Ronald Caltabiano’s music has been hailed as having achieved “a remarkable synthesis of modernism and romanticism, of violence and lyricism, of integrity and accessibility.”
He first came to international attention in the early 1980s with his String Quartet No. 1, premiered in Great Britain by the Arditti Quartet and in the United States by the Juilliard Quartet. A series of virtuoso solo pieces (double bass, cello, English Horn, trombone, and violin) solidified his position among the leading American composers of his generation, and a series of prominent orchestral commissions soon followed. Works written for the San Francisco Symphony, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Symphony exhibit kaleidoscopic colors and provocative designs. Performances by international orchestras include those of the BBC Symphony, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
The composer’s finely detailed chamber music has also been in demand around the world. Notable works include Concerto for Six Players, commissioned by the Fires of London for their farewell performance; On the Dissonant and Rotations, both commissioned by Australian ensembles; and prominent commissions by American organizations, including the String Quartet No. 2 (Emerson Quartet), Quilt Panels (Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center), and Clarinet Quartet (consortium of new-music ensembles).
The dramatic bent in Caltabiano’s work naturally lends itself to vocal music, which has been an important focus throughout the composer’s development, from the early song cycle, First Dream, through two dramatic cantatas, Medea and Torched Liberty, and his first theatrical work, the 1999 chamber opera Marrying the Hangman, on a text by Margaret Atwood, written for the British ensemble Psappha.
Major awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation were anticipated by a number of awards from BMI and ASCAP as well as two Bearns Prizes. Since working as assistant to Aaron Copland during the last five years of that composer’s life, Caltabiano has served on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music and the Peabody Conservatory, and currently teaches at San Francisco State University.
Born in 1959, Caltabiano is a BM/MM/DMA graduate of The Juilliard School, where he studied with Elliott Carter and Vincent Persichetti. In addition, he has studied composition with Peter Maxwell Davies and conducting with Harold Farberman and Gennadi Rozdesvensky.
For additional information, see his entry in the New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation Solo Character Sketch No. 1For Solo Violin 4:45 Violin Unaccompanied Character Sketch No. 2For Solo Viola 4:00 Viola Unaccompanied Character Sketch No. 3For Solo Cello 3:45 Cello Unaccompanied Character Sketch No. 4For Solo Flute 5:15 Flute with Piano Character Sketch No. 5About A Waltz 2:15 Piano Unaccompanied Elements: I 11:00 Piano Unaccompanied Ellington SonataFor Solo Double Bass 13:00 Prelude & Fugue Short StoryFor Solo Marimba 7:15 Percussion Unaccompanied Chamber Ensemble Clarinet Quartet 12:00 Mixed Quartet Concerto for Six Players Chamber Ensemble Elements:Ii&Iii 11:00 HexagonsFor Woodwind Quintet and Piano 15:00 Lines From Poetry Lyric DuoFor Viola and Harp On The Dissonant 11:00 Piano Trio Quilt Panels 17:00 Cl. Hn. Pno. Vln. Vla. Vcl. RemembranceFor Solo Treble Instrument*, Vibraphone, and String Quintet (Or String Orchestra) 2:45 Chamber Ensemble Rotations 4:45 SonataFor Solo English Horn Or Oboe 12:00 SonataFor Solo Trombone 9:00 Trombone with Piano Sonata for Solo Cello 17:00 String Quartet #1 String Quartet String Quartet No.2 22:00 String Quartet Orchestra Concertinifor Chamber Orchestra 16:00 1(Picc.) 1 1 1 – 2 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Str. ConcertiniVersion for 15 Players 16:00 Version for 15 Players with Str. (2 1 1 1 0) Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra 20:00 Solo A.Sax.; 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(EbCl., B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. 3Perc. Str. Cyclic Symmetries for String Orchestra 13:00 Str. Northwest! 10:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. 2Perc. Str. PegasusFanfare for Chamber Orchestra 4:15 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Timp. Str. Poplars 15:00 2(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 3 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Str. Preludes, Fanfares, and Toccatas 17:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(EbCl./B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 2 1;Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str. Prolegomenon 5:30 3(2Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(EbCl./B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str. Vocal / Choral First Dream Of Honeysuckle Petals Falling Alone I Saw EternityFor S.A.T.B. Chorus A Cappella 1:35 Infant JoyFor S.A.T.B. Chorus, A Cappella 1:20 Mixed Chorus MetaphorS.A.T.B. Chorus, A Cappella 6:20 Mixed Chorus Voice and Ensemble A Red ShirtFive Poems By Margaret Atwood for Soprano, Flute, and Harp Voice with Instrument Marrying the HangmanChamber Opera for Mezzo-soprano and 7 Players 45:00 Fl.(dbl. Picc., A.Fl.) Cl.(dbl. EbCl., B.Cl.) A.Sax.(dbl. T.Sax.) Perc. Pno. Vln. Vcl.
(instrumentalists also participate in the action)
Medea 17:00 Solo Sop.; 1 1 2(B.Cl.) 1 – 1 1 0 1 Str. (1 0 1 1 1) PassagesFive Poems of Jim Barnes for Tenor and 12 Players 18:00 Tenor Solo; Fl. Ob. E.h. Cl. Bsn. Perc. Hn. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb. Torched LibertyCantata No. 2, for Soprano and 7 Players 32:00 Sop.; Fl./Picc./A.Fl. Cl. in A/EbCl./B.Cl. Tpt. Perc. Pno. Vln. Vcl. Band / Wind Ensemble Passacaglia 8:00
…a striking and original work in 10 movements, each in a different character…The extraordinary thing was the coherence and continuity between movements achieved despite their individuality…Caltabiano produces strong, evocative gestures by way of musical ideas…This work calls out for repetition…
–San Fransisco Chronicle
…Caltabiano builds an elaborate structure (a single movement) on a cantus firmus and uses a language of amenable expressionism. There is a great combustion of motives and frequent whiplash climaxes…but the clarity of discourse remains unruffled.
–The London Sunday Times
…[displays] an ambitious mind, eager to dazzle and amuse. Piercing again and again through the busy orchestral fabric, the sax asserted, commented, and blended amiably. Easily understandable and a bravura chance for the soloist… the “Concerto” pleased the crowd and livened the atmosphere.
–San Fransisco Bay Area Reporter
In the “Concerto” one may again perceive Caltabiano’s strong dramatic contrasts, his lucidity of motivic and structural process, his idiomatic instrumental sense…All this is brought to fruition in the coda: marked placido ed espressivo, it is a passage of sheer beauty, its tender, yearning sax line hovering above a hushed, modal string accompaniment.
–Music and Musicians (London)
CONCERTO FOR SIX PLAYERS
Solo instrumental lines emerged from a discreetly textured web of sound…[creating a] sense of pulse on which the music rode into moments of wonderful serenity…
–The [Great Britain] Independent
An effectively varied and attractively euphonious 20-minute piece which exploited the full range of the ensemble’s virtuosity in a sequence of concertante passages, neatly drawn together at the end.
–The [Great Britain] Guardian
The kaleidoscopic colours of its central Decisivo movement and the dazzling scale-figures and massive chords of its Declamando finale revealed some of the harpsichord’s most unsuspected timbral landscapes.
–South China Morning Post
LINES FROM POETRY
It is an exciting and beautiful composition — a moving work that is highly recommended.
–American String Teacher
Two tightly argued and imaginatively conceived instrumental pieces went far…to explain the impressive list of honors and commissions Ronald Caltabiano has achieved … “Lyric Duo” for viola and harp, sets out to combine opposing musical elements– and that is a theme that runs through both the music and the dramaturgy of Mr. Caltabiano’s output to date.
–New York Times
The one-movement work has firm shape and definition, alternating between insistent repeated-note material and lyrical wide-ranging melodies. The instruments are both fully exploited and dialogue textures are refreshingly inventive.
–New York Times
A change from the fragmentary nature of much contemporary music is the “Lyric Duo” for viola and harp…The one-movement work has firm shape and direction, alternating between insistent repeated-note material and lyrical wide-ranging melodies. The instruments are both fully exploited and dialogue textures are refreshingly inventive.
–The Musical Times
“Medea” for soprano and twelve instruments, demonstrates a number of features that have continued to characterize [Caltabiano’s] work. Prime among these is an almost uncanny ability to write confidently and idiomatically for his instrumental forces… Similarly apparent is the tightly-knit motive structure of these works, with recurring, recognizable phrases lending a comforting clarity and organic substance to the overall form.
–Music and Musicians (London)
The music showed an enviable command of pacing, structure, and word setting… The vocal line…can climb or sink, rush or linger, break through the ensemble or meditate alone… He must be accounted a promising new voice.
–The New Yorker
…He’s a protégé of Aaron Copland, and the music shows traces of that great composer’s influence [in] the wide intervals, the chorale-like flavors. Yet its structure and musical argument suggest a Samuel Barber essay for orchestra.
–The Cincinnati Enquirer
Caltabiano’s “Northwest!” is an attractive, vigorous work rooted in the populist tradition of Aaron Copland … It has an outdoorsy sound, with its expansive strings and pungent clashes of brass and percussion.
–The Cincinnati Post
…a riveting creation … deftly orchestrated, characterized by grandiose, arching brass lines, virtuoso percussion, lush string melodies and fluttering winds.
The work is most active, possessing infectious imagery and energy, and the orchestral palette is used to the full… Caltabiano delivers his message in an instantly appealing way.
–New York Daily News
PRELUDES, FANFARES, AND TOCCATAS
It’s one 19-minute span that cross-cuts snarling cacophony, rhythmic athleticism, and a lyricism rare in contemporary music.
–The Dallas Morning News
In its color and rhythmic impetus, the work — which was beautifully played by the orchestra — demonstrated anew that the 35-year-old composer is one of this country’s best.
–The Baltimore Sun
From a simple set of notes … it builds to something grand and sad. What was most impressive was the young composer’s control of his materials, his ability to suggest nostalgia without becoming sentimental and his ability to write idiomatically.
–The Baltimore Sun
…a skillfully woven musical tapestry which belies the undoubted challenges which confront the 16 horn players… Although Caltabiano’s work is only five minutes in duration, it stands out as the highlight of the recording.
SONATA FOR SOLO CELLO
…a serious work that challenges both performer and audience; it deserves frequent programming.
STRING QUARTET NO. 1
…angry, slashing, dissonant chords which soon yield to a frenzied, sinuous chromaticism… The violence is replaced by haunting, ethereal, almost motionless lyricism built around sustained melodic lines and modal harmonies…This is not some kind of abstract intellectual game: the distinctive motivic content of the two ideas, and their widely contrasting emotional stance, allows the structural process to be clearly apparent to the listener.
–Music and Musicians (London)
[It] works within the fiercer confines of modernist dissonance, but in a way that suggests an opening up of that idiom to more engaging kinds of communication.
–New York Times
It is a highly expressive, imaginatively structured piece of music…
–The Washington Post
STRING QUARTET NO. 2
Caltabiano’s is a vigorous, attractive work, well worth the effort for both performer and audience.
–The Newark Star-Ledger
This vivid three-movement work is a pitched battle between lurching thicket of dissonance and rhythms … and an open, expressive (almost tender) lyrical element first sounded by the viola and later taken up by the cello. Caltabiano has a gifted ear for expressionistic sound…
–The Baltimore Sun
“Torched Liberty” emerged a strong work, one that should find itself in the repertory. Caltabiano’s vocal writing is demanding but right for the voice.
American Academy of Arts and Letters
two Beams Prizes
Awards from BMI
Awards from ASCAP
for Chamber OrchestraCyclic Symmetries
for String OrchestraMarrying the Hangman
Chamber Opera for Mezzo-soprano and Seven PlayersMedea
for Soprano and OrchestraNorthwest!
for OrchestraOn the Dissonant
for Wind OctetPassacaglia
Five Poems of Jim Barnes for Tenor and Twelve PlayersPoplars
for OrchestraPreludes, Fanfares, and Toccattas