New Chamber & Solo Music


New Chamber & Solo Music

David Del Tredici

Robert Helps

Jan Radzynski

Tison Street

Robert Helps - 3 Hommages for Piano (1972)

I have consistently avoided writing descriptive notes for the “3 Homages,” preferring the listener to react to these three pieces with out prejudicial comments from the composer. These pieces were not written as a set although I felt they compliment each other quite well, they are very performable as separate pieces.

The first two homages are much more tonal than any other music of mine. All three are very pianistic. These two qualities probably account for their being fairly popular as a “contemporary” selection in high level piano competitions. The “3 Hommages” were prominently featured on a Decca-Arto CD release by the pianist (and former student of mine) Alan Feinberg. That recording was nominated for a Grammy (1992).

The titles of the pieces, with the exception of the Revel Hommage, were arrived at long after their composition. The first two were therefore obviously not written, and could easily be conjectured from their titles, as an attempt to “imitate” the “style.” Of Faure and Rachmaninoff. Even so, I find the titles not inappropriate. However, when I was trying to find an appropriate title for the set, “3 Hommages,” “3 Nocturnes,” and “3 Etudes,” all came to mind. Any of these titles, despite seeming contradictory, still seem appropriate to me. The combination of all three titles describe the nature of the works better for me than any one title does.

The Nocturne for String Quartet, written in 1960, belongs to an esoteric genre of pieces that hardly ever get performed - single movement pieces for string quartet. I later incorporated the Nocturne into a yet more apt-not-to-be-performed work - a chamber music “happening” entitled serenade, a work in three movements, performable as a single work or as separate works, of which the Nocturne is the middle movement. The first movement is for violin and piano (“Fantasy”), the third movement for piano, violin and horn (“Postlude”). The three movement version, commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation, was performed several years ago in New York City and Buffalo by the composer-pianist David Del Tredici and the Buffalo contemporary Chamber Players.

The Nocturne is very much a mood piece, the mood being tin the tradition of the numerous Mahler and Bartok “night music” movements which make their appearances in these composers' string quartets and symphonic works. It is predominately a gentle movement - “night music” heard from afar. It does, however, have its share of “filigree” passage work and an occasional “muted” climax. The combination of delicacy, even wistfulness, and consistently high register employed in all four instruments presents, I feel, an interesting performance challenge.

  • Robert Helps

Robert Helps is currently a professor of music at the University of South Florida. He has been a recipient of awards in composition from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim, Ford, and many other foundations. His Piano concerto No. 1 was commissioned by the Thorne Music Fund and premiered by the composer with the Manhattan Conservatory Orchestra. His Piano Concerto No. 2 was commissioned through the Ford Foundation by Richard Goode and performed by him with the Oakland Symphony.

Helps has been professor of the piano at the New England Conservatory, the San Francisco Conservatory. Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Manhattan School of Music. He was artist-in-residence (pianist) at the University of California-Davis in 1973. He is recorded extensively as pianist, composer, and pianist/composer on such labels as Victor, Columbia, Composers Recordings Inc., Deutsche Grammaphone, New World, Desto, Son Nova, and GM Recordings. Many of his compositions, including the Symphony No. 1 (Naumburg Award) and Gossamer Noons for voice and orchestra, are recorded. He is published by C.F. Peters, Associated Music Publishers, E.B. Marks, and the American Composers Edition.

He has toured extensively with such internationally famous performers as Bethany Beardslee, soprano; Isadore Cohen, violinist; Rudolf Kolisch, violinist; Phyllis Curtin, soprano, and Aaron Copland, composer/pianist. Recent concerts have included memorial solo recitals of the music of renowned American composer Roger Sessions at both Harvard and Princeton Universities, an all-Ravel recital at Harvardss/ a solo recital in Town Hall, NY; four summers with the The Chamber Music West summer festival; with Jorja Fleezanis, violinist and concert master of the Minnesota Symphony in Minneapolis, San Francisco and New York; with Bethany Beardslee, soprano, in Boston, New York City (Town Hall) and Colorado Springs.

His most recent compositions are Eventually The Carosel Begins for 2 pianos (commissioned by Norma and Leonard Mastrogiacomo from Tallahassee on a National Endowment for the Arts award) and A Mixture of Time for guitar and piano which was premiered in San Francisco in June 1990 Adam Holzman and the composer.

David Del Tredici

Trio (1959) is in one movement, divided into two parts. The first part is by turns dramatic, agitated and rhythmic. The second, contrastingly, is lyrical and flowing. At the end three is a reprise of the piece's opening signature sound - a sustained major third surround by a dissonant “buzz” of ponticello tremelos.

Written in 1959, during my last year as a college student and my first years as a composer, Trio was inspired by a performance of the Schoenberg String Trio. I had never heard “modern” string effects - sul ponticello, col lengo, battuta, harmonics - and these new sounds filled me with awe and wonder. Trio was the result.

The Fantasy Pieces [Adagio: Poco Allegretto; Allegro minacciando (…Diabolique); and Largo] were written at age 22, a year after the Trio, while I was a graduate student at Princeton University. Fantasy Pieces began as a response to composer-professor Earl Kim's suggestion that try to write some twelve-tone music. Each of the pieces does, in fact, start with a tone row. However, my ear, quite differently inclined, led me down another more tonal path that ended finally, far from dodecaphony, on an unresolved dominant seventh chord.

The four pieces are highly virtuosic and were written at a time when my piano playing career was in full flower. The first two and delicate, kaleidoscopic, the third (…Diabolique) is demonic and the last (and longest) is, by contrast, almost Wagnerian in its tonal outpourings.

The pieces are dedicated to four composer/performer friends (in order): Stephanie Shehatovitch, Earl Kim, Jules Langert, and Robert Helps.

The pianist Alan Marks has written this description of Fantasy Pieces “…a set of four brief impressions that are in every sense fantastic: intensely focused emotional expressions of wildness, dreaminess, nervousness or spaciousness. What is important in each piece is the gesture; the specific notes seeing to exist secondarily to the impulse of the moment. These impulses rarely occur in strict rhythm; a hesitation will precipitate a sudden rush which may be sustained or burn out in an instant. The ebb and flow of the rhythm gives the music its improvisatory flavor. As brief as each movement is - as in Webern's music - it is highly expressionistic and structurally bound by only two or three ideas.'

  • David Del Tredici

David Del Tredici has been arguably, America's foremost exponent of the return to tonality in composition. Trained in serial technique, his early works, many of them settings of poems by James Joyce, reflect a quirky individuality in the handling of those orthodox musical materials. Soon however, he broke away from the language of his teachers to explore the fantasy of Lewis Carroll, and in so doing, developed a rich musical idiom of color, humor and sentiment worked out on vast orchestral canvases of tonal sound. David Del Tredici's lengthy list of honors and awards includes Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, election to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, numerous commissions, a Friedheim Award and the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Music. David Del Tredici has held faculty appointments at Harvard University, Boston University, the State University of New York at Buffalo and is currently Distinguished Professor of Music at the City College of New York. His works are published by Bossey and Hawkes.

“David Del Tredici is that rare find among composers - a creator with a truly great gift…I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression ion the American musical scene. I know of no other composer of his generation, at least among those who write within the normal concert idiom, who composes music of greater freshness and daring, or with more personality.”

  • Aaron Copland

Jan Radzynski

The String Quartet (1978) draws its inspiration from the liturgical Sephardic music of the Middle East often characterized by highly ornamented melodic lines, microtonic intervals, and various types of heterophony. The melodic contours, melismas, and subtle inflections are modeled on pitch and language interaction in biblical cantillaiton. The human voice, that most perfect instrument, one capable of evoking every nuance of feeling, serves as the unattainable ideal for the strings articulation and mode of expression.

In one continuous movement, the Quartet opens with an eight-part four-pitch canon that grows in density as it accumulates energy. That energy, when released at the end of the canon in a frantic viola passage, provides an impetus for the entire piece thereafter. In spite of the dense tone clusters frequently employed here, the music clearly centers tonality on C.

CANTO (1981) is a fantasy in which fragments of a cantus firmus are woven into dream-like sequences. A broad range of keyboard textures evoke various national styles of piano playing, in particular the French and German.

The idea of repetition is expressed in Canto in several ways: impulse-reverberation, echo, ostinato, and reminiscence. The various registers of the piano serve as an inexhaustible source of inspiration. The considerable range of expressive and technical demands presents special challenges to the performer.

Canto, hailed recently by The Jerusalem Post as “…undoubtedly one of the most important works for the piano written in the last decade.” Was premiered at Spargue Hall at Yale University in 1982 by Martin Goldray. The piece is dedicated to my wife, Paula.

Five Duets (1992) were composed as a birthday present for Andre Hajdu, a noted Hungarian-born, Jersualem-based composer. Five Duets allude in may subtle and not so subtle ways to Hajdu's multifaceted personal and musical background (he was a student of Kodaly, Milhaud and Messian). The piece was presented to Hajdu at a special concert in Israel that included pieces composed for this occasion by many composers from around the world. In the performances on this recording, the cellists alternate playing the first and second parts: in duets 1, 3 and 5 Plesser plays first and in 2 and 4, Beiser plays the first part.

  • Jan Radzynski

Jan Radzynski (b. 1950, Warsaw) left his native Poland in 1969 to settle in Israel. He studied composition with Leon Schidowsky at the Tel Aviv University Academy of Music, and with Krzysztol Pendercki and Jacob Druckman at Yale University, where he received his doctorate in 1984. Radzynski is presently an Associate Professor of Composition and Theory of music at Yale.

The composer's catalogue of works during the last decade has been extensive and includes much orchestral and chamber music commissioned by noted artists and performed at various festivals. The American premiere of Kaddish by the Cleveland Orchestra in 1968 received much critical acclaim. Radzynski's David Symphony, premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in New York in 1989, was performed the same year in Poland by the Cracow Philharmonic, and again in 1990 at the Warsaw Autumn Festival.

Radzynski's recent commissions are from the Sixth International Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition (1989), from the Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra in Israel for cello Concerto (1990), from the Cologne Radio Orchestra for Time's Other Beat (1990), from the Chamber Music Days in Upper Galilee, Israel, for Serenade for woodwind quintet (1991), from the Rothschild Foundation for Fanfare, premiered at the dedication of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem (1992), and from the Virginia Symphony for Viola Concerto, to be premiered in April 1993.

Tison Street

My String Trio of 1963 is a twelve-tone work but not strictly so, the technique being used quite freely at times. In form it is a large one-movement arc. The opening accompagnao figure in the viola states the row and sets the stage for a rather lyrical theme that appears over it in the violin. The musical materials recur at the end of the piece, but transformed and elegiac in character. In the middle is and extended and virtuosic presto section climaxing in a presto possible. Then on either side of this central presto are transitional episodes that evolve, develop, and reflect upon the main materials of the piece. Perhaps the most striking of these is the passage not long after the prestissimo climax in which a distant songlike remembrance of the theme is heard in the violin over quietly pulsing pianissimo chords in the viola and cello. I Finally in the middle of the ending Adagio is a violin cadenza that perhaps reflects in a new context some of the intensity of the central climax.

  • Tison Street

Tison Street was born in Boston in 1943 and received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Harvard, where he studied composition with Leon Kirchner and David Del Tredici. Among his awards and fellowships are the Naumberg Recording Award, American Academy and institute of Arts and Letters Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA grant, Brandies Creative Arts Award, and commissions from the Fromm, Koussevitsky, and Kindler Foundations. During the years 1979-1983 he was an Associate Professor of Music at Harvard. His works have been performed by such orchestras as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and by soloists such as Peter Serkin and Ani Kavafian. At present he resides in Boston, working as a composer and freelance violinist.

Spectrum Ensemble

Mi-Kyung Lee, Per Sporrong, Brett Dean and Frank Dodge represent part of the internationality of Berlin's music world. Four musicians, four nationalities. Their work together in conjunction with the series Spectrum Concerts Berlin and American Music Week Berlin, of which Frank Dodge is founder and director, has provided the chamber music life of Berlin with a strong sustained infusion of American music.

My-Kyung Lee has been winner in numerous international competitions including the Queen Elizabeth and ARD in Munich. She leads an active life as soloist and chamber music musician. Per Sporrong is concert master of the Swedish Radio Orchestra. Brett Dean is presently a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Frank Dodge leads an active life as cellist and organizer.

Helps: 3 Hommages: Recorded in 1989, Morrisound Recording, Inc., Tampa, FL. Recording Engineer: Rick Miller. Published by C.F. Peters Corp. Nocturne: Recorded 1968. Sender Freies, Berlin. Recording Engineer: Wolfgang Hoff. Published by American Composers Alliance (BMI)

Del Tredici: Trio and Fantasy Pieces: Recorded 1987, Eras Recording Studios, New York City. Recorded and Edited by Allan Tucker, Foothill Digital Productions, New York. Published by Boosey and Hawkes, Inc. (ASCAP)

Radzynski: String Quartet and Canto, recorded 1991; Five Duets, recorded 1992, at Yale University School of Music, Fred Kimbal Plaut Recording Studio. Recording Engineer/Editor: Eugene Kimball. String Quartet and Canto published by Israel Music Institute; Five Duets published by Kaeshet Music Publications (ASCAP

Street: String Trio recorded 1986. Sender Freies Berlin. Recording Engineer: Rita babo. Published by Tison Street (BMI)

Robert Helps

  1. Homage à Fauré (1972) (3:56)

  2. Hommage à Rachmaninoff (1972) 92:17)

  3. Hommage à Ravel (1972) (4:30)

Robert Helps, piano

David Del Tredici

  1. Trio (1959) (8:01)

Members of Spectrum Ensemble Berlin

Per Sporrong, violin; Brett Dean, viola; Frank Dodge, cello

Fantasy Pieces (1960) David Del Tredici, piano

  1. I (1:56) Adagio

  2. II (1:36) Poco Allegretto

  3. III (1:25) Allegro Minacciando (…Diabolique)

  4. IV (4:37) Largo

Jan Radzynski

  1. String Quartet (1978) (12:00)

The Aviv String Quartet: Hagai Shaham, violin; John McGross, violin; Yariv Aluni, viola; Zvi Plesser, cello

  1. Canto (1981) (10:18) Arnon Erez, piano

Five Duets (1982) Maya Beiser, Zvi Plesser, cellos

  1. I - Risoluto (1:25)

  2. II - Allegro (1:05)

  3. III - Allegretto burlesco (1:19)

  4. IV - Remembering Sepharad (2:51)

  5. V - Agitato (2:25)

Tison Street

  1. Trio (1963) (9:38) Members of Spectrum Ensemble Berlin

Per Sporrong, violin; Brett Dean, viola; Frank Dodge, cello

Robert Helps

  1. Nocturne (1960) (7:42) Members of Spectrum Ensemble Berlin

Mi-Kyung, violin; Per Sporrong, violin; Brett Dean, viola; Frank Dodge, cello

Total Playing Time: 77:12

© 1993 Composers Recordings, Inc.

* 1993 Composers Recordings, Inc.