Andrew Waggoner: Legacy

The works on this disk all reflect, in one way or another, legacies both personal and public: legacies of social action, of friendship and of the formation–for better or worse–of a musical point of view.


The piece titled Legacy was commissioned for the Cassatt Quartet by Planned Parenthood Center of Syracuse to celebrate the dedication of their new facility, completed in 1996. The first movement, “Love-Chorus,” was commissioned later, in 1999, by the Summit Institute for the Corigliano Quartet.

Legacy is intended both as an occasional work and as a rumination on the progress of women’s rights in our society; the “legacy” of the title is that of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Sanger, and countless others who have fought to raise our collective consciousness. What interests me about these women is that they shared no common ideology, no easy agenda. They were each simply committed to the realization of basic equality for women in a wide variety of contexts.

“Love-Chorus” celebrates a kind of collective spirit of renewal through Hendrix-like explosions of sound; it prepares the second movement, “Legacy,” which is carried along on a wave of propulsive rhythmic and harmonic motion. The voices are at times in unison, at other times in canon— sometimes working together, sometimes not. They press ahead, however, with tremendous urgency. As the struggle for reproductive freedoms has been through dark times in recent years, so too the music descends into the abyss and cries out de profundis. The inevitable motion of the opening, however, sweeps these lamentations away; this legacy lives in an eternally renewed, and renewable, present. The work is dedicated, with love and gratitude, to the Cassatt and Corigliano Quartets.

Symphony No. 2

In the fall of 1995 I received a commission from the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic Orchestra of Zlin, Czech Republic, for a new orchestral work to be premiered in its upcoming season. I had been to Zlin once before for the recording of an earlier piece of mine called The Train and was excited at the prospect of working with the orchestra again. (Aside from their devotion to new orchestral music from literally around the world, they gave the Czech premiere of Karel Husa’s Music for Prague, 1968, at the 1990 Prague Spring. Who could possibly turn down the opportunity to make music with a group such as this?)

I had had a symphony in mind for some time and decided that this was the chance I needed to see it through. While the piece had been taking shape in my unconscious from the fall of 1995 into the early part of 1996, its expressive core was formed in February of 1996 with the unthinkable and wrenching loss to cancer of Cassatt Quartet founding cellist Anna Cholakian. In this moment the symphony became for me a meeting ground between the mythic cast of this most public of genres and the very private, personal shadow of my own grief. The piece that resulted is, I think, imperfect, but captures with some clarity the difficult journey of that year.

Quite unexpectedly, and for the first time in my life as a composer, the piece began to draw from everything around it. Thus the first movement takes up and refines elements from my first symphony (a work thankfully not included on this recording), while the third echoes an old Armenian song beloved of Anna and her father, “Hokis Murmur (My Soul is Sad),” the Dresden Amen (associated in my mind more with the Reformation symphony of Mendelssohn than with Parsifal), my own second string quartet, and a setting of John Donne’s holy sonnet “From the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners . . .” that I had composed earlier the same year. It is, perhaps, the multiplicity of these sources that accounts for the third movement’s strange tone and precarious sense of balance, and yet for me the whole thing has a weird integrity; this is actually some of my favorite of my own music.

When I consider the symphony as a whole I am struck by the strange austerity, the morphing of Dutilleux and Shostako-vich, the somehow American harmonic sense speaking through an Eastern European phrase logic, and I am amazed to find just how unconsciously collaborative a process composition can be. That is, I suppose, the work’s real significance for me: it gave me room to bring together a number of the disparate strands of my life in a way that somehow allowed them to live and work together. Overall, though, this is mourning music and is dedicated to Anna Cholakian’s memory.

String Quartet No. 2

My second quartet was composed over the summer and fall of 1992, although its first stirrings were felt during a late-night winter drive into Vermont one year earlier. The work’s seven movements project a gradual process of dream-revelation, moving from an initial state of nocturnal uneasiness, through spans of nightmare and both sensual and tragic awakening, to a morning-song haunted and yet invigorated by all that has come before it; this is the music I hear when at the core of myself, surrounded by a world both strange and strangely familiar.

This enigmatic progress takes the form of three short dream-episodes, each followed by a fantasy. The dreams themselves pursue one long, and at times perplexing, train of thought; their appearances are cyclic and incomplete. The fantasies take up some strand from each dream and spin it out, seeing it through myriad transformations. The final movement, “Albedo,” is just that: a lightening (both texturally and rhythmically) which brings the dream-music into the waking conscious, to be integrated into the distractions of the day.

This live recording of the quartet dates from January of 1995 and documents one of Anna Cholakian’s last performances. I am deeply grateful to the members of the Cassatt for their permission to include this performance on this disk, and for their support and enthusiasm around the entire project.

—Andrew Waggoner


Andrew Waggoner’s music has been called “effectively understated” and “evocative” by the Los Angeles Times, “richly varied” by the Syracuse Herald-Journal, and work that “will prosper into the 21st century” (Pittsburgh Newsweekly).

His music has been played by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Denver Symphony, the Syracuse Symphony, the Cassatt Quartet, the Corigliano Quartet, The Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, The California EAR UNIT, pianist Gloria Cheng, and the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic of Zlin, Czech Republic. His work has been recorded for Vienna Modern Masters and CRI. In addition to his concert works, Waggoner has also composed extensively for theater and film and is an active violinist.

He has received grants from ASCAP, Yaddo, The New York State Council on the Arts, Meet The Composer, the New York Federation of Music Clubs, New Music Delaware, the Eastman School of Music and Syracuse University.

Born in 1960 in New Orleans, Waggoner studied composition at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and continued his education at the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University, where he earned a doctorate of musical arts in 1986. For several years he was an announcer and producer at WXXI FM, a National Public Radio affiliate in Rochester, New York. He has also worked as an independent producer at WNYC FM in New York City.

He is currently composer-in-residence at the Setnor School of Music of Syracuse University and is co-director of the Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music in Vinalhaven, Maine.

Petr Pololanik studied violin and conducting at the Brno Conservatory and at the Janacek Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Since the age of 18 he has led a number of Czech orchestras, including the Brno State Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic, the Ostrava Philharmonic and the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic of Zlin. He has also conducted in the United States, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Spain. He is on the faculty of the Church Conservatoire of Kromeriz, and in 2001 became executive and artistic director of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, one of the oldest symphony orchestras in Europe.

Hailed as one of America’s outstanding young ensembles, the Manhattan-based Cassatt String Quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, with appearances at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center, the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris and Maeda Hall in Tokyo. The group has frequently been heard on WGBH, WQXR and WNYC, and has also presented programs on CBC Radio and Radio France.

Their numerous awards include a Tanglewood Chamber Music fellowship, the Wardwell Chamber Music Fellowship at Yale (where they served as teaching assistants to the Tokyo Quartet), First Prizes at the Fischoff and Coleman Chamber Music Competitions, two top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition, the 1995 CMA/ASCAP First Prize Award for Adventurous Programming, and a 1996 recording grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. They have recorded for the New World, Point Music, Albany, Tadzik and CRI labels.

Quartet are artists-in-residence at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in addition to a continuing residency at the Setnor School of Music of Syracuse University, where they have created the Louis Krasner Graduate String Quartet Program for the training of young, professionally oriented string quartets. Current personnel are Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violins; Tawnya Popov, viola; and Caroline Stinson, cello.

Dedicated to the presentation of new American music in tandem with the standard repertoire, the Corigliiano Quartet was founded in 1996 with the blessing of John Corigliano. In its brief history, the Corigliano Quartet has performed in many of the nation’s leading music centers, including Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Kennedy Center. The quartet was awarded the 1999 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Grand Prize and has also won the first prize in the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition. They have recently completed residencies at both Indiana University and The Juilliard School of Music.