Archive for September, 2007

The phenomenally gifted Harlem Quartet  offered the first three performances of  my new  String Quartet –  eight, seven and six days ago back East  (Cornell, Eastman, Syracuse).   I was able to be present only for the very first performance and without question  believe it to be  the best world premiere  to date of  any of my works. Yes, the audience response was prolonged and effusive – but  what  most touched me was the superb close attention to – and love of – my notes on the part of this great quartet.   This was the real deal:   They absolutely the music, and made it their own.    I was personally sure about this piece  once I had wrestled it into final form on the page –  but now, thanks to HQ,  anyone can hear it  just the way  I imagined it would sound.  Hats off to Ilmar, Melissa, Miguel and Desmond! 

Ed. Note:  The Harlem Quartet will be appearing at Carnegie Hall this Tuesday night, September 25, as part of the Sphinx Laureates Concert.

Comments No Comments »

Coming up this weekend is the premiere of my new String Quartet – The Figure, performed by the excellent Harlem Quartet.  ( 9/ 15 – Syracuse University,   9/16– Eastman ,  9/17 – Cornell) 

The 16-minute Quartet was composed in January and February, during  which time I felt almost as if  I was working in a trance:  the materials grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.    It is traditional in no way  –  not in its forms, nor  its sounds nor  its character.   It’s cast in 2 movements,  but only as I was about half-way through the second did the a title  suggest itself.   (Playing on the fact that the term “figure” is  meaningful in visual arts and literature, as well as in music.)

Everything in the Quartet derives from the materials of its tripartite figure.   And since these are revealed differently in the two movements – obscured in the first;  in the second initially outlined harshly, but then interrupted  increasingly by a softened, melodic version of  itself –   I  titled each movement accordingly:   1 -  In Shadow ,    2 – In Bright Light.
 
Overall  the Quartet is  dramatic in its character, but woven in its form.  It changes on a dime from inward to outward musics,  from  romantic sweep to  angular exclamation –   at one point  (at the height of  Shadow’s  central sprint),  I ask the players to stamp their feet,  several times,   for unison emphasis – and the movements  interrelate .    Example:  There’s a shard which appears only once in the first movement that  in the second becomes  seriously meaningful.

The Harlem Quartet is very interested in the piece, and we’ve already had some spirited rehearsals (by electronic means); we meet in person at Syracuse on Friday.

[Five other of my works will also be done at Syracuse across  the two  Saturday concerts. ]

Comments No Comments »

During September and October  in addition to first  performances of  three brand-new pieces there’ll be a  sort-of first performance of a fourth.  This  ‘sort-of’ premiere  (at Syracuse University, September 15th 8:00 PM)  is of my Serenade  for Violin and Organ. 
        
At times composers can’t accurately predict  what will spark performer interest.  I know it’s a surprise to me  sometimes: More than once when I’ve written a piece just for myself to play that  caught on with other pianists,  developing  a hardy  after-life.  

Serenade was composed in one day in March of 2006, originally for piano.  A  close relative’s serious illness had me brooding, so I sat down to write music  she would enjoy hearing.   She loves the kind of lush jazz chords typical of ‘40s big-bands, so I began with the same major-7th chord as  David Raksin used in  “Laura”  and progressed from there in  sustained quiet affect.    The resulting  five-minute movement is something of a lone-wolf  — it stays  in one meter throughout with a  circular melody that never resolves;  and  the music begins and ends almost without definition.  Because  its background rhythm is a consistent  slow syncopation, I included it on the Prestidigitations CD as  coda.

When the Syracuse concert came up,  the organ professor wanted to play, so I  suggested he adapt Serenade ( a melody with  worked-out harmonic support ) and sent along the music.   He really liked it and slated the transcribed version for the mid-September concert (I’ll be there).

The music is mine, but this version is his.  Vested interest is spread, and anticipated pleasure in the offering is shared.  (A report on the transcription  will follow later this month.) 

Comments No Comments »