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American Music for Chamber Ensemble
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American Music for Chamber Ensemble

North/South Consonance Ensemble

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MAX LIFCHITZ (b. 1948, Mexico City) studied with Luciano Berio, Leon Kirchner, Bruno Madema, and Danus Milhaud. He has three degrees in composition—two from The Juilliard School and one from Harvard University, has been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, composer in residence at both Wolftrap and KPFK-FM (Los Angeles), and a participant in the composition programs at the Berkshire Music Center and Aspen. His conducting studies were with Dennis Russell Davies, Sixten Ehrling, Leopold Hager, and Maurice Peress. As a pianist he won first prize in the 1976 Gaudeamus Competition for Performers of Contemporary Music in Rotterdam. He has been on the faculties of the Manhattan School of Music, Columbia University and, since 1986, the State University of New York/Albany.

Most of the leading North American ensembles, both orchestral and chamber, have performed his music. Funding for his compositions has come from ASCAP, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, The Ford Foundation, The J.S. Guggenheim Foundation, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the CAPS Program of New York State, and the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. His recordings appear on CRI, Finnadar, New World, Opus One, Philips, RCA Victor, and Classic Masters.

b>Night Voices #8
Night Voices #8 is a concerto for marimba and chamber ensemble. Finished in December 1986, its premiere took place on 20 January 1987. The dedicatee, Tracie Lozano Howard, was soloist with North/South Consonance.

The work is in a single movement comprising four sections: an opening marimba solo sets forth motifs heard throughout the work; marimba, cello, and double bass converse; ensemble and marimba exchange increasingly involved fragments of dialogue culminating in an extensive cadenza for the solo instrument; the full ensemble returns to comment on the motifs heard eerier, then the marimba part tapersoffintoawhimsicalenostalgiclookatthemosttouchingmomentsofthework, and the piece ends.

Small details and pauses ornament Night Voices #8 from start to double bars, yet a constant, underlying forward pulse persists. The effect of counterpoint results from the superimposition of different layers of melody and rhythm. The countless marimba ensembles heard throughout Mexico and Central America, says the composer, have inspired the fragmented marimba statements framing each section of the work.
JOHAN FRANCO (1908, Zacodam, Netherlands- 1988, Virginia Beach, VA) studied at the Conservatory of Amsterdam with Willem Pijper and emigrated to the US in 1936. He wrote five symphonies— in the period from 1933 to 1958—and a pew concerted works. A large output of solo and chamber compositions is his major musical testament.

He was enormously proud of his nearly two hundred works for and with the beiaard, the two-and-some octave carillon. Through these works, which include the cantata "As the prophets foretold," for soli, chorus, brass, and carillon (on CRI LP SD 333), he found reaffirmation of his Netherlands heritage. The instrument is difficult to play, as it uses stout wooden staves set up in oversize imitation of a keyboard and organ-pedal pull-downs to operate heavy metal clappers striking bronze bells high above the player''''''''s head. However, as the composer noted shortly before his death, it is a far more common instrument in North America than most music lovers suspect and Franco was eager to promote its popularity.

The Songs of the Spirit
The Songs of the Spirit are settings of six excerpts from The Master Key, by Christina, setting forth "the clear spiritual way—surrender of the self and spiritual openness for the heightening of pure spiritual consciousness". The music implies the reward that ensues when one follows the Way of the Spirit proclaimed in these ecstatic poems. The composer states that his idiom flows from the text naturally, culminating in a vocalise on "Ah!" at the end of the sixth song, Lo, the Glory.

I. The eye of mine eye like to infinite foci awake in the Infinite ONE. The ear of mine ear like to infinite listings abroad in the All of Being

II. Oh,sing,beloved sing thy song Oh,sing thy song of love divine. Oh,sing thy song thy holy song thy joyful song shine only song. Oh, sing oh, sing oh, sing thy song Oh, sing thy song oh, sing oh, sing . . .

III. Oh Joy of Joys, that lifteth me on High, that sealeth me upon the pinnacle, that girdeth me with Power, that filleth me with Beauty, that exerciseth me with cries of great Delight that giveth me of Ecstasy into the Infinite, that maketh me an Holiness the like of which is All. Oh, Strength of my desiring, oh Vision to mine eyes, oh, Truth sublime and present oh Perfect ONE, oh Perfect ONE, Perfect ONE . . .

IV. Come, beloved, take thy place among the blest, among the pure anointed, where Days of Heaven, perfect sweet and copious, possess thy soul. Here, beloved, Here is Heaven, where the earnest of thine own containing meets the realm of Being

V. Oh, Treasure of my keeping Fount of Life. Oh, Feast unto my soul''''''''s content, White Ardour of the ONE unto its own abiding Spirit

VI. Lo, the Glory, Lo, the Glory, Lo, the Glory—Ah

Twelve Preludes
Franco dedicated his Twelve Preludes for Piano to the famous blind American pianist George Bennette. They are firmly in the tradition of sets of piano preludes. Every aspect of the instrument''''''''s sonority and player''''''''s expressive ability is put to the test, with moods ranging from the rhetorical to the extremely demanding.

J0SEF ALEXANDER (b. 1907, Boston) graduated with honors from the New England Conservatory of Music then Harvard University cum laude. He pursued composition studies with Walter Piston and orchestration with Edward Burlingame Hill. He won the John Knowles Paine Travelling Fellowship, which enabled him to study in France with Nadia Boulanger. A Fulbright Fellowship took him to Finland as a composer in residence, conductor, and lecturer in Helsinki.

Since 1943, he has been on the faculty of Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He composes for nearly all instrumental combinations but has devoted special attention to orchestral scores. Large and small orchestras have presented his works. Recordings of his music appear on CRI, Music Masters, Orion, RCA, Serenus, and Classic Masters.

Of Masks and Mirrors
Of Masks and Mirrors has an unusual instrumentation that takes advantage of the soprano saxophone''''''''s timbre, unique within its family of instruments, by interweaving it with cello and piano abetted by an unusual grab-bag of percussion. Though it is possible to present the work with just one extremely busy percussionist, the composer recommends two; it is this latter way in which we have recorded the work (The percussion battery comprises timpani, bongos, drums, cymbals, tomtoms, castanets, craves, triangles, and tambourines of various sizes and types.)

The opening Allegro giusto explores the instruments'''''''' similarities and differences, ending with a subtle, mocking fugato. The Lento assai is of a mysterious, ethereal character and ends; there follows the driving finale, Allegro con spinto, which ends furioso.

ELIZABETH BELL (b. 1928, Cincinnati) received her BA in music from Wellesley College, and pursued additional studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music Her BS from The Juilliard School followed study with Peter Mennin and Vittono Giannini; she also studied privately with Paul Alan Levi.

Ms. Bell has gained considerable stature as a composer of chamber works. Her early studies on the piano influence her works but are balanced by a thorough knowledge of other instrument; she has composed for orchestra as well as for solo piano and has written song cycles. Her works have been the subject of retrospective concerts in Cincinnati and Ithaca. She is a member of BMI, the American Composers'''''''' Alliance, and many other professional organizations, including New York Women Composers, Inc., of which she is a founder and officer. Recordings of her works appear on CRS and Classic Masters.

Perne in a Gyre
The inspiration for and title of Perne in a Gyre derive from a passage in William Butler Yeats'''''''' Sailing to Byzantium:

Sailing to Byzantium by William Butler Yeats

An aged man is but a paltry thing
A tattered coat upon a stick unless
Soul clap its hands and sing and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress ....

O sages standing in God''''''''s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.

(A perne is a spindle or spool, a gyre a whirling dance; hence: "spin in a dance". Excerpt used with the permission of Anne and Michael Yeats.)

The composer writes that:

The piece, which is dedicated to Paul Alan Levi, contains a great many new ideas—forme—and old ideas tried in new ways. It''''''''s a stretching of the mind for me and, I hope, for the audience. Occasional quartertones explore the regions between the nominal notes of our scale, enriching our melodic and harmonic vocabularies enormously.

I relate to the poem intensely, feeling myself if not an aged man, certainly an aging human being with a need to teach my soul to sing "for every tatter in my mortal dress. " With that as a starting point, I found the imagery tremendously rich: flickering fire, whirling dancers, and the stillness of the "gold mosaic of a wall" All are in the music, if you listen.

The piece is in a single movement lasting about thirteen minutes; thematically, it is all built from a simple "fuming" motif, introduced in the first few measures. It begins slowly almost motionlessly, and picks up energy until it is whirling madly. A slower fugal figure emerges and evolves. The music gradually drops back down to the very slow motion with which it began. Once more, there ensues a long build-up, with the "fugue" perhaps in its original Latin sense of feeing fight developing more fully and leading to an intense climax. A brief flicker of the slow section rekindles itself leaving one suspended in timelessness.

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