Music of Irwin Bazelon

In his early years in New York, Bazelon supported himself by scoring documentaries, art films and theatrical productions. During the 1950s and 1960s he composed more than 50 scores of this kind, which proved to be an invaluable preparation for his orchestral music. In a valedictory of sorts he wrote Knowing The Score: Notes On Film Music. Published in 1975, this book is widely used as a college text. As guest composer, Bazelon frequently lectured at leading universities and music schools throughout the United States and England. Young people were especially drawn to his feisty spirit and no-nonsense approach to earning a living by applying compositional talents to the commercial world without sacrificing integrity.

Bazelon’s works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, solo instruments and voice have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. He conducted his music with such orchestras as the National Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Kansas City Philharmonic and the Orchestre Nationale de Lille. He received grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Koussevitsky Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Kansas City Philharmonic, the New Orleans Philharmonic, the American Brass Quintet, the Boehm Quintette and the Royal Northern College of Music.

A long-time horse racing enthusiast, one of his best known works, Churchill Downs (Chamber Concerto No. 2) is named for the home of the Kentucky Derby (CRI 623), and his Ninth Symphony (subtitled Sunday Silence for the winner of the 1989 Derby) is dedicated to the horse. In a small way, the racetrack helped launch Bazelon’s symphonic career. With money from a big win at Aqueduct, he recorded a concert ballet with 16 members of the New York Philharmonic, the tape of which led directly to his conducting his Short Symphony (Testament to a Big City) with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. in 1962. This was his major orchestral debut.

David Harold Cox, Chair of Music at University College, Cork, Ireland and author of Irwin Bazelon, A Bio-Bibliography (Greenwood Press, August 2000) said in a tribute to him, "The quality I shall always remember about Bud was his integrity, the integrity between his individuality as a person and his unique musical personality. There seemed to be a perfect unity between the man and his music. It was a unity based on a breadth of vision-both his personality and his musical language were strong, wide-ranging and powerful, pulsating with energy and life. These qualities will ensure that the music will survive."

With this compact disc, a reissue from LPs, CRI continues its commitment to presenting and preserving the work of a gifted and uncompromising composer whose music is remarkable for its originality, range and variety of expressive language.

In Bazelon’s own words, "Prominence of musical line depends on dynamics, impact accents, phrasing, rhythmic propulsion, color and contrast. There are certain 12-tone and jazz elements present, neither strict nor formal. And, the triplet is my musical heartbeat."

While the Woodwind Quintet is cast in a familiar three-movement mold (fast-slow-fast), the development and organization of its musical materials is not based on 19th-century techniques. My thinking in putting together my "own sounds" is totally divorced from the associations of traditionalism.

The members of the ensemble function in dual capacities-they are part of the whole, but of greater significance, they are soloists in the true sense of the word, sometimes as protagonists, and on occasion, I let them fight it out for themselves. The dynamic markings in the score indicate which instrument attains prominence. It was my intention to break up the normal order of the winds (flute on top, followed by oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon). The instruments crisscross each other, disturbing the regular arrangement of voice placings-sometimes the flute is low, clarinet or bassoon high. This gives special attention to a particular line or phrase. Groups of notes are broken into different kinds of markings-slurs, staccato or half-staccato attacks, sudden sforzando, short rhythmic punctuations, special notations, interlocking patterns, skips from one register to another in a wide variety of rhythmic juxtaposition. The Quintet contains both 12-tone and jazz elements, neither formal nor strict.

I believe a composer cannot escape his roots. I have lived all my life in the Big City. The rebellious mutterings, cross-rhythms and nervous tension and energy of the city are in my music. You cannot have life without a pulse beat, and you cannot have music without rhythm.

Woodwind Quintet was written expressly for the Boehm Woodwind Quintette. Its first performance was May 22, 1975 in Alice Tully Hall, New York City.

In composing Imprints, I have attempted to utilize the entire keyboard range with total freedom, and, in the process, avoid the practice of one hand following the other (up and down the keys) and old-style octave virtuosity.

The use of spatial rhythmic notation and performing on the piano strings (including cluster notes played with the palm of the hand) are not intended merely to be effects. I have interpolated them into the score as logical expansions of musical ideas: an alternate way to perform and alter pitches, convey color, accent individual notes and/or bring out harmonic overtones.

Prominence of musical line is secured through dynamic markings, phrasing, color contrast and the general character of the music. It is rhythmic progression and propulsion that serves to bind the musical ideas together as part of the whole, connecting one section to another and revealing the intervallic relationships of the piece.

Imprints was commissioned by Rebecca LaBrecque. Its first performance was February 10, 1981 in Carnegie Recital Hall, New York City.

In a conversation with author James Jones he said, "You composers live in a world of sound dreams." He died May 9, 1977. His perceptive comment on the composer’s world influenced me to use the title Sound Dreams for this score dedicated to his memory. While the music is not programmatic-nor an attempt to describe Jones’ personality or the power of his literary works-it does express (in whatever way music can) my feelings about the man.

Sound Dreams is scored for six players divided into three groups: flute and clarinet, viola and cello, and piano and percussion. The performers function both as soloists and ensemble members; at some moments they accompany one another and at others they are antagonists. Despite sustained lyrical statements-instruments often fade into and out of each other’s sound to produce a variety of colors, textures and shadings-the work is marked by dramatic interjections that accentuate the natural tension between rhythmic and lyrical elements.

Sound Dreams was commissioned by the Collage New Music Chamber Ensemble.

Its first performance with Gunther Schuller conducting was November 13, 1977, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Five Pieces for Piano are miniature solo compositions; the contrapuntal style and nature of the work was part of my musical language at the age of 28. They are dramatic and lyrical in alternating contrasts of dynamic and phrasing.

The first performance of Five Pieces for Piano was April 1, 1951 by pianist Ruth Strassman in McMillin Theatre, Columbia University, New York City.

The Brass Quintet, scored for two trumpets, horn, tenor and bass trombone, is a dramatic work in four parts. Its inner two movements are in slow tempo, evoking frequent color changes through the use of various kinds of mutes. They contrast sharply with the fast sections (parts 1 and 4) whose contrapuntal design is given form and shape by a driving rhythmic attack. Sudden sforzando accents, acting as false downbeats within the bar, serve as means of launching musical ideas. In addition, the juxtaposition (and breakdown) of 8th- and 16th-note phrases, with triplet patterns of larger and smaller time values, set off one rhythmic group against the other in a continuous stream of clashing dialogue. As in all my music, certain 12-tone techniques and jazz elements (neither strict or traditional) are present.

Brass Quintet was commissioned by the American Brass Quintet. Its first performance was March 22, 1964 as part of Max Pollikoff’s "Music in our Time" series at the 92nd St. YMHA in New York City.

All program notes by the composer.


The Boehm Quintette

Formed in 1968 by clarinetist Don Stewart, the founding premise of the group was that the repertoire for wind quintet is far deeper and richer than conventional wisdom would have it. In addition, the Quintette ensemble commissioned many new works by contemporary composers. This CD features Susan Stewart, flute; Phyllis Bohl, oboe; Don Stewart, clarinet; Joseph Anderer, horn; Richard Vrotney, bassoon.


Wanda Maximilien

Born in 1946, Wanda Maximilien began studying the piano at the age of six in her native Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She received her master’s degree in performance from the Juilliard School and has studied with Adele Marcus and Nadia Boulanger. She is Professor of Music at the Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University. In 1991, Ms. Maximilien was also soloist in Bazelon’s Trajectories . . . for solo piano with orchestra recorded by the London Philharmonic with Harold Farberman, conducting (Albany Records TROY 054).



Collage is a chamber music group composed principally of Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians dedicated to the performance of 20th-century works. Its purpose is to provide an arena for complete musical involvement; a union of composer, performer and concert-goer. Throughout its history, Collage has presented more than 75 premieres and commissioned works. Its concerts have included full stage productions-music with dance, music with film and music with extensive sophisticated electronic equipment. 2000—2001 marks its 29th-anniversary season. This CD consists of Randolph Bowman, flute; Robert Annis, clarinet; Frank Epstein, percussion; Christopher Oldfather, piano; Joel Smirnoff, viola; Martha Babcock, cello.

Gunther Schuller

Gunther Schuller was President of the New England Conservatory from 1967 to 1977. He was elected President of the National Music Council in 1979. In 1975, his reconstruction and reorchestration of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha opened on Broadway with Schuller conducting. A leading composer in his own right as well as an authority on jazz, he has conducted most major orchestras both in America and Europe.


American Brass Quintet

Founded in 1960, the American Brass Quintet has established itself as the recognized leader among brass chamber music ensembles. The Quintet has toured nationally and internationally, performing in the majority of the world’s major chamber music concert halls. The players on this recording are Raymond Mase, trumpet; Louis Ranger, trumpet; Edward Birdwell horn; Herbert Rankin, trombone; Robert Biddlecome, bass trombone.