Ralph Shapey

  • Born in Philadelphia in 1921, Ralph Shapey showed early talent as a violinist. He developed as a conductor during his teens, and was appointed the Youth Conductor of the Philadelphia National Youth Administration Symphony Orchestra when he was seventeen. However, at the age of nine, he was trying his hand at composition, and by his twenties, he was composing seriously.

    As a composer, Ralph Shapey always pursued excellence in his own style, regardless of trends; and in a world that frequently places at least as much emphasis on the personality and image of the artist as on his work, he uncompromisingly held the idea that the music, once created, should stand on its own. His commitment to this attitude, refusal to compromise his integrity, and disillusionment with the musical climate of the time, led him to withdraw his compositions from 1969 to 1976, since he felt that people were unable to appreciate and perform his work for its own sake. While some may have had difficulty accepting his approach to music, the importance of Shapey’s status in contemporary American music cannot be ignored. Although he acknowledged a deep respect for the classical masters of the past, and recognized their influence, his interpretation was wholly original. This led both Leonard Meyer and Bernard Jacobson to describe him as a “radical traditionalist.”

    In his conducting career, Ralph Shapey led many ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the London Sinfonietta, with whom he recorded his Rituals for Orchestra. Well-known as a conductor, he was the founder and music director of the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, a group that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1989. Under Shapey’s leadership, the Contemporary Chamber Players became a highly respected group, establishing a reputation for excellence in their commitment to the presentation of new music. Shapey firmly believed in giving all styles of music a chance to be heard, regardless of personal taste.

    While having once served on the music faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, it was his many celebrated years as Professor of Music at the University of Chicago where Shapey’s work as a teacher had its greatest impact.

    In a career which encompassed composition, conducting, and teaching, Ralph Shapey received numerous awards and commissions. He was Distinguished Professor of Music at Queens College in New York City in 1985. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Prize from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1982); the First Prize in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition (1990, for Concerto for Cello, Piano and String Orchestra); the Paul Fromm Award in 1993; a commission from the Philadelphia Orchestra for the bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987 (Symphonie Concertante); a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a work to mark the centennials of both the orchestra and the University of Chicago, which was premiered in 1991 (Concerto Fantastique); and two commissions from the Library of Congress. He was elected in 1989 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1994 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1991, he retired from the University of Chicago, Professor Emeritus.

    Ralph Shapey died June 13, 2002.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    114-40168 3 Concert Pieces
    110-40695 31 Variations
    Piano Unaccompanied
    14805 Configurations for Flute and Piano
    414-41162 Evocation Three
    For Viola and Piano
    16:30 Viola with Piano
    110-40677 Harmaxiemanda
    For Piano
    1:30 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40466 Fantasy
    For Violin and Piano – Set Of Two Performance Scores
    8:00 Violin with Piano
    114-41512 For Lucy
    For Cello and Piano
    1:40 Cello with Piano
    114-40562 For Solo Trumpet
    110-40692 Form
    Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40508 Krosnick Soli
    For Solo Cello
    114-40457 Krolish Sonate
    For Cello and Piano
    114-41183 Mann Soli
    For Solo Violin
    7:30 Violin Unaccompanied
    114-41130 Millennium Designs
    201 Violin with Piano
    110-40688 Mutations I
    Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40686 Mutations Ii
    For Piano
    Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40482 Partita for Violin Solo
    410-41256 Passacaglia
    For Piano
    13:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-41139 Prelude and Scherzando
    For Cello and Piano
    114-40568 Rhapsodie
    For Cello and Piano
    410-41222 Seven Little Pieces
    For Piano
    Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40694 Suite Of 4 Pieces
    Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40696 Sonate
    Piano Unaccompanied
    110-40723 Short Piece for Piano
    2:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-41069 Solo Duo Trio
    For Cello and Tape
    13:24 Cello and Tape
    114-40534 Sonance
    For Carillon
    114-41048 Sonata Appassionata
    114-41041 Sonata No. 1
    For Violin and Piano
    1055 Violin with Piano
    114-41042 Sonata No. 2
    For Violin and Piano
    12:58 Violin with Piano
    114-41043 Sonata No. 3
    13:02 Violin with Piano
    410-41321 Sonata Profondo
    For Piano
    18:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40569 Sonate
    114-40570 Sonate
    414-41151 Sonate #1
    110-40755 Tango Variations On A Cantus
    For Piano
    Piano Unaccompanied
    114-41513 Two Short Pieces
    For Flute and Piano
    1:15 Flute with Piano
    110-40681 Variations On A Cantus
    Piano Unaccompanied
    Chamber Ensemble
    110-40693 7
    For Piano Four Hands
    2 Pianos
    114-40601 Brass Quintet
    1030 Brass Quintet
    14798 Chamber Symphony
    for 10 Solo Players
    11:00 Fl. Ob. E.H. Hn. Tpt. Perc. Pno. Vln. Vcl. Cb.
    14800 Concertante II
    for Alto Saxophone and 14 Players
    21:00 Solo A.Sax.; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; 3Perc. Str. Quartet
    14804 Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Group
    11:30 Cl. Solo; Hn. Perc. Pno. Vln. Vcl.
    114-40442 Concerto Grosso
    For Woodwind Quintet
    12:00 Woodwind Quintet
    14806 Constellations
    22:00 Cl. Vcl. Elec.Gtr. Cb. Perc. Cel.
    14808 De Profundis
    for Solo Double Bass and Instruments
    14:45 Solo Cb.; Picc./Fl. Ob./E.H. Cl./Bsn. Cl./A.Sax. Hn. Vln.
    110-40691 Deux
    114-40561 Discourse
    For Four Instruments
    12:30 Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Piano
    114-40559 Duo
    114-41185 Duo Variations
    For Violin and Cello
    7:18 String Duet
    114-40399 Evocation No. 2
    For Violoncello, Piano, and Percussion
    18:00 Cello, Piano, Percussion
    114-40284 Fanfares
    For Brass Quintet – Score and Parts
    3:15 Brass Quintet
    10036 Gamper Festival Concerto
    for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano and Chamber Orchestra
    2026 Fl. Cl. Vln. Vcl. Pno. Soli; 0 1 0 1 – 1 0 0 0; 2Perc. Str.
    114-40465 Gottlieb Duo
    114-40912 Inter-Two
    In Four Movements
    15:30 Percussion Ensemble
    14815 Interchange
    in Four Movements for Percussion Quartet
    114-41254 Interchange
    For Percussion Quartet
    114-40708 Inventions
    For Bb Clarinet and Percussion
    11:30 Clarinet with Percussion
    114-40438 Mann Duo
    For Violin and Viola (Both Players Play Both Instruments)
    12:30 String Duet
    114-41152 Night Music Iii
    For Oboe, Viola, Piano, (And Tape)
    Chamber Ensemble
    114-40564 Oboe Quartet
    14817 Partita for Violin and 13 Players
    20:00 Solo Vln.; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; 2Perc. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    14818 Partita-Fantasia
    25:00 Solo Vcl.; 2 2 2 2 – 1 1 1 0; 2Perc. Vln. Vla. Cb.
    110-40742 Passacaglia
    For Piano Duo
    114-40566 Piano Trio
    For Violin, Cello and Piano
    Piano Trio
    114-40565 Piano Quintet
    114-41184 Piano Quintet
    14819 Piece for Violin and Instruments
    13:00 Solo Vln.; 0 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Vcl.
    114-40567 Poeme
    For Viola With Percussion
    Viola with Piano
    111-40117 Psalm 1
    For Soprano, Oboe, and Piano
    7:00 Chamber Ensemble
    14825 Stony Brook Concerto
    17:10 1(Picc.) 1 1 1 – 1 1 1(B.Tbn.) 0; 2Perc. Vln. Vcl. Pno.
    114-40700 Soli
    114-40773 Soli for Percussion Duo
    19:18 Percussion Ensemble
    411-41105 Songs Ii
    For Soprano, Violin, Clarinet, Cello, and Piano
    19:00 Chamber Ensemble
    114-41134 String Quartet No. 1
    String Quartet
    114-40571 String Quartet No. 2
    String Quartet
    114-41135 String Quartet No. 3
    String Quartet
    114-40572 String Quartet No. 4
    String Quartet
    111-40120 String Quartet No. 5
    114-40573 String Quartet No. 6
    114-40574 String Quartet No. 7
    String Quartet
    114-40777 String Quartet No. 8
    String Quartet
    114-41132 String Quartet No. 10
    “Quartet d’Amore”
    17:03 String Quartet
    14827 Three for Six
    14:00 Fl. Cl. Vln./Vla. Vcl. Pno. Perc.
    114-40704 Trio 1992
    114-40839 Trio Concertante
    14829 Variations for Viola and 9 Players
    17:30 Solo Vla.; Vln. Vla. Vcl. Picc.(B.Fl.) EbCl. BbCl. B.Cl. Perc. Pno.
    14797 Challenge-the Family of Man
    for Orchestra
    15:00 4 4 4 4 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Str.
    14816 Ontogeny
    for Orchestra
    20:00 4 2 3 2 – 3 2 1 1; 9Perc. Pno. Str.
    416-41098 Rituals
    For Symphony Orchestra – Score
    12:30 Orchestra
    14820 Rituals
    for Orchestra
    13:00 3 3 3 3 3Sax. – 3 2 2 1; 8Perc. Pno. Str.
    Orchestra w/ Soloist(s)
    14799 Concertante I
    7:30 Solo Tpt.; Fl.(Picc. GFl.) Ob.(E.H.) Cl.(EbCl./B.Cl.) Bsn. Hn. Perc. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    14802 Concerto Fantastique
    54:00 2(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(Picc./Cl. in D/EbCl.) 3 – 4 4 5 1;Timp. Perc. Pno. Cel. Str.
    416-41130 Concerto for Vc, Pno., Str.Orch
    14801 Concerto for Cello, Piano and String Orchestra
    25:30 Vcl., Pno. soli, Str.
    14811 Double Concerto
    for Violin, Cello and Orchestras
    35:00 Vln. Vcl. soli; Orch A: 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 3 0; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Str. Orch B: 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 1; Timp. 3Perc. Cel. Str
    414-41161 Evocation No.1
    For Violin With Percussion and Piano
    14814 Invocation
    23:00 Solo Vln.; 2 2 2 2 – 3 2 2 1; 3Perc. Pno. Gtr. Str.
    14821 Soliloquy
    for Narrator, String Quartet and Percussion
    14826 Symphonie Concertante
    28:45 3 2 3 3 – 3 3 4 1; 2Timp. 6Perc. Pno. Cel. Str.
    Vocal / Choral
    14807 The Covenant
    for Soprano and 16 Players
    40:00 Solo Sop.; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 1; 2Perc. Pno. 2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb. Tapes
    14809 Dimensions
    for Soprano and 14 Instruments
    20:00 Fl. Ob. T.Sax. Hn. Tpt. Pno. 7Perc. Cb.
    411-41100 Goethe Songs
    For Soprano and Piano (Part 1 and Part 2)
    14812 Incantations
    for Soprano and 10 Instruments
    17:00 A.Sax. Hn. Tpt. 2Perc. Pno. Vcl.
    111-40189 Lul-La-By
    For Soprano, 3 Flutes (One Player), and Tape
    11:00 Voice with Instrument
    111-40151 Lullaby
    For Soprano and Flute
    111-40103 O Jerusalem
    For Soprano Voice and Flute
    10333 Psalm II
    8:00 Soprano solo, SATB Chorus; Ob. Pno. Str.Quartet
    14822 Songs of Ecstasy
    for Soprano with Percussion and Tape
    14823 Songs of Eros
    for Soprano, Orchestra and Tape
    30:00 Solo Sop.; 3 3 3 3 3Sax. – 4 2 2 1; 6Perc. Str.;
    111-40114 Songs Of Joy
    For Soprano and Piano
    Voice with Piano
    111-40143 Songs Of Life
    For Soprano, Violoncello, and Piano
    14:41 Voice with Instrument
    14828 Trilogy: Song of Songs
    for Soprano, Baritone, Ensemble and Tape
    1:30:00 Sop. Bari. soli; 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 1; Perc. Pno. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.; Tape

  • His body of works speaks for itself. Ralph Shapey is a unique American composer. …His integrity and dedication to the art of composition know few equals.
    –Patricia Morehead,

    …a towering master, a composer of flinty, astringent and utterly original works.
    –Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

    Ralph Shapey is one of the strongest personalities and most individual figures in American music.
    –Stereo Review

    You cannot hear the bumptious little Scherzo from Five for Violin and Piano” and not fall under the sway of Shapey’s sly humor.”
    –Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

    …formidable, complex and ingenious works… What comes through in this recent trove of recordings is that for all the gritty complexity of Shapey’s works, this authentic music has arresting qualities, including pugnacious rhythmic vitality and vibrant hu
    –Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

    Ralph Shapey’s music nearly always resembles highly charged particles of energy in constant dramatic flux, yet always controlled and directed by a rigorous internal logic. His is a music of aggressive clashes of ideas and uncertain resolutions – a music v
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    Ralph’s exercises present a way to generate totally integrated, organic music — music that is deeply, even ‘three-dimensionally’ contrapuntal. And, while the materials and results are completely chromatic (what some would call atonal), students come away
    –Melinda Wagner, Pulitzer Prize in Music winner (1999)

    While I learned invaluable things from several of my composition teachers, Ralph Shapey is the only one who gave me the elements of a personal practice, the nuts-and-bolts of real technique. Ralph taught me several essential elements of the craft through
    –Robert Carl,

    When I studied the Basic Course, Ralph Shapey frequently claimed he’d teach us to ‘squeeze blood from a stone.’ This is a great description of the control, discipline, and focus his exercises ingrained in us to create something rich from the most limited
    –Daniel Dorff,

    In the summer of 1976 I asked Ralph Shapey if he’d consent to be my teacher. As his colleague at the University of Chicago I became intrigued by the frequent references made by various students about his basic course.” I wanted to sample it for myself. Ra
    –Shulamit Ran, Pulitzer Prize in Music winner (1991)

    Ralph Shapey’s Brass Quintet of 1963 stimulated with its powerful, dissonant blocks of sound and ritualistic repetitions.
    –Raymond Ericson, New York Times

    for Trumpet and Ten Instruments
    …an aggressive and big-boned ensemble piece which swept by quickly and ended on a gentle note featuring trumpet and vibraphone.
    –Gerald Fisher, Chicago Classical Review

    Independent voice wove dense, dark textures which were pierced by the silvery protestations of the trumpet. A typically Shapeyesque sense of heroic striving pervaded the 10-minute piece, which ended with a calming epilogue for trumpet and vibraphone.
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    …the highlight of the evening for at least one listener and a compelling example of why Shapey is such an invaluable asset to Chicago musical life. If any complaint can be registered about this piece, it would be that its brevity left more than a few conc
    –Tom Gorman, Chicago Herald

    …the most important new composition to emerge from recent concerts is Ralph Shapey’s Concertante… Bright and full of vivid color…
    –Dennis Polkow, Chicago Musicale

    …the highlight of Friday’s strong program… It was a dramatic work full of declamatory outbursts and long-held tones that swelled and faded atmospherically… The short, final section evoked the haunted beauty of a wakeful night.
    –Wynne Delacome, Chicago Sun-Times

    The finest movement… is the second: a slow, stately Elegy for the late Paul Fromm, punctuated by a four-note motto and ending, misterioso, as a soft chorale for horns and trombones… The composer’s clear beat patterns gave his music the firm organization a
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    …the biggest event, the most powerful discover, came from that cantankerously independent American soul, Ralph Shapey… a gripping, often ferocious experience…
    –Leighton Kerner, Voice

    …vibrant, unsettling and moving… Shapey has grabbed the heritage of the concerto form by the collar and made it march in step with his own vision.
    –Anthony Tommasini, Boston Globe

    …a magnificent work — epic in its scope, arrestingly original in its utterance, alive with interest and expression… great music by any standard I know.
    –Tim Page , Newsday

    If I had to choose one word to describe the concerto, it would be ‘passionate.’ Like all of Shapey’s music, it is remarkable in its ever-heightening sense of drama… The Shapey concerto is a unique work, worthy of a permanent place in the clarinet repertoi
    –Charles Neidich, Clarinetwork

    Shapey’s work, which was conducted by the composer, was the most profound and expressive work of the evening. The composer-conductor was brought back six times by the appreciative audience.
    –The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Post

    The Shapey is extreme in the demands it makes on its players, but the over-all impression is poised and sure, sometimes ebullient and always carefully in balance.
    –New York Times

    Big sonorous shapes are spread right to the edges of the audible and performable range… framed in a complex, set, overlapping rhythmic cycle – a kind of fixed, resonant solar system turning on its own axis and illuminated with a great central intensity an
    –Eric Salzman, New York Herald Tribune

    …well made, with contrasts and tensions to make it vital.
    –Raymond Ericson, New York Times

    In the Shapey work the piano duo totally captured the demoniac fervor of the indicated marking ‘wild, with energy’… After the furore subsided, a pleasant quite conventional open chordal section brought the work to a peaceful close.
    –Yida Novik, The Evening Star

    You contributed to last night’s concert a work of great Dimensions, and to all three pieces on the program you brought the musicianship of a master. I will always remember February 21, 1967 as a day when the Fromm Foundation was identified with one of the
    –Paul Fromm, Fromm Foundation

    …it held the audience hypnotized as if at some primeval ritual. Shapey’s theatrical gestures seldom fail to work, and this piece proved no exception.
    –Donal J. Henahan, Musical Quarterly

    Here, in effect, was your tough, bite-your-head-off, modern virtuoso concerto equipped with a big beating romantic heart underneath… A feisty business it was, and terse too, sagely leaving the audience asking for more.
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

    …the Shapey Discourse is made up of strong, jagged, hard-edged 20th-century materials. It is not pretty but it is very real and it has surprisingly tender moments.
    –Theodore Strongin,

    Shapey’s Double Concerto is a thoroughly characteristic work of three movements… its constant rude vigor and febrile life-force elbow their way into one’s consciousness with a visceral power akin to that of Ruggles.
    –Musical America

    …made most everything else in the festival sound positively anemic, but then, this composer has never been afraid of Wagnerian pomp and loud noises… the music has a vigorous personality all its own…
    –Peter G. Davis,

    Ralph Shapey’s splashy [Evocation No. 1], the voice of an extravagantly free spirit, had momentum, humor, gall, fresh notions of what can go wit what …and also, possibly, the quality that in esthetics goes by the name of significant shape.””
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

    Extremely striking… included Puckish humor and real tenderness along with a hieratic Kabuki sort of gripping, self-righteous tension.
    –Alexander Fried, San Francisco Examiner

    The work is pungent and condensed, honest, feeling and communicative. …The sense of form and of development through frank and subtle reiteration and variation is highly evolved. Hearing this work, I become still more certain that Shapey is one of our big
    –Lester Trimble, The Nation

    The virtuosic writing for violin cast the instrument in varying roles, but sketched a picture of a contemporary hero – full of conflicts and darkness, but true to itself.
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    …[Evocation No. 2] sounded almost like an American Messiaen, but with an exactitude of aural color and a lack of self-indulgence that the Frenchman does not always equal.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    Shapey chisels the music from rock and then walks around it, examining it from all angles, light and shadow slanting in from every direction. …vigorous, strong-limbed and …authentic.
    –Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

    The first two sections, a passacaglia and a scherzo, adhere to the composer’s craggy, atonal manner… The third section…with its long-breathed lyricism, belies Shapey’s image as an angry purveyor of gnarled abstract-expressionism.
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    …as evocative as its title, featuring long expanses of melodic line that test Mr. Riebl’s bowing skills to their fullest. The piano part was filled with shimmering chordal accompaniments, all cleverly calculated by Mr. Shapey to allow the muted sonorities
    –Bernard Holland, New York Times

    “…a Beethovenian stunner in which enraptured ruminations give way to anguish then to calm acceptance.”
    –Ted Shen , Chicago Tribune

    Aggression and lyricism, celebration and elegy, angularity and warmth, vigor and tenderness all tugged at the listener. In the hands of a less rugged structuralist than Mr. Shapey, so many opposing forces might have made for a diffuse work, but here they
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    …Ralph Shapey’s Fromm Variations stands out with a stylistic purity and rugged intensity that is so typical of this uncompromising composer.
    –Peter G. Davis, New York Times

    …this music is no weak repetition of things you’ve heard before… Shapey’s music is his own, and when we recognize other things in it, we are examining old friends in radically new contexts and, most importantly, the interaction of both in a complex and co
    –Paul Rapaport, Fanfare

    [Fromm Variations] will doubtless find a place in the repertoire if pianists only accept its formidable challenge, so rich is its expressive content and so well-developed are its characterizations.
    –St. Louis Globe-Democrat

    What impresses immediately is that this is music in which every note, and its placement within its chord, is clearly intended to be heard.
    –Peter Grahame Woolf, musicalpointers.co.uk

    One of the most searing, terrifying, and altogether extraordinary compositions this listener has ever heard was played last night… What Mr. Shapey has produced is a composition of abstract expressionism that seems to lay bare the most secret and elemental
    –Allen Hughes, New York Times

    Ralph Shapey’s piece is a chilling affair, with the soprano singing – or rather vocalizing – syllables that don’t make words over a terrifying range of long intervals. …The music has an inescapable hold on the listener.
    –Library Journal

    Incantations… unleashes primitive forces to any and all gods. One instrumental episode was like a zoo gone mad, another was a ritualistic orgy, a Salome’s dance to the tenth power with two percussionists laying down an ostinato barrage…
    –Robert Commanday, San Francisco Chronicle

    Shapey creates and sustains remarkable tension throughout the piece, mainly because his language is uninhibited but never undisciplined. Incantations deserves another hearing.
    –Martin Bernheimer, Los Angeles Times

    Hallucinatory night music… increasingly appears as one of the great works of the postwar period.
    –Andrew Patner, Chicago Sun-Times

    …musically fascinating and aurally spectacular…
    –Robert F. Duguay, Hartford Times

    …a strong piece by a genuine composer…
    –Donal J. Henahan, Chicago Daily News

    aggression and lyricism, celebration and elegy, angularity and warmth, vigor and tenderness all tugged at the listener. In the hands of a less rugged structuralist than Mr. Shapey, so many opposing forces might have made for a diffuse work, but here they
    –Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

    …interesting sound and sonority effects are spread over a wide area. The music is coherent and continuous, creating evocative situations and contemplative moods. …The interplay between soloist and orchestra provided lively contrasts and the musical conten
    –Yohanan Boehm, The Jerusalem Post

    Here the proliferating textures serve to further the communication of a vibrant, white-hot lyricism…
    –Bernard Jacobson, Chicago Daily News

    Its middle movement has a time-suspended, post-nuclear eeriness, and the big, outer ones honestly merit their marking of ‘maestoso.’ One wants to hear this sinewy piece again soon…
    –Boston Globe

    …a three-movement creation dating from 1986, when the 65-year-old composer was showing signs of the mellowing that came over both his personality and his music…the central movement – Delicato”…speaks the language of a soul profoundly tranquil beneath the
    –Bernard Jacobson, Seen & Heard: Music Web

    …offers a ruggedly Expressionistic, fierce first movement for violin and viola, followed by a tender slow movement for two violas and two final, linked movements for two violins… It’s a moving piece, fully worthy of Mr. Shapey’s considerable reputation, a
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    This almost unplayable piece was the most arousing, the most surprising item of the forum and it must be heard again. The general effect is that of hearing five brilliant musicians simultaneously warming up their instruments and concentrating on the least
    –John White, Richmond Times-Dispatch

    Craggy and pungently atonal, the music moves in fitful spurts of astringently dissonant yet captivating harmony with strangely wide-spaced chords. I especially love the third movement, where the instruments break into obstinate bouts of counterpoint.
    –Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

    Rarely has such complex music been so enjoyable on the first hearing. …The design of Mutations II was marvelously simple. …Each change was sudden, but so well prepared that it was never unnatural. …This was not music for the timid, but neither was it mere
    –Kyle Gann, Chicago Reader

    …the most important of the first performances. Real words are used for the text, broken up in unusual patterns, so that the meaning is conveyed in a half-abstract, half-verbal way.
    –Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Its tough-skinned intellectual severity is mixed with a piquant wit and slightly cynical glimpses of sentiment… disorienting and slyly captivating, both in its fury and in its wry irony.
    –Edward Rothstein, New York Times

    The oboe and the trio seem in opposition but their alternate lyrical and pungent utterances aren’t antagonistic. In fact, bouts of wit and sentiment heighten a sense of camaraderie…
    –Ted Shen , Chicago Tribune

    …pushes economy to the limit by spinning out the entire piece out of one core idea in all its permutations and combinations… generated its own head of steam, coming to a close with an epiphanal tune by solo trombone that was positively shocking in its eup
    –Donal J. Henahan, Chicago Daily News

    Well, it was pretty great… a muscular and undiplomatic manifesto of individualism, hard-edged declarations and rhythmic barrages with a kind of brawny grace and surprising sensitivity, in the unfolding. …The audience felt the lusty lyricism and gave it a

    Shapey’s Ontogeny gave the orchestra a tough assignment. It was sound-color” music of an amazing complexity, rhythmic force, atmosphere and uninhibited outcry in any and all sorts of timbres, especially the percussive. …its vitality is terrific.”
    –Alexander Fried,

    like all of Shapey’s best work, this is also vividly, passionately communicative music…
    –Bernard Jacobson,

    it explores ultimate verities of musical language and meaning in a way that I find instantly compelling, even though some of its intricacies demand repeated hearing for full comprehension.
    –Bernard Jacobson,

    …the strength and integrity of [Partita-Fantasia], suggests that it may wear well for many more decades to come.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    This 13-minute work promises to be a major contribution to the American contemporary piano literature. …Those looking for significant new works by American composers should check on this one.

    This is music of large gestures — booming blows to the keyboard with intermittent sections of intensely lyric writing. The Passacaglia, like most of Mr. Shapey’s music, is an affair of the heart and a passionate affair at that. No one, at any rate, will e
    –Bernard Holland, New York Times

    …a solid work of real quality, the Piano Trio (1955) by Ralph Shapey. Shapey is very independent, and so is his powerfully cast music of which this is a striking example. His First Trio’s date of composition belies the contemporaneity of the sound of its
    –Robert Commanday, San Francisco Chronicle

    Ralph Shapey’s short concerto was the principal interest in this concert. It is an excellent piece of writing — the interest never lagged, the music was often exciting.
    –Bernard P. Rabb,

    Shapey is not to be fit into any fashion, but be remembered as one of the best – and greatest – of the romantic radicals. Perhaps only Beethoven stormed the heavens with such ferocity.
    –Tim Page , Washington Post

    When the Mount Rushmore of American composers is carved, Ralph Shapey will be right up there with the great originals like Ives and Ruggles; his music has comparable strength, individuality and integrity.
    –Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

    …in his music, every last detail is worked out with an almost ferocious intellectual power. But at the same time its emotional climate is of the most intense lyricism. It is this combination that has led Leonard B. Meyer to dub Shapey ‘ a radical traditio
    –Bernard Jacobson, Chicago Daily News

    Ralph Shapey’s Prelude and Scherzando (2001), was… less than four minutes long but tightly packed with rhythmically vital piano writing and wide-ranging cello themes.
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    …easily the strongest new” orchestral piece around – a striking combination of orchestral volumes and planes with an improvisatory layer providing a spatial and temporal counterpoint of great impact.”
    –Eric Salzman, Stereo Review

    …an American masterpiece… a work of this scope demands live performance to be fully appreciated… the whole piece has a shape and focus that are continually impressive.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    Shapey, in Rituals as well as several other major pieces, achieves the improbable in merging post-Webern ideals of delicacy, serialism and economy with Varese’s counter-Webern penchant for using sounds in block form, and for blowing the roof off periodica
    –Donal Henahan, New York Times

    …a work of violently expressive character. But beneath the jagged gestures, there is a lyricism that puts the music — for all its thoroughly contemporary harmonic language and motivic organization — firmly in the late-romantic tradition.
    –Bernard Jacobson, Chicago Daily News

    Rituals is virile music as well as clamorous, a child of Varese’s influence, strong of spine and keen of ear.
    –Roger Dettmer, Chicago’s American

    …interesting, even expressive from many viewpoints — coloristic, impressionistic, energetic, emotionally declamatory.
    –Alexander Fried, San Francisco Examiner

    SONATA NO. 2
    …a wonderful piece of art. The first movement, “Variations,” yearns as it insists and compels; the second, “Rondo-Scherzando,” darts in coy staccato bursts; the finale, “Canzonetta,” has a dark, complicated momentum. The music came off with a tremen
    –Lesley Valdes, Philadelphia Inquirer

    …notable for its communicative rhythms, strong and logical sense of direction, and pleasing sonorities.
    –Musical America

    …massive, defiant, boldly theatrical, and cunningly constructed…
    –Peter G. Davis,

    Shapey’s powerful piece deserves a permanent place in the repertory. It is as tightly organized from primal materials as the Liszt Sonata is; the sound-world mingles the composer’s characteristic rugged and uncompromising clangor with some surprisingly su
    –Richard Dyer, Boston Globe

    These are direct, stark, gloomy and challenging songs and they deserve to take their place among the strongest soprano literature of our time.
    –Tim Page , New York Times

    There is no mistaking this intense music as the product of anyone but Shapey; it holds your attention in an unrelenting grip.
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    Best of all was a song cycle, entitled merely Songs, and almost arbitrarily taking its text from various writers’ thoughts on dreams, hope and death… Yet there was no randomness in the music: it imposed its own idiom, direction and goals upon the words…
    –Meirion Bowen, Arts Guardian (London)

    Ralph Shapey’s new work, Songs of Ecstasy, is a beauty. …it is intimate, deeply personal and therefore, immediate in appeal.
    –Kathleen Morner, Chicago Sun-Times

    Ralph Shapey’s joyously inventive Stony Brook Concerto, which sometimes turns an already oddly constituted little orchestra practically inside out, has a blunt, off-the-wall way of lining up a musical argument that this reviewer wouldn’t ever pick a fight
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

    In stretches of music that seem to deny form, gesture and even direction, it is possible to hear a classical strictness and firm view of the destination. …Shapey’s finale is inevitable, musically and emotionally confirming – and far from yielding to – any
    –Daniel Webster, Philadelphia Inquirer

    Mr. Shapey’s String Quartet No. 5 seemed almost violently expressive and self-assertive. …the composer’s feelings ring true. They are stated powerfully by the strings weaving around held tones, and by the evocative vocal line, and it is impossible not to
    –Raymond Ericson, The New York Times

    The work is lean of materials and straightforward as stone. Sculpture and architecture are called to mind in reflecting on this fine work.
    –Carman Moore, Village Voice

    …the Quartet is highly poetic in nature and very lyrical, with beautiful, quiet, sustained episodes during which the viola and cello sustain a dissonant interval very softly, while the two violins stroke soft, separated, almost inaudible notes, many of th
    –Theodore Strongin, New York Times

    Shapey… makes a powerful impression within a general post-Webern style orientation. His music is vital, probing, passionate and communicative – characteristics of all important music.
    –Arthur Darack, Chicago Daily News

    It is a work of intense and tremendous lyricism, expressed – as always in Shapey’s music – in a very dissonant, block-like form. This is a bleak, heart-rending musical landscape – especially in the long and difficult final Passacaglia – but the beauty… is
    –Stereo Review

    This is a piece composed of melodic and harmonic fragments which are alternately elaborated on or reduced to their bare essentials. These units are manipulated in a most ingenious manner, yielding some remarkable sonorities.
    –New Haven Register

    Then came Shapey’s quartet, a craggy, challenging and gut-intense half-hour of music that made few concessions to conventional notions of euphony or chamber-music gentility. It is music of almost non-stop tension, pitting the four instrumentalists against
    –Robert Finn, Cleveland Plain Dealer

    …wonderfully melodious 35-minute quartet. Moving in and out of an uneasy tonality, it relies on such time-honored devices as ostinato and complex chordal patterns to construct a classically proportioned statement of breathtaking beauty.
    –Los Angeles Times

    Mr. Shapey is an interesting old trickster. He begins each movement with a bleak patch of academic angularity and then gradually reveals a truly lyrical and sometimes arch-Romantic impulse. Once past the introductory thorns, a listener is rewarded with lo
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    …the ghost of Arnold Schoenberg is alive and well in the music of Ralph Shapey, and I intend this as the highest possible compliment. …on this first hearing my reaction was: ‘Thank heavens, here’s somebody who hasn’t been carried out to sea by the wave of
    –Jess Anderson, Isthmus

    Ralph Shapey’s ambitious Symphonie Concertante… stunned the audience with its audacity. It was intrepidly daring, a work with originality and verve – adventurous, but grounded in the past. Just as the makers of the Constitution drew on other-century docum
    –Martha Thomas, South Star

    The Covenant addresses itself essentially to the contemporary crisis of faith. It does so in a musical language that is often strident, prickly, dense, and convoluted to the ear — but which is absolutely right for what Shapey wishes to say. And what he sa
    –John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

    Though Three for Six was in a style usually considered inaccessible, its form and intentions were, as usual for Shapey, remarkably clear. …a truly electric composition, and the most thrilling new work I’d heard in several moons. …Bravo Shapey!
    –Kyle Gann, Chicago Reader

    …the prize piece was the sextet Three for Six by that insufficiently celebrated master Ralph Shapey. Shapey’s phraseology is original and so is his sense of sonority. Nobody is like him. Shapey creates a jagged, shrieky instrumental hubbub and yet has you
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

    The voice of American individualism made a powerful clangor in the Green Room Monday night, in the form of Ralph Shapey’s Three for Six… There were other pieces on the [concert program], but not even Schoenberg could compete with the indelible impression
    –Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

    …assertive, coldly brilliant, abrasively passionate outer movements flanking a lyrical slow movement, the whole bound together by recurrent materials. The score sounds like Olivier Messiaen mixed with Aztec blood-rituals, as mystical as Messiaen but diabo
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    There is remarkable variety in the scoring. The work opens with a plaintive cello solo, and virtuosic cadenzas appear throughout the Trilogy. Shapey again shows his fondness for building up densely packed textures which underline the ecstatic climaxes in
    –Phillip Huscher, Musical America

    This piece turned to be more immediately inviting than many Shapey scores.
    –Allan Kozinn, New York Times

    Shapey writes a fascinatingly lecherous music. In [Evocation No. 1] he creates a many-sided musical image, a fat tonal prism reflecting familiar ‘avant-garde’ sound patterns… He achieves structural totality with skill; he is clever with the instruments an
    –Vincent Persichetti, Musical Quarterly

    Mr. Shapey’s gritty harmonic idiom sounds very impressive when intoned by the grand sustaining power of an organ. But it is the overtly Romantic, heaven-storming side of his personality that suits the pipe organ particularly well.
    –John Rockwell, New York Times

    The theme that undergoes the variations is in itself atonally and dissonantly heroic, but its progress implies a destination within a tonality and a harmonic scheme tantalizingly near consonance.
    –Leighton Kerner, Voice

    Ralph Shapey’s Variations for Viola and 9 Players… was the most anticipated piece of the evening, as well as the most persuasive… it is immediately compelling – packed with ideas and bristling with melodic and rhythmic invention.
    –Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune

    Ralph Shapey’s Variations for Viola and Nine Players seemed a distillation of the strong and original master’s unmistakable style – discrete, jagged, bracing instrumental colors; vividly prickly phrase contours that yet manage to flow in their weird, unst
    –Richard Buell, Boston Globe

  • American Brass Quintet AMERICAN BRASS QUINTET
    New World Records (CD 80377)
    Performer(s): American Brass Quintet
    Work(s): Brass Quintet
    Crossfade CROSSFADE
    Capstone Records (CPS-8691)
    Performer(s): Hoffmann/Goldstein Duo
    Work(s): Gottlieb Duo for Percussion and Piano
    Hidden Sparks HIDDEN SPARKS

    New World Records (NW333)
    Performer(s): Maryvonne Le Dizes-Richard, violin; Jean-Claude Henriot, piano
    Work(s): Fantasy for Violin and Piano
    Martin Bresnick: Just Time MARTIN BRESNICK: JUST TIME
    New World Records (CD 80413)
    Performer(s): New York Woodwind Quintet
    Work(s): Movements for Woodwind Quintet
    More Music by Ralph Shapey MORE MUSIC BY RALPH SHAPEY
    Centaur Records (CRC3103)
    Performer(s): Miranda Cuckson, violin; Blair McMillen, piano
    Work(s): Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano
    Sonate No. 1 for Violin Solo
    Music by Ralph Shapey MUSIC BY RALPH SHAPEY
    Centaur Records (CRC2900)
    Performer(s): Miranda Cuckson, violin; Blair McMillen, piano
    Work(s): Mann Soli for Violin
    Millennium Designs for Violin and Piano
    Partita for Solo Violin
    New Music for Virtuosos NEW MUSIC FOR VIRTUOSOS
    New World Records (CD 80541)
    Performer(s): Harvey Sollberger, flute
    Work(s): Configurations for Flute and Piano
    Ralph Shapey RALPH SHAPEY
    CRI/New World Records (CD 690)
    Work(s): Incantations for Soprano and Ten Instruments
    Rituals for Symphony Orchestra
    The Covenant for Soprano and 16 Players
    Scott Kluksdahl: Lines for solo cello SCOTT KLUKSDAHL: LINES FOR SOLO CELLO
    CRI/New World Records (CD 762)
    Performer(s): Scott Kluksdahl, cello
    Work(s): Kroslish Sonate for Cello and Piano

    New World Records (CD 80355)
    Performer(s): Contemporary Chamber Players of University of Chicago, Ralph Shapey; R. Anderson, trumpet
    Work(s): Concertante No. 1 for Trumpet and Ten Instruments
    Kroslish Sonate for Cello and Piano
    the speed of the passing time… THE SPEED OF THE PASSING TIME…
    Capstone Records (CPS-8668)
    Performer(s): Talujon Percussion Quartet
    Work(s): Interchange in Four Movements for Percussion Quartet
    0 0
    CRI/New World Records (SD 496)
    Work(s): 21 Variations for Piano
    Configurations for Flute and Piano
    Evocation No. 1 for Violin with Piano and Percussion
    Fromm Variations 31 Variations for Piano
    Incantations for Soprano and Ten Instruments
    O Jerusalem for Soprano and Flute
    Rhapsodie for Oboe and Piano
    Rituals for Symphony Orchestra
    Seven for Piano, 4 Hands
    Sonata for Oboe and Piano
    Songs for Soprano and Piano
    Songs of Ecstasy for Soprano, Piano, Percussion and Tape
    Songs of Life for Soprano, Cello and Piano
    String Quartet No. 6
    String Quartet No. 7
    Three For Six

  • 1994: American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    1993: Paul Fromm Award
    1991: Professor Emeritus from the University of Chicago
    1990: First Prize in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition for Concerto for Cello, Piano, and String Orchestra
    1985: Distinguished Professor of Music at Queens College in New York City
    1982: MacArthur Prize from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

  • Chamber Symphony
    for 10 Solo Players
    Concertante No. 1
    for Solo Trumpet and Instruments
    De Profundis
    for Solo Double Bass and Instruments
    Symphonie Concertante
    for Orchestra