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Beijing Modern Music Festival Program Notes
Teresa McCollough, piano
Called "...elegantly musical as well as fully virtuosic” ( San Francisco Classical Voice) and "...a marvel...supremely musical and compelling" (Los Angeles Times) pianist Teresa McCollough, has developed an international reputation for her dynamic and expressive playing. As a leading interpreter and advocate for contemporary music, she has commissioned, premiered, and performed many new compositions by today’s emerging and established composers including Alvin Singleton, Lou Harrison, Joan Tower, Alex Shapiro, Belinda Reynolds, Zhou Long, Charles Griffin, David Rakowski, Tomas Svoboda, Henry Martin, George Crumb, Georgia Spriopoulos, and others.
McCollough has performed around the world, and appeared on both national and international television and radio. She has appeared with orchestras across the United States, and in festivals worldwide, including the Aspen Music Festival, the New American Music Festival, the Aki Festival of New Music, April in Santa Cruz, the Festivale Internationale di Cremona, Spoleto Festival-USA, and others.
Her new CD, Music for Hammers and Sticks (innova 630) with percussionists Tom Burritt and Peggy Benkeser, features new commissions for solo piano and percussion by composers Alvin Singleton, Alex Shapiro, Belinda Reynolds, Zhou Long, Steven Mackey and Joseph Harchanko.
McCollough lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she is also Associate Professor of Music at Santa Clara University. This is her first trip to China and she is honored to be playing on the Beijing Modern Music Festival.
George Crumb's reputation as a composer of hauntingly beautiful scores has made him one of the most frequently performed composers in today's musical world. From Los Angeles to Moscow, and from Scandinavia to South America, festivals devoted to the music of George Crumb have sprung up like wildflowers. Now celebrating his 75th birthday year, Crumb, the winner of a 2001 Grammy Award and the 1968 Pulitzer Prize in Music, continues to compose new scores that enrich the musical lives of those who come in contact with his profoundly humanistic art.
George Crumb's music often juxtaposes contrasting musical styles. The references range from music of the western art-music tradition, to hymns and folk music, to non-Western musics. Many of Crumb's works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his beautiful and meticulously notated scores. A shy, yet warmly eloquent personality, Crumb retired from his teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania after more than 30 years of service. Awarded honorary doctorates by numerous universities and the recipient of dozens of awards and prizes, Crumb makes his home in Pennsylvania, in the same house where he and his wife of more than 50 years raised their three children. George Crumb's music is published by C.F. Peters and the ongoing series of "Complete Crumb" recordings, supervised by the composer, is being issued on Bridge Records.
A Little Suite for Christmas, A.D. 1979
The idea of a set of piano pieces reflecting on different aspects of the Christmas event may remind the reader of the Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (1944) of Olivier Messiaen, and one can point to certain general stylistic traits shared by Messiaen and Crumb. But Crumb's work is on a much more modest scale than the French composer's massive pianistic compendium. In fact, it is a "little" suite by comparison with several earlier piano works by Crumb. It does not call for the piano to be amplified to create the "larger-than-life" sound quality desired in the four volumes of Makrokosmos (1972, 1973, 1974, 1979). Nor does the piece involve "symbolic" notations (where the staves are arranged in shapes of a cross or circle), vocal effects from the performer, or the use of additional objects to modify the piano sound, all of which appear in the Makrokosmos series. However, in the Little Suite, Crumb does continue in his refined use of harmonics, muted tones, and pizzicati, using these in combination with material performed on the keyboard in the conventional fashion.
The music created with these means is sometimes contemplative in mood, as in the hushed reverence of the second movement, or the surreal setting of the 16th century "Coventry Carol" in the sixth; sometimes visionary, as in the solemn repeated chords and melodic patterns of the first movement or the exuberant cosmic dance of the fifth.
Crumb uses a curious example of self-reference in the fourth piece. In this movement, there appears twice, in pizzicati, a melodic fragment from the "Wanderer-Fantasy" movement of Music for a Summer Evening. A connection is thus made with the Magi who have "wandered" from afar to Bethlehem. Although this is a particularly private example of musical symbolism, it is consistent with Crumb's use of quotation to add an additional level of musical expressiveness.
Emmy Award-winning composer Steve Heitzeg (b. 1959) is known for his orchestral and chamber works written in celebration of the natural world, with evocative and lyrical scores frequently including naturally-found instruments, such as stones, birch bark wind chimes, acorns, bones, sea glass shards and shells.
Heitzeg attracted attention with his score for PBS’ A Marriage: Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (starring Jane Alexander) in 1991 and for the award-winning children’s video On the Day You Were Born, released by the Minnesota Orchestra in 1996. He has addressed social and environmental justice issues with vision and compassion, in such works as Aqua (Hommage à Jacques-Yves Cousteau), Blessed Are the Peacemakers, Blue Liberty, Endangered, Nobel Symphony, Symphony to the Prairie Farm, Voice of the Everglades (Epitaph for Marjory Stoneman Douglas) and We Are Met at Gettysburg.
Heitzeg’s music has been performed by the Atlanta Symphony, Chanticleer, Dale Warland Singers, Detroit Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra and VocalEssence (formerly Plymouth Music Series), among others. Marin Alsop, Philip Brunelle, William Eddins, JoAnn Falletta, Giancarlo Guerrero, Jahja Ling, Lawrence Renes, Christopher Seaman, Joseph Silverstein and Dale Warland are among the conductors who have led his works. The recipient of a 2001 McKnight Fellowship, he has also received commissions and grants from the American Composers Forum, Meet The Composer, the Walker Art Center and the Jerome Foundation. In addition to concert and film music, Heitzeg composes ecoscores (intimate works with inventive musical syntax) that seek to honor the beauty and rights of nature.
His debut recording earthworks: music in honor of nature was released in April 1998. In 2000, he received a regional Emmy for his original score for the public television documentary Death of the Dream: Farmhouses in the Heartland. Heitzeg received his Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Minnesota, studying with Dominick Argento, and completed undergraduate work at Gustavus Adolphus College. Born and raised on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota, Heitzeg lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with his wife Gwendolyn.
Sandhill Crane (Migration Variations)
Commissioned by Susanne Son, Sandhill Crane is a work that celebrates the beauty of the Sandhill Crane. Revered in many cultures, the crane is often a symbol of renewal, longevity and peace. Opening with the migratory theme, a set of seven variations follows, each depicting either the actual migration of the Sandhill Crane or paying tribute to a particular composer or nature writer.
Zhou Long is currently Visiting Professor of Composition and director of Musica Nova at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. In 2003 he was recipient of the Academy Award in Music, a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His works have been recorded on many labels, including BIS, EMI, and Teldec. His music is published exclusively by Oxford University Press.
Pianogongs was inspired by the scripture of the Beijing Opera gong and drum, and the sound of bronze bells and chime stones. When I started working on the piece, I began to think of the spectrum of bronze, which reflects the colors and sonorities of percussive effect and fast repetitive rhythm. In this work, I
There are three basic materials used throughout the piece: 1. A fast repetitive rhythm, which represents drum rolls on dagu (large drum) and bangu (piccolo drum); 2. A series of chords, which is based on the combination of major triad and perfect fourth, creating the tinkling sound of the chime stones; 3. An
The repetitive rhythm starts at mid range on the piano, and is developed into very high and very low ranges. The original shape of the series of chords became varied textures later, such as different shapes of arpeggios. The two gongs played by left hand have been heavily used in various rhythmic patterns.
Pianogongs was commissioned by Santa Clara University for Teresa McCollough and is a premiere at the Beijing Modern Music Festival, Beijing, China.
David Rakowski studied with Robert Ceely and John Heiss at New England Conservatory, with Milton Babbitt, Peter Westergaard and Paul Lansky at Princeton, and with Luciano Berio at Tanglewood. He has received the Rome Prize, an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Elise L. Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Tanglewood Music Center, BMI, Columbia University, the International Horn Society, and various artist colonies. He has been commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the U.S. Marine Band, Sequitur, Network for New Music (Philadelphia), Koussevitzky Music Foundation (for Ensemble 21), Boston Musica Viva, the Fromm Foundation (twice), Dinosaur Annex, the Crosstown Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, the Riverside Symphony, Parnassus, The Composers Ensemble, Alea II, Alea III, Triple Helix, and others. In 1999 his Persistent Memory, commissioned by Orpheus, was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, and in 2002 his Ten of a Kind, commissioned by "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band, was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Recently he was composer-in-residence at the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival and Guest Composer at the Wellesley Composers Conference. His music is published by C.F. Peters, is recorded on CRI, Innova, Americus, Albany, and Bridge, and has been performed worldwide. He was a founder of the Griffin Music Ensemble of Boston, and has taught at Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia Universities. Currently he is Professor of Composition at Brandeis, where he has taught since 1995, and is an adjunct professor of composition at New England Conservatory in 2004-5.
Nocturnal is the third etude, and was written in October of 1991 for Lyn Reyna, who had premiered the first etude at Stanford. It is an etude on slow repeated notes (which follow the same pitch sequence as the first etude) that was meant to evoke the sort of sadness one feels in new England in fall after the leaves have all fallen, the days are getting shorter, and winter is just around the corner.
Close Enough for Jazz
My eighth etude was written for a concert in June 1996 at the American Academy in Rome, where it was premiered by Sandra Sprecher. This etude is based around a 7-beat ostinato which is usually fixed in place, but sometimes wanders into terra incognita. There is no jazz in the piece, except perhaps some rhythmic gestures that could be construed as "jazzy," and some pretty obvious jazz chords near the end.
Alex Shapiro (b. NYC, 1962) is a familiar face in southern California’s new music community, as a composer, activist and event moderator. Published by Activist Music, her works are heard weekly in concerts and broadcasts across the U.S. and abroad, and can be found on the Cambria, Innova, Capstone, Crystal and Oehms Classics labels. Educated at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music as a student of Ursula Mamlok and John Corigliano, Ms. Shapiro's many honors and awards include those from The American Music Center, ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, The California Arts Council and The MacDowell Colony. Alex is President of the Board of Directors of The American Composers Forum of Los Angeles, and resides in Malibu and Santa Barbara, California. When she's not sailing or exploring the tide pools, she updates her website, www.alexshapiro.org, with concert information and audio clips of her pieces.
Sonata for Piano
My 1999 Sonata for Piano is a three movement work written in the structural tradition of many classical sonatas. Throughout the piece, an emphasis is placed on the motivic development of strong melodies and rhythms. The first movement, Moderato, explores two themes that are first developed independently and ultimately are interwoven as two parts of a whole. A set of jazz harmonies are subtly implied against more angular melodic lines. The second movement, Lento; Andante, takes the listener on an emotional, dreamlike journey that leads to a passionate outburst, and the final movement, Scherzo, is just that — an impish romp through bitonality that ends with a laugh.
Gong Xiaoting, born in Shanghai, is one of the most important young contemporary composers in China. She entered the Middle School Attached to the Central Conservatory of Music in 1985 and graduated with an M.A. degree from the Central Conservatory of Music in 1995 and she is currently a Vice Professor in the Composition Department of the Conservatory. Gong Xiaoting has composed music of diverse forms, including art songs, piano suites, chamber and symphonic music.
She has won several important prizes in China and other countries and is often invited to take part in international music festivals. Her works have been premiered in New York, Paris, Seoul, Hong Kong and other places around the world. She has released 2 CDs, "Circle and Predestined Feelings; Selected Works by Gong Xiaoting" and 'Night is...Clouds Reflected in Water; New Lyrical Piano Music". She has also published 2 volumes of piano scores. In 2003, she went to France and studied at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris as a visiting scholar. In 2004, she successfully premiered her piano works in Paris.
Gong Xiaoting has a profound understanding of traditional Chinese culture, and her music has rich cultural significance that represents a new style of contemporary Chinese music.
A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Emma Lou Diemer received her degrees in music composition from the Yale School of Music (BM, MM) and the Eastman School of Music (Ph.D.). She studied further in Brussels on a Fulbright Scholarship and at Tanglewood. She is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she taught composition and theory from 1971 to 1991. She has been composer-in-residence with the Santa Barbara Symphony, and is organist emerita at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Barbara. Her music has been published since 1957, and a number of her works are recorded. Diemer has received annual ASCAP awards since 1962 for performances and publications. Other recognition includes a Louisvlle Orchestra Student Award, a Ford Foundation Young Composers Grant for a 2-year composer-residency in the Arlington, VA schools, an NEA fellowship in electronic music, a Kennedy Center Friedheim award for her Concerto in One Movement for Piano, the American Guild of Organists Composer of the Year award, and a Mu Phi Epsilon Merit Award, plus numerous commissions.
Toccata for Piano
Toccata For Piano combines both classical and contemporary elements of piano technique and musical form. Integrated into classical keyboard technique are gradual changes of timbre produced by such techniques as hand-dampening the strings, using a left-arm silent cluster to release the dampers of the fundamentals of pitch-groups played with the right hand, and sweeping and patting the strings. The work was written for Nozomi Takahashi, whose fine technique, personality, and hand-span of not over an octave were taken into consideration.