I’d been an ardent fan of Thomas Hampson’s singing when, a thousand years ago, I reviewed his Kennedy Center recital debut for The Washington Post: so I was thrilled—thrilled—when Peggy told me that Music Accord wanted to commission a piece for him and the excellent Jupiter String Quartet, and that Tom had suggested me. The piece that resulted, Aristotle, was given its premiere in May 2013 at the Mondavi Center in California before traveling to Alice Tully Hall in New York and Jordan Hall in Boston and Nathan Gunn subsequently performed it with the Jupiters during his residency in Champaign Urbana.
August Music (2009)
This brief (12 minutes) concertino for two flutes and string quartet was commissioned and introduced by the Constella Festival, Cincinnati’s new-music extravaganza, on September 30, 2012; Nina Perlove and Randy Bowman were the elegant duet soloists. It was so graciously received that I subsequently arranged a version for two flutes and string orchestra: available here.
Avow (1999; revised 2010)
…is a short opera in one 12-minute scene, really, but it’s done as often in a recital setting with piano as in its original chamber-orchestra guise. Jonathan Sheffer’s Eos Orchestra commissioned in 1999; something of a sequel to Barber and Menotti’s A Hand of Bridge, Avow imagines a conflicted bride, her avid mother, the haunted groom, the ghost of his father, and a celebrant who really should make better efforts to remember which ceremony he’s performing.
Excerpt by kind permission of Eos Orchestra.
“HERE” began life as a piece for SATB chorus and piano, but—only because there was something so bravura, so glamourous about it, that suggested an individual, rather than a group—I was never quite convinced that it wasn’t a solo piece. Then Opera America asked for a contribution to their songbook celebrating the opening of the National Opera Center: apparently life is full of second chances. The rest, if not history, is a setting for baritone and piano: Jesse Blumberg and Djordje Nesic sang, and played, the first recording.
Excerpt by kind permission of Opera America.
Available from G. Schirmer
Phone Call and Improvisation (2017)
A pastiche nestled inside a portrait, this miniature for piano imagines Leonard Bernstein interrupting an antic and digressive conversation with a friend to play through the first draft of an imagined birthday piece for his colleague Jennie Tourel, the mezzo-soprano who introduced his song cycles “I Hate Music!” and “La Bonne Cuisine.” Phone Call and Improvisation is dedicated, with affection and gratitude, to Lara Downes, who commissioned the piece and introduced it at CUNY’s Bernstein Marathon at Elebash Hall on Decmber 2nd, 2017.
Audio excerpt courtesy of G. Schirmer.
The Racer’s Widow (2009)
…is a set of five songs for voice, piano and cello, that consider jumper cables, sex, carbohydrates, love, loss, and remembrance; the poets are Linda Pastan, Tennessee Williams, Marge Piercy, Louise Gluck, and Sara Teasdale. The sovereign mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who introduced my Mary Magdalene to San Francisco, sang the premiere with cellist Jay Campbell and pianist Steven Blier, whose New York Festival of Song introduced the cycle to New York in February 2013: we were all so energized by the experience that we recorded the cycle the next weekend.
Excerpt by kind permission of the artists.
Regina Coeli (2007)
An arrangement of the central slow movement of Four Angels, for harp and string quintet.
This Much Is New (2012)
The opera librettist (and dear friend) Mark Campbell and I were at the New York Festival of Song concert when our treasured colleague Steven Blier announced his engagement to James Russell; what could we do but write a song? Matthew Boehler sang the bass-clef premiere, but—because what’s an octave between friends?—a version for mezzo-soprano is available as well.
Available from G. Schirmer: