Tonight's concert is the first of two concerts in the second season of Guitar Plus. The next concert is Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 pm at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater at Symphony Space. It features harpist Yolanda Kondonassis and guitarist David Leisner. They will play two major works by Alan Hovhaness and Xavier Montsalvatge on the first half, and the second half will be devoted to the World premiere of Facts of Live for solo guitar by David del Tredici.
Akemi Naito's The Idea of Order at Key West receives its premiere performance on this concert. Completed in December of 2007, the work was composed for and dedicated to the three members of Crazy Jane. In this work, Akemi Naito sets one of the twentieth center's most iconic poems, Wallace Stevens' 1934 seaside meditation on the nature of reality, order, chaos, and art itself. The composition was funded in part by the Composer's Assistance Program of the American Music Center.
Born in Tokyo in 1956, Akemi Naito began studying piano at the age of five and composition at the age of fourteen. In 1978, she received a B.A. in Music Composition from the University Division at the Toho Gakuen School of Music. She received her graduate degree there in 1980, and was a member of the school's faculty from 1980 until 1991. Ms. Naito's works have been featured in music festivals around the world including prestigious venues in Moscow, Rotterdam, Melbourne, Rome, Oslo, Mexico, and Japan. Her marimba piece, "Memory of the Woods" has been performed throughout the USA, Uruguay, Spain, Belgium, England, Canada, Japan, and Korea. Ms. Naito is a recipient of awards from organizations including the Rockefeller Foundation, Chamber Music America, ASCAP, and an Aaron Copland Award and residency from the Copland House. Her music has been recorded on Bridge, CRI, EMI, and ALM.
David Leisner's Three James Tate Songs were composed in 2007 and are dedicated to David Starobin and Patrick Mason. Mr. Leisner writes: "James Tate, one of America's greatest living poets, has a style which mixes down-to-earth spontaneity and an off-handed sense of humor with an undercurrent of anxiety, dread and the unnamable. I identify with this and attempted with these songs to find its musical equivalent. The first song combines lyricism with passages of cowboy and tropical rhythms. The second is an apocalyptic vision that begins with a series of climaxes and calms down at the end. And the last is grounded by a series of simple upward scales with a shifting, repeating rhythmic pattern and slowly changing harmonies in the guitar, on top of which floats a hypnotic vocal line."
David Leisner is a guitarist, composer and teacher. As a composer, Leisner is noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music, which has been performed worldwide with such eminent artists as Sanford Sylvan, Paul Sperry, Juliana Gondek, Susan Nurcki, D'Anna Fortunato, Eugenia Zuckerman, Benjamin Verdery, St. Lawrence String Quartet, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Cavatina Duo, Saturday Brass Quintet, Arc Duo, as well as orchestras around the U.S. An extensive discography includes the much-praised recent Cedille CD, Acrobats, performed by the Cavatina Duo, and his compositions have been published by several major publishers, and now exclusively with Theodore Presser Co. he has received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the American Music Center, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, and the New England Foundation for the Arts and Meet the Composer. Leisner also maintains a busy career as a concert artist and is currently the co-chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music.
Paul Lansky's Three Songs of Parting are all based on the well-known folksong sometimes called Turtle Dove. The texts are derived from various versions contained in Cecil Sharp's famous book, English Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians (where the text is found under The True Lover's Farewell). The songs were written for Crazy Jane: Patrick Mason, baritone, David Starobin, guitar, and Daniel Druckman, percussion.
From his pioneering work in computer music through his instrumental music of the past decade, Paul Lansky has been recognized as a leading voice in contemporary American Music. Born in New York City in 1944, Lansky attended Queens College , studying composition with George Perle and Hugo Weisgall and at Princeton University, where he worked with Milton Babbitt and Earle Kim. Paul Lansky has been on the faculty at Princeton since 1969, where he is now William Shubael Conant Professor of Music. Until the mid-1990s, the bulk of Lansky's work was in computer music, for which he was honored in 2002 with a lifetime achievement award by SEAMUS (the Society for Electroacoustic Music in the United States). Lansky is currently Composer-in-Residence for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest, ASCAP, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Lansky's music is well represented on recordings, including a dozen CDs on the Bridge label (www.bridgerecords.com). For a complete listing of recordings see http://paullansky.org/disc.html
William Bland's Five Preludes for guitar are drawn from a set of 48 Preludes, completed in 2009. The two "books" of 24 pieces each were composed in all of the major and minor keys. Bland's preludes are short single-idea pieces that refer to both popular and classical style. The set performed on this occasion includes a flowing prelude quoting Chopin's own G major Prelude (Prelude 15), a tongue -in-cheek rag (Prelude 22); a gentle bagatelle (Prelude 21); the hauntingly pretty Prelude 48; and the down'n dirty triple-X blues (Prelude 30).
William Bland (born 1947, West Virginia) studied at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating in 1973 with a DMA in musical composition. His composition teachers were Benjamin Lees, Ernst Krenek, Earle Brown, and Richard Rodney Bennett. After serving as assistant to Peabody's Director, Richard Franko Goldman, Bland moved to New York City, where he performed and taught, thereafter returning to West Virginia. During his years in New York he was frequently performed by leading musicians including The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum Musicae, David Starobin, Fred Sherry, Sharon Robinson, Alan Feinberg, and Rolf Schulte. William Bland has produced a sizeable catalog of solo, chamber, and orchestral music, and his music has been performed widely in the USA, and Europe. During the last decade, Bland has endeavored to complete a cycle of 24 piano sonatas in each of the major and minor keys. He is currently at work on Sonata No. 18. Recording of music by William Bland have been issued on Bridge, Dorian, Vox, and Deutsche Grammophon.
The Ghosts of Alhambra (Spanish Songbook I)
With this 2009 chamber work - composed for baritone Patrick Mason, guitarist David Starobin, and percussionist Daniel Druckman ("Crazy Jane") - George Crumb returns once again to his favorite poet, Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936). The texts for The Ghosts of Alhambra come from Poema del cante johdo (Poem of the Deep Song), much of which Garcia wrote in a few days in November of 1921, in anticipation of the festival that he organized with composer Manuel de Falla. Their aim was to present authentic cante jondo (a vocal style in flamenco) in reaction to the commercialized, watered-down flamenco they perceived in contemporary Andalusia. The performances were held in the Alhambra, the dazzling 14th-century Moorish palace complex that looms above Granada. In Crumb's first song, Alba (Dawn), the chiming of morning bells echoes throughout. Las Seis cuerdas (The Six Strings) is an introspective meditation on one of the poet's favorite symbols , the guitar as a powerful, even oracular "voice". The third movement is a rapid, breathless dance that follows somewhat freely the regular patterning of Lorca's poem, in which each verse is announced with the same refrain. The fourth song, Paisaje (landscape) is a dream-like picture of the olive grove at night, a poem that had caught Crumb's attention as early as the 1970's, when he sketched a very different setting for soprano and piano. In the fifth song, ¡Ay!, the surreal qualities of the poem inspire a range of uncanny tone colors. The singer dramatically recites the text in a kind of heightened speech with rapid shifts in dynamics and timbre. The "dark, menacing" sixth song, Malagueña, revisits the same poem that Crumb had set in his Madrigals (1965). In Andalusian tradition, a Malagueña was always serious and dramatic, relating tales from the coastal city of Málaga. In this case, the tavern is a hangout for mariners whose risky livelihood makes death familiar visitor. The final song, Memento, opens with delicate echoes of the guitar and vibraphone timbres head at the opening of the first song. Once again, Lorca emulates folk poetry by using a refrain ("Cuando yo me muera"), and Crumb's gently rocking minor-third interval recalls the simple chants of childhood. - Dr. Steven Burns
George Crumb is one of today's most frequently performed composers, with festivals devoted to his music held the world over. His works encompass music for orchestral, chamber and instrumental, vocal and choral performances. Crumb's music often incorporates extended techniques on standard instruments and frequently juxtaposes contrasting musical styles. Many of his works include programmatic, symbolic, mystical and theatrical elements, which are often reflected in his meticulously notated scores. George Crumb is the recipient of numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize in music for his Echoes of Time and the River, the UNESCO International Rostrum for Composers Award, the Koussevitzky Recording Award, the 1998 Cannes Classical Award for Best CD of a Living Composer, and in 2001 a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition for Star-Child. Crumb received his bachelor's degree from the Mason College of Music in Charleston, West Virginia, his M.A. from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and his D.M.A. from the University of Michigan. Dr. Crumb served on the faculty of the University of Colorado in Boulder before joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. He was on the faculty of Penn's Music department for over 30 years and is its Walter H. Annenberg Professor Emeritus in the Humanities.
Crazy Jane is made up of three noted musicians: baritone Patrick mason; guitarist David Starobin; and percussionist Daniel Druckman. The trio performs and unusual blend of new compositions and music from earlier periods. Patrick Mason is a Grammy-nominated baritone, known for singing a broad range of repertoire from the medieval period to the latest contemporary works; from solo song literature through opera. Mason is also a professor of voice at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Guitarist David Starobin has accompanied Patrick Mason for more than 40 years, the two meeting as teenaged students at Peabody Conservatory. Starobin has concentrated his performances on developing the contemporary repertoire for guitar at Manhattan School of Music. Starobin began working with Daniel Druckman in the ensemble Speculum Musicae, where together they performed dozens of new works. Druckman is a member of the New York Philharmonic, and is also the director of the percussion ensemble at the Juilliard School. He, like Mason and Starobin has devoted much of his energy to the performance and promotion of contemporary music. Crazy Jane (the trio's name comes from a song composed in the 70's by Ronald Roxbury) blends the talents of three musicians who love working with each other, and enjoy the adventure and challenge of the new.
If you would like to contribute to Guitar Plus in the future seasons, please contact David Leisner through his website, www.davidleisner.com .