12/14: Aeolian Chamber Players celebrate 50th Anniversary

On December 14, Aeolian Chamber Players celebrates its fiftieth anniversary of music making at Symphony Space. (Tickets and more info here.) A longtime commissioner of new works, ACP found it fitting to celebrate with another commission: Huang Ruo’s Two Shades. It will be heard alongside other 20/21 pieces from their repertoire by Ralph Shapey, William Bolcom, George Crumb, Luciano Berio, and others.


Thursday, November 8: Duos at Symphony Space

On Thursday at Symphony Space, string duo Laurie Smukler (violin) and Joel Krosnick (cello) present a concert that includes both classical and contemporary duets. The program features one of the first musical tributes to Elliott Carter since his passing on Monday: the late work Tres Duetti. Krosnick, a former member of the Juilliard Quartet, collaborated closely with Carter, premiering and performing a number of his works. Another American composer with whom he worked closely was the self-styled “Radical Traditionalist” Ralph Shapey. Thursday’s concert has Duo Variations, a work by Shapey composed for Krosnick, slated for performance as well. Below, the cellist shares some words about knowing and working with Carter.

“For those of us who grew up as American musicians in the 1950′s playing the music of our time, and who have continued to do so until now,  Elliott Carter has been a seminal philosophical presence in our entire lives as musicians.  From the appearance of the astonishingly massive Quartet No. 1 in 1951, through the four other quartets culminating with the 5th Quartet in the late 1990′s, Mr. Carter has been, for just a small example, an integral part of the life of anyone who loved and played string quartets.  The Juilliard Quartet premiered the 2nd and 3rd Quartets of Mr. Carter, and of course played them all.  (We will play the 5th String Quartet at a Juilliard School concert on December 19, which was to be a celebration of Mr. Carter’s 104th birthday.)

“My first memorable experience with the music of Elliott Carter was of course the Cello Sonata from 1948, perhaps the most important cello sonata of my lifetime as a musician.  I had the great good fortune to be allowed by Mr. Carter to make an early recording of that great work in the mid 1960′s with the pianist Paul Jacobs for Nonesuch Records (followed in the 1990′s by a second recording of the work with my pianist partner, Gilbert Kalish, for Arabesque Records).  And since that time, I have had the privilege of being a part of innumerable performances over many years of the Cello Sonata, all five of the String Quartets, the Harpsichord Sonata, the Triple Duo, the Oboe Quartet, the Figment No. 1 for Solo Cello, the Tre Duetti for Violin and Cello,  the Piano Quintet, and the Clarinet Quintet (written for and premiered by Charles Neidich and the Juilliard String Quartet).


“As I have said, Elliott Carter has been a major presence in my life as a musician, almost from the start.  Even considering his advanced age of 103, it is suddenly astonishing that he will no longer be with us writing his great music.”

Event Details
In the Salon at Symphony Space
Laurie Smukler and Joel Krosnick
Thursday, November 8 at 7:30 PM
Nimoy Thalia Theater
Tickets here


Yesterday, I travelled to Fredonia University to give a talk about Ralph Shapey and my own music to the composition students there. Had a lovely time and got a chance to catch up with Rob Deemer and debrief about and decompress from the Sequenza 21 concert. It seems like a fine school and Rob is really building the program there into something special. Those looking for a place to study composition would do well to check it out.

Composition Class: Books and Listening List

 I’m teaching the composition class at Westminster Choir College for the first time this fall. The course includes all of the first-semester composition majors as well as non-majors interested in composing (or, perhaps, needing an elective).

We’re going to be using three books as texts during the term:

-                   Modal Counterpoint, in the Style of the Sixteenth Century, Ernst Krenek (Boosey).

-                   The Study of Fugue, Alfred Mann (Dover).

-                   A Basic Course in Music Composition, Ralph Shapey (Presser).

Each of these is a small primer on one of the big, central topics in the craft of composition: Sixteenth century counterpoint, fugue, and twentieth century composition approaches. I like that two of them are exercise-heavy – the Krenek and Shapey – while one includes a more historiographical approach, with plenty of examples from the literature. Each author strikes a different tone: Krenek is thorough-going, Mann authoritative and Shapey brilliantly creative, if a bit on the cranky side.

None of them are complete discussions of their respective topics. But each provides a tantalizing, instructive introduction. The three are easily portable; making them easy companions for student composers to take along to muse over on the quad, in the library, or off-campus. What’s more, the combined price tag is less than the cost of many textbooks.

Next up: the listening list. I’m very open to thoughts from Sequenza 21 contributors and readers. Which pieces do you think are essential listening and study for first-semester composers? Drop some suggestions in the comments section!

I have a feeling the toughest part of preparing the course will be winnowing this down to a manageable number of pieces!