the program’s travel with a constant, immediate, and instantly-dissolving present tense. Instead of memory, it was the prompt to remember: the sheer challenge of hanging on to time as it passes. [read full review]
Review from The Boston Music Intelligencer
The first movement pairs jagged cello writing with rapid articulation and punctuation on dulcimer, conga drums, and an assortment of other percussion. The middle movement focuses on the marimba and cello, while the finale contrasts brief lyrical passages with stretches of rhythmic grooves. Overall the Tryptrich feels fragmented, always changing and backing away from glimmers of beauty. It also appears devilishly difficult for the performers, requiring an acrobatic cellist and a percussionist with rare proficiency on the dulcimer (a likely cause of the belated premiere). Trant and Popper-Keizer, however, seem to have conquered the piece, and will hopefully offer it again so that others can make their judgments of its place in Hyla’s catalogue. [read full review]

P.D.Q. Bach
World Premiere – September 24, 2016
Jeffrey Biegel, piano
Colorado Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Dragon, conductor
Boettcher Concert Hall; Denver CO
A Note from Prof. Peter Schickele
The piano has been an instrumental part of the P.D.Q. Bach oeuvre right from the very beginning, being featured in everything from smaller solo piano works such as the Three Teeny Preludes and the Traumarei for unaccompanied piano, though chamber music including the Sonata Innamorata for piano four hands and The “Trite” Quintet, to major extravaganzas such as The Short-Tempered Clavier, Preludes and Fugues in all the major and minor keys except for the really hard ones, and the Concerto for Two Pianos vs. Orchestra.
But never before have modern audiences been able to experience P.D.Q. Bach’s Concerto for Simply Grand Piano and Orchestra. This piano concerto eluded discovery for more than 50 years since Prof. Schickele began his exhaustive research into the music of P.D.Q. Bach only to become the largest new P.D.Q. Bach work discovered this Century. It brings together a lone piano player and a complete symphony orchestra containing Trombones, Timpani, Temple Blocks, Tambourine, and everything.
…more than a dozen orchestras [funded Prof. Schickele’s research], each of whom will be performing this piece with Jeffrey Biegel over the course of the next few years.
View concert schedule

Stacy Garrop

for Brass Quintet
World Premiere – October 8, 2016
Gaudete Brass Quintet
Ear Taxi Festival; Chicago, IL
Review from The Chicago Tribune
Another in a series of Garrop works inspired by Greek mythology, Legends of Olympus is a suite in four movements, each named after a different god — Helios blazing across the heavens, Aphrodite striking courtly poses out of Renaissance paintings, Hermes cavorting in a drunken, Coplandesque scherzo, the music-god Apollo dancing to ascending triadic figures. One can imagine any number of brass ensembles wanting to add this finely crafted piece to their repertory. [read full review]
Review from The Chicago Classical Review
Among the highlights was Stacy Garrop’s four-part Legends of Olympus, written for Gaudete Brass. Named for the gods Aphrodite, Hermes and Apollo as well as Helios representing the sun, each of the movements had a distinctive profile. Gaudete Brass’s rich, succulent sound became smoky and mysterious in the Helios movement as the swirling, racing trajectory of the sun slowed and gradually vanished into the velvety darkness of night. [read full review]

Shulamit Ran

Version for Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Violin, Cello, Piano and Percussion
World Premiere – October 9, 2016
Latitude 49
Chicago Cultural Center; Chicago, IL
Review from The Chicago Classical Review
The main virtue of Shulamit Ran’s carefully crafted Birkat Haderekh–performed by Latitude 49–was the patient development of a rhythmically incisive initial figure.
[read full review]

Daniel Dorff

for Flute and Harp
World Premiere – October 15, 2016
The Sparx Duo (Joan Sparks, flute; Anne Sullivan, harp)
First And Central Presbyterian Church; Wilmington, DE
Listen to the Composer and Sparx Duo Discuss the Piece

Jason Eckardt

for Solo Guitar
World Premiere – October 16, 2016
Jordan Dodson, guitar
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA
A Note from the Composer
Having long been preoccupied with projecting musical tension, I find myself drawn to examples tension in the physical world. Recently, I was inspired by the suspension bridges that I regularly cross while traveling in and out of New York City. While on these bridges, I am struck by how the weight of the deck — which sometimes vibrates with alarming force — is transferred to the impossibly thin cables stretched above. In suspension/bridge, sustained sounds connect — or bridge — together irregular outbursts of activity, the latter full of volatile energy, the former transparent and taut.
suspension/bridge was commissioned by Astral Artists for Jordan Dodson with funds from the Presser Foundation.

Ricky Ian Gordon

An Opera in Five Acts
New York Premiere – October 20, 21, 2016
MasterVoices and Orchestra of St. Luke’s
James Robinson, director, Ted Sperling, conductor
New York City Center; New York, NY
Review from StageBuddy
Ultimately the essence of 27 is the deep love between Alice and Gertrude. Their love duet sung with tenderness and passion by Ms. Blythe and Ms. Stober is an example of Mr. Gordon’s melodic brilliance. And Gertrude’s final moments in the arms of her wife asking “what is the answer?” evoke the essential existentialism at the core of her writings. Exquisitely crafted musically and lyrically… [read full review]
Review from Q On Stage
27 is a triumph for Gordon and Vavrek and a tour-de-force for all of the performers.
[read full review]
Review from La Scena
For 27, Gordon has done something equally remarkable. The sprightly, piquant and smart interplay of themes instantly evokes the time and tone of Stein’s Paris, and does it by brilliant and intentional musicological design. [read full review]
MasterVoices’ Artistic Director and the Composer Discuss “27”

As Light as Bird from Brier

for Soprano Saxophone and Piano
World Premiere – October 28, 2016
Stephen Page, saxophone; Cameron Hoffman, piano
Bates Recital Hall; Austin, TX
Following the October premiere, Stephen Page takes Dan Welcher’s new work on an international tour (winding up in Taiwan in December).

Frog Dance

for Solo Piano
World Premiere – November 3, 2016
Mirian Conti, piano
Yamaha Artist Services; New York, NY
Composed at the age of 11, Persichetti often used the piece as a warm-up before performing in four-hand concerts with his wife, Dorothea. Later, he would play it for his young daughter Lauren as she danced. He never put the piece to paper until, bowing to Lauren’s persuasion, he presented her with a copy for Christmas 1977.