Innova 681

Elliott Schwartz

Hall of Mirrors

 

 

Hall of Mirrors

1.    I.       Can You Spell “Sachsofone?”                1:04

2.    II.     Counting Lesson        1:45

3.    III.   Humoresque                  1:40

4.    IV.  Drones and Points    2:58

5.    V.    Chorale with Interruptions         4:32

6.    VI.  Mirror Variations       4:46

Radnofsky Saxophone Quartet

Elliott Schwartz, Piano

 

Crystal: A Cycle of Names and Memories

7.    I.       2:50

8.    II.     3:06

9.    III.   3:17

10. IV.  8:52

Paul Hoffman, piano

Tom Goldstein, percussion

 

11. Kaleidoscope                     16:43

Marc Thayer, Violin

Henry Skolnick, Contrabassoon

Paul Vasile, Piano

 

12. Rainforest with Birds 15:54

Harvard University Band

Tom Everett and Nat Dickey, conductors

 

 

 

Although Elliott Schwartz (1936 -) is a native New Yorker, he has spent almost a half-century in New England. He recently retired from the faculty of Bowdoin College, where he served for more than forty years.  His many extended residencies and/or visiting professorships include Ohio State University, the University of California (San Diego and Santa Barbara), Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge, and he has appeared as guest composer in such places as Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Tokyo and Reykjavik. 

Honors and awards for his compositions include the Gaudeamus Foundation (Netherlands), the Rockefeller Foundation (two Bellagio residencies), and the National Endowment for the Arts. During 2006, Schwartz’s 70th birthday was celebrated with concerts and guest lectures at Oxford, the Royal Academy of Music (London), the University of Minnesota, the ACA Festival (NYC) and the Library of Congress.

In addition to composing, Schwartz has also written or edited a number of books on musical subjects. These include Music: Ways of Listening, The Symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Electronic Music: A Listener’s Guide, Music Since 1945 (co-author with Daniel Godfrey) and Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music (co-editor with Barney Childs). Over the course of his career he served as president of The College Music Society, president of the Society of Composers, Inc, vice-president of the American Music Center, and board member of the American Composers Alliance.

Schwartz’s style is marked by a fondness for unsynchronized layers of activity (the musical equivalent of double exposure), highly dramatic – even theatrical – gestures, and brilliant instrumental colors. His juxtaposition of tonal passages and angular, modernist ones may create a sense of time warp, compounded by his penchant for quoting fragments of pre-existing music. One critic (Tim Page, New York Times) has referred to his work as “beyond eclecticism.”  In the words of another (David Cleary, New Music Connoisseur),  “what the 20th century needs most is an analogue to Brahms — someone who is able to gather up the widely scattered tendrils of this highly fractured 100 years and create a personal style from them… Elliott Schwartz is making a most persuasive bid to be that Brahms.”

 

 

 

 

HALL OF MIRRORS

(saxophone quartet and piano)

      Can You Spell “Sachsofone?”

      Counting Lesson

      Humoresque

      Drones and Points

      Chorale with Interruptions

      Mirror Variations

     

      Hall of Mirrors was composed for the Harvard University undergraduate saxophone quartet, and received its premiere at a 2001 Harvard Band concert of my music. The work was subsequently taken up by the Radnofsky Saxophone Quartet, and that ensemble has performed it a number of times. Like many of my compositions, Hall of Mirrors grew out of my obsession with musical spelling-games – in this case, the word “saxophone” phonetically converted to SACHSOFONE. This spelling not only translates into a particularly interesting musical motive (in my opinion), but also provides the primary building blocks for a related series of 12-tone rows, from which the work’s materials are derived.

      Given this pre-compositional background, the listener could regard Hall of Mirrors as a series of variations on the name “saxophone,” and that would be a perfectly valid way of approaching it.  One should also consider the work, however, in the context of its title, as numerous “mirrors” keep popping up within the texture. These “mirrors” include echoes, displaced registers, melodic and rhythmic variants, literal reflections, crazy fun-house distortions, and incursions from the real world beyond the concert hall.

 

This recording of Hall of Mirrors (saxophone quartet and piano) was made at a live performance by the Radnofsky Saxophone Quartet, with Elliott Schwartz as pianist. Location: Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, on March 27, 2003. The recording engineer was Patrick Keating.

 

Members of the Radnofsky Saxophone Quartet:

 

Philipp A. Stäudlin (soprano and alto) is a native of Friedrichshafen, Germany. Graduated from Basel Musikhochschule in 1999, Stäudlin received a Soloist Diploma with Honors, having studied with Marcus Weiss and Iwan Roth. He then came to the United States via a full scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study with Kenneth Radnofsky on the Artist Diploma Program at Longy School of Music. He has appeared as a soloist with numerous orchestras and ensembles throughout Germany and Switzerland, and has also performed recitals in Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Austria, Sweden, France, Italy, and the USA. Mr. Stäudlin has won many awards as both a saxophone soloist and chamber musician in contemporary, experimental, and classical music.  As the youngest competitor, Stäudlin won First Prize as well as the Audience Prize in the Gustav Bumcke International Saxophone Competition. As a member of the New Art Saxophone Quartet he has received First Prize in the Chamber Music Competition of the German Music Foundation and the Artist in Residence newcomer’s award with German Radio.  Philipp Staudlin is a member of the Tufts University applied music faculty.

 

Kenneth Radnofsky (alto) has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras and ensembles including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Kurt Masur, Dresden Staatskapelle, Boston Pops, Taipei and Taiwan Symphonies, New World Symphony, BBC Concert Orchestra, and Marlboro Festival. Mr. Radnofsky made his New York Philharmonic debut in 1996, also under the direction of Masur, having made his Carnegie Hall debut some years earlier with the New York premiere of Gunther Schuller’s Concerto, with the Natonal Orchestral Association. The world premiere of the Schuller was given by Radnofsky with the Pittsburgh Symphony. David Amram’s Concerto, Ode to Lord Buckley, is dedicated to Radnofsky. He founded World-Wide Concurrent Premieres and Commissioning Fund, Inc., premiering and commissioning a dozen works, including John Harbison’s San-Antonio.  Radnofsky has commissioned and premiered over 50 solo works, including pieces by Gunther Schuller, Michael Colgrass, John McDonald, Andy Vores, Donald Martino, and Elliott Schwartz.  Radnofsky is currently Professor of Saxophone at Boston’s three major conservatories, New England Conservatory, Boston Conservatory and the Longy School of Music, and also mentors doctoral students at Boston University.

 

Eliot Gattegno  (tenor) received the Fine Arts Award upon graduation from the Interlochen Arts Academy. Since then he has performed with orchestras, as a soloist and with various chamber ensembles throughout North America and Europe some of these include the Boston Conservatory Saxophone Ensemble, Boston Civic Symphony Orchestra, and the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.. He has participated in major music festivals such as Interlochen Center for Performing Arts, Tanglewood Music Festival, and Domaine Forget where he studied with Jean-Marie Londeix. An advocate of new music, Gattegno has commissioned almost a dozen new works for saxophone and various instruments from composers in Boston and New York area. He has studied at the New England Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Kenneth Radnofsky.

Eric Hewitt (baritone) has twice been featured as soloist with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (2001, 2003), with whom he gave the American Premiere and subsequent performance of Luciano Berio’s Chemin IV for soprano saxophone and orchestra. He has also been soloist with the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble and NEC Contemporary Ensemble, among others, and conducted the world premiere of Charles Wuorinen’s Big Epithalamium (saxophone ensemble version) at the International Clarinet and Saxophone Connection at Jordan Hall. He was the winner of NEC’s Chadwick Medal as the single outstanding graduate, where he studied saxophone with Kenneth Radnofsky and wind ensemble conducting with Charles Peltz. Mr. Hewitt is founder and conductor of the White Rabbit new-music ensemble (in residence at Harvard), director of the Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble, and chair of the Boston Conservatory woodwind department.

 

CRYSTAL: A CYCLE OF NAMES AND MEMORIES  (piano and percussion)

      This work was composed in 2003, on commission from Tom Goldstein and Paul Hoffman, and was premiered that fall at the home-base institutions of both performers (the University of Maryland/Baltimore County and Rutgers University).  It is a suite of movements drawing its imagery from many sources, some conscious and others well below the surface. The title word “Crystal,” for example, is deliberately ambiguous and open to a variety of interpretations. It can and should evoke multiple responses: brilliance, elegance, glitter – or the hard-edged, brittle potential of piano and percussive timbres (the essence of musical Neo-Classicism, perhaps) – or, on a deeper level, the fragile, potentially violent, destructive quality of glass (Crystal shattered, Kristall-nacht).   

      In a live (as opposed to recorded) performance of Crystal, the stage is dark for the opening, and once more returns to total darkness at the end. This focus upon light-darkness relationships – shadow and spotlight – may reveal another sort of ambiguity.  By interpreting light (or its absence) symbolically, the listener might wish to approach “Crystal” as representing a cycle  -- a single day, a year, or a lifetime.  Finally, I must note that many of my compositional choices for this piece are drawn from the names of the two performers who commissioned and premiered it.  There are melodic shapes based on the letters PAUL HOFFMAN and TOM GOLDSTEIN, used consistently throughout, brief snippets of material created by composers who are also named Paul  (Hindemith, McCartney) and Tom (Arne, Tallis), and a passing nod to “Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son.”

 

 

Crystal: A Cycle of Names and Memories was recorded on August 25, 2007 at the UMBC Studio (Baltimore). The recording engineer was Alan Wonneberger.

 

Paul Hoffmann, pianist and conductor, received a Master of Music degree in piano performance from the Eastman School of Music, did doctoral studies at Peabody Conservatory of Music, was a Fulbright Scholar studying piano performance in Austria at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna, at the “Mozarteum” in Salzburg and has been on the faculty of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, since 1980.  His main teachers have been Leon Fleisher, Theodore Lettvin, Cecile Genhart, Kurt Neumueller, Dieter Weber and Brooks Smith. During his career Mr. Hoffmann has performed hundreds of solo and chamber music concerts in the North America, Europe and Asia in addition to conducting appearances with the Helix New Music Ensemble, a group that he founded in 1990 and currently directs.  He has made over 20 recordings (long playing records, compact discs, and videos) of music by prominent modern composers, has recorded live for U.S. radio stations in New York City (WNYC), has had taped performances broadcast on various public radio stations across the country, and has recorded live for foreign radio stations such as Radio Cologne, Radio Frankfurt, Radio France and Voice of America.

 

Tom Goldstein (percussion) is Associate Professor of Music at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  A freelance percussionist for over twenty years in New York, Mr. Goldstein performed extensively with the Orchestra of St. Lukes and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.  Especially active in contemporary music, he has premiered dozens of solo and chamber works, many written expressly for him.  From 1980-1990 he served as Artistic Director of the new-music group GAGEEGO.  Mr. Goldstein has toured with Steve Reich, played with Pauline Oliveros and the ensemble Continuum.  He has published articles in Perspectives of New Music and Percussive Notes.  He currently performs and records with the Hoffmann/Goldstein Duo (piano-percussion), the new music ensemble Ruckus, and the klezmer band Klezzazz. He has recorded on the Neuma, Vanguard, Polydor, Opus 1, O.O. Discs, CD Tech, Capstone, Innova and CRI labels.

 

 

 

 

 

KALEIDOSCOPE (violin, contrabassoon, piano)

      The composition of Kaleidoscope took place during the first six months of 1999, and on three continents (most of it was composed in England, but large sections of it in Japan, and at my home in Maine as well).  It was first performed in October 1999 as part of an all-Schwartz concert at the University of Miami, Florida, and is dedicated to contrabassoonist Henry Skolnick, who mounted the premiere performance. Mr. Skolnick also worked with me on technical matters during the work’s creation, and I am greatly indebted to him.

      I’ve tried to let the nature of Kaleidoscope’s three instruments (violin, contrabassoon and piano) influence many of my compositional choices.  There are obvious disparities, seeming mis-matches and violent contrasts among these instruments, and it seemed only natural to highlight and exploit these.  At other times, though, the music explores a number of “common ground” areas that, in turn, dictate a very different kind of discourse.   In deciding to explore ALL of these timbral/textural possibilities – literally, a kaleidoscope of colors – I needed to compensate by unifying the total structure.  Accordingly, I have built my formal design around a recurring series of easily recognizable motives, and reference to a single twelve-tone row. (The latter translates, for the listening ear, into three triads, each of which has a discordant kick attached.)

 

Kaleidoscope was recorded at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis on December 17th, 2007. The recording engineer was Barry Hufker.

 

Marc Thayer (violin) is currently Vice President for Education and Community Partnerships with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.  He performs with the Kingsbury Baroque Ensemble in St. Louis, and is Artistic Producer for the Music at Whim Estate Concert Series in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. He is an American Voices faculty member through which he taught and performed at the 2007 Iraqi Unity Performing Arts Academy in Erbil, Northern Iraq.  And he is on the faculty and performs with the orchestra of the Guadalquivir Festival in Tarija, Bolivia.  Marc Thayer was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach from 1995-98 and founded its education and community programs. After spending the 1998-99 season in France performing at the Festival International d’Aix-en-Provence, he returned to the NWS as Community Programs Manager through April, 2002. Mr. Thayer received a BM and MM in violin performance from the Eastman School of Music where he studied with William Preucil and Zvi Zeitlin.  Marc Thayer has also performed with the San Diego, Syracuse, and Youngstown Symphony Orchestras, and as concertmaster of the Schlossfest Opera Orchestra in Heidelberg, Germany. 

 

Henry Skolnick (contrabassoon) received a Bachelor (Cum Laude) and a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami. He has served as bassoonist and contrabassoonist with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and also performed with the Fort Lauderdale Symphony, the Symphony of Berlin, and the Miami Chamber Symphony. In addition, he taught at Florida International University. Since his move to the Midwest, Henry Skolnick has served as Co-Principal bassoon of Sinfonia da Camera, the resident chamber orchestra at the University of Illinois/ Urbana.  He is recognized internationally as a leading exponent of the contrabassoon, and is the artist representative on the modern contrabassoon – known as the “contraforte” – designed by Guntram Wolf (Kronach, Germany).  Composers from the USA, England, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany have written works for him, and he has presented recitals and master classes in the United States, England, Germany and The Netherlands. Mr. Skolnick is Editor-in-Chief for Bassoon Heritage Edition.  His teachers include Josh DeGroen, Luciano Magnanini, and Gunter Piesk, and he has been strongly influenced, through a long association, by William Waterhouse.

 

Paul Vasile  (piano) is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where he received a Master’s Degree and Performer’s Certificate in Piano.  He is a member of the Trio Eclectique and collaborates regularly with members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He is a founding member of “La Compagnia de’ Colombari,” a performing group based in New York City and Orvieto, Italy, dedicated to musical and dramatic works from diverse cultures. Paul Vasile has also served as composer and music director for Laude in Urbis (Praises in the City), a contemporary adaptation of medieval Mystery Plays drawn from English cycles. As Minister of Music and organist at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Saint Louis, Mr. Vasile oversees a distinctive music program; the church has become a significant concert venue in the region and often features nationally known guest artists from a variety of musical styles and traditions.

 

RAIN FOREST WITH BIRDS

(symphonic wind ensemble and recorded bird sounds)

      This work was written in 2001, and first performed at Harvard University as part of an all-Schwartz program by the Harvard Band.  It differs from most of my other compositions in its absence of a single unified score. Rather, individual performers and sections play from parts that allow for choice and improvisation, and which rarely synchronize with each other; their entrances and exits  (and those of the recorded-sound playbacks) are controlled by the clock. Two conductors are required: one to direct those moments which are tightly synchronized and also control dynamic balances, the other to convey the passage of time in 10-second increments.

      I regard Rain Forest with Birds as a “kit,” an erector set, from which musicians can create a realization suitable to their needs, requirements and spaces – in full knowledge that each performance will be unlike any other – rather than as a “composition” in the traditional sense. Or, perhaps more fittingly for its title, I might suggest that the listener approach Rain Forest as a sonic, spatial and theatrical “environment,” within which (1) various events emerge and recede, and (2) one’s initial perception of a dense, multi-tiered landscape gradually sharpens in focus,  revealing individual objects and relationships.

      My overall scenario for Rain Forest grew out of circumstances unique to the Harvard premiere concert: the other pieces of mine being played on that evening’s program (fragments of which return here), the visually striking nature of the Lowell Hall performance space, with seats on three sides, and the large collection of percussion instruments available to the Harvard wind ensemble.  These instruments have been grouped into three percussion “stations,” used periodically as the source of quiet but persistent ostinati.  I decided to place additional quotes from my own work within the musical fabric – in particular, a phrase from a 1978 work called Scatter.  Ralph Vaughan Williams wanders into the rain forest as well, with fragments of his music appearing in the piano part; since I played that part at the premiere, the RVW quotes can be taken as symbolic of my own long-time connection to that composer’s music.  

      Finally, I should add a few words of commentary on the BIRDS that also inhabit the environment. Three compact disks are used during the performance. Much of the time they present actual bird calls, as recorded by ornithologists. But at other times one can hear fragments from the literature of Western art music in which bird are represented – the Beethoven Pastorale symphony and Rossini William Tell Overture, for example – and fleeting passages from the greatest of all “Bird” composers, William and Charlie.

      If the listener needs to discern a musical “form” in this busy environment, it might be best to focus upon three easily perceived elements. One is the recurrence of the “Scatter” motive heard at the very beginning; it does return with some regularity. Another is the regularly scheduled appearance of soloists (in order, flute, oboe, euphonium) in concerto-like situation, and lightening the textural weight considerably. Third, and perhaps most important of all, note the appearance of the tubular chimes, one statement every minute—marking the passage of time as we make our way through the rain forest. 

      This recording of Rain Forest with Birds was made at a live performance by the Harvard Wind Ensemble, directed by Nathaniel Dickey with Thomas Everett as assistant conductor.  Date and location: Lowell Hall, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), December 1, 2001.  The recording engineers were Matt Katcher and Julian Goodman.

For many years the Harvard Wind Ensemble has been a major force in supporting and fostering the creation of new wind band music.  Since 1971, under the direction of Thomas Everett, they have commissioned and/or premiered works from Norman Dello Joio, Peter Schickele, Vincent Persichetti, Vivian Fine, Daniel Pinkham, T. J. Anderson, Leon Kirchner and Ivan Tcherepnin, among others. Honored guest composers have included Henry Brant, Lukas Foss, Elliott Schwartz, Leslie Bassett, Gunther Schuller, Robert Starer and Ulysses Kay.  Guest conductors have included Karel Husa, Frederick Fennell, Arthur Fiedler, Gunther Schuller and Frank Battisti.

 

Thomas G. Everett (director of Harvard bands) is a graduate of the Ithaca College Conservatory and studied trombone with Emory Remington at the Eastman School of Music. He has held teaching positions at Brown University, Phillips Academy and the New England Conservatory.  As a noted bass trombonist, he has performed with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Boston Pops, and the bands of Jimmy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Charles.  Mr. Everett is the founder and first president of the International Trombone Association, and has been conductor, soloist and adjudicator throughout the United State and Europe; he has also taught master classes from Oslo to Budapest, Brussels to the Dominican Republic. In 1989 the Hungarian government presented him with their Artijus Award for outstanding performance of Hungarian music.

 

Nathaniel Dickey holds degrees from Oberlin College and Conservatory, Rice University, and the University of Minnesota. Formerly assistant director of bands at Harvard University, Dickey now serves on the faculty of Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota) teaching low brass and conducting the Concordia Cobber Band. As a professional trombonist, Dickey currently holds the positions of principal trombone with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, lead trombone with the Jazz Arts Group of Fargo-Moorhead, and trombone with the Post-Traumatic Funk Syndrome. He has performed with Minnesota Opera, Vermont Symphony, and Boston Ballet, among other orchestras, and was a founding member of the award-winning Orion Trombone Quartet and the Brass Mosaic. He has recorded with the Paramount Brass and Boston Symphony principal trombonist Ron Barron.

 

Original artwork by Dorothy Schwartz

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