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Program Notes and Composer Biographies

March 17, 2003

The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Mary Chun, conductor

Tod Brody, flute
Peter Josheff, clarinet
Karen Rosenak, piano
Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, cello


Carey Bell, B-flat & E-flat clarinet
Sarah Fiene, cello
Dan Kennedy, percussion
Lisa Weiss, violin
Betty Woo, piano


Guy Garnett, Alternate Forms West-Coast Premiere
for solo piano

Pablo Ortiz, Milonguitas
for Bass clarinet

Franco Donatoni, Ronda U.S. premiere
for piano, violin, viola, and cello


Leilei Tian, Wu U.S. premiere
for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and percussion

György Kurtag, Jelek Op. 5
for solo viola

1. Agitato
2. Giusto
3. Lento
4. Vivo, feroce
5. Quasi senza tempo
6. Con slancio, risoluto

Kotoka Suzuki, Distortion U.S. premiere
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion

Guy Garnett, Alternate Forms for solo piano

The solo piano work, Alternate Forms, is a kind of fantasy. It continually returns to the opening gestures for its sources, sometimes developing radically divergent variations from them, and sometimes remaining closely connected. It was written in 1997 and has been performed in Europe and the Midwest.

Associate Professor of Music Composition and Theory at UIUC, Guy Garnett has previously held research appointments at Stanford University's CCRMA and the Yamaha Corporation. He taught electronic music at the University of California-Berkeley, where he also served as director of music and technology at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies. In addition to writing for conventional instruments and ensembles, Garnett writes for technologically extended or augmented instrumental performance and has composed a number of works in this medium that have been performed in Europe, Asia, North and South America. In the Spring of 2000, Professor Garnett, along with his co-workers at the University of Illinois and the Beckman Institute, was awarded a Critical Research Initiative grant for the Interactive Virtual Ensemble. This project seeks to develop computer systems that can follow and interpret the gestures of a human conductor. The next big project is a CyberOpera, “The Death of Virgil.” This will incorporate singers and instrumentalists along with technology in a meditation on life, art, and love based on the novel by Hermann Broch.

Pablo Ortiz, Milonguitas for solo Bass clarinet

Starting in 1992 I began to compose what was to become a number of works based on the idea of tango and memory. The Milonguitas for Bass clarinet are miniatures, abstracted versions of traditional milongas. The pieces seek to recover the remains, the fragmented memories of these forms, internalized almost subconsciously through repeated listening in childhood. I try to make use of the expressive range of the instrument to bring to the fore the sentimental nature of the musical material. The piece was written for and dedicated to Peter Josheff, who is a good friend and has been a patient editor of my music for clarinet for many years.

Pablo Ortiz was first trained in his native Buenos Aires, where he received a degree from the Universidad Catolica Argentina. At 27, he moved to New York to study at Columbia University. He studied composition with Mario Davidovsky, Chou Wen Chung, Jack Beeson, Jacques Louis Monod, Fred Lerdahl, Gerardo Gandini, and Roberto Caamano. At present, he is Professor of Composition at the University of California, Davis. He taught composition and was co-director of the Electronic Music Studio at the University of Pittsburgh from 1990 to 1994. Among those who have performed his compositions are the Buenos Aires Philarmonic, the Arditti String Quartet, Speculum Musicae, the Ensemble Contrechamps of Geneva, Music Mobile, Continuum, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Theatre of Voices. His music has been heard at international festivals in Salzburg (Aspekte), Geneva (Extasis), Strasbourg (Musica), Havana, Frankfurt, Zurich, Sao Paulo and Mexico City. He was a fellow at the Composers' Conference at Wellesley College in 1986 and 1988, and was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation in 1992. In 1993, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1996 he received the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1997 and 1998, Ortiz was commissioned two chamber operas, Parodia and Una voz en el viento, by the Centro Experimental Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. In 1999 he was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation to write a piece, Raya en el mar, for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. In 2000 he received a grant from Fideicomiso para la cultura Mexico-US to write children's songs based on poems by Francisco Alarcon, renowned Chicano poet and Mission artist. His works include chamber and solo music, vocal, orchestral, and electronic compositions, and music for plays and films.

Franco Donatoni, Ronda for piano, violin, viola, and cello

Ronda by Franco Donatoni for violin, viola, cello and piano, was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and was first performed by the Ivaldi Quartet at the Festival de La Rochelle in 1984. The title Ronda refers to the structure of the piece, which is based on staccato and legato figures that return cyclically and are continually transformed and fragmented by all four instruments. Clearly shaped figures emerge from the motivic cells which have their own distinct shapes and unique identities, and whose characteristics persist throughout the course of the work. These clearly shaped figures are not intended to be understood in a baroque sense nor as a musical symbol for particular feelings, but rather as a work that attempts to create musical organisms in continued transformation.

Franco Donatoni was born in 1927 in Verona. He studied composition under Piero Bottagisio, Ettore Desderi, Lino Liviabelli and Ildebrando Pizzetti in Verona, Milan, Bologna and Rome. Donatoni participated four times in the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik. Equally important to him was the fact that he became acquainted with Bruno Maderna and critic M. Bortolotto.

Besides being a composer Donatoni was regarded as a highly influential teacher. He lectured at the Music Conservatories of Milano and Torino and at the University of Bologna; he held seminars in many European and American cities. Since 1970 he had been conducting the summer course in composition in Siena and was a professor at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. Donatoni died in August of 2000 in Milan.

Leilei Tian, Wu for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano, and percussion

Wu is a Chinese word, which means “to feel, to comprehend and be awake to the truth.” It is often used in the Chinese philosophy, Buddhism and also daily life. We often say that, “to understand a thing itself, the best way is to feel it and comprehend by yourself, but not be told or taught by the others.” That is called the sense of “wu.” And the nature of a truth is actually very simple, but usually we are not able to see it through its complex and confusing appearance (we may call it illusion), so we need to “wu.” In this piece, I try to express what I understand about “wu” and what I hear from my personal “wu” of the sound. Based on this idea, I aim to display a transparent texture with a poetic sense of concentration.

Being technically as simple as possible, I use less complex notes, rhythms, and form, but emphasize exploring the possibilities of the timbres of different instruments and their combination. Besides, to have a free but well self-controlled musical timing is very important for the piece. That gives a necessary space for the poetic concept and its expression.

Leilei Tian was born in 1971 in Jiangsu Province, China. She began to study piano at the age of six. From 1988 to 1995, she studied in the Department of Composition in Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing with Zhenmin Xu and earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees of Arts. In 1997, she went to Sweden and studied with Ole Lutzow-Holm in the Conservatory of Music in Guteborg until 2001. At the same time she attended many master classes in Europe such as Avantgarde Schwaz International Academy for New Composition and Audio-Art in Austria, Internationale Ferienkurse Darmstadt, International Young Composers meeting in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Voix Nouvelles at Royaumont, and Centre Acanthes in Avignon, France.

Leilei Tian’s music has been performed in many countries by professional ensembles; among others: Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam, Nouvelle Ensemble Moderne of Montreal, Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Kammarensemble of Stockholm, Guteborg Symphony Orchestra, National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Serbia, and Les Jeunes Solistes of Paris. She has received commissions from the French Ministry of Culture, Royaumont Foundation, Swedish Concert Institute and different ensembles.

She is also the winner of competitions such as International Gaudeamus Competition for Young Composers in Amsterdam 1999 (Honorable Mention); 10th Besancon International Composition Competition for orchestra in France (1st prize); IV International Contemporary Music Contest “Citta di Udine” in Italy (1st prize) and International Composition Competition of GRAME in Lyon 2002 (1st prize). She is now attending the “Cursus annuel de composition et d’informatique musicale de l’Ircam 2002/2003” in Paris.

György Kurtag, Jelek Op. 5 for solo viola

György Kurtag composed Jelek, “signs,” six short movements for solo viola, in 1961 as his Op. 5. Kurtag subsequently withdrew Jelek, but eventually re-issued a revised version in 1994. Jelek clearly shows the influence of WebernÕs aphoristic style—Kurtag’s compositions are almost always very short and terse, preoccupied with a single gesture, and yet deeply expressive.

György Kurtag was born at Lugos (Lugoj, Romania) on 19 February, 1926. At the age of 14, he began studies in piano with Magda Kardos and composition with Max Eisikovits at Timisoara. Having moved to Budapest, he enrolled at the Academy of Music in 1946, where his professors included Sandor Veress and Ferenc Farkas (composition), Pal Kadosa (piano) and Leo Weiner (chamber music). In 1957-1958, Kurtag studied in Paris with Marianne Stein and attended the courses of Messiaen and Milhaud. As a result, he re-thought his ideas on composition and marked the first work he wrote after his return to Budapest, a string quartet, as his Opus 1.

From 1958–1963, Kurtag worked as repetiteur with the Bela Bartok Music Secondary School in Budapest. In 1960–1968, he was repetiteur with soloists of the National Philharmonic. From 1967, he was an assistant to Pal Kadosa at the Academy of Music, in 1968 he was appointed professor of chamber music, a post he held until his retirement in 1986.

Kotoka Suzuki, Distortion for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion

The piece Distortion is centered on the percussion, which directs and controls many aspects of the music materials produced by the five instruments: clarinet, flute, piano, violin, and cello. In the beginning, all five instruments have different music characteristics, however, as they slowly emerge into one similar character, the percussion interrupts the movement and forces them to return to their opening gestures. After this process is repeated a few more times, these five instruments become more eager to free themselves from being controlled by the percussion, and their timbre and rhythm become more intense and frantic. By the end of the piece, all instruments become even more intense, and very chaotic in their rhythmic expression.

Kotoka Suzuki received a B.M. degree in composition from Indiana University (1994) and a D.M.A. degree in composition at Stanford University (1999), where she studied with Jonathan Harvey (to whom she submitted her Doctoral thesis in 1999). She has also been an artist-in-residence at numerous international festivals and compositional courses including IRCAM Summer Workshop (France, 2001), International Computer Music Conference (ICMC, Germany/Cuba, 2000/2001), Voix Nouvelles Royaumont (France, 1997), June in Buffalo (1997), and Darmstadt (Germany, 1999/2000). An active composer, many of her works have been performed in major venues across the globe by performers such as Arditti String Quartet, Continuum (Canada), Ensemble Moderne (Canada), Junge Musik, and Ives Quartet. Her awards and grants include DAAD Berlin Artist in Resident Prize (2001-2002), Musica Nova Honor Prize (Czech, 2002), Rusolo-Pratela Electroacoustic Music Competition Finalist (Italy, 2002), Robert Flemming Prize from Canada Council for the Arts (2001), Gerald Oshita Fellowship Award from Djerassi Resident Artists Program (California, 1999), and Stanford String Quartet Composition Competition Award (1997).

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