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Para América Mágica
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 03/10/2011 at Symphony Space.

George Crumb (1929)

Night Music I (Texts by Federico García Lorca)

Notturno I: Giocoso, estatico

Notturno II: “Piccola Serenata”

Notturno III: La Luna Asoma

Notturno IV: Vivace; molto ritmico

Notturno V: Gacela de la Terrible Presencia

Notturno VI: “Barcarola”

Notturno VII: Giocoso, estatico


Lucy Shelton, soprano

Cory Braken, percusion

Frederick Trumpy, percussion

Usrula Oppens, piano, celesta


George Crumb (1929)

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)

Vocalise (... for the beginning of time)

Variations on Sea-Time

Sea Theme

Archeozoic [Var. I]

Proterozoic [Var. II]

Paleozoic [Var. III]

Mesozoic [Var. IV]

Cenozoic [Var. V]

Sea-Nocturne (... for the end of time)


Meghan Shanley, flute

Caitlin Bailey, violoncello

Ivan Tan, piano


Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Guitar Sonata

I. Esordio

II. Scherzo

III. Canto

IV. Finale


David Leisner, guitar


Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983)

Cantata para América Mágica

I. Preludio y canto a la aurora

II. Nocturno y canto de amor

III. Canto para la partida de los

IV. Guerreros

V. Interludio fantástico

VI. Canto de agonía y desolación

VII. Canto de la profecía


James Baker, conductor

Lucy Shelton, soprano

Usula Oppens, celesta

Mirna Lekic, piano

Vasudevan Panicker, piano

Matt Ward, timpani

Miguel Tepale, timpani

Sarah Mullins, drums

Derek Kwan, drums

Michael Lipsey, woods

Frank Cassara, percussion

Cory Bracken, percussion

Patrick O'Reilly, percussion

Phillip Gallo, cymbals

Dominic Donato, tamtams

Ching-Ping Wang, xylophone

Alex Atchley, marimba

Masako Kunimoto, glockenspiel

+ About the Artists

Caitlin Bailey received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied cello performance and recording engineering. She is currently enrolled in the Master of Music program at Purchase College Conservatory of Music. She has presented recitals and chamber music performances at Purchase College and has performed with the One World Symphony in Brooklyn. Caitlin has a special interest in contemporary music and is a member of the Purchase College Contemporary Ensemble.

James Baker is Principal Percussionist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. He is Music Director and Conductor of the Composers Conference at Wellesley College and Director of the Percussion Ensemble at the Mannes College of Music. Mr. Baker is the Conductor of the New York New Music Ensemble and Principal Conductor of the Talea Ensemble. He is Guest Conductor of the Slee Sinfonietta at the Institute for 21st Century Music in Buffalo. He led Speculum Musicae in concerts in NY and around the US and has conducted the Cygnus Ensemble, Ensemble 21, and the DaCapo Chamber Players. He is a guest conductor for the ensemble ACJW at Carnegie Hall. Mr. Baker was a conductor/player of Broadway shows for many years, conducting The King and I, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, An Inspector Calls, and La Boheme. An active composer of electro-acoustic music, Baker won a Bessie Award for composition for dance. Recent commissions include the Opera Ballet de Lyon, Dublin Dance Festival, and the Abbey Theater.

A proponent of new and classic, western and world percussion music, Frank Cassara has premiered countless works with as many diverse groups. As percussionist for the Philip Glass Ensemble, he has performed around the globe, as well as recording Glass’ film scores and concert music, such as Orion which he performed in Mexico this fall. He has also performed around the world with Steve Reich and Musicians, produced an all Reich percussion concert at Vassar College, and presented the premiere of New York Counterpoint reworked for marimba. He has also performed with Music From China, Manhattan Marimba Quartet, Talujon Percussion Quartet, North/South Consonance, and Ethos Percussion Ensemble. Cassara heads the percussion departments at Vassar College, Long Island University, and Brooklyn College. He can be heard on recordings such as Philip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox, Gavin Bryars’ Jesus’ Blood (Grammy nominated), and Chou Wen-Chung’s Echoes From the Gorge, and on film scores such as Roving Mars, Taking Lives, and Secret Window. Cassara is an Innovative Percussion Artist.

Dr. Dominic Donato is active as a percussion soloist, chamber musician, composer, and teacher. He is a member of the Talujon Percussion Quartet and DoublePlay Percussion Duo and is staff percussionist for the Composers Conference at Wellesley College. Over the past ten years or so Dominic has kept himself occupied by writing, commissioning, and performing compositions featuring tamtams. Composers who have written pieces for him include Peter Jarvis, Stuart Jones, Elizabeth Hoffman, Helen Lee, Eric Moe, Steven Ricks, Ushio Torikai, and Barbara White. Upcoming premieres include works by Arthur Kreiger, Xi Wang, and Seung-Ah Oh. Dominic recently released METALMORPHOSIS which is the first CD of his “Music for Tamtams” project. In 2007 Dominic was selected by Meet the Composer as one of eight “Soloist Champions” in honor of his continuing commitment to new music and the solo percussion repertoire. Dr. Donato heads the Percussion Department and directs the Contemporary Ensemble at the Conservatory of Music, Purchase College, SUNY.

David Leisner is an extraordinarily versatile musician, a distinguished composer, and a master teacher. Regarded as one of the world’s leading classical guitarists, he is a featured recording artist for the Azica label, with highly acclaimed solo recordings of Bach, Villa-Lobos, contemporary music, Mertz and Schubert, Matiegka, and his own compositions. A recent release is a Naxos recording of the Hovhaness Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the Berlin Radio Orchestra. Mel Bay has just released his solo concert DVD, Classics and Discoveries. Leisner’s recent seasons have taken him around the US, including his solo debut with the Atlanta Symphony, a major tour of Australia and New Zealand, and debuts and reappearances in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. An innovative three-concert series at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, included the first all-Bach guitar recital in New York’s history, and his current annual “Guitar Plus” series in New York features chamber music with guitar. He is a regular at the Santa Fe, Rockport, Vail Valley, Bargemusic, Bay Chamber, and Angel Fire Chamber Music Festivals. Mr. Leisner is also a highly respected composer noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music. His works are published primarily by Theodore Presser Co., as well as G. Schirmer, Doberman, and Columbia Music. Leisner has served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory and is currently co-chairman of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music.

Pianist Mirna Lekic has given solo and chamber music performances in the United States, Canada, England, France and her native Bosnia, including recitals at Carnegie-Weill Hall, St. Martin-In-The-Fields series in London, Steinway Gallery in Atlanta, Columbia and Harvard
Universities, and Bascarsija Nights Festival in Sarajevo. Her playing has been praised for its “natural inventiveness and emotion” (Zena 21), “appropriate stylistic sense,” “admirably delicate finger-work,” “intelligent sense of interacting voices,” and for “eliciting [music’s] haunting poetry” (NY Concert Review). Prizewinner in the Queens College Young Artist Competition and the Morgan Park Festival Competition in New York, Mirna is the recipient of the NYFA Artist Grant, the Artists International Special Presentation Award, and the CUNY Music Fellowship. A graduate of the Eastman School and Mannes College, she serves on the faculty of Queensborough Community College and is a doctoral student at the Graduate Center where she is working with Ursula Oppens.

Percussionist Michael Lipsey has performed at festivals in Bali, London, Lisbon, Madrid, Berlin, Mexico City, Taipei, Macao, Tokyo, La Jolla, New York, Moscow, Bogota, and France. Michael is the founding member of Talujon Percussion and has also performed with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Steve Reich, Bang on a Can, Tan Dun, New York New Music Ensemble, and Riverside Symphony. He has recorded for Sony Records, Red Poppy Records, Nonesuch, Albany, Capstone, and Mode. Michael has performed throughout the world and given master classes at numerous schools including the Juilliard School of Music and California School of the Arts. Michael has also worked with many musicians from around the world, most recently with Gamelan Dharma Swara in New York City. He has worked with musicians Subash Chandran, Ganesh Kumar, Glen Velez, Carlos Gomez, Antonio Hart, Roland Vasquez, and River Guerguerian. His book and solo CD contains recently commissioned works for solo hand drums by Jason Eckardt, River Guerguerian, Mathew Rosenblum, Arthur Kreiger, Eric Moe, Dominic Donato, David Cossin, and David Rakowski. Michael is a full-time Professor at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College and Director of the Percussion Program and the New Music Ensemble.

Pianist Ursula Oppens, one of the very first artists to grasp the importance of programming traditional and contemporary works in equal measure, has won a singular place in the hearts of her public, critics, and colleagues alike. Her sterling musicianship, uncanny understanding of the composer’s artistic argument, and lifelong study of the keyboard’s resources have placed her among the elect of performing musicians. Oppens has recently performed with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and in recitals for the Van Cliburn Foundation, Music Toronto, and Baylor University. In 2008, Oppens celebrated the 100th birthday of Elliott Carter with performances of his complete works for solo piano at the Boston Conservatory, Symphony Space, and San Francisco Performances, and with appearances at Ravinia, Tanglewood,
and Merkin Hall. Her recording of these works received a Grammy nomination for best solo classical album. Oppens has commissioned and premiered works by Elliott Carter, John Harbison, Tania León, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Tobias Picker, Joan Tower, and Charles Wuorinen. She is currently on the faculty of Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

Flutist Meghan Shanley is currently in the Master’s program at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College studying with Tara Helen O’Connor. Along with performing in the Purchase Symphony Orchestra, Meghan is a strong advocate for chamber and new music and has premiered multiple works. Meghan obtained her Bachelor of Music degree at New York University while studying with Kathleen Nester. In the summer of 2008, she participated in the Julius Baker Flute Masterclass where she performed for Sandra Church, Brad Garner, and Nobutaka Shimizu. Meghan is currently auditioning for DMA programs and hopes to begin her studies in the fall.

Winner of two Walter W. Naumburg Awards – as chamber musician as well as solo recitalist – soprano Lucy Shelton enjoys an international career singing repertoire of all periods, with a primary focus on contemporary music. Notable among her numerous world premieres are works by Carter, Knussen, Davidovsky, Del Tredici, Grisey, Ruders, Schwantner, Albert, and Wuorinen. An avid chamber musician, Shelton has been a guest artist with ensembles such as the Emerson, Brentano, and Guarnieri string quartets, Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Speculum Musicae, Sospeso, New York New Music Ensemble, Boston Musica Viva, eighth blackbird, Nash Ensemble, Klangform Wien, Schoenberg-Asko, Ensemble Moderne, and Ensemble Intercontemporain. Highlights of recent seasons include her Zankel Hall debut with the Met Chamber Orchestra in Carter’s A Mirror On Which To Dwell, numerous performances of Pierrot Lunaire in collaboration with eighth blackbird and Blair Thomas Puppets, and the release of six new CDs. She has taught at the Third Street Settlement School in Manhattan, Eastman School, New England Conservatory, Britten-Pears School, and the Cleveland Institute. She joined the resident artist faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center in 1996. In the fall of 2007 she joined the Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance faculty.

Described by the New York Times as possessing “edgy, unflagging energy”, the Talujon Percussion Group performs regularly for the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Bang on a Can, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Harvard University, and the Percussive Art Society. Talujon has appeared at festivals such as the Taipei Lantern Festival, BAM Next Wave Festival, Chautauqua, California’s Festival of New American Music, and Bang on a Can Marathon. The group has worked with composers Meredith Monk, Julia Wolfe, and Eric Moe. Talujon recently toured Europe with Steve Reich and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. Talujon’s CD, ...the speed of the passing time..., features the works of Xenakis, Harrison, Rzewski, Shapey, and Talujon. The group’s first CD, Hum, includes live performances of works by Reich, Cage, Drummond, and Talujon.

Pianist Ivan Tan is a second-year master’s student at Purchase College, where he studies with Paul Ostrovsky. He earned his undergraduate degree at Brown University, where he was a dual concentrator in Music and Applied Math, and was a recipient of the Hope Chatterton Prize for Excellence in Keyboard Performance. He is a winner of the Rhode Island Chaminade Club Competition, and participated in PianoSummer at New Paltz in 2008.

Matt Ward is a principal player with the Argento Chamber Ensemble, Talujon, and the American Modern Ensemble, and is also the co-founder of the percussion trio Timetable. Mr. Ward also performs regularly with groups such as the Albany Symphony, Orchestra of the League of Composers, Associated Solo Artists, Sequitur, and the Riverside Symphony. Mr. Ward received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Duncan Patton and Chris Lamb. He has a Masters degree from the State University at Stony Brook under the direction of Ray DesRoches and is currently enrolled in the school’s DMA program. Both as a performer and conductor, Mr. Ward is very active in performing and commissioning new works from young composers. Through organizations such as the Learning Arts, Westchester Philharmonic, Young Audiences, and Marquis Studios, he has actively been working with elementary school children throughout New York City. Mr. Ward is also on faculty at Queens College and Brooklyn College. He can be heard on the recording labels Aeon, Argo, Capstone Records, Newport Classics, Soundspell, and Albany Records.

+ About the Music

Crumb recalls that he started Night Music I as a purely instrumental composition, but that it only came into focus when he decided to include two verses by the modern Spanish poet, Federico García Lorca. The composer writes: “The work as a whole is a projection of the violently contrasting moods of the two poems: La Luna Asoma (The Moon Rises), with its aura of almost ecstatic lyricism, and the intense, sardonic Gacela de la Terrible Presencia (Gacela of the Terrible Presence). The conflict of mood remains unresolved at the conclusion of the work. Structurally speaking, the seven movements (Notturni) of the composition form a readily perceptible arch design in which the Lorca poems stand as buttress points. Sections of quasi-improvisatory music are integrated into a context of precisely notated music. I have endeavored to enhance Lorca’s surrealistic images by means of a highly colored chromaticism and unusual juxtapositions of timbre, register and rhythmic forms.” --From the CD booklet of Bridge Records 9069

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale), composed in 1971 for the New York Camerata, is scored for flute, cello, and piano (all amplified in concert performance). The work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale, a tape recording of which I had heard two or three years previously. Each of the three performers is required to wear a black half-mask (or visor-mask). The masks, by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to represent, symbolically, the powerful impersonal forces of nature (i.e. nature dehumanized). I have also suggested that the work be performed under deep-blue stage lighting.

The form of Voice of the Whale is a simple three-part design, consisting of a prologue, a set of variations named after the geological eras, and an epilogue. The opening Vocalise (marked in the score: “wildly fantastic, grotesque”) is a kind of cadenza for the flutist, who simultaneously plays his instrument and sings into it. This combination of instrumental and vocal sound produces an eerie, surreal timbre, not unlike the sounds of the humpback whale. The conclusion of the cadenza is announced by a parody of the opening measures of Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra.

The Sea-Theme (“solemn, with calm majesty”) is presented by the cello (in harmonics), accompanied by dark, fateful chords of strummed piano strings. The following sequence of variations begins with the haunting sea-gull cries of the Archezoic (“timeless, inchoate”) and, gradually increasing in intensity, reaches a strident climax in the Cenozoic (“dramatic, with a feeling of destiny”). The emergence of man in the Cenozoic era is symbolized by a partial restatement of the Zarathustra reference.

The concluding Sea-Nocturne (“serene, pure, transfigured”) is an elaboration of the Sea-Theme. The piece is couched in the “luminous” tonality of B major and there are shimmering sounds of antique cymbals (played alternately by the cellist and flutist). In composing the Sea-Nocturne I wanted to suggest “a larger rhythm of nature” and a sense of suspension in time. The concluding gesture of the work is a gradually dying series of repetitions of a 10-note figure. In concert performance, the last figure is to be played “in pantomime” (to suggest a diminuendo beyond the threshold of hearing!); for recorded performances, the figure is played as a “fade-out".
--George Crumb

Alberto Ginastera remains one of the most underrated great composers of the 20th century, and his Guitar Sonata is, in my view, along with Britten’s Nocturnal, one of the towering masterpieces of the solo guitar literature to date. Written in 1976 as a commission by Robert Bialek, owner of a record and book store in Washington, D.C., at the request of Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima, this work was performed exclusively by Barbosa-Lima until it was a required test-piece for the 1981 Geneva International Guitar Competition, in which I was the Silver Medalist. In the short time we contestants had to prepare this just-published score, I felt an immediate and deep connection. Ginastera, who lived in Geneva at the time and was present for the competition, gave exceptional praise for my performance of it. When the competition was over, I asked him if he would be interested to coach me on the piece. His eyes lit up, and we worked on it at his apartment the next day. The session was, of course, full of revelation. My favorite memory of the afternoon was the moment when he asked me to play a very loud passage even louder. I tried. He said, “louder.” I tried again. He said, “more.” Another apparently unsuccessful attempt, and he growled, “BRRRRREAK THE GEETAR!”
--David Leisner

In the preface to the published score, Ginastera wrote: “The first movement, Esordio, is a solemn prelude, followed by a song which was inspired by Kecua music and which concludes with an abbreviated repetition of these two elements. The second movement, Scherzo, which must be played ‘il più presto possible,’ is an interplay of shadow and light, of nocturnal and magical ambience, of dynamic contrasts, distant dances, of surrealistic impressions, such as I had used in earlier works. Near the end, the lute theme of Sixtus Beckmesser appears as a phantasmagoria. The third movement, Canto, is lyrical and rhapsodic, expressive and breathless like a love poem. It is connected to the last movement, Finale, a quick spirited rondo which recalls the strong, bold rhythms of the music of the pampas. Combinations of ‘rasgueado’ and ‘tambora’ percussion effects, mixed with other effects of metallic timbre or the rebounding of strings, give a special color to this rapid, violent movement, which overall acquires the character of a ‘toccata.’” --From the liner notes by David Leisner to Music of the Human Spirit, an Azica CD.

The individuality of Ginastera’s new “neo-expressionist” style was announced in the Cantata para América Mágica (1960) for soloists and percussion ensemble, a total of 53 instruments, mostly percussion but including two pianos and a celesta, and based on pre-Columbian poems. Technically the cantata is overtly serial (pitch, rhythm, and dynamics are treated serially, as well as the melodic material), but emotionally it has an extraordinary undercurrent of expressive primitivism, especially in the pervasive rhythmic effects (polyrhythms and irregular meters) and in the difficult and dramatic vocal writing, with wide leaps and subtle inflections. This cantata is a genuine marriage of the expression of ancient emotions and modern techniques, in which the power of expression may attract many listeners who are otherwise antipathetical to serial techniques. The dramatic elements of this cantata were developed in four operas, modern in language if traditional in format, and highly successful in their debuts if now largely ignored (Don Rodrigo, 1963-1964, Bomarzo, 1966-1967, Beatrix Cenci, 1971, and Barabbas, 1977). They present strong formal structures, surrealistic situations arising from characters on the edge of sanity, and a pervasive theme of sex and violence.

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