Quotations and Homages
Program notes and composer bios (for 21st century compositions)
Program notes for 19th and 20th century works can be provided upon request
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 and is dedicated to 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. 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, Dinosaur Annex, Eclipse Quartet, Mojave Trio, and Speculum Musicae, and by such performers as soprano Lucy Shelton, guitarists David Starobin and Peter Yates, cellists Maggie Parkins and Roger Lebow, violinists Sarah Thornblade, Rachel Huang, and pianists Nadia Shpachenko, Genevieve Feiwen Lee, Susan Svrček, 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.Tom Flaherty’s music is recorded on the Reference Recordings, Albany, Klavier, Bridge, SEAMUS, Capstone, and Advance labels. He wrote Airdancing and Part Suite-a for Nadia Shpachenko’s Reference Recordings 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.
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), Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed globally by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, LA Opera, the Minnesota Orchestra and many others. From 2012-2015 she was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia. Her 2016 opera Breaking the Waves, based on the film by Lars von Trier and created in collaboration with librettist Royce Vavrek, premiered in September of 2016 and was called “one of the best 21st-century American operas yet” by Opera News, “powerful… dark and daring” by the New York Times, and “savage, heartbreaking and thoroughly original” by the Wall Street Journal. 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. 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, the BBC Symphony, and the LA Philharmonic. Missy’s music has been recorded and released on labels including Reference Recordings, New Amsterdam, Cedille, Bedroom Community, 4AD and Innova. Missy is the recipient of a Fulbright Grant and a music grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, 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.
Russian-born composer Vera Ivanova is based in California, where she is teaching at the rank of Associate Professor of Music at Chapman University, and is on the faculty of the Colburn School. Her compositions have been described as “…humanistic and deeply felt works…” (John Bilotta, SCI), showcasing “artful exploration of compositional styles” (Paul Muller about “6 Fugitive Memories,” Sequenza 21) and “humor… recalling the composer’s roots in the work of Shostakovich and Schnittke” (Ted Ayala about “Fantasy-Toccata,” Crescenta Valley Weekly). Ms. Ivanova’s works have been distinguished by many international awards and performed around the world in such venues as New York’s Weill Hall of Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles’s Zipper Hall, Berlin’s Konzerthaus, Moscow Chamber Hall of Philharmonia and the Moscow Conservatory’s Great Hall, Seoul’s Ilshin Hall and Taipei’s National Recital Hall. Performers and ensembles include Eastman Philharmonia, Musica Nova, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, Concorde Ensemble, Earplay, Little Giant Chamber Chinese Orchestra, Tchaikovsky competition winner Oleh Krysa (violin), GRAMMY®-nominated pianists Nadia Shpachenko and Aron Kallay, and award-winning Krechkovsky/Loucks Duo. Her music is available from Universal Edition, and on CDs from Reference Recordings, MicroFest Records, Navona Records, Ablaze Records, Quartz Music Ltd., Centaur Records, and Musiques & Recherches.
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 – like you – made from materials forged in the cores of stars. The composer/guitarist/concert-producer was born in Los Angeles approximately 13.6 billion years after the universe and has been making music ever since. He is deeply interested in the colorful grey areas between genres, creating new experiences for listeners, and destroying social barriers to enjoying music. In pursuit of this he founded and runs Equal Sound and New Classic LA, and has collaborated with HOCKET, gnarwhallaby, Ensemble Mise En, the Argus, Friction, and Formalist quartets, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, the Kansas City Chorale, Wild Rumpus, Synchromy, What’s Next? Ensemble, Ignition Duo, and numerous soloists. He plays guitar, bass, and electronics in The Newports, Honest Iago, and Better Looking People With Superior Ideas. The LA Times describes his music as “crazy,” NewMusicBox referred to his pieces as “visceral sonic haiku,” and Fool in The Forest said they were “fit to melt steel.” Nick 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.
Peter Yates: Epitaphs and Youngsters (2015)
A note is played in terms of the ones before, and affects the ones that follow. It is much the same with life and one’s position in the moment. Each of these mélodrames takes a forebear’s comment about life or death and submits it to the style or mood of a past composer. Robert Louis Stevenson died at 44 while opening a bottle of wine. His “Epitaph” here takes on the mood of a nostalgic song by Charles Ives. The late Glenn Gould was once asked to define the meaning of art. Here, over lines channeling Bach’s old-style counterpoint, is what he replied. John Muir was asked to define the meaning of wilderness. He replies over a drone from an imaginary eighth Spanish song by Manuel de Falla. W. C. Fields makes a last wisecrack, with extra words tossed in, over harmonies reminiscent of George Gershwin’s “Short Story.”
All of these combinations were further inspired by the dedicatee Nadia Shpachenko’s absorbing presentations of eternal moments, and by the artwork of 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 Reference Recordings 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)
“Down to You is Up” is a piece—at this writing nearing two decades old—invested deeply in the music of the Velvet Underground. In those prelapsarian times, the integration of boutique rock music and classical music did not enjoy the prominence that it does today, but this was not some kind of feint at cool, but rather an attempt to somehow have purchase on the music I love so much. Each movement addresses a different song—“All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” and “Beginning to See the Light,” respectively—in a unique way. These are not arrangements; these are fantasias. The Velvets taught me that music can be dangerous, can feel like it is going to pounce, can reflect a wide range of complex emotions, some of which are darker and more downmarket than others. It is my walk on my idea of my wild side.
Composer Daniel Felsenfeld (b. 1970) has been commissioned and performed by Trinity Wall Street, Simone Dinnerstein, Two Sense, Metropolis Ensemble, American Opera Projects, Opera on Tap, NANOWorks Opera, Pasadena Opera, Great Noise Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, ACME, Transit, REDSHIFT, Blair McMillen, Lara Downes, Secret Opera, Alcyone Ensemble, Stephanie Mortimore, Parhelion Trio, Cabinet of Curiosities, New Gallery Concert Series at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, Kennedy Center, Trinity Wall Street, Le Poisson Rouge, Bargemusic, City Winery, Galapagos Art Space, The Stone, Jordan Hall, Duke University, Stanford University and Harvard University, and has collaborated with writers like Rick Moody, Robert Coover, Amanda Palmer, Will Eno, and Brenda Shaughnessy. He has worked with Jay-Z, The Roots and Keren Ann, and is the court composer for John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, the co-founder of the New Music Gathering, and co-director of the Curiosity Cabinet. Recordings of Felsenfeld’s works are commercially available on the Reference Recordings, Sony, Def Jam, Black Box, and Naxos labels.
Isaac Schankler: Future Feelings (2018)
Future Feelings looks backward to Romantic/teen angst and forward to a variety of alternate futures. The piano part recalls bits and pieces of various classical and Romantic composers, but in particular the melancholy of Chopin. The electronics present alternate versions of the material that appears in the piano part, processed and re-interpreted through a variety of ambient synths and filtered noise. Future Feelings is dedicated to Nadia Shpachenko.
Isaac Schankler is a composer, accordionist, and electronic musician living in Los Angeles. His music has been described as “powerful” (Sequenza21), “delightful” (I Care If You Listen), “ingenious” (The Artificialist), “masterfully composed” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), and “the antidote to sentimentality” (LA Times). Schankler’s recent performances and commissions include works for the Nouveau Classical Project, the Ray-Kallay Duo, Friction Quartet, gnarwhallaby, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Lorelei Ensemble, Juventas New Music Ensemble, flutist Meerenai Shim, pianist Nadia Shpachenko, and bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood. Recent honors include awards and grants from Meet the Composer, the National Opera Association, the American Composers Forum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the American Prize. He is a past winner of the USC Sadye J. Moss Composition Prize and the ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Foundation Art Song Competition. As a writer and researcher, Schankler has written numerous articles for NewMusicBox, the multimedia publication of New Music USA, and in 2013 was a winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism. His writing has also appeared in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, Computer Music Journal, and the proceedings of various international conferences. Schankler is the artistic director of the concert series People Inside Electronics. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Cal Poly Pomona, where he teaches composition, music technology, and music theory.
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 seven-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, duo piano, and this original version for two pianos four-hands and two toy pianos, each with pre-recorded electronics.
The sextet version is dedicated to Nadia Shpachenko, Genevieve Feiwen Lee, Vicki Ray, Aron Kallay, 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. It was 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. In my “Bagatelle,” Beethoven’s themes are pulled apart, recontextualized and ultimately put back together again – stacked, layered, louder and somehow “more.” To my mind this reworking of well-known themes simply and directly spotlights the simultaneously destructive and synthetic nature of the spirit of revolution that Beethoven’s Symphony embodies.
– James Matheson
New York-based composer James Matheson is widely regarded 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 Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, and the St. Lawrence and Borromeo String Quartets. The American Academy of Arts and Letters honored him in December 2011 with the Charles Ives Living Award. A 2016 CD and LP release from Yarlung Records features three major Matheson works: Violin Concerto (Baird Dodge, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Esa-Pekka Salonen); Times Alone (soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Thomas Sauer); and String Quartet (Color Field Quartet). Nadia Shpachenko’s GRAMMY® nominated Reference Recordings album “Woman at the New Piano” features Matheson’s Cretic Variations. Recent commissions include Unchained for large orchestra, commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Violin Concerto, co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; True South, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic; The Age of Air, for two shakuhachi and chamber orchestra, co-commissioned by Kyo-Shin-An Arts and River Oaks Chamber Orchestra; String Quartet (2014), commissioned by Justus and Elizabeth Schlichting for the St. Lawrence String Quartet. In addition to the Ives Living award, Matheson has received fellowships and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri, the Bogliasco Foundation, ASCAP, and the Robbins Prize.
Bonus/Encore – Adam Borecki: Accidental Mozart (2014)
“Accidental Mozart” is a whimsical set of variations based on Mozart’s K. 545 “Sonata facile.” Each light-hearted variation is paired with an adult beverage. If performed after 5pm, the music denotes specific cocktails to be consumed with each variation:
0:00 Theme – from Mozart K. 545
0:17 Var I. “Gin & Tonic” – Quaint & simple
0:34 Var II. “Dirty Martini” – Very ‘dirty’
0:54 Var III. “Cheap Boxed Wine” – Cheap & schmaltzy
1:37 Var IV. “Authentic German Beer” – Stout & bold
2:03 Var V. “Scotch, Served Neat” – Minimal & refined
2:40 Var VI. “Bar Mat Shot” – Combination of all spilled alcohols on a bar mat, mixed together
3:03 Var VII. “Absinthe” – A vintage brand with hallucinogenic properties
3:52 Var VIII. “Bloody Mary,” or other hangover cure
Adam Borecki is a composer, guitarist, and audio engineer based in Southern California. He currently teaches music technology at Chapman University, performs on guitar with the Kaleidoscope Trio, and creates audio & video recordings for musicians across Los Angeles. 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, Grammy® nominated 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 given solo piano recitals at Merkin Concert Hall, NY, and the Salle Gaveau in Paris. Since her first concerto engagement at the age of twelve, she has appeared with the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, Brazil; the Vrazta State Philharmonic, Bulgaria, and The Orchestra of Northern New York. Her concerts in China appeared on Hunan State Television, and her performance from the Spiegelzaal at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam was broadcast on live radio. Ms. Lee has premiered and commissioned numerous works. 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, Jacaranda, and Piano Spheres. She is a founding member of the Mojave Trio and was a member of the Garth Newel Piano Quartet when they performed in Carnegie Hall. Ms. Lee received her degrees from the Peabody Institute, École Normale de Musique de Paris, and the Yale School of Music. She is the Everett S. Olive Professor of Music at Pomona College in California.