The pieces on this disc can hardly be said to be new. The most recent of them was written more than twenty years ago, and the oldest was conceived and begun before the middle of the last century! Nevertheless, as I contemplate them now, not having thought seriously about them until quite recently (I did re-edit Quartet No. 1 (1951) in January and February, 2004, in order to clean up some faulty notation), they somehow seem quite new to me. And they do seem to me to have much in common with my most recent music: recognizable thematic material, clearly articulated formal design, and harmonies based largely on contrapuntal procedures.
It may be of interest to consider the performance histories of the three works. String Quartet No. 2 (1981) was commissioned by the New York based Concertino String Quartet who gave the first performances of it February 24 and 27, 1982, at the Federal Hall National Memorial and the Theodore Roosevelt Birth-Place in New York City. As far as I know, it was performed only once more after that.
String Quartet No. 1 (1951) was written in Berkeley, California, and the first two movements were given a private reading in the fall of 1950 by the Griller String Quartet who were in residence at the University of California at that time. The second movement was publicly performed by a student quartet in Los Angeles in 1951. The first movement was performed at the University of Alabama by the Atlanta Symphony Quartet in 1959. The last movement had never been played until the present recording.
The Capriccio (1959) was performed by a student quartet at the Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 1959. It was originally intended as the first movement of a larger work, but I decided it was just what its present title suggests, a caprice.
Harold Schiffman (b. 1928; Greensboro, North Carolina) has composed in virtually all media. His commissions include those from such diverse groups as the Tallahassee Symphony, the International Trombone Association, the Apple Trio, the Concertino String Quartet, the Mallarme Chamber Players, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Music, as well as from a number of individuals including conductor Richard Burgin, flutist Albert Tipton, soprano Janice Harsanyi, pianist Jane Perry-Camp, and pianist/conductor Max Lifchitz (for North/South Consonance). The North Carolina Symphony and the ARTEA Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco, among others, have premi¸red his music. In January 1981, New York's Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, was the site of a twenty-five year retrospective of Mr. Schiffman's compositions, with the performance of both solo and chamber works there. Then in November 1992, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, honored him with an all-Schiffman concert of performances ranging from large ensemble to solo. North/South Consonance celebrated Schiffman's seventieth birthday with a 1998 New York performance of excerpts from Spectrum, My Ladye Jane's Booke and his seventy-fifth in 2003 with a program of his music in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. In June, 2000, Extravaganza (1998) for three pianos, twelve hands, was the featured work at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Focus on Piano Literature 2000. In addition to performances in the United States, Mr. Schiffman's music has been presented in Europe, Latin America, and the Far East. His publishers include Associated/G. Schirmer, New York; Robert King (Alphonse Leduc, Paris); Southern Music Co., San Antonio; Columbia Music Co., Chapel Hill; and Andres Editions, Tallahassee.
North/South Recordings (N/S R 1035), Alma, Prelude and Variations, Chamber Concerto No. 2, was released in March, 2004. The cantata, Alma (2002), was performed by mezzo soprano M‡ria Horv‡th, the Budafok Chamber Choir, and the Gyo««r Philharmonic Orchestra. The Hungarian Philharmonic performed Prelude and Variations (1970), and Jane Perry-Camp was the piano soloist with the Accord Wind Quintet and the Akademia String Quartet in the Chamber Concerto No. 2: In Memoriam Edward Kilenyi (2000). North/South Recordings (N/S R 1021), Harold Schiffman: Symphony & Concerti, was released in December, 1999. The disc contains the Gyo««r Philharmonic's performance of Symphony (1961) as well as Concerto for Oboe d'Amore and Strings (1988) with Julie Ann Giacobassi as soloist, and Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1982), Jane Perry-Camp, soloist, both with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra. The conductor for all six works was M‡ty‡s Antal. Earlier, Max Lifchitz's recording of Schiffman's Nine Piano Pieces (1975) and Six Bagatelles (1954) appeared on the debut issue of the North/South Recordings label (N/S R 1001). North/South Recordings (N/S R 1009) features Jane Perry-Camp's performance of Schiffman's Spectrum, My Ladye Jane's Booke: Eighteen Fugues and Postludes for Piano (1992). Schiffman's Sestetto Concertato (1993) was included on North/South Recordings (N/S R 1013) with Max Lifchitz, pianist, and the North/South Consonance Ensemble; and his Concertino for Oboe and Chamber Orchestra (1977) appears on North/South Recordings (N/S R 1037) with William Meredith, oboist, and Max Lifchitz conducting the North/South Chamber Orchestra. His Rhapsody for Guitar (1982) was recorded by guitarist Stephen Robinson on the compact disc The American Record, Centaur Records (CRC 2204). Other works have appeared in the United States on the Amoris Edition, CRS, Garnet, and Orion labels and in Japan on King, Ltd.
Mr. Schiffman received his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Florida State University, Tallahassee. His principal composition teacher was Roger Sessions with whom he studied at the University of California, as well as privately in Berkeley and again later in Princeton, New Jersey, following three years service (1951-54) in the U. S. Army. In Tallahassee, a further influential mentor was Ernst von Dohn‡nyi. Appointed to the faculty of the Florida State University School of Music in 1959, Harold Schiffman retired from the position of Professor of Composition in 1983 and was designated Professor Emeritus in 1985. He was founding director of the Florida State University Festival of New Music in 1981, and he presently serves as a member of the Music Advisory Board of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The Auer Quartet was founded by students from the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. Between 1991 and 1994 they attended masterclasses with the Amadeus Quartet in London. In 1991 they won first prize at the Franz Liszt Academy Competition and in the following year were awarded the second prize at the Viotti Chamber Music Competition in Vercelli, Italy.
In 1993 they won second prize at the Evian Competition together with the special prize awarded by the Jury of the Press as well as the prize for the best Mozart interpretation. In 1995 they participated in the distinguished RIAS series at the Philharmonie Hall in Berlin. In 1996 the Hungarian Musicians Association named them Best Ensemble of the Year. In 1997 the Quartet won first prize at the Seventh International String Quartet Competition in London, organized by Lord Yehudi Menuhin. They also received special awards and numerous concert engagements.
The Quartet has toured extensively throughout Europe, frequently participating in various festivals including the Edinburgh Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, Menton, Luberon, Montpellier, Stavanger, Sheffield, Bath, Kuhmo, and Orlando Festivals. They have worked with such artists as Zoltan Kocsis, Miklos Perenyi, Ruth Killius, Leila Josefowicz, and Paul Meyer.
In 1998 they gave three concerts at the Wigmore Hall, London, with Tam‡s V‡s‡ry and as a result, they were invited to give a solo recital there in May 1999. In July 1998, they toured Japan giving their debut concert at the Casals Hall in Tokyo. In 1999 they represented Hungary at the Europalia Festival, in Belgium, and in 2000 they also toured Australia. Future engagements include, amongst others, performances in Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.
The Quartet was awarded the Liszt Prize of the Hungarian State in 2000.