Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Krzysztof Penderecki Visits UB

Krzysztof Penderecki, composer
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
3:00PM | Baird Recital Hall

University at Buffalo is thrilled to welcome world renowned composer and conductor, Krzysztof Penderecki to speak as part of the on-going Composer Seminar Series.  Maestro Penderecki will be presenting this talk at the University at Buffalo in addition to his appearance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in early December, leading the orchestra in a program which will center on his Concerto for Violin and Cello.  The BPO is also an avid supporter and participant of the Center's June in Buffalo program.

Maestro Penderecki's biography is as follows:

Maestro Krzysztof Penderecki
Born on November 23, 1933, in Dębica, Poland, Krzysztof Penderecki began studying composition under Franciszek Skolyszewski. He later studied at the Krakow Conservatory under Artur Malawski and Stanislaw Wiechowicz and graduated in 1958. He was then appointed as a professor at the Conservatory. Between 1966 and 1968, Penderecki was a lecturer at the Volkwang Hochschule für Musik in Essen, Germany. In 1968, he received a grant from the German Academic Exchange Organisation — DAAD. He was appointed rector of the Krakow Conservatory in 1972. In the years between 1972 and 1978, Krzysztof Penderecki was a professor at the Yale University School of Music.

Krzysztof Penderecki’s first public appearance on an international level was in 1959 at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. There he performed Strophen, one of three works for which he received first prizes at the 2nd National Young Composers Competition. The other two works were Psalms of David and Emanations.

In 1959, he composed Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. For this, one of his best known and most often performed compositions, he received the UNESCO prize. This piece was followed by a series of success: in 1960 at the Donaueschinger Musiktage with Anaklasis, the following year with Polymorphia, Phonograms, and Psalm, and in 1966, St. Luke Passion, the first major work of his career.

The following year brought the composition and performance of another major choral work, Dies Irae, known also as the Auschwitz Oratorio.

In 1968-69, Penderecki wrote his first opera, The Devils of Loudun, commissioned by the Hamburg State Opera where it had its world premiere in 1969.

In 1972, Penderecki began his conducting career. Since that year, he has been seen on the podiums of the most important orchestras of the world.

Penderecki completed his Symphony No. 1 in 1973 and led the world premiere at Peterborough in England.

Penderecki’s second stage work, Paradise Lost — the Sacra Rappresentazione is based on a libretto by Christopher Fry after Milton. It had its premiere at the Lyric Opera in Chicago on November 29, 1978. In January, 1979, Penderecki conducted a stage production of Paradise Lost at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and, having been invited by Pope John Paul II, gave a concert at the Vatican. The world premiere of Penderecki’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 took place in Basle in April, 1977 with Isaac Stern. Zubin Mehta conducted the first performance of the Symphony No. 2 in New York on May 1, 1980.

On January 11, 1983, Penderecki conducted the premiere of his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 2, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic with Mstislav Rostropovich as the soloist. It was followed by the Concerto for Viola and Orchestra which had its world premiere in 1983 in Caracas, and by the Polish Requiem. The Requiem premiered in 1984 and was commissioned by the Würtemberg Radio and State Theater to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

The world premiere of Penderecki’s third opera, The Black Mask, based on the play by Gerhart Hauptmann, was the focus of attention at the 1986 Salzburg Festival. It was followed by performances in Vienna and the first U.S. performance took place at the Santa Fe Opera during the summer of 1988.

In March 1987 Penderecki’s Song of Cherubim for a cappella choir was premiered at a gala concert given in Washington D.C. for Mstislav Rostropovich’s 60th birthday. Veni Creator, also for a cappella choir, was conducted by Penderecki himself when he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Madrid in 1987. That same year, he received the Karl-Wolf Award from the Israel Wolf-Foundation.

In 1988 Penderecki received a Grammy Award for his Concerto for Cello No. 2. In November 1989, Lorin Maazel conducted Penderecki’s Symphony No. 4, Adagio, commissioned by the French Government for the bicentennial of the French Revolution.

The premiere of Penderecki’s fourth opera, King Ubu (based on Alfred Jarry), took place on July 6, 1991 at the Munich State Opera.

In December 1996 Krzysztof Penderecki completed Seven Gates of Jerusalem, which closed the celebrations of 3000 years of Jerusalem. In February 1997 he was awarded the Crystal Award in Davos, Switzerland. The world premiere of Penderecki’s Hymn to St. Daniil took place on 4 October 1997 in Moscow. The piece was commissioned by Channel Six of Moscow Television to mark 850 years of Moscow. Penderecki’s Hymn to St. Adalbert was written to mark the millennium of Gdańsk and was premiered on 18 October 1997.

In 1999 Krzysztof Penderecki received two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, (Violin Concerto No. 2 – “Metamorphosen” performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter) and for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (Penderecki Violin Concerto No. 2 under the composer’s baton). On 23 January 2000, Krzysztof Penderecki received the “Best Living Composer” award at the Midem Classic in Cannes and in October 2000 an honorary doctorate from the University of Luzern.

In October 2001 the Jury of the Principe de Asturias Foundation awarded him the prestigious Principe de Asturias de las Artes Award 2001. In December, Krzysztof Penderecki became an honorary member of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in Hong Kong.

In 2005, Penderecki was awarded the Order of the White Eagle — Poland’s highest decoration. In 2006 he received the Three Star Order in Latvia. In autumn 2007 the composer became the Honorary Professor of St. Petersburg Rimsky- Korsakov State Conservatory and in 2008, the Honorary Professor of Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory. On 14 April 2008, Penderecki received the “Orły 2008” Award for his music for Andrzej Wajda’s film Katyń.

In 2009, Penderecki received the Ordre de Mérite du Grand-Duché de Luxemburg and an Honorary Order from the President of the Republic of Armenia. (Biography credited to the webpage of Krzysztof Penderecki and the BPO)


We hope to see you Tuesday afternoon with Krzysztof Penderecki!

Maestro Penderecki's conducting of the BPO is Saturday, December 3 at 8:00PM with a beginning lecture at 7:00PM.  Visit www.bpo.org for ticket information.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Mathew Rosenblum visits Buffalo to present lecture and masterclass

Mathew Rosenblum, composer
Masterclass and Lecture
November 11, 2016 
2:00PM | 352 Baird Music School

The University at Buffalo is excited to welcome esteemed composer Mathew Rosenblum to present a masterclass and lecture this week.  The masterclass will feature current graduate student composers from the university.  Dr. Rosenblum has been a frequent visitor to the Buffalo area, including his time as a Senior Faculty Composer at the June in Buffalo Festival in 2009.

His biography is as follows:

Mathew Rosenblum, composer
With diverse musical elements derived from classical, jazz, rock, and world music traditions, Mathew Rosenblum’s compositions offer “an ear-buzzing flood of sound, rich in unusual overtones” (The Boston Globe), The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette proclaimed that his work Mobius Loop was “richly layered… and that it “shimmered with vibrancy.” A wide array of groups have commissioned, performed, and recorded his music such as the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Harry Partch Institute, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, the Calmus Ensemble of Leipzig, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, FLUX Quartet, Mantra Percussion as well as many others. Using a variety of tuning systems, his work does not live within traditional boundaries, creating a compellingly fresh landscape.

Rosenblum spearheaded the highly successful Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival at The Andy Warhol Museum where his new work, "Ostatnia runda (Last Round)" composed for FLUX Quartet and Mantra Percussion was premiered. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it "impressive,” “visceral” and “tribal.” The New York Times said of the N.Y. premiere of Rosenblum’s work, Falling, that it “overshadowed” everything else on the program, it was “rapt, fretful, eerily suspended.” George Grella of New York Classical Reviewstated: “Falling blends electronics, spoken word, and live music more effectively than most other such efforts. The piece compresses foreground and background into a rich, floating mass… the path into the heart of the piece is both clear and infinite.”

His works have been performed throughout the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia including at the ISCM World Music Days in Oslo, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, De Ijsbreker in Amsterdam, the Tonhalle in Düsseldorf, the Bing Theater in LA, Prince Mahidol Hall in Bangkok, Sala Nezahualcóyotl in Mexico City, and at the Sonic Boom Festival, the Kitchen, Merkin Hall, Symphony Space, the Guggenheim Museum, and Miller Theatre in New York City.
In July of 2015 he was a featured composer at the Thailand International Composition Festival. In 2009 he was a Senior Faculty Composer at the June in Buffalo Festival. Other honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, four Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Music Fellowship Grants, a Heinz Endowments Creative Heights Award, two Fromm Foundation Commissions, a National Endowment for the Arts Music Fellowship Grant, a Barlow Endowment Commission, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Artists Fellowship Grant. He has also received awards and fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Institute of Contemporary American Music, the Rockefeller Foundation, BMI, the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Hambidge Center, and Yaddo.

He received degrees in composition from the New England Conservatory of Music and Princeton University and is currently Professor of Composition at the University of Pittsburgh where he also co-directs the Music on the Edge new music series. His works appear on the MODE, New World Records, Albany, BMOP/sound, Capstone, Opus One, and CRI Emergency Music labels and is published by C.F. Peters Corporation and Plurabelle Music (distributed by Subito Music Corporation).

We hope you will join us for this day of exploration in composition and learning with Dr. Rosenblum!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Slee Sinfonietta Concert

Slee Sinfonietta Concert
Tuesday, October 25
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall

Slee Sinfonietta's second concert of the semester will be presented this week, conducted by Maestro Julien Leroy and will feature prominent violinist, Alexandra Greffin-Klein.  The program will feature four innovative, modern works that encompass a wide array of styles and composer nationalities. 

The concert will begin with British composer, Jonathan Harvey’s Scena (1992) written for  violin soloist and chamber ensemble of nine instruments.  Scena invokes an almost operatic scene, wherein the violinist is a soprano diva who guides the audience through five linked tableaux.  The scenes are labeled as Lament, Mystical Event, Romantic Event, Dream, and Metamorphosis.  Just as the scene titles suggest, Scena has a definite evolution over the course of the piece; beginning with much agitation and then ending in stillness and peace.  Alexandra Greffin-Klein will feature as the violin soloist.

AAA (1996) by French composer Philippe Leroux comes second on our program.  Leroux has been established as an inventive contemporary composer who produces works that are complex, expressive, and have been influenced by mystical inspirations; his works have interests of microtonality and an almost theatrical poetic dimension.  He has also been greatly influenced by the  musical phrasing styles of François Bayle and György Ligeti.  It is a piece scored for flute, clarinet, violin, alto, cello, piano and percussion.

Presented as the third selection of the evening is the beautifully atonal, Lumen (1975), by Italian composer, Franco Donatoni.  The piece is scored for six instruments in groups of two: viola and cello (who play the rhythmic elements in the piece), celesta and vibraphone (a harmonic role), with sweeping arpeggios and some colorful chords against the strings’ rhythms, and a piccolo and bass clarinet, who play sweeping song against the background of the ensemble.

Slee Sinfonietta will close the program with Requiescat (2010) by University at Buffalo’s own distinguished American composer, Dr. David Felder.  Requiescat is for bass flute, contrabass clarinet, percussion, piano/celeste, two violins, viola, violoncello, bass, eight channels of electronics, and the prominent role of guitar; a truly standout work.  As stated on the composer’s own faculty site, “Harmonic series and held altissimo notes ring out from various parts of the ensemble, juxtaposed against delicate guitar arpeggiations and beautifully complex coruscating harmonies from other corners.  Felder uses register and space wisely, keeping the orchestra out of the guitar’s way while still giving them a great deal of interesting music to play.”  Requiescat is filled with suspense and dramatic tension, not a piece to be missed.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for all seniors, UB Faculty/Staff/Alumni, and non-UB students. All UB students with a valid ID are admitted free of charge.

Tickets may be purchased in person at UB's Center for the Arts box office, Monday-Friday between 10am-6pm, online at www.tickets.com (service charges apply), or one hour before concert time in the box office adjacent to the concert hall.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Slee Sinfonietta Concert

Slee Sinfonietta Concert

Tuesday, September 20
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
*Pre-concert lecture will be at 7:00pm for Pierrot Lunaire

Today the Slee Sinfonietta will present their first concert of the 2016-2017 season, conducted by Maestro Case Scaglione.  The program will feature works by two of music history’s most innovative composers, Arnold Schoenberg and Pierre Boulez.  UB Faculty Member Professor Tiffany Du Mouchelle will feature as a guest artist during the concert.

Slee Sinfonietta, credit to Irene Haupt
The program begins with Pierre Boulez’s hypnotic Dérive 1 (1984) for six instruments (flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, vibraphone, and piano).  Translated roughly as “derivative,” this piece is derived from two compositions Répons (1981) and Messagesquisse (1976), and explores colorful textures through statement and decoration of various rotating themes and chords.  Boulez was one of the prominent figures of 20th century classical music.

The second piece of the evening is Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, a string sextet orchestrated with two violins, two violas, and two cellos, composed in 1899.  Literally meaning “Transfigured Night,” the piece was inspired by a poem of the same name by Richard Dehmel.  The poetry depicts a nighttime stroll of a man and woman through a dark forest on a moonlit night, where the woman shares a dark secret with her lover.  Mysterious and tonal with a twist, this piece has a striking resemblance to German late-Romanticism, with influences apparent of Brahms and Wagner.  The work features five sections which resemble the structure of the poem it is based upon and has musical themes that related the narrative woven throughout.  Verklärte Nacht is one of the earliest examples of program music that was written for a chamber ensemble and a thrilling early example of Schoenberg’s work.

The program will close with Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, one of his most loved and well-known compositions.  Composed for voice and flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano; it is a melodramatic song cycle based upon 21 poems from Otto Hartleben’s German translation of Albert Giraud’s cycle of French poems of the same name.  Meaning literally, “Pierrot in the Moonlight,” the piece is traditionally sung by a soprano voice, and calls for the vocal art of Sprechstimme, or speech voice.  The audience is treated to three groups of seven poems, each group having its own theme.  In the first group, Pierrot sings about love, sex, and religion; the second group of violence, crime, and blasphemy; and the third of his return home.

Pierrot Lunaire, credit: Schoenberg Facsimiles

Pierrot Lunaire is associated primarily with the Expressionism movement, where the music focuses more on dissonances rather than consonance, and gives an unfinished or ‘unsettled’ feeling to its listeners. The piece is atonal and generated from ten-note motifs, but does not make use of the 12 tone method that Schoenberg is so well known for.  Pierrot Lunaire is arguably one of Schoenberg’s most famous works, not one to be missed.

UB Faculty member Professor Tiffany Du Mouchelle, who wrote her dissertation on the performance of Pierrot Lunaire, will offer a pre-concert talk beginning at 7:00pm.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for all seniors, UB Faculty/Staff/Alumni, and non-UB students. All UB students with a valid ID receive one complimentary ticket to all UB Music Department concerts.

Tickets may be purchased in person at UB's Center for the Arts box office, Monday-Friday between 10am-6pm, online at www.tickets.com (service charges apply), or one hour before concert time in the box office adjacent to the concert hall.

2016 - 2017 Calendar of Events

As University at Buffalo enters a new academic year, the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is excited to present our 2016-2017 Calendar of Events.  This season will consist of a host of stimulating music for the adventurous listener, given in performance by Slee Sinfonietta, Ensemble Signal Mivos Quartet, Dal Niente, and other stellar ensembles.

Photo credit: Irene Haupt
This year the Center will feature an exciting array of international artists, including Stockholm Chamber Brass, violinists Curt Macomber and Alexandra Greffen Klein, Mise En New Music Ensemble, and soprano Juliet Fraser; all artists will present concerts on music at the forefront of the contemporary music scene, and work directly with Buffalo composers during workshops for students.  Featured during our Vising Lecture Series will be renowned composers such as Mathew Rosenblum, Hans Thomalla, and Hilda Paredes.

Photo credit: Irene Haupt
To cap off the season, June in Buffalo, the Center’s annual festival and conference will host both international and regional artists, including composers Eivind Buene, David Dzubay, Brian Ferneyhough, Henrik Hellstenius, Jeffrey Mumford and the festival’s artistic director, David Felder.  In addition, a number of ensembles will participate in the festival; these include the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Dal Niente, Ensemble Signal, and Slee Sinfonietta.

See below for our full calendar of events, or visit the Center’s website for more information.


2016 – 2017 Schedule of Events

Visiting Lecture Series

September 25-26, 2016
Stockholm Chamber Brass of Stockholm, Sweden

October 19-21, 2016
Curt Macomber, violin
Julliard, Manhattan School of Music

October 22-25, 2016
Alexandra Greffen Klein, violin
Paris, France

November 11, 2016
Mathew Rosenblum, composer
University of Pittsburgh

March 11
Hans Thomalla, composer
Northwestern University

March 15-17, 2017
Ensemble Mise En
New York, NY

March 29, 2017
Hilda Paredes, composer

March 30-31, 2017
Arditti Quartet

May 4-5, 2017
Juliet Fraser, soprano

Slee Sinfonietta

September 20, 2016
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall, Slee Hall
Case Scaglione, conductor
Tiffany Du Mouchelle, soprano
Featuring works of Boulez and Schoenberg

October 25, 2016
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall, Slee Hall
Julien LeRoy, conductor
Alexandra Greggen Klein, violin solo
Featuring works of Donatoni, Felder, Harvey, Leroux

April 11, 2016
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall, Slee Hall
Robert Treviño, conductor
Amanda Pabyan, soprano
Corby Welch, tenor
Featuring Schoenberg transcription of Mahler and Debussy

June 6, 2016
7:30pm | Lippes Concert Hall, Slee Hall
Featuring works of June in Buffalo faculty composers

June in Buffalo 2017

June 5th – 11th, 2017
David Felder, Artistic Director

Faculty Composers
Eivind Buene
David Dzubay
David Felder
Brian Ferneyhough
Henrik Hellstenius
Jeffrey Mumford

Resident Ensembles
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Ensemble Signal
Dal Niente
Mivos Quartet

Slee Sinfonietta

Friday, June 10, 2016

Transformation and Heat: An Interview with David Felder

In our final profile of June in Buffalo faculty composers, we sit down with David Felder, JiB's Artistic Director and Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition at UB.  Felder has been directing the festival since 1985, when he restarted it with a new vision aimed toward providing young composers with a chance to hear their works realized by professional ensembles.  During this year's festival, three of Felder's works will be performed:  Dal Niente will present Rare Air (2008), a collection of short movements for clarinet, piano, and electronics, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Linebacker Music (1994).  The festival will also feature the premiere of Felder's newest work, Netivot, a virtuosic three-movement composition for string quartet and electronics, which was composed for the Arditti QuartetNetivot marks the third work Felder has composed for the Ardittis, a collaboration which began in 1986 with Third Face, and continued through 2007's Stuck-stücke (a selection from the latter, performed by the Ardittis, can be heard below).

Edge of the Center sat down with Felder to discuss Netivot, as well as the other pieces and the festival itself:

What were your main goals when you began composing Netivot?

Netivot is my third quartet for the Ardittis.  I have had a longer relationship personally and professionally with Irvine and that extraordinary group than with any other performers.  I think of the quartets I've written as a body, an entity with a variety of parts, and it is my hope to compose more quartets. This one is markedly different that the first two—in working with the group over this long period of time one is not only permitted but encouraged to innovate.  I explored an inner world in this work, with only a few regions of the more typically extroverted and kinetic music that I'd previously composed for the quartet.

The piece draws a lot from vowel formants, is there an underlying text from which these sounds are drawn?  What role do the electronics play in the piece?

The work revolves around sources that will have to remain largely offstage.  Let me just say that there is source material but it is not text per se—the musical material is abstracted from an array of some biblical text.  The relationship between the electronics and the onstage materials of the quartet is entirely consistent with what I've always done.  They are fully integrated into a whole musical object at each moment and are designed to create a multi-dimensional representation of that moment.

What do the Hebrew movement headings refer to ("Devekut," "Hitbodedut," "àmud ànan/àmud èsh"), and how significant are these extra-musical references to the work?

The overall title refers to spiritual pathways, connections among many identifiable nodal points, or regions, each one a continuity of experiencing, not an aim in itself.  The first movement works with powers of concentration and fine attention; the second movement responds to an unfolding metaphoric, imagistic landscape as a consequent of the first movement and begins to develop rudimentary song from an intonation of specific scale points and formants—musical objects as things arise and disappear; and in the last movement, the linear becomes vertical in two chorales;  The third movement's title refers to pillars of cloud and of fire.  Each region has its own feel, but all of the individual phrases and materials are made of the same basic stuff.

Many of your recent pieces make reference (implicitly or explicitly) to spiritual concepts and/or practices.  Typically, one associates the idea of "spiritual music" with more muted and reflective characteristics, but your works are often, as you say, "extroverted and kinetic." Where is the connection for you between spirituality and such powerful physical gestures?

Alchemically speaking, transformation from one thing to another requires heat.

The piece is very difficult and demanding, even in places where the sounding result is more subdued.  Is the drama of performative virtuosity something you specifically sought out in this piece, or is it simply a result of the harmonic and textural ideas you were working with?  Since you worked closely with the Ardittis during the process of composition, what would you say their contribution was to the realization of the work?

Just a few points here—the formation itself is a kind of Ferrari, and in my first two quartets I intended to exploit the more overt aspects of performative virtuosity.  But the Ardittis can do just about anything, and so looking at other aspects of virtuoso performance was a great opportunity for me—I intended to explore a finer inner micro-world and to ask the quartet to merge the live performance with the multi-layered of electronics.  Next March, we will present the work in what we hope will be its final shape—my great friend Elliot Caplan is collaborating with us on a video portion, and the work will be presented here in that way.  In working with the quartet, they graciously provided recorded feedback on several occasions during the process.  I absolutely need real acoustic feedback when I write, especially in a work which is 'new' for me, and I am deeply grateful to the quartet for their immense help throughout the process.  Working with them has been one of my great joys in my creative career.

With regard to the other works on the festival, Rare Air, as a series of miniatures, seems to be unique among your works.  What attracted you to smaller forms in this piece, and how do you think it differs from your other works?

Since our culture seems to place incredible value on ad campaigns and commercials, with thematically linked and developing characters who we can identify and presumably identify with (the GEICO Neanderthal, Flo the Progressive saleswoman, etc.), I decided to make a set of commercials with linked thematic materials that would interrupt the regular flow of a concert.  Clarinetist Jean Kopperud encouraged me to do something I had always wanted to do, but hadn't, and so…

I am guessing by Rare Air's movement titles "Boxmundsson" and "Boxmunsdottir", that the piece has some relation to BoxMan, your earlier work for trombone and electronics?  Is that correct?

I love the Nordic tradition in family naming, so we have dottirs and ssuns, with cartoon versions of cantus firmi expropriated from my earlier piece BoxMan and realized anew for bass clarinet and piano.

You say in Linebacker Music's program note that the piece is based around a series of 'macro-crescendos', can you elaborate on this idea?

Linebacker is a kind of concert overture that offers a tribute to the physical.  It was composed during my time as composer-in-residence with the BPO in the early-mid 90's, and was designed to speak to our local community as a part of its charge.  It turns the Buffalo Bills 'shout' theme on its head, and attempts to replicate imagining the experience of being in a lot of traffic, in the way that a linebacker in football has to sort through the tremendous wash all around in order to deliver impact.  There are a set of hits at the end of the piece followed by a sad little moan intended to remind the locals that yes, indeed, we went to four Superbowls in a row and lost them all.

Finally, June in Buffalo celebrated a big anniversary last year, with it being the 40th anniversary of the festival and your 30th anniversary as Artistic Director.  With this being the first year after such a milestone, where do you see the festival moving forward, beginning with this year and in years to come?

The festival is always a function of the individuals who are brought together for the week, all of the composers and performers.  Nothing changes about that; but we’ll have new groups and new composers coming more regularly in each of the next years and for the foreseeable future.  It is exciting each year to be a part of those dynamics.  There could be some occasional thematically based years sprinkled in as well…

We'll look forward to hearing Netivot's first performance, as well as Rare Air and Linebacker Music.  We're also excited to see where the festival takes audiences and participants this year, and how it will continue to grow and transform in years to come.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: Games of Colors

The last of the June in Buffalo resident ensemble's we'll profile is the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.  This year, the BPO continues its annual tradition of closing out the festival with a concert of orchestral works by faculty composers, and this year's program will feature works by Abrahamsen, Felder, Stucky, and Ung, under the direction of BPO music director, JoAnn Falletta.

JoAnn Falletta
Falletta has been praised by the Washington Post as having "Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein."  In addition to being the BPO's music director, she directs the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and serves as Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center.  Under her direction, the BPO has recorded frequently for the Naxos label, earning six Grammy nominations, and received a double Grammy Award in 2009 for their recording of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man:  Seven Poems of Bob Dylan (2003) with Hila Plitmann.

Sunday's BPO program will open with David Felder's Linebacker Music, a work commissioned by the orchestra during the early-1990s, when the Buffalo Bills were one of the country's most successful teams (making it to the super bowl four consecutive years).  Felder's piece "epitomize[s] the strength, speed, power, and indeed the fury and violence of the game of football."  Herman Trotter of the Buffalo News said of the piece:  "Don't expect Linebacker Music to remind you of The Blue Danube. Wholly consistent with its subject matter, it has a very declamatory opening, then proceeds to be stridently aggressive and percussion-laced, and to convey a feeling of massive strength at all times."  (To read more about the piece, see our interview with the composer).

Chinary Ung's Water Rings "Overture" (1993) will follow.  The work, while much more subdued than his other works (avoiding the dramatic gestures common to the Spirals series), maintains the expressive language the composer is known for.  Ung wrote the work quickly, and it functions as a sort of improvisation, with the composer positioned inside the orchestra, playing it as if it were the traditional Cambodian Pinpeat ensemble.  As such, the piece, as the program note explains, "uses dance rhythms and folk tunes from Cambodia, and while the instrumental writing is not as florid as his other works, the parts are drawn with the same characteristic nuance, elegantly shaped and generously inflected."

Steven Stucky
The concert will close with Jeu de timbres, a brief, single-movement composition by Steven Stucky.  The new music world was shocked and saddened to hear of his death from cancer earlier this year, as he was one of the most widely performed and celebrated American composers.  Stucky was a June in Buffalo regular, and was on the faculty at last year's festival (see our profile of Stucky from last year's series on JiB faculty), at which audiences heard his 2005 Piano Quartet performed by Performance Institute faculty, and Refrains (1979) for percussion quintet realized by Talujon.  This year will mark the second time the BPO has performed Jeu de timbres at the festival, the first being when Stucky himself was on faculty in 2012.  That performance was praised by Allan Kozinn of the New York Times as "packed with shimmering string and woodwind textures yet with a changeability and bite that are among the most recognizable hallmarks of Mr. Stucky’s music."  Stucky himself described the piece as "[spending] most of its energy on rhythmic verve and luminous orchestral colors.  […]  The title (play, or game, of musical colors) both alludes to these Gallic tendencies in general and makes a small, specific inside joke: jeu de timbres is the French name for the orchestra bells or glockenspiel, an instrument that makes an occasional appearance in this piece.  There are other inside jokes, too, including two admiring glances at works by Ravel—one oblique, the other (at the end) quite direct."

We look forward to hearing Buffalo's orchestra close out the festival as it always does, with exciting new works by faculty composers, presenting all variety of dramatic gestures and games of color.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Arditti Quartet: Prolific Collaboration

Arditti Quartet
Few ensembles have made as significant a mark on the world of contemporary composition as the Arditti Quartet.  Since their formation by first violinist Irvine Arditti in 1974, hundreds of pieces have been composed especially for them, and many of these works—by the likes of Andriessen, Birtwistle, Cage, Carter, Ferneyhough, Gubaidulina, Kurtág, Lachenmann, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Sciarrino, Stockhausen, and Xenakis among many others—have themselves had significant resonances throughout the music world.  This year, June in Buffalo is excited to count the Ardittis as one of the festival's many renowned resident ensembles.

The Arditti Quartet has received a number of prestigious awards for their contributions to the field, including winning the Deutsche Schallplatten Preis multiple times, as well as Gramophone Awards for "Best Recording of Contemporary Music" in 1999 for recordings of Carter and again in 2002 for recordings of Birtwistle.  Also in 1999, they became the only ensemble to receive the celebrated Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for "Lifetime Achievement" in music.  More recently, they were awarded the "Coup de Coeur" prize by the Academie Charles Cros in France for their work in disseminating contemporary music.

Prolific both onstage and in the studio, the Arditti Quartet has recorded over 200 CDs, creating one of the most extensive collections of contemporary quartet literature.  Significant entries include the first digital recordings of the complete string chamber music of the Second Viennese School, the complete chamber music of Xenakis (see below for a classic recording of 1978's Ikhoor), and Stockhausen's (in)famous Helicopter Quartet, among other significant works by the likes of Berio, Nono, Rihm, Harvey, Gerhard, and Paredes.  Because the quartet finds that close collaboration with composers is essential to interpreting the broad spectrum of works in the field, many of these recordings are made with the composers on hand in the studio.  The same is true for their concert performances, as the Ardittis attempt to work with every composer whose music they play.  This ethic expands into their educational work as well:  through masterclasses and workshops for young performers and composers, the quartet has had a significant role in guiding a younger generation of artists around the world.  This will continue at June in Buffalo, as the Ardittis will present two workshops at which they will perform works by emerging composers.

Franco Donatoni
In addition to these workshops, the quartet will present an evening program which will feature works by JiB faculty, alongside Franco Donatoni's La Souris sans sourire ("The Mouse without a Smile," 1988).  Donatoni's work is marked by a comic frenzy, with Carl Stalling-esque evocations of exaggerated gestures and animated pursuits.  The program will also include Joshua Fineberg's La Quintina (2012) a work inspired by the repertoire of Sardinian vocal polyphony in which four singers manage to create an phantom fifth voice via overtones and intonation (for more on this piece, see our profile on Fineberg).  

The program then moves into Hans Abrahamsen's Fourth Quartet, a work originally commissioned for the Ardittis in the early 1990s, but which was only recently completed.  The piece is marked by a quiet, soft music of icy string harmonics, which the composer describes in German as "hoch im Himmel gesungen…" ("High singing in heaven…").  The piece consists of four movements each with their own scordatura.  The opening texture of the first movement treads territory not unlike that of Abrahamsen's Schnee:  high, delicate—even brittle—airy melodies.  The compose describes the following movements:
The second movement is fast and "movement and joy"-like.  It consists of two duets and a reverse-style counterpoint.  […]  "Dark, heavy and earthy" is the third movement and its pizzicato recalls big black raindrops falling to the ground.  It is the dark and grainy counterpart to the first movement, whereas the fourth movement corresponds to the second.  The fourth movement was planned as a dark and heavy counterpart but it turned out to be like "babbling" music of a child.
Finally, the piece will close with the world premiere of David Felder's Netivot, for quartet and electronics, a work that manages an effective balance between dense virtuosity and pensive reflection through an evocative harmonic language extracted from vowel formants.  (More on this piece in our upcoming profile of David Felder).

In performing these works, as well as the works of the festival's young composers, the Arditti continue their longstanding tradition of assisting artists in realizing their ideas, a collaborative practice which has and which will continue to make them an integral ensemble in the contemporary field.