Thursday, June 29, 2017

Peter Schickele and James Thurber

Peter Schickele is a composer, musician, and author who began his musical journey at a young age, composing and conducting four orchestral works and many chamber pieces and songs all before he finished his schooling! He then went on to study with Roy Harris, Darius Milhaud, and Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School of Music. Known for his works for orchestra, chorus, chamber groups, and movies and television, Schickele has received commissions from top ensembles including the National Symphony, the Minnesota Opera, and the Saint Louis Symphony. Perhaps you’ve heard his score to Where the Wild Things Are (2009)?

A fan of James Thurber’s drawings, Peter Schickele was commissioned to write a piece to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of Thurber’s birth. Have you heard Thurber’s Dogs? This fun work finds inspiration in six of Thurber’s dog sketches. Listen to one of the movements, “Dog Asleep” and view Thurber’s sketch here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Carter Pann's "The Cheese Grater"

You may be familiar with the composer Carter Pann if you’ve heard his piece “The Cheese Grater” on 90.9. This piece is a fun two-step for piano, inspired by the frequent accidents Carter has experienced with this utensil in the kitchen!

Pann is a composer and pianist based out of the University of Colorado Boulder. His many awards and recognitions include two Grammy nominations and a 2016 Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Music. He has worked with musicians around the world and major ensembles including the London Symphony, the City of Birmingham Symphony, and the Seattle Symphony. His work includes music for voice, chamber groups, orchestra, and wind ensembles.

Let’s wrap up our look at modern-day composers this month with Peter Schickele. Join me next time!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A World Premiere from Ellen Taafe Zwilich

Does the name Ellen Taafe Zwilich sound familiar? This month Clef Notes is exploring the music of modern-day composers and today, we will look at this woman who was the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music!

Ellen Taafe Zwilich has written many impressive works, commissioned and performed by the world’s top ensembles. She received her education from Juilliard and currently holds a professorship at Florida State University. Did you know that she received the Keys to the City from the Cincinnati mayor in 2000 after her Millennium Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Jesus Lopez-Cobos?

Perhaps you also heard a recent world premiere of one of her works, dedicated to and performed by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio for their 40th anniversary. Pas de Trois was premiered as part of the Linton Chamber Music Series during this past season. When you tune to 90.9 WGUC this Sunday, June 25 at 8pm, you’ll have the opportunity to hear this world premiere performance as part of our Music Cincinnati Series! 

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?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Philip Lasser

Known to blend Impressionism with characteristics of American music, Philip Lasser is a New York City-based composer who is on faculty at Juilliard. He boasts an impressive education, including studies with composer David Diamond and work with Narcis Bonet and Gaby Casadesus – both colleagues of Nadia Boulanger. He’s currently director of the European American Music Alliance, a school that trains composers, musicians, and conductors in the tradition of Boulanger. He’s also artistic director of Gaspard, a performing group based in New York City who focuses on performing French salon-type concerts.

Lasser’s works have been performed by the Atlanta Symphony, Seattle Symphony, New York Chamber Symphony, and others, by artists including Kristjan Jarvi, Zuill Bailey, and Simone Dinnerstein. You perhaps are familiar with one of his works, The Circle and the Child, a piano concerto written for Dinnerstein and sometimes heard on 90.9. Lasser used the Bach chorale Ihr Gestirn’, ihr hohen Lüfte as inspiration for this piece. Listen to him explain more about its conception here

And here’s a performance of The Circle andthe Child for your listening pleasure.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Peter Boyer

Peter Boyer is a name you’ve probably heard. A contemporary American composer, Boyer’s works are frequently performed by major orchestras across the globe, and often heard on classical radio stations, including WGUC! It’s likely you’ve heard his “Silver Fanfare” on 90.9 – this popular work comes from Boyer’s larger piece On Music’s Wings that he wrote for the Pacific Symphony. The “Silver Fanfare” movement can stand alone, and was later chosen to open the 2015 and 2016 Hollywood Bowl.

Boyer began work as a composer at the young age of 15. His first major work was a Requiem Mass written in memory of his grandma. Since then, he’s studied with many renowned composers including John Corigliano and Elmer Bernstein. It certainly makes sense that he spent time under learning from Bernstein since Boyer is also now quite active in the film and TV music industry. He has contributed orchestrations for about 30 Hollywood films including work done for Michael Giacchino, Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, James Horner, Alan Menken, and more. In addition to his work as a composer, Boyer conducts in his spare time! He’s been seen leading the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Hartford Symphony, and the Pasadena Symphony – just to name a few!

One of Boyer’s more major works that you perhaps might not be as familiar with is his Ellis Island: The Dream of America. This piece is for actors and orchestra and celebrates the American immigrant experience. Part of the performance includes projections of historical images from Ellis Island archives. The spoken portions come from real interviews with immigrants. Boyer worked to create monologues surrounded by complementary music. This piece was so successful that it was nominated for a Grammy award in 2006!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Daniel Dorff's Tweet

Daniel Dorff is a contemporary composer known especially for his flute and piccolo music, having even worked on arrangements for Sir James Galway! He first came on the scene at the age of 18 after winning first prize in the Aspen Music Festival’s annual composer’s competition. One of his teachers was the famous George Crumb, and over time his work has grown to be considered part of the standard repertoire. The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Minnesota Orchestra are just a few of the world-renown orchestras who have performed his work. Listen here to a fun little work written for unaccompanied piccolo.

Tweet was inspired by robins that woke Dorff up every morning during springtime.

Next time, we look at a composer you’ve likely heard often on 90.9 – Peter Boyer.