Stephen Jaffe

  • The music of Stephen Jaffe (b. Washington, D.C.) has been regularly performed in the U.S., Europe, and Asia by such organizations as the National Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco and New Jersey Symphonies, the Oregon Bach Festival, Spectrum Concerts Berlin, London’s Lontano, and many others. About a dozen of his works have been recorded on the Bridge, Neuma, Albany, and CRI labels, including Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Bridge 9141) winner of the Koussevitsky International Recording Award in 2006, and also awarded 10/10 Highest Rating from

    Stephen Jaffe’s work has been described as direct and involving without ever being simplistic; emotionally complex but not convoluted. Writing about the composer’s Double Sonata in the New York Times, Will Crutchfield remarked that the composer’s harmonies were “rich with consonant intervals, although I would not call them neo-Romantic, and they certainly did not sound like any particular music of the past” Writers and performers alike have remarked on the composer’s unusual expressive imagination and crafted music, but also on its poetic qualities. “Like anything truly original, it is at once an exploration of new technical possibilities and a spiritual statement” wrote David Perkins of Jaffe’s First Quartet. “Jaffe’s language is comprehensive and allows him to use basic tonal or modal references, magically integrating them with a highly developed chromatic technique. The instrumental writing is brilliant and sonorous; the orchestrational textures are exquisite… My response to Jaffe’s music exceeds admiration. I simply love it,” wrote composer Yehudi Wyner.

    Born in Washington, D.C., Stephen Jaffe received his training in composition at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied with George Crumb, George Rochberg, and Richard Wernick, and at the Conservatoire de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition to a Premiere Medaille from that institution, his work has been recognized with the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Tanglewood, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Jaffe’s works have been commissioned by a variety of groups, including the Fromm and Naumburg Foundations, the National Symphony, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Citing his “eloquent and original voice” in 1989 Brandeis University awarded him its Creative Arts Citation, and in 1991, Jaffe received the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for his 32-minute First Quartet written for the Ciompi Quartet. In 2005, Jaffe was the Classical Recording Society’s Composer of the Year, and in 2007, a master artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

    Jaffe’s projects have included three major concerti: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (2003), commissioned by the National Symphony (Leonard Slatkin, Music Director), for the orchestra’s principal cellist David Hardy; Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, written for Nicholas Kitchen, recorded for Bridge by Gregory Fulkerson, violin, and the Odense, Denmark Philharmonic; and Chamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”), for Oboe and Ensemble, commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and subsequently recorded by Speculum Musicae with Stephen Taylor, oboe. Additional orchestral premieres have included short takes such as Cut Time, also by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony and two orchestral works written for the North Carolina Symphony under Grant Llewellyn: Poetry of the Piedmont, and Cithara mea (Evocations): Spanish Music Notebook for Orchestra, based on Spanish Renaissance music. Recent contributions to chamber music include Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2), written for Philadelphia’s Network for New Music; a cello and piano work, Sonata (in Four Parts) for the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, and Designs II, for a trio of clarinet/bass clarinet, guitar/electric guitar, and percussion. In the 1980s and 1990s, Jaffe composed extensively for voice, including a cantata, Songs of Turning, and three song cycles involving the poetry of Robert Francis: Four Songs With Ensemble, Fort Juniper Songs, and Pedal Point (1989-1994).

    Stephen Jaffe lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches at Duke University and co-directs the concert series Encounters: with the Music of Our Time. In 1999 he was appointed Mary D.B.T. and James Semans Professor of Composition. Also active as a performing musician, during his career he has led many performances of his own music as pianist and conductor, as well as Night Thoughts and Appalachian Spring by Copland, On This Most Voluptuous Night by Yehudi Wyner, Ligeti’s Kammerkonzert and Stravinsky’s L’histoire du Soldat.

    For more information, including a list of works and recordings, please visit Stephen Jaffe’s website at Duke University. Online perusal scores in the Theodore Presser Catalogue may be found here.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    140-40077 Impromptu
    For Piano
    5:11 Piano Unaccompanied
    144-40361 Spinoff
    For Guitar
    2:00 Guitar Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    11017 A Nonesuch Serenade
    16:00 Fl. Cl. Vln. Vcl. Pno.
    144-40543 Ballade
    Quartet From “Arch”
    12:00 Piano Quartet
    11012 Chamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”)
    22:00 Solo Ob.; 2Kbd.Plyrs.(Hpsd./Pno./Cel.) Vln. Vla. Vcl.
    140-40099 Cut-Time Shout
    For Two Pianos
    2 Pianos
    440-40018 Double Sonata
    For Two Pianos
    22:00 2 Pianos
    144-40215 First Quartet
    33:00 String Quartet
    144-40544 Four Pieces Quasi Sonata
    For Viola and Piano
    17:00 Viola with Piano
    23490 HIP Concerto
    (Chamber Concerto No. 3)
    17:00 Modern Instruments: Fl. Ob. Tpt.; Hpsch. Str.
    Baroque Instruments: Alto and Tenor Recorder, Baroque Oboe, Clarino (in D and C); Baroque Violin, Baroque Viola, Baroque Cello, 6 string Baroque Violone, Harpsichord
    144-40612 Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2)
    For Flute, Bb Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion, And Piano
    24:00 Chamber Ensemble
    144-40353 Offering
    16:00 Flute, Harp, Viola
    144-40545 Sonata
    (In Four Parts) for Cello and Piano
    24:00 Cello, Piano
    144-40506 String Quartet No. 2
    Aeolian and Sylvan Figures
    18:00 String Quartet
    11021 The Rhythm of the Running Plough
    Version for Chamber Ensemble
    14:00 (A.Fl./Picc./Fl.) Vln. Vcl. Perc.
    144-40170 Three Figures and A Ground
    For Flute and Piano
    17:00 Flute, Piano
    144-40284 Triptych
    For Piano and Wind Quintet
    22:00 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments)
    Voice and Ensemble
    141-40032 Fort Juniper Songs
    Seven Poems Of Robert Francis
    17:00 Vocal Duet
    11016 Four Songs With Ensemble
    21:00 Mezzo-sop. Fl./A.Fl. Vla. Vcl. Pno.
    10108 Homage to the Breath
    Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten Players
    26:00 Solo Mezzo-sop.; 1(dbl. Picc.) 1(dbl.Harm) 1 0 – 1 0 0 0; 1Perc. Str. (1 0 1 1 1)
    11019 Pedal Point
    4 Songs on Poems by Mary Oliver & Robert Francis
    20:00 Solo Bar.; 3Vla. Hp. Timp.
    11022 Three Images
    for SATB Choir, Soloists, Narrator and Inst.
    15:00 3Tbn. Pno. 2Perc. Str.(4 0 4 2 1)
    11023 Three Yiddish Songs
    for Mezzo-soprano and Orchestra or Chamber Orchestra
    23:00 Solo Mezzo-sop.; 2(Picc.) 0 2(B.Cl.) 1 – 2 1 1 0; 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str. Quintet
    11011 Autumnal
    23:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    17139 C
    for Orchestra
    15:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 3 3(opt. Alto Tbn.) 1; 3Perc.(1st is Timp.) Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    11013 Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
    35:00 Solo Vln.; 3(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 0; 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
    16876 Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra
    28:00 Solo Vcl.; 4(dbl. 1Picc., Alto Fl.) 2 3(dbl.E-Fl.Cl., B.Cl.) 3(dbl.Cbsn.) – 4 2(opt.Picc.Tpt.) 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Mandolin. Str.
    16967 Cut Time
    2:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 2 3 0; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str.
    11015 Four Images
    for Orchestra
    21:00 3(Picc. and Alto) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3(Picc.) 2 1; 4Perc. Pno.(Cel.) 2Hp. Str.
    17015 Poetry of the Piedmont
    (Poesis Piementosa) for Orchestra
    6:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3 3 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(dbl.Cel.) Hp. Str.; opt. Brass Quintet (2Hn. 3Tpt.)
    11020 The Rhythm of the Running Plough
    Version for Chamber Orchestra
    14:00 1(A.Fl./Picc.) 1 1 1 – 1 0 0 0; 2Perc. Hp. Str. (Min. 4 3 2 2 1)

    …often intense…[an] overall attractive work in which there is some refreshing and decidedly unanticipated utilization of the instruments.
    –John Lambert, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

    It is delicately structured, highly refined music with immediate appeal…A “Must!”
    –Bob McQuiston,

    …an equally attractive piece. The solo part is written for oboe, and is superlatively performed by Stephen Taylor. The interplay between harpsichordist Stephen Beck and pianist Stephen Gosling is of particular interest.
    –Christian Carey ,

    …an intriguing study in how many different varieties of tone color you can get from six instruments…The writing for the oboe varies from solemn, lyrical and poignant to impudent and brash.
    –Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Society-

    The work is well designed, original, contemporary in harmony and rhythms, and unusual in tone colors… The performance was exciting and the audience’s applause resulted in an encore.
    –CSJ, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

    …a good natured and essentially lyrical work for oboe, strings, piano, harpsichord, and celesta. An enlivening feature of the scoring is Mr. Jaffe’s use of the harpsichord, which sounds slightly incongruous in this setting, not least when it mirrors some of the more aggressive figures in the oboe line. Stephen Taylor…gave a beautifully polished performance of the prominent oboe part.
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    The most impressive work on this disc is the large-scale, 32-minute “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.” In four movements, brilliantly performed by David Hardy, principal cello of the National Symphony, with the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann, this concerto exploits all the technical and expressive resources of the cello. The orchestration is particularly imaginative, featuring soloist set against shifting groups of instruments including mandolin and steel drums. Jaffe’s brilliant orchestration and accessible tonal language make this work a notable addition to the repertoire. The performances are excellent and recording quality of this CD is first rate. I recommend this disc to anyone interested in 21st century American Music.
    –American String Teacher

    …a virtuoso piece with genuine intellectual aspirations, combining rapt lyricism with a sense of sonic adventure…expertly made, original in form and utterance.
    –Tim Page , The Washington Post

    David Hardy’s performance was both electrifying and though provoking, and left many listeners wanting to hear the piece again…Jaffe’s “Cello Concerto” showcases the versatility and lyricism of the cello… As challenging as it was to learn, Hardy believed that it was well worth it. “Everything [Stephen] wrote had a purpose; it wasn’t there just to show off.”
    –Hyun Sun Kim,

    Stephen Jaffe’s “Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra”…packs all sorts of ideas and instrumental effect into 30 minutes. The style is complex, unpredictable and riveting.
    –Tim Page , Baltimore Sun

    …An impressive piece, demonstrating the composer’s masterful handling of orchestral color and instrumental deployment.
    –Christian Carey ,

    His music has a way of reconciling opposites: dense and light, serious and witty, complex and transparent, terse and expansive, playful and challenging to perform. Remarkable is the way the violin seems to always recover its equilibrium after sudden onslaughts from the brass and percussion, especially in the opening movement, singing, leaping, or soaring with a spontaneous lyrical impulse.

    –Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Society-

    …full of variety and very appealing. … big, colorful, and exciting – the work of a master orchestrator and a master composer … the distinguishing characteristics are the rich variety of the scoring, the eloquent woodwind, brass and percussion parts, the clear definition of the strings, and the ingenious way the solo passages have been integrated into the fabric of the music. … This is a happy, often joyous score, one that should certainly enjoy a fine life of its own. Those who attended its birth in Greensboro ought to take pride in having been present at an important launching.
    –John Lambert, Spectator on Line (Raleigh, NC

    …his concerto sets modern musical accents against some passages which would not have been out of place in the Romantic rehashing nothing. His music speaks in a voice clearly of the present, yet juxtaposed against earlier musical traditions.
    –Abe Jones, Greensboro News & Record

    …Highly imaginative…calling for some very exotic percussion, including steel drums, the exquisite violin part floats over an intricately colored, late romantic sounding, orchestral landscape.
    –Bob McQuiston,

    …a work really imagined for what two pianos and two pianists can do … the whole piece is chock full of ideas and uncommonly assured in activating those ideas … the performance was a knockout.
    –Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

    …a large ambitious work in four movements, full of bristling energy: jaunty, faintly jazzy rhythms, myriad virtuosic challenges for the players, and a bracing, hyperactive kaleidoscopic jangle.
    –Tim Page , Newsday

    …its slow movement is a tribute to the composers Morton Feldman and Vincent Persichetti, and yoked together something of Feldman’s ruminative style and Persichetti’s trenchant harmonizations. The outer movements were brisk, rich in detail, and cast in a prickly, compelling chromaticism.
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    …had that special undefinable quality that makes a listener eager to hear a piece again. It gives both a feeling of being fully intelligible on the first hearing and an impression that subtleties and added delights might lie in wait to reveal themselves on further acquaintance … There is atmosphere (especially in the haunting slow movement) and genuine wit…
    –Will Crutchfield, New York Times

    This work of irreproachable workmanship utilizes a grand profusion of thematic ideas. The indications ‘Bold’, ‘Sportive’, ’Breathing’, or ‘Rapid’ give care to affirm the unusual clarity of a work to get to know.
    –Franck Mallett, Le Monde de la Musique

    Jaffe’s “First Quartet” was the crowd-pleaser. Its romantic lyricism, its organization, its long solos for each instrument and its lush textures made it seem like a work from the early years of this century, but heard with fresh ears.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    There is something truly original about the work of Stephen Jaffe. Emphasis on the word truly. …Without a score or a chance at a second hearing, an intelligent analysis is impossible. But it was never dull, never easy, never repetitive, and it left me wanting to hear it again. Like anything truly original, it is at once an exploration of new technical possibilities and a spiritual statement.
    –David Perkins, Raleigh News & Observer

    …demands much, but gives back in like measure. It is a curious, clever, yet moving landscape of sound.
    –Nancy R. Ping-Robbins, Raleigh News & Observer

    The most powerful and strongest feeling is derived from listening to a cycle of seven works set to words from Robert Francis. “Fort Juniper Songs” by Stephen Jaffe…combine intellectualism with emotionalism, irony with dramaticism, and very careful treatment of poetry with modern musical language… “Fort Juniper Songs” is quite an autonomic composition, with very original concepts, free from eclectic elements quite often seen in American music.
    –Marta Szoka, Ruch Muzyczny (Poland)

    …skillful settings of the alternatively playful and poignantly metaphoric poetry of Robert Francis.
    –Courtenay V. Cauble, New Haven Register

    Jaffe masterfully captures the essence of each poem, presenting the text without musical gimmicks, yet creating a convincing sonic atmosphere for this memorable poetry. The composer’s writing style is extremely versatile, angular yet having a discernable form that makes these complex songs highly effective. The piano is used to create moods … The vocal writing encompasses a wide variety of pitches and dynamics … A tour de force for both singers and pianist…
    –Sharon Mabry , Journal of Singing

    …the divided orchestra proposes a distinctive sonorous atmosphere as the basis for the growth of each of the four pieces.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    … a stunning contemporary work, colorfully orchestrated, intense and interesting.
    –Joseph Szostak, The Register (Bordentown, NJ)

    Stretching across a 16-minute span, the single-movement work covers a lot of territory, ranging from a slow, quiet introduction with haunting rhythmic figures in the viola to a series of emotionally wrenching climaxes of great power that involve all three players. All this is woven around a prominent harp part demanding exceptional dexterity that seems to be the musical and spiritual core of the piece… warmly received.
    –John W. Lambert, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

    …delightful fantasy… the novelty of the music inspired the players … it has a natural and dramatic progression, sustaining meditative passages without lapsing into the realms of the dull and static.
    –Philip Kennicott, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    The music is magnificent. Jaffe seems to have a special gift for setting poetry, so I hope he does lots of songs and song cycles in the years to come. The comparative darkness of this latest work gives its special appeal. There are times when Jaffe’s intricate accompaniments suggest nothing less that Strauss’ autumnal study for 23 solo strings, ‘Metamorphosen’…
    –John Lambert, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

    …Stephen Jaffe’s works can thunder but also dazzle with their precise attention to poetic texts being beautifully sung.
    –Andrew Bartlett, Eugene Weekly

    …Jaffe said his intent was “crossing sacred and secular boundaries.” His use of text from such sources as Ann Landers, Denise Levertov, and the Book of Jeremiah underscored this ecumenical flavor … His setting of Mary Oliver’s ‘The Buddha’s Last Instruction’ is a jewel all by itself, and the closing ‘Transformations’ with its exquisite choral segment of poetry by Denise Levertov, truly lifted the heart.
    –Karen Kammerer, Oregon Register-Guard

    It is a wonderful, flowing piece, lyrical and intense.
    –John Lambert, The Spectator (Raleigh, NC)

    …a gentle work of warm expressiveness. The writing is free, eminently musical and unselfconscious.
    –Robert Commanday, San Francisco Chronicle

    …truly original writing that never over-stepped conventional bounds, yet never sounded conventional, either.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    …the second movement captured the various colors of light, not just with the special instrumental effects, but also with Hexagon’s ability with color. Six instruments combined to produce what seemed like six hundred textures with various timbres and effects.
    –Donald Callen Freed, Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, NE)

  • Elation ELATION
    Albany Records (TROY1483); April 1, 2014
    Performer(s): Laura Gilbert, flute, Jonathan Bagg, viola, Stacey Shames, harp, Donald Berman, piano
    Work(s): Four Pieces Quasi Sonata
    Quattro Mani: Kindred Spirits QUATTRO MANI: KINDRED SPIRITS
    Bridge Records (9260); June 17, 2008
    Performer(s): Quattro Mani: Susan Grace, Alice Rybak, pianos
    Work(s): Cut-Time Shout
    Stephen Jaffe, Vol. 3 STEPHEN JAFFE, VOL. 3
    Bridge Records (9255); April 17, 2008
    Performer(s): David Hardy, cello, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Paul Mann, conductor; North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, Grant Llewellyn, conductor; Milagro Vargas, mezzo-soprano, 21st Century Consort, Christopher Ken…
    Work(s): Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
    Cut Time
    Homage to the Breath
    Poetry of the Piedmont
    To Sun, To Feast & To Converse TO SUN, TO FEAST & TO CONVERSE
    Albany Records (TROY172); October 1, 2005
    Performer(s): Terry Rhodes, soprano, Ellen Williams, mezzo-soprano, Stephen Jaffe, piano.
    Work(s): Fort Juniper Songs
    Stephen Jaffe, Vol. 2 STEPHEN JAFFE, VOL. 2
    Bridge Records (9141); January 25, 2004
    Performer(s): Stephen Taylor, oboe, Speculum Musicae, William Purvis, conductor; Gregory Fulkerson, violin, Odense Philharmonic, Donald Palma, conductor
    Work(s): Chamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”)
    Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
    Newdance NEWDANCE
    Bridge Records (9084); September 15, 1998
    Performer(s): David Starobin, guitar
    Work(s): Spinoff
    Strange Attractors STRANGE ATTRACTORS
    Albany Records ( TROY231); April 15, 1997
    Performer(s): Patricia Goodson, piano
    Work(s): Impromptu
    Stephen Jaffe STEPHEN JAFFE
    Bridge Records (9047); July 26, 1994
    Performer(s): Anton Nel and Barry Snyder, pianos; Speculum Musicae, William Purvis, conductor, D’Anna Fortunato, mezzo-soprano; Prism Orchestra, Robert Black, conductor
    Work(s): Double Sonata
    Four Songs with Ensemble
    The Rhythm of the Running Plough
    The Now and Present Flute THE NOW AND PRESENT FLUTE
    Nuema Records (450-88); June 10, 1994
    Performer(s): Patricia Spencer, flute, Linda Hall, piano
    Work(s): Three Figures and a Ground
    Copland, Ward, Jaffe COPLAND, WARD, JAFFE
    Albany Records (TROY073); March 1, 1993
    Performer(s): Ciompi Quartet
    Work(s): First Quartet

  • 2012: American Academy of Arts and Letters, elected member
    2006: KIRA (Koussevitsky International Recording Award) for Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
    2005: Composer of the Year, Classical Recording Foundation Fourth Annual Award Ceremony
    2002: Aaron Copland Foundation for Music, for Concerto for Violin and Chamber Concerto “Singing Figures”
    1996: Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, Brown University
    1993: American Academy Institute of Arts & Letters Lifetime Achievement Prize
    1991: Artist Fellowship, North Carolina Arts Council
    1991: Kennedy Center Friedheim Award, for First Quartet
    1991: National Flute Assn., Best Newly Published Music Citation, for Three Figures and a Ground
    1989: Brandeis University Creative Arts Citation
    1984: Guggenheim Fellowship
    1981: National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowship
    1980: Rome Prize, American Academy in Rome
    1979: Tanglewood, Crofts Fellowship
    1976: Joseph H. Bearns Prize, First Prize, for Four Nocturnes
    1975, 1976: Halstead and Nitzche Music Prizes, University of Pennsylvania
    1975: B.M.I. Awards to Student Composers, for Symphony: Three Lives
    1972: Premier Medaille d

  • A Nonesuch Serenade
    for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano
    Chamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”)
    for Oboe and Five Instruments
    Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
    Concerto for Violincello and Orchestra
    Cut Time
    for Orchestra
    HIP Concerto
    Chamber Concerto No. 3
    Homage to the Breath
    Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten Players
    Light Dances
    (Chamber Concerto No. 2)
    Poetry of the Piedmont
    for Orchestra
    Rhythm of the Running Plough
    for Chamber Orchestra