The American Experience(s) Part II

Clapp Recital Hall, Saturday, April 06, 2003, 8:00 pm


Gottlieb Duo   Ralph Shapey
  Michael Masengarb, Percussion
Amelia Kaplan, Piano
Once Upon A Time
     for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano
  P.Q. Phan
  Laveena Sollenberger, Clarinet;
Charletta Taylor, Viola;
Marcelina Turcanu, Piano;
Amelia Kaplan, Conductor
Sky Quartet
     (Movement III: Fury)
  Jennifer Higdon
  Alla Cross and Karl Pedersen, Violins;
Charletta Taylor, Viola;
David Evenchick, Violoncello
Homage to Bartok
     for woodwind quintet
  Katherine Hoover
  Robert Dick, Flute;
Mark Weiger, Oboe;
Maurita Mead, Clarinet;
Kristin Thelander, Horn;
Benjamin Coelho, Bassoon
Elegy and Affirmation   Jonathan Chenette
  David Evenchick, Violoncello
Yun-Pai Hsu, Piano
Point of No Return   Michael Eckert
  Ismael Reyes, Flute;
Laveena Sollenberger, Clarinet;
Alla Cross, Violin;
Charletta Taylor, Viola;
David Evenchick, Violoncello;
Michael Masengarb, Percussion;
Marcelina Turcanu, Piano;
Amelia Kaplan, Conductor


Notes & Bios

Ralph Shapey

Gottlieb Duo

Named after percussionist Gordon Gottlieb, for whom he wrote it, is almost a textbook example of Shapey's composition style. It contains ostinatos, highly angular but lyrical lines, cantus firmi, craggy rhythms of nested tuplets, traditional forms, references to two of his favorite composers, Bach and Beethoven; and it uses a specific 12-tone row that he employed in many of his pieces written over the past 20 years, and that he often referred to as "the mother load."

The Duo comprises three movements: a Theme and Variations, a Scherzo, and final slow movement entitled "Song." These movements also consist of palindromes on several levels. The first movement, in a Beethovenesque turn, presents the theme second, not first. Instead the movement begins and ends with a ritualist variation of the theme, with the row treated as a cantua firmus. In the final variation, the row is first presented alone in unpitched percussion. The third movement similarly begins and ends with the same material, but this time the material is the original theme. Sandwiched in between is a two-part ornamented variation in obvious reference to Bach.

The middle movement is a hilarious scherzo, consisting of two sections, each ending with a refrain which contains a statement of the main theme played in the glockenspiel. The two sections are retrogrades of each other, and contain three layers. The first layer is an 11-beat ostinato played by the percussion. The second layer, played by the left hand of the piano, is another ostinato consisting of the row. In the first half it is played as it was introduced in the final variation of the first movement; and in the second half it is sped up so that is has a metric relation to the percussion of five beats to four beats. The third layer, played by the right hand, consists of three phrases played in one order in the first half, and then in reverse order in the second half.

Ralph Shapey, dubbed a "radical traditionalist," is self described as a classicist structurally, a romantic emotionally, and a modernist harmonically. Although he received no formal education beyond high school, he became one of the more important American composers of the past century, and eventually taught at the University of Chicago, where he retired in 1992 as chair of the Composition Department. In addition to being a composer and teacher, Ralph Shapey was well-known as a conductor, and he founded and conducted the University of Chicago's Contemporary Chamber Players.

In 1982 Shapey was the first composer to receive a MacArthur Prize from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He also received the First Prize in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition (1990, for Concerto for Cello, Piano and String Orchestra); the Paul Fromm Award in 1993; a commission from the Philadelphia Orchestra for the bicentennial of the Constitution in 1987 (Symphonie Concertante); a commission from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a work to mark the centennials of both the orchestra and the University of Chicago, which was premiered in 1991 (Concerto Fantastique); and two commissions from the Library of Congress, among others. In 1989 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1994 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ralph Shapey died June 13, 2002.

P.Q. Phan

Once Upon a Time

reflects characteristics of traditional Vietnamese melodies in contemporary sonorities. Its contrapuntal approach expands from aspects of common heterophony usages in Vietnamese traditional music. The composition employs interpretations of neutral third (neither major or minor) and "adjusted octave" (quarter-tone flat or sharp from the fundamental tone) in an attempt to recreate senses of primitivism and timbres using just-intonation system.

The Swedish Concert Institute commissioned "Once upon at Time" for the Obscura Trio.

P.Q. Phan was born in 1962 in Vietnam. He became interested in music while studying architecture, and taught himself to play the piano, compose, and orchestrate. In 1982, he immigrated to The United States and began his formal musical training. He earned his BM from University of Southern California and his DMA in Composition from University of Michigan. P.Q. Phan is currently an Associate Professor of Music in Composition at Indiana University at Bloomington. At the moment, Mr. Phan is focusing on composing music which integrates the musical aesthetics of Southeast-Asia and the West.

Mr. Phan's music has been performed throughout the United States, North America, Europe, the Near East, and Asia. He has received numerous commissions and performances, including from the Kronos Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and others. Phan has received a Rome Prize, the Rockefeller Foundation Grant, Meet the Composers: Music Alive Residency Award with the American Composers Orchestra, in addition to many others accolades. He has been guest composer at numerous music festivals, including the'96 residency with the Kronos Quartet at the University of Iowa, Hancher Auditorium. Phan's recorded works can be found on Nonesuch, Plaxton, and CRI labels.

Jennifer Higdon

Sky Quartet

Jennifer Higdon writes, "When I began composing Sky Quartet, I envisioned the wonder and immensity of the Western sky. This is especially appropriate since the work was commissioned by the Da Vinci Quartet, which resides in Colorado. Every time I've been west of the Mississippi, I've always marveled at that exquisite canvas of blue and clouds. This work paints musical portraits of the sky in various stages: start of a day, the rapture of its "blueness", a storm-wrenched fury, and its vast immensity. This work was commissioned by Frances Hettinger for the Da Vinci Quartet. Originally composed in 1997, it was revised in 2000."

Jennifer Higdon is currently on the composition faculty of The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, the International League of Women Composers, and others. In addition she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She also served as Composer-in-Residence at numerous festivals, and most recently was named Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Singers. She holds a PhD and a MA in composition from the University of Pennsylvania, a BM in flute performance from Bowling Green State University, and an Artist Diploma from The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her teachers have included George Crumb, Wallace DePue, James Primosch, Jay Reise, Ned Rorem, and Marilyn Shrude (composition), Judith Bentley and Jan Vinci (flute),and Robert Spano (conducting).

Katherine Hoover

Homage to Bartok

Katherine Hoover writes, "Of the many marvelous aspects of Bartok's composition, two in particular have influenced Homage to Bartok. In the first movement I have used structural techniques and short, angular themes typical of the string quartets, but seldom, if ever, applied to winds. A folk element in evident in the rhythms and patterns of the last movement. The second movement, an arioso in free time, is not consciously tied to Bartok. It begins with a long oboe solo which overlaps the end of the preceding movement."

Katherine Hoover was born in West Virginia and resides in New York where she maintains an active career as composer, conductor, and flutist. She is the recipient of a 1979 National Endowment Composer's Fellowship and many other awards, and four of her pieces have won the National Flute Association's Newly Published Music Competition. She has appeared at many universities and colleges, including the U. of Wisconsin at Madison, Haverford College, U. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and U. of California at Berkeley and at Davis. Hoover's commissions have come from the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, the Women's Philharmonic, the Episcopal Diocese of New York, the Huntington Trio, and Duologue, among many others. Her works are published by Theodore Presser, Carl Fischer, and Papagena Press. Ms. Hoover attended the Eastman School of Music, receiving her BM in Music Theory and a Performer's Certificate in Flute in 1959. While a faculty member at the Manhattan School, she completed a MM in theory at that institution.

Jonathan Chenette

Elegy and Affirmation, for violoncello and piano

was commissioned for premiere at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum in Fort Dodge as part of a memorial event marking the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Its elegiac first movement and hopeful second movement derive inspiration from diverse sources: a conversation with the mother of a victim of the World Trade Center collapse, a snippet from a nostalgic Stephen Foster tune which serves as the culmination of Elegy, a song sung by Afghan girls returning to school which dominates Affirmation, melodies borrowed from repertories of various Asian bowed string instruments, and a poem by W.H. Auden. The piece seeks both to mourn our loss and to assert our interconnectedness in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The works of Jonathan Chenette include an opera premiered in 1993, choral and chamber music published by Boosey & Hawkes and Theodore Presser, and orchestral music performed by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, the latter performance during the 1985 ISCM World Music Days in Amsterdam. In 2000, he completed Iowa's project for the national Continental Harmony program, a "Rural Symphony" based on interviews with Iowa farmers. Chenette received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has taught at Grinnell College since 1983.

Mickael Eckert

Point of No Return

is a single movement lasting nearly nine minutes, scored for flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano, and percussion (vibraphone and marimba). I wrote most of the music between November 2002 and February 2003. The title alludes to the absence of literal repetition in the music, and indirectly to the psychological effects of the events of September 11, 2001, and February 1, 2003. The preparation of the score and parts was facilitated by computer equipment purchased under a 2001-02 University of Iowa Arts & Humanities Initiative grant; I am also grateful to Amelia Kaplan for her advice and assistance.

Michael Eckert joined the Composition/Theory Area of the University of Iowa School of Music in 1985, becoming an Associate Professor in 1988. He previously taught at Colorado State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tulane University, and Antioch College. He studied composition with John Richard Ronsheim at Antioch College, and with Ralph Shapey at the University of Chicago, where he earned the M.A. in music history & theory and the Ph.D. in composition. His awards for composition include the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, a Charles E. Ives Scholarship from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an NEA fellowship, and the Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Composer of the Year Award. He has been a fellow at the Charles Ives Center for American Music, and at the Composers Conference at Wellesley College. Eckert's scholarly publications include articles on the music of Johannes Ockeghem and Luigi Dallapiccola, and editions of 15th-century sacred music. He received an NEH Travel to Collections grant and a Fulbright Junior Research Fellowship for archival research on the music of Luigi Dallapiccola. He currently serves as Head of the Composition/Theory Area.