American Profiles



American Profiles




Walter Piston






Charles Tomlinson Griffes


Three Tone Pictures




Ned Rorem


Eleven Studies for Eleven Players




Aaron Copland


SextetThe New York Chamber Ensemble


Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, Music Director






Walter Piston (1894-1976)




Divertimento for Nine Instruments (1946)




Unlike the Copland and Griffes works on this compact disc, Piston's Divertimento for Nine Instruments was conceived from the start as a chamber piece scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, string quartet, and double bass. The work was commissioned by the International Society for Contemporary Music, who gave Piston a free hand to compose for any configuration of instruments he wished.




Perhaps this sense of freedom inspired Piston to produce one of his most genial and charming works, a truly diverting divertimento, and a work that marked a change in direction and approach for the composer.




"Where prior to the Divertimento," asks Howard Pollack in his book on Piston, "does one find the buoyant optimism of its outer movements? Here Piston's humor is neither cynical, as in the prewar works, nor anxious, as in the wartime works, but rather is relaxed and carefree. Similarly, the slow movement has a calm that is new for Piston and is, in fact, marked tranquillo." (from Walter Piston by Howard Pollack, UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, 1981/82).




Dmitri Mitropoulos conducted an ensemble of New York players in the first performance at Columbia University in May of 1946.




Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920)




Three Tone-Pictures, Op. 5




Griffes composed three impressionistic solo piano pieces (The Lake at Evening, 1910; The Vale of Dreams, 1912; and The Night Winds, 1911, revised 1915) which G. Schirmer published in 1915 under the collective title Three Tone-Pictures, Op. 5.




For publication, Griffes added a short quotation as a preface to the first of the three, The Lake at Evening. It is from the William Butler Yeats poem, The Lake Isle of Innisfree: "for alwaysI hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore."




A longer quotation from Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Sleeper was added as a preface to the second piece, The Vale of Dreams:




"At midnight, in the month of June,


I stand beneath the mystic moon.


An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,


Exhales from out her golden rim,


And, softly dripping, drop by drop,


Upon the quiet mountain-top,


Steals drowsily and musically


Into the universal valley."




Noble Kreider, a midwestern composer and friend of Griffes, claimed that the third piece, The Night Winds, was originally conceived as a song. If this is true, the song has been lost, and the music that survives must be a radically pianistic reworking of the original.




Shortly after their publication, the French flutist George Barrère asked Griffes to arrange the Three Tone Pictures for woodwinds. Barrère and his ensemble premiered this arrangement in New York in December of 1916.




Three years later, Griffes was asked for a second arrangement, this time at the request of pianist Carolyn Beebe, director of the New York Chamber Music Society. This second chamber arrangement, recorded on this compact disc, is scored for flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, piano, two violins, viola, cello, and double-bass.




Carolyn Beebe and her ensemble premiered the 1919 chamber ensemble version of the Three Tone Pictures in Greenwich, Connecticut in June of 1920, less than two months after the composer's death.




Ned Rorem (b. 1923)




Eleven Studies for Eleven Players (1959)




Eleven Studies for Eleven Players is dedicated to the memory of Cameron Baird, who in the late 1950s served as head of the music department at Buffalo University. Baird had hired Rorem in 1959 to teach a class in composition, give some public lectures, and compose a work for chamber ensemble. Baird subsequently died before the premiere of the new work, which the composer conducted at the University in May of 1960.




"The title refers to eleven players, not eleven instruments," writes Rorem. "The flute changes to piccolo, the oboe to English horn, and the two percussionists between them bang on fifteen different surfaces." The other instruments involved are trumpet, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, cello, and harp.




Not all the players are involved in all eleven studies. One study (Invention for Battery) utilizes only the two percussionists. There are also solos allotted to the trumpet (Prelude), flute (Bird Call), English horn (Elegy), and clarinet (Epilogue) in the other movements, which present differing combinations of the available instruments.




Bird Call and The Diary were originally music from the evocative score Rorem composed for the 1958 New York premiere of the Tennessee Williams play "Suddenly Last Summer," which was directed by his friend Herbert Machiz. Rorem also recycled the study titled Contest from music written for an unsuccessful play called "Motel" that Machiz tried out in Boston in 1960. Rorem writes that Contest was intended to depict the sound of traffic.




In Memory of My Feelings takes its title from a poem by Frank O'Hara, to which Rorem added a Paul Hindemith quotation to the score as commentary: "The reactions music evokes are not feelings, but they are the images, memories of feelings." Rorem added another quotation to the ninth study (Elegy), this time from the opening section of "Kaddish," a poem by Allen Ginsberg: "Death is the remedy all singers dream of"




The New York premiere of Eleven Studies for Eleven Players took place at Town Hall in October of 1961. The score has been choreographed several times, most successfully, in Rorem's opinion, by Martha Graham for a 1967 ballet called "Dancing Ground."




Aaron Copland (1900-1990)








Copland's Short Symphony (also known as his Symphony No. 2) was composed between 1931 and 1933, and premiered by Carlos Chavez in Mexico City in November of 1934. Although both Leopold Stokowski in Philadelphia and Serge Koussevitsky in Boston had said they would perform Copland's new work, the score proved too difficult for the allotted rehearsal time, and the performances were canceled.




Partly to get the work performed in the States, and partly to rework the score to make its intricate cross-rhythms and time signatures easier for performers to read, Copland prepared a chamber version of his symphony. Scored for clarinet, piano, and string quartet, and retitled Sextet, this 1937 chamber version of the Short Symphony omits the final two chords included in the full orchestral version. Otherwise the structure of music remains unchanged.




Copland provided his own program notes for this work: "The first movement's main impetus is rhythmic, with a scherzo-like quality. All melodic figures result from a nine-note sequence a kind of row from the opening two bars. The second movement, tranquil in feeling, contrasts with the first movement and with the finale, which is again rhythmically intricate, bright in color and free in form." (from Copland: 1900 Through 1942 by Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, St. Martin's Press, 1984).




Sextet was first performed at Town Hall in New York by a Juilliard graduate ensemble in February of 1939.




notes by John Michel








From multi-media programs which integrate sight and sound, to New York premieres of works by America's most distinguished composers, to the music of Brahms, Beethoven, and Bruckner, the New York Chamber Ensemble has been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike for its innovative programming and virtuosic, heartfelt performances. Through its appearances at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, broadcasts over National Public Radio, concerts on national tours, and performances at summer festivals, the New York Chamber Ensemble is recognized as one of the premiere interpreters of the large chamber ensemble repertoire. The group stands at the forefront of the effort to bring this rich and varied music into the mainstream of America's concert halls.




The New York Chamber Ensemble's performances combine the rich symphonic sonority of an orchestra with the intimacy and individuality of chamber music. This collaboration of fifteen virtuoso musicians united under the baton of conductor Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, presents over two hundred formal concerts, radio broadcasts, and educational programs each season. Whether displaying what The Washington Post calls its "...liquid smooth tone and gentle, clean style," or what New York Newsday calls its "...exceptionally sensitive and energetic playing," The New York Chamber Ensemble's unique presentations bring the energy and vitality of a conducted orchestra to chamber music venues throughout the country.








Conductor and Music Director




The American conductor Stephen Rogers Radcliffe continues to fulfill the promise recognized when he made his Lincoln Center conducting debut with sopranos Jan DeGaetani and Dawn Upshaw. Since then Mr. Radcliffe has conducted orchestras on four continents,


produced compact disc recordings of operatic, orchestral, and chamber music works, and has fostered the development of audiences through innovative educational and artistic programs. Music Director of the New York Chamber Ensemble, Artistic Director of the Cape May Music Festival, and Music Director of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Radcliffe is an active guest conductor, leading orchestras here in the United States as well as in Canada, Italy, Austria, Germany, Latin America, Africa and China.




An authority on the chamber orchestra repertoire, Mr. Radcliffe has been recognized as one of the country's most gifted programmers. The New York Times has praised Mr. Radcliffe as "a masterly programmer, presenting unusual material from the past and present in imaginative yet coherent juxtapositions." His research into French, American, and Viennese, chamber orchestra music has resulted in premiere performances, historical recreations, and award winning educational programs.




A prize winner at the 1988 Toscanini International Conductor's Competition, Stephen Rogers Radcliffe was a student of Leonard Bernstein, Franco Ferrara, and Gustav Meier. He has conducted at the Tanglewood, Aspen and Cape May Music Festivals, as well as at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, Italy and at the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria.




Walter Piston's Divertimento was recorded on February 23, 1993 at the LeFrak Concert Hall on the Campus of Queens College in Flushing, New York, engineers Kim Monday and Dan Kincaid. Three Tone Pictures was recorded on November 5,1992 in BMG Studio A in New York City, James Nicholes and Dan Kincaid engineers. Ned Rorem's Eleven Studies for Eleven Players was recorded on February 22, 1993 at Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York City, engineers Kim Monday and Dan Kincaid. Aaron Copland's Sextet was recorded on November 29, 1993 at the New York Academy for Arts and Letters in New York City, engineers David Kingsley and Dan Kincaid. Digital Transfers at Sound Mirror Inc., Boston, MA. Garris Shipon, Assistant Engineer. Cover photo by Anne Church.






Produced, edited, mixed and mastered by Dan Kincaid using the Sonic Solutions system. This recording was made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.




The New York Chamber Ensemble




Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, Music Director




American Profiles




Walter Piston








Allegro (3:42)




Tranquillo (7:24)




Vivo (2:56)






Charles Tomlinson Griffes




Three Tone Pictures




The Lake at Evening (3:13)




The Veil of Dreams (3:10)




The Night Winds (1:40)






The New York Chamber Ensemble




Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, conductor




Susan Rotholz, flute · Matthew Dine, oboe




Alan R. Kay, clarinet ·Michael Finn, bassoon




Victoria Eisen & Jeffrey Lang, horn




Carl Albach, trumpet




James Baker & Paul Hostetter, percussion




Julie Rosenfeld & Deborah Redding, violin




Francesca Martin-Silos, viola ·Diane Chaplin, violoncello




Carolyn Davis Fryer & Lewis Paer, bass




David Korevaar, piano








Ned Rorem




Eleven Studies for Eleven Players




Prelude (eleven: trumpet solo) (2:13)




Allegretto (nine) (1:33)




Bird Call (four: flute solo) (1:20)




The Diary (six) (1:55)




Contest (five) (:59)




Invention for Battery (two) (1:40)




In Memory of My Feelings (ten: 'cello solo) (5:24)




Fugato (eleven) (2:36)




Elegy (eleven: English horn solo) (4:59)




Presto (five) (:57)




Epilogue (eleven: clarinet solo) (3:21)






Aaron Copland








Allegro Vivace (4:23)




Lento (4:53)




Finale (5:57)




Total Time = 64:26