EarShot: Nashville Symphony Orchestra New Music Readings

Nashville Symphony New Music Readings
April 7-8, 2010
Schermerhorn Symphony Center

photo credit: Harry Butler

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 7–8, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., EarShot, the National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network, and Nashville Symphony Orchestra (NSO) presented the Nashville Symphony Orchestra New Music Readings. Four composers, selected from a national call for scores, heard their works read and received feedback from NSO music director Giancarlo Guerrero, mentor composers Jennifer Higdon and Edgar Meyer, and Nashville Symphony Orchestra principal musicians. The four composers, selected by Mr. Guerrero, Ms. Higdon, and Mr. Meyer, are Chiayu Hsu, Ryan Gallagher, Michael Rickelton, and Daniel Temkin.

Led by Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero and President and CEO Alan D. Valentine, the Nashville Symphony is today regarded as one of the nation’s most creative and innovative orchestras. With more than 140 performances annually, the Nashville Symphony is Tennessee’s preeminent cultural institution, offering a range of classical, pops, and jazz concerts; special events; children’s concerts; and education and community engagement programs. One of the most active recording orchestras in America, the Nashville Symphony has released a plethora of highly regarded recordings since its relationship with Naxos began in 2000. A champion of American music, the orchestra regularly commissions, premieres and records work by many of this country’s most important composers. The Symphony’s recent Naxos recording of Joan Tower’s Made in America received three GRAMMY® Awards, including Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance. That recording was the orchestra’s first at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, known worldwide for its world-class acoustics.

The Nashville 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. Through EarShot, 24 composers so far have been selected for programs with the New York Youth Symphony, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. On April 16-17, 2010, EarShot and the Pioneer Valley Symphony (MA) will also present new music readings; composer participants to be announced.

Chiayu Hsu: Shan Ko

Chiayu Hsu was born in Banciao, Taiwan in 1975. She was the winner of music+culture 2009 International Competition for Composers, the Sorel Organization’s 2nd International Composition Competition, the 7th USA International Harp Composition Competition, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Awards, the Maxfield Parrish Composition Contest, the Renée B. Fisher Foundation Composer Awards among others. Her work has been performed by Detroit Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Toledo Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Aspen Music Festival Contemporary Ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, and Prism Quartet. Prior to entering Duke University, she studied at Yale University School of Music and the Curtis Institute of Music. Her teachers have included Jennifer Higdon, David Loeb, Roberto Sierra, Ezra Laderman, Martin Bresnick, Anthony Kelley, Scott Lindroth, and Stephen Jaffe.

Shan Ko employs material derived from Hakka music [the Hakka are an ethnic group of Chinese who live in Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi Provinces]. There are various types of Hakka mountain songs, with an abundance of lyrical content. The type of song associated with Shan Ko is called Lao-shan-ko (old mountain songs), which are among the oldest and simplest of Hakka folksong-types. Lao-shan-ko is the name of one such tune, which is referenced in the work. The composer says, “I am particularly drawn by its use of the minor triad and the libre feeling of the original tune. As a result, many minor triads juxtaposing with the predominantly pentatonic harmony are deployed to explore various timbres between different instrumental groups in the piece. Many times, the melodic fragments are stretched and heavily decorated. Sometimes the echoes of those fragments are produced between instruments. It is the spirit of freedom and spacious acoustics in the mountains that I have tried capture.”

Ryan Gallagher: Grindhouse

Ryan Gallagher (b. 1984) is in his third year of graduate studies at Cornell University, where his teachers include Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in 2007, where he studied with Christopher Rouse. A native of Wooster, Ohio, he studied composition with his father, Jack Gallagher of The College of Wooster during high school.

Awards include a 2009 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a First Music commission from the New York Youth Symphony in 2008, four ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Awards, winner of the 2007 Arthur Friedman Prize for outstanding orchestral composition at Juilliard, and winner of the 2006 New York Federation of Music Club’s Brian Israel Prize. His music has been performed by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, The Juilliard Orchestra, eighth blackbird, New York Youth Symphony, New Juilliard Ensemble, and Society for New Music.

Grindhouse refers to the term for a movie theater that specializes in showing exploitation films,” Gallagher explains. “While the piece shares its title with the recent motion picture directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, it is not related to the plot of that film in any way. I did, however, hope to effect during my work a similar sense of mental and emotional anxiety, as well as over-the-top energy, experienced while watching films found in the exploitation genre. My goal was to compose a piece that exaggerated the different extremes of an orchestra, including the registers of instruments, rhythmic durations, and dynamic ranges. As a result, the work presents substantial challenges to the performers in terms of stamina. It is a sort of miniature concerto for orchestra, featuring every instrument and/or section of the ensemble at least once during the course of the piece.”

Michael Rickelton: And After the Dark

Michael Rickelton (b.1983), a native of Charlotte, NC, earned a Bachelor of Music degree in music education from Lipscomb University where he studied composition with Jerome Reed. In the summer of 2005, Michael attended the European American Musical Alliance program at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, France, studying with Claude Baker and Narcis Bonet. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he is a student of Michael Hersch. In addition to his work as a composer, he remains active as a singer. He currently resides in Baltimore, MD, with his wife, Emily.

Composed in the fall of 2007, And After the Dark depicts feelings of rage juxtaposed with periods of contentment, elements of frustration relieved by triumph, the calming of the convulsive, and darkness succumbing to clarity. The composer’s goal in this work is to connect these disparities on levels including the artistic, intellectual, and spiritual. And After the Dark explores the interaction among multiple varying figures presented throughout the orchestra. The piece focuses on three distinctly contrasting motives that provide the foundation for the work’s harmonic, rhythmic, and textural development. These three figures, a rising minor third, a sextuplet comprising the pattern of four consecutive pitches followed by a rest and falling second, and a contrasting lyrical melody all take on independent roles that aid in the contrast of each motive’s character. In And After the Dark, the individual qualities of each figure are linked to create a sound world rich in diverse character and color. The intended result is a work that hinges on the relationships of the contrasting; both evidently presented in the music and the allusive.

Daniel Temkin: Regenerations

Daniel Temkin (b. 1986) is currently a graduate fellow at the New England Conservatory. His music has been performed in Alice Tully Hall, and many of his works have been performed professionally across the U.S. In 2010, he will have pieces premiered by the UNLV Brass Ensemble and the Rutgers Symphony Orchestra. He is a Theodore Presser Scholar and the recipient of a 2009 ASCAPLUS! Award.

Originally a percussionist, Temkin has performed on numerous occasions with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble and the Mostly Mozart Festival’s Riverside Choral Society. He has played chamber music with Sarah Chang and Orli Shaham, and worked under David Zinman, James Conlon, and Leonard Slatkin. An alumnus of the Eastern, Brevard, and Aspen Music Festivals, Daniel studied percussion with She-e Wu, Chris Deviney, and Jonathan Haas. He has studied composition with Michael Gandolfi, Charles Fussell, Kevin Puts, Robert Aldridge, and Sydney Hodkinson.

Temkin describes Regenerations as “a colorful work for full symphonic orchestra in which a simple five-note motive becomes the basis for nine contrasting variations. Throughout the piece, the musical elements stated in the first variation are continually intertwined and developed to create an evolving sonic tapestry. In the midst of this regenerating musical material listeners are exposed to many different textures. At the opening long brass lines are placed upon gentle string chords, while in other sections wind chorales and canonic lines slowly build to form rich polyphonic textures. In the most energized moments long singing lines in the woodwinds and brass are placed on top of rapid pulsations in the strings, while the harp, piano, and a large percussion section are continually utilized to augment the orchestra’s colors.

“Overall the work slowly evolves, winding in and out of various musical regions and exploring different areas of harmonic stability and musical tension. Only at the very end of the piece do the musical ideas finally come into full counterpoint with one another, at which point the evolution of the regenerating motives stops and the piece builds to a final, triumphant, tutti ending.”

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor

2009-10 marks Giancarlo Guerrero’s first season as music director of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. A champion of new music, Guerrero has collaborated with and championed the music of several of America’s most respected composers, including John Adams, John Corigliano, Osvaldo Golijov, Jennifer Higdon, Michael Daugherty, and Roberto Sierra. A new CD on Naxos of music by Michael Daugherty, with the Nashville Symphony, was released in September 2009.

As a guest conductor, Guerrero recently made two debuts abroad: his European debut with the Gulbenkian Orchestra, where he was immediately invited to return, and his UK debut with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He has also recently made successful debuts with several major American orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra (where he was invited back for a subscription week and tour), the Seattle Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra. Other recent orchestral engagements in the U.S. include appearances with the orchestras of Columbus, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Phoenix, San Antonio, and San Diego; the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., and at the Grant Park Festival.

Also in demand in Central and South America, Guerrero conducts regularly in Venezuela with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, with which he has had a special relationship for many years. His debut at the Casals Festival with Yo-Yo Ma and the Puerto Rico Symphony in 2005 was followed by return engagements in 2006 and 2007. He also made his debut at the Teatro Colón in Argentina in 2005. Elsewhere he is a regular guest conductor of the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand.

Equally at home with opera, Guerrero works regularly with the Costa Rican Lyric Opera and in recent seasons has conducted new productions of Carmen, La bohème and most recently a new production of Rigoletto. In February 2008, he gave the Australian premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s one-act opera Ainadamar at the Adelaide Festival, to great acclaim.

In June 2004, Guerrero was awarded the Helen M. Thompson Award by the American Symphony Orchestra League, which recognizes outstanding achievement among young conductors nationwide. Guerrero holds degrees from Baylor and Northwestern universities. He was most recently the Music Director of the Eugene Symphony. From 1999 to 2004, Mr. Guerrero served as associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra. He made his Minnesota Orchestra subscription debut in March 2000, leading the world premiere of John Corigliano’s Phantasmagoria on the Ghosts of Versailles. He returned on subscription every subsequent season during his time there. Prior to his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra, he served as music director of the Táchira Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela.

EarShot is made possible with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.