When Kurt Rohde came to San Francisco in the ‘90s, he had long given up being a composer. As a violist, he was thrilled by the possibilities of pursuing life as a new music performer. He quickly connected with a crowd of like-minded performers and as his creative life flourished, found himself drawn inexorably and unconventionally back to working as a self-taught composer. The music he found himself creating was stylistically open and richly expressive and supported by the inspiration of his friends and fellow musicians, Rohde found a place for his work to thrive in the Bay area.
Rohde’s innova debut, ONE: Chamber Music of Kurt Rohde, features performances by violinist Axel Strauss, pianist Genevieve Feiwen Lee, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, and the Empyrean Ensemble in various settings. “Concertino for Violin and Small Ensemble” (2010) was composed for Axel Strauss, winner of the Walter W. Naumburg Competition and features the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, a group Rohde founded, which takes a Baroque concerto grosso into the 21st Century. “ONE for speaking pianist on texts of Jakob Stein” (2009) showcases pianist/speaker/percussionist Genevieve Feiwen Lee as she weaves a tale of seclusion, revelation and resignation drawn from Stein’s poems about Judaism and the nature of being. The arc of this plaintive, introspective, and engrossing work is dramatic and powerfully intimate.
The relentless, dynamic energy of “Double Trouble for Two Violas and Small Ensemble” (2001/2003) will leave the listener thrilled long after the music has ended. It is a tour de force for not just the soloists, but for the ensemble as well, and captures the forward momentum found in much of Rohde’s works. “Four Remixes for Piano Trio” (2011) takes four well-loved pop songs and reframes them through the lens of Rohde’s memory. What he finds are fractured, altered memories, each individually distinctive and personal. At times, these remixes come close to being love songs to a past memory that Rohde wants to share with his listeners. Rohde has received the Rome Prize, the Berlin Prize, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.
KJFC 89.7 FM
"As edgy as anything you’ll hear on KFJC, but couched in the chamber orchestra confines, with crisp Partch-like percussion and bursts of suspense. Piano explosions, staggering violin runs, false endings. … Pieces are very short, fragments, pottery poetry shards in the desert." [FULL ARTICLE]
NEW MUSIC BOX
"I like the sinewy energy of this movement, the surprising bits of beauty without narcissistic preening, the overall sense of a score assembled with maximum skill and economy—and a cast of solo and ensemble artists performing it all on this track with matching care and virtuosity." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Ed Harsh, President and CEO
“Kurt Rohde’s thoughtful and emphatic works for chamber ensemble have been collected on a CD titled “One.” … The album title is fitting, considering Rohde’s talent for synthesizing disparate elements in a single piece—mixing baroque and modern forms in his Concertino, popular and classical styles in Four Remixes, and the acts of speaking and playing in One for speaking pianist.” [FULL ARTICLE]
CLASSICAL MODERN MUSIC REVIEW
"[A] good aural picture of the spectrum of musical sounds that comprise the Kurt Rohde universe. … [L]yric, complexly modern and filled at times with a dramatically charged rhythmic energy. … The San Francisco concert scene is lucky to have Kurt Rohde as a resident." [FULL ARTICLE]
"Kurt Rohde is a young, eclectic, and exuberant composer, who … shows a personality that may yet still develop, but is already defined and confident. … [The two concertos] are rich in micro-motives that are intertwined and overlapping, chasing each other wildly, on the edge of derailing but held together by vibrant polyrhythmic patterns and dynamic power." [FULL ARTICLE]
"[E]ach piece … follows its own uniquely arresting course with determined intensity and a concentrated use of resources. Nothing seems to happen casually, so the influences that permeate Rohde's music … become indivisible parts of a dynamic, energetic … flow."