Music of Barker, Kurtz & Gandolfi


Thomas E. Barker/Eugene Kurtz/Michael Gandolfi

Thomas E. Barker (1954-1988) When Tom Barker arrived at The Juilliard School, and I became acquainted with the saga of his pilgrimage, geographical and musical, one historical image and precedent was unavoidable, that of Hector Berlioz. For Tom had come to New York from the South with his guitar, as Berlioz had come to Paris from the south of France with his guitar; Tom soon sought out the apparently most unlikely succession of mentors for someone whose musical roots were in country music, as Berlioz soon rejected the edifications of Lesueur and Cherubini for the instruction of the remarkably deviant Anton Reicha. And within an unbelievably few years Berlioz had written works of such realized originality as to induce a Fétis to characterize them as a “bizarre assemblage of sounds.” Tom, within a comparably short period of time, created singular works which have been equally flatteringly characterized by Fetis' current counterparts.

Tom's music must be heard to be believed, for it is music which appears so outrageously intricate on the page, with an intricacy enhanced by Tom's rather rococo calligraphy, that it requires knowing, virtuoso performance to reveal the necessity of that graphic complexity to convey the musical lucidity, the temporal flux, the ensemble flexibility. And there always were knowing, intrigued performers able and eager to perform the works, often with Tom conducting with an effectiveness as appropriate as it was personal and uninhibitedly untutored.

It is probably impossible to convey verbally the multiple facets of this country boy, this country gentleman, this rebel with a cause, this apparently good old boy who loved and was loved by those consummate New Yorkers who played his music then and now.

In the tragic case of a creator who dies so young, it is customary to conjecture as to the products of the promise presumably unfulfilled, but in the presence of the music on this recording we can rejoice in its own fulfillment.

- Milton Babbitt, 1993

Thomas E. Barker was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1954. His academic and professional life centered in Manhattan where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in music from The Juilliard School. He also studied for four years at the Manhattan School of Music, from which he received a diploma and built many important professional relationships. He received a D.M.A. from Columbia University in 1984. Barker was first introduced to music through the guitar. An active performer early on, jazz improvisation was a long time interest through his musical pursuits were wide ranging and included conducting, country music an blues. In his mature music, Barker relied on the twelve-tone method, with, according to the New York Times, “a persuasive sense of conviction and a certain elegance.” Barker's instructors in composition included Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuroinen, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Jack Beeson and Chou Wen-Chung. He composed more than 50 published works, beginning in his teens. Among his major compositions is the Four Sets for Orchestra which was performed by his hometown orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, in 1986. Barker died of bone cancer on January 12, 1988. Prior to his death, he was an adjunct Professor of the Department of Music at Mercy College, in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and Board President of the New York New Music Ensemble. With his wife, the violinist Diana Smith Barker, he directed Zaccho, Inc. a non-profit publishing and production concern which continues the promotion of his music. Barker was remembered by the New York music community with a memorial concert of his solo, ensemble, and choral works in February, 1988 at Symphony Space which promoted reviews and tributes in the New York Times and Village Voice. This is the first recording of music by Thomas E. Barker.

Trikhyálo (1983) for violin, viola and cello was commissioned and premiered by The Group for Contemporary Music of New York. More than any other work by the composer, it attempts to synthesize three divergent musical interests and traditions: contemporary Western classical music (specifically serialism), jazz, and the classical music of India. The title itself combines “trio” and the name of a raga form, “Khyál.” Barker based his “raga/row/melody” on the kanakangi scale and the work follows the nine part khyál raga structure. A complete statement of the theme occurs midway through the work and is followed by brilliant solos for each of the instruments.

Three Pieces for French Horn (1984-86) were commissioned by Robert Hoyle, principal hornist for the Hartford symphony and composed over a period of several years but share as a unifying factor the same tone row. Of the first two movements Geoffrey Greene writes: “Lauda, as the name implies is a majestic song of praise, which is in three sections, fast-slow-fast. Apothéoses is a slow funeral song, giving a sense of the deification and glory of the dead. It was written just after Barker had finished a Requiem.” Though Barker never composed strictly programmatic works, his title for the third horn solo, La Chasse, evokes the hunting horn, and indeed, the movement was written during a period when the composer spent a great deal of time in the woods. “While not outwardly religious,” recalls Diana Smith barker, “Tom found communion with God in nature and in his compositions, all of which were for him divinely inspired, and not secular or separate from his belief and experience of life.”

Eugene Kurtz was born in Atlanta Georgia in 1923 and studied composition with Bernard Rogers at the Eastman School of Music where he received the diploma of Master of Arts in 1949. In the same year, he went to Paris to continue his studies with Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and subsequently with Max Deutsch, former Viennese pupil of Schoenberg. Serial technique and the discovery of the music of Charles Ives proved to be the two most important influences on the composer's musical thought during these formative years. Kurtz has always maintained residence in Paris but has returned to the United States on different occasions to teach at the University of Michigan, the Eastman School of Music, the university of Illinois, the University of Texas and the Hartt School of Music. Kurtz has written music for the theater, radio, television and cinema. His works for orchestra and chamber ensemble have been widely performed in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He has received commissions from numerous performers and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Music Arts Association of Cleveland, the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs, and Radio-France which honored him in 1979 with “Eugene Kurtz Day.” Kurtz teaches privately in Paris and is a consultant for the music publishing house editions-Jobert.

The Melodic and harmonic structure of From Time To Time (1986-87) is governed essentially by three motor intervals. These intervals may appear as independent entities or as the components of a five-note figure that, in itself, constitutes the basic motivic material of the piece. From the standpoint of form, I have used a technique found in the works of certain Impressionists painters, Monet in particular, wherein the same subject matter may bee seen in the light of the different seasons as well as in a variety of atmospheric conditions. Translated into music terms, this means that the basic material and its numerous permutations are heard in a variety of musical situations that are characterized by differences in tempo, rhythmic structure and dynamic shadings. The listener's perception of the musical material is constantly altered by a process of continuous variation activated by successive changes in décor so to speak. It is this procedure (successive movement from one point tin time to another) that gives the work its title, From Time to Time, a more literal interpretation than is usually understood in the everyday usage of this expression. In the introduction for solo violin, the two twelve-tone rows that open the piece (as well as the passage immediately following) should be thought of simply as a display of figures and intervals that will be important, for tone reason or another, in the main body of the work.

There is no attempt to use a twelve-tone row as such, although the precepts of row technique and the presence of the Viennese School are felt throughout. Ragtime and jazz-derived rhythms are also present, and, in a sense, the piece may be thought of as an attempt to reconcile certain musical concepts of the old world with the new: the meeting of Anton Webern and the children of Scott Joplin. Written in 1986-87, From Time to Time was commissioned by Bernard Fauchet and Adèle Ariol for L'Atelier de Musique Contemporary in and is affectionately dedicated to these artists.

  • Eugene Kurtz

Michael Gandolfi was born in 1956 in Melrose, Massachusetts. His earliest musical involvement was in rock and jazz improvisation beginning at age eight as a self taught guitarist. As his improvisational skills developed he became increasingly interested in music composition and began formal study in his early teens. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees in music composition from the New Englsnad Consrervatory of Music, as well as fellowships for study at the Yale Summer School of music and Art, the Composers Conference, and the Tanglewood Music Center. Gandolfi is the recipient of numerous awards including grants from the Koussevitzky Music foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, and ASCAP. He has been commissioned by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Speculum Musicae, the Tanglewood Music Center, the Riverside Orchestra, SONOR Ensemble, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Parnassus. His Points of Departure has been recorded by the Orpheaus Chamber Orchestra on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

Caution To The Wind (1992), a chamber concerto for flute, was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and is dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky. It is an arch from both temporally and harmonically (with the last movement balancing the first two). Generally, the flute becomes more soloistic ands the piece progresses, influencing the course of events more profoundly with the passage of time.

Introduction establishes the `impressionistic' harmonic world from which the piece develops and to which it eventually returns. The second movement, Excursion, begins with a linear presentation of the last three chords of the Introduction. The end points of these lines spell out a new harmony (highlighted by the harp and percussion). This cantus firmus moves slowly at first but gradually speeds up, overtaking the linear chords, with the harp as the central distributor of the new harmony. However, the flute remains recalcitrant, singing in its own world. The harp eventually wins out and, following a brief climax, the flute acquiesces in an extended coda. Recitative is an accompanied cadenza in which the flute, in a declamatory style, reflects on the events of Excursion, embracing its new harmonic language. Divisions, the work's formal center, is a movement of two musical worlds; one is dark and brooding, the other is light and dance-like. The flute enters in the midst of the brooding music and eventually transforms the entire ensemble to the light music. Also, `division' is a term for a highly ornamented style of play common in 17th and 18th century practice, which is reflected in the flute writing here. Soliloquy, an unaccompanied cadenza, redirects the last harmonies of Divisions toward those of the second movement. Incursion is the obvious counterpart to Excursion and means `a coming in.' It initiates from the end of Soliloquy and moves through the cantus-firmus of the second movement to Exit and the impressionistic world of the introduction. Caution to the Wind was written specifically for Peggy Friedland with great love and affection.

Il Ventaglio Di Josephine (1983)(Josephine's fan) was commissioned by my sister Josephine Gandolfi, and is dedicated to her. The contour of this composition was suggested by the image of colorful patterns which emerge from an unfolding fan. The fan's design is presented musically by four pitch collections, each identified by a unique pair of interval classes. The piece first presents this aggregation in compressed form. A steady registral expansion enables the individual qualities or “colors” of each voice to emerge. At the conclusion of this “exposition,” each voice is explored episodically - a gentle opening of the fan from left to right. At the apex of this unfolded fan, the voices are reunited and pianistically reinterpreted, employing octaves and lines spanning the keyboard's entire range. This eventually initiates a spiraling or sequential motion which compresses all elements into one narrow space, thus closing the fan.

- Michael Gandolfi

Thomas E. Barker:

Trikhyálao: Produced and recorded by Judith Sherman. Recorded at SUNY Purchase Recital Hall, Music Division, Purchase, NY on November 7, 1992. Three Pieces for French Horn: Produced and recorded by Eugene Kimball at the Morris Recital Hall in Sprague Hall, Yale University on November 25 and 29, 1992. Published by Zaccho, Inc. New York. (BMI).

Additonal funding for the Barker recordings provided by Zaccho, Inc., The ALICE M. DITSON FUND of COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY and private individuals.

Eugene Kurtz:

From Time To Time:

Produced by Alain Duchenim. Recorded by Radio-France, Paris on November 24, 1992. Recording engineer: Agnés Wargnier. Sound Technician: Annick Brien. Published by Editions Jobert, Paris (represented in USA by Theodore Presser.) (ASCAP).

Michael Gandolfi:

Il Ventaglio Di Josephine produced by Mark Dalrymple and Lee Cosart. Recorded at Braun Music Center, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California on June 28, 1993. Recording Engineer and Editor: Jack Vad. Caution to The Wind produced by Michael Gandolfi and Jonagthan McPhee. Recorded at Kemper Hall, Philips academy, Andover, Massachusetts on May 31, 1993. Recording Engineer: Scott Kent. Published by the Composer. (ASCAP). Special thanks to Allen Anderson, Jack and Tertry Skotz, Terry Morgan, Aloysius Hobausz, Lana Lau, Fritz Diegisser, Bill grant, Everett Plante. Additional funding for Caution To The Wind provided by Nancy and Irving Silverman, and Joseph and Josephine Gandolfi.

THOMAS E. BARKER (1954-1988)

  1. Trikhyálo (1983) (12:24)

Rolf Schulte, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Fred Sherry, cello

Three Pieces for French Horn (1984-86)(8:12)

  1. I - Lauda (1:54)

  2. II - Apothéoses (2:15)

  3. III - La Chasse (4:12)

Robert Hoyle, French horn

EUGENE KURTZ (b. 1923)

  1. From Time To Time (1986-87) (6:44)

Adéle Auviol, violin; Bernard Fauchet, piano


  1. Il Ventaglio Di Josephine (1983) (4:34)

Josephine Gandolfi, piano

Caution To The Wind

  1. Introduction (4:32)

  2. Excursion (4:06)

  3. Recitative (2:09)

  4. Divisions (5:48)

  5. Soliloquy (1:54)

  6. Incursuion/Exit (4:43)

Peggy Friedland, flute

The Griffin Music Ensemble: Gerald Itzkoff, violin; Heidi Yenney, violin; Scott Woolweaver, viola; Andrew Mark, violoncello; James Orleans, contrabass; Virginia Crumb, harp; Jeffrey Fischer, percussion; Jonathan McPhee, conductor

Total Playing Time: 66:45

© 1993 Composers Recordings, Inc.

* 1993 Composers Recordings, Inc.