Historical perspectives though elusive, are irresistible in a 40th Anniversary year. Starting from the programming idea of pairing younger composers with mentors or musical influences, we found ourselves with a group of works that are "snapshots" of the era of Da Capo's beginnings, when new music groups in New York could be counted on the fingers (of one hand.) The three "mentors," -- Samuel Adler, William Bolcom, and Stefan Wolpe, --- could hardly be more contrasting. Yet each has had a major impact on the field, contributing to the enormous variety and vitality found in today's new music. More details are below. We hope you enjoy our sonic time-leap!
Whisper Moon (Dream Music No. 3) was written in 1971 for the Aeolian Chamber Players, a resident chamber ensemble of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, the institution which commissioned the work. William Bolcom (b. 1938) dedicated it to his teacher, Darius Milhaud, and scored it for alto flute, B-flat clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Often cited as quintessential example of Bolcom's emergent style of the early 1970's, and of American eclecticism in general (see the book Music Since 1945 by Schwartz and Godfrey), it employs a juxtaposition of serious and popular styles in an environment of strict and free notation. The latter originates in theater improvisation elements often employed by the composer, and continued from the first Aeolian-Bowdoin commission of Bolcom, 1970's Duets for Quintet. The borrowed materials evident in Whisper Moon include the songs "Blue Moon" by Rodgers and Hart and "Louise" by Robin and Whiting (from the movie Innocents of Paris). As a point of reference, Bolcom's Dream Music No. 1 is a solo piano work from 1965, and Dream Music No. 2 (1966) is for harpsichord and three percussionists.
Recent National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner WILLIAM BOLCOM (born May 26, 1938) is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music.
Born in Seattle, Washington, he began composition studies at the age of 11 with George Fredrick McKay and John Verall at the University of Washington while continuing piano lessons with Madame Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He later studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College while working on his Master of Arts degree, with Leland Smith at Stanford University while working on his D.M.A., and with Olivier Messiaen and Milhaud at the Paris Conservatoire, where he received the 2éme Prix de Composition.
He joined the faculty of the University of Michigan's School of Music in 1973, was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Composition in 1994, and retired in 2008 after 35 years. Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano, and his setting of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience on the Naxos label won four Grammy Awards in 2005.
As a pianist Bolcom has performed and recorded his own work frequently in collaboration with his wife and musical partner, mezzo-soprano Joan Morris. Their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings are cabaret songs, show tunes, and popular songs from the early 20th century.
As a composer, Bolcom has written four violin sonatas; eight symphonies; three operas (McTeague, A View from the Bridge and A Wedding), plus several musical theater operas; eleven string quartets; two film scores (Hester Street and Illuminata); incidental music for stage plays, including Arthur Miller's Broken Glass; fanfares and occasional pieces; and an extensive catalogue of chamber and vocal works. In May 2010 there were two premieres of new works: Romanza by violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with the New Century Chamber Orchestra in San Francisco and La fantome du Clavecin by harpsichordist Andreas Skouras in London.
2009 saw the premieres of First Symphony for Band in February by the University of Michigan Symphony Band in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Shakyamuni in February by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for the reopening of Alice Tully Hall; and in May, iLady Liberty by The Master Singers of Lexington [Mass.] and The Ann Arbor Vocal Arts Ensemble and Introduzione e Rondo: HAYDN GO SEEK by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt in Eisenstadt, Austria, which was featured on Germany's international broadcast service, Deutsche Welle.
Anthony Korf, Duo (2003) New York Premiere (revised version)
My Duo for Clarinet and Piano, cast in two movements and lasting almost ten minutes, opens in wistful languor. The repetition of its two slowly shifting chords, to say nothing of their harmonic quality, might bring to mind a blue-tinged interior dialogue on a hot summer day. If these two-plus minutes induce a languor of spirit, they also build a charge for the second movement's decidedly friskier energy level. There, a process of continuous variation transforms a jaunty theme. Along the way, a brief detour to the work's opening measures, capped by a short piano cadenza, interrupts the journey shortly before reaching its final destination. – Anthony Korf
Anthony Korf (b. December 14, 1951 in NYC) is a composer whose singular voice evokes the strength of a powerful musical legacy. He has established a distinct and substantial language, a lexicon of emotion and drama that finds expression in a wide array of inventive, harmonically rich scores for solo instruments, chamber and vocal ensembles and large-scale symphonies.
Korf has drawn inspiration from a remarkable array of composers and musical idioms, though these influences are seldom detectable in his music. His life-long passion for jazz and popular music, for example, lends an unmistakably American flavor to his work, though only rarely does their vernacular pedigree surface.
As early as Korf's Symphony No. 2 "Blue Note," from 1987, New Yorker critic Andrew Porter perceived this vanguard spirit in the "imaginative sounds and striking ideas" resulting in "the impression of a composer finding his own way, pursuing a personal vision, following his own ear."
Korf has been commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, Koussevitsky Music Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 and a Godard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988.
A leading figure on the New York music scene for more than thirty years, Korf founded the acclaimed contemporary chamber ensemble Parnassus, which he led as artistic director and conductor for 27 years. He currently serves as Artistic Director and Composer-in-Residence for Riverside Symphony which he co-founded with conductor George Rothman in 1981. Korf resides in New York City with his wife and 15-year-old son
In the spring of 1969, I began a series of Concert Etudes for solo instruments which I labeled Cantos. I was hoping to cover the entire orchestra, and since then have written 21 of them for 20 different instruments each trying to present the instrument to its fullest and most virtuosic. The only exception to the solo works is Canto V which is for Soprano, Flute, Cello, and three percussion players. The piece was commissioned by the University of Rochester for a celebration to dedicate the new Interfaith Chapel. Since I was at that time teaching at the Eastman School of the University of Rochester, I picked two poems by the first poet in residence of the University who had died very prematurely only a few years before. While the poems are not 'religious' as such, they are very spiritual and deal with nature and our relationship with it as well the excitement of living in this world. I felt I wanted to include this short work in the Canto series because it felt like a concert etude for the voice as well as for the instruments. The work was premiered in 1970 at the opening of the Chapel and the percussionists were placed in a semi circle throughout the circular chapel so that the audience would be encompassed. If that arrangement is impossible in a hall the percussionists should be placed in a semi-circle in back of the other performers. The reason I felt justified in including the work with the other Cantos was that every one of the parts is truly virtuosic and demands special concentration of each player especially since there usually is no conductor and the ensemble playing is crucial.
On my second trip to Santiago Chile, I was asked to write a short piece for the Bartok Ensemble. I conducted Pierrot Lunaire with them plus some other South American works, and mine was to be the piece from North America. However, I felt that even though my Spanish was not very good, I would try a piece in Spanish. The result was Primavera Amarilla a setting of a poem by the South American poet Juan Ramon Jimenez who actually wrote this poem while living in Texas. The short poem is full of ecstasy about the color of yellow and I tried to picture this wonderful feeling in my music. It is a kind of uneven waltz which sparkles throughout until the last two lines "Among the bones of the dead, God opened His yellow hands" which stop the whirling action for a moment and are recited rather contemplatively after which the ensemble brings the piece to a speedy end.
SAMUEL ADLER was born March 4, 1928, Mannheim, Germany and came to the United States in 1939. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May 2001, and then inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in October 2008. He is the composer of over 400 published works, including 5 operas, 6 symphonies, 12 concerti, 8 string quartets, 4 oratorios and many other orchestral, band, chamber and choral works and songs, which have been performed all over the world. He is the author of three books, Choral Conducting (Holt Reinhart and Winston 1971, second edition Schirmer Books 1985), Sight Singing (W.W. Norton 1979, 1997), and The Study of Orchestration (W.W. Norton 1982, 1989, 2001). He has also contributed numerous articles to major magazines and books published in the U.S. and abroad.
Adler was educated at Boston University and Harvard University, and holds honorary doctorates from Southern Methodist University, Wake Forest University, St. Mary's Notre-Dame and the St. Louis Conservatory. His major teachers were: in composition, Herbert Fromm, Walter Piston, Randall Thompson, Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland; in conducting, Serge Koussevitzky.
He is Professor-emeritus at the Eastman School of Music where he taught from 1966 to 1995 and served as chair of the composition department from 1974 until his retirement. Before going to Eastman, Adler served as professor of composition at the University of North Texas (1957-1977), Music Director at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas (1953-1966), and instructor of Fine Arts at the Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas (1955-1966). From 1954 to 1958 he was music director of the Dallas Lyric Theater and the Dallas Chorale. Since 1997 he has been a member of the composition faculty at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, and was awarded the 2009-10 William Schuman Scholars Chair. Adler has given master classes and workshops at over 300 universities worldwide, and in the summers has taught at major music festivals such as Tanglewood, Aspen, Brevard, Bowdoin, as well as others in France, Germany, Israel, Spain, Austria, Poland, South America and Korea.
Some recent commissions have been from the Cleveland Orchestra (Cello Concerto), the National Symphony (Piano Concerto No. 1), the Dallas Symphony (Lux Perpetua), the Pittsburgh Symphony (Viola Concerto), the Houston Symphony (Horn Concerto), the Barlow Foundation/Atlanta Symphony (Choose Life), the American Brass Quintet, the Wolf Trap Foundation, the Berlin-Bochum Bass Ensemble, the Ying Quartet and the American String Quartet to name only a few. His works have been performed lately by the St. Louis Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Mannheim National Theater Orchestra. Besides these commissions and performances, previous commissions have been received from the National Endowment for the Arts (1975, 1978, 1980 and 1982), the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the City of Jerusalem, the Welsh Arts Council and many others.
Adler has appeared as conductor with many major symphony orchestras, both in the U.S. and abroad. His compositions are published by Theodore Presser Company, Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer, Carl Fischer, E.C. Schirmer, Peters Edition, Ludwig Music, Southern Music Publishers, and Transcontinental Music Publishers. Recordings of his works have been done on RCA, Gasparo, Albany, CRI, Crystal and Vanguard.
In From Here on Farther Wolpe moves onward by coming full circle to his roots in "Young Classicism" [Jung Klassizismus], the aesthetic which Busoni described as the couching of new technical developments in strong and beautiful forms. Busoni had a profound impact on Wolpe's early development, and Wolpe some fifty years later appears to be revisiting and encompassing that aesthetic. Wolpe at first titled the "Concert," which he must have intended in the sense of a Baroque ritornello form. From Here on Farther is in a single movement with three clearly articulated sections, each of which begins with the same material in the same tempo. Wolpe abandoned the idea of reprise in his instrumental music of the fifties, so we must ask what its reappearance might mean in the music of his last years. In the context of the late music, where Wolpe's continuities are usually based on the juxtaposition of maximally contrasted aspects of the material, reprise appears to signify the limiting case of minimal change.
The music of From Here On Farther is at times warm and magnanimous, at times anxious and troubled. The symmetrical form harbors disturbing discontinuities that relate it to Form IV: Broken Sequences, the piano piece composed in the same year. Both explore the experience of setting up continuities that are rudely and spasmodically interrupted, as though Wolpe were conveying in music his experience of the struggle with the Parkinsonism that had afflicted him over the previous six years. The expressionistic exuberance of the ensemble pieces of the fifties is here contained by the unassuming mastery, the love of serious play and the practical wisdom that transcend personal affliction with strength and compassion.
STEFAN WOLPE was born in Berlin, August 25, 1902, and received instruction in piano and theory as a boy of 14. The stifling atmosphere of the State Academy of Music made his stay there a short one; nonetheless, he attended and graduated from the Berlin Academy of Music, during which years he had the friendship and counsel of Ferruccio Busoni. He was a student of Ferruccio Busoni, Anton v. Webern and Hermann Scherchen (Brussels 1938). He was influenced by Hans Schrecker, Scriabin, Hindemith, Satie and Paul Whiteman, and many artists of the Bauhaus School. Raoul Pleskow once said there was a period of time when the avant garde consisted of Wolpe and Varese. Morton Feldman, Ralph Shapey, David Tudor, Yehuda Yannai were some of his pupils. His music and thoughts influenced such composers as Elliot Carter, John Cage, Raoul Pleskow, and Howard Rovics. He died in New York City in 1972.
In 1933 he left Berlin, arriving practically penniless in Vienna where he met, was befriended by, and studied with Anton v. Webern. He reached Palestine by way of Bucharest and remained in Palestine 1934-38, where he became head of the composition department at the Conservatory of Jerusalem. In 1938 he left Palestine and immigrated to the United States, via Brussels in 1939, becoming a citizen of the US. He became head of composition at the Music Academy and the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. In 1948 Wolpe founded the Contemporary Music School in New York City whose alumni are composers of music both classical and jazz. In 1949, he received the Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. "... In recognition of his devotion to highest musical ideals expressed in his own music with striking originality ...". In 1952, Wolpe became musical director at the experimental Black Mountain College not far from Asheville NC. "Enactments" and "Symphony" were written there. When the college went bankrupt, Wolpe returned to NYC, teaching at several institutions. During the '50's and '60's there were trips to Berlin and Darmstadt. In Darmstadt he taught courses at the International Summer Institute. He was chairman of the music department at C.W. Post College of Long Island University from about 1955 until about 1967. Wolpe's last years were plagued with the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease to which he finally succumbed April 4, 1972.
At the age of 18, Wolpe was already recognized as a "phenomenal pianist" by those who knew him; he was to remain a pianist at heart, always having a preference for its crisp tones. The concept of virtuosity, but not of the garden variety, was much with him and much of his music; even in the early years his music has been characterized as ferociously and frighteningly difficult: a major reason why his works have been performed so seldom, and why they are, for the most part, not part of the standard repertory of serious musicians. The Wolpe Trio (Essen, Germany) [Link] formed in 1992, took its name from their signal performance of Wolpe's Trio in Two Parts (1963-64), and has since performed many other Wolpe pieces.
In his early years, say around 1925, his language had already developed the subtle rhythmic complexities that appear again in the searingly intense works of his later years. There is a middle period of work, much of which has been lost, that was influenced by concepts of social consciousness and Hindemith's Gebrauchsmusik. Unfortunately the manuscripts of many of his last works were destroyed in a fire in the apartment building in New York City, where he lived.
In Perspectives of New Music, Elliot Carter wrote, "Comet-like, radiance, conviction, fervent intensity, penetrating thought on many levels of seriousness and humor, combined with breathtaking originality marked the inner and outer life of Stefan Wolpe, as they do his compositions."
As a teacher and as a human being he was always warm, encouraging of exploration, and humorously discouraging of any sense of self complacency. His self avowed mission as teacher was to encourage the exploration of all of the possibilities of anything a student had written. He took the art of music more seriously than anything else, certainly more seriously than he took his own ego. Anybody who knew him knew his only little passionate vice was for chocolate.
Whenever I visit Perú, I make a point to visit its museums. While the museos nacionales of Lima are gorgeous, I actually prefer the smaller collections scattered throughout the coastal, highland, and tropical regions. These sometimes feature no more than a dozen pieces, but even the humblest presentation of broken ceramics, warped metalwork, and faded textiles provides a tantalizing glimpse of the myriad of cultures that thrived before the dominant Incas. It is the Inca from whom many Peruvians today trace their heritage, but I'm always wondering what lies before the Inca and how much the racial soul of so many past cultures still persists…in me? In this composition for flute and cello duo, bosquejos, or sketches, portray four pre-Inca cultures. Indigenous tunes and performance mannerisms found in Peruvian music make brief appearances throughout.
Identity has always been at the center of GABRIELA LENA FRANK'S music. Born in 1972 in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin-American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. She writes challenging idiomatic parts for solo instrumentalists, vocalists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras.
Moreover, she writes, "There's usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character." While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer's program notes enhance the listener's experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. Even a brief glance at her titles evokes specific imagery: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout; Cuatro Canciones Andinas; and La Llorona: Tone Poem for Viola and Orchestra. Frank's compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist — when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.
A 2009 recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to assist in research and artistic creation, Frank's upcoming premieres include a new song cycle for Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; a new work for Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble; Hilos for the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble; a new ballet for Ballet Hispanico; and Escaramuza for the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. A frequent collaborator with artists in other disciplines, Frank is developing a number of projects with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz, the song cycle for Dawn Upshaw among them.
Recent premieres include Tres Mitos de Mi Tierra (2010) for The King's Singers; Hailí Lírico (2010) for violinist Robin Sharp and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra; Inca Dances (2008) for guitarist Manuel Barrueco and Cuarteto Latinoamericano — which received a 2009 Latin Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition; New Andean Songs (2007) for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella new music series; Peregrinos (2009) for the Indianapolis Symphony; Hynagogia for Concertante, American Portraits (2008) for the Modesto Symphony, and Two Mountain Songs (2008) for a consortium comprising of the Young People's Chorus of New York, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, and Anima.
Frank attended Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she earned both a BA (1994) and MA (1996). She studied composition with Paul Cooper, Ellsworth Milburn, and Sam Jones, and piano with Jeanne Kierman Fischer. Frank credits Fischer with introducing her to the music of Ginastera, Bartók, and other composers who utilized folk elements in their work. At the University of Michigan, from which she received a DMA in composition in 2001, Frank studied composition with William Albright, William Bolcom, Leslie Bassett, and Michael Daugherty, and piano with Logan Skelton.
Composer-pianist, YIWEN SHEN has garnered many top awards for his composition in China and United States, including the silver medal (no golden medal in that year) in the Fourth Chinese Golden Bell Award of Music (2004), a third prize from the Twelfth National Composition Competition Wen-Hua Award (2006), Distinguished Achievement of the Year in Music Composition in Shanghai (2006), and second prize (the first prize was unawarded) at the Music From China International Composition Competition in New York (2007). He has also been honored as a Distinguished Composer by IBLA World Competition (2008). He received an honorable mention from The Fauxharmonic Orchestra for his Mulan, a concerto for violin and orchestra (2009). Mulan was sequentially premiered by violinist Fang Luosha and American Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Leon Botstein in May 2010.
His other works have also been performed by Da Capo Chamber Players, Colorado String Quartet, Talea Ensemble, Music From China Ensemble, and Kalmia String Quartet, among others. His award-winning piece, Yong (Terracotta) for pipa solo and Su (Tracing Back) for Chinese bamboo flute solo, have become part of the standard repertoire of many pipa and bamboo flute players for concerts and competitions throughout mainland China, Taiwan, Australia, Germany, Indonesia, and United States. Recent projects include a solo for Chinese Zheng, commissioned by Liu Le, one of the leading young Zheng players, which was premiered in September 2010 at Wuhan Conservatory of Music, China; a commission from the Albany Symphony Orchestra, composing a piece that incorporates a scene from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, to be performed by the orchestra under Maestro David Alan Miller along with Mendelssohn's music.
His experience of music festivals includes the Shanghai Spring Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Nevada Encounters of New Music, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Atlantic Music Festival, composition course at Freie Universität Berlin, and twice as a Susan and Ford Schumann scholarship student at the Aspen Music Festival and School. At these festivals, he has studied composition with Augusta Read Thomas, Virko Baley, Lukas Foss, Sydney Hodkinson, and Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, and conducting with Emily Brown Freeman.
Born in Shanghai in 1986, Shen began studying piano at the age of four and composition at nine. After graduating from the Music Middle School affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music with annual scholarships and special honors under Professor Deng Erbo, Ding Ying, and He Xuntian, he came to The Bard College Conservatory of Music in 2006 to further his composition study with Joan Tower and George Tsontakis, and piano study with Frank Corliss and Melvin Chen. In May 2010, he graduated from Bard as the first Chinese and first composer among the first class in the history of Bard Conservatory. Besides a B.M. of composition in the conservatory, he also earned a B.A. in German Studies at Bard College, with a 70-page senior project on Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. Now, he is a graduate student at The Juilliard School, studying with Samuel Adler. www.shenyiwen.com