Quotations and Homages
Program notes and composer bios (new works)
Tom Flaherty: Rainbow Tangle (2015)
When Nadia Shpachenko asked for a short piece inspired by another composer, a short passage from Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” immediately came to mind. The otherworldly ecstasy of the opening of its seventh movement, “Fouillis d’arcs-en-ciel, pour l’Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps” (“Tangle or jumble of rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time”) has long captivated me, and I relished the excuse to play with some of its elements.
Relying on just the notes of the octatonic scale (alternating whole- and half-steps) Messiaen highlights familiar tonal major and minor triads and juxtaposes them in delicious ways. “Rainbow Tangle” uses the same now-common pitch collection and similar procedures, with simple electronic means (delays, transpositions, reverberation) to expand the sonic palette.
“Rainbow Tangle” was written for Nadia Shpachenko, whose musical glow covers the entire spectrum.
Informed by his experience as a cellist, Tom Flaherty’s music is often motivated by colliding rhythms, meters, and tempos, amid widely ranging levels of dissonance. Tom Flaherty has received grants, prizes, awards, and residencies from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and Yaddo. His music is recorded on the Reference Recordings, Albany, Klavier, Bridge, SEAMUS, Capstone, and Advance labels. Tom Flaherty wrote Airdancing and Part Suite-a for Nadia Shpachenko’s album “Woman at the New Piano,” which was nominated for 58th GRAMMY® Awards in 3 categories, including the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance by Nadia Shpachenko and Genevieve Feiwen Lee for his Airdancing for Toy Piano, Piano and Electronics. Published by American Composers Editions and G. Schirmer, Inc., his music has been performed widely throughout Europe and North America by such new music ensembles and performers as Volti, Earplay, Dinosaur Annex, Speculum Musicae, Odyssey Chamber Players, Xtet, Ensemble GREEN, and by such performers as Lucy Shelton, David Starobin, Peter Yates, Matthew Elgart, Maggie Parkins, Roger Lebow, Sarah Thornblade, Rachel Huang, Genevieve Feiwen Lee, Nadia Shpachenko, Susan Svrček, Charlotte Zelka, Vicki Ray, Aron Kallay, and Karl and Margaret Kohn. Tom Flaherty currently holds the John P. and Magdalena R. Dexter Professorship in Music and is Director of the Electronic Studio at Pomona College.
Missy Mazzoli: Bolts of Loving Thunder (2013, rev. 2016)
“Bolts of Loving Thunder” was composed in 2013 for pianist Emanuel Ax. When Manny asked me to write a piece that would appear on a program of works by Brahms, I immediately thought back to my experiences as a young pianist. I have clear memories of crashing sloppily but enthusiastically through the Rhapsodies and Intermezzi, and knew I wanted to create a work based on this romantic, stormy idea of Brahms, complete with hand crossing and dense layers of chords. I also felt that there needed to be a touch of the exuberant, floating melodies typical of young, “pre-beard” Brahms. Brahms’ “F-A-F” motive (shorthand for “frei aber froh” or “free but happy”) gradually breaks through the surface of this work, frenetically bubbling out in the final section. The title comes from a line in John Ashbery’s poem Farm Implements and Rutabagas in a Landscape.
“Bolts of Loving Thunder” was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, music director; Symphony Center Presents, Chicago; Cal Performances, University of California, Berkeley; and Carnegie Hall. It was revised in 2016.
– Missy Mazzoli
Recently deemed “one of the more consistently inventive, surprising composers now working in New York” (New York Times) and “Brooklyn’s post-millennial Mozart” (Time Out New York), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed globally by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, LA Opera, New York City Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra and many others. From 2012-15 she was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera and Music Theatre-Group, and in 2011-2012 was composer-in-residence with the Albany Symphony. In February 2012 Beth Morrison Projects presented Song from the Uproar, Missy’s first multimedia chamber opera, which had a sold-out run at venerable New York venue The Kitchen. The Wall Street Journal called this work “both powerful and new”, and the New York Times claimed that “in the electric surge of Ms. Mazzoli’s score you felt the joy, risk and limitless potential of free spirits unbound.” Recent months included the premiere of an extended work for her ensemble Victoire and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and new works performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, Kronos Quartet, the LA Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony. With librettist Royce Vavrek, Missy is currently working on an operatic adaptation of Breaking the Waves, a 1996 film by Lars von Trier. Breaking the Waves will premiere at Opera Philadelphia in 2016. Missy recently joined the faculty at Mannes College of Music, and her works are published by G. Schirmer.
Vera Ivanova: 6 Fugitive Memories (2015)
“6 Fugitive Memories” were commissioned by and dedicated to the pianist Nadia Shpachenko. These short miniatures represent six dedications to composers who have anniversaries in 2016, the year when Nadia premiered this work. I decided to remove my compositional style and instead recall through quotations and allusions the pieces of composers to whom each miniature is dedicated. Thus, “Composition No. 1” quotes Galina Ustvolskaya’s (1919-2006) “Composition No. 1” (Dona nobis pacem) for piccolo, tuba and piano and stylistically alludes to her Piano Sonata No. 6. “Fugitive No. 2” pictures Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and his piano works (“Visions Fugitives;” Piano Sonatas No. 2, 3). No “N” is a portrait of Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and alludes to the structural principals of his “Vertical Thoughts” and “Triadic Memories.” “Quasi una ciaccona” is a dedication to Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931) and quotes her “Chaconne.” “Cimbalom Játék” („Playing Cimbalom”) is a dedication to György Kurtág (b. 1926), who often used this national folk instrument in his music. The title “Debutie” combines composers’ last names and quotes Claude Debussy’s (1862-1918) Prelude “Voiles” and Éric Satie’s (1866-1925) “Gymnopedie” No. 1 in a manner of a careless collage, which concludes this cycle of memories.
Vera Ivanova’s compositions have been described as “… humanistic and deeply felt works …” (John Bilotta, Society of Composers, Inc.). In her early Fantasy-Toccata (2003) for violin and piano, “the humor takes on a harder, sardonic edge recalling the composer’s roots in the work of Shostakovich and Schnittke” (Ted Ayala, Crescenta Valley Weekly). In her later Three Studies in Uneven Meters for piano (2011), “the greatest power of her brief, angular, crystalline music lies in its power to provoke the gods of symmetry” (Laurence Vittes, Lark Gallery Online Blog). After teaching as Assistant Professor of Theory and Composition at the Setnor School of Music of Syracuse University (NY), she was appointed as Associate Professor of Music in the College of Performing Arts at Chapman University (Orange, CA). Dr. Ivanova is also teaching at the Colburn Academy. Her music is available in print from Universal Edition and Theodore Front Music Literature, Inc., SCI Journal of Music Scores (vol. 45), on CD’s from Ablaze Records (Millennial Masters series, Vol. 2), Quartz Music, Ltd., PARMA Recordings (SCI CD series, No. 27), Musiques & Recherches (Métamorphoses 2004), and Centaur Records (CRC 3056).
Nick Norton: Piano Piece for Mr. Carter’s 100th Birthday (2008)
I wrote this piece shortly after hearing Pierre-Laurent Aimard premiere Elliott Carter’s “Catenaires” at the composer’s 100th birthday concert in London. It’s part of a larger collection of pieces, both by myself and other composers, that use each pitch of the keyboard once and only once. This one is very fast and incredibly difficult to play, but so was “Catenaires,” so hey, why not?
Nick Norton is a composer, guitarist, and concert producer from Los Angeles. He is interested in the colorful grey areas between genres, creating new experiences for listeners, and destroying social barriers to enjoying music. The LA Times describes his music as crazy, and NewMusicBox referred to his pieces as “visceral sonic haiku.” Recent projects include pieces for Ensemble Mise-En, Gnarwhallaby, HOCKET, The Mustang Symphony, and numerous soloists, and music with his bands, Better Looking People With Superior Ideas and Honest Iago. Nick is co-artistic director of Equal Sound, founder and editor of New Classic LA, and a member of Synchromy. He really enjoys craft beer, sci fi, and being near or in the ocean, and holds degrees from UC San Diego and King’s College London. He is currently pursuing his PhD in composition from UC Santa Barbara, where he also teaches.
Peter Yates: Epitaphs and Youngsters (2015)
A musical note is played in terms of those preceding it, and affects those to come. So it is with life, and one’s position in the moment. Each of these mélodrames takes a forebear’s comment about life or death, applies the musical style of a past composer, and accompanies the whole with drawings by vital young creators.
Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, died at 44 while opening a bottle of wine at his home in the Samoan islands. His famous Requiem here takes on the mood of a nostalgic song by Charles Ives. The late Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, who gained fame as a Bach interpreter, was once asked about the purpose of art. Here, while the accompaniment channels Bach channeling the old contrapuntal style, is what he replied. Similarly, someone asked naturalist John Muir about the purpose of wilderness. His reply is given voice over a drone from an imaginary eighth Spanish song by Manuel de Falla. The last setting, of the famous epitaph of juggler and movie star W.C. Fields, becomes distracted by the addition of extra words, and by the harmonic world of Gershwin’s Short Story.
All of these combinations were inspired by the performer’s absorbing presentations of eternal moments, and by the arresting imagery produced by her young sons.
“A particularly lucid fretboard dreamer” (Los Angeles Times), Peter Yates is a guitarist and composer whose interest in things not usually done has led to works for prepared guitar, building and playing an arpeggione (a bowed guitar invented in 1823 and rarely seen since), cycles of “PopArt” songs, a puppet opera about the Watts Towers, and a DVD ghost-town opera in which historic photographs come to life and sing. In The Egg and the Seed he developed a form of “comic-book oratorio,” featuring 250 original narrative collages whose text blocks and word balloons are not read, but sung. Recent performance activity has included recording and performing with the trio ensembleFRET and the duo GuitAria. His work with the Elgart/Yates Duo included sixteen tours of Europe, over one hundred premieres, and a book on prepared guitar. His works have been performed on Italian National Radio (RAI), microfest, The Living Arts Festival, NOW Festival, Festival of American Music, in Mexico, Europe and across the United States. His performances and compositions are recorded on Reference Recordings, Innova, Centaur, Bridge and TR Records. Yates wrote Finger Songs for Nadia Shpachenko’s album “Woman at the New Piano,” which was nominated for 58th GRAMMY® Awards in 3 categories. He is on the faculties of music at UCLA and at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Daniel Felsenfeld: Down to You is Up (1998, rev. 2015)
When I was finishing up my Doctorate I fell in love—again—with the Velvet Underground. I longed, I suppose, for less complicated and depressing times, and remembered driving around Los Angeles with their first record, “Velvet Underground and Nico,” blasting and dreaming of moving to New York, and believing, then as now, that music could be dangerous. So when I came to write this three movement piano piece, I wanted to use the material from the Velvets and do my own violence to their work.
I chose different approaches for the three movements: for the first, I took the piano part from “All Tomorrow’s Parties” and a chunk of the melody and ran from there; for the second, I took their most famous song “Pale Blue Eyes” and used it as a kind of palimpsest, writing my piece as a kind of accompaniment and then removing the original material; and for the final movement, I rounded to a strict quotation from “Beginning to See the Light.”
This newer version corrects a few youthful indiscretions.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld has been commissioned and performed by Simone Dinnerstein, Two Sense, Metropolis Ensemble, American Opera Projects, Opera on Tap, Great Noise Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, ACME, ETHEL, REDSHIFT, Two Sides Sounding, Momenta Quartet, Friction Quartet, Blair McMillen, Stephanie Mortimore, Jennifer Choi, Caroline Widmann, Cornelius Duffallo, Jody Redhage, Nadia Sirota, Caroline Worra, Elanor Taylor, Kathleen Supové, Jenny Lin, Ensemble 212, New Gallery Concert Series and Transit, at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, Kennedy Center, ATLAS, Le Poisson Rouge, City Winery, Galapagos Art Space, The Stone, The Kitchen, BAM, Jordan Hall, Duke University, The Southern Theatre, Stanford University and Harvard University, as part of 21c Liederabend, Opera Grows in Brooklyn, Ecstatic Music Festival, MATA, Keys to the Future, Make Music New York, He has also worked with Jay-Z, The Roots, Keren Ann, Rick Moody, Stew, Mark Z. Danielewski, and is the court composer for John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders. Commercially available on the Sony, Def Jam, Black Box, and Naxos labels. Raised in the outlying suburbs of Los Angeles, he lives in Brooklyn.
Tom Flaherty: Igor to Please (2016)
My lifelong admiration for Stravinsky’s music and the recent centenary celebrations of the Rite of Spring prompted me to base this piece on the famous 7-note “Augurs” chord from the Rite (an unusual spacing of an Ab harmonic minor scale).
In some parts of the piece, I tried to catch some of the mystery found in the Rite and, in others, to play with the mysterious catchiness of its rhythm. The stage full of pianos, the jangle of the toy pianos and the bell-like sounds in the electronic part might also bring to mind “Les Noces.” The generating Augurs chord in its original setting is only obliquely hinted at, but I like to think that Igor would be pleased.
“Igor to Please” exists in versions for solo piano, solo toy piano, and this original version for two pianos four-hands and two toy pianos, each with prerecorded electronics.
The sextet version is dedicated to Nadia Shpachenko, Genevieve Lee, Aron Kallay, Vicki Ray, Sarah Gibson, and Thomas Kotcheff, who premiered the piece in 2016.
James Matheson: Bagatelle (2012)
“Bagatelle” is based on materials from the end of the final movement of Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony as part of a larger collection of works commissioned by the International Beethoven Project to celebrate and elucidate the theme of Revolution in Beethoven’s milieu. Beethoven’s themes are pulled apart, recontextualized and ultimately put back together again—stacked and layered, louder, somehow more, illustrating, simply and directly, the simultaneously destructive and synthetic nature of the spirit of revolution.
– James Matheson
New York-based composer James Matheson (b. 1970) has rapidly emerged as one of the most distinctive, vital, and creative musical voices of his generation. Among his commissions are works for the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago and Albany Symphony Orchestras, Carnegie Hall and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The American Academy of Arts and Letters honored him in December, 2011, with the Charles Ives Living, an award of $100,000 a year for 2 years (2012-2014). Current and recent commissions include The Age of Air, a concerto for two shakuhachi and chamber orchestra; a new solo violin work for Jennifer Koh; and solo piano works for Bruce Levingston and Nadia Shpachenko. James wrote Cretic Variations for Nadia Shpachenko’s album “Woman at the New Piano,” which was nominated for 58th GRAMMY® Awards in 3 categories. In 2016, Yarlung Records will release a recording of Matheson’s Violin Concerto, with soloist Baird Dodge and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The disc will also feature his song cycle, Times Alone, performed by soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Thomas Sauer, and String Quartet, performed by the Color Field Quartet. From 2009 to 2015, James served as Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s innovative Composer Fellowship Program. He is currently Artistic Director of Neightborhood Classics at P.S. 142, a concert series that raises money for one of New York’s most underserved schools through concerts aimed at promoting classical music in the local community.
Bonus/Encore – Adam Borecki: Accidental Mozart (2014)
“Accidental Mozart” is a very serious set of variations on Piano Sonata No. 16 (K. 545) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The first few variations are created entirely by splattering new accidentals on top of the original notes that Mozart wrote. This piece exists in two versions: the standard concert version as well as an “adult beverage version”, in which each variation is paired with a particular cocktail. Should this piece be performed after 5pm, the score carefully denotes specific drinks to be consumed with each variation.
Adam Borecki is a composer, guitarist, and audio engineer based in Southern California. As a composer, Adam specializes in music with unique compositional techniques to create an engaging concert experience. His music ranges from string quartets to electro-swing EDM, and he has created multi-media works with acoustic instruments, electronics, and LED lights. Adam studied composition at USC with Stephen Hartke, Donald Crockett, & Sean Friar and at Chapman University with Vera Ivanova, Sean Heim, & Jeffery Holmes. His music has been performed at the Hear Now Festival, across Southern California, across the United States, in Italy (at the Cortona Sessions) and in Paris (European American Musical Alliance). Awards include the Composition Department Award (University of Southern California), Gluck Foundation Fellowship, Conservatory of Music Award & Summa Cum Laude (Chapman University), Second Place in the Boston GuitarFest Composition Competition, and a commission for the Third Angle New Music Ensemble in Portland, Oregon.
Collaborator Bios for James Matheson’s Bagatelle and Tom Flaherty’s Igor to Please (if performed in the 6 pianist version)
The Ray-Kallay Duo, described as having “…grace, power, terrifying technique and a sense of humor all at the same time,” (KPFK) is a genre shattering team dedicated to exploring the sonic possibilities of the multiple keyboard concert. Breaking the mold of the traditional piano duo, Ray-Kallay doesn’t confine itself to the grand piano, often incorporating synthesizers, toy pianos, and keyboards using alternate tuning systems into their highly eclectic concerts. After conquering Enno Poppe’s epic Rad for two microtonal keyboards, the duo’s performance of John Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things was named a top ten classical concert of 2013 by the LA Times, who called the performance “Exquisite. Every sound sounded considered, alive, worthy of our wonder.” A later studio recording of the same piece garnered them a Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Music Performance. Since then Ray-Kallay has commissioned and premiered countless works that showcase their unique talents and adventurous spirit, winning them accolades from audiences and presenters alike. Upcoming projects include performances of Mantra by Karlheinz Stockhausen and the premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Dreams and False Alarms.
HOCKET is a cutting edge piano duo based in Los Angeles. Brought together by their passion for sharing exciting and eclectic chamber music with the world, members Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff are both pianist-composers dedicated to commissioning and performing contemporary music. They have performed in some of the most exciting festivals and venues across the country including The Bang on Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA, The Center for New Music in San Francisco, and the Carlsbad Music Festival. Together, they have premiered dozens of chamber and solo piano works and have collaborated with the premier, new music ensembles eighth blackbird and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. HOCKET is a recipient of a Presser Foundation Award to fund two upcoming commercial recordings and has been a selected artist in Firebird Ensemble’s Outstanding Young Artists Initiative. HOCKET is a performing artist on the Schoenhut Piano Company Artist Roster and has been hailed as “brilliant” by Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed. HOCKET started the current 2015/2016 season as fellows at The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival followed immediately by a residency at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute where they collaborated with three Kettle Corn New Music composers on new commissions. This season will also include performances in San Francisco, Carlsbad Music Festival, and residencies at The University of Las Vegas and California State University Long Beach. HOCKET is excited to release their debut album this Fall.
A versatile performer of music spanning five centuries, Genevieve Feiwen Lee has thrilled audiences on the piano, harpsichord, toy piano, keyboard, and electronics. She enjoys finding music that challenges her to go outside of her comfort zone to sing, speak, act, and play many new instruments. She has appeared as a soloist in France, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, and the Netherlands. For Innova, she recorded Kurt Rohde’s ONE for speaking pianist. On Albany, she has a solo piano CD, Elements, featuring works by Tom Flaherty and Philippe Bodin; Looking for Answers, with chamber music by Flaherty; and An American Collage with mezzo-soprano D’Anna Fortunato. She and pianist Nadia Shpachenko recorded two works by Flaherty and Adam Schoenberg for a Reference Recordings CD, Woman at the New Piano, which has been nominated in three categories in the 58th Grammy® Awards. In the Los Angeles area, Ms. Lee has been a guest performer with XTET, Southwest Chamber Music, and Jacaranda. She is a founding member of the Mojave Trio and also was a member of the Garth Newel Piano Quartet of Virginia and recently performed in Carnegie Hall. She is the Everett S. Olive Professor of Music at Pomona College in California.