American Composers Orchestra

about the concert

NOVEMBER 2, 1997 at 3pmFred Rzewski

Composer/pianist Frederic Rzewski in rare U.S. performance with American Composers Orchestra;
World Premiere by Ingram Marshall

Paul Lustig Dunkel, conductor
Frederic Rzewski, piano

Ingram Marshall: Kingdom Come (World premiere - ACO commission)
Robert Di Domenica: Symphony (New York premiere)
Fred Rzewski: A Long Time Man, for Piano and Orchestra (New York premiere)
Alvin Etler: Concerto for Brass Quintet, Percussion, and String Orchestra

Pre-Concert talk with the composers at 1:45pm
FOR TICKETS CALL CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

 

Frederic Rzewski, an experimental expatriate American composer and avant-garde pianist-dynamo who The Boston Globe calls “one of the most interesting and enigmatic figures on the musical scene,” will be featured composer and soloist with the American Composers Orchestra in its performance Sunday, November 2, 1997 at 3pm in Carnegie Hall. Mr. Rzewski, will perform his “A Long Time Man,” a work which includes orchestral improvisation and draws inspiration from a prison work song. Also on the program are works by Robert DiDomenica, Alvin Etler and Ingram Marshall, who’s “Kingdom Come,” commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, will receive its world premiere. ACO Resident Conductor Paul Lustig Dunkel will conduct. Tickets are available by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.

Frederic Rzewski now lives in Brussels, and his eclectic background runs the gamut from serialism to performance art theatrics to Cagean aleatory. Much of Rzewski’s music is social and political commentary. His “De Profundis” is based on Oscar Wilde’s self-exposing letter from prison and his best known work, “The People United Will Never be Defeated!,” is based on a Chilean protest song. As both composer and performer, Rzewski draws on a seemingly limitless supply of styles and techniques, which he is a master at distilling, varying and connecting into extended compositions which often include vocalization, gestural and percussive effects. Arguably, Rzewski’s strongest works are for the piano, the instrument for which the San Francisco Chronicle has credited him with “reinventing the 19th century virtuoso tradition in modern terms,” going on to call his music “rhetorically gripping, ferocious in its technical demands and almost dizzyingly inventive.”

 “A Long Time Man” is a series of 24 variations for piano and orchestra based on a Texas prison work song. (The title refers to a prisoner serving a life sentence.) The work begins as a dialogue between soloist and orchestra in which a fast-changing collage of bits and snatches of the song appear and disappear. A central improvised orchestral cadenza is subtitled “Chain Gang” and includes percussive effects invoking the “whump” of sledgehammers. “A Long Time Man” was written in 1979; the ACO performance is its New York Premiere.

About “A Long Time Man,” Rzewski says, “I’ve always had ambivalent feelings toward the symphony orchestra, with its rows of string-infantry, woodwind cavalry, and brass artillery. I don’t like the orchestra’s social organization, the oppressive work conditions, and the subservience of many individual gifted artists to a commanding, often non-musical authority. At the same time the thing is there, it exists, and for the purpose of creating beautiful music, which is something it certainly can do. This piece is an attempt...to express the life of the orchestra in its contradictoriness.”

Ingram MarshallIn Ingram Marshall’s “Kingdom Come,” ACO unveils its newest commissioned work. Marshall is a composer with a decidedly Eastern bent. He has been influenced by the dark colors and endless forms of Indonesian Gamelon music, something that shows itself in the slowed-down sense of time and use of melodic repetition one hears in his compositions. Marshall combines these elements with cutting-edge use of electronics (he studied with electronic music pioneers Vladimir Ussachevsky and Morton Subotnick) to produce music that the composer calls “expressivist.”

“Kingdom Come” is scored for full orchestra with digital audio tape and is Marshall’s largest-scale work to combine instrumental forces and electronic media. According to the composer, “Although the tape parts never lose their individual identities, they are subject to transformation. The orchestral parts merge or blend with the taped music, but sometimes are in opposition to them. The movement is often either cascading downward or ascending—sometimes both.” The sounds which form the basis of the tape consist of music Marshall recorded ten years ago in Yugoslavia, including a Croation hymn, a liturgy from a Serbian church in Dubrovnik, and a song fragment sung by a Bosnian Muslim. The work has been written in memory of Marshall’s brother-in-law, Francis Tomasic, a journalist who was killed in Bosnia. “I feel strongly now that music always points to something else, has other meanings—even when it means only itself,” says Marshall.

Robert DiDomenica is a composer/flutist and native New Yorker now living in Boston. ACO will give DiDomenica’s Symphony, which dates from 1961, its New York premiere. In an era in which the relevance of serialism has been questioned, DiDomenica’s 35-year-old Symphony, which fully embraces 12-tone technique, will surprise listeners as an unusually piquant work, one that sounds fresh and highly-

listenable. This is due, at least in part, to the composer’s unusual choice of musical source material: a passage from the final movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony.

Alvin Elter’s Concerto for Brass Quintet, Strings and Percussion closes the program. Etler, who died in 1973, was an oboist, a student of Hindemith, and a long-time faculty member at Smith College. He wrote several works featuring brass and wind instruments, helping to develop the repertoire for instruments often neglected as soloists. Etler’s Concerto for Wind Quintet and Strings Orchestra was played by the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein conducting in the opening concerts at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall in Lincoln Center. In the ACO performance of the Brass Quintet Concerto, the Orchestra’s principals James Stubbs, Raymond Mase, trumpets, Paul Ingraham, horn, Richard Chamberlain and Robert Biddlecome, trombones take the spotlight.

The American Composers Orchestra, under the direction of Music Director, Dennis Russell Davies, is the nation’s only orchestra dedicated exclusively to performing symphonic works by American composers. Through its concert series at Carnegie Hall, recordings, radio broadcasts, educational programs, new music reading sessions, and commissions, the ACO identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions this country’s prominent established composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional and national awareness of the infinite varieties—stylistic, geographic and ethnic—of American orchestral music. Since its founding in 1977, the Orchestra has programmed 400 works by 343 American composers, including 108 world premieres and 87 commissions, generating more new American symphonic works than any other orchestra. Recordings by ACO are available on ARGO, CRI, Point, MusicMasters, and New World Records.

Major support of the American Composers Orchestra is from Alliance Capital Management L.P., AT&T Foundation, Mr. Thomas Buckner, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Mr. Francis Goelet, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, JP Morgan & Co., and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund. This concert is also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional funding comes from Meet the Composer, Inc., with support from ASCAP, the Mary Flagler Cry Charitable Trust, JP Morgan & Co, and the Virgil Thompson Foundation.

Tickets for ACO’s Sunday, November 2, 1997 concert at Carnegie Hall are $40, $35, $20, $13 and $9 and are available through CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. The concert begins at 3 pm. A pre-concert talk with composers Frederic Rzewski, Robert DiDomenica, Ingram Marshall and ACO’s Artistic Advisor, Robert Beaser is free to ticket holders and begins 1:45 pm.

FOR TICKETS CALL CarnegieCharge: 212-247-7800

 

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