Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2/17/2009 @ 6:15 p.m. : Noteworthy Duo

Noteworthy Duo--CLICK for larger view


Flutist Lisa Schroeder and classical guitarist Michael Nigro present a program of Latin American music that focuses on composers from Argentina, Brazil and Puerto Rico.
Their vision is to reach a non-classical audience while at the same time inspiring the classical listener, and to touch individuals with "noteworthy" performances. Since the summer of 2008, the Duo has toured Nevada and Colorado playing concert venues, television programs and radio shows, and their continuing tour schedule includes performances in California, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, and Indiana. Noteworthy Duo's debut CD is entitled Between Guitar and Flute, and is scheduled for release in February 2009. Lisa and Michael are both on faculty at Vanguard University of Southern California.

More at noteworthyduo.com -- NOTE: for musical excerpts from this program click on their "MP3" tab!

PROGRAM
Progresiones para Pauline / José Luis Merlin (b.1952, Argentina)
Vidalita / Raúl Maldonado (b.1933, Argentina)
Entre guitarra y voz / Ernesto Cordero (b.1946, New York, raised in Puerto Rico)
Suite del recuerdo / José Luis Merlin
    Evocación - Zamba - Chacarera - Carnavalito-Evocación-Joropo
Brief Intermission
Musique populaires brésiliennes / Celso Machado (b. 1953, Brazil)
   Paçoca (Chôro) - Piazza Vittorio (Chôro Maxixe)
Études tanguistiques for Flute Solo. No.3: Molto marcato e energico / Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992, Argentina)
L'histoire du tango / Ástor Piazzolla
   Bordel 1900 - Café 1930 - Nightclub 1960 - Concert d’aujourd’hui



Lisa Schroeder, flute
Flutist Lisa Schroeder is a Los Angeles based performer, teacher, and clinician. While completing her Bachelor of Music degree in flute performance from Middle Tennessee State University, Lisa gained experience in performing, teaching, and recording session work with area singer/songwriters, and she played piccolo with the Tennessee Philharmonic and flute with the Music City Winds. At the invitation of Dr. John Barcellona, Ms. Schroeder earned her Master of Music degree in flute performance from California State University Long Beach. Lisa is the founding member of Noteworthy Flute and Guitar Duo and West Coast Winds, both of which are on the artist roster for the Orange County (California) Performing Arts Center "Arts Teach" program, and she is the acting principal flutist with the Golden State Pops Orchestra. Ms. Schroeder currently teaches flute at Vanguard University, Cerritos College and Golden West College, and she directs the Rolling Hills Flute Choir. Her passion for teaching has brought about her annual "Flute Loops" camp held in Palos Verdes, California, and in August 2008 Lisa performed bass flute with the National Flute Association’s Professional Flute Choir at their Kansas City Convention.


Michael Nigro, guitar
Michael Anthony Nigro earned his Bachelor of Music at Indiana University School of Music under the direction of Ernesto Bitetti, and his Master of Music degree at California State University, Fullerton, under the tutelage of David Grimes. Michael Nigro’s debut recording, Homage to Piazzolla : Argentine Dances, Songs, and Rhythms, released on the Music & Arts label, earned praise from The American Record Guide, which observed, "Nigro has a big sound, a smooth tone, and sure-footed interpretive instincts." His latest CD, Guitar Sudamericana released by Balcon Records (Austria), features guitar works by a number of South Americn composers including Heitor Villa-Lobos, Antonio Lauro, Adolfo Luna, and Jose Luis Merlin. Much sought after as performer and teacher, Michael has played concerts around the country and has given master classes at numerous colleges and universities. He is co-founder of the Long Beach Classical Guitar Society and an independent reviewer of new music publications for Soundboard Magazine. Michael joined the faculty at Vanguard University of Southern California in January 2006, teaching private guitar, class guitar, and guitar ensemble.

Program Notes by Ed Lein, Music Librarian



Argentine composer José Luis Merlin (b. 1952) began studying the guitar when he was 5 years old, and was performing publicly by age 9. He is currently the Director of the Mundo-Valesquez School of Music in Madrid, Spain, where he also teaches guitar. Merlin has toured extensively throughout North and South America and Europe, and has released over ten CDs in Argentina, the USA, Australia and Japan. His compositions often feature his own instrument, and he typically draws inspiration from Argentine folk music. Progresiones para Pauline is dedicated to the memory of Pauline Lasse, who worked in Eugene, Oregon, for the Council on Human Rights in Latin America, but rather than mourning the passing of his dear friend, the composer celebrates her life. Merlin certainly lives up to his name with the "magically" evocative Suite del recuerdo ("Suite of Remembrance"), one of his most popular works, and one which celebrates a variety of South American folk songs and dances. Originally for guitar solo, the composer conveniently adapted the initial Evocación and the final Joropo for flute and guitar, so Lisa joins Michael for the outer movements. [CLICK HERE to watch a video of the composer performing the solo version of the suite.]

Raúl Maldonado (b.1937) has been active internationally as a lecturer on music from his native Argentina, as a guitar soloist and member of several different guitar ensembles including the Atahualpa Quartet, and as the leader of his own orchestra. Not surprisingly, his several dozen published compositions almost always include one to six guitars, sometimes in combination with voice or other instruments, and they enjoy frequent performances around the globe. Vidalita, patterned after a type of melancholy folk song sung by Argentine gauchos (i.e., cowboys), is one of several works written in collaboration with fellow countryman Enzo Gieco, a composer, flutist and conductor, and the piece is also published for clarinet and guitar.

Although composer and guitarist Ernesto Cordero (b. 1946) was born in New York, he grew up in Puerto Rico and joined the guitar and composition faculty at the University of Puerto Rico in 1971. His works often draw inspiration from the folk music of the Caribbean, and particularly from the Afro-Hispanic music of Puerto Rico. Like many guitarists he favors his own instrument when composing, and his catalog includes six concertos (three for guitar, one for violin/mandolin, one for flute-piccolo and one for the Puerto Rican cuatro), a variety of chamber works with guitar, as well as solos pieces. The recipient of several important composition awards, his music is performed and recorded woldwide, and he is in demand as a participant in international competitions and festivals for the guitar. Entre guitarra y voz ("Between Guitar and Voice") is from Two Sentimental Songs (1996), and, as one might guess, was originally for voice and guitar.

Celso Machado (b. 1953) has been living in Vancouver since 1989, but he is originally from Brazil. The decision to become a professional musician was an easy one: his father was a guitarist and band leader in Brazil, and five of his six brothers are also musicians. Celso himself began playing in street bands when he was 7 years old, and although he performs internationally as a guitar virtuoso, he plays percussion and other instruments as well. His recordings are critically acclaimed, and for the film In the Company of Fear he won a Canadian Leo Award for Best Musical Score for Documentary in 2000. The music and rhythms of his homeland continue to permeate his music, but he also includes other folk traditions among his influences, and he has collaborated extensively with Chinese pipa (lute) player Qiu Xia He. The chôro form, used in the pieces on this evening's program, is the oldest and perhaps most important musical form associated with Brazil, and from it developed the popular samba of the 1960s. Even though the term "chôro" originally referred to "a cry of lament," chôros are often happy, lively virtuoso pieces, and they have long been associated with flute and guitar. The titles of these pieces indicate the composer's inspiration: " Paçoca" is a traditional Brazilian food, sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, but always including cassava flour (i.e., tapioca); and "Piazza Vittorio" shares its name with the famous public square in Rome.

Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992) pretty much single-handedly reinvented the Argentine national dance, the tango, transforming it into a new style aptly called nuevo tango ("new tango"). Born in Argentina, Piazzolla spent most of his childhood in New York, and there he gained exposure to and a fondness for jazz and classical music. But through his father's influence he also gained proficiency on the bandoneón, a type of concertina that is a staple of Argentine tango ensembles, and when he returned to Argentina in 1937 he played with some of the leading bands in Buenos Aires. He also began the serious study of composition with noted composer Alberto Ginastera, and for an early symphony he won a grant in 1953 from the French government to study in Paris with legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger. Boulanger, whose illustrious students ranged from Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter to Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach, found Piazzolla's music was well-crafted but too derivative of Bartók, Stravinsky and Ravel. When she finally got him to play for her some of the music he wrote for his cabaret band, she convinced him to toss out his other works and concentrate on what was uniquely his own. When he returned to Argentina in 1955, his "new tango," which infused traditional elements with characteristics of jazz and incorporated contrapuntal techniques and formal elements adapted from his classical studies, was met with resistance in his homeland, but Europeans and North Americans were captivated by it and his international career blossomed. It is estimated that he composed over a staggering 3,000 pieces, and he recorded about 500 of them himself! Piazzolla's six Études tanguistiques ("Tango Studies") were composed in 1987, and have also become popular in a transcription for solo violin. The 3rd Étude is a florid virtuoso piece with quickly shifting textures that sometimes give the impression that more than one flute is playing! The first two movements of the flute and guitar suite L'histoire du tango (History of the Tango) trace the development of the tango from its early roots at the fringes of society (Bordel 1900) to the somewhat more polite style that became the most popular dance throughout the whole of Argentina (Café 1930). The last two movements exemplify Piazzollo's own significant contributions to the form, with his revolutionary inclusion of elements from jazz (Nightclub 1960), to Concert d’aujourd’hui ("Concert of Today") in which he adapts the dance into his own brand of classical concert music of the 1980s.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

1/12/2009 @ 6:00 pm : Trio Solis



Founded in 2008, Trio Solis combines three dynamic virtuosi, Corinne Stillwell (violin), Gregory Sauer (cello), and Read Gainsford (piano), all faculty artists at Florida State University's College of Music. Joining them is the versatile Karen Pommerich (viola), a violinist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.


Corrine Stillwell
Corinne Stillwell (violin) earned her degrees from The Juilliard School, where she first enrolled at age ten. A versatile musician, she has appeared in recital at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall, on the Dame Myra Hess series in Chicago, and as soloist with numerous orchestras across the United States and on tour in Eastern Europe. Her chamber music activities have included performances at Alice Tully Hall, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, and at the festivals of Aspen, Norfolk, Skaneateles, the Victoria Bach Festival, and the International Festival-Institute at Round Top in Texas. Frequently heard on WXXI-FM public radio, she has collaborated with David Shifrin, Robert Levin, Pepe Romero, members of the Pro Arte and Cavani quartets, and members of the faculty at the Eastman School of Music. She has served as Assistant Concertmaster of the Rochester Philharmonic and prior to that, was a member of the Harrington String Quartet in Amarillo, Texas. In 2007, Ms. Stillwell joined the faculty at Florida State's College of Music, where she is Assistant Professor of Violin.

TRIO SOLIS




Greg Sauer
Praised for his versatility, Gregory Sauer (cello) has appeared in numerous solo recitals, including performances at the Old First Concert Series in San Francisco, the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and the Brightmusic Concert Series in Oklahoma City, and numerous chamber music performances have included appearances at Tanglewood, Aspen Music Festival, Santa Fe Promusica, and the Boulder Modern Music Festival, among many others. Greg has performed concertos with the Houston Symphony, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, the Quad City Symphony, and Oklahoma City Philharmonic, to name only a few. A Prizewinner in the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and Ima Hogg national competitions, he served nine seasons as principal cellist of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Sauer is Assistant Principal Cello of the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra, and, prior to joining the Florida State University music faculty in 2006, he taught at the University of Oklahoma for 11 years, where he was named Presidential Professor in 2005.

TRIO SOLIS



Read Gainsford
Read Gainsford (piano) has performed widely in the USA, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and his native New Zealand as solo recitalist, concerto soloist and chamber musician. He has made successful solo debuts at the Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, and has performed in many other prestigious venues, including the Kennedy Center, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Barbican Centre, Fairfield Halls, Birmingham Town Hall and St.-Martin-in-the-Fields. Dr. Gainsford has recorded for the Amoris label, BBC Radio Three, Radio New Zealand's Concert Programme, and has broadcast on national television in New Zealand, the UK, and Yugoslavia. Since moving to the United States in 1992, Read has been a guest artist for the American Music Teachers Association, has appeared at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival and the Music Festival of the Hamptons, and has spent several summers at the Heifetz International Music Institute. He is a member of the contemporary music group Ensemble X, and also the Garth Newel Chamber Players. Formerly on the faculty of Ithaca College where he received the college-wide Excellence in Teaching Award in 2004, Dr. Gainsford became Associate Professor of Piano at FSU in 2005.

TRIO SOLIS




Karen Pommerich
Although for this performance she plays the viola, Karen Pommerich has played violin with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra since 1991, and has appeared as soloist with the JSO for Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante and Mozart’s Adagio and Rondo. Prior to moving to Jacksonville she was the Principal 2nd Violin of the Tallahassee Symphony, and in 2008 she was Principal 2nd Violin with the Sarasota Opera and began performing with the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. During the summer months Ms. Pommerich is the Assistant Principal 2nd Violin with the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Colorado, and she has played both violin and viola in numerous chamber ensembles. She has coached chamber ensembles and sectionals of the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and the Prelude Chamber Music Camp. Additionally, Karen teaches privately and is active in the Body and Soul program, which delivers live music in health care settings.

TRIO SOLIS



PROGRAM NOTES by Ed Lein, Music Librarian


beethoven
The music of the transcendent German composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) formed the culmination of the Classical style and the foundation of the Romantic, and his revolutionary masterworks still provide benchmarks other composers strive to attain. Beethoven wrote the “Ghost” Trio, Op. 70, no. 1, in 1808, and along with his “Archduke” Trio, Op. 97, he created what have remained the best-known works in the genre for two centuries. Although composed immediately following his “Pastoral” Symphony (No. 6), Op. 68, the “Ghost “ Trio actually shares some thematic material with his Symphony No. 2, Op. 36. Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio got its nickname from Carl Czerny (1791-1857), a pupil of Beethoven who became a famous musician in his own right, because the tremolos in the slow movement reminded him of the ghost scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This association with Shakespeare and the supernatural is perhaps not entirely fanciful: Beethoven’s sketches indicate that as he worked on the Trio he was toying with writing an opera based on Macbeth!

TRIO SOLIS



babajanian
Although Arno Babajanian (sometimes transliterated Babadjanyan, 1921-1983) is virtually unknown in this country, the Soviet-Armenian virtuoso pianist and composer of everything from pop tunes and jazz pieces to classical works and musicals remains a national hero in his homeland. In addition to a 2006 Armenian commemorative postage stamp, a monument to him was erected in 2002 in Yerevan, the Armenian capital and his hometown, but a public outcry deemed that the sculpture was more a caricature than a likeness, so it had to be reworked and was officially re-unveiled in 2003. While he was in kindergarten Babajanian’s precocious talent was discovered (or at least suspected) by Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), and the famous composer insisted that the 5-year-old receive formal musical training. So when Babajanian was seven he was enrolled in the Yerevan Conservatory, and he later continued his training at the Moscow Conservatory. Much like Khachaturian, Babajanian absorbed characteristics of Armenian folk music into his own style, and his later works also show influences of Bartók and Prokofiev, and sometimes even Schoenberg. His 1952 Trio, cited as one of Babajanian’s most important works, is unified by the recurrence of the opening theme in all three movements.

TRIO SOLIS



mozart
Austrian-born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791), unquestionably one of the greatest composers in history, began his career touring Europe as a 6-year-old piano prodigy, and he absorbed and mastered all the contemporary musical trends he was exposed to along the way. He wrote more than 600 works, including 22 operas and over three dozen symphonies, plus numerous concertos, chamber works, piano pieces, and choral works. Written in 1785, Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 1, KV 478, is the earliest masterpiece for a surprisingly rare performance ensemble combining piano with string trio—Haydn wrote nothing for piano quartet and Beethoven never returned to the medium after three very early Piano Quartets, WoO 36, coincidentally also written in 1785 when Beethoven was only 14. Mozart was originally commissioned to write a set of three quartets suitable for amateur musicians, but the publisher canceled the order for the last two quartets because the first one was too difficult for amateurs, and he feared the new quartets would be unlikely to return a profit. Nonetheless, this Quartet is one of Mozart’s finest creations, and the great Czech Romantic composer Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) borrowed the opening theme for the finale of his String Quintet, Op. 1. Always strapped for cash, Mozart luckily got to keep the advance payment from the commission, but even with the commission canceled Mozart found the instrumentation artistically rewarding, enough so that he returned to it 9 months later, producing his Piano Quartet No. 2, KV 493.

TRIO SOLIS




12/07/2009 @6:30pm : Art Walk With the Symphony

Enjoy a free program at the Main Library during Downtown Vision's First Wednesday Art Walk featuring
Go to the Symphony's homepage
Players from the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra

Art Walk with the Symphony will feature Jeffrey Peterson, JSO principal trombonist, accompanied by Ileana Fernandez, JSO principal keyboardist, previewing Søren Hyldgaard's Concerto Borealis which Peterson performs with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra on Friday, January 9. In addition, JSO violinist Piotr Szewczyk, winner of the Fresh Ink 2008 Florida Composers’ Competition, will present virtuoso pieces for violin, accompanied by award-winning pianist Christine Clark


A brief video featuring trombonist Jeffrey Peterson in the Main Library's Hicks Auditorium


The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra (JSO) continues to affirm its place as the leading performing arts organization in Jacksonville, and is a vital part of cultural life on the First Coast. CLICK HERE for Information about upcoming Symphony Concerts

Recordings of works scheduled for performance by the JSO this season are on display on the 3rd Floor (West Room) of the Main Library. CLICK HERE for a listing of these CDs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12/6/08 @ 1:30 & 2:30 pm : Victorian Carolers of Jacksonville


Listen to the a cappella harmonies of the Victorian Carolers of Jacksonville performing holiday standards. This special performance will be presented amid the Festival of Trees on the 2nd floor atrium of the Main Library.


Victorian Carolers of Jacksonville


The Victorian Carolers of Jacksonville have opened the holiday season at the Walt Disney World Resort and performed in other venues for the past 11 years. The Carolers consist of both professional and amateur musicians, including several music directors, soloists and singing instrumentalists. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the ensemble is directed by the group's founders, Jeannie and Tom Mezzano.

12/8/08 @ 6:15 pm : Polish Music for Violin & Piano


Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra violinist Piotr Szewczyk and award-winning pianist Christine Clark join forces for an evening of chamber music by composers from Mr. Szewczyk's Polish homeland.

Piotr Szewczyk
Polish-born violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk (b. 1977) attended the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, studying composition with Darrel Handel, Joel Hoffman, Henry Gwiazda, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and Michael Fiday, and violin with Kurt Sassmannshaus, Piotr Milewski and Dorothy DeLay. While earning both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees as well as his Artist Diploma, Piotr served as concertmaster of several of the College-Conservatory's orchestras. Mr. Szewczyk recently completed a fellowship at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach where he served as rotating concertmaster under Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas, and in September 2007 Piotr joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. The winner of the 2006 New World Symphony Concerto competition, Mr. Szewczyk has appeared as soloist with numerous ensembles, including the Lima Symphony, New World Symphony, World Youth Symphony Orchestra, Queen City Virtuosi, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. Piotr also has given solo and chamber recitals in the United States, Poland, Germany and Austria, often performing compositions written especially for him by composers from around the world. Mr. Szewczyk’s own compositions have been performed by numerous orchestral and chamber ensembles and he has won a number of international composition contests. His music has been performed on NPR and at the American Symphony Orchestra League Conference by ALIAS Ensemble in Nashville. Mr. Szewczyk’s string quintet The Rebel was performed live on the CBS Early Show by the Sybarite Chamber Players, and is being prepared for publication. Most recently he won the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s 2008 Fresh Ink composition competition, earning a commission to write a new piece for their 2009/10 season. More about Mr. Szewczyk at verynewmusic.com



Christine Clark
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Christine Armington Clark began piano studies with James Crosland, and continued her professional training at Oberlin Conservatory. She received a Master's degree in piano performance from the University of Illinois and studied with Leon Fleisher in the Peabody Conservatory Artist Diploma Program upon the recommendation of legendary concert pianist Lorin Hollander. Ms. Clark was national finalist in the Collegiate Artist Competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association, and attended the Aspen Music Festival on a piano performance and accompanying scholarship. She competed in the Maryland International Piano Competition, and won the Boca Raton Piano Competition. A versatile musician, Christine played keyboard with Trap Door, a local rock group, and toured Europe under the aegis of Proclaim! International. She taught piano at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and her numerous chamber music performances include an appearance at the Goethe Institute in San Francisco. Well known along the First Coast, Ms. Clark has appeared with the Jacksonville Starlight Symphonette and the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and frequently appears in solo and chamber recitals. President of Friday Musicale and a board member of numerous arts organizations, Christine A. Clark is also an attorney, and while working as a law clerk in Washington, D.C., she gave perhaps her most unusual recital, performing in the United States Supreme Court at the request of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.


PROGRAM SELECTIONS
Henryk Wieniawski - Obertas
Krzysztof Penderecki - Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1
Henryk Wieniawski - Legende
Henryk Gorecki - Variazioni
Karol Szymanowski - Song of Roxanne
Grazyna Bacewicz - Oberek No. 1
Piotr Szewczyk - Two Movements
Henryk Wieniawski - Polonaise Brillante in D-Major


PROGRAM NOTES
by Ed Lein, Music Librarian (c2008)

Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) : Obertas, op. 19, no.1 (1860) ; Legende, op. 17 (1859) ; Polonaise Billante in D-Major, op. 4 (1852)
As a violinist the prodigious talent of Henryk Wieniawski was recognized early on by his pianist mother, and she managed to get her son admitted into the Paris Conservatoire when he was a mere lad of eight, despite his being underage and not even French. From age 15 until his death from heart failure at 45, Wieniawski maintained a rigorous concert schedule that included a two-year tour of North America (1872-74), and his influence as a teacher is still evident particularly among violinists from Russia, where he taught from 1860 to 1872. Wieniawski's two dozen published compositions include pieces that are reckoned among the cornerstones of the violinist's repertoire, requiring the highest level of technical proficiency and often featuring virtuoso effects that heighten the passionate melodic expression. His works demonstrate a continuing interest in cultivating a national music based on characteristically Polish forms, including mazurkas, as in Obertas (from Two Mazurkas, op. 19), and polonaises, as in the early Polonaise brillante, op. 4. Wieniawski apparently wrote his works to perform himself, but his Legende, op. 17, has a more personal significance: it was through its composition that Wieniawski was finally able to convince the parents of Isabel Hampton that he was worthy enough to marry their daughter.


Krzysztof Penderecki (b.1933) : Sonata for Violin and Piano No.1 (1952)
In 1960, the performance of Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima catapulted the relatively unknown music professor to the forefront of avant-garde composers, realizing, in a work charged with microtonal clusters, extreme registers and a wealth of other novel performance techniques, a musical experience that for many captured the horror and pathos of atomic devastation. Since then Penderecki has become one of history's most awarded composers, winning not only numerous composition prizes and commissions, but also receiving honorary degrees and memberships from prestigious universities and conservatories around the globe, and national orders from Germany, Monaco, Austria and Spain in addition to his native Poland. Beginning in the mid-1970s his compositional language matured to include tonal, even Romantic, harmonic and melodic elements. Although this direction was often decried by shortsighted critics as dulling his youthful cutting edge, Penderecki ignored them and continued on his own path, and thus perhaps even foreshadowed current trends among much younger composers. Although his Sonata no. 1 is a student work reminiscent of Bartók, the precocious teenager nonetheless created a work of surprising maturity, expertly drawing on his training as both violinist and pianist.


Henryk Gorecki (b.1933) : Variazioni, op. 4 (1956)
Much like his better-known contemporary Penderecki, Henryk Gorecki first achieved fame in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a darling of the European avant-garde spearheaded by Pierre Boulez, only to abandon their intellectual asceticism, and instead strive during the 1970s toward a more personal idiom that often seems to embrace deep sorrow as a catharsis for healing. Upon his abandonment of post-Webern serialism in favor of a simpler and more direct style, Gorecki was dismissed by critics as suddenly unimportant. But Gorecki went on to surprise even himself when the 1992 release of his then 15-year-old Symphony no. 3, op. 36 ("Symphony of Sorrowful Songs") sold over a million copies world-wide, an unmatched success for a modern symphony. His mature style, sometimes described as "sacred minimalism," is infused with religious mysticism and characterized by modal harmonies derived from early Polish church music melded with repetitive melodies and rhythms. In contrast, Gorecki's youthful Variations, op. 4, has been described as combining "the fluid lyricism of Szymanowksi, the rhythmic fervor of Bartók and the textural severity of Webern," but with his own voice "already recognizable, especially in the way small melodic or harmonic motifs suddenly explode with the energy of a split atom [Mark Swed, LA Times, 10.3.1997]."


Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) : Song of Roxanne (1926)
Karol Szymanowski, sometimes called the father of modern Polish music, is the most important Polish composer of the early 20th Century. He perhaps is best-known in this country for his solo piano music and his Stabat Mater for chorus and orchestra, although now his four symphonies, two violin concertos, chamber music, vocal music, and stage works are becoming better known as new recordings become available. Szymanowski's early works show the decided influences of Chopin, Wagner, Scriabin, Reger and Richard Strauss, but as he traveled extensively through Europe and Mediterranean Africa, the influences from the different cultures he encountered, along with exposure to works by Debussy and Ravel, as well as to Stravinsky's early ballets, began to color his work. After losing his family estate in Timoshovka (now in the Ukraine) following the Bolshevik Revolution (1917), Szymanowski settled in Warsaw in late 1919 and became an increasingly important figure in that city’s musical life. In 1926 he was appointed director of the Warsaw Conservatory, and as he became enthralled with Polish folk music his later works grew more nationalistic, celebrating his Polish heritage. Suffering from tuberculosis, Szymanowski retired to a sanitorium in Switzerland in 1935, and died there in 1937. A splendid example of the exoticism of Szymanowski's "middle period," the Song of Roxanne is an extract from his 1926 opera King Roger, arranged for violin and piano by violin virtuoso Paul Kochanski (1887-1934), an intimate friend of the composer who frequently offered Szymanowski advice and guidance in writing for the violin.


Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) : Oberek No. 1 (1949)
Grażyna Bacewicz joins Maria Szymanowska (1789-1831) as the only Polish women yet to achieve international recognition as composers. At age seven, Bacewicz began her career as a violin prodigy, and from 1928-1932 she studied violin, piano and composition at the Warsaw Conservatory and philosophy at Warsaw University. She then received encouragement from Szymanowski, plus a stipend from the famous pianist and Polish Prime Minister Ignacy Paderewski, to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, a teacher whose numerous illustrious students ranged from Aaron Copland and Elliott Carter to Burt Bacharach and Quincy Jones. During the 1930s Bacewicz was the principal violinist for the Polish Radio Orchestra, with whom she was able to perform several of her own compositions. Forced underground during World War II, Bacewicz continued composing and performing for secret concerts in Warsaw, and after the war she joined the faculty of the State Conservatory of Music in Łódź. Between 1956-1966, inspired by a number of important composition awards and commissions, and especially after sustaining serious injuries in a car crash, she concentrated exclusively on composing. Not surprisingly, many of Bacewicz's works feature the violin, including seven violin concertos, five violin and piano sonatas, and 2 sonatas for unaccompanied violin. Her Oberek no. 1 (1949), which adapts a traditional Polish dance that is often described as a very lively mazurka, was hastily written as an encore piece for a concert she would perform the following evening!

Piotr Szewczyk (b.1977) : Two Movements (1998)
Written during his sophomore year of college, Piotr Szewczyk's Two Movements was his first composition for violin and piano, and even though it is an early work, it, like the early works of Penderecki and Gorecki on this program, already demonstrates elements of the composer's later style. When commenting on the piece the composer observed, "It has a youthful eagerness, energy, virtuosity and sincerity. The First Movement starts with a slow introduction and gradually progresses through different tempos and moods to finally dissolve. The Second Movement is a crazy, fast, twisted rondo, full of energy, surprising twists and turns--never letting go to the very end.”