The Heart Revived

Works of Lawrence Axelrod

Ensemble Nouvelle Époque Lawrence Axelrod, conductor

Innova 949

 

1. Pos Metaphonos  9:06

J. Lawrie Bloom, bass clarinet Lawrence Axelrod, conductor, Ensemble Nouvelle Époque

 

Love Letters

Lawrence Axelrod, piano

2. Light and impetuous  2:15

3. Tempestuoso  1:12

4. Dolce semplice  1:32

5. Of another era  1:17

6. …if only  2:39

 

7. Common Threads  9:53

Marcus Ostermiller, piano

 

8. Night of Stars  8:31

Julia Bentley, mezzo-soprano Lawrence Axelrod, conductor, Ensemble Nouvelle Époque

 

Four Postcards

Lawrence Axelrod, piano

9. Mozart  2:36

10. Valley of the Kings  2:19

11. Mountain/Lake/Reflection  3:28

12. Butterfly  2:00

 

Saisons

Scott Ramsay, tenor Lawrence Axelrod, conductor, Ensemble Nouvelle Époque

13. Sa nuit d’étéę  3:38

14. Feu d’automne  3:54

15. Le silence uni d’hiver (Vergers No. 47)  2:59

16. Printemps  2:58

 

Total: 60:18

 

Notes

Pos Metaphonos (1992/2014)

This concertino for bass clarinet and orchestra was written in 1992 and subsequently revised two times,

one recasting the solo part for violin and one correcting awkward string writing. The name means

“constant gradual change” in Ancient Greek, referring to the development of the three main gestures of

the work presented in the first measures of the piece - a large three-against-two figure, cross-string

arpeggios in the violins and an ascending arpeggio followed by a lyrical line in the bass clarinet. These

gestures appear in different guises and formulations throughout the work; three measures do not pass

without one of them appearing. The eight-minute work is a very condensed symphonic form. The opening

Dolce Movendo presents the orchestra in a usual role of accompanist and supporter of the soloist. This is

followed by a Languido, where densely intertwining parts in the upper winds allow the bass clarinet to

begin underneath and then emerge from the texture. The third section is a fragmented cadenza, with

abrupt orchestral commentary on the solo line, leading into the final section, a breathless Agitato. The last

three measures present the initial three gestures in reverse order - arpeggio, cross-string arpeggio and

three-against-two - as the soloist quickly disappears in the upper register in a gentle haze of wind chimes,

harp glissando and rushing air from the French Horns.

 

Love Letters (2007)

As a composer, it is sometimes hard to know what to do with intense personal experience. Will it translate

well into music? Will the result be too personal or manipulative? Does anyone really want to be this close

to your inner life anyhow?

This short piano suite is the result of such a personal experience. Each movement embodies a very

specific emotion that could have been a letter, or perhaps a letter that was written and then intentionally

never sent. One linking factor among the movements that emerged during composition was musical

silence: it can feel teasing and playful as in the first movement, expectant and unpredictable as in the

second and fourth movements, or gentle and thoughtful as in the third movement.

 

Common Threads (1990)

This piece was written after viewing the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt for the second time. I sought

to express the many conflicting and overlapping emotions I felt from the Quilt - love, pain, anger, sadness,

humor - all interwoven with exquisite beauty.

The piece is a set of nine variations, divided into groups of three, each marked by a ritornello of quiet

repeated notes with isolated pitches above and below. The opening ritornello was a musical depiction of

my seeing the enormity of the quilt - its beauty, its profusion of color, its love and the loss it

represents. The variations are like getting closer to an individual panel and seeing its detail among all the

others. The ritornello then becomes like (a smaller version of) the "walking theme” from Pictures at an

Exhibition, taking in the enormity again as you move to the next set of panels. The five note chord that

emerges, first before the second statement of the ritornello and then as the basis of a variation at the end,

was an attempt to crystallize the heart's response to what I was feeling. The speeded up review of the

variations in reverse order at the end was like taking one last look at the quilt before leaving the room.

Common Threads is also the name of an academy award-winning documentary about The AIDS

Memorial Quilt. This work is dedicated to all those whose lives have been a blessing but whom we will

never know.

 

Night of Stars (1995/2015)

 I composed Night of Stars  for the birthday of my good friend and long-time collaborator Liz Norman. I

spent a long time seeking out texts for this work; I wanted something ecstatic yet earthy, expressing

interpersonal and superpersonal connection with a deep relationship to nature. I first settled on a lovely

text by Wordsworth that I had set for a higher voice in a song cycle many years ago. In short order I found

that this was not what I needed at this moment and threw out what I had written. After still more

searching, I decided to write the text myself. This is the first time I have ever done this. The scope of the

song seemed to ask for orchestration, which I did expressly for this recording.

 

Four Postcards (2003)

The inspiration for this work came from actual postcards sent to me by friends who had visited various

places around the world.

The image of the first movement is that of a manuscript of a string quartet by Mozart. The faded yellowed

paper gave me the idea for the opening measures, which spread an inner line from the quartet on the

postcard across the entire range of the keyboard. Ghost harmonies produced by using the middle pedal

of the piano continue this idea of haziness in the more agitated sections. The second movement uses

extended techniques inside the piano to suggest ancient Egypt and the temples in the Valley of the Kings.

Mount Cook, the highest point in New Zealand is reflected in a small lake at its base is the third postcard.

The strong octaves from one end of the piano to the other suggest the massiveness of the mountain,

while increasingly frequent interpolations between the octaves suggest the dissolution of the image of the

mountain into its reflection in the water.

The fourth movement is of an iridescent blue butterfly from the rainforest in Costa Rica. I tried to suggest

a gentle fluttering in the piano figures. A quotation from Schumann’s Papillons appears several times as a

fleeting homage.

 

Saisons (2003)

This short cycle for tenor and orchestra is one of three works that I have composed using French texts by

Rainer Maria Rilke. While the poet’s German works are justly lauded, his poetry in French is less so. His

themes, not surprisingly, are similar from one language to another. But, because of their structure and

grammar, the French texts are much more direct and immediately understandable. These four poems

having to do with the seasons of the year as well as their effects on human spirit seemed like a natural

grouping to me, providing contrast in emotional intensity, intimacy and tone.

 

Texts

 

Night of Stars

 Poem by the composer

 

It was a night of stars

black and brilliant

Of silence that plucked waiting words like crystalline berries,

turning them to shimmering insubstance;

Of silence so profound that echoes of odd birds and ancient drones

rose from the expectant earth.

I sought you.

In the word-dust I saw the resonance of your thought;

In the bird song I heard the clarity of your words;

In the held notes, I felt the strength of your song.

It was a night of stars

blue and beckoning

Of softness entering my willing spirit through velvet pores and smiling eyes;

Of softness so palpable draping over leaves and stones and grass

in a continuously caressing exhale.

I felt you.

In the gentle knowing I sensed the thrill of your nearness;

In the inviting green shelter I smelled the perfume of your knowing;

In the earth-covering I touched the potency of your shelter.

It was a night of stars

bright and blissful and buoyant

Of fullness whose expression soared through the spangled darkness;

Of fullness so sacred whose quiet ecstasy sparked each passing second -

eternal, vulnerable, limitless.

I held you.

In the whirling constellations I felt the pull of your gravity;

In the hushed sanctity I ignited a new sun in your constellation;

In the vast, plush expansiveness I merged into your embracing sanctity.

It was a night of stars.

It

was

you.

 

Saisons

 Poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke

 

I. (Sa Nuit d’Été)

Si je pourrais avec mes mains brělantes

fondre ton corps autour de ton coeur d’amante,

ah que la nuit deviendrait transparente

le prenant pour un astre attardé

qui toujours dŹs le premier temps des mondes

était perdu et qui commence sa ronde

et tČtonnant de sa lumiŹre blonde

sa premiŹre nuit, sa nuit d’été.

(Her Summer Night)

If with my burning hands I could

melt your body around your heart of love,

ah would the night become transparent

taking it for a delayed star

who always since the beginning of worlds

was lost and who begins its orbit

and touching its first night

with its blond light, her night, her summer night.

 

 II. (Feu d’Automne)

Quel beau feu clair

vous avez allumé au carrefour de ma vie,

quel beau feu clair.

Et comme sa pure force assouvie

fait trembler l’air!

Clarté qui tremble de ce feu d’automne

pour źtre humainement

plus prŹs de nous, plus émue et plus bonne

en ressemblant au temps.

(Autumn Fire)

What beautiful clear fire

you lit in the crossroads of my life,

what beautiful fire.

And how its pure satiated force makes the air tremble!

Clarity which trembles from this autumn fire

to be humanly

closer to us, more moved and more good

resembling the weather.

 

 III. Vergers No. 47

Le silence uni de l’hiver

est remplacé dans l’air

par un silence ą ramage;

chaque voix qui accourt

y ajoute un contour,

y parfait une image.

Et tout cela n’est que le fond

de ce qui serait l’action

de notre coeur qui surpasse

le multiple dessin

de ce silence plein

d’inexprimable audace.

Orchards No. 47

The united silence of winter

is replaced in the air

by a warbling silence;

each voice that clings to it

adds a shape,

and perfects an image.

And all that is only the bottom

of what would be the action

of our heart that surpasses

the multiple design

of this silence full

of inexpressible audaciousness.

 

 IV. (Printemps)

Recommenćons, dit la terre, recommenćons,

c’est ma seule chance.

Et tout ą coup le printemps s’écrie: On

recommence!

Et l’activité partout et l’action,

quelle obéissance.

Et le coeur qu’on voudrait retenir, d’un bond

se relance.

Seulement la terre qui obéit,

sait bien qu’elle tourne en rond,

tandis que nous vers l’infini

nous précipitons.

(Spring)

Let’s begin again, says the earth, let’s begin again.

That is my only chance.

And all of a sudden springtime cries: we

will begin again!

And activity everywhere and action,

what obedience!

And the heart that one wanted to hold back, in one leap

revives itself again.

Only the earth who obeys

knows well that it turns round

while we toward hurry ourselves

toward infinity.

 (prose translations by Lawrence Axelrod)

 

Ensemble Nouvelle Époque

Violin I

Isabella Lippi, concertmaster

Kathleen Carter

Paul Vanderwerf

Francois Henkins

Jody Livo

Violin II

Renée-Paule Gauthier, principal

Michael Shelton

David Katz

Maria Storm

Viola

Claudia Lasareff-Mironoff, principal

Melissa Trier-Kirk

Benton Wedge

Violoncello

Paula Kosower, principal

Elizabeth Start

Jean Hatmaker

Contrabass

Douglas Johnson, principal

Jonathan Cegys

Flute

Jennifer Clippert

Janice MacDonald

Oboe

Erica Anderson

Anne Bach

Clarinet

Barbara Drapcho

Christie Miller

Bassoon

Lewis Kirk

Hanna Sterba

French Horn

Gregory Flint

Neil Kimmel

Trumpet

Kevin Hartman

Matthew Lee

Percussion

John Corkill

Alex Monroe

Harp

Alison Attar

 

Bios

Lawrence Axelrod  is a composer, pianist and conductor, whose musical activities have taken him around

the United States, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. As a composer, Mr. Axelrod has had works

done by The Chicago Composers Orchestra, Palomar, Ensemble Dal Niente, Pinotage, The Lincoln Trio,

The Duo Ahlert/Schwab, the Ensemble JungeMusik Berlin and The Verdi String Quartet in recent

seasons. Most recently, two of his Brandenburg Fantasias were premiered by the Chicago Composers

Orchestra in November 2014. His music was also included in the Sound of Silent Film project on Gaudi,

presented by Access Contemporary Music both in Chicago and at New York’s Symphony Space. Pos

Metaphonos, with bass clarinetist Lawrie Bloom of the Chicago Symphony, and the Brandenburg

Fantasias Nos. 3 and 4 have been premiered by the Chicago Composers Orchestra in the past few

seasons. His solo piano work Common Threads was included in AIDS Quilt Songbook @20 concert in

December of 2012 in the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City. In the dual capacities of pianist

and composer, he performed all-Mazurka programs for several seasons combining classic and newlycomposed

compositions in this form. Two of these concerts were in South Africa of in May 2008, with

other versions of these programs at the University of Wisconsin/Madison, Butler University (Indianapolis,

IN) and as part of the Fazioli Salon Series on WFMT. He also opened the Swedish Electroacoustic Music

Society’s conference with a recital in Stockholm in May 2007, repeating the program in Lahr, Germany a

few days later. The Verdi String Quartet have been strong supporters of Mr. Axelrod’s music, premiering

his Diary Pieces, Anges et Déesses (with Ingeborg Danz, mezzo-soprano), and String Quartet No. 1, the

last for the opening concert of the Vielsaitig Festival in Füssen, Germany in August, 2004. His music was

also presented on a portrait concert featuring four works as part of this festival. He was invited to perform

a piano recital as part of the Eighth International Festival of Electroacoustic Music held in Havana, Cuba

in March 2000, and returned there in March 2004 to give a second recital. His work for orchestra and

tape, Cassandra Speaks, was premiered by the San Jose Symphony (CA) in June of 1999 with music

director Leonid Grin conducting. A CD featuring Mr. Axelrod’s Six Brandenburg Fantasias, compositions

using the instrumentation from Bach’s famous works, was released in October 2013 on the Innova label,

garnering significant attention, and was considered for Grammy nomination.

Mr. Axelrod is a founder and is current president of the Chicago Composers’ Consortium. and was a

member of CUBE Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. He has attended numerous composition

residencies around the United States and in Europe. He has taught a highly successful opera

appreciation class in Santa Fe each summer for fifteen years, which has become a springboard for

leading cultural travel trips. His teaching experience also includes Music Theory at Columbia College

(Chicago, IL), and classes for young people. Lawrence Axelrod received his undergraduate degree from

Amherst College and a Master of Music Degree in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University.

www.lawrenceaxelrod.com  www.operaadventures.com

 

Praised by the New York Times for her “rich sound and deep expressivity,” mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley

has appeared in leading roles (Carmen, Rosina, Dorbella, Despina, and both Rossini and Massenet

Cinderellas) from Anchorage to New York since completing apprenticeships with the Santa Fe Opera and

the Chicago Lyric Opera, premiered over 100 new works, and been featured as a soloist with orchestras

led by George Manahan, Raymond Leppard, Oliver Knussen, Robert Shaw and Pierre Boulez. She

performs frequently with Chicago's many fine ensembles, including Contempo, the New Budapest

Orpheum Society (whose 2015 recording received a Grammy nomination for “Best Classical

Compendium”), the Rembrandt Chamber Players, Fulcrum Point, the Chicago Chamber Musicians,

Chicago Opera Theater, the Newberry Consort, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony

Orchestra, Chicago Lyric Opera and the MusicNOW series at Symphony Center with conductor Cliff

Colnot. She has appeared to critical acclaim at Weill Hall with Pierre Boulez as the soloist in Le Marteau

Sans MaĒtre, and recorded on the Albany, Cedille, Centaur and Tintagel labels. She has taught on the

faculties of Northern Illinois University, Concordia University, DePaul University, and North Park

University, and as a guest at many conservatories of music, working with composition students as well as

singers to explore new frontiers of vocal music. The Chicago Sun-Times writes “Bentley offered an

emotional gamut that said as much about the human experience as the acoustics of sound.”

 

A versatile player, J. Lawrie Bloom  has been heard in recital, chamber, orchestral and concerto

appearances on soprano clarinet, basset clarinet, basset horn, and bass clarinet. He began studying

piano at four and switched to the clarinet at nine. He continued studies at the Columbus Boychoir

School, with whom he toured the U.S., Canada and Japan, singing and playing the clarinet. At that same

time he began clarinet studies with Roger W. McKinney. He later studied with Anthony M. Gigliotti, former

Principal Clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In September of 1980 Sir Georg Solti invited Lawrie to fill the position of Clarinet and Solo Bass Clarinet

Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Previous to joining the CSO Lawrie held similar appointments with the

Phoenix Symphony, the orchestra of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Vancouver Symphony, and the

Cincinnati Symphony.

Lawrie is clarinetist with the Civitas Ensemble, is a frequent performer on the Winter Chamber Music

Festival at Northwestern University and the CSO MusicNow series. He is the founder and Artistic Co-

Director at the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival and the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition.

He has been a featured performer at many International Clarinet Association conferences, the Oklahoma

Clarinet Symposium, and taught and performed at the 6th Annual Clarinet Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Civitas Ensemble is resident ensemble at Valparaiso University.

Lawrie has performed at the Ambler, Grand Teton, Ravinia, Skaneateles and Spoleto festivals, and the

Mostly Mozart Festival in New York. Lawrie toured with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and has

collaborated with the Chester, Mendelssohn and CSO String Quartets, the Chicago Chamber Musicians,

and members of the Ridge, Orion and Vermeer string quartets. He has been heard many times in live

concerts over the airwaves of WFMT in Chicago, and in live recital for the Australian Broadcast Company.

Lawrie is a Senior Lecturer in Clarinet at Northwestern University. He has presented master classes all

over the world, and is an Artist Performer for Buffet Group USA, for whom he consults on bass clarinet

design, and RICO International, with whom he has helped develop new bass clarinet reeds.

 

The performances of Marcus Ostermiller, lauded as a “contemporary music champion,” have been

described as “virtuosic” and “compelling” (Broadway World). Notable public appearances include

Hamilton Recital Hall (Denver), the Great Hall at Cooper Union (New York), the Nels-Atkins Museum

(Kansas City), Black Box Theatre (New York), Spectrum (New York), and Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital

Hall (New York).

Ostermiller holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music

where he studied with Alice Rybak, graduating summa cum laude in 2009. Awarded the prestigious Jack

Kent Cooke Graduate Scholarship to support his graduate studies at New York University’s Steinhardt

School, Ostermiller completed the Master of Music degree in 2011 and the Ph.D. in Music Performance in

2015. While at NYU, he studied piano with Deirdre O’Donohue and Anthony de Mare, and wrote a

doctoral dissertation, Musical Responses to AIDS: Meaning and Signification in Two Works for Solo Piano

by Robert Savage and Kevin Oldham.

An advocate for HIV/AIDS treatment and awareness, Ostermiller has produced, hosted, and performed in

benefits for organizations such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York AIDS Walk, Colorado AIDS

Project, Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, Bailey House, and the Joshua Gomes Memorial Scholarship

Fund. He specializes in the performance of works by American composers who died of complications

from AIDS during the late twentieth century. Ostermiller also serves on the Community Advisory Board for

the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS), an institute at New York

University devoted to HIV-specific behavioral research.

Ostermiller works as a Piano Instructor at the British International School of New York and the Nord

Anglia International School of New York. A member of the Executive Board of the Piano Teachers

Congress of New York, he serves as Co-Chair of the organization’s annual Honors Program, a youth

piano competition that culminates in performances at Carnegie Hall.

 

 Praised by the New York Times for his "impressive, bright-voiced tenor," Scott Ramsay  is highly regarded

by opera companies and symphony orchestras across North America and abroad for his dynamic

performances in repertoire ranging from Baroque and bel canto to the 20th Century. Mr Ramsay is an

alumnus of the prestigious Lyric Opera of Chicago’s, Ryan Opera Center, where he thrilled audiences

with his portrayal of Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, opposite Natalie Dessay and under the baton of

Jesús López-Cobos. The Chicago Sun-Times proclaimed, "He brought a passionate intensity to the role

that matched the fire of Dessay's riveting Lucia." His European debut in the same role quickly followed to

great acclaim at the Dublin International Opera Festival. Of his Canadian debut in Verdi's Requiem with

Sir Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Globe and Mail declared, "He proved a real

find. His Ingemisco, Hostias and solo in the Lux Aeterna, had a sweetness and modest purity reminiscent

of vintage Bjoerling and Simoneau."

Mr. Ramsay's numerous symphonic engagements have included solo appearances in Tchaikovsky’s

Francesca da Rimini and Tippett’s A Child of Our Time (Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall

and Ravinia Festival); Verdi’s Requiem (Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic,

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra); Henze’s Kammermusik 1958 with the St. Louis Symphony; the U.S.

premiere of Hiller’s The Destruction of Jerusalem (American Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall);

Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (American Symphony Orchestra, Albany Symphony, Jacksonville

Symphony, Pasadena Symphony); Tchaikovsky and Taneyev's Roméo et Juliette (Pacific Symphony);

Handel’s Messiah (Nashville Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Duke University Chorale and Orchestra).

 

 

Pos Metaphonos, Night of Stars and Saisons were recorded June 2, 2015 at the Music Institute of

Chicago, Rob Waller, engineer. Further editing was done by Mat Prock. Love Letters and Four Postcards

were recorded at EMR Studios in Chicago October 5, 2015, Eric Roth and Mat Prock, engineers.

Common Threads was recorded October 12, 2015 at the National Opera Center in New York, Gloria

Kaba, engineer.