Benjamin Lees: Piano Concerto No. 2

Albany Symphony Orchestra

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller, conductor

Allen Shawn

Piano Concerto

Ursula Oppens, piano

Andrew Bishop


Paul Creston

Dance Overture

Benjamin Lees

Piano Concerto No. 2

Ian Hobson, piano

Andrew Bishop

Andrew Bishop is an active composer and performer in highly diversified musical idioms. His compositions include works for orchestra, band, chamber ensembles, jazz, theater, film, dance, multi-media, electronic mediums, and various popular and folk idioms. Currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in composition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mr. Bishop earned two Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan and two Bachelor of Music degrees from Wichita State University. He has studied composition with William Albright, William Bolcom, Evan Chambers, Michael Daugherty, and Walter Mays. The recipient of numerous commissions, residencies, performances, recordings and awards, Bishop is also active as a saxophonist, having worked with Ray Charles, The Manhattan Transfer, and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, among others. He leads a variety of his own ensembles, and is a featured performer on more than 25 compact disc and recordings.


In 1997 I wrote a country music inspired love song Rose Colored for the “Dogs of Desire” (the contemporary music ensemble of the Albany Symphony Orchestra). During the commissioning of a new work for the Albany Symphony's 1998-99 season, conductor David Alan Miller expressed an interest in having a piece about love for a Valentine's weekend concert. Crooning is a love song without words. Its inspiration is the golden age of American popular songs brought to life by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Louis Prima, Joe Williams, and of course, the “chairman of the board,” Frank Sinatra.

While playing in a recent revival of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra — the great arranger of Ella Fitzgerald's song books — I also gained an appreciation for the depth of the arrangers' craft. Arrangers are the unsung heroes of American popular song, who in the words of musicologist Mark Tucker “ply their trade behind the scenes, out of the spotlight's glare and away from the sound of applause.” Since my discovery of Nelson Riddle, other arrangers have also had an impact on my musical style, including Gil Evans, Michel Legrand, Bill Finegan, Henry Mancini, and Manny Albam.

Crooning is not an arrangement. All thematic material is original, while remaining highly derivative of early American popular song. The basic harmonic and melodic events are generated by three five-note cells, which are then developed throughout. On another level, Crooning tends to work backwards. That is to say, the pay off is when the melodic information is treated in its most authentic rendition at the climax. On the affect side of Crooning, the figuration is both quirky and hopelessly romantic, suspiciously autobiographical. This piece is for shower soloists, the radio serenaders, and the crooner in each of us.

— Andrew Bishop

Allen Shawn

Allen Shawn (born 1948) grew up in New York City and started composing music at the age of ten. He studied the piano with Francis Dillon and Emilie Harris, received his B.A. from Harvard University, where he studied with Leon Kirchner and Earl Kim, spent two years in Paris studying composition with Nadia Boulanger, and received his M.A. in music from Columbia University, where he studied with Jack Beeson. Up until 1985 he continued living in New York and holding a variety of jobs including teaching at the Mannes College Preparatory Department and the Elizabeth Seeger School, working as a pianist in pit orchestras on Broadway and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, and writing incidental music for theater. Since 1985 he and his family have lived in Vermont, and he has been on the faculty of Bennington College, where he teaches composition.

The bulk of Shawn's output is chamber and piano music. He has also composed seven orchestral works, two operas to libretti by his brother, playwright Wallace Shawn, much incidental music for theater (including scores for the New York Shakespeare Festival, the La Jolla Playhouse, and Lincoln Center theater), and music for the film “My Dinner With Andre,” as well as works for voice and chorus.

Other recorded works have included the Wind Quintet, the Sextet for Piano and Winds, the Suite for Cello Quartet, the Clarinet Trio, Winter Sketchbook for violin and piano, Eclogue for two pianos, the Piano Trio, Blues and Boogie for cello and piano, and Song of the Tango Bird. A disc of Mr. Shawn's piano music appears on Albany Records.

In 1995 he received the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship for composers from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Piano Concerto

My Piano Concerto is a large-scale, virtuosic work in four movements, each of which has a distinct character. In the first movement, the quiet opening in the orchestra and the ruminative piano solo which follows it establish a mood of introspection out of which the outgoing and colorful music of the succeeding movements seems to emerge. Ideas of a brooding and intense character lead to a melody introduced by the oboe and the flute over brass chords, which then forms the basis of a meditation for piano alone. The movement closes quietly, unresolved.

The second movement is extroverted, robust, tuneful, and rhythmically dance-like. A somewhat contrasting section near the end pits a contrapuntal piano part against singing canonic brass lines. After this, there is a brief reprise of the first section of the movement, with the oboe/flute theme from the first movement blaring in the horns.

The character of the lightly scored third movement is delicate and lyrical, beginning with an almost Mozartean piano solo that becomes more impassioned as the orchestra joins in. (The piano solo is marked “as if from another world.”) When the lyricism reaches an apex, the opening bars of the concerto are quietly reprised and elaborated upon. The tubular bells (chimes), which enter at this point, continue under the fragment from the opening piano solo, which ends the movement.

The last movement , the longest of the four, has a kaleidoscopic character which embraces all of the materials used in the previous movements, beginning with an energized piano solo that transforms the piano's first movement opening ruminations into a wild flurry of sixteenth notes. The rhythmic ideas of the second movement are heard in the music of the “Allegro molto” that follows. This propulsive music eventually flows — seemingly inexorably — back into the oboe/flute melody from the first movement, now played on the piano and accompanied by muted strings. This is the heart of the work as a whole. A piano cadenza emerges out of this, first recalling the piano meditation at the end of the first movement, then gathering momentum with its development of the rather driven music from the “Allegro” of this one, and joined by the orchestra for the closing pages.

If it weren't for Tobias Picker and Ursula Oppens, my Piano Concerto wouldn't exist. It was renowned composer Picker who, commiserating with me on my lack of current composing commitments, suggested that I compose for Oppens and proposed the idea to her as well Her enthusiastic agreement sent me to work. It was my good fortune that a few months later (March, 1997) I was able to spend a month at Yaddo, and it was there that, inspired by the prospect of writing for such a fearless, deep, and unique musician, I wrote a great deal of music for the piece. After making many revisions and improvements, I did the final orchestration in the spring of 1999.

The Piano Concerto is dedicated to UrsulaOppens.

— Allen Shawn

Paul Creston

Born Giuseppe Guttivergi on October 10, 1906 in New York, Paul Creston did not decide on a career in composition until 1932. In 1938 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and in 1941 the New York Music Critics' Circle Award for his Symphony No. 1. He was the musical director of the Hour of Faith program on ABC radio from 1944 to 1950. He held many university appointments and was president of the National Association for American Composers and Conductors from 1956 until 1960. He authored two books and numerous articles. Mr. Creston died in San Diego, California on August 24, 1985.

Dance Overture, Op. 62

Paul Creston's music unites several trends of mid-20th century music. Although a self-declared romantic, he stated, “The composer must be completely free to decide whether he wants to go back to original, simple forms, or go ahead to new forms.” Despite its often driving rhythmic complexity, the center of his art was firmly rooted in tonality and melody, which made him anathema to supporters of atonal and academic theory. Yet, perhaps for this reason, he never lost the admiration of the public.

Dance Overture, Op. 62 was written in 1954 on a commission of the National Federation of Music Clubs, and first performed by John Bitter and the Miami Symphony on April 24, 1955. It is important to note that rhythmic development is often the unifying force in Creston's music. His flowing — but always changing — patters belong to no modern “school” and defy easy analysis, yet are clear on hearing.

Benjamin Lees

Benjamin Lees was born on January 8, 1924 and spent his early years in San Francisco, moving to Los Angeles with his family in 1939. He began piano studies at the age of five with K.I. Rodetsky, continuing with Marguerite Bitter in Los Angeles. He attended the University of Southern California after military service in World War II and later began four years of intensive private study with George Antheil. Following a Fromm Foundation Award in 1953 and his first Guggenheim Fellowship in 1954 the composer and his wife left for Europe. He remained there for seven years, creating new works in a village near Paris. During this period his compositions were performed on RTF, Paris and the BBC, London.

Lees returned to the United States in 1962, joining the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore as the W. Alton Jones Professor of Composition. In the years following, major performances of his works were given by the Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Among his works of the past decade, Symphony No. 4 (Memorial Candles) commissioned and premiered by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1985, is of major significance as is the Percussion Concerto (1999) premiered by the Monte Carlo Philharmonic . Since its premiere it has been performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia (London), Houston Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

In addition to his post at the Peabody Conservatory, Lees has taught composition at Queens College, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School. Mr. Lees has been awarded, among other prizes, two Guggenheim Fellowships; the UNESCO Award (Paris) for String Quartet No. 2; the Sir Arnold Bax Medal; Copley Foundation Award; and a Fulbright Fellowship. Major articles on his works have been written for Tempo magazine by Deryck Cooke, Nicolas Slonimsky, Niall O'Loughlin and Bret Johnson. Recordings of his piano music and his violin sonatas appear on Albany Records.

Piano Concerto No. 2

Premiered March 15, 1968 by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the concerto is in three movements. The first movement consists of various motives and elements which, when joined together, form an extended musical phrase. Thus, for example, the orchestra opens the movement with a “motivic” figure, and several measures later the piano picks up this figure and begins to produce a longer phrase out of it in which the trill is quite prominent. In the exposition section, listen for a second principal subject, introduced by the orchestra; echoes by the piccolo and flute over the piano's statement of this new motive; a strikingly pianissimo passage for the piano; and a thunderous trill in the piano, which announces the development section. This is followed, as is the custom, by a cadenza and a turbulent coda.

The second movement is essentially a dialogue between the piano and various sections of the orchestra, principally the timpani. Others involved in the conversation are strings, winds and the xylophone. A short dialogue between piano and timpani ends the movement.

The finale is really a rondo, with developments taking place within each separate motive. Brasses, piling up sonority upon sonority, announce the movement, and the piano thunders forth with the first motive. Extensions follow, and the orchestra has its turn in stating the motive resolutely. From the bass of the piano emerges a second motive, fortissimo. A calm section soon introduces a third motive, quite lyrical in nature. For awhile, the various forces play with one motive or another. The coda is marked, “Presto.” It is short, wild, and completely unbridled, hurtling onward in its final sweep to the conclusion of the concerto.

— Benjamin Lees

Albany Symphony Orchestra (

Founded in 1931 by John Carabella, the Albany Symphony Orchestra has evolved artistically under the leadership of music directors Rudolf Thomas, Ole Windingstad, Edgar Curtis, Julius Hegyi, Geoffrey Simon, and David Alan Miller.

Under Maestro Miller's direction, the Albany Symphony has continued a tradition of championing 20th-century American music through commissioning and recording new works. The Albany Symphony Orchestra as received 14 consecutive ASCAP awards for adventuresome programming and was awarded the first ASCAP/Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming in 1999.

Recordings of the Albany Symphony Orchestra appear on New World Records, CRI, Albany Records, Argo and London/Decca.

David Alan Miller

Since becoming Music Director and Conductor of the Albany Symphony Orchestra in 1992, David Alan Miller has initiated a period of remarkable artistic growth, including family concerts, school outreach programs and a new music group, “The Dogs of Desire.” Miller's fresh approach to reaching new audiences garnered him a front page feature article in the Wall Street Journal in 1996.

Before coming to Albany, Mr. Miller served as Assistant and then Associate Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. While in Los Angeles, Miller conducted subscription concerts and programs at the Hollywood Bowl as well as educational concerts.

David Alan Miller has guest conducted orchestras throughout the United States, including the Detroit and San Francisco Symphonies, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Abroad he has led the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, among others. Summer festival appearances have included the Aspen Music Festival, the Bravo Colorado Festival, the Tanglewood Institute, and the Hollywood Bowl.

Mr. Miller has conducted recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Harmonia Mundi, Decca/London, Argo, and Albany Records.

Ursula Oppens

Ursula Oppens has won equal renown as an interpreter of the established repertoire and a champion of contemporary music. A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, a performing group that has pioneered new music since 1971, Ms. Oppens has recorded new works extensively. She received two Grammy nominations: for her Vanguard recording of Fredric Rzewski's The Peopl United Will Never Be Defeated and for American Piano Music of Our Time.

Throughout her career, Ms. Oppens has played at many of the world's major festivals, including those in Aspen, Tanglewood, Santa Fe, Ojai, Edinburgh, Bonn, and Cabrillo. Ms. Oppens studied piano with her mother, Edith Oppens, as well as with Leonard Shure and Guido Agosti, and received her master's degree at the Juilliard School, where she studied with Felix Galimir and Rosina Lhevinne. As an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, she studied English literature and economics. Ms. Oppens currently holds the position of the John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Ian Hobson

Born in Wolverhampton, England, Ian Hobson studied music at the Royal Academy of Music and Cambridge University in England, and at Yale University. Major orchestras of the world with which Ian Hobson has appeared include the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Scottish National, Royal Liverpool, Halle, ORD-Vienna, Das Orchster der Beethovenhalle, Israel Sinfonietta, New Zealand Symphony, and the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Houston.

Increasingly, Hobson is in demand as a conductor, particularly for performances in which he doubles as piano soloist. He has led the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Fresno Philharmonic, and the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, among others, as well as his own Sinfonia da Camera, a chamber orchestra he formed in 1984 which quickly gained international recognition through its recordings. Hobson is also active as an opera conductor.

Produced and engineered by Gregory K. Squires, Squires Music Production. Mastered by Meredith Capraro. Digital editing by Richard Price, Meridith Capraro and Wayne Hileman, Squires Music Production.

Paul Creston's Dance Overture is published by G. Schirmer, Inc.; Benjamin Lees' Piano Concerto is published by Boosey & Hawkes.

This recording is made possible in part by the generous support of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, NYSCA Music Program Technical Assistance Fund, Paul Underwood, and Vanguard, the volunteer organization of the Albany Symphony Orchestra.

Andrew Bishop's Crooning was recorded March 8, 1999; Benjamin Lees' Piano Concerto No. 2 was recorded April 10, 1999; Paul Creston's Dance Overture was recorded April 11, 1999; and Allen Shawn's Piano Concerto was recorded March 19, 2000. All works were recorded at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

Cover photo courtesy of Lettie Beckon Alston.

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller, Music Director

Violin I

Jill Levy, Concertmaster 2, 3, 4

Ilana Blumberg, Concertmaster 1 & Asst. Concertmaster 2, 3, 4

Elizabeth Silver 1, 2, 3, 4

Margret E. Hickey 2, 3, 4

Maria A. Carruyo 2, 3

Brian Clague 2, 3

Lori A. Everson 1

Lilajane Frascarelli 1, 2, 3

Silva Boletini-Hernandez 1

Mitchell Johnson 1

Olga Dusheina Jourba 2, 3, 4

Julia Kim 1

Danica Mills 1, 2, 3, 4

Ellen Rademacher 1, 2, 3

Paula L. Rowe 1

Paula Shaw 1, 2, 3, 4

Julie Signitzer 2, 3

Harriet Dearden Welther 1, 2, 3, 4

Jennifer K. Williams 1

Raymond Zoeckler 1, 2, 3

Violin II

Elaine Gervais, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Barbara Lapidus 1, 2, 3, 4

John Bosela 1, 4

Brigitte Brodwin 1, 2, 3, 4

Lucille Eggert 1, 2, 3, 4

Ouisa Fohrhaltz 1, 2, 3, 4

Michael Glover 1, 2, 3, 4

Kaide Kobayashi-Kirker 1

Susan Kowalski 2, 3

Ellen Madison 1, 2, 3

Cynthia Ogulnick 2, 3

Sacha Phelps 1

Susan Rafkind 2, 3

Guy Rauscher 1, 2, 3

David Sariti 1

Margaret Schalit 2, 3, 4

Ubaldo Valli 1, 2, 3


Susan St. Amour, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Carla Bellosa 1, 2, 3, 4

Robert Dean 1, 2, 3

Judith Goberman 1, 2, 3, 4

Noriko F. Herndon 1

Elizabeth Bonta Moll 1, 2, 3

Marcia Nickerson 1, 2, 3

Dean O'Brien 2, 3

Christine Orio 1, 2, 3, 4

Naomi Rooks 2, 3

Emily Schaad 1

Harriet Thomas 1, 2, 3, 4


Susan R. Libby, Principal 1

Erica Pickhardt, Principal 2, 3, 4/1

Kevin Bellosa 1

Matthew Capobianco 1

Gail Falsetti 1, 2, 3

Peter Greydanus 2, 3

Catherine Hackert 2, 3

Erik Jacobson 2, 3

Petia Kassarova 1, 2, 3, 4

Zig Mielens 1, 2, 3, 4

Janet Taggart 1, 2, 3

Double Bass

Wendy B. Kain, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Phillip Helm 1, 2, 3

Luke C. Baker 1, 2, 3, 4

Emil Botti 2, 3

James Caiello 1, 2, 3

Michael Fittipaldi 1

Jeffrey Herchenroder 1

David Irvin 2, 3

Marc Schmied 1


Floyd Hebert, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Linda M. Greene 1, 2, 3, 4

Hilary Lynch 2, 3

Barbara Siesel 2


Linda M. Greene 1


Karen Hosmer, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Dona M. Forster 1

Gene Marie Green 2, 3, 4

English Horn

Nathaniel Fossner 2, 3


Susan Martula, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Linda Poland 1, 2, 3, 4

Christopher Cullen 2, 3


Stephen Walt, Principal 1, 2, 3, 4

Jonathan Macgowan 1, 2, 3, 4

Edward Marschilok 2, 3

French Horn

William J. Hughes, Principal 1, 2, 3

R. Whitacre Hill, Principal 4

Alan Parshley 1, 2, 3, 4

Virginia Abraham 1, 2, 3

Alyssa Coffey 2, 3

Victor Sungarian 1, 2, 3

Christopher Fry 1


Eric M. Berlin, Principal 1, 2, 3

Eric J. Latini 1, 2, 3

Benjamin Aldridge 2, 3


Megumi Kanda, Principal 1, 2, 3

Cathy Stone 1, 2, 3

Craig Arnold 2, 3


Matthew Gaunt 1, 2, 3


Peter Wilson 1, 2, 3


Richard Albagli, Principal 1, 2, 3

Mark Foster 1, 2, 3

Scott Stacey 2, 3


Lynette Wardle, Principal 2, 3

1=Shawn; 2=Lees; 3=Creston; 4=Bishop

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller, conductor

Andrew Bishop

1 Crooning [8:58]

Allen Shawn

Piano Concerto

2 I. Reflective, brooding, tender [6:48]

3 II. Maestoso [4:52]

4 III. Molto tranquillo [5:29]

5 IV. q = 88 [8:39]

Ursula Oppens, piano

Paul Creston

6 Dance Overture [11:42]

Benjamin Lees

Piano Concerto No. 2

7 I. Allegro enfatico [9:58]

8 II. Adagio vago [8:30]

9 III. Allegro tempestoso [9:02]

Ian Hobson, piano

Total Time = 73:55