for Mixed Chorus, Mezzo-Soprano Solo, and Orchestra
In the summer of 1993, I received a copy of Kathryn Stripling Byer's wonderful book of poetry, Wildwood Flower. It had been chosen by the Academy of American Poets as the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1992. I found so compelling these depictions of life in the North Carolina mountains (where I spend much of my own time), with their fascinating blend of mystery and reality, and a strong feeling for nature, that I wrote the poet a letter expressing my admiration. Six years later, when the eminent Hungarian conductor, Matyas Antal, asked me for a work for mixed chorus and orchestra, I was drawn to these poems as a text. After a few preliminary sketches in the fall of 2000, I began work in earnest in 2001 and completed the composition in the summer of 2002. In addition to Southern Appalachian references, there are in these texts some hints of Celtic lore and reflections of English madrigal flavor, likewise part of the Southern Appalachian tradition. The excerpts from The Book of Job and The Song of Solomon were suggested by quotations that served as lead-ins in Byer's book. Alma is a fictitious mountain woman who might have lived in the early twentieth century.
PRELUDE AND VARIATIONS (1970)
for Chamber Orchestra
Written in the spring of 1970 at the request of legendary conductor Richard Burgin, this piece was first performed under his baton by the Florida State University Chamber Orchestra, in Tallahassee, in the fall of the same year. The violin soloist was Ruth Posselt. The work consists of an introduction followed by a theme and nine variations. Concerto-like, the music alternates the full chamber orchestra with soloistic textures from variation to variation, and the final variation reprises the theme in somewhat fragmentary form.
CHAMBER CONCERTO NO. 2 (2000)
for Piano, Wind Quintet, and String Quartet
Chamber Concerto No. 2 (2000), was written in response to a request from Max Lifchitz who also specified the instrumentation. It received its first performance in New York City, February 18, 2001, with Jane Perry-Camp, pianist, and Max Lifchitz conducting the North/South Consonance Chamber Orchestra.
The instrumentation suggested a work in which the pianist would be the principal soloist, but also that the wind quintet and the string quartet would have passages that treat each as a homogeneous group. Thus, there are quite a few passages that exploit each of those possibilities. But since this is in fact a piano concerto, there are numerous solo passages for the instrument, as well as tuttis and sections of mixed instrumentation.
Although cast as a single movement, the piece is made up of four separate contrasting sections: a slow introduction, an allegretto, a slow set of variations in which the piano is engaged in dialog with various instrumental groupings, and a finale somewhat scherzando in character.
When I was at the very beginning stages of the composition, the renowned pianist Edward Kilenyi, our dear friend and Jane Perry-Camp's teacher and mentor, died. It seemed appropriate to dedicate this work to his memory.
ABOUT HAROLD SCHIFFMAN
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 Mallarmé 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 premiered 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 R1021, Harold Schiffman: Symphony & Concerti, was released in December, 1999. The disc contains the Gyor 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 three works is Matyas Antal. Earlier, Max Lifchitz's recording of Schiffman's Nine Piano Pieces (1975) and Six Bagatelles (1954) appears on the debut issue of the North/South Recordings label (N/S R1001). 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. 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 Dohnanyi. 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 chair of the Music Advisory Board of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.