William Kraft



William Kraft


Concerto for Percussion & Chamber Ensemble


Settings from Pierrot Lunaire




Episodes · Gallery 4-5




The Boston Musica Viva


Richard Pittman, Music Director


Jane Manning, soprano






William Kraft




William Kraft was appointed to the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Chair in Music Composition at the University of California at Santa Barbara in September, 1991, in recognition of his long and distinguished career as a composer, conductor and teacher. He served as percussionist and timpanist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1955 to 1981 and was the orchestra's first composer-in-residence. He also served as regular guest conductor and was assistant conductor for three seasons.




A musician of international acclaim, Professor Kraft has received dozens of awards, commissions, and nominations including two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Ford Foundation commissions, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation, two Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards, the Norlin/MacDowell Fellowship, and the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters Award. His works have been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Library of Congress, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players/Contemporary Music Forum, San Francisco Symphony, and many others. In 1991 Professor Kraft's composition, Settings from Pierrot Lunaire, a piece for soprano and chamber ensemble, was premiered in its entirety in Boston. In addition to composing several film and television scores, he conducted the orchestra for the recent films Dead Again and Carlito's Way. Professor Kraft has served on the Board of the Monday Evening Concerts, the Music Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, as musical director and chief advisor for the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra of Los Angeles, the board of the American Music Center, and was Chairman of the ASCAP Board of Review.




Settings from Pierrot Lunaire (1987-1990)




Settings from Pierrot Lunaire is the result of a commission from Leonard Stein and the Schoenberg Institute which hosted the premiere of the first three settings of the work. Since many of my compositional roots are in Impressionism, it was natural that I gravitate towards those poems in Pierrot Lunaire that emphasize colors and imagery. Not the Baudelairian imagery of "the spleen, grotesqueriedeath and vice" that Giraud drew from Les fleurs du mal, but rather that drawn from the visible, external world embellished by the imagination.




Pitchwise, Feerie is primarily based on the mode I have used in various guises in most of my music since 1980 a seven-tone scale, sometimes referred to as the overtone scale, with a raised 4th and a lowered 7th (this changes, of course, when the tonal center is moved). In a modest homage to Schoenberg, the mode was extended by the addition of five pitches to make a twelve-tone row.




Mein Bruder, veiled and subdued as it is (perhaps with a bit of "grotesquerie") works well between the more vibrant and colorful Feerie and Harlequinade. To emphasize those qualities, the vocal part in Mein Bruder employs much more Sprechstimme and more of the lower register of the voice than do the others. Pitchwise, Mein Bruder is based essentially on the interval of a second (major, minor, and very rarely, augmented) paired to represent the brothers and expressed in cells of two, three, and four notes. Each of those intervals of a second is represented in the opening chord.




In Harlequinade, there are three types of pitch determination that slip through one another as Pierrot "slips glidingly through the milling throng"; a twelve-tone row, an octatonic scale and a mode. The cello opens with the seven-tone mode playing the role of a circus sideshow drummer. When I was fifteen, living in San Diego, I went to a circus where upon entering the grounds, I was hypnotized by the distant sound of what I later learned was the archetypal circus drum pattern being played to attract people to the sideshow. The figure is played alternating between the head and shell of a bass drum. One will find it in Stravinsky's Petrouchka, wherein the alternation is between the bass drum's head and a pair of mounted cymbals.




How fascinating it was to come across "Selbstmord." To one rather literally minded, Pierrot's suicide indicated his death. But to another mind, the poem represents another marvelous thrust into the transcendental realm of the imagination. From Giraud's disorganized collection of poems, Schoenberg, as expounded by Susan Youens, "carvedthe tripartite 'cri de coeur' of a modern artist's rootless rebellion and frenzied 'dereglement des sens,' the surreal psychic dissolution that follows, and finally, the journey home" As in Feerie and Harlequinade, there is an interplay of mode and scale extended to form a twelve-tone row.




Concerto for Percussion and Chamber Ensemble (1993)




It must have begun when Dick Pittman took me on a tour of Concord. His description of the battle, and its significance in the Revolutionary War was so vivid it has remained three dimensionally etched in my mind. That is my excuse for perversely using the traditional fife and drum in 'The Three Camps' as the motivating substance of this concerto. Actually, I find it an attractive, energetic and quite cheerful piece, hardly militaristic but rather reminiscent of early dance tunes from the British Isles.




The concerto is in one movement containing three large parts. The first part has three sections, two cadenzas, and two interludes arranged as follows:




Part I:




1st section: The Three Camps unaltered becoming enveloped by mists of contrary sounds that take over in the




2nd section: which plays with Three Camps, fractures it but always respects it and culminates in




Cadenza I: which is a short exploitation of open and closed rolls which leads into a brief




Interlude I: which leads into the




3rd section: A very quiet lilting 6/8 motion building dramatically into




Cadenza II: that concentrates on the pitched instruments vibraphone and marimba and flows into




Interlude II: that contains reminders of The Three Camps.




4th section: A duple variation of the 3rd section which ends a bit explosively but is followed by the very quiet




Coda to Part I: which is reminiscent of The Three Camps the violin taking the fife part and the cello the drum's, accompanied by mournful bell sounds and a melody that expresses the tragedy of any war. Actually it is taken from my Timpani Concerto but I couldn't resist its appropriateness here.




Part II:




A slow, lyrical section with emphasis on bowed vibraphone flowing into a quiet, atmospheric section: the flute and cello trilling while the violin and clarinet spell "Musica Viva" and "Richard Pittman" in morse code, the second half of each name being taken by the flute and cello while the flute and violin take the trills. During this, the percussion, with fingers on the graduated drums, is playing a variation of the duple variations of the 4th section of Part I. This melts into




Part III:




which quickly becomes an "all out" section that softens into




Coda II: in which the piano echoes The Three Camps while the ensemble and percussion trade off the "tragic" melody all of which drifts off into the percussion soloist again playing with fingers, performing further variations on the duple variations of the 4th section of Part


I and ends the concerto with that.






Texts from Pierrot Lunaire by Albert Giraud


German by Otto Erich Hartleben; English by C.E. Cooper






Gewaltge, goldne Purpurvögel,


Geflügelten Juwelen gleich,


Ruhn auf gigantischen Oliven


In Breughels prunkenden Feerien.


Sie flattern auf - und breite Schatten


Streuen sie auf brütende Prairien -


Gewaltge, goldne Purpurvögel,


Geflügelten Juwelen gleich.


Mit starken Pfeilen heiss und gleissend,


Durch üppig wuchern des Gerank


Bahnt ihre Pfade sich die Sonne…


Und tiefer glühn in ihrem Strahl


Gewaltge, goldne Purpurvögel.




Mein Bruder


Die stumme Mondesgöttin säugt


Mit ihrer Milch die braune Nacht.


Wir dürsten beide, nie gestillt,


Nach ihrer weissen Brust.


Wir sind von gleichem Blut, uns zog


Die eine blasse Mutter auf -


Die stumme Mondesgöttin säugt


Mit ihrer Milch auch uns.


All meiner Verse fahler Glanz.


All deines Kleides bleicher Schein


Enttaucht demselben linden Strom,


Mit dem zur Nacht die welte Welt


Die Mondesgöttin säught.






Einen seidnen Regenbogen


Trägt er auf dem Maskenkleide


Rasch, gleich einer bunten Schlange,


Schlüpft er gleissend durchs Gewühl.


Wie Diogenes nach Menschen


Sucht er - um sie anzulügen,


Einen seidnen Regenbogen


Trägt er auf dem Maskenkleide.


Vor dem neidischen Cassander


Brüstet sich der strolch: er wär ein


Spanischer Marquis und trüg als


Wappen im azurnen Felde


Einen seidnen Regenbogen!






In des Mondes weisser Robe


Lacht Pierrot sein blutges Lachen.


Wirrer werden seine Mienen,


Glas auf Glas stürzt er hinab!


Droben in die kreidge Mauer


Schlägt er bebend einen Nagel -


In des mondes weisser Robe


Lacht Pierrot sein blutges Lachen!


Und er schürzt den Henkersknoten,


Schmuckt den Hals sich mit der Schlinge -


Und mit ausgestreckter Zunge


(Erinnung mordend)*


Hängt er, zappelnd wie ein Karpfen,


In des Mondes weisser Robe




*from Nach (Pierrot Lunaire No. 8)





A Fairy Landscape


Gigantic golden birds of crimson,


living jewels endowed with wings


alight on mighty olive branches


in Brueghel's magic fairydom.


They flutter up - and cast broad shadows


over the brooding meadowland -


gigantic golden birds of crimson,


living jewels endowed with wings.


Powerful arrows, hot and glemaing


pierce luxuriant undergrowth…


the rays of sun clear glistening pathways,


their light deepens the gaudy glow of


gigantic golden birds of crimson.




My Brother


The mute moongoddess softly nurtures


on her milk the dark brown night.


We both crave, never quite sated,


her white snowy breast.


We are of the same blood; were both


of the one pale mother reared -


the mute moongooddess softly nurtures


on her milk us too.


All my verses' faded shimmer,


all your garment's pallid sheen,


stem from the same gentle stream


with which the whole wide world


the mute moongoddess nurtures.




Masked Harlequin


An embroidered silken rainbow


he wears on his fancy dress.


Quickly, like a motley serpent


he slips glistening through the crowd.


Like Diogenes he looks


for honest men - to tell them lies,


An embroidered silken rainbow he wears


on his fancy dress.


Before envious Cassander


he brags the rascal: claims that he


is a Spaniard, a Marquis,


his coat of arms, an azure field,


an embroidered silken rainbow!






In the moon's pritine white robe


Pierrot laughs his blood-stained laughter.


More confused grows his demeanor;


he downs glass after rash glass.


High into the chalky plaster


with trembling hand he drives a nail -


in the moon's pristine white robe


Pierrot laughs his blood-stained laughter.


And he ties the hangman's slipknot,


drapes his gullet with the noose


and, his tongue stuck out, extended,


(to the murder mem'ry)


hangs there thrashing like a flounder


in the moon's pristine white robe.






Episodes (1987)




This work was commissioned by the McKim Foundation in the Library of Congress for premiere performance, March 6, 1987 by the pianist Alan Mandel and violinist Mary Findley. It is dedicated to my friend and former professor at Columbia University, Vladimir Ussachevsky. The work is based principally on a mode containing a raised fourth and a lowered seventh, with other modes involved to a lesser degree. Theses modes, containing allusions to the auras of both impressionism and jazz, have been the principal underpinnings of nearly all my music from 1980 to 1990.




-William Kraft






Gallery 4-5 (1985)




Gallery 4-5 was commissioned by the Almont Ensemble and was premiered in 1985. Kraft's interest in, and sensitivity to, non-musical influences motivated the composition of the work.




"I have been fascinated," he writes, "by the relationship between art and music ever since I first saw the work of Kandinsky at the Museum of Non-Objective Art in the early '50's." Kandinsky's work has continued to resonate within the composer for over three decades. The two outer movements of the three-movement work have their bases in two paintings by Kandinsky, "In Gray" and "Painting with White Border." The middle movement is a musical study based on the Rothko Chapel.




Kraft's musical reflection on "In Gray" is an active, driving movement in which an ascending six-note figure is parlayed into long lines of churning, even, Baroque-like rhythms played by various combinations of instruments. In the first several pages of the score, the clarinet primarily holds high "a's," until it is induced to assume the rhythmic energy abandoned by the strings. Despite the clarinet's nervous energy through the remainder of the movement, the instrument continually returns to a high "b." Perhaps this modest one-step motion from "a" to "b," in the midst of these leaping, active lines, might be analogous to the fixedness, or spatial immobility, of a painting in which, nevertheless, figures convey the impression of motion.




Rothko Chapel is a meditation, adding crotales, maracas, and guiro for atmospheric coloring. The movement begins with a recitative in the cello, which plays against long, held notes in the upper strings. These two impulses, movement and stillness, comprise the main constructive elements of the study. Throughout the stillness created by held pitches is punctuated by bursts of rhythmic activity or by notes played with a steady, even pulse. Several instruments concentrate on a small pool of pitches, and, as in the first movement, "a" emerges as an important central tone that is never far from the music's surface. The third movement, Painting with White Border, returns to the gestural world of the first, juxtaposing sweeping, uni-directional runs with steady, eighth-note activity. Kraft discovers a quivering energy in the painting's non-representational figures; this energy is manifested in the intense rhythmic activity of the movement.




-Perry Goldstein




The Boston Musica Viva




The Boston Musica Viva champions music of the 20th century. Established in 1969 by music director Richard Pittman, the ensemble is one of the oldest, most distinguished new music ensembles in the United States, With rare exceptions, a new work is premiered at each concert, usually one that Richard Pittman requests of an American composer. Concerts feature the seven-musician core ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion and conductor) but this core is often augmented for larger works. In addition, chamber operas, music-theater pieces, dance works and other multi-media productions frequently involve collaborations with other performing artists and organizations.




Jane Manning




Jane Manning has long been established internationally as a leading exponent of contemporary music, with over 300 premieres to her credit. Her extensive discography includes works by Messiaen, Schoenberg and Ligeti, with conductors such as Boulez and Rattle, and her interpretations of major contemporary classics such as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire are widely admired. Ms. Manning was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of York in 1988, and the O.B.E. by the Queen in 1990.






William Kraft








Settings from Pierrot Lunaire




Prelude (1:03)




Feerie (A Fairy Landscape) (3:33)




Interlude I (3:21)




Mein Bruder (My Brother) (4:13)




Interlude II (1:46)




Harlequinade (3:03)




Fantasmagoria (Interlude III) (4:28)




Selbstmord (Suicide) (3:45)




Jane Manning, soprano


Renee Krimsier, flute


Diane Heffner, clarinet


Nancy Cirillo, violin, viola


Ronald Lowry, cello


Dean Anderson, percussion


Hugh Hinton, piano






Concerto for Percussion & Chamber Ensemble (10:43)




Dean Anderson, solo percussion


Renee Krimsier, flute


Diane Heffner, clarinet


Nancy Cirillo, violin, viola


Ronald Lowry, cello


Hugh Hinton, piano




Episodes (13:03)




I. Cadenza




II. = 144




Ronald Copes, violin


Jeremy Haladyna, piano




Gallery 4-5




I. In Gray (Kandinsky) (4:45)




II. Rothko Chapel (Rothko) (5:21)




III. Painting With White Border (Kandinsky) (5:20)




Diane Heffner, clarinet


Nancy Cirillo, violin · Ronald Copes, viola


Ronald Lowry, cello · Hugh Hinton, piano