One of the things I find most interesting about other performer-composers is seeing their different approaches to writing for their own instrument. I’ve always been hesitant about writing for solo bassoon (other than a few bits of juvenilia, Rotational Games was the first solo piece I wrote for it), but many performer-composers write primarily or even exclusively for the instrument(s) they play. Jessie Montgomery falls more in the latter camp. Introduced to the violin at the age of four, her first compositions grew out of her improvisations, and most of her works are for string instruments in various combinations. She’s gradually been expanding her comfort zone — she recently earned a Master’s in composition and film scoring from New York University, and her second work for full orchestra will be premièred sometime next month.Read More
This week we’re doing something a little different! A few months ago now, Rene Orth, a composer friend I met at the fresh inc festival back in 2013, posted a recording of her new string quartet, Stripped. As soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted to feature it in a Music Monday post, but since she’s a friend, it felt weird to write about her and her work in my usual manner. So instead, I approached her about doing an interview instead, and this is the result!Read More
Until 1991, Lera Auerbach was shaping up to be an extraordinary Soviet musician. Born in Chelyabinsk, a city near Siberia, in 1973, she received her earliest music lessons from her mother, and took to them like a fish to water. By the age of 12, she had written an opera, one which was performed in several cities, and was also making waves as a concert pianist. It was as a pianist that she came to the United States in 1991, performing a series of concerts and ultimately deciding not to return to the Soviet Union. She was thus one of the last musicians to defect before the Cold War ended later that year.Read More
Despite the historical prominence of the genre, I don't really listen to a lot of string quartets. It's not hard to find reasons why: I'm a wind player, so I can't exactly perform in one (nor can the people I know from sitting next to in most ensembles . . . ), most of my exploratory listening is in times and repertoires rather more recent than the core of the quartet repertoire, and the music theory courses I took tended to be centered more around art songs and piano sonatas. It will come as no surprise, then, that the ones I do know tend to be rather off the beaten path.Read More
There are some composers who lurk in the background of one's awareness, never wholly forgotten, but not altogether present, either. For years, my only exposure to Alexandre Tansman was his Sonatine for bassoon and piano — I heard someone play it at a summer camp in high school, but I never worked on it myself and it didn't show up on any of the various bassoon CDs that I bought over the years, so while I remembered enjoying it, I couldn't produce much more than the opening gesture and an inaccurate version of the start of the finale.
And then a little more than a week ago, I heard the LA Phil perform his Stelè in memoriam Igor Stravinsky, and my mind was blown.Read More