Frank Ticheli: Tributes and Riffs

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Photo credit: Charlie Grosso

Photo credit: Charlie Grosso

The American premiere of Frank Ticheli’s “Concerto for Clarinet” took place in July of 2010. The soloist was clarinet virtuoso Håkan Rosengren, accompanied by the Texas Festival Orchestra and conductor JoAnn Falletta (her interview on The Musicalist is here).

Of the concerto, Ticheli writes: “The concerto’s three movements are composed as tributes to three 20th-century American icons: George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. Although the first movement is book-ended by playful allusions of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the finale contains just a whiff of the air surrounding Bernstein’s West Side Story, there are no direct quotes anywhere, and my own personal style dominates all three movements. I composed my concerto as a tribute, not as an emulation.”

The wind band version of the concerto will be featured as part of a new recording being released next month by the University of Texas wind ensemble under the baton of Jerry Junkin. The soloist is Nathan Williams, who performed the concerto during the group’s recent world tour.

Ticheli is currently a professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. His music is published by Manhattan Beach Music, and recordings of his work can be found on the major classical labels, including Albany, Chandos, Klavier, and Naxos.

CORRECTION 08/17/14: David Maslanka’s alma mater was incorrectly identified in the interview as the University of Michigan. He attended Michigan State University.

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George Walker: Find Your Own Way

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At 92 years old, composer George Walker remains sharp as ever.

Whether he’s telling an old anecdote about his days at any of the country’s top music schools (Walker holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory, the Curtis Institute, and Eastman), describing the circumstances around the creation of a piece, or simply musing about the nature of his craft, Walker’s devotion to detail is remarkable.

The same is true of his music: consider his Mass from 1977, or the Pulitzer-winning Lilacs for voice and orchestra, or the more recent Violin Concerto written for his son, violin virtuoso Gregory Walker. All of them intricate masterpieces, and none of them heard often enough in American concert halls.

Fortunately, most of his major works are now becoming available on recordings. A new release on the Albany label revives historical performances of the Mass, as well as concertos by Brahms and Beethoven, with George Walker on piano and Howard Hanson conducting. Lilacs was recently re-recorded with tenor Albert Lee and released on the Albany label.

George Walker retired from his teaching duties at Rutgers University in 1992. He currently resides in Montclair, New Jersey.

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David Del Tredici: Framing Instinct

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“Del Tredici is that rare find among composers — a creator with a truly original gift. I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the American musical scene.” —AARON COPLAND

luckyCopland’s words proved to be prophetic, if not somewhat of an understatement considering Del Tredici’s secure place in the pantheon of great American composers. As one of the first successful Neo-Romantic Americans of the 20th century, the breadth of Del Tredici’s influence on his peers as well as subsequent generations is difficult to measure.

From his earliest settings of James Joyce, to his thirteen Alice in Wonderland works, and his current efforts to create an overt and deliberate canon of music on gay subjects, Del Tredici has always followed his own instincts with skill and conviction.

Del Tredici’s influence extends far beyond his own music to his activities as a teacher; notable students include John Adams, Mason Bates and Randall Woolf. He currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Music at The City College of New York.

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Jane Antonia Cornish: Duende

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Jane Antonia Cornish stepsComposer Jane Antonia Cornish grew up in England and currently resides in New York City.

Her interest in film music began while she was studying in university. Since then she’s led a fruitful career writing both music for the concert hall and for the big screen. Credits in the latter include the 2008 film “Fireflies in the Garden,” starring Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds and Willem Dafoe, and, most recently, Disney’s “Maleficent.”

Cornish’s chamber music is the focus of a new release on the Delos label, named after her piano trio “Duende.” The piece takes its conceptual impetus from the lectures and writings of poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca.

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Mohammed Fairouz: Drawing Inspiration from Text

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Photo credit: Samantha West

Photo credit: Samantha West

Although he’s only in his late twenties, composer Mohammed Fairouz is already one of today’s most-performed and commissioned composers. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine, the Imani Winds, and clarinetist David Krakauer are among the many champions of Fairouz’s work.

His international childhood has given him a uniquely cosmopolitan outlook which is immediately discernible in his work. Drawing from the music, poetry and philosophy of the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula and the Mediterranean, Fairouz aims to illuminate the similarities of these cultures while also celebrating their uniqueness.

Fairouz’s Symphony No. 3 can be heard on a new CD release from the Sono Luminus label, along with his “Tahrir”, a concerto for clarinet and chamber orchestra inspired by the 2011 protests in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.

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