Portraits and Elegies
1 Vocalise 5:58
2 Berceuse Fantasque 6:52
from Day Music and Night Music
3 Pearls 1:46
4 Extreme Leisure 4:15
5 Bats 1:46
6 Billet Doux (Love Letter) 1:03
7 Another Ground 3:27
8 Gnats 1:56
9 Lighthouse 3:27
10 Saying Goodbye, Driving Off 2:35
11 Elegy 7:32
12 Adagio, Amoroso 9:03
13 Lamentoso (Chaconne) 9:21
Frank Almond, violin
(Stradivari, 1715, "ex-Lipinski")
Brian Zeger, piano
“I wrote my Vocalise in April 1999, inspired by the mournful eponymous work by Rachmaninov. Just as in his work, my Vocalise is not simply about a melody alone but rather the interplay between the melody and the counterpoint hidden beneath it in the harmonies of the piano. These lines that live in the sonorities of the piano, serve to light up different areas of the violin melody much like spotlights are used to illuminate a sculpture; one does not consciously acknowledge their existence, one notices only the beauty of the artwork.
“Originally for violin and piano, the work became the middle movement - Vocalise for Orchestra - of my Circle of Dreams, a symphony in three movements, commissioned and premiered by Maestro Gerard Schwarz and The New York Chamber Symphony. Since then it has received many performances around the world and has been transcribed for many different instrumental combinations.”
for violin and piano
On the first page of Philip Lasser’s Berceuse Fantasque for violin and piano there figures the following epigraph: “ ...et rźve la berceuse.” (...and dreams the one who sings the lullaby.) The composer writes that his Berceuse Fantasque is as much about the lullaby as it is about the one who sings the lullaby. Thus after a tender first section, representing a lullaby sung to a child, we step into the more troubled dream world of the one who just sang the child to sleep. Fears and phantasms rise and fall as we return to the lullaby now heard from within the singer’s heart.
Composer of poetic and lyrical music, Philip Lasser (b. 1963) has crafted a unique soundworld blending the subtle colors of French Impressionist sonorities with the crisp, direct sounds and rhythms of America’s jaunty musical palette. Standing apart from the modernist trends and experiments, Philip Lasser has devoted himself to the refinement of personal expression through an economy of gesture and a blossoming of color.
Philip Lasser writes for all formations and has been performed by artists and orchestras the world over. Recently, the American pianist Simone Dinnerstein has triumphed his works for piano, in particular by performing and recording his 12 Variations on a Chorale by J.S. Bach. In recognition of his distinct musical voice, Philip Lasser recently received the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. This prize is awarded in collaboration with the C.F. Peters Corporation to publish and promote the work of an American composer.
Philip Lasser’s works are published by Editions Max Eschig in Paris and by Peters Editions and Rassel Editions in New York. Philip Lasser received his BA Summa Cum Laude in Music from Harvard College. At the age of 15 he studies counterpoint, harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger’s close disciple and colleague, Narcis Bonet. In 1994 Philip Lasser received his Doctorate in Composition from the Juilliard School where he studied with David Diamond. <www.philiplasser.com>
Dr. Lasser is professor at The Juilliard School since 1994 where he teaches composition, counterpoint, harmony and analysis. Philip Lasser is also President and Director of EAMA, the European American Musical Alliance, Inc. which runs a summer music program in composition, chamber music and conducting at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. <www.eamusic.org>
from “Day Music” and “Night Music”
Ned Rorem’s musical language is beautifully embodied in these short, aphoristic pieces. They fall roughly into two categories: brilliant show pieces which showcase virtuoso writing for both violin and piano, and subdued minimalist pieces where the white space between the notes is as important as the notes themselves.
In the first category, “Pearls” has a Gallic suaveness, intertwining piano and violin lines in a manner reminiscent of French salon music. Both “Bats” and “Gnats” are hard-driven showpieces, “Gnats” also profiting from the rhythms and sharp edges of American jazz.
Among the slower pieces, “Another Ground” spins a hypnotic web with a recurring slow piano arpeggio that never varies. “Billet Doux” is like a fragile French mélodie, a form in which Rorem excels.
“Extreme Leisure” is an homage to Ravel’s “Le Gibet” from “Gaspard de la Nuit”. Like Ravel’s tolling bell, the entire piece revolves around two E flats, creating a harmonic pivot and an inexorable source of tension. Rorem brilliantly varies the harmonies around this pivot in a rising arc of intensity before falling back to lone tolling of the E flats.
We end our selections from “Day Music” and “Night Music” with “Saying Goodbye, Driving Off”, an enigmatic work that seems both a farewell and an elegiac look back.
We chose these particular pieces for their own appeal to us, and in accordance with the composer’s instructions that these works may be performed individually or in a group “according to the needs at hand”.
— FA, BZ
Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time Magazine has called him “the world’s best composer of art songs,” yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos and an array of other orchestral works, music for numerous combinations of chamber forces, ten operas, choral works of every description, ballets and other music for the theater, and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.
Rorem is one of America’s most honored composers. In addition to a Pulitzer Prize, awarded in 1976 for his suite Air Music, Rorem has been the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship (1951), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1957), and an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1968). He is a three-time winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award; in 1998 he was chosen Composer of the Year by Musical America. The Atlanta Symphony recording of the String Symphony, Sunday Morning, and Eagles received a Grammy Award for Outstanding Orchestral Recording in 1989. From 2000 to 2003 he served as President of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2003 he received ASCAP’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in January 2004 the French government named him Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Rorem was born in Richmond, Indiana on October 23, 1923. As a child he moved to Chicago with his family; by the age of ten his piano teacher had introduced him to Debussy and Ravel, an experience which “changed my life forever,” according to the composer. At seventeen he entered the Music School of Northwestern University, two years later receiving a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. He studied composition under Bernard Wagenaar at Juilliard, taking his B.A. in 1946 and his M.A. degree (along with the $1,000 George Gershwin Memorial Prize in composition) in 1948. In New York he worked as Virgil Thomson’s copyist in return for $20 a week and orchestration lessons. He studied on fellowship at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood in the summers of 1946 and 1947; in 1948 his song The Lordly Hudson was voted the best published song of that year by the Music Library Association.
In 1949 Rorem moved to France, and lived there until 1958. His years as a young composer among the leading figures of the artistic and social milieu of post-war Europe are absorbingly portrayed in The Paris Diary and The New York Diary, 1951-1961 (reissued by Da Capo, 1998). He currently lives in New York City.
When we first played Peter Lieberson’s Elegy, its transparent and episodic quality, as well as the intriguing harmonic language and generally lyrical writing for the violin immediately struck both of us.
Beginning with a quiet violin solo, Elegy unfolds in a spare, haunting idiom which speaks of both loss and consolation. When the piano joins the violin in a series of soft chords enriched by tremolos and trills, the work reaches the first of several quiet climaxes. The violin soars to its upper ranges in a cantabile section reminiscent of vocal writing. This gives way to a richer harmonic idiom elaborated by arpeggios in the piano before the piece subsides in a dreamy slow waltz, tapering off to nothing.
Robert McDuffie and Ruth Laredo premiered Elegy in 1990. It was commissioned from Peter Lieberson in memory of Tamara Strickland and was also composed in memory of his brother.
— FA, BZ
Peter Lieberson was born in New York City in 1946 and now lives in Santa Fe. He is the son of the late Goddard Lieberson, former president of Columbia Records, and the ballerina Vera Zorina. Lieberson’s principal teachers in composition were Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuorinen, Donald Martino, and Martin Boykan. After completing musical studies at Columbia University, he left New York City in 1976 for Boulder, Colorado to continue his studies with Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist master he met in 1974. Lieberson then moved to Boston to direct Shambhala Training, a meditation and cultural program. During this period he also attended Brandeis University and received his Ph.D. From 1984 to 1988 he taught at Harvard University, then became international director of Shambhala Training in Halifax. Since 1994 he has devoted his time exclusively to composition. Among Lieberson’s many awards are those from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and a Brandeis Creative Arts Award. In 2006, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers.
When in 2007 my friend Frank Almond asked me for a short piece for him to program with Brian Zeger, I had nothing to offer—except for the advice that he might do the second and third movements of my Sonata for Violin and Piano on their own. I decided to call the result “Autumn Music” not only for its contemplative and mournful character but because “Autumn Sonata” (having nothing to do with the Bergman film) was a working title for the piece as a whole.
The Sonata, which was premiered by Leslie Shank and Lydia Artymiw on a Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Ensembles concert in April of 2005, was composed in 2004-5 and revised in 2007. Its bravura first movement, here excised, provides the motivic material for the Adagio of “Autumn Music,” a fantasia based on two alternating and constantly developing ideas. The finale is a loose interpretation of a Chaconne; beginning with a theme that recalls the Handel violin sonatas I played as a teenager, it winds its path through a number of moods and styles to an unequivocal close.
Russell Platt (b. New York, 1965), is a noted composer in the chamber, song, and concerto genres. A frequent guest at the Yaddo colony, his music has won awards from ASCAP, Copland House, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles Ives Scholarship and Fellowship, 1990 and 2001), among others. Performers who have advocated for his work include the baritone Thomas Meglioranza, the bassoonist Peter Kolkay, the violinists Frank Almond, Livia Sohn and Mark Peskanov, the New York Festival of Song, the Dale Warland Singers, the Verdehr Trio, the St. Petersburg Quartet, and the members of Brooklyn Rider. Since 2000 he has been a music editor at The New Yorker.
Violinist Frank Almond holds the Charles and Marie Caestecker Concertmaster Chair at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He returned to the MSO after holding positions as Concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic with Valery Gergiev, and Concertmaster of the London Philharmonic with Kurt Masur . He continues an active schedule of recital and chamber music performances in the US and abroad along with various solo appearances with orchestras. He has been a member of the chamber group An die Musik in New York City since 1997, and is Artistic Director of the Frankly Music series based in Milwaukee, a hugely successful project now in its sixth season.
At 17, he was one of the youngest prizewinners in the history of the Nicolo Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, and five years later was one of two American prizewinners at the Eighth International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, which was documented in an award-winning PBS film. Since then he has kept up an eclectic mix of activities in addition to his Concertmaster duties, appearing both as a soloist and chamber musician around the world.
In addition to his work with An die Musik, Mr. Almond’s talent as a chamber musician has generated collaborations with many of today’s well-known institutions, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, the Hal Leonard Corporation, the Ojai Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, Music in the Vineyards, and numerous other summer festivals. He has recorded for AVIE, Summit, Albany, Boolean (his own label), Newport Classic, Wergo and New Albion and has appeared numerous times on NPR’s Performance Today. In both 2002 and 2004 An die Musik received Grammy nominations for its “Timeless Tales” series. The re-release of Mr. Almond’s recording of the complete Brahms Sonatas, performed in collaboration with pianist William Wolfram, brought extraordinary critical acclaim, and was listed in the American Record Guide top recordings of 2001. Frank’s latest CD with William Wolfram was released on the AVIE label, and was named a “Best of 2007” by the American Record Guide.
Mr. Almond holds two degrees from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Dorothy Delay. When he’s not traveling around playing the violin he lives in Milwaukee with his wife and two young daughters. In 2008 he started writing an online column called nondivisi.
He plays on the “Lipinski” Stradivarius from 1715, generously loaned by an anonymous donor; this CD is the first commercial recording ever of this famous instrument.
Pianist Brian Zeger has built an important career not only as a pianist, appearing in distinguished concert venues throughout the United States and Europe, but also as an ensemble performer par excellence, radio broadcaster, artistic administrator and educator.
In a career spanning more than two decades, Mr. Zeger has enjoyed collaborations with many of the world’s top artists including Marilyn Horne, Kathleen Battle, Arleen Auger, Bryn Terfel, Thomas Hampson, Adrianne Pieczonka, Hei-Kyung Hong, Juliane Banse and Joyce DiDonato. Recent and upcoming engagements include recitals with Deborah Voigt, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves and René Pape.
Mr. Zeger also enjoys an active career as a chamber musician. From 1993-2000 he was artistic director of the Cape and Islands Chamber Music Festival, headquartered on Cape Cod and now in its 31st season, where his performances included collaborations with the Borromeo and Brentano Quartets as well as with Bernard Greenhouse, Glenn Dicterow, Eugene Drucker and Paula Robison. He has been a regular guest at many other summer festivals including Aspen, Ravinia, Caramoor, Aldeburgh, and Santa Fe, and has collaborated regularly with An die Musik and the New York Philharmonic Chamber Ensembles. He has also made concerto appearances with the Boston Pops.
In addition to his distinguished concert career, he also serves as Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Department at The Juilliard School, the director of the vocal program at the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival and has recently taken on the role of Executive Director of the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artists Development Program. He has been on the faculties of the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, the Chautauqua Institute, the Mannes College of Music and the Peabody Conservatory and has given master classes for numerous institutions, including The Guildhall School of Music in London, Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Marilyn Horne Foundation.
Some of his critical essays and other writings have appeared in Opera News, The Yale Review and Chamber Music magazine. He has appeared frequently on the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts both on the opera quiz and as intermission host and performer. He has the distinction of creating, narrating and performing in five intermission features devoted to art song, a first in the long history of the Met broadcasts. He has adjudicated the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the Concert Artists Guild auditions and the Walter W. Naumberg Vocal Competition. His recordings may be heard on the EMI Classics, New World, Naxos and Koch record labels, his most recent recording being All My Heart, a recital of American songs with soprano Deborah Voigt.
Born in upstate New York, Mr. Zeger is now a resident of Manhattan. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Harvard College, a master’s degree from The Juilliard School and a doctorate from the Manhattan School of Music. His important teachers have included Morris Borenstein, Sascha Gorodnitzki and Nina Svetlanova.
Recorded at the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center Aug. 20-22, 2008
Stradivari violin 1715, “ex-Lipinski”
Produced by Evans Mirageas
Engineered by Ric Probst
Cover painting by Ben Moore
Expert page turning by Yin Yan
Special thanks to the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, Kate, Charlene, and to all the composers for their work and extraordinary patience.
Lasser: Vocalise- Rassel Editions
Lasser: Berceuse- Max Eschig
Rorem- Boosey and Hawkes
Lieberson- Associated Music Publishers
Platt- Russell Platt.
Lasser: Nancy Lee Katz
Rorem: Jack Mitchell
Lieberson: Rinchen Lhamo
Platt: Peter Kolkay
Almond: Brian McKonkey
Zeger: Jared Slater
innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.
Philip Blackburn: director, design
Chris Campbell: operations manager