World Premiere Recordings of Newly Commissioned Works


Lep-i-dop-ter-ol-o-gy [2003] -  AARON GRAD

Aaron Grad [b. 1980] is a young American composer and guitarist, whose music embraces both his roots in popular culture and his training in the Western tradition. Born in Alexandria, Virginia, he was a student of piano and violin from age five. At ten he began studies on guitar, and was soon writing songs, forming bands, and playing his first jazz gigs. Grad came to New York in 1998 to study jazz guitar at NYU, but he was quickly seduced by New York’s “downtown” new music scene. While completing his B.M. in three years, he performed with his own groups at The Knitting Factory and Cornelia St. Café, and founded and directed a concert series at Judson Memorial Church. In the past five years Grad’s emphasis has shifted to composing, and his catalog has grown to include over 80 works. His music has been commissioned and performed by the Manchester Music Festival (VT), Fairfax Choral Society (VA), Palisades Virtuosi (NJ), the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the New York Chamber Ensemble. Aaron has studied with Carlos Carrillo and Randall Woolf, and has worked for American Composers Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

“ ‘Lep·i·dop·ter·ol·o·gy’ is a study of butterflies. The piece is a tribute to pianist Ron Levy (a great champion of new music and a butterfly enthusiast) and was commissioned by the Palisades Virtuosi in 2003. The piano opens the work with two declamatory phrases. In between the piano phrases, and continuing into a gentle duet for the flute and clarinet, certain notes of the piano sustain a soft haze of consonant sound. This gossamer texture is contrasted at other times by the brilliance of the piccolo, austere counterpoint in the piano, and swooping arpeggios passed from clarinet to flute. The piece ends with a tranquil and stately elaboration of the opening duet melody.” -Aaron Grad

Three Scenes from the Mountains [2004] - ROBERT MANNO

1. The Wind on the Water

2. The Meadow at Dawn

3. The Forest at Night

Robert Manno [b. 1944] is an acclaimed composer, conductor, singer and pianist.  His compositions include over 30 chamber works, a Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, 2 song cycles, pieces for chorus, solo piano pieces, art songs and arrangements. Composer Ned Rorem has described his music as "maximally personal and expressive" and Fanfare Magazine has said: "his instrumental compositions are shot through with powerful lyrical impulses. Manno's music, in whatever guise, always sings...displaying an expansive, well-rounded sense of architecture and shape.”  A full-time member of the Metropolitan Opera Chorus from 1977 to 2001, he was previously a member of the New York City Opera Chorus. Following his retirement from the MET Chorus, Manno served as an assistant conductor on the Metropolitan Opera Music Staff.  The recipient of numerous compositional honors, he has been awareded the Ernest Bloch Award, First Prize at the Delius Festival, and many Meet the Composer Grants and ASCAP Awards.  His music has been performed and broadcast throughout the United States and in Wales, U.K. 

“ ‘Three Scenes from the Mountains’ was inspired by views from my home overlooking a mountain range in the Northern Catskills.  The first movement, “The Wind on the Water” depicts the visual movement of the rippling of wind-driven water on our pond, sometimes still, sometimes flowing and suddenly rushing, and always with a sense of change and calm.  The second movement, “The Meadow at Dawn” is a song-like description of a gentle summer morning in our meadow when the mist is just beginning to clear. The third movement, “The Forest at Night” attempts to elicit the sense of loneliness that one experiences when walking in the woods by moonlight.  -Robert Manno

Trio [2004] - DAN COOPER 

1. Vaudevillians

2. Barnacles

3. Kingston Bop

Dan Cooper [b. 1970]  Dan attended the Horace Mann School, and has music degrees from Columbia, NEC, and Princeton. His mentor was Otto Luening, and principal teachers include John Heiss, Steve Mackey, and Paul Lansky. In 2000, Cooper received a composition fellowship from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music to Tanglewood, where he has composed and produced incidental music for several acclaimed Shakespeare and Company productions directed by Tina Packer. Awards include an ASCAP Young Composer's Prize, a Prix Blanche-de-Castille from Fontainebleau, and a Certificate of Achievement from the New York Youth Symphony.  Commissions include the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the Circadia Ensemble and the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Most recently, Cooper's "Hawthorne Fanfare and Meditation" for brass quintet and electronics was premiered at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall, as part of a Nathaniel Hawthorne Bicentennial event hosted by Mike Wallace, with readings by Jane Fonda, Marisa Tomei, and David Strathairn. From 2000 to 2002, Cooper performed in over fifty cities internationally as a multi-instrumentalist with Decca recording artist Ute Lemper, including performances at Town Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Tokyo's Orchard Hall, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, and the Sydney Opera House, and was heard on various broadcasts on NBC, CNN, Radio France, RAI, and Bravo. Cooper has taught at Princeton and is currently an adjunct professor at SUNY/FIT. 

“ ‘Trio’  The quick-paced opening movement includes impish rhythms, symmetrical divisions of the octave, and extreme registral contrasts between the piccolo and bass clarinet, for a somewhat vaudevillian effect. The middle movement is more abstract, with the piano playing with registral and dynamic space: Palisades Virtuosi's initials PV reminded me of Boyles' Law in chemistry, (PV=nrt, i.e. 'pressure times volume is a constant'!) The last movement is inspired by two music styles, 40's bebop, heard in the winds, and 60s Jamaican "Rock Steady", heard in the piano.”  -Dan Cooper

Trio No. 2 [2004] - RICHARD LANE

1.  Allegro moderato

2. Largo

Richard Lane [1933-2004], a native of Paterson, New Jersey, graduated from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester where he studied piano with Jose Echaniz and Armand Basile and composition with Louis Mennini, Wayne Barlow and Bernard Rogers. He is the recipient of both the Eastman School Recording and Publication Award and a Ford Foundation Grant and his works have been performed extensively throughout the U.S., Europe, Africa and Australia, as well as in Mexico and the Soviet Union. Mr. Lane's compositions included chamber works, choral works and piano concertos, piano solos and works for voice and piano.  They have been published by Carl Fischer, Boosey & Hawkes, Coburn Press and Mills Music and have been recorded on the Brass Unlimited, Music Minus-One and Mercury Record labels. Following two years as composer-in-residence for the Rochester, New York and then Lexington, Kentucky school systems under Ford Foundation auspices, he returned to Paterson where he composed and taught piano and composition. He spent summers on Cape Cod where he was widely known as performer and composer.  Mr. Levy and Ms. Swinchoski had long association with Mr. Lane and were the recipients of new works which they premiered. 

“ ‘Trio #2’ - This trio was written in the summer of 2004.  It was Mr. Lane’s last work and only two of the planned three movements were completed.  In August, Mr. Lane suddenly took ill, and passed away in September.  Mr. Lane was a beloved icon in the New Jersey music scene.  This trio typically reflects his playful, joyful and melodic nature; the eerily angelic 2nd movement presages his all-too-untimely death. - P.V.

An Arch of Miniatures [2003] - PAUL MACK SOMERS

1. Languidly

2. Largo

3. Andante, fleeting

4. Conversationally

5. Presto leggiero

Paul Mack Somers (b.1942) studied composition with Warren Benson and George Andrix, and participated in master classes with Norman Dello Joio under a Ford Foundation Grant. Somers’ theatric works include the film score to the American International release “Without Getting,” incidental music to a New Jersey Shakespeare Festival production of “Macbeth,” and a full-length ballet “A Pine Barrens Legend.” The Summit Chorale commissioned several choral works from him including “Noe, Pastores”;  “A Modal Mass” was commissioned by and premiered at the First United Methodist Church in Westfield, New Jersey. “Antiphonien für zwei Bläserquartette” was commissioned and premiered by the C. S. Bläserchor in Frankfurt, Germany. Somers’ “Meditations on a Theme of Eric Routley” was chosen for performance by the Halcyon Trio as part of the Ars Vitalis new music concert at Kean University in New Jersey during the spring of 2003.  The spring of 2005 premieres of “Evolving Chaconne” commissioned by the Colonial Symphony of Morristown and “New Jersey Campmeeting - A Bloomfield Sabbath,” a short work for flute and piano celebrating both the 19th century hymn tune composer William Bradbury and Charles Ives, whose first job after graduating from Yale was in the Bloomfield Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Somers is the director of the Classical New Jersey Society, which supports the  classical music community in New Jersey and beyond. He is also the editor of the Society’s E-Journal. From 1987 to 1996 he was a music critic for the Newark Star-Ledger. Earlier he was music critic for the Courier-News.  Mr. Somers is also a harpsichordist and conductor. 

"An Arch of Miniatures" - "The arch consists of five movements.  I and V are made of the same material used very differently. I is a slow, languid treatment of the same motive which zips along at top speed in V.  II and IV are made of the same material used very differently. II is a vertical treatment of the linear material of IV. II is for solo piano, IV for flute and clarinet duo.III is the independent keystone of the arch.  It is all unisons and octaves with no harmony at all except that which may be implied by the melodic line. A university “Music for Non-Music Majors” class told me in no uncertain terms that they simply were not interested in hearing any piece of music lasting more than three minutes. It occurred to me that the pop music to which they listen is the length of a learnéd-style music miniature. So the idea of making a Bogenform piece of some length out of related miniatures seemed like a way of writing for those with low attention spans … or perhaps suggesting that other issues than length are really what make them resistant to learnéd-style music.  When the commission from the Palisades Virtuosi came my way, the already brewing idea found its proper medium."  -Paul Mack Somers

Variations on an Appalachian Carol [2003] - GODFREY SCHROTH

Godfrey Schroth [b. 1927] A pupil of the noted American composer, Paul Creston, Godfrey Schroth first came to attention in 1959, when his Piano Quintet won the LADO Foundation Prize for chamber music, and was subsequently premiered in New York by the Phoenix Quartet.  Many published choral and organ pieces followed;  “A Solemn English Mass” was the first vernacular setting sung at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  In 1973, on a grant from the NJ Arts Council, he wrote Rocky Mountain Serenade for Strings, Percussion and Guitar for the Pueblo (Colorado) Arts Festival.  In 1979 he completed “Green Graves and Violets”, a vocal chamber cycle, which celebrated the writings of a forgotten Civil War poetess, the tragic Ellen Howarth.  "The Mystic Trumpeter", a work for chorus and wind ensemble on a Walt Whitman text, was commissioned by the Pro Arte Chorale and received its premiere performance in March 1999.  Other recent compositions by Mr. Schroth include a Ballade for Clarinet, Horn and Piano, an orchestral “Threnody For The Victims Of September 11”, a song cycle, “Strangeness of Heart” settings of poems by Siegfried Sassoon, and a recently premiered “Magnificat” for soprano and chamber ensemble. 


“ ‘Variations on an Appalachian Carol’ - An authentic native American carol, “I Wonder As I Wander” is unusual for its somberness, modal harmonic structure, and its striking final cadence which leaves the listener with a feeling of surprise and incompleteness.  The Variations alternate between exuberance and introspection.  Some of them explore a single phrase of the melody or its harmonic implications.  The piece ends as it began, with a wistful, pensive sadness. -G.S.

George Washington Slept Here! [2004] - JOHN LAMPKIN

After attending Harvard College, John Lampkin [b. 1946] studied music privately, with acclaimed composer Donald Waxman as his principal composition and piano teacher.  His hundreds of works for piano solo include a three-book recital series, Portraits. In review, Piano Quarterly wrote: “Mr. Lampkin is extremely gifted with a wonderful sense of humor.”  Piano & Keyboard magazine cited Portraits in its millennium issue as being one of the most significant 20th century educational collections. During the 1990's he turned to musical theater, and wrote scores for eleven musicals.   In 1998 he composed his Piano Concerto, which garnered First Prize in the Orchestral Division of the 1999 Composers Guild's competition, an annual event which attracts entries from around the world.  His "Insects: a Musical Entomology in Six Legs" for woodwind quintet was "simultaneously" premiered in 2000 in five states (the Austin premiere was nominated for the Austin Critics Table Award for the Best Chamber Concert of the Season);  and subsequently  won the Grand Prize in the 2001 Composers Guild competition. Mr. Lampkin has served  as composer-in-residence for the Minnesota Music Teachers Association, the Equinox Chamber Players in St. Louis, Dolce Wind Quintet in Minneapolis, and The Austin Chamber Players in Austin, Texas.  His "Migrations" for Symphonic Wind Ensemble was commissioned by the University of Oklahoma, and premiered at the national convention of the Society of Composers. He has received dozens of grants from funding agencies and foundations, including Meet the Composer and the Mid-America Arts Alliance. 

" 'George Washington Slept Here!'  is a set of variations on "Soldier's Joy," which was a popular tune 250 years ago. It appeared in published collections of sheet music on both sides of the Atlantic, and as a fiddle tune was played for barn dances and square dances in colonial America. The melody with its simple harmonic structure is typical of fiddle tunes and hornpipes of the period. My set of variations is written in the historic tradition, but with modern conventions. The set closes with a pair of fughettas where at several points we hear the melody being played 5 different ways simultaneously. The title captures the good humor of the set, and celebrates the Hudson Valley, home to the Palisades Virtuosi and to me."  - John Lampkin

Recorded June/July 2005 at the Bennett Studio, Englewood, NJ

Recorded and mastered by David Kowalski      

Edited and mixed by the Palisades Virtuosi 

 Highlights from our reviews in American Record Guide:

"The stylistic and emotional range of this release is as extraordinary as is Palisades Virtuosi’s fine-tuned ensemble work...  In terms of intonation, articulation, and musical insight, Palisades Virtuosi represent the best of our current world-class standards."

"Now for some really good news—this one is a pure winner! ...feelings of relief and delight flooded my soul as each new piece proved its mettle. The sound is terrific and the performances couldn’t be better."

You can read the entire text of these reviews here.