Quotations and Homages
Program notes and composer bios (for 21st century solo compositions)
Program notes for 19th and 20th century works can be provided upon request
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.
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.
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. “Fugitive No. 2” pictures Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and his piano works (“Visions Fugitives;” Piano Sonatas No. 2, 3). 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 the manner of a careless collage, concluding 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.