EarShot: Colorado Symphony Orchestra New Music Readings

Colorado Symphony New Music Readings
July 16-17, 2009

Boettcher Concert Hall

EarShot, the newly launched National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) held their first New Music Readings on Thursday, July 16 and Friday July 17, 2009, at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, CO. Four composers, selected from a national call for scores that yielded 180 scores, heard their works read by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra conducted by Delta David Gier and Fergus Macleod, who is a conducting fellow at Aspen Music Festival this summer. Advice from a team of mentor composers comprising American Composers Orchestra’s (ACO) Artistic Director Robert Beaser, Derek Bermel, and Roberto Sierra, along with feedback from Gier, Macleod, and CSO musicians, and workshops by music industry experts provided an outstanding artistic and professional-development opportunity for emerging composers. The Readings also offered a first-class way for emerging composers to gain visibility in the field of orchestral music and for audiences to hear music by the next generation of innovative American composers. The four composers were Yotam Haber, Angel Lam, Jeremy Podgursky, and Tim Sullivan. The region’s only full-time professional orchestra, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra embraces a tradition of musical excellence by presenting a wide variety of symphonic performances—from classical repertoire to innovative new forms—in Boettcher Concert Hall. Established in 1989 as the successor to the Denver Symphony, the CSO is Colorado’s only resident orchestra composed of professional musicians employed to play symphonic music on a full-time basis. In April 2004, the CSO appointed Jeffrey Kahane, music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and music director laureate of the Santa Rosa Symphony, as the ninth music director in the 82-year history of the Denver and Colorado Symphony Orchestras.

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra’s New Music Readings are a part of EarShot: The nationwide network of new music readings and related composer-development programs. The goals of the program are to create the nation’s first ongoing systematic program for identifying emerging orchestral composers, to provide professional-level working experience with orchestras from every region of the country, and to increase awareness of these composers and access to their music throughout the industry. EarShot is a partnership among American Composers Orchestra, American Composers Forum, American Music Center, the League of American Orchestras, and Meet The Composer.

As part of the effort to increase awareness of these emerging composers, EarShot invited them to participate in ACO’s SoundAdvice blog and other online social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. To provide a variety of perspectives on the Readings, other personnel involved also be contributed to the blog. To read first-hand about the experience, visit the blog or use Twitter by searching on the tag #ESCOread and follow ACO @AmerCompOrch.

Yotam Haber: Forward Ornament

Yotam Haber, 32, was born in Holland and is a citizen of Israel and the U.S. After attending Indiana University, studying with Eugene O’Brien and Claude Baker, he completed a doctorate in composition at Cornell University in 2004, studying with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky. He has been awarded two ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards and also won the second bi-annual ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize for the wind ensemble work Espresso, which was performed at Carnegie Hall and consequently recorded for release in the fall of 2005.

He has been a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, studying with George Benjamin and Osvaldo Golijov; the Aspen Music Festival, studying with Christopher Rouse and Nicholas Maw; and has been in residence at the Aaron Copland House, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and MacDowell Colony. His music has been performed in prestigious halls throughout Germany, Italy, Ireland, Holland, and across the U.S. Haber resides in New York City and is a 2005 Guggenheim Fellow. He was a 2007-08 Rome Prize Fellow in Music at the American Academy in Rome where he researched the music of the Jewish community of Rome as well as collaborating in Berlin with Bulgarian-American artist Daniel Bozhkov on the 30th anniversary of the first German in space; in Holland with Dutch artist Maria Barnas on a Stendhal Syndrome project; and in Switzerland with architect Peter Zumthor on two works to be premiered in 2009 in a newly designed chapel.

Forward Ornament is a fast, sleek, short burst of energy that explores, fights, dissolves, and re-forms Baroque notions of symmetry, clarity, harmony, ornamentation, and line. Its inspiration comes from the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures of Italo Calvino. With this work, the composer began a series of pieces that meditate on the six characteristics that Calvino prized and valued above all others: lightness, quickness, visibility, exactitude, multiplicity, and (the unfinished) consistency. Ornaments—those rapid musical flourishes that are not really necessary but serve to decorate a melody, harmony, or line—take center stage in this piece. Like the singing of birds, these musical crystals are ornate, yet clear, clean, and light.

Lam_AngelAngel Lam: In Search of Seasons

Angel Lam, 30, grew up in Hong Kong and Los Angeles and is a doctoral candidate at Peabody Conservatory and an artist diploma candidate at Yale University. She is a two-time winner of the Carnegie Hall emerging composer commission, working one year with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, and another year with Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw. These two collaborations, together with the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, culminated in two Carnegie Hall premieres. Most recently, her composition Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain was performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble on an international tour and recorded by the same ensemble on the Sony/BMG CD “New Impossibilities.”

Her upcoming collaborations include commissions from Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Yale Cellos, Hong Kong Arts Festival 2010, and a cello and orchestra composition written for Yo-Yo Ma to premiere this fall with the Atlanta Symphony in Atlanta and at Carnegie Hall. Lam has received five ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, two National Association Composers of U.S.A. Young Composer Awards, First Prize in Millennium Music Competition for Woodwind Quintet Composition awarded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, and Audience Prize for Best Composition at the Seoul International Competition for Composers, among others.

The composer says of In Search of Seasons, “As we grow older, we start to associate seasons with people that we once knew, events in the past, and most of all, memories. As time goes by, we start to lose track of the seasons passing by us, and we forget the magic of seasonal changes, how ravishing it was to experience the first warm fragrance of spring from a deep, contemplative winter, the pulsating liveliness of summer, the soft caress of southern tropical winds on our bare skin, the resistance of autumn’s arrival in summer’s presence, and the dance of golden and scarlet leaves in November, its wind replete with memories of the past. Seasonal changes mark the passing of time—to witness the majesty of seasons on our own is not enough; we have a need to share it with someone, to witness together the beauty and glory in each other’s life. — Have you found your favorite season yet?”

Jeremy Podgursky: our bliss, it comes in waves

Jeremy Podgursky, 33, received a B.M. in music composition/piano from the University of Louisville, studying privately with Fred Speck, Marc Satterwhite, and Steve Rouse. In 2007, he completed the Grawemeyer Fellowship in music composition (M.M.) at the University of Louisville under the guidance of Steve Rouse and John Gibson. In August 2009, he will begin a Jacobs School of Music Doctoral Fellowship (D.M.) at Indiana University. Upon completion of his master of music degree, he taught music theory/aural skills and private composition lessons at the University of Louisville.

His teaching experience sparked an interest in pre-collegiate composition instruction, which led to teaching after-school composition programs in Louisville-area public high schools. His music has been featured in venues and festivals in the United States, the Netherlands and Japan. He has received performances by professional groups such as the Arsenal Trio, Lost Dog Ensemble, Juventas! New Music Ensemble, cellist Dana Winograd, and the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra. Recent awards include first-place winner of the 2007 National SCI/ASCAP commissioning award and honorable mention in the 2008 Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute. He is also the founder/singer/songwriter/guitarist for the psychedelic/indie rock band The Pennies, who have entertained audiences all over the country and in Europe.

our bliss, it comes in waves is his first full-length piece for orchestra. In describing the work, the composer says that it “explores contrasting musical and thematic elements in hopes of peacefully achieving a sense of compromise. Conceptually and aesthetically, I found myself reconciling disparate qualities such as liquid vs. solid, diffused vs. concentrated, transparent vs. translucent (and/or opaque), exposed vs. obscured, rigid vs. flexible, primal (body) vs. transcendental (spirit), and diatonic harmony vs. pentatonic harmony.”

Tim Sullivan: Polychrome

Tim SullivanTim Sullivan, 37, holds a Ph.D. in Composition and Music Theory from the University of Michigan, a dual M.M. in Music History and Music Theory/Composition from the University of Northern Colorado, and also a B.M. in Music Theory and Composition from UNC. He has studied composition with Bright Sheng, William Bolcom, Betsy Jolas, and Karen Tanaka. Additional lessons and master classes have included Georges Aperghis, Toshio Hosokawa, Dieter Mack, Helmut Lachenmann, and Beat Furrer.

His compositions have received performances via American Opera Projects, 2008 NASA conference, Etcetera Festival of New Music, World Saxophone Congress XIII, 2004 Society of Composers National Student Conference, and the University of Nebraska New Music Festival. He has received awards from ASCAP and Downbeat magazine, and two of his works for saxophone are published by Dorn Publications, Inc. Sullivan is the co-founder of the Re-source Ensemble, a composer’s collective based in Ann Arbor, MI. He was also the co-founder and director of the Colorado Contemporary Music Consort, as well as filling the role of conductor and percussionist for the group from 1997 to 2002. Also an accomplished jazz drummer, he has several recordings as a member of the Boulder Creative Music Ensemble and has performed with Ron Miles at jazz festivals throughout the U.S.

In talking about his piece, the composer explained, “Polychrome literally means ‘being of many or various colors’ —in this work, I wanted to explore this idea in a dramatic context. The ‘colors’ of the work are bold and bright and often come together in explosive combinations. In a formal sense, I fashioned the work out of shifting blocks of music. The first half of Polychrome features the alternation of two contrasting colors, the first is dazzling and bright, while the second is coarse and dark. With each return, the ‘color’ of the music is shaded differently, like it is being viewed through a prism. After one final flash of brilliance, a shrieking chord in the woodwinds and strings signifies the beginning of the second half of the work. There are two ‘primary’ colors in this section as well: bold, dramatic chords, which gradually migrate from the woodwinds to the whole orchestra; and a softer hue introduced by the lyrical oboe solo and hushed string chords. Gradually, these colors are brought together, and the climax of the work occurs where the roles become reversed – the music of the oboe solo is exploded into cacophonous bursts of woodwinds and strings, and the whole orchestra collapses onto a single note. After these incredibly violent collisions, the music fades away into slow, sustained echoes of earlier sounds.”

Delta David Gier, conductor

Delta David GierDelta David Gier has been called a dynamic voice on the American music scene, recognized widely for his penetrating interpretations of the standard repertoire and his passionate commitment to new music. In summer 2000 he conducted the New York Philharmonic in what were described as “splendid performances … exploiting the subtlety of the timbrel combinations and expressive devices with a zeal not usually found.” Gier came to national attention in 1997 while conducting a tour of Carmen for San Francisco Opera’s Western Opera Theater. For the past six seasons, Mr. Gier has served as an assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic and recently for the Metropolitan Opera as well.

As a Fulbright Scholar (1988-90) Gier led critically acclaimed performances with many orchestras of Eastern Europe. He was invited to the former Czechoslovakia to conduct Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its premiere. Gier took this opportunity to introduce Eastern European audiences to many American masterworks, such as Barber’s Violin Concerto with the Presidential Symphony of Ankara, and Copland’s Appalachian Spring with the Bucharest Philharmonic.

Gier earned a Master of Music degree in conducting from The University of Michigan under Gustav Meier. As a student at Tanglewood and Aspen he studied also with Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Masur, Erich Leinsdorf, and Seiji Ozawa, and was later invited by Riccardo Muti to spend a year as an apprentice at the Philadelphia Orchestra. At the invitation of the League of American Orchestras he participated in their National Conductor Preview, a highly selective showcase for young conductors. Mr. Gier has been increasingly in demand as a teacher and conductor in many highly regarded music schools. Within the last two years he has served as a visiting professor at the Yale School of Music, the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, the San Francisco Conservatory, and SUNY Stony Brook.

Fergus Macleod, conductor

Fergus Macleod is currently a student at Cambridge, where he conducts the Cambridge University Music Society in the major symphonic repertoire, in addition to his role as Music Director of the new and cutting-edge contemporary Ensemble CB3, with whom he gave several world premieres at the West Road Concert Hall and other venues around Cambridge.

Macleod has also conducted the National Youth Orchestra Sinfonietta and, earlier this year, his first opera, Handel’s Xerxes, for the newly formed Fitzwilliam Chamber Opera company, with two performances in Cambridge and two at the Theatre Royal in Bury St. Edmunds. In August 2008 he was selected as one of only three conductors to work with Pierre Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy. He has also led performances at St. John’s Smith Square in London, the CBSO Centre and the Royal Northern College of Music, and, for the past two summers, the Consonance Players at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.