A Chamber Fantasy

Stephen Paulus





         Dramatic Suite               1997

01        Electric            5:32

02        Dark                5:41

03        Playful             4:44

04        Volatile            3:10

05        Desolate           5:08


Flute    Judith Ranheim

Violin  Chouhei Min

Viola    Korey Konkol

Cello    Mina Fisher

Piano   Thelma Hunter


         Courtship Songs            1981

06        Proclamation               1:38

07        Greeting                      3:30

08        Courtship                    5:34

09        Betrothal                      3:05

10        Celebration                  2:36


Flute    Jane Garvin

Oboe    Merilee  Klemp

Cello    Mina Fisher

Piano   Jill Dawe


         Partita Appassionata                1996

11        Fiery                6:44

12        Wistful 4:17

13        Driving            5:06

14        Tenderly          3:40

15        Aggressive      4:36


Violin  Troy Gardner

Piano   Jill Dawe


16        Air on Seurat                 1992



Cello    Mina Fisher

Piano   Jill Dawe


Total  Playing Time     69:34




Dramatic Suite for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano


After a slow introduction by flute and piano, the work opens with an ‘electric moment’ that is extended and suspended in time through a series of oscillating, gyrating, and highly charged figures.  It proceeds with contrast and conflict in the second movement, with dark and somewhat ponderous ideas being juxtaposed with bell-like and lyrical ones.  The third movement is characterized by an abundance of elongated, lyrical ideas moving gingerly over shifting harmonies.  The fourth movement is an extreme amplification of movement two, with musical contrast being exploited and exaggerated.  The work closes with a bittersweet quality that begins in a dirge-like fashion and ends in a reposeful manner with a touch of melancholy.


Throughout the composition of this work, attention to color has been of extreme importance.  Three instrumental families are represented (woodwind, strings, and keyboard) and a fourth is implied, since the piano is really a percussive instrument.  On occasion the instruments occupy traditional roles, e.g., flute as soloist being accompanied by strings or piano.  But more often than not, the aim has been to treat the individual instruments as equal partners, sharing in the common goal of portraying some intense or sublime musical emotion.


My gratitude is extended to that unique group of six couples, rugged Minnesota individualists, known as the Commissioning Club, and especially to Judy and David Ranheim, who hatched this idea and fostered its growth.  I also want to thank David Shifrin and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.



Courtship Songs


Courtship Songs was commissioned by Linda and Jack Hoeschler for a performance at their fifteenth wedding anniversary party in 1981.  It is scored for flute, oboe, cello, and piano - all instruments, which are played by members of the Hoeschler family.


The various movements of Courtship Songs are intended to depict the spirit and development of a relationship.  The first movement, “Proclamation,” sets a joyous atmosphere full of energy.  It refers to the anniversary celebration specifically and to a celebration of love in general. 

The second movement, “Greeting,” recalls the first conversation at the beginning of a relationship.  The mood is at once tentative and excited with awkward pauses where each speaker seems to grope for words.  This movement uses no piano.  “Courtship,” the third movement is an extended one, which contains episodes of contrasting feeling.  The opening and closing sections are characterized by an abundance of rhythmic energy.  The middle section, featuring an extended cello solo, is tender and lyrical.  “Betrothal,” is appropriately solemn and wondrous.  Instrumental colors create much of the mood.  “Celebration,” begins with a similar feeling to “Betrothal,” but soon regains the energy and verve of the opening movement from which it quotes extensively.



Partita Appassionata


Commissioned by Linda and Jack Hoeschler, the Partita Appassionata is an abstract musical work without programmatic content.  The movement titles are chosen to express the emotional content reflected in the piece. 


The first movement (“Fiery”) is characterized by short chromatic figures, trills, runs, and alternating chordal clusters.  Its nature is rather “spiky” and volatile.

In the second movement (“Wistful”) the violin and piano work in tandem as they express several extended lyrical ideas.  A music box theme emerges part way into the movement; further along, the music builds to climax as ascending violin melodies are counterbalanced by repeated chords in the piano.


The third movement (“Driving”) is built around the interval of a minor third.  It is stated as two separate pitches, as in the violin’s opening pair of notes (D to B) as well as in a chord cluster heard in the piano’s entrance (D-C#-B).  This movement, which begins transparently, evolves into a raucous waltz.


Movement four (“Tenderly”) opens with an extended violin melody underscored by gentle dissonances expressed in the piano by overlaying chords built on fourths.  It is the most expressive portion of the work, containing a hint of darkness.


The final movement (“Aggressive”) begins sparsely but soon builds to clusters of notes in the piano, which give impetus to rapidly moving violin figures.  Occasionally the chord clusters burst forth and become a cascading avalanche of sound.



Air on Seurat


Air on Seurat (the Grand Canal) is a work for cello and piano that was originally conceived for tenor and piano.  It was adapted for the present combination to serve as a contest work in a cello competition held by the National Society of Arts and Letters (NSAL) in Phoenix, AZ.  The Board of Directors of the NSAL specifically requested that the work should be a lyrical one.

The text for the original work (for tenor and piano) is based on a poem by Ira Sadoff called “Seurat: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grand Jette.” It is a moving and nostalgic poem which inspired Stephen Paulus to make the musical setting not only lyrical in style by also somewhat haunting and impressionistic.  The vocal work is a part of a larger cycle of seven songs entitled: “Artsongs.”



Stephen Paulus


With over 200 works to his credit, Stephen Paulus is one of America’s most prolific and accomplished composers. He completed his B.A. in Piano Performance at the University of Minnesota where he also received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition while studying with Paul Fetler.  In 1973 he co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum (now the American Composers Forum) where he worked from 1973-1983.  Paulus has held Composer Residency posts with the Minnesota Orchestra (1983-87), the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (1988-1992), and currently the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.  In the 1991-92 season he also served as the first Composer in Residence for the Dale Warland Singers.  He is a recipient of both Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, and an honorary doctorate from Macalester College.  Orchestral commissions have come from the New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra, and many others.  Paulus has written seven operas to-date and is currently commissioned to write a three-act work for the Juilliard Opera Center for an April 2002 premiere. Stephen Paulus is a member of the Board of Directors of ASCAP.  He lives in St. Paul with his wife, Patty, an artist, and their two sons, Gregory and Andrew.





Judith Ranheim is a professional freelance musician and private teacher in the Twin Cities (MN) area.  She performs regularly as a soloist, chamber musician and guest artist with various ensembles, and as an artist member of Thursday Musical and Friday Club.  She currently serves on the board of directors on the National Flute Association.  She received her undergraduate degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and her graduate degree in performance from the University of Iowa, where she was a student of Betty Bang Mather. 


Troy Gardner grew up in southern Minnesota and studied violin with Mary West and Beth Wolfe during his high school years.  He attended Indiana University, where he was a student of Josef Gingold, after which he returned to Minnesota for graduate work at the U of M with Roland and Almita Vamos.  Troy is currently a member of the Minnesota Contemporary Ensemble and also plays as a substitute with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony.


Jane M. Garvin, flutist, has performed with the Boston Symphony, Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and the Minnesota Opera.  She has served on the faculties of Brandeis University, the College of the Holy Cross, and the College of St. Benedict, and is currently teaching at MacPhail Center for the Arts.  Ms. Gavin has recorded chamber music on the Neuma and Russian Disc labels.  She also performs music on flutes from around the world with the fold music duo Aeolus, and is a member of The Klezmer Band Prague 24.


Jill Dawe is a native of Newfoundland and a graduate of Eastman School of Music.  Active as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher, she lives and works in the Twin Cities and is an assistant professor of music at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.  She is also a faculty member of the piano department at the Chautauqua Institute, New York.


Merilee Klemp, oboist, is a well-known recitalist, chamber musician and teacher in the Twin Cities.  Her notable accomplishments include an impressive list of featured.  Following graduation from Augsburg College, she received her M.A. in Musicology from Dr. Susan McClary at the University of Minnesota.  Ms. Klemp studied with oboists Richard Killmer, John Mack and Wayne Rapier.  Merilee Klemp is on the adjunct faculties of St. Olaf College and Carleton College where she maintains oboe studies.  She is also Assistant Professor at Augsburg College where she has served a Chair of the Music Department.


Mina Fisher has been cellist with the Minnesota Orchestra since 1979.  She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Indiana University, where she studied with Janos Starker and Fritz Magg.  She studied in Europe with Andre Navarra at the Vienna Hochschule für Musik and in Brazil under Aldo Parisot.  In 1981, Ms. Fisher won the Bryan Young-Artists Award.  She has appeared as a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, National Symphony of Costa Rica, and has toured Latin America under State Department auspices.  Her solo and ensemble playing has frequently been broadcast on National Public Radio and on Minnesota Public Radio.  She is a former faculty member of the College of St. Benedict, and has held principal positions with the New Orleans Symphony under Leonard Slatkin, as well as with the National Symphony of Costa Rica.  Ms. Fisher founded the Adelante Quartet, and later, in 1982, she co-founded Ensemble Capriccio.


Korey Konkol is associate professor of viola at the University of Minnesota.  An avid chamber musician, Mr. Konkol is a frequent guest artist with several Twin Cites organizations including Hill House Chamber Players, the Bakken Trio, and the Minnesota Orchestra’s Viennese Sommerfest.  A graduate of Western Illinois University and the New England Conservatory of Music, Konkol’s teachers have included Walter Trampler, Roland Vamos, and Burton Fine.  Mr. Konkol has served as principal violist of the Ann Arbor, Peoria, and Knox-Galesberg symphonies, has participated in numerous festivals including Chamber Music East, Musicorda, Aspen, and Meadowmount, and is a frequent player with the Minnesota Orchestra.  Mr. Konkol maintains an intense teaching and performing schedule throughout the year, and has held teaching positions at the Music Center of the North Shore in Winnetka, Illinois, and at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.


Chouhei Min, a former child prodigy, began performing as a violinist at the age of five.  She toured extensively while studying at the Seoul Conservatory and toured East Asia while studying under Eto Toshia in Tokyo.  Winner of the International Violin Competition and the National Violin Competition of Korea among others, she received her MMA from Yale where her mentor was Broadus Erie.  As part of the Alpha Piano Trio, she was awarded the Coleman Chamber Music Award.  Ms. Min served as the Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony and as a professor at Southern Methodist University.  She has soloed under many great conductors, including Klaus Tennstedt and Edo do Waart, and she is a co-founder of Ensemble Capriccio. 


The music on this recording was prepared for a performance to honor Minnesota pianist and avid music supporter Thelma Hunter on May 17, 1998 at St. Paul’s University Club.  It was given to thank donors to the Thelma Hunter Fund, an endowment administered by the American Composers Forum.  The Fund is a permanent living fund, income from which will be directed toward the commissioning and performance of new music, with Thelma guiding the process of selecting projects.  For more information contact the Forum at (651) 228-1407 ext.15.




Recorded at Studio M, St. Paul

Engineer: Thomas Knab

Artwork: Patty Paulus (tray card), Thelma Hunter, ‘May 17’ (cover photo)

Text: Fred Langenfeld

Executive Producer, Graphic Design: Philip Blackburn


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