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Working with today's composers -- those who live and breathe the essence of today's music -- is a constant, scary, exciting challenge! This program features five pieces written for Patricia Spencer, two pieces by Bard College/Conservatory faculty, and Couperin (not written for Patricia Spencer).
In my Third Fantasy for Flute and Piano, I aimed to reconcile two seemingly opposite impulses. One thought was to dig into my imagination as deeply as I could and express a wide range of moods and sharacters. At the same time I wanted to write a composition that was truly composed, with an overall shape and continuity that would be apparent to listeners. Auditors will decide for themselves the extent to which I have succeeded.
The Third Fantasy is dedicated to Patricia Spencer, whose artistry I have admired for many years.
Since Leo Kraft’s retirement in 1989 from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY with the rank Professor Emeritus (but he prefers Full Composer) he has devoted himself to writing music. His recent works include Transformations for Eight Instruments, Adam in Eden for SATB chorus, and Partita Six for four flutes. He has also spent considerable time revising The Vision of Isaiah for chorus and orchestra and Partita Two for violin and viola, among other works.
In his academic career Mr. Kraft was a founding member of the College Music Society, the American Society of University Composers (now the Society of Composers, Inc.) and the Society for Music Theory. He served as president of the American Music Center from 1979-1981. At present he is a member of the Advisory Committee of the League of Composers/International Society for Contemporary Music. He is also on the editorial staff of the New Music Connoisseur, in which his reviews of concerts, recordings and books appear frequently.
Mr. Kraft’s music is published by Seesaw/Subito Music and Carl Fischer, and recorded on the CRI, Capstone, Albany, Centaur and Arizona University Recordings labels. Leo Kraft is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.
Blue-Tune Verses was written for flutist Patricia Spencer, who premiered it for the Look and Listen festival at the ACE Gallery in New York City in March 2002.
Noel Da Costa was a composer, violinist and choral conductor. He was born on December 24, 1929, in Lagos, Nigeria of Jamaican parents who were missionaries for the Salvation Army. His compositions include works for a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations, and many reflect his knowledge of African, West Indian, and Afro-American folk traditions. His compositions include Ceremony of Spirituals, Primal Rites, Five Versus with Vamps, Preludes for Trombone and Piano, and Blue Memories.
A Fulbright Scholar, Mr. Da Costa attributed his sensitivity to the lyric quality in music to his studying of the violin. As a young student in the classroom of the acclaimed Afro-American poet Countee Cullen, Mr. Da Costa was encouraged to realize the organization of words into poetic and musical statements. He went to Queens college of the City University of New York, Columbia University; after graduate work he received a Fulbright to study with Luigi Dallapiccola in Italy.
From 1975-2002, Mr. Da Costa conducted the Triad Chorale in concerts at Hunter College, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Town Hall, Symphony Space, and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. In addition to guest conducting and composing, Mr. Da Costa was an associate professor of music at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Imagine was commissioned in 2011 by the National Flute Association for its Young Artist Competition. It was premiered by the six finalists of that competition at the annual NFA Convention, held that year in Charlotte, NC.
In December, 2006, George Tsontakis was named the fourth recipient of the Charles Ives Living by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Thus, in the space of two years, Tsontakis has been awarded two of composition’s richest prizes, since his Violin Concerto No. 2 also won the 2005 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award. This celebrated international composition award gives deserved recognition to a composer who already enjoys a global career. Other previous awards include the American Academy’s award for lifetime achievement in 1995; and in 2002, Tsontakis spent several months at the American Academy in Berlin as a result of the 2002 Berlin Prize (Alberto Vilar Fellowship). He also served as the first Composer-in-Residence with the Oxford Philomusica (England) from 1998-2002.
Intimate Exchanges for flute and electronic tape has as its core sensuous, luxuriant sonorities. Written especially for flutist Patricia Spencer, Intimate Exchanges celebrates the visceral pleasures of a delicately shifting sound world. The electronic tape, realized at the Electronic Music Center of Columbia University, exploits the resources of numerous generations of technological hardware. The synthesized sounds unite with the flute to extend its natural capacity for color and articulation. Intimate Exchanges was composed with the generous assistance of a grant from the Professional Staff Congress/City University of new York. The piece was completed in March 1991.
– Arthur Kreiger
Arthur Kreiger is an award-winning composer, electronic music specialist, and Fellow of the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, Cummings Electronic and Digital Sound Studio, Connecticut College.
Kreiger has been composing for nearly four decades. Performed worldwide, his catalog of works contains pieces for orchestra, chorus, mixed chamber ensembles, solo instruments and the electronic medium. The world premiere of a musical work by Kreiger, "Never Again the Same," was performed at a "Works and Process at the Guggenheim" presentation at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City on Nov. 5 and 6, 2006. Read the news release. His compositions are recorded on Odyssey, Spectrum, Finnadar, CRI, Neuma, Context and New World Records. Kreiger's professional honors include the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as commissions from the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has served as composer in residence at William Paterson University, The North Carolina School of the Arts and at The Composers Conference at Wellesley. The composer was the recipient of the 1993 Brandeis University Creative Arts Medal. A portion of the text of this award citing his electronic music follows. "Although much of his music can be heard only as it issues, in whole or in part, from loudspeakers, its creative shaping source is immediately unmistakable, recognized as human and intensely personal. It is not music shaped by technological means, but music that demands technology for its fulfillment. While the music is so singularly Kreiger's, it is assuredly of its time, not only or even primarily because of the composer's mastery of sophisticated musical technology, but in the compositional modes that the music so urgently expresses. For it is learned music, in that it is aware and informed in its craft. . ." Prior to joining the Connecticut College faculty, Kreiger held teaching positions at Harvard, New York University, Baruch College, Rutgers and Columbia. He served as a technician and instructor at the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Center for over 15 years. A popular teacher at Connecticut College, student evaluations have consistently praised Kreiger's courses. The composer is particularly happy to be associated with the Cummings Electronic and Digital Sound Studio at the College. He serves on the committee for Arts and Technology. Arthur Kreiger's most recent project is a CD presenting nine of his compositions. Titled "Meeting Places," the disc features highly acclaimed performances by the New York New Music Ensemble and the Juilliard Percussion Quartet. Each work in the collection contains an electronic component that was realized at the Columbia/Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City. The CD was released on Albany Records through the generous financial support of the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. Kreiger and his wife Diane live on Moosup Pond.
[program notes in preparation]
For Marianne, for unaccompanied flute, was commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Luke's to honor its co-founder and president, Marianne Lockwood.
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). Tower studied piano and composition at Bennington College and Columbia University. Her earliest works were serial in concept, but her music soon developed the lyricism, rhythmic drive, and colorful orchestration that characterize her subsequent works. She co-founded the Da Capo Chamber Players in 1969 as pianist — its accolades included the 1973 Naumburg Chamber Music Award — but also wrote several well-received pieces for the ensemble. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972. Her music is published by Associated Music Publishers.
Conversations, for flute and piano, was commissioned by Patricia Spencer, and was begun in August 1985 at the Virginia Center for the Arts and completed in 1987 at the MacDowell Colony. While in one uninterrupted movement, it consists of a number of conversations between the two instruments of varying character: reflective, playful, meditative, animated, argumentative.
– Louise Talma
Louise Talma (1906-1996) studied composition at the Institute of Musical Art and later studied harmony, counterpoint, fugue, composition, and organ with Nadia Boulanger from 1928-1939. A number of "firsts" stand out in her life: she was the first American to teach at Fontainebleau; the 1962 premiere of her opera The Alcestiadin Frankfurt am Main was the first major European production of an opera by an American woman; she was the first woman composer to be elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; she was the first woman composer to receive two Guggenheim Fellowships. Talma has received honorary degrees from Hunter College, Bard College, and St. Mary of the Woods College. Her output includes a large number of choral works, Toccata for Orchestra, many song cycles with piano or chamber ensembles, and a rich collection of chamber music for various instrumentations.
Narcissus was commissioned by Wendy Rolfe, Harvey Sollberger, Patricia Spencer, and Robert Willoughby with a grant from the NEA Consortium Commissioning Program.
"And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life . . . "
From Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Narcissus wanders through the forest, observing, enjoying. . . unselfconscious but self-absorbed. He sees a pool of water and then as he approaches notices his reflection in the water. He is intrigued and then jumps back in fright. Once more he approaches. . . it is still there. Narcissus steps away from the pool to consider this phenomenon. Several times he approaches; the figure is always there watching him. In the shimmering sunlight Narcissus seems to see this glorious and attractive being moving in the rippling water. He is dazzled and slowly holds out his arms. To his amazement the figure responds. In awe and wonder Narcissus approaches closer and closer. With a sudden change of mood Narcissus dances happily and playfully . . the figure echoing him. But then Narcissus begins to question anxiously the lack of any independent response . . . is he being mocked? He gets more and more agitated and finally in a fury he rushes headlong into the water to grapple with the figure. The waves surge up and Narcissus is drowned. There is a distant shimmering vision of Narcissus and his reflection. Then in the setting sun the vision disappears, the forest is empty and the pool lies undisturbed.
Thea Musgrave one of the most respected and exciting contemporary composers in the Western world, known for her rich and powerful musical language and a strong sense of drama.
A Scottish-American, Thea Musgrave’s compositions were first performed under the auspices of the British Broadcasting Corporation and at the Edinburgh International Festival. As a result her works have been widely performed in Britain, Europe and the USA, and at the major music festivals, such as Edinburgh, Warsaw Autumn, Florence Maggio Musicale, Venice Biennale, Aldeburgh, Cheltenham and Zagreb; on most of the European and American broadcasting stations; and on many regular symphony concert series.
Musgrave frequently conducts her own works: the premiere performance of Mary, Queen of Scots at the 1977 Edinburgh International Festival and later with the San Francisco Spring Opera; her ballet Beauty and the Beast; the premiere performances of The Voice of Ariadne in Britain and again in New York and Los Angeles for the New York City Opera; orchestral works with the BBC Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, and the London Sinfonietta; also a recording of the Horn Concerto with the Scottish National Orchestra and soloist Barry Tuckwell. In the United States she has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. She has also conducted the Jerusalem Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. It is a measure of her talent and determination that Thea Musgrave has earned great respect for her work both as a composer and conductor at a time when these were still rather uncommon professions for a woman.
In 1974 Musgrave received the Koussevitzky Award, resulting in the composition of Space Play, which after its London premier was performed in New York by the Lincoln Center Chamber Players. She has also been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships, and has been recognized with honorary degrees by Old Dominion University (Virginia), Smith College, Glasgow University, and the New England Conservatory. She was awarded a C.B.E. on the Queen's New Year's Honour List in January 2002. As Distinguished Professor at Queens College, City University of New York from September 1987-2002, Musgrave has guided and interacted with many new and gifted young student composers.
Musgrave has consistently explored new means of projecting essentially dramatic situations in her music, frequently altering and extending the conventional boundaries of instrumental performance by physicalizing their musical and dramatic impact. As she once put it, she wanted to explore dramatic musical forms: some works are dramatic-abstract, that is without programmatic content (such as the Clarinet Concerto, the Horn Concerto, the Viola Concerto, and Space Play), and others project specific programmatic ideas (such as the paintings in The Seasons and Turbulent Landscapes, the poems in Ring Out Wild Bells, Journey through a Japanese Landscape, and Autumn Sonata, and the famous Greek legends in Orfeo, Narcissus, Helios, and Voices from the Ancient World) -- all extensions of concerto principles. In some of these, to enhance the dramatic effect, the sonic possibilities of spatial acoustics have been incorporated: in the Clarinet Concerto the soloist moves around the different sections of the orchestra, and in the Horn Concerto the orchestral horns are stationed around the concert hall. Thus the players are not only the conversants in an abstract musical dialogue, but also very much the living (and frequently peripatetic) embodiment of its dramatis personae.
It was therefore not surprising that her focus on the lyric and dramatic potential of music should have led to Musgrave's fluency in the field of opera, and it is interesting to see that her large-scale operas of the past 30 years, beginning with The Voice of Ariadne (1972) and followed by Mary, Queen of Scots (1977), A Christmas Carol (1979), and Harriet, The Woman Called Moses (1984), are in every sense the true successors to the instrumental concertos. Simón Bolívar (1993), like many of her operas, focuses on a historic figure whose life takes on an epic or archetypal dimension -- in this case the heroic liberator of Colombia. Her newest opera, Pontalba, (2003), again places the heroic struggle of its heroine in a larger historical context, in this case the Louisiana Purchase and the forging of the young United States.
With such a large and varied career and catalogue, Thea Musgrave is frequently interviewed and questioned about being a "woman" composer, to which she has replied; "Yes, I am a woman; and I am a composer. But rarely at the same time."