American Accents David Stock
The Seattle Symphony
Gerard Schwarz and David Stock, Conductors
Susan Gulkis Assadi, viola
2nd Symphony (1996) (28:12)
1. Inexorable; Light,Dancing 13:30
2. Like the Wind 2:17
Gerard Schwarz, Conductor
Viola Concerto (1997) (22:15)
4. Moving Forward Gently 8:15
5. Cadenza:Slow Waltz
Susan Gulkis Assadi, Viola
David Stock, Conductor
7.American Accents (1984)
David Stock, Conductor 8:25
Symphony No. 2
Composer/Conductor David Stock is Professor of Music at Duquesne University, where he conducts the Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble. He has been Composer-in-Residence of the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Seattle Symphony, and is Conductor Laureate of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, which he founded in 1976. Mr. Stock made the cross-country trek to serve as Composer-in-Residence for the Seattle Symphony in 1996. His affiliation with that orchestra began in 1993, when he composed Power Play. Earlier, however, Maestro Gerard Schwarz, the Seattle Symphony’s Music Director since 1985, had conducted two of Stock’s works in Los Angeles and New York.
Stock retired as Conductor of PNME at the end of the 1998/99 season, after 23 years of dedication to new music and the living composer. In November 1992, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to receive the Creative Achievement Award for Outstanding Established Artist. Among his many commissions are Kickoff, premiered by the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur during the Orchestra's 150th Anniversary; Violin Concerto, premiered by Andres Cardenes and the Pittsburgh Symphony under Lorin Maazel for that Orchestra's 100th Anniversary; and Second Symphony, premiered by the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz.
Stock's compositions have been performed throughout
the United States and in Europe, Mexico, Australia, China, and Korea. He has
recorded on CRI,
Northeastern, MMC, Ocean, Albany, Innova and Ambassador. Stock has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, five Fellowship Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, five Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and grants and commissions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, the Paderewski Fund for Composers,
the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, Boston Musica Viva, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber
Orchestra, Richard Stoltzman, Duquense University, the Erie Philharmonic, and
As guest conductor, he has appeared with Australia's Seymour Group, Poland's Capella Cracoviensis and Silesian Philharmonic, Mexico's Foro Internacional de Musica Nueva, Eclipse (Beijing), the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Monday Evening Concerts, the Syracuse Society for New Music, the Minnesota Composers Forum, the American Dance Festival, Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh, the New England Conservatory Contemporary Ensemble, the Chautauqua Symphony, the American Wind Symphony, and the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.
Stock has served as panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and as a host of Da Capo, a weekly
series on WQED-FM in Pittsburgh. His television credits include the theme
music for the award-winning PBS series Kennedy Center Tonight.
In his primary role as a composer, a strong melodic sense, well-defined melodies and economical yet imaginative instrumental textures enliven his music. Nikolai Lopatnikoff was his primary teacher during his student days at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. As a graduate student at Brandeis University, he studied with Arthur Berger, who was part of the American “Stravinsky” school. He also studied with Alexei Haieff, himself close to Stravinsky. “Neoclassic ideas were paramount at that time,” Stock reflected, “and most strongly defined my background.”
Berger, Stock recalls, encouraged him to “try my hand at 12-tone composition. This was the heyday of the Uptown intellectual Princeton/Columbia orbit, and I wanted to be a good boy and please my teachers, get grants and commissions, and get my music played. Years later I realized that this kind of thinking really wasn’t me.
“Several things happened to bring about the ‘rediscovery of the audience,’ Stock continues. “One was simply that composers were getting tired of having all 12 pitches circulate all the time…. By 1983, Jacob Druckman and other composers realized that something was going on: festivals in New York were being billed as the ‘new Romanticism.’ A lot of us composers went through this transition in various ways. For instance, I was writing a brass quintet, and just by logic of voice-leading I got to this very ‘strange’ little conglomeration of three notes—D-flat, F and A-flat—a pure, naked triad. I hadn’t written a pure, naked triad in years! ‘This is kind of neat,’ I thought. If you do it right you can still make it sound good…. I don’t think it was initially an audience issue, but my own inner sense of what I was hearing.”
As others have done, Stock followed the beat of a different drummer—his own, one might say, in developing his compelling style. His orchestration, vibrant and bracingly clear, reflects the neo-Classic cleansing methods of his early teachers. His musical vocabulary is free in its exploration of expressive dissonance within an expanded, though tonally based, harmonic system, and his melodies—often upwardly moving and engagingly rhythmic—draw from sources as varied as Shostakovich to American jazz. Though the composer pays homage to his neo-Classic mentors, he pays equal respect to the more emotionally expressive side of his personality.
Symphony No. 2 (1996)
“Why a symphony?” the composer asked rhetorically before answering his own question. “At the end of the 20th century does the term still make sense? …Somehow…I knew that in this new work I wanted a breadth of expression and a sweep of contrasts that would justify the use of this noblest of orchestral titles. I only hope that I’ve achieved my goal.”
In three movements—two eventful large-scale statements surrounding a brief, skittish scherzo—Stock fully justifies his choice of nomenclature. Aside from now pointless issues of number of movements, the Symphony No. 2 wears its title comfortably. A sense of serious purpose, forward motion and a fusion of disparate emotional and timbral elements in one narrative unfolding assure its place in the long and glorious evolution of the symphony as the most appropriate vehicle for non-programmatic orchestral discourse.
Stock composed the Second Symphony throughout 1996. The scherzo, titled “Like the Wind,” came first, the result of a commission from the Pittsburgh Symphony, with which the composer has had a long and fruitful relationship. The outer movements were written in Santa Fe and Seattle, and the entire score was completed on October 19th of the year, on the 33rd anniversary of Stock and his wife, Celia.
The opening movement, more or less in ABA’ form, frames a fast part marked “Light, Dancing” within a slow movement marked “Inexorable.” Low heartbeat-like rumblings in the percussion set the pace. An upward two-note motif in lower strings joins in followed by the addition of more instruments. The overall impression is that of a solemn processional with a palpable sense of anxiety. The various orchestral sections take turns making forceful sonic utterances like changing organ registers. The overall sound world is lean and economical, and filled with stimulating contrasts. The faster central section, initially lighter in mood, grows out of the slower introduction and conveys a sense of growing expectancy. Like a caressing breeze, an English horn, then flute, brings in a swirling pastoral theme. Though the darker music of the Introduction recalls the searing power of Shostakovich at his most bleakly sardonic, the lighter music sounds irrepressibly American. Jazzy percussion riffs impel the music forward, calmed at times by gentler commentary from the winds.
The mercurial scherzo opens nervously with rising scurrying strings and snappy winds/brass retorts answered by percussion. The movement is skittish, motoric and ends almost as soon as it begins. The finale, marked “Ominous,” starts off with a rising motif redolent of the first movement, and in fact, much of the material does relate to the opening of the Symphony. A battery of percussion pits itself against shimmering strings; this edgy, anxious music recalls the “night music” of Bartók, and even to some degree, of Mahler’s eerie scherzos. Though “ominous” (the composer’s term), the movement’s strong rhythmic impulse obviates any sense of despair. This is music of strong profile and vigor.
Viola Concerto (1997)
If Stock proved his mettle as a symphonist in his Second Symphony, he had already demonstrated skill in the realm of that combative/collaborative form, the “concerto” in his superb Violin Concerto, premiered by the Pittsburgh Symphony and its concertmaster, Andres Cardenes in 1996. Shortly after Stock arrived in Seattle, where he served as Composer in Residence for the Seattle Symphony from 1996-97, the Orchestra’s music director, Gerard Schwarz, casually mentioned to him, “It would be great if you could write a new piece” to commemorate the opening of Benaroya Hall, the new home of the Seattle Symphony, in 1998. “In April of 1997,” Stock wrote, “I was driving to the home of Susan Gulkis, Seattle Symphony’s principal violist, to see her about renting her house for the month of July, when my wife and I would return to Seattle. Suddenly it hit me—I’d love to write a viola concerto for Susan! Maestro Schwarz endorsed the plan enthusiastically.”
David completed the Concerto in August 1997, in Santa Fe. It is cast in the traditional three movements, though played without pause. In the first movement, “Moving Forward Gently,” orchestral strings immediately establish a regular tread before the soloist enters with an ardently lyrical rising theme. Winds and percussion provide contrasting sonorities briefly before return of the main theme played by viola. Harmonies are more astringent than in the Second Symphony, though they always retain a tonal footing. The scoring, as is typical of the composer, is lean but varied, a legacy of his early training in the neo-classical tradition that Stock referred to as the “Stravinsky/Hindemith mix.” A challenging cadenza for the solo viola links the first movement to the romantic and evocative second movement, “Slow Waltz,” a warm lilt with sufficient muscle and mystery to keep it free from mere nostalgia. The finale begins caressingly with softly glowing orchestral strings and a sweetly flowing melody spun by the solo viola. Echoes of Copland—another neo-classicist with Romantic yearnings—infuse this beguiling movement. Mildly dissonant asides from the brass contrast and enhance the viola’s lyricism.
American Accents (1984)
From its initial chugging beat, redolent of both minimalist memories and Stock’s penchant for irresistible forward momentum, this aptly named one movement piece takes off on a steady jaunt across a distinctly American landscape. Echoes of jazz further the connection in muted brass and jazzy percussion timbres. The basic unifying theme, leaping upward like an updated 18th century “rocket theme,” adds further impetus. Stock’s neo-classic background is felt in other ways as well, notably in his crisp, lean Stravinsky-esque textures and attractively bracing harmonies.
The composer notes, “American Accents was completed in October 1984 with the assistance of a Fellowship-Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is dedicated to Gerard Schwarz. It was given its premiere by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under Maestro Schwarz, in October 1985. Virgil Thomson wrote many years ago of the characteristic rhythm of much American music being a steady background of eighth-notes, punctuated by accents, This rhythmic feel is the basis for American Accents; there are only a few triplets for punctuation in the work. I wanted to write an overture-like piece that would open a concert on a bright, upbeat note.”
© 2002 Steven Lowe
Susan Gulkis Assadi
Principal violist of the Seattle Symphony, Susan Gulkis Assadi enjoys a varied career as an orchestral player, chamber musician, soloist and teacher. Before joining the Seattle Symphony during the 1992-1993 season, she spent three seasons as principal violist of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
She received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1988 from The Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with Michael Tree and Karen Tuttle. An active chamber musician, Ms. Gulkis Assadi is a founding member of the Seattle-based Bridge Ensemble and has played with numerous chamber orchestras including The Brandenburg Ensemble, Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, the European-based New American Chamber Orchestra, and the New European Strings. She has served on the faculty of the Waterloo Music Festival and participated in summer festivals at the Grand Teton Music Festival, the La Jolla Chamber Music Society and the Seattle International Music Festival. She coaches regularly at several Seattle high schools and teaches privately.
Founded in 1903 the Seattle Symphony (www.seattlesymphony.org) is one of the oldest and largest cultural institutions in the Pacific Northwest. Gerard Schwarz has been Music Director since 1985. In 1998 the Orchestra began performing in the acoustically superb Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. The Symphony is recognized for its adventurous programming and tradition of performing music by contemporary composers. Since the 1980s, Maestro Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony have released more than eighty compact discs for Artek, Delos, EMI, Koch International, CRI, New World, JVC, Nonesuch, Reference Recordings and RCA. From September through July, the Orchestra is heard live by more than 300,000 people annually in its main concert series and by over a quarter of a million in its broadcasts on Classical KING FM 98.1 and at www.king.org.
Gerard Schwarz, Music Director of Seattle Symphony since 1985 and Music Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra since 2001, is also Conductor Emeritus of New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, having served there as Music Director from 1984 to 2001. He stepped down as Music Director of the New York Chamber Symphony in 2002, taking the orchestra he founded in 1977 through its 25th anniversary. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Gerard Schwarz began his conducting career in 1966. Within ten years, he was appointed Music Director of the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, the Eliot Feld Dance Company, the Waterloo Festival and the New York Chamber Symphony as well as the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. In 1981 he established the Music Today contemporary music series in New York City and served as its Music Director through 1989. Gerard Schwarz has led the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in débuts at the Tanglewood and Ravinia Festivals, and from 1991 to 1999 he conducted the Mostly Mozart Festival in Tokyo. From 1994 to 1999, he served as Artistic Advisor to Tokyu Bunkamura’s Orchard Hall, conducting six programmes annually with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. He has guest-conducted major orchestras throughout North America and Europe. In 1994 Gerard Schwarz was named Conductor of the Year by Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts. He also has received the Ditson Conductor’s Award from Columbia University, an honorary Doctorate of Music from the Juilliard School, and honorary doctorates from Fairleigh Dickinson University, University of Puget Sound and Seattle University. In May 2002, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awarded special recognition to Maestro Schwarz for his efforts in championing the works of American composers and the music of our time. In April 2003 the Pacific Northwest Branch of the National Arts & Sciences gave Maestro Schwarz its first “IMPACT” lifetime achievement award. He was also named an Honorary Fellow at John Moores University, Liverpool.
This recording was made possible by grants from the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund and the Fishman Family Foundation
All works published by Norruth Music, a BMI-affiliated subsidiary of MMB Music, Inc.
Recording Engineer: Al Swanson
Producer: Adam Stern
Editing: Dmitry Lipay
Mastering: Al Swanson
Symphony commissioned by the Seattle Symphony with a Fellowship-Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; Score dedicated to Judy and David Friedt, Gracious Hosts, True Friends.
(Like the Wind commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony, dedicated to Mariss Jansons)
Concerto commissioned by the Seattle Symphony for Susan Gulkis Assadi with a grant from the Fishman Family Foundation
American Accents written for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Y Chamber Symphony with a Fellowship-Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; Score dedicated to Gerard Schwarz
Symphony recorded May (??), 2001, December 5, ’01, Benaroya Hall
Viola Concerto & American Accents recorded May (??), 2000, Nordstrom Recital Hall