NEW AMERICAN MASTERS, VOLUME 4
World Premiere Recordings of Newly Commissioned Works
with Marni Nixon, narrator
Statements  - JOSEPH TURRIN
Joseph Turrin’s music has been commissioned and performed by the some of the world’s leading orchestras, chamber ensembles and soloists and has been recorded on the RCA, Naxos, EMI, Teldec,Summit, Klavier, Cala, Albany, MSR Classics, and Crystal record labels. A recipient of commissions from the New York Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Carnegie Hall, Canadian Brass, Live from Lincoln Center and Evelyn Glennie, his works have been championed by noted musicians and ensembles. His music is published by Theodore Presser, Boosey and Hawkes, Edition Peters, Edition BIM, C. Alan Publications, Warner Brothers and Hal Leonard. Mr. Turrin has received awards and grants from the National Endowment on the Arts, National Band Association Revelli Composition Award, ASCAP, American Music Center, United Nations, New Jersey State Council On the Arts and Meet the Composer. In 2006 he received an honorary degree from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. Mr. Turrin studied composition at the Eastman and the Manhattan School of Music and is currently on the composition faculty at the Hartt School and Montclair State University.
Statements  consists of five individual movements. Each of the three inner movements features one of the three instruments in the ensemble: Etude for solo piano, Inflections for clarinet and piano and Persistence of Vision for flute and piano. The outer two movements, Prelude and Dèja Vu combine the trio as a whole and are related in musical material. Although each movement has its own personality there is a dramatic and structural thread that runs throughout giving the piece continuity, balance and overall shape. Most of the musical material consists of short melodic and rhythmic motifs that develop into larger themes and sections. I have often thought that the true power of using short motifs and fragments in musical compositions is to give the music a sense of ever expanding possibilities and potential for organic growth. There is also the beauty of economy in such a compositional approach as these small entities develop and grow into larger sections. For me, this is what musical form is all about; the inner workings of a composition, how one note leads to the next note in an ever-expanding cascade of sound and rhythm. —Joseph Turrin
Thumbnail Moon  - MELINDA WAGNER
Melinda Wagner (b.1957) received graduate degrees in Music Composition from the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania. Wagner’s Concerto for Flute, Strings, and Percussion, commissioned by Paul Lustig Dunkel and the Westchester Philharmonic, was awarded the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The Chicago Symphony has commissioned three major works and her music has been performed by the National Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Kansas City Symphony and the New York Philharmonic, among many other orchestras. Ms. Wagner’s chamber works have been performed by the New York New Music Ensemble, the Network for New Music, Orchestra 2001, the Empyrean Ensemble, and many other leading organizations. She has received commissions from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Barlow Foundation, the Mary Flagler Cary CharitableTrust, the Fromm and Koussevitzky Foundations, the Ernst and Young Emerging Composers Fund, the American Brass Quintet, and guitarist David Starobin. She is the recipient of numerous honors, including a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and three ASCAP Young Composer Awards. Melinda Wagner has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, and Hunter College. Ms. Wagner has served as Composer-in-Residence at the Yellow Barn Music Festival, the Monadnock Music Festival, the University of Texas (Austin) and at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.
Thumbnail Moon (2009) was composed for the Palisades Virtuosi. While it was tempting to write a fast and furious piece for this versatile trio, I chose instead to explore a more subtle, muted landscape. Beginning with a sad, plaintive melody and ending with a languid repeated tone—a kind of “nodding off”—the work is a sleepy lullaby in miniature. Composing it reminded me that, as a little girl, I once believed that the new crescent moon is God’s thumbnail. —Melinda Wagner
American composer Ryan Anthony Francis (b.1981) has spent his career drawing upon aesthetically diverse sources of inspiration from his music. Most recently, his work High Line for orchestra was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. High Line was Francis’s musical response to the newly opened High Line park on the west side of Manhattan. Other recent projects have included a set of piano pieces inspired by Haruki Murakami’s novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, an electro-acoustic arrangement of Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring for Wordless Music and Celebrate Brooklyn, and a new piano concerto for Metropolis Ensemble. Born in Portland, Oregon, Francis trained at the Juilliard School, where he received his masters and doctoral degrees in composition as a student of Robert Beaser. He also holds a bachelors of composition from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Bright Sheng. He currently resides in Bushwick, Brooklyn..
TRIO  for Palisades Virtuosi actually began with Schubert in the back of my mind. I began with a bit of material that reminded me of Gretchen am Spinnrade, and just began to develop other material around it. I then began to think it would be interesting to take a more broadly “Schubertian” approach to the piece itself. What I mean when I say that is I decided to create melodic material that was generally rather expansive as opposed to motivically compact, and let the piece unfold with that melodic material a more or less a constant, with constantly changing background material. At least, that is more or less how I perceive Schubert’s development of his material in his late Sonatas, which I always admired for their entirely unique take on the form, quite distinguishing themselves from the more organic, logical building-block construction of Haydn and Beethoven’s sonatas. Trio isn’t a sonata itself, however, and tends more towards a sort of modified rondo.
-- Ryan Francis
Full Circle  - GWYNETH WALKER
Dr. Gwyneth Walker (b.1947) is a graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music. She holds B.A., M.M. and D.M.A. Degrees in Music Composition. A former faculty member of theOberlin College Conservatory, she resigned from academic employment in 1982 in order to pursue a career as a full-time composer. She is the recipient of the Year 2000 “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Vermont Arts Council as well as the 2008 “Athenaeum Award for Achievement in the Arts and Humanities” from the St. Johnsbury (Vermont) Athenaeum. Walker’s catalog includes more than 200 commissioned works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, chorus, and solo voice. The music of Gwyneth Walker is published by E.C. Schirmer and Lauren Keiser Music Publishing. Recordings of her music are found on the Albany, Cedille, Gothic, Centaur, Proteus Entertainment, Ivory Key, Leonarda, Innova and Four-tay labels.
Full Circle  is a three movement work for flute, clarinet and piano that celebrates life. Specifically, they have been inspired by the “Humanist Teachings” (collection of poetry) in the Unitarian Hymnal. And with this in mind, poems may be read before the playing of each movement. Or, the music may be performed without break.Setting Forth is a musical response to the Walt Whitman poem, Song of the Open Road. Phrases rise, often spanning an octave or more of “open” space. There is energy expressed as the tempo quickens, and the harmonic center shifts upward. After several exuberant passages, the music softens to a quiet ending, as though listening to what path will appear next. The Grace of the World follows the Wendell Berry poem, The Peace of Wild Things, although several other poems in this section of the Teachings are of similar sentiments. Musical motion is slow-paced, perhaps best demonstrated by the opening chords in the piano where most pitches move only stepwise, and some are held through. These chords return throughout the piece, providing a pond of “still water” beneath the winds. The flute and clarinet are the melodic voices representing the activity of nature— birds, stars. Just as Setting Forth serves as a starting point for the musical expedition, so does a benediction of Let Tomorrow Come offer closing sentiments. And these are sentiments of rejoicing as well as acceptance. For there is the acknowledgment that the journey from dark to light is accomplished not by ourselves alone. In the words of the Wendell Berry poem, Not by your will is the house carried through the night. Therefore, the musical celebration takes the form of a lively mixed-meter dance. The articulation is staccato (short) to represent specks of light. Delight is taken in the rhythmic vitality of this music. Morning has arrived! —Gwyneth Walker
Whirlwind  - SUNBIN KIM
Sunbin Kim has composed more than 100 works including pieces for orchestra, chamber ensembles, percussion ensembles, piano and world music instrumentation. He has been recognized seven times in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Competition and also won the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts/Hartt School Community Division’s Young Composers Award. His other honors include winning the North/South Consonance Composers Competition, theWestchester Chamber Orchestra’s Nicolas Flagello Piano Competition and the Pike’s Peak Young Compsoers Competition, amonth many others. Upon his arrival in the US in 1998, Sunbin began his studies in composition at the Mannes College of Music and has attended the Juilliard School of Music’s Pre-College Sunbin twice attended Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute’s Young Composers Program and the ISAM Young Composers Summer Institute in Michelstadt, Germany. Sunbin attends Bard College Conservatory of Music studying composition and physics. Sunbin has received commissions for new works from the Palisades Virtuosi, Englewinds, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and Turn on the Music!
Whirlwind  was written for the Palisades Virtuosi. I named it “Whirlwind” after the fast flourishes in the opening flute solo that had been the starting point of my piece, which was reminiscent to me of a whirlwind. I worked this beginning idea into the “theme flavor” that I would base this piece on, an agile but light, and at times ethereal “texture” of the sound. First the whirlwind is sharp and strong, in the flute; then subsides into calmness, with the clarinet and piano; and finally comes a gentler gust, with all instruments. For this piece, I tried to write for each instrument so that they fill a “niche”—starting with the quick, bright flourishes of the flute, then the darker, pensive, and slower tones of the clarinet. The piano, rather than simply accompanying the others, is an integral part of the overall texture of the music, with its stark, disjunct chords and unpredictability of speed. Near the end, all three instruments are combined into one nebulous sonority. In Whirlwind I used several extended techniques that show the timbral capacity of each instrument: for the winds, breathy attacks, “air tones” and multiphonics; and for the piano, strums, pizzicatos, and percussive effects on the strings. Writing for the Palisades Virtuosi gave me a unique, and in the end, very fulfilling challenge in composing music. —Sunbin Kim
Trio  - MATTHEW HALPER
Matthew Halper received a Whitaker Reading Prize from the American Composers Orchestra for his orchestral work Stalin’s Wake: Homage to Shostakovich. His String Quartet was awarded the Walsum Prize and premiered by principal members of the National Symphony Orchestra. His music has received performances in many leading venues such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Moores Opera House in Houston, and live on Chicago Radio and Public Television. His music has been performed at conferences of the College Music Society, College Band Directors National Association, National Association of Composers USA, the Society of Composers, the National Flute Association, and at various institutions including the Juilliard School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Recordings of his work include the Concerto for Flute and Wind Ensemble on Albany Records (TROY821) and Sonata Fantasy (TROY976). Dr. Halper is professor of music at Kean Universityand is Artistic Director of Ars Vitalis: The New Jersey New Music Forum. He received the D.M.A. degree in music composition from the University of Maryland; the M.S. degree in applied mathematics from New Jersey Institute of Technology; an M.A. degree in composition and theory; and a B.S. degree in electrical engineering. He has received several awards from ASCAP and is twice a recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship.
The Trio  for flute, clarinet and piano was commissioned by the Palisades Virtuosi and premiered as part of their 5th anniversary season. The work starts with a solemn and wistful piano solo followed by a flute and clarinet duet. These opening ideas serve as the thematic material for the entire, single-movement work. Sketched while I was in Venice, Italy during the summer of 2007, I was inspired by the quietude and mystique that can be found off the beaten path in this amazing, historic city—I remember Dorsoduro late at night, the Jewish Ghetto, and certain residential byways and canals. After the opening exposition, a mysterious fugue sets off what becomes an ever-intensifying development of the original themes; the mood is increasingly ecstatic and carnival-like, always a bit uncanny. After some musical twists and turns and contrapuntal back-and-forthing, the lowest register of the piano begins what serves as the dramatic nadir of the piece. Slowly, very gradually, the opening ideas are recapitulated, culminating in an impassioned trio setting of the original flute and clarinet duet.
The Trio ends in still, whispered tones. —Matthew Halper
Birding in the Palisades  - AMANDA HARBERG
A native of Philadelphia, the music of Amanda Harberg has been performed frequently in Lincoln Center, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, and in many universities, recital halls, conferences and art museums throughout the country and abroad. She has received commissions from the New York Youth Symphony, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the American Music Center, the Harmonium Choral Society, the New York State Music Teachers Association, the Juilliard School’s ‘Piano Century’ Festival, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the Palisades Virtuosi, Freespace Dance, the New Jersey Arts Collective, the Azure Ensemble, the Montclair State University ‘Octubafest’, the Margaret Atwood Commissioning Project, pianist Kathleen Supove, and from frequent collaborator violist Brett Deubner, with whom she also frequently performs. Harberg’s orchestral music has been played by the American Composers Orchestra, the string players of the New Jersey Symphony, the Susquehanna Symphony, the String Orchestra of the Rockies, the Philharmonic of Ecuador, and by the New Juilliard Ensemble. Harberg is the in-house composer at Common Good Productions, for whom she has scored several PBS documentaries. Her awards include a Fulbright/Hays, a Meet the Composer Creative Connections grant, Juilliard’s Peter Mennin Prize, Juilliard’s MorseFellowship, a MacDowell Colony summer residency, and regular ASCAP Plus awards. Her music has been recorded on Koch International, Centaur Records and on Walking Frog Records. She has taught at Juilliard’s MAP Program, at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and the ASTA Chamber Music Institute, as well as maintaining an active private teaching studio. Harberg received her BM and MM from the Juilliard School.
Commissioned by the Palisades Virtuosi, Birding in the Palisades is a three-movement piece for flute, clarinet and piano. The first movement, Eagles’ Flight, depicts an aural dance between two American Bald Eagles perched high on treetops swaying in a gusty breeze. When the wind picks up, the Eagles take flight and we follow them as they play in the sky, soaring, diving, and gliding. The Kingfisher and the Fish, the second movement, is a wry dramatic miniature set around a small pond (the piano). A fish (the clarinet) is swimming peacefully, oblivious to the hungry Belted Kingfisher (the flute) hovering above. The Kingfisher makes a ratcheting sound as it flies, which the flute mirrors with its fluttertongue effect. Does the Kingfisher get its meal? Listen and find out… The third and final movement, The Crows of Tokyo (PV Takes a Field Trip) is an exploration of nature out of balance. This piece was inspired by my reading about the Crows of Tokyo. Due to the large amount of waste produced by Western-influenced Japan, the huge scavenging Crows of Tokyo (much larger and more aggressive than the American Crow) are flourishing more than ever, and are becoming a problem in Japanese cities. The intelligent birds are causing frequent short-circuits, blackouts and even disrupted train service from biting into power lines. They will sometimes go aggressively after people carrying bags of food and are constantly outsmarting culling efforts. After one of the birds attacked the mayor of Tokyo in 2001, the city responded by killing 93,000 crows between 2001 and 2008. Japan’s crow problem is reflected in the violent outer sections of the movement. I was struck by this piece of news, because I have been touched by the spiritual belief of many Native American tribes, in which Crows represent wisdom that transcends ordinary dimensions such as space and time. They are seen as harbingers of change who sometimes pass important messages to humans. Many Native American believe that if a Crow talks to you, it is advisable to listen. Today, I wonder if we are listening closely enough to what the crows of Tokyo are telling us? The piccolo solo in the middle of the movement is a meditation on the strange wisdom of the crow.
CD BOOKLET NOTES
Marni Nixon’s on-going career includes performances with opera companies, chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras, as an oratorio soloist and Grammy nominated recordings in both popular and classical categories (Boulez, Villa-Lobos, Ives, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Copland) with conductors Wallenstein, Previn, Mehta, Stravinksy, Stokowski and Bernstein, to name a few. Awards include Four Emmys for Best Actress on her children’s TV show called Boomerang and two Gold records for Songs for Mary Poppins and Mulan (voice of Grandma Fa), two Classical Grammy Nominations and the coveted Peabody award, 2011, for “Outstanding Contributions to America Music.” Broadway credits includes Heidi Schiller in Sondheim’s Follies, and originating the roles of Sadie McKibben in Opal, and Edna in Taking My Turn, and Aunt Kate in James Joyce’s The Dead. In Regional and Off-Broadway her roles have included Nurse in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Fraulien Schneider in Cabaret, and recently Eunice Miller in Kander and Ebb’s 70, Girls, 70. Television appearances include Boomerang, The Mothers in-Law; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; frequent American Variety shows such as the Merv Griffin, Jack Paar, Today Show, Tonight Show and, The Best of Both Worlds (her one Special) on BBC and ITV. A frequent guest and side-kick for Liberace and Victor Borge, her one woman show Mostly Marni Nixon (with Donovan Diez) began its national tour at Feinstein’s Supper club in April 2011. She has been seen in many “the-making-of” documentaries. Film roles include Aunt Alice in I Think I Do; and Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music. A much sought after judge of Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the National Association of Teachers and Singing, among many others, Miss Nixon presents Master Classes in colleges and universities and teaches privately throughout the U.S. Miss Nixon is the singing voice of Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn in the motion pictures and on the soundtracks of The King and I, An Affair to Remember, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady.
AcknowledgmentsCredits: John Ostendorf, producer
David Kowalski, recording engineer
Recorded at Bennett Studios, Englewood, NJ, April - July 2011
Photo of trio: John V. Bentz firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo of Marni Nixon: Ron Rinaldi
New American Masters, Volume 4 is funded in part by a grant from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University and would not have been possible without the generous contributions of the donors at kickstarter.com including: PATRON: Steven Perillo, BENEFACTORS: Julia Lanigan and Fred & Vye Messner, SPONSOR: Tim Blunk and SUPPORTERS: John Butler, Mathew Halper, Jeffrey James, Trudy Kane, Steven Lavitan, James Lisanti, Laura & Scott Luxor, Jacqueline Mahler & Ken Ernst, Jon Martin, Ed Matthew, Bob & Ann McGrath, David & Mo Meuse, Robert Paterson, Sally Eyman Price, John & Virginia Reade, Robert Silvera, Paul Mack Somers, Tigran & Argine Safari and Ellen Katz Willner
Special thanks also to our families without whose support we could not continue.