Victoria Bond

  • Victoria Bond is the only woman composer/conductor to receive commissions from major organizations and also hold music director positions with leading ensembles. Her extensive catalog includes works written for the Houston, Shanghai, and Richmond Symphony Orchestras, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Audubon String Quartet, among others. She was recently honored with the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Walter Hinrichsen Award, established by the C.F. Peters Corporation for the publication of a work by a gifted composer. As a conductor, she has led more than a dozen major orchestras and opera companies throughout the U.S., plus several in China. In every genre she undertakes, from opera to chamber music, her consummate musicianship serves to enrich a musical language that is beautifully crafted and deeply expressive.

    Born in Los Angeles into a family of professional musicians – her grandfather was a liturgical composer, her mother a concert pianist, and her father an operatic bass – Victoria Bond began her musical training with piano pieces by Bartók, with whom her mother had studied in Hungary. She began to improvise while still a pre-schooler, “making up stories on the piano” and committing them to memory. As a young child she moved with her family to New York and entered the preparatory program at the Mannes School of Music, studying piano with Nadia Reisenberg.

    At the University of Southern California, Bond studied composition with Ingolf Dahl and voice with William Vennard. As a soprano, she recorded with Bethany Beardslee and appeared on the premiere recording of Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury. Her conducting studies began at Aspen, where she trained with Leonard Slatkin, later serving as assistant conductor to James Conlon.

    Upon graduating from USC, Bond assisted film composer Paul Glass in creating filmscores for Universal and Metromedia Studios – a rare opportunity for a young composer to write for orchestra on a regular basis, and have the resulting scores recorded by expert musicians. With a portfolio of such recordings in hand, Bond was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music to study composition with Roger Sessions.

    She continued studies in conducting, assisting Pierre Boulez with the Juilliard New Music Ensemble and working with an array of distinguished teachers, including Herbert von Karajan. In the face of skepticism from male colleagues, Victoria Bond became the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in conducting from The Juilliard School.

    Appointed by Andre Previn as Exxon/Arts Endowment Conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1978, Bond quickly rose to prominence as both composer and conductor. She composed a trio of ballet scores for leading companies, collaborating with noted choreographer Lynne Taylor Corbett: Equinox for Pennsylvania Ballet (1976), Trio: Other Selves for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (1979), and Great Galloping Gottschalk for American Ballet Theater (1981).

    In 1986, Bond was invited to conduct the Houston Symphony as part of the state’s sesquicentennial celebration and to premiere her own composition, Ringing, commissioned for that occasion. In that same year, she was appointed Music Director and conductor of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, and shortly thereafter became artistic director of Opera Roanoke, holding both posts until 1995. She has also served as Music Director of The Bel Canto Opera, Harrisburg Opera and the New Amsterdam Symphony, and as Music Advisor of the Wuhan Symphony in China.

    Bond’s mastery of orchestral writing stems directly from her extensive experience at the podium. Her scores in the medium include Journal (1981), for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Black Light (1988, rev. 1997), premiered by pianist Paul Barnes and the Martinu Philharmonic, and recorded on Koch Records; Urban Bird (1993), an alto saxophone concerto commissioned by the Women’s Philharmonic; Thinking Like a Mountain (1994) for narrator and orchestra, co-commissioned by the Shanghai, Billings, and Elgin Symphonies; A Modest Proposal (1999), for tenor Paul Sperry and the Cleveland Chamber Orchestra; and Ancient Keys (2002), commissioned by pianist Paul Barnes and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

    Her catalog also includes family concert pieces for narrator and orchestra,
    among them The Frog Prince and What’s the Point of Counterpoint?, both written for TV personality Bob McGrath (Sesame Street) who recorded the works and toured with them throughout the United States.

    Bond’s chamber works are among her most widely performed: her string quartet Dreams of Flying (1994), commissioned by the Audubon String Quartet, has been played by at least six ensembles. Sacred Sisters (2005), for violin and harp, draws inspiration from three Biblical women – Esther, Ruth, and Rebecca – and uses musical motives from Hebrew cantillation, connecting Bond to her grandfather’s legacy as a composer of Jewish music. Molly ManyBloom (1990), for soprano and string quartet, was described by Allan Kozinn in The New York Times as “by turns wistful, angry, caustic, rhapsodic and nostalgic Ms. Bond has woven an expressive, dynamic quartet score The language is pervasively chromatic, yet it takes in influences of all sorts, including blues, a waltz and fragments of popular songs mentioned by [James] Joyce.”

    Bond is also active as an music-theater composer. Scenes from her chamber opera Mrs. President (2002), based on the life of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, were performed by New York City Opera in 2001 as part of the company’s Vox reading series. One of her most innovative works is A More Perfect Union (2002), which tells the story of the United States Constitution through music, dance, and verse, with a satirical libretto by Isaiah Sheffer. Travels (1994), a full-evening work based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver tale, was praised by Opera News for its “sparkling, tuneful score”.

    Victoria Bond’s stylistic influences include Bartók, with his rhythmic liveliness and sense of play, and Berg, who Bond admires for his lush yet rigorously structured Romanticism. Her music is tonally based; while passages may range from richly consonant to tartly dissonant, there is always an overarching sense of harmonic motion. Above all, Bond’s writing is highly thematic, often subjecting a germinal motive to a series of gripping transformations that unfold with a sure sense of pacing. All of these elements stem naturally from the dramatic impulse that is central to her music.

    Bond is now at work on Frescoes and Ash, commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the Xtet ensemble, inspired by the paintings and mosaics of Pompeii. Scored for flute, clarinet, string quintet, percussion, and piano, Frescoes and Ash will make its debut at LACMA in May 2009.

    Victoria Bond has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal and on NBC’s Today Show, featured in People Magazine and in the New York Times. Her music is published by Theodore Presser, G. Schirmer, Subito Music, Southern Music and Protone Music, and recorded on the Koch International, Albany, GEGA, Protone, and Family Classic labels.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
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    Chamber Ensemble
    Hot Air 114-40663
    How Brer Raccoon Outsmarted The Frogs
    For Narrator and Woodwind Quintet
    111-40225 15:00 Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, French Horn, Bassoon
    The Corn In The Rock
    For Narrator, Two Trumpets, Two Horns, Bass Trombone, and Percussion
    111-40226 10:00 Voice and Instrument
    The Long Haired Girl
    For Narrator, Harp, and Strings
    111-40228 10:00 Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Violoncello, Contrabass, Harp, Narrator
    Molly ManyBloom 111-40134 String Quartet
    Notes From Underground
    For Eb Alto Saxophone and Piano
    114-40729 Alto Saxophone with Piano
    Complete Set
    Inspired By The Weavings Of Jack Larsen
    114-41394 10:00 String Duet
    Inspired By The Weavings Of Jack Larsen
    114-41395 10:00 Flute Duet
    Inspired By The Weavings Of Jack Larsen
    114-41391 10:00 Violin Duet
    3 Chinese Songs
    for Soprano, Tenor and Orchestra
    10061 15:00 Sop., Ten.; 2 2 2 2 – 2 1 0 0; Timp. Perc. Str.
    Ancient Keys
    for Piano and Orchestra
    17337 Solo Pno.; 2(dbl. Picc.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.B.Cl.) 2 – 2 2 1(B.Tbn.) 0; Timp. 2Perc. Cel. Str.
    Version for Chamber Orchestra
    23416 14:00 2 2 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. 1Perc. Hp. Str.
    A Modest Proposal
    for Tenor and Chamber Orchestra
    10062 17:00 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 0 0
    Urban Bird
    for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra
    12296 21:54::00 Solo A.Sax.; 3 3 3 2 – 2 2 1 0; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
    An Opera in Two Acts
    22147 2:00:00 Opera with Chorus
    Mrs. President
    Opera in 2 Acts
    17303 Full Evening 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 1 0; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    Mrs. President
    Opera in Two Acts (Abridged version)
    23606 01:30:00 1 1 2 1 – 2 2 0 0; 1Perc.(includes Timp.) Str. []
    Great Galloping Gottschalk
    Ballet Suite(arr.)
    10436 20:00 Solo Pno.; 3 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp.
    Great Galloping Gottschalk 12295 20:00 3(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.

  • Ms. Bond’s [music] can please the ear and stimulate the mind, often simultaneously.
    –Fred Volkmer,

    In “A Modest Proposal” [text from Jonathan Swift’s pamphlet of the same name], Ms. Bond sets some of the most grisly elements of Swift’s text to well known children’s songs, giving an additional twist to Swift’s satire.
    –Fred Volkmer, Southampton Press

    And what better reflection of the movement of the mind than music, which can express the infinite variety and quicksilver turnings of its musings. Ms. Bond has set the text [Molly Bloom’s monologue from “Ulysses”] brilliantly, reflecting the ribaldry, the scathing fish-wifery, the wit, the tenderness, and the immense vitality of Molly Bloom.
    –Fred Volkmer, Southampton Press

    …this preview of “Mrs. President” was far from disappointing. Even the trappings of a non-staged preview of an operatic work don’t necessarily stop the work from revealing its true beauty, and potential vibrancy. … “Mrs. President”, the fully-staged opera, is bound to be an American opera classic.

    –Chris McGovern ,

    Victoria Bond has struck gold… Ms. Bond and her librettist, Hilary Bell, have mined [Victoria Woodhull’s] story without letting historical detail overwhelm its purely operatic potential. Yes, this is a piece about a headstrong young woman and her ideas, but it is more vividly about passion, betrayal and backstairs intrigue.

    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    Composer Victoria Bond’s “Mrs. President” opened at the Discovery Theatre on Friday night, and the audience seemed a little surprised to find itself liking the contemporary opera as much as it did. The music, while modern, is not at all abrasive and, in fact, finds room for agreeable melodic gestures. The plot, drawn from a fascinating episode of American history, raises socio-political issues that remain resonant. …Much of the intervening score has a boisterous tone…and the voices repaid her…

    –Mike Dunham , Anchorage Daily News

    Easy on the ear… compact and dramatic …flirting with neo-romanticism. An experienced conductor of standard opera repertoire, Bond writes well for the voice [and] the two-hour piece never lags.
    –Mike Dunham, Opera Magazine

    …inventively unfolding themes and harmonies that flirted with light dissonance but remained rooted in tonality.
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    …a theme and variations with the interesting twist in which each variation has internal variations of its own…full of interest, dipping into a variety of styles, ranging from country fiddling, to the rag, to echoes of Bach.
    –Fred Volkmer, Southampton Press

  • Peculiar Plants PECULIAR PLANTS
    Albany Records (TROY1161); January 1, 2010
    Performer(s): Renee Jolles, violin, Sheila Reinhold, violin
    Work(s): Woven

  • 1978: Exxon/Arts Endowment Conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony
    American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Walter Hinrichsen Award

  • A Modest Proposal
    for Tenor and Chamber Orchestra
    Ancient Keys
    for Piano and Orchestra
    An Opera in Two Acts
    (Vocal Score)
    Great Galloping Gottschalk
    for Orchestra
    Mrs. President
    Opera in Two Acts (vocal score)
    Three Chinese Folk Songs
    for Soprano, Tenor and Orchestra
    Urban Bird
    for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra