About this Recording
8.559146 - RILEY: Cantos Desiertos / BEASER / TOWER / LIEBERMANN

Riley • Beaser • Tower • Liebermann • Schickele

Riley • Beaser • Tower • Liebermann • Schickele


Robert Beaser was born in 1954 in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale School of Music summa cum laude, earning his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1986. His composition         teachers have included Jacob Druckman, Earle Brown, Toru Takemitsu, Arnold Franchetti, Betsy Jolas and Goffredo Petrassi. In addition, he studied conducting with Otto-Werner Mueller and William Steinberg. He has been the recipient of many awards, including the Prix de Rome, Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships, and his music has been performed throughout the world by major musicians and ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. His output includes works for orchestra, chamber and vocal groups, chorus, and solo instruments.

According to the composer, “Mountain Songs is a cycle of eight songs based largely on American folk music. Of the four tunes presented on this recording, as reflected by their titles, three are lyric ballads from the southern mountains of Appalachia while Cindy is a minstrel fiddle song.” Mountain Songs was commissioned by Paula Robison and Eliot Fisk. It was composed between July and November 1984 in New York and Rome and was given its world première in April 1985 by the Robison/Fisk duo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The composer provides the following detailed notes of the four songs recorded here: “In Barbara Allen pride keeps the heroine from saving her lover from his tragic end. “Sweet William,” dying for love of Barbara, expires as she spurns him on his deathbed. The House Carpenter explores the guilt-ridden fantasies of escaping from one’s lot. A woman’s former lover appears after a prolonged absence; he tempts her to leave the house carpenter she has since married and come away with him to a place “where the grass grows green/To the lands on the banks of the sea”. Unable to resist his call, she agrees, and they sail off together. But soon she begins to weep for her abandoned child; and finally, in penance and guilt, she and her lover spring a leak in their ship and sink to the cold sea floor. He’s Gone Away mixes elements of sorrow with hope: “He’s gone away for to stay a little while/ But he’s coming back if he goes ten thousand miles.../Look away, look away over Yandro!” Here the stanzas are separated by an upbeat, dance-like interlude. The frolic tune Cindy bubbles with minstrel-song spirit.”


Joan Tower is one of this generation’s most dynamic and colorful composers. Her bold and energetic music, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms, has won large, enthusiastic audiences. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, quickly entered the repertory, with performances by orchestras including Saint Louis, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tokyo NHK, Toronto, and the National Symphony and London Philharmonia. Silver Ladders, written in 1987 for the Saint Louis Symphony as part of her three-year                residency (1985-1988) with that orchestra, won the prestigious 1990 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and has been performed by the Saint Louis, Chicago, Louisville, Dallas, and Berlin (Radio) orchestras. Her Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (No. 1) has been played by over two hundred different ensembles since its 1987 première. The Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Fanfares were commissioned respectively by Absolut Vodka, Carnegie Hall, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Aspen Music Festival. Her ballet Stepping Stones (1993) was commissioned by choreographer Kathryn Posin for the Milwaukee Ballet.


From 1969 to 1984, Tower was active as founder and pianist with the 1973 Naumburg Award-winning ensemble the Da Capo Chamber Players. They         commissioned and premièred many of her most        popular works, including Platinum Spirals, Hexachords, Wings, Petroushskates, and Amazon I. Other commissions include Snow Dreams (for Carol Wincenc and Sharon Isbin), Clocks (for Isbin), and Fantasy...Harbor Lights (for Richard Stoltzman). Also active as a conductor, Tower has conducted at the White House (Celebration from Stepping Stones), the Scotia Festival in Canada, and the American Symphony Orchestra. Tower has been the subject of television documentaries on WGBH (Boston), CBS Sunday Morning, and MJW Productions (England).


Joan Tower, who was born on 6th September, 1938 in New Rochelle, New York, studied with Henry Brant and Louis Calabro at Bennington College where she received her B.A., and with Otto Luening, Jack Beeson and Chou Wen-chung at Columbia University, where she received her M.A. and D.M.A. She has also studied with Darius Milhaud at Aspen, Colorado, and with Wallingford Riegger, Ralph Shapey and Charles Wuorinen in New York. Tower became composer-in-residence for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s for a term of three years, starting with the 1999-2000 season. She is also the recipient of the Delaware Symphony’s 1998 Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composers and Conductors, and was inducted into the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972. She is also co-artistic director of the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and composer-in-residence at the Summit Institute for the Arts and Humanities in Utah.


Snow Dreams was written for flutist Carol Wincenc and guitarist Sharon Isbin and commissioned through a grant from the Schubert Club of St. Paul. The work was first heard in April 1983. The piece is a study in      balancing the two disparate timbres and technical         possibilities of the flute and guitar. “There are many different images of snow, its forms and its movements,” writes Tower, “light snow flakes, pockets of swirls of snow, rounded drifts, long white plains of blankets of snow, light and heavy snowfalls, and so forth. Many of these images can be found in the piece if, in fact, they need to be found at all. The listener will determine that choice.”


Terry Riley was born in Colfax, California, on 25th June, 1935. After graduating from San Francisco State University, he moved across the Bay for graduate       studies in composition with Seymour Shifrin and William Denny. Although he was composing in the then accepted serial style, his friend La Monte Young led Riley to investigate long tones. Riley applied them to his 1960 String Quartet and 1961 String Trio. In 1961 he completed his M.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, and moved to Europe. He became involved in a variety of music endeavours, including experiments with tape at the ORTF studios of French national radio.


In 1963, Riley returned to the Bay Area, where he continued his experiments at the San Francisco Tape Music Center. The resulting works from that period were In C (1964) and Dorian Reeds (1965). The seminal minimalist work, In C, provided the conception for a form comprised of interlocking repetitive patterns that was to change the course of twentieth-century music and strongly influence the works of Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams as well as rock groups such as The Who, The Soft Machine, Curved Air, Tangerine Dream and many others. In 1965, Riley joined La Monte Young in New York, singing with The Theatre of Eternal Music. In 1968 he recorded In C, which was followed by another of his tape experiments, Poppy Nogood and His Phantom Band. In 1970 Riley met the renowned North Indian vocal master, Pandit Pran Nath. The next decade was largely devoted to studying Indian music and teaching it at Mills College. His recordings in the 1970s were restricted to electronic-organ improvisations like Persian Surgery Dervishes (1971), Descending Moonshine Dervishes (1976), and Shri Camel (1976). It was in Oakland, toward the end of the decade at Mills, that Riley met David Harrington, the founder and first violinist of the Kronos Quartet. The long association with the Kronos Quartet resulted in nine string quartets, a keyboard quintet and a concerto for string quartet and orchestra. In addition to writing music for string quartet, Riley has also produced music for a variety of other new music ensembles, including the Rova Saxophone Quartet, ARRATMUSIC, Zeitgeist, Stephen Scott’s Bowed Piano Ensemble, The California EAR Unit, The Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, pianist Werner Baertschi, the Amati String Quartet, and guitarist David Tanenbaum.


Cantos Desiertos was commissioned by the Avedis Chamber Music Series and guitarist David Tanenbaum who gave the world première with Alexandra Hawley on 22nd March, 1998 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Terry Riley writes: “Cantos Desiertos are part of the cycle called the Book of Abbeyozzud (an invented word). The 26 pieces comprising this cycle are for guitar, either solo or in combinations with other instruments. Each has a Spanish title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. The first piece of the set, Canción Desierto takes for its starting point, a melody that I learned from a long time friend and collaborator, Rajastani sitarist and composer, Krishna Bhatt. I combined this with melodies of my own        invention to create this rondoesque form. Quijote (Dreamer) features a relentless accompanying figure in the guitar which was culled from Canción Desierto’s theme. It is the retrograde of the flute melody appearing in measures 10, 11 and 12. An improvisatory counter melody was then composed on this ostinato. Llanto (lament) is in a simple ABA form with the  somewhat anguished middle section flanked by outer sections containing an introspective dialogue between the two instruments. The Tango Ladeado (Tango Sideways) is a piece that has no particular story except everybody is writing tangos these days. I love them and it was time to give my particular take on one. Francesco en Paraiso (Frank in Paradise) is dedicated to the amazing French composer and countertenor, Frank Royon le Mee, who died tragically a few years back at the age of forty from AIDS. This was a piece I used as a basis for a piano and keyboard improvisation before scoring it in this version.


Canción Desierto, Llanto, Quijote and Tango Ladeado were written in 1996      during a week in Puerto Vallarta with my family. Long walks on the beach in the cool daybreak mornings, spicy food dripping with chilies in the evenings, and holing up alone in the hotel during long hot afternoons, composing when everybody else was at the beach with the grandchildren. This was an experience I would like to repeat.”


Lowell Liebermann was born in New York City on 22nd February, 1961. He began piano studies when he was eight and formal composition studies when he was fourteen. His Piano Sonata, Opus 1, was written when he was fifteen, and it was with this piece that he made his performing début a year later at Carnegie Recital Hall. He graduated from Juilliard School in 1987 with a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree. His teachers    included David Diamond and Vincent Persichetti in composition and Jacob Lateiner in piano. He studied conducting with Laszlo Halasz and continues to be active as pianist and conductor both in concerts and recordings.


Many renowned artists have performed Lowell Liebermann’s music, including James Galway, James Levine, Steuart Bedford, David Zinman, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stephen Hough. His many honors include a Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and awards from ASCAP and BMI. In 1996 he was nominated for the Prix Oscar Wilde by L’Association Oscar Wilde for his opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1998, he was nominated for a Grammy® for his Piano Concerto No.2, Opus 36, in the Grammy® category “Best Classical Contemporary Composition.” Lowell Liebermann’s Sonata for Flute and Guitar, Opus 25, was composed in 1988/89, in response to a commission by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition (Brigham Young University). The Sonata is dedicated to Paula Robison and Eliot Fisk. Its opening movement is marked Nocturne. This movement plays with a simultaneous major-minor tonality, giving it a dreamy “night piece” flavor. If one senses that Dmitry Shostakovich is somnambulating here, it is not by mere chance since Liebermann has always called Shostakovich a major influence on his art. The concluding Allegro is actually a virtuoso gigue, demanding the greatest technical abilities from both players.


If there is one thing that bothers Peter Schickele more than a lot of other things, it is musical categories. And it is easy to see why the traditional boundaries would annoy a composer who, in the space of one year, wrote an orchestral work commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony, did the music for several Sesame Street segments, contributed music and lyrics to the Broadway hit Oh! Calcutta!, appeared with the National Symphony, among others, explaining away and performing the music of P.D.Q. Bach (“history’s most justly neglected composer”), scored a TV commercial and an underground movie, and, sang and played in a rock group.


Peter Schickele was born on 17th July, 1935, in Ames, Iowa. He studied music at Swarthmore College and composition with Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School of Music. He has held teaching positions there and at the music school of Aspen, Colorado. In addition to producing a large number of works in a wide variety of genres and styles (from atonality to pseudo-Baroque), he has composed film and television scores, and made arrangements for Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Jeff Monn and Mimi and Richard Farina. He is best known today for his creation P.D.Q. Bach. Schickele composed Windows in 1966. The three pieces are entitled Pavane, Cantilena and Refrain. Appended to the score, the composer provides the following note: “My brother started playing violin when he was nine; he soon switched to viola and became a fanatical string quartet player. Those chamber music sessions were a very important part of my early musical life, and when he married a woman who played a bit of guitar, I wrote Windows as a wedding present for them. As it turned out, the guitar part was too difficult for a conjugal performance; the first time I heard the piece was on a tape that my brother made, with himself playing both parts. I later made flute and clarinet arrangements of the viola part. The first movement has an antique, perhaps Renaissance feel, whereas the middle movement features a sensuous, atmospheric, folk-like melody. The last movement, partially inspired by some traditional African music I heard on a record, is relentless and repetitive.”


Program Notes Edited by Marina and Victor Ledin, from materials supplied by

the composers and their publishers

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