Works performed by Earplay:

Sonata No. 2

Ralph Shapey (1921-2005) showed early talent as a violinist, conductor, and composer. Compositionally, Shapey always pursued excellence in his own style, regardless of trends; and in a world that frequently places at least as much emphasis on the personality and image of the artist as on his work, he uncompromisingly held the idea that the music, once created, should stand on its own. This commitment, along with a refusal to compromise his integrity and disillusionment with the musical climate of the time, led him to withdraw his compositions from 1969 to 1976, believing that people were unable to appreciate and perform his work for its own sake. Irrespective of controversy over his approach to music, Shapey’s status in contemporary American music cannot be ignored. Combining a deep respect for the classical masters of the past with an interpretation that was wholly original, he has been described as a "radical traditionalist."

He was the founder and music director of the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, a group that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1989 and established a reputation for excellence under Shapey’s leadership. Its programming reflected Shapey’s firm belief in giving all styles of music a chance to be heard, regardless of personal taste.

Notable awards and commissions include a MacArthur Prize from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1982); the First Prize in the Kennedy Center Friedheim Competition (1990, for Concerto for Cello, Piano and String Orchestra); the Paul Fromm Award (1993); and two commissions from the Library of Congress. He was elected in 1989 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1994 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

[from program for September 26, 2005 concert]