"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.

Visit Lawrence Dillon's Web Site

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Monday, April 23, 2007
Metallaxis and Haas

Saturday night, the New York Woodwind Quintet gave the second U.S. performance of Evis Sammoutis’s Metallaxis here. Sammoutis is a 28-year-old Greek composer who moved to England in 1998, where he now teaches composition and guitar. The piece showcases a lot of the standard extended techniques, some of which are more effective than others, but uses them in a way that is more closely integrated with a central artistic vision than is often the case. In other words, the piece is more than a smorgasbord of individual dishes – all of the gestures emanate from the implications of the title, which is the ancient Greek word for transmutation. The piece also engages in some word play with the title, giving the horn a central role as a "metal axis" around which the other instruments revolve.

A good work for (as I’ve noted before) a challenging combination.

The really splendid piece on the program was Pavel Haas’s quintet. Haas, a Jewish composer from Czechoslovakia, died in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944. This piece, written when he was about thirty, is really terrific stuff, with glimpses of Janacek, Moravian modalities and Jewish liturgical music. The third movement is hilarious, and the second is sneak-up-on-you gorgeous.

Because of various travel issues, we had to completely revise the schedule for the quintet’s visit at the last minute, so I didn’t get the opportunity to spend as much time with the musicians as I had hoped. Despite that, though, one of the highlights for me was a very pleasant 4 am chat with Carol Wincenc about quintets, Italian boys’ names that end in A, and teenagers.