The merging of vintage and new musical practices is the unifying theme of this album. Appearing on record for the first time, these six inventive and listener-friendly compositions will impress and delight.
Harold Schiffman's appealing contrapuntal writing is built around melodic lines infused with a strong Appalachian flavor. Elizabeth Bell balances urban harmonic constructs with a well-defined sense of shape and direction. Edward Green's passionate lyricism reveals an ardent interest in film music and jazz while Federico Ermirio's pensive exploration of instrumental colors summons up impressionistic resonances. My work's slowly evolving narrative juxtaposes musical elements drawn from the distant and recent past.
Prior to being recorded, these works were introduced to the New York public through the concert series sponsored by North/South Consonance.
Alas, news of Elizabeth Bell's passing arrived while assembling these liner notes. A beloved friend, Betty's music was first performed during North/South Consonance's 1984-85 season. Subsequently, several of her works were featured in North/South concert programs and discs. This album pays tribute to her substantial musical accomplishments.
Great care was taken to preserve the integrity of the concert hall ambiance when this album was recorded and mastered. The natural resonance of the concert hall and the music's wide dynamic range were captured successfully. Please use a moderate volume setting when enjoying this disc.
New York; December 2017
ABOUT THE COMPOSERS
Harold Schiffman has been described by the international press as "a versatile composer whose talent is apparent in whatever idiom he chooses to express his very musical personality" as well as "a most distinguished composer whose well-crafted and communicative music repays repeated hearings."
Born in 1928 in Greensboro, North Carolina, Schiffman was educated 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, and 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 Dohnányi.
Appointed to the faculty of the Florida State University School of Music in 1959, 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. The University of North Carolina, Greensboro awarded him an honorary doctorate in letters in May 2016.
Schiffman has composed in virtually all media. His commissions include those from the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Concertino String Quartet, Apple Trio, Mallarmé Chamber Players, North/South Consonance, and the International Trombone Association among others. His music has been premièred by the North Carolina Symphony, and the ARTEA Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco. In October, 2008, the Gyor Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hungarian National Choir presented the European première of his cantata, Alma.
Schiffman writes: "Written especially for banjo virtuoso Ken Perlman during the summer months of 2009, the three-movements of my Banjo Concerto follow the traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. While the first and last movement are built around a ritornello or refrain, the affectionate middle movement employs an easy to detect A-B-A structure. Inspired by Appalachian melodies, the music offers the soloist ample opportunity for technical display while recalling Baroque-era lute music.
The Octet was completed on September 27, 2011, in Tallahassee, Florida. The three-movement work is scored for a mixed ensemble consisting of flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, two violins, viola, and violoncello. It is dedicated to Leah Jones, a very dear friend, and a sort of honorary granddaughter to my wife, Jane Perry-Camp, and me. The opening movement is based primarily on a single simple theme with only a minimum of contrast. It is cast in a strophic form consisting of three stanzas. The second movement is a rather mysterious, spooky nocturnal waltz featuring sequential harmonies. The final movement is a capricious dance using folk-like material, irregular phrases and imitative counterpoint, with frequent interplay of major and minor modes."
The performers heard on this recording premiered the Octet on February 13, 2013 and the Banjo Concerto on February 14, 2014.
The American Record Guide alluded to Elizabeth Bell as "one of our country's leading composers" while Fanfare Magazine described her as "a fine composer whose instrumental music is particularly striking." Her works for voice, solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra have been performed throughout the US and abroad.
One of the founders of New York Women Composers, Inc., Bell also worked as music critic for the Ithaca Journal in Upstate New York and served for five years on the Board of Governors of the American Composers Alliance.
A native of Cincinnati, OH, Bell (1928-2016) graduated from Wellesley College before attending The Juilliard School where she studied with Vittorio Giannini and Peter Mennin. Her large ensemble work Spectra – written in 1990 to mark North/South Consonance's 10th season – was awarded the Grand Prize in the 1996 Utah Composers' Guild Competition.
The preface to the score of the Concertino for Chamber Orchestra carries the following statement by the composer:
"In 1975 I was living in Ithaca, NY where my oldest son was first cellist in his high school orchestra. Naturally I attended all his concerts, maybe a few rehearsals — anyway I had gotten to know the conductor, Robert Spear — and one day he asked me to write a piece for the orchestra. I did, and my three movement Concerto for Orchestra was born.
Having trained as a pianist, I had no experience writing for a school orchestra. Obviously, what I wrote was beyond the skills of the average high school ensemble. The piece had two performances, both somewhat painful for me to hear. (My son had graduated by then, moved on to Oberlin). So, I buried the piece in the back of some drawer and forgot about it.
During the spring of 2014, Max Lifchitz came to my studio for a visit and discovered it. He was looking to program a work of mine in the upcoming North/South season and suggested that it be re-scored for a chamber ensemble consisting of winds, strings and piano. While I was energized about this possibility I made clear I already had too much on my plate and that I wasn't sure I could find the time to do it on such short notice. Astonishingly, he offered to transcribe the work. I have trouble explaining how good it felt to have someone make such a sacrifice of time and talent for me and my music.
The work in its new incarnation was premiered by the musicians heard on this recording on October 12, 2014. I was pleasantly surprised and honored that both the performers and the enthusiastic audience attending the event thought the music was worth the effort."
A life-long New Yorker, Edward Green (b. 1951) has taught composition and music history at the Manhattan School of Music since 1984. A widely-published musicologist, and the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington, Dr. Green served for several years as a Fulbright Senior Specialist (CIES) in the field of American Music. Since 1980 he has been on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and is also Composer-in-Residence for the Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company.
His music has been performed by orchestras across the United States as well as in several countries overseas – including Russia, Australia, the Czech Republic, Argentina and England. His many awards include first place in the 1995 International Kodaly Composers Competition and a 2004 Music Alive! grant, jointly sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer. In 2009, the recording of his Piano Concerto featuring Helen Lin and the North/South Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Max Lifchitz was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Contemporary Classical Composition" category.
Green kindly provided the following commentary on his work:
"The Concerto for Clarinet (in A) and Strings is a development and a refinement of an earlier concerto for alto saxophone and strings written in 2004 at the request of Dale Underwood and the Minnesota Sinfonia. As I worked on this music, I had in mind a principle of Aesthetic Realism, stated by the philosopher Eli Siegel: The resolution of conflict in self is like the making one of opposites in art. "
The two movements of this concerto are, on the surface, strikingly different—in mood, tempo, texture, tonality — yet they arise from the same thematic material. The first movement, in the key of G, is slow, expansive, and in terms of emotion, it accents yearning: even the uncertainty and pain of yearning. The second, in the key of F, in sharp contrast, accents humor and carefree, rough-hewn high spirits! As the concerto progresses, my purpose was to have these ever-so-contradictory emotions join; and, ultimately, to become one—joyfully one."
The work was first performed by the musicians featured on this recording on March 8, 2010 as part of North/South Consonance's 30th anniversary concert at Merkin Hall. Steve Smith's review of the event for The New York Times commented that the work "opened with a relaxed lyricism reminiscent of Hollywood's take on Copland's music. Wistful motifs never overstayed their welcome; indeed, you often wished one or another idea would linger to bloom fully. A suave, peppy second part eventually bustled its way back to the first movement's relaxation. Arthur Campbell was the eloquent soloist, sounding especially strong in his rich lower register."
Federico Ermirio (b. 1950; Genova, Italy) served as Director of the Antonio Vivaldi Conservatory in Alessandria for over twenty years. After training in composition with Godofredo Petrassi and Sergio Lauricella he attended the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna where he studied conducting with Daniele Paris and Ottmar Suitner. His works have garnered prizes in numerous international competitions and have been performed throughout Europe, Latin America and the US. They are published by among others, Berben, ISMA, Rivo Alto, Sonzogno, Pro Studium, Tirreno G.E., Edipan and Tau Kay. Ermirio has served as Artistic Director of the. Pittaluga International Composers Competition and the Sibelius Festival held at the Golfo del Tigullio in the Riviera.
Ermirio states that "the music of Landscapes of a Soul aims to evoke splintered visions and memories through sound. Written as homage to the late American composer and conductor Lukas Foss, the composition consists of ten interrelated, quasi-rhapsodic swathes built around the straight-forward melodic and harmonic materials heard at the opening. Although orchestral in nature, the composer hopes the music maintains the intimate halo associated with chamber music."
The work was first performed by the musicians featured on this recording on January 4, 2011.
Active as composer, pianist and conductor, Max Lifchitz began his musical education in his native Mexico City under the tutelage of the Spanish composer Rodolfo Halffter. After moving to New York City in 1966 he attended The Juilliard School and Harvard University where his mentors included Luciano Berio, Leon Kirchner, Bruno Maderna and Darius Milhaud. His creative endeavors have been supported by grants and fellowships from the ASCAP, Ford; and Guggenheim Foundations; Meet the Composer, Inc.; The University of Michigan Society of Fellows; the CAPS and Individual Artists Programs of the New York State Council for the Arts; and the National Endowment for the Arts.
He was awarded first prize in the 1976 International Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Twentieth Century Music held in Holland. Robert Commanday, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle described him as "a young composer of brilliant imagination and a stunning, ultra-sensitive pianist." The New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn praised Mr. Lifchitz for his "clean, measured and sensitive performances" while Anthony Tommasini remarked that he "conducted a strong performance." Payton MacDonald writing for the American Record Guide remarked "Mr. Lifchitz is as good on the podium as he is behind the piano."
"Night Voices No. 16 is a concerto in one movement for clarinet, strings and percussion. The clarinet leads the musical discourse through its complex and demanding solo passages. Nonetheless, the ensemble gradually gains in prominence as the work progresses, eventually achieving parity with the soloist. At the work's conclusion, the soloist and ensemble reach a point of equilibrium interacting and exchanging previously heard musical elements.
The writing provides ample opportunity for technical display while taking advantage of the timbric and registral qualities inherent in the instruments comprising the ensemble. The melodic and harmonic language juxtaposes triadic and non-triadic musical gestures. The solo part demands the utmost in virtuosity from the performer exploring the outer limits of the clarinet range and employing novel techniques such as flutter-tonguing and singing while playing.
Completed at the end of January 2010, the composition is dedicated to the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. It was first performed by the musicians featured on this recording on March 8, 2010 as part of North/South Consonance's 30th anniversary concert at Merkin Hall."
Steve Smith's New York Times review of the event observed that "….in Mr. Lifchitz's work clarinetist Arthur Campbell was more clearly the focus. Unaccompanied for long stretches, his clarinet sang, purred and growled ornate soliloquies during the fitful work, as strings murmured and a percussionist punctuated the flow."
MEET THE PERFORMERS
Hailed as "the Heifetz of the Banjo" Ken Perlman is the acknowledged master of the five-string banjo style known as melodic clawhammer. Acclaimed folk-music teacher and award-winning folklorist, Perlman's pioneering claw-hammer style picking helps spotlight the power and expressiveness of the wide range of music he performs. The Glasgow Herald (UK) noted: "Perlman can make his instrument do more or less anything he wants it to."
Perlman has toured across North America, Great Britain, Ireland, Western Europe and Australia. He has authored widely respected banjo and guitar instruction books and has been on staff at prestigious teaching festivals around the world. He can be heard on more than ten highly praised compact discs. The University of Tennessee Press recently published to wide acclaim his book Couldn't Have a Wedding Without the Fiddler: The Story of Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island."
Canadian-American clarinetist Arthur Campbell's performances have won acclaim in the world's preeminent classical music publications and critics' choice awards in Germany, Luxembourg, France, and Spain. Praised by Fanfare Magazine for his "exquisite playing" and described by the American Record Guide as a "terrific player," Campbell is recognized both as a leading champion of contemporary repertoire and for his masterful performances of the standard canon.
An International Classical Music Awards Nominee, Campbell's classical recordings are with Audite – ICMA's 2013 record label of the year. He has recorded new works for Everglade, Centaur, Gasparo, the ICA Recording Project, SEAMUS, and now, with the North/South Chamber Orchestra.
Also in great demand as a teacher, Campbell has presented master classes at top pedagogical institutions literally throughout the world. An Artist Faculty and Professor of Music at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, he holds the distinction of being one of only three people ever to have completed a doctoral degree as a student of renowned clarinetist and pedagogue Robert Marcellus at Northwestern University.
Italian bass clarinetist Rocco Parisi trained in Holland and at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena before earning top prizes in various European competitions. He has appeared as soloist throughout Italy as well as Germany, France, Portugal, Turkey, Spain, China, Great Britain, Switzerland, Mexico and the US.
Recognized as a talented interpreter of contemporary music and as an innovator of new techniques for the bass clarinet, Parisi has collaborated with many living composers including Ennio Morricone and Sylvano Bussotti. The late Luciano Berio invited him to premiere the Sequenza IXc for bass clarinet and to perform the Italian premiere of Chemins IIc for bass clarinet and orchestra. A professor of clarinet at the Antonio Vivaldi Conservatory in Alessandra, Parisi has recorded for the Taukay, Stradivarius, Nuova Era, Music Media, AOC Classic – Edizioni Leonardi, Concerto Music-Media, Amadeus, Brilliant Classic.
The North/South Chamber Orchestra
Described by the New York Times as a "high quality ensemble" and by the Village Voice as "New York's lifeline to the rest of the country" the North/South Chamber Orchestra inaugurated its regular concert series in 1980 at the visually appealing and acoustically superior setting of Christ and St. Stephen's Church on Manhattan's West Side.