Earplay
P.O Box 192125
San Francisco, CA 94119-2125
earplay@earplay-sf.org

Program Notes and Composer Biographies

Earplay Brings New Works to the West Coast

February 5, 2001

The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Mary Chun, conductor


Talk, Talk, Talk (1997) by Eitan Steinberg

West Coast Premiere

Lisa Weiss, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, 'cello

NOTES:

Talk Talk Talk (1997) Two motives 'compete' with each other, holding onto their self identity in a stubborn way. They are played nervously in a dynamic scale of Forte to Fortissimo, often 'sul ponticello', creating a feeling of a loud argument. "Talk Talk Talk" was commissioned by the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music, as part of its 50th anniversary, celebrated in 1997. At that time I was a Ph.D. candidate in the U.S., and was watching the political situation in my homeland from abroad. My impressions have lead to the creation of this intense musical dialogue, which seems to be still relevant.

BIO:

Israeli composer Eitan Steinberg graduated from the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music, and made further studies at the Chigiana Academy in Siena, Italy. He received his Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught as a Visiting Lecturer in 1999. Performers of his music include the Israel Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Symphony, Ensemble Musica Nova, the Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, Ensemble Yatán Atán, pianist Sarah Cahill, the San Francisco Guitar Quartet, and vocalist Etty Ben-Zaken. His works were recorded by the BBC television and by the Israeli Radio, and in 1999 his settings of Ladino Love Songs were released on the New Albion Records Label. Six of his chamber works, performed by acclaimed Ensemble Boston Musica Viva are scheduled for recording on the same label in June 2001. Three times the recipient of the Nicola DeLorenzo Composition Award, Eitan Steinberg also won the Israel Philharmonic Composition Competition Award, and in 1996 was nominated for the Israeli Award "Composer of the Year." He has a strong interest in collaborations with visual and stage artists, and his Music-Theater and Music-video works were successfully performed in Europe, Israel and the U.S.A. Eitan Steinberg is a faculty member at the Haifa University Music Department, Israel. To learn more about his works visit www.benzaken-steinberg.com.

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FLUTE 3.2.4 (1995) by Adriana Verdie de Vas Romero

West Coast Premiere

Tod Brody, flute

NOTES:

FLUTE 3.2.4. - When I was asked to write a piece for solo flute, my mind was filled with the warm sound of the Musica Andina (music of the Andes) and the vivid image of the sicus (pan pipes) players of the Altiplano. The sicus is an instrument whose origin is indigenous to many Andean people, consisting of a single line of pipes, each of a different length, which restricts the performer to a small range of fixed pitches. As the sicus does not have all the notes, it is played by pairs of musicians playing alternate notes in tight association with one another to obtain a single melody. I have taken this idea and reversed it, by writing a composition which requires one flutist to play two-voice polyphony on the instrument. The piece is cast in three movements that are played without interruption. Each movement is restricted to a specific melodic interval as the generator of the pitch system, and as a base of mathematical calculations to determine formal proportions, metrical relationships and rhythmic organization. The first movement is a rhythmic elaboration of 3rds (and its complement, 6ths), characterized for its two-voice setting of ostinatti and melodies in a multisectioned arch form. A slower dance-like rhythm employing three differnet scales combining 2nds (and 7ths) forges the second movement; its gracious timbral shades lead into the third and last movement, which revolves around a system of 4ths (and 5ths), completing the intervalic spectra, again in a fast motion with some reminiscences of the rhythmic profiles of previous movements. Flute 3.2.4. received Honorable Mention at the 1997 "Newly Published Composition Competition" of the National Flute Association. - A.V. V.

BIO:

Argentine composer Adriana VerdiŽ de Vas Romero holds a BA in Music Education and Choral Conducting from Cuyo University in Argentina, and a Masters degree in Composition from California State University, Long Beach. She was elected Outstanding Graduate of the College of the Arts, 1995, and a Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar for 1996-97. Currently, she is pursuing doctoral studies at the University of California in Berkeley on a Regents-Intern Fellowship. While in Argentina, she conducted a prestigious women's choir, premiering works by contemporary Latin-American composers. She has participated in several New Music Festivals, such as the SCI Conference, the Ernest Bloch Music Festival, the International Festival of Women Composers, the CSU Summer Arts, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Her music has been performed by the chamber groups I Cantori (Los Angeles), Speculum Musicae (New York), Synchronia (St. Louis, Missouri), Oasis (Long Beach, California), Zephyr (Spokane, Washington), the New York New Music Ensemble, the vocal groups Sacred and Profane (Berkeley, California), The Americas Vocal Ensemble (New York), the Camellia Symphony Orchestra (Sacramento, California), the WomenŐs Chamber Orchestra (Columbus, Ohio), and the Berkeley Contemporary Music Players. Critic Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times calls her music "compelling and original," winning several competitions both in her native country, and in the United States. Her work El Polvoroso was awarded First Place at the First National Competition for Choral Compositions, organized by the Ateneo Ricardo Rojas in Argentina, in 1984, and First Place at the Toronto Camerata Choral Composition Competition in 1997. She received also a Second Place, Third Place and a Special Mention for original arrangements of popular music for choir, in the Argentina's National Board of Education's 1985 Choral Competition. Her Flute 3.2.4. has been awarded First Place in the field of Creative Arts and Design in the Student Research Competition in 1994, organized by California State University, and received Honorable Mention at the "1997 Newly Published Composition Competition" by the National Flute Association in the USA. Recently, her work Jira (Yira) che (k) Tango for solo violoncello received Honorable Mention at the 1996 "Britten-on-the-Bay" composition competition.

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Trio Rustica (1989) by Walter Winslow

I. Airs and Zephyrs
II. Tunes and Excursions

Tod Brody, flute
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Thalia Moore, 'cello

NOTES:

TRIO RUSTICO was written for Earplay as a commissioned work in the fall of 1989 while I was a composition Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. While there I had a studio in the Casa Rustica, a curiously shaped stone building with tile roof that was located in the back of the Academy garden. The ambience of this place and the multifold impressions of Rome bore fruit in the title and the subtitles of the movements. For example, the "airs and zephyrs" which literally cooled us on the Gianicolo hill as they blew from the sea in the early afternoon seemed appropriate to describe the emergence, statement and transformation of the various lyrical themes and their accompanying motives in the first movement. A large-scale ABA design is the stage for the interplay of the various subsections. The tunes of the second movement are clear enough. The movement begins with a theme of well- defined phrases. The excursions happen on the way as variations unfold. Much is familiar- a sense of acceleration as the variations proceed, use of devices such as cantus firmus (played by the cello in the fourth variation: a simplified version of the theme accompanied by texture recalling the first movement), but, like many excursions arising from tradition, what is of most interest are the ways in which the familiar can be made to seem unexpected.

BIO:

Born in Salem, Oregon, in 1947, Walter Winslow was drawn to music as a young child, and it remained his passion throughout his life. He began composing at the age of eight. At nineteen, when he was attending Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music he wrote the first of two string quartets. Graduating summa cum laude with degrees in musical composition and Russian in 1970, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley with Edward Dugger, Andrew Imbrie, and Olly Wilson, and earned a Ph.D. in music in 1975. Winslow pursued a teaching career in musical composition during the decades that followed, with positions at Berkeley, Oberlin, Reed College and Columbia University and finally at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey where he was a teacher of piano from 1990 to 1997. He was a gifted teacher. As composer Mario Pelusi, his colleague at Lawrenceville, once observed: "Taking a music lesson with Walter was often like looking into the soul of music itself." An accomplished pianist, Winslow played in recitals throughout his life. He was deeply committed to twentieth-century music, winning his first piano competition in 1965 with a rendition of Shostakovitch's Second Piano Concerto. But he had broad musical tastes, and the programs of his recitals read like a short history of western music, with works by Scarlatti, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Chopin, and Schubert, as well as his own works and pieces by Schoenberg, Boulez and Mario Davidowsky. Winslow was diagnosed with cancer in December 1994 and given about a year and a half to live. He defied that initial bleak diagnosis by continuing to write music, to perform and to teach for another three years. That he could perform Bach's Goldberg Variations, one of the most demanding pieces in the piano repertoire, in two recitals in the Fall of 1997, just months before he died, was, in the words of his doctor, testimony to an extraordinary strength of character. By the time of his death in 1998 at the age of fifty, Winslow had already earned a substantial reputation as a composer with works performed across the United States and in Canada, Belgium, Denmark and Italy. In the course of a distinguished career cut short, he composed over sixty works of music in a variety of genres, including songs, chamber music, works for solo instruments, vocal ensembles, orchestral music, works for chamber orchestra, works for chorus and orchestra, a musical theatre piece, and a composition for electronic tape.Many of these works were commissioned and performed by some of the finest contemporary musicians and ensembles including the Earplay Ensemble, the Gregg Smith Singers, Speculum Musicae, Cygnus Ensemble, the New York New Music Ensemble, and the New York Camerata. Winslow's compositions earned him such prestigious awards as the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize, a residency at the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio, Italy and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Several themes are evident in Winslow's music. Already in 1975, his Nahua Songs revealed an interest in ethnic sources - most notably Tahitian, Hawaiian and Aztec music, poetry and culture - that would be further developed in later works, such as Pele, Kore, Four Kauai Studies, Himene, Vai Po, and finally Six Paripari. Winslow was also fascinated with Italy - with its literature, its language and its ancient past. Giuseppe Ungaretti's three-part poem, La Terra Promessa, that was itself based upon Virgil's Aeneid, became the inspiration for Winslow's Canzone, Palinurus and Madrigals (Cori descrittivi di stati d'animo di Didone) (1980-82). A year at the American Academy in Rome in 1989-90 opened his eyes to the seductive remains of antiquity. Trio Rustico, Sette Bagatelle di Primavera, and The Piper of the Sacred Grove were written in the Casa Rustica at the Academy. Later works included Sylloge and A Voice from Elysium, both inspired by Roman tomb inscriptions, and Cantico, a piece for organ and voice based upon St. Francis's Canticle to Brother Sun. In Concertati Veneziani, the last piece that he completed before his death, Winslow paid tribute to Venice. A mountain climber and hiker, Winslow remained close to nature throughout his life. Indeed, a senstivity to the natural world, both past and present, was a major source of his strength and was perhaps the overarching inspiration of his work: in Orpheus of the Winds, Mirror of Diana and Locus Amoenus, the Arcadian landscape of leafy glades and groves of antiquity; and in The Bells of Eola, The Piper of the Sacred Grove and I Lift up my Eyes to the Hills, the verdant countryside near his childhood home in Oregon. Fittingly, it was nature that inspired a final composition, Conversations with the Muse at Pele'ilia Creek, that he planned to write for the New York New Music Ensemble. The domain of the muse who inspired the piece was the grove of the confluence of Pele'ilia Creek in a heavily wooded area just outside Salem. As Winslow described the grove in his journal after hiking there during his final summer, "it was very quiet except for an occasional bird and the music of the stream. And as I looked about, taking in view after view, it came to me that at this hour I was looking at perfection, from the delicate pattern of moss on a streamside rock to the arrangement of the trees and the light filtering through their leaves. And I remembered that other day in July ten years ago in this canyon, and my resolve to return when I died, a benign spirit blowing over the land like a green wind." Winslow began the piece in the summer of 1997, but by the time of his death the following February he had completed only a pencil score of the first movement. The fragment was completed as a performance score by Edwin Dugger and Mario Pelusi and was performed along with Mirror of Diana and other works by Winslow in a memorial concert in New York City in March 1999. Walter Winslow's compositions are available from the American Composers Alliance, 170 West 74th Street, New York, NY 10023.

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Masques et Visages (1998-99)by Ellen Ruth Harrison

West Coast Premiere

I. Masks of Regret
II. The Furies Unleashed

Andrea Plesnarski, oboe
Lisa Weiss, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, 'cello

NOTES:

In the first movement of Masques et Visages (1998-99), the oboe portrays a series of contrasting characters much like the many and varied expressions of the masks one might see at a venetian masked ball. These characters range from dramatic to lyrical, from playful to plaintive. The strings provide a web of sound behind the masks, at times appearing as phantoms in the shadows, and at other times bursting forth in a flash of color. They play a more prominent role in the second movement where, in several rhythmically complex sections, they escape the confines of 3/4 time to ricochet madly around an imaginary hall like shadows of present and former dancers, or perhaps like the Furies themselves. The oboe soon asserts itself, however, and once again dons a variety of masks, from tranquil and melancholy to bold and impetuous. The piece closes with a return to the oboe's opening expression, followed by a soft reminder of the strings' rhythms as the shadows of former dancers slowly slip away. Masques et Visages was written for the Linton Chamber Music Series with the support of the Ohio Arts Council. - E.R.H

BIO:

Ellen Ruth Harrison was born and raised in Illinois. Her principal teachers were Edwin Dugger, Richard Felciano, Andrew Imbrie, and Olly Wilson at the University of California at Berkeley, Milko Kelemen at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, and Thomas Frederickson and Paul Zonn at the University of Illinois at Urbana. She has received awards from the Ohio Arts Council , the IBLA European International Competition for Composers, the Fromm Foundation, and the American Guild of Organists, as well as a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship and UC Berkeley's Prix de Paris, which enabled her to live and work in Paris for two years. Her compositions range from instrumental and vocal chamber music to works for larger forces. They have been performed throughout the United States as well as in Germany and France. She is currently writing a string quartet for the Amicus Quartet, and teaches at the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department.

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Numina by Daniel Godfrey

West Coast Premiere

Tod Brody, flute
Andrea Plesnarski, oboe
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Lisa Weiss, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, 'cello

NOTES:

Numina is in one movement with four sections. It is a tussle with, and tribute to, those quirky, ineffable, intoxicating, sometimes mischievous spirits or life impulses --numina-- that spring forth when notes are strung together. Duration: 13 minutes

BIO:

Daniel S. Godfrey (b. 1949): Career Summary Daniel S. Godfrey received B.A. and M.M. degrees in composition from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He is Professor of Music in the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University and has also held visiting faculty appointments at the Indiana University School of Music, Eastman School of Music and the University of Pittsburgh. He is founder and co-director of the Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music (on the Maine coast) and is co-author of Music Since 1945, published by Schirmer Books. His music has been performed throughout North America and overseas and has earned awards and commissions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, the US West Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. Recent projects include Symphony in Minor for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, String Quartet No. 3 for the Cassatt String Quartet, and Shindig for solo horn and wind ensemble, commissioned by the Big Ten University Band Directors Association.

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