Music of John Anthony Lennon

JOHN ANTHONY LENNON: Voices; Ballade Belliss'; Echolalia; Seven Translations; Distances Within Me

In his music, John Anthony Lennon combines contemporary compositional methods with elements of Romantic and Impressionistic styles. He achieves an integrated manner that produces music at once fresh and familiar. His compositions have been commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center Theater Chamber Players, the Library of Congress, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and the National Endowment for the Arts Orchestral Consortium, among many others. In addition to the Prix de Rome, Guggenheim, and Charles Ives awards, Lennon has been the recipient of numerous prizes, and has held fellowships at Tanglewood, the Composers' Conference, the Charles Ives Center for American Studies, and the MacDowell Colony as a Norlin Foundation Fellow. A professor of composition at the University of Tennessee since 1977, Lennon resides in Knoxville.

Reared in Mill Valley, California, Lennon earned a liberal arts degree at the University of San Francisco, and he received his graduate degrees at the University of Michigan where his primary teachers were Leslie Bassett and William Bolcom.

Lennon is published by E. C. Schirmer, C. F. Peters, Woodwind Services, Mel Bay, Columbia University Press, and the Oxford University Press. Recordings are with CRI, Bridge records, and Capstone.

Voices (1982), for string quartet, was written in Paris and dedicated to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. The title refers both to the concept of each line singing and to the term applied in harmony for different melodic lines within a homophonic or contrapuntal texture. The work is in one movement delineated by four solos, one for each instrument. Motivic material returns in varying manners lending a sense of rondo form. It is, however, basically through-composed. The intent is for an overall feeling of spontaneity and passion.

Drawn from the musical traditions of France and Italy, Ballade Belliss' also reflects a mixture of Impressionism with 19th century Romanticism. Although it does not replicate those styles, the piece's sound is lyric and sensuous, and it deliberately avoids the harsh sonorities and cryptic organizations that have predominated much music of the past few decades. The piece was commissioned by the National Flute Association in 1986.

The song cycle Seven Translations (1988) combines translations of Japanese and ancient Latin texts that render images from the sentimental to the absurd. The cycle focuses on experiences common to both cultures, and it views them through a 20th century framework. Using scalar manipulation, the last piece of the set, "In Praise of Wine," is dedicated to the memory of Paul Fromm.

A range of emotions is revealed in Distances Within Me (1979), which was written in an instinctive rather than formal manner. The composer varies density and levels of intensity to express different sentiments evocative to the individual listener. Commissioned by James Forger for the National Saxophone Congress in Chicago, the work was originally recorded for CRI in 1981 and was rerecorded in 1991 by the same artists to take advantage of digital technology and the artists' greater familiarity with and affection for the piece.

- Janice McNeeley

Kronos Quartet is internationally known for its broad repertoire of 20th Century works and innovative performance techniques. The group has commissioned and premiered a large body of works including Lennon's Messiana. This recording of Voices, made in 1984, is one of five modern works that Kronos recorded for CRI early in its career. Other CRI recordings feature music of Dane Rudhyar, Lou Harrison, and Warren Benston. Kronos is now an exclusive artist of Elektra Nonesuch.

Continuum is the winner of the prestigious Siemens Foundation international prize for distinguished service to music and the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventuresome Programming. Continuum performs throughout the United States, and has appeared at America's most distinguished locations, including an annual series at Lincoln Center. The members appearing on this disc include the following musicians.

David Krakauer, clarinet, winner of the Concert Artists Guild Award, has appeared with many of New York's contemporary music groups, Music from Marlboro, and numerous other ensembles. An active composer, Mr. Krakauer has also collaborated in multimedia theatrical and improvisational projects.

Mia Wu, violin, performs regularly as a recitalist in New York City. Major appearances include Bartok's Second Violin Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall (as winner of a competition), and three New York recitals as recipient of Artists International's Young Musicians Award.

Cheryl Seltzer, piano, co-director of Continuum, was one of its founders in 1966. She has been active in contemporary music since studying at Mills College with composers Darius Milhaud, Leon Kirchner, and Lawrence Moss, and she also holds graduate degrees in musicology from Columbia University. Mrs. Seltzer made her professional debut with the San Francisco Symphony, and she appears as a soloist and ensemble performer.

Joel Sachs, piano, co-director of Continuum since 1968, performs regularly as a soloist, conductor, and chamber music player. A graduate of Harvard College, he is on the faculty of the Juilliard School where he is conductor of contemporary music, chairman of music history, and director of the annual Focus festival of 20th century music.

Rachel Rosales, soprano, has interpreted operatic roles at major opera houses throughout the United States and Canada, including the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute and Leila in Bizet's Pearlfishers. Ms. Rosales has sung under the baton of Christopher Keene and Mstislav Rostropovich, and she performs with early and contemporary music groups in New York.

Jayn Rosenfeld, flute, began her professional career as a principal flutist with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski in 1963, and she made her New York City solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1970. Today she maintains an active career as soloist and performer with several New York area symphonies and new music ensembles.

James Forger, saxophone, is a faculty member at Michigan State University where he is Professor of Saxophone and Director of the School of Music. As an active performer and recording artist, he has commissioned works by Milton Babbitt, John Anthony Lennon, David Liptak, Donald Martino, Charles Ruggiero, and Morton Subotnick.

Deborah Moriarty, piano, is professor of piano and head of the keyboard area in the Michigan State University School of Music. She is known for here solo and chamber ensemble performances and is a founding member of the Fontana Ensemble of Michigan.


Produced by John Anthony Lennon and the Kronos Quartet. Recorded by Howard Johnson at Different Fur Recording Co., San Francisco, September 1984. Digital remastering by Joseph R. Dalton and Charles S. Harbutt, engineer at Sony Classical Productions, Inc., NYC, using the DCS 900 20-bit a/d converter. Published by C. F. Peters (BMI).

Ballade Belliss', Echolalia, and Seven Translations

Produced and recorded by Michael Liberman at LRP Digital in NYC on June 28, 1990. Publishers: Ballade Belliss', rights held by the composer (BMI); Seven Translations, E. C. Schirmer Co. (BMI).

Distances Within Me

Produced and recorded by Hal Prentice in the Great Hall, Wharton Center for the Performing Arts, Michigan State University, March 21, 1991. Edited by Francis X. Pierce, engineer, Sony Classical Productions, Inc. Published by Woodwind Services, Inc. (BMI).

Art direction and production: Brian Conley

Cover art and graphic design: Cecelia Smith.

Special thanks to Ellis Freedman