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 Classictoday.com.
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.
Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation Solo ImpromptuFor Piano 5:11 Piano Unaccompanied SpinoffFor Guitar 2:00 Guitar Unaccompanied Chamber Ensemble A Nonesuch Serenade 16:00 Fl. Cl. Vln. Vcl. Pno. BalladeQuartet From “Arch” 12:00 Piano Quartet Chamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”) 22:00 Solo Ob.; 2Kbd.Plyrs.(Hpsd./Pno./Cel.) Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cut-Time ShoutFor Two Pianos 2 Pianos Double SonataFor Two Pianos 22:00 2 Pianos First Quartet 33:00 String Quartet Four Pieces Quasi SonataFor Viola and Piano 17:00 Viola with Piano 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
Light Dances (Chamber Concerto No. 2)For Flute, Bb Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion, And Piano 24:00 Chamber Ensemble Offering 16:00 Flute, Harp, Viola Sonata(In Four Parts) for Cello and Piano 24:00 Cello, Piano String Quartet No. 2Aeolian and Sylvan Figures 18:00 String Quartet The Rhythm of the Running PloughVersion for Chamber Ensemble 14:00 (A.Fl./Picc./Fl.) Vln. Vcl. Perc. Three Figures and A GroundFor Flute and Piano 17:00 Flute, Piano TriptychFor Piano and Wind Quintet 22:00 Small Mixed Ensemble (2-9 Instruments) Voice and Ensemble Fort Juniper SongsSeven Poems Of Robert Francis 17:00 Vocal Duet Four Songs With Ensemble 21:00 Mezzo-sop. Fl./A.Fl. Vla. Vcl. Pno. Homage to the BreathInstrumental 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) Pedal Point4 Songs on Poems by Mary Oliver & Robert Francis 20:00 Solo Bar.; 3Vla. Hp. Timp. Three Imagesfor SATB Choir, Soloists, Narrator and Inst. 15:00 3Tbn. Pno. 2Perc. Str.(4 0 4 2 1) Three Yiddish Songsfor 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 Orchestra Autumnal 23:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 2 2 1; Timp. 2Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str. Cfor 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. 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. 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. Cut Time 2:00 3(dbl. Picc.) 3 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 2 3 0; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str. Four Imagesfor 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. 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.) The Rhythm of the Running PloughVersion 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)
A NONESUCH SERENADE
…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, www.towerrecords.com
…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- www.mindspring.com/~chucksaudio
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
CONCERTO FOR CELLO AND ORCHESTRA
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, www.kindercello.org
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
CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTR A
…An impressive piece, demonstrating the composer’s masterful handling of orchestral color and instrumental deployment.
–Christian Carey , www.splendidzine.com
CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA
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- www.mindspring.com/~chucksaudio
…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 era..Jaffe..is 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, towerrecords.com
…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
FORT JUNIPER SONGS
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)
SONGS OF TURNING
…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
THE RHYTHM OF THE RUNNING PLOUGH
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
THREE FIGURES AND A GROUND
…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)
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
Bridge Records (9260); June 17, 2008
Performer(s): Quattro Mani: Susan Grace, Alice Rybak, pianos
Work(s): Cut-Time Shout
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
Homage to the Breath
Poetry of the Piedmont
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
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
Bridge Records (9084); September 15, 1998
Performer(s): David Starobin, guitar
Albany Records ( TROY231); April 15, 1997
Performer(s): Patricia Goodson, piano
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
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
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 PianoChamber Concerto (“Singing Figures”)
for Oboe and Five InstrumentsCut Time
for OrchestraHIP Concerto
Chamber Concerto No. 3Homage to the Breath
Instrumental and Vocal Meditations for Mezzo-soprano and Ten PlayersLight Dances
(Chamber Concerto No. 2)Poetry of the Piedmont
for OrchestraRhythm of the Running Plough
for Chamber Orchestra