Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bryce Dessner's Aheym

Today, let’s look at a composer who comes from Cincinnati and frequently returns for collaborations with the CSO. Who might I be referring to? Bryce Dessner – the founder of the MusicNOW Festival.

Though primarily known as a guitarist with The National, Dessner also has made quite the career for himself as a composer! He has had a good number of commissions from major ensembles including the LA Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet, and the New York City Ballet. He has also written works for artists including Jennifer Koh and Katia and Marielle Labeque.

Growing up in Cincinnati, Dessner began his music studies on the flute, but quickly moved to classical guitar. He also had a band with his brother and often wondered how he might fuse the two musical paths. This task turned into a successful and creative career.

What works by Dessner are you familiar with? Today, let’s look at a piece commissioned by the Kronos Quartet in 2009. Aheym (homeward in Yiddish) is dedicated his grandmother, who often told Bryce and his brother as children certain details of how she made it to America (the family includes Jewish immigrants). 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kevin Puts and the Marimba

Last time we looked at David Lang, a modern-day composer that Cincinnati audiences may be familiar with due to his CSO commission in 2014. But what about Kevin Puts? Does that name sound familiar? If you saw the Cincinnati Opera’s performance of the new opera Silent Night in 2014 then you know Kevin Puts, who just so happened to win the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for this work!

Kevin Puts is known around the world as a talented composer. His operas, symphonies, and concertos have been performed by leading ensembles including the New York Philharmonic and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as top-tier soloists including Yo-Yo Ma and Evelyn Glennie. He received his education from the Eastman School of Music and Yale and currently teaches composition at the Peabody Institute and holds the Director position at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer’s Institute.

Today, let’s look at a fun work Puts wrote out of his love for Mozart piano concertos. Surprisingly, it’s not a piano concerto! It’s his Marimba Concerto, which is written so that the soloist interacts with the orchestra in a similar manner as what we find in Mozart’s piano concertos. Puts also used Mozart’s favored three-movement structure. One interesting fact about this piece is that each movement contains a subtitle that Puts took from his aunt’s poetry (Fleda Brown).

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

David Lang's the little match girl passion

This month, Clef Notes is looking at modern-day composers and new music. Many of you are likely familiar with the composer who takes the spotlight today. David Lang’s mountain was commissioned and performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra during their MusicNOW concert in 2014. It also appears on their Hallowed Ground album.

David Lang is one of the most-performed American composers today. His music has been heard globally, with performances by the BBC Symphony, eighth blackbird, the Santa Fe Opera, and more. Besides composing, Lang is also the co-founder and co-artistic director for Bang on a Can – a performing arts group in New York City that supports new, experimental music. He also teaches composition at Yale and is the artist-in-residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His many awards include a Pulitzer Prize, which he won for the little match girl passion. This creative work is based on the tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Lang weaves the story into his own re-writing of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion. What do you think?